Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Work It

Tannis (saint that she is) called the Big White snow line this morning just after six while I was changing Ella's diaper. It sounded promising, so I checked the web site and saw 21cm of powder in 24 hours -- the powder jackpot. So I called Ryan to get him out of bed, and we floated through some amazingly deep and light snow until our legs were basically done.

One of Ryan's many philosophies of riding powder, uttered near the end of our perfect session: "When something's workin', you've just gotta work it until it doesn't work any more." I'm finding that this new take on the "make hay" maxim applies to many areas of life...and gets a laugh every time.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003


Our wonderful midwife and friend Barb has a profile on the Avalon Alliance site, and she's even included a photo of her with Ella. I thought this was a cool description of what someone might do for a living: "As a healer and health care professional, Barbara practices holism, integrating science and medicine with psyche and spirit." I thought it connected well with a post by Rob about holistic health.

The Perfection of the Morning

Sharon Butala writes beautifully. I just started reading The Perfection of the Morning and I'm finding it fascinating. You wouldn't think that a story about a woman abandoning her "urban" life in Saskatoon for life on a ranch in the boonies would be very compelling, but it's full of interesting stuff. Her initial impressions of the juxtaposition of her two lives:
"I was used to a world perpetually fraught with tension, with competitiveness so extreme at times as to seem really crazy, where the only constant was steady, but nonetheless, gut-wrenching change and the resulting mad scrabbling for position. As I sat on the rail watching and listening that day a new world was washing slowly over me, seeping in without my noticing, a slower world, and a timeless one that resonated with a sense that it must always have been there in just this way and always would be."
I also enjoyed her description of her future cowboy husband: "Unlike most of the city men I knew, he didn't nourish in secret bitterness unfulfilled dreams about another, better life..." I've known people like that, and I've often assumed that they were just complacent, afraid of change and personal growth. But isn't that the curse of The Rat Race and The American Dream? Maybe you keep "moving forward" by working toward a better life, but what about satisfaction with the present?

The India Chapter

A couple of our best friends are leaving next week for several months in India. Of course we're jealous and thrilled for them at the same time. I helped them set up a simple blog to document their travels -- it's called Angelo & Esther: The India Chapter. Apparently the subcontinent has numerous internet cafes, so we're all hoping that they're able to add updates once in awhile.

Quotes of Note

In the spirit of self-improvement that many of us embrace at this time of year, Doug compiled ten meaningful quotes. I've seen this one from Ghandi before, but it bears repeating: "Everything you do is insignificant yet you must act as if the opposite is true." Doug's commentary rings true for me:
"The second half says we must live life as meaningfully and fully as possible, engaging in life activities that allow us to express ourselves and make a contribution. The first half reminds us to lighten up – to not take ourselves too seriously. This is a challenge throughout life – focusing on things that matter but staying defocused enough to see the humor. The friction between those two conflicting suggestions ought to generate enough vitality and amusement to last a lifetime."

Sunday, December 28, 2003


Ryan and Vicki got me a couple of tickets to a Kelowna Rockets hockey game for Christmas. Ryan and I went last night and it turned out to be really cool. The tickets were in the restaurant overlooking the arena and included a feast, so we got to watch the game, pig out, chat and drink beer all at once.

Not too much going on this weekend: found Frogger for my Colecovision, broke the shifter off my bike while jumping and almost bought a new bike at the repair shop, great coffee at the Marmalade Cat Cafe, and lots of talk about where we should live, including discussion of this townhouse in Summerland.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Merry Christmas

Pretty low-key Christmas for the Hieberts this year -- very mellow and happy, with lots of lounging and eating and chatting. We talked Mom out of doing the big turkey dinner thing, so she put together two amazing alternates instead: tortilla stacks on Christmas eve and chicken 'n ribs with all the fixings yesterday for supper.

It was great to have Ryan home to laugh with and share some excellent Christmas beer. We all stayed overnight after doing our presents in the evening. Waffles in the morning, and lots of lying around and reading, with the occasional walk thrown in for exercise. It wasn't a white Christmas this year -- not even close, in fact, and I did some fun dirt-jumping this afternoon. Some more photos of us and the girls: me with precious daughters, happy sisters, Tan and Ivy, and the girls getting close.

Monday, December 22, 2003


Like most students, I was utterly and totally broke in university. My annual income in those years hovered in the $7,000 range, including money I mooched from my folks. But in a case of fortuitous juxtaposition, my buddy Ryan's family took me along to Kaanapali Beach at Christmas a few times.

So although I was happily poor, wearing Value Village clothes, eating Kraft Dinner and learning all kinds of left-wing stick-it-to-the-manisms, I got to see how the other side lived. And I liked it...a lot. Money might not buy happiness, but I sure was happy in Maui. Now every year I get a little twinge of proletarian jealousy when the Pletts head south. This year they're here.

Kids Books

Gwen sent me a link to this great list of top-notch kids' books, which is part of the excellent Children's Literature Web Guide from a busy librarian at the University of Calgary. One category of lists is Most Banned Books, which I found fascinating.

An author of one of the banned books has some astute observations about censorship:
"Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children's lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don't read about it, their children won't know about it. And if they don't know about it, it won't happen."
It reminded me that I wanted to link to Joanne's discussion of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe being taken off school reading lists. I read a few of those books again on vacation and enjoyed them. The cheesy Christian metaphors are pretty terrible, but they're still great whimsical stories. In the comments of Joanne's article, people seem to be as outraged as if there had been a ritual bible-burning. I'd be angry if they yanked C.S. Lewis off the library shelves, but I wouldn't say they were worthy of study.

Chris Corrigan

So many smart folks out there, so little time to absorb their wisdom. BC consultant Chris Corrigan often adds to the discussion at Rob's site, but I had never checked out his sites. He's got some great stuff about learning in his Parking Lot blog and interesting reflections about life on Bowen Island. He could almost be forgiven for being a Leafs fan.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Parenting and Lifestyle Optimization

Rob starts this article with an open question: What is Happening to Boys? He's pasted in an interesting analysis of what's gone wrong for boys (and men) of our generation, but the discussion following the article is most interesting to me. They're talking about lifestyle choices and balance, particularly in reference to parenting and work. A quote:
"At one end of the scale - if I am working at Sobeys at $9.0 an hour and I pay for daycare, and I have to have 2 cars and I have to find care in the summer and over Christmas are my costs of working way in excess of what I bring home? At the other end of the scale. If I have a very large mortgage, two really nice cars, all the gear and clothes and the vacations have I not set a cost threshold that forces me out to work?"
I'm just past the halfway point in my parental leave and we've been thinking about these kinds of issues a lot. Although the housing, transportation and recreation we could afford if Tannis and I both worked full-time would be great, right now we're not willing to let other people raise our kids. Some of the cut-the-crap comments from Cyn are spot-on in the discussion -- if you find this interesting, also check out a previous thread on a similar topic.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Ready Fire Aim

Doug's got another great post about figuring out how to plan your future: In Support of 'Ready Fire Aim'. A sample:
"Value in the emerging world is having a unique collection of high demand skills and expertise that (fortunately for you!) are in low supply. You need to know things that most want to know - but don't. Slow-to-move institutions are the least likely location for gaining cutting edge knowledge - they are galactic organizations that move at a glacial pace. Gaining value in this emerging world can more quickly be found through experience-oriented research/learning. This requires a new approach - ready (anticipate high demand/low supply), fire (get experience), aim (create meaning and value from experience). Failure, in this context, is as good as success because value can be generated from anything you do. The only mistake you can make is to do nothing."
I bolded that last line because it's something that Doug got through my thick skull a while back. Many people react badly to the idea of personal planning because they know that things are going to change along the way and their goals won't work out like they planned. I find planning very, very difficult. But Doug focuses on the process -- it's not about the end goal itself, but about the things you do in the process of moving towards it that open up opportunities you never would have found otherwise. Smart.

Powder Chair

Ryan is back from Ottawa for Christmas and we had a truly epic day at Big White yesterday. It hasn't snowed properly up there for days, but it was the opening day for the Gem Lake and Powder Chairs, which means that there was a month or so of powder sitting there waiting to be exploited.

And exploit we did. We're not morning people, but we can make exceptions when required, so we got there before the lift opened. Sitting on the chairlift, we could already see that it was going to be pretty sweet. There were only rabbit tracks (bottom right) in our favourite glade when Ryan dove in for the first pass.

We don't do big jumps or anything really fancy -- most of our riding is focused on finding fast lines through the trees, where the powder hides after everyone tracks up the actual runs. Once we had fully poached the trees, we took a few photos of some decent turns: me and Ryan. I also took some sketchy video of what snowboarding in the trees looks like to the rider, showing about 15 seconds of shaky footage. The second video is shorter and shows Ryan snaking through the gully. (sorry both videos offline right now).

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

MB Photos

Just a few photos from our trip...if you have any others, send them to me so I can post them later.
Ivy and her cousins
Tannis's birthday
Ella and her Stoesz great-grandparents
Christmas Ivy
Ella and Papa Larry
Ivy's tent (where she slept every night)

PEI Politics

Rob talks about politics on PEI in a way that helps me understand the difficulties of governing anywhere today. Although he's seeing lots of problems, he's focused on finding better ways of doing things. I don't think our political apathy is due to a lack of caring...I suppose most of us just don't see better alternatives.

I imagine BC and most other provinces are dealing with similar issues, especially in health and education. He talks about the commodification of everything, including tourism, which you wouldn't often think of as a commodity. As a sidenote related to provincial commodities, driving past those huge feedlots, livestock transport trucks and meat packing plants in Alberta made us consider full-blown vegetarianism again. We don't eat a lot of meat, and we could easily do without the amount that we eat now.

Image and Identity

Doug's writing makes me happy. This week he reveals The Key to Unhappiness, talking about the contrast between image and identity. Some simple truths: "When a person's image is significantly different than his/her identity, it can be both exhausting and complicated. When image and identity are aligned, life is simpler and more rewarding."

Someplace Else

I've been reading an interesting book with Ivy called Someplace Else. It's about an old woman who has lived all of her life in one place, but she's always wondered what it would be like to live someplace else, so she loads up her old pickup truck and goes out to find the right place. She tries living with her single banker son in the big city, where she loves the galleries, restaurants and theaters. Her next stop is to stay with a daughter on the seashore -- she enjoys the ocean, the beaches and playing with her grandchildren. Another son lives in the mountains, where she learns to ski and sits by the big stone fireplace.

After a few weeks in each place, she gets restless and decides to move on. All of the spots have things to love about them, but always with some trade-offs. The city is too busy, the seashore too settled, the mountains too rugged. The first time we read it, you assume that it will have some shmaltzy ending with old Mrs. Tillby rediscovering the joys of home, but instead, she buys the coolest airstream trailer lives in it while discovering new places and visiting old favourites, including her beloved apple orchard.

One of the fascinating things about travelling is seeing how other people live. On our prairie roadtrip, I often looked at the new rows of houses in places like Swift Current and wondered "why does anyone live here?" It seems like a barren wasteland in the middle of nowhere. Or I made small talk with a teenaged gas-station attendant in a small town like Virden and wondered about the path ahead of him. I've often assumed that everyone in those places is restless to leave at some point.

If anyone drove into Niverville, Manitoba, they'd probably wonder similar things. There's no river, crossroads or landmark that seems to justify its existence, but it's a growing town with busy shops and streets. We went there to visit my Hiebert clan, who I hadn't seen in years. With one day of warning, my Aunt Mary Anne was able to get 27 people to show up for our visit. How is that possible? Most of the clan is from two families (my dad's sisters), and their kids have all grown up and stayed in Niverville to raise their own families.

It's cheap, safe and they've maintained a rich network of friends and family that keeps everyone close to home. They've found decent work or created it themselves, becoming relatively wealthy without having to move to big cities for jobs, multiple university degrees or excitement. Although I might of judged them as too complacent when I was coming out of school, as we were driving away, Tannis and I realized how jealous we were of the lives they've created. It reflects their values as much as our decision to move to the mountains did, and we're seeing that our values are moving in their direction since we started having kids.

Winnipeg Weekend

Now I've gotten behind on my lame trip entries, so here's a hodgepodge so I don't forget even more stuff. Please don't be offended if you did something with us on the trip and I don't mention it here -- it's my poor memory, not a snub.
  • Friday was excellent. In the late afternoon, I went for a quick skate by myself. The ice on one of the three rinks had just been flooded and the prairie sunset was unbelievable -- standing at the east boards, the ice was a giant mirror reflecting pink, orange and blues. Chad and Crystal and the girls came over for supper and leisure -- Ivy was in her glory, of course, and later on Chad, Larry and I snuck out for some hockey on the rink.
  • I always seem to visit Manitoba when Greg is in the middle of his exams. He's getting close to the end of his electrical engineering degree and it hasn't killed him yet. He took a break from studying on Friday night and had a couple of cold ones with me at their very cool apartment...definitely a trip highlight.
  • Saturday lunch with Plett and Heather and no kids was really mellow. We hit Kelsey's, checked out their wedding photos, and had some laughs. Later on Heather held Ella for an hour while she slept and snored.
  • Big Friesen Christmas gathering for supper was a serious feast. Lots of kids running around and causing havoc, and everyone in a good space, it seemed. Ivy started off the carols with a very vocal request for Jingle Bells.
  • We took it easy on Sunday, doing some Christmasy things with Larry and Pearl and starting to pack up. Enjoyed hanging out around the fire and chatting one last time before heading home.
  • We left Monday morning and made it to Medicine Hat in time to hit the pool with Ivy. The driving was pretty terrible, with ice most of the way through Manitoba and sections of Saskatchewan, but the visibility was mostly OK. Some thick fog made it seem dark through the first part of Alberta, but then we burst out of it to see an outrageous sunset ahead of us while Morphine's Hangin' on a Curtain played. Frank Black's Teenager of the Year also got me through some of the duller sections of the drive.
  • Yesterday's drive from Medicine Hat to Banff was thankfully uneventful, but driving through the mountains was awful. Snow, ice, slush, blowing name it, we saw it. It was really slow going around Revelstoke, but it finally turned to rain just before Enderby. In Kelowna it was clear, calm and well above freezing. We're home.
  • The girls were real troopers, enduring those endless drives nearly as well as we were. Ivy announced several times that we were "never going to make it home" and that she wanted to "get out of the car...RIGHT NOW!", but she was usually distractable with some bribe like listening to Daddy's horrid singing or digging into the Froot Loops (again). Ella solidified her soother addiction and demanded Tannis's attention several times a day.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Arctic Blast

We're getting a taste of real Manitoba winter weather this week, with the mercury dropping below -30c. The sunshine has been glorious, though, with no real wind. We saw nearly the entire Hiebert clan yesterday in a wonderful impromptu party. Ivy met some of her second-cousins for the first time and seemed to enjoy it. She and I also made the trip out to Milt and Carla's for the evening. Pizza with my grandparents and Carol and Jean and we even popped in on Jer and Bonnie. Pretty social couple of days...

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Lazy Manitoba Weekdays

After a pretty lazy day, I connected with Plett and Heather last night, checking out their wedding pictures and hanging out with Tim Horton. I also went hunting around U of M for Greg, who is in the throes of exams this week -- somehow our trips always overlap his crunch times. Later I had a glorious skate just down the road from Larry and Pearl's. The outdoor NHL game in Edmonton a few weeks ago had me looking forward to some skating outside, and it was amazing to glide and stride across the ice with light snow falling...quiet and perfect, really.

This morning we took the girls to the Manitoba Museum (no longer "of Man and Nature" I noticed). Ella was not too impressed, unfortunately. I had brought Ivy there last year and she had loved it, but this time she got spooked by the dinosaur bones and overwhelmed by the Nonsuch. Still mostly successful, and not a bad way to spend a couple of hours. I still love going there for the nostalgia if nothing else.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Crazy Road Trip

So we're on the road these days, having all piled into our old Mazda and driven halfway across the country to be in Winnipeg in mid-winter. Why would anyone do a roadtrip with a two-year-old and a baby? Why Winnipeg in December? I can't answer these questions without the benefit of historical hindsight. But some highlights so far:
  • The drive actually turned out really well. Ivy was a particularly good sport and hardly complained -- Ella mostly slept and we didn't have to stop for her much.
  • We were stranded in a freaky Calgary snowstorm that wasn't forecasted. Shouldn't have been a highlight, except we stayed in a great Comfort Inn for $75 that had breakfast and a pool. The waterslide was intense, striking fear into all of us -- Ivy demanded that she try it too, so Tannis took her down through the fast dark tunnel, hitting the water at insane speed. She cried a bit, but acknowledged that she had been very brave.
  • It's very far from Calgary to Winnipeg, but the drive was gorgeous in that weird, understated prairie way. Pinkish-blue snowdrifts, golden grasses poking through over rolling hills and flat plains. Amazing sunset behind us, huge moonrise ahead, and then an otherworldly display of northern lights to our left later in the night. U2's Joshua Tree (our standard road-trip soundtrack), Depeche Mode's Violator and my usual assortment of mixed tapes kept us company through the dark. We pulled out the tape I had made for our wedding seven-and-a-half years ago -- the oddest hodgepodge of Faith No More, Enya, Primus, Sarah McLachlan, and Alice in Chains that you ever did hear. Great nostalgia.
  • A highly successful stop at Boston Pizza in Regina...the girls were so happy there, mostly because they didn't have to sit in the car. Food was good, everyone had multiple bathroom breaks, and we were geared up for the final six-hour leg of the journey.
  • Not getting a ticket after being stopped by police near Virden. The cop came to the car with his flashlight and said, "looks like you already have your hands full tonight."
  • Glare ice through Headingly, so we skipped the perimeter and drove through the city at 3am. Not a highlight, really, but we almost hit a deer on Moray -- only in Winnipeg.
  • Angelo and Esther met Ella and hung out with us at Larry and Pearl's. We got to see Angelo's film, which was unbelievably cool. Angelo and I hit the Toad in the Hole on Main for pub grub and Guinness...too short an evening, but wonderful nevertheless. Celebrated with a bottle of Granville Island Christmas Ale brought from home.
  • Great birthday feast for Tannis with Chad and Crystal and their girls. Those little cousins play hard -- Ivy was mostly in her glory. We were at their place again last night and Chad and I got to do some brisk skating on the outdoor rink across the much fun.

China Bikes

China has a billion or so people and growing pollution and traffic problems...meanwhile, they're pushing bicycles off their streets. Must the whole world follow our model of total car dependence?

Monday, December 01, 2003

Doug Manning's Proactive Living Blog

Doug Manning has been one of the main influences on my career in the last four years. He's one of those guys who has so much positive energy, intelligence and wit that it's almost impossible to disagree with him. I'm happy to see that he's started an online journal called Proactive Living. It's just getting rolling with a few posts, but he's already digging into some heavy-duty stuff:
"A truly proactive person understands each of the following truths:
a) A plan simply defines meaningful activities and experiences in the gap between who you are and who you want to be. The primary function of a plan is to provide a sense of purpose/direction to things you do.
b) If you don't be proactive with your life, you will be reactive. Shape or be shaped. There is no neutral.
c) It is easy to see a person's proactive or reactive habits. Reactive people talk - about things that cannot be done. Proactive people use experience to figure out how to make things happen.
d) You can't make someone else proactive. It is an act of personal construction.
e) A proactive life creates personal vitality, a reactive life expends it.
f) A plan is never complete, it changes with you as you learn/grow from life experiences."
The portrayal of the proactive/reactive split seems a bit too polarized -- we're all proactive at times and reactive at others -- but I suppose it's all about the ratio. He's been refining these ideas for decades and they're getting a wider audience these days.

When I hear Doug speak about this stuff, it makes me realize the interests in my life that I've put on the backburner too long: music, environmental and land-use issues, politics (especially local) and social issues...the list could go on and on, and I realize that I can't do everything, but I need to refocus more often. It also reminds me that my priorities have become too antisocial.