Saturday, December 24, 2011

Another day to live

A blogger friend has been silent for the last couple of weeks, and just posted the reason why: her boyfriend has been diagnosed with a serious and incurable blood disease. Not in immediate danger, but they are both coming to terms with a stark reminder of their mortality.

And yet, this is also a reminder that the universe is not kind. This couple may be facing a future that seems short and bleak, yet what's to say that my time with my family will be any longer? Tragedy can strike at any moment. My future is no more certain that theirs.

So, today I am reminded of the sage advice to live each day is if it were your last, and I am thankful for another day to live.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A full fridge

I came home from the weekly shop and started to put away the groceries.

I had some difficulty. The fridge was already full. Every item I went to put away, I had to get ever more creative, rearranging, stacking, taking stuff out that I knew we'd want for lunch, only to have to find room for it a while later. Alongside all the usual fridgely inhabitants, there's several bits of leftovers, and cartons of home-made sweets that my wife and daughter made at Guides. Several cartons and jars that are nearly empty and will leave room fairly soon, but not just yet.

It was becoming a task fit for a MENSA-level IQ test. I started to get frustrated. Then I realised, what a wonderful problem this is to have in the first place. How many people in the world would long to have this problem? I should be thankful, not angry.

And I am.

I still haven't found room for that half-empty carton of milk, but you know what? I don't care.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


I just strayed onto this poignant blog post, and it reminded me how lucky I am to have such a wonderful family. The post struck a chord, because we lost our first child, stillborn at full term. We went on to have two beautiful children who alternately bring joy and endless madness into our lives, but we wouldn't be without them.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Getting from A to B

This week, my wife and daughter are away on a camp. My son is booked into a day camp for the week. I dropped him off this morning then drove on to work, and had to leave work in time to collect him again.

Timing is everything.

And it's something I've started to take for granted.

And I shouldn't.

On the way up the highway, it suddenly struck me that I was enjoying a luxury that I never used to enjoy. I left work for a 25km journey, and arrived within minutes of when I was expecting to. And that was nothing unusual. Barring the occasional accident on the highway, my daily commute is unbelievably reliable and stress-free. Something to be thankful for!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Home baking

My family & I have enjoyed home-baked bread for many years. I buy buns for the kids but rarely buy a loaf, other than one to keep in the freezer for emergencies. Every weekend I get out the breadmaker and knock up a couple of loaves to see us through the week.

Most of the time, they come out well. Sometimes not. I've no idea what I do differently, but there are so many variables that it's impossible to control them all precisely.

Today I set one going. Came home from walking the dog, opened up the lid. Uh-oh, hasn't risen anywhere near enough. Darn it!

I was pissed for a while, but then I thought: it's still fresh bread. It'll taste OK anyway. Whatever's left will be good for breadcrumbs. And, when I think about it, I'm lucky to be able to enjoy fresh bread at all. How many people in the world would envy me this luxury, even if it didn't come up to my usual standard?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

From your optimistic political correspondent

Election fever is finally over. For a while.

I don't pretend to like Stephen Harper, but in a choice between him, Michael Ignatieff, or Jack Layton, there's not a lot to choose as far as I can tell. So with no particular axe to grind over which of them becomes Prime Minister I can't feel too dismal about the outcome.

So that leaves me free to celebrate the positives in yesterday's results:

1. We have a majority government. I may not agree with the Conservative policies, but at least we can get past the endless dance of the No Confidence Tango that's dogged politics for so long.

2. Finally the Bloc Quebecois have been put in their place. To my mind, they are an exclusive Provincial interest group with no place at the Federal feeding trough, especially not in the number of seats they enjoyed that was disproportionate to the actual votes cast.

3. The Green party has finally got a well-deserved seat. For rationale, see #2 and flip all the arguments on their head.

Political rant over. Time for bed.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The gift of writing

In my spare time, I write science fiction. This started out rather late in life (compared with most writers, who've had stories bubbling out of their heads since they could string sentences together) so I've always felt a bit of a fraud. But I'm slowly gaining confidence to think that, in fact, I am not a bad writer.

This is a warming, but fragile, realisation.

For this I can thank the harsh but supportive groups of critiquers who've helped me develop my skills. Their comments have evolved over the years from outright ripping-apart, to glimmers of serious encouragement.

Being able to string words into stories is a great gift.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I feel lucky that, just 5 minutes drive from home, I can get out onto miles of woodland trails like this...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Eye to eye with the wild

I grew up somewhere where the closest I got to a wild animal was the occasional rabbit. This morning, I'm cycling to work along a quiet suburban road (not exactly wilderness) when I suddenly find myself eye to eye, as in less than a car's length away from, three deer grazing nonchalantly on a grass bank in front of someone's house.

This is not an isolated occurrence.

It makes my heart glad whenever it happens.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Time for reflection

I like to cycle to work as often as my body, schedule, and the weather allow. Sadly all three conspired to put an early end to cycling last summer, and to make a slow start this year after the winter darkness.

The trouble is, it's a long way to work. It involves an hour-long cycle each way, which is physically demanding, and requires time and preparation.

But, on days such as today when the planets align and I get on my bike, that turns into a number of blessings. I am getting exercise and fresh air. The ride is beautiful. I am often delighted by the sight of wildlife.

Best of all, I have two hours in the day free from demands. Time to myself. Time to reflect. A precious commodity.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Count your blessings

I came home from work feeling OK, after a not-too-stressful day, planning out what I was going to do with a hour or so free time. Thirty seconds later, all the good will evaporated. My wife was feeling ill, the kids were arguing over who was going to do what to get themselves some food before my daughter had to go off to Guides. Now, two and a bit hours later I've finally sat down for a few minutes after getting started on some food for my wife and I after the kids are to bed, and clearing a pile of dishes that's been depressing me for days. I feel wretched. I feel like I spend all my time looking after everyone around me and have no time left over for myself.

But I strayed on to this blog that I've been neglecting shamefully after such a good start, and I am reminded of all the things I should be thankful for. I'm lucky that I have a wife, and two wonderful children, and a home in a beautiful part of the world.

And after all that tiring effort, I did actually manage to do the one thing that I planned to do when I first arrived home, and the kitchen is clean again, and I have a tasty meal to look forward to.

Cup half full!

Thank you, blog!

Monday, March 28, 2011

A beautiful universe

Despite what you might think from the title of this blog, I am not a religious person.Apart from anything else, it always amuses me when people say that the only possible explanation for our amazing universe is to invoke an almighty creator. To me, that explains nothing. All it does is push the whole problem of existence up to a new level.

Nonetheless, I am repeatedly awed and blessed that we live in such a stunningly beautiful universe.

Picture from NASA's "Astronomy picture of the day"

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Springtime again

Sitting in warm sunshine in the seclusion of my front yard, with a book to read. It feels so long since I've felt that kind of warmth on my skin, but so well worth the wait.

Friday, March 25, 2011


This has always been my favourite time of year, when the days lengthen and the air warms. These days it is blessed by the abundance of cherry and plum blossom gracing the streets and parks of Victoria and surroundings.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The edge of civilisation

We live in a very civilised part of the world. But, as I was reminded last weekend when we went camping to celebrate my son's birthday (his idea!), we can very quickly drive to small communities living right on the edge of civilisation. There, you can get a small sense of what the world used to be like before people came along. I find it a humbling experience to see just how thin is this veneer that we call "civilisation".

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thoughts of those less fortunate

This could easily come across as rather bandwagoney, but it's not meant to be.

The news right now is full of the devastation in Japan. Before that, it was New Zealand. Before that, you can count back a series of earthquakes, mudslides, floods, name it.

The world is a dangerous place. Security is an illusion. The Universe doesn't owe you a living and disaster can strike at any moment. For many people it already has.

While your thoughts and prayers go to those who are suffering today, be thankful for every day that passes without the hand of Fate pointing it's scrawny finger at you.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Another reminder from the blogoverse. Someone I follow posted an honest account of her struggles with her writing at the moment. She described writing as a gift from God. Something that needs to be expressed. To abandon it, to doubt it, would be stupidity.

Now, the bit about God I will leave for others to believe in, but the bit about gifts struck home.

I am also struggling with writing right now, after a brief explosion of creativity that it's become an effort to sustain. But she's right. What I've unearthed is indeed a gift, and one which I should feel blessed with. And, when I think about it, I have many other gifts too, that I use to greater or lesser effect. Rather than complain about the effort, I should be overwhelmingly thankful that I can write, and paint, and build outdoor play equipment for the kids, and cook, and many more things.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The blogging community

I have another blog, where I talk (amongst other things) about my life as a wannabe science-fiction writer. Yesterday I posted a mild lament about the looming takeover of e-books threatening my dream of seeing my work in print, and being able to hold a real copy of my own book.

I got such an amazingly positive and supportive response from blogger friends in the writing world. I am touched by the spirit and community of this ethereal world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A quiet life

I just read a post by a fellow blogger who I feel I've got to know quite well over the past year or so. In this post he describes an incident many years ago growing up in a rough part of New York. At the age of twelve, his life was very seriously threatened when he and his brother went to the public pool.

Realising the conditions that many people are compelled to regard as "normal", I am unbelievably thankful that I was able to grow up in a safe environment, and that we have such a safe and welcoming place to bring up our children.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Family days

I missed a day yesterday. First time since starting this blog...ooh, let's see...all of two weeks ago :)

But this weekend we had no Girl Guide or Cub Scout commitments. No camps, no sleepovers, no fundraisers.

It was a bit of a family day yesterday. Sitting on the front steps in the sunshine, with my wife, drinking coffee. A family swim at the local rec. centre, playing "tag" in the lazy river. Playing daft board games with the kids after dinner.

I'm lucky to have a family to share these things with.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Service with a smile

When I do the grocery shopping each week, I am blessed that the friendly staff at the local Thrifty Foods make it such an enjoyable experience.

I've experienced many years of supermarket hell, with overcrowded aisles, long lines at the checkout, and staff who acknowledge you only enough to take your money while they chatter to each other about how drunk they got last night and who shagged who.

But the last few years have been a consistently pleasant experience. The lady today surprised me by suddenly saying "Thank you for making my day."

Why? She'd just scanned a box of Nanaimo bars, and it reminded her how she once asked her grandmother, "Have you ever tried Nanaimo bars?"

"Yes," her grandmother replied. "All of them!"

She lived in Nanaimo at the time.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel

I heard today that we finally got the go-ahead to recruit a new member of staff to help out a particularly stretched team. This is just one of many that we should have had on our payroll before the financial crunch wiped out all the vacancies we were in the process of filling, but it is a start.

Common sense is starting to shine through. Thank goodness for that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A quiet home

When the frantic bustle of another work day is over, and the runs to music (my son) and Sparks (my wife is a leader, daughter a helper) are over, dinner cooked and eaten, I am so thankful to be able to curl up for an hour of "down time" and let the cares of the day wash away.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Even when things are hectic to the point of insanity at work, I can still rely on my colleagues to bring a dose of proportion to the day. Someone this morning showed me a series of slides that proposed an important principle...

10% of life is made up of what happens to you … 
90% of life is decided by how you react …

The slides walked through an example of how a tiny accident at the breakfast table could totally ruin your day.

Or not.

The accident (the 10%) was outside your control. The rest was determined by how you chose to react.

The scenario was totally believable. I could see myself in it. Especially when I'm as tired and pressured as I am at the moment, which is what made it so powerful for me. The point is that how you react is a choice.

Thank you for reminding me.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our daily bread

Every weekend I make a batch of bread to see us through the week. Thanks goodness for breadmakers. Whatever we don't need right away goes into the freezer as soon as it's cool, so when it comes out it's the next best thing to fresh. There is just no comparison with your average shop-bought loaf.

I've got used to taking it for granted now, but for some reason, cutting into a new loaf this morning, I thought how lucky I am that I can do this.

Monday, February 28, 2011


It rained last night. We thought we'd seen the last of the snow. When we got up this morning, the grass and the cars were coated with a light dusting of white. Oh well.

When I went outside to go to work, I realised that the "light dusting" was actually pebble-dashed armour plating of snow granules welded to the car by frozen rain. And the driveway, which simply looked wet, was a sheet of black ice. Oops. Looks like I'm taking the big car instead of mine. Better traction in slippy conditions.

While my wife shuttled back and forth with jugs of warm water to unstick car doors and clear windows, I got the car started. Just about to leave when a frantic signalling from the front door reminded me that I'd left my parking pass in the other car. Whew!

Thank goodness my wife and I watch out for each other. Between us we might make one whole functioning human being :D

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A sense of fellowship

It's no longer snowing, thank goodness, but it is still cold and wet out. So it's no surprise that when I took our dog for a walk just now that I only saw a few fellow pedestrians out and about.

It occurred to me, as I greeted complete strangers in the street, how different this was from where I used to live. There, you might get a mumbled greeting, delivered grudgingly as if you had both made the mistake of making eye contact and this was the only decent way out of that embarrassing gaffe.

Here, it would be considered rude to not make eye contact and exchange greetings. This makes me feel good. It makes me feel like a part of the community around me, rather than an unwelcome intruder in my own neighbourhood.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A question of utility

Thank goodness for utility trailers.

We invested in one several years ago, just over a year after moving to Canada, when we planned our first family camping trip.

Since then, it has been loaded to the gunnels with camping equipment on many occasions, hauled yard waste to the tip, brought loads of gravel, soil, and mulch from the landscape suppliers (saving hundreds of $$ in delivery charges in the process), brought materials from the builders yard for many projects, logs for the fire, and many other uses I can't possibly remember.

This afternoon, my wife and daughter set off with over 100 girls and adults for a Guides sleepover at Vancouver Aquarium. I dropped them off at the ferry terminal...with trailer in tow heaped high with bedrolls from all the girls who'd gone on an earlier ferry.

What would we do without it?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Hello sunshine

I spend most of my working day lurking in the depths of a large building. Often, especially this time of year, I go through days on end where daylight is something barely glimpsed through distant windows.

So I feel blessed today to emerge, blinking, at the end of a long day, into blue skies and bright sunshine livening the crisp air and the pristine white that still blankets much of the city.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's a jungle out there

When I drive my son to music lesson, we always look out for deer grazing in the field where the road runs past the airport. None there today, probably hiding in the trees away from the bitter wind. But all the same, they are often to be seen.

Where I grew up, the largest wild animals around were seagulls. Land animals living wild? Maybe a few small mammals - things like mice and the occasional rabbit.

I love that my kids can grow up seeing larger creatures roaming wild: deer, eagles, seals, sometimes raccoons, and (just once) a bear.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Team spirit

Looks like we took the trailer cover off a week too early! Snow reached Victoria overnight. Not much, admittedly, but as this is such a balmy corner of the country even a few inches is enough to bring motoring chaos to the city.

I crawled in to work in an hour and a half, a journey that normally takes about 25 minutes. Many people couldn't make it because they're stuck on steep hills, and cars don't make for good bobsleds!

But times like this really bring out co-operation and understanding. Many folks were able to log into the network from home and carry on working. Meetings took place by email and phone. Anyone worried about the journey home was able to leave early. Life goes on.

Oh, and looks like the kids are now making their own model of Cypress Mountain out on the front lawn.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Not alone...

Another very tough day at work, makes it very difficult to stay positive.

There is one thing that came to mind along the way that I should be thankful for, though. I was reminded that I am not alone.

Many (most?) of my colleagues also feel swamped, overwhelmed, not positioned or equipped to succeed. In terms of work fulfillment, we spend most of our time right at the bottom of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Doing little more than bare day-to-day survival, with no time or energy for looking further ahead, let alone planning to make real improvements in the workplace.

As a manager, this is exceptionally frustrating to me because thinking to the future is where I should be spending most of my energy. I'm not. But I know I'm not alone in feeling this frustration, and between us we might find a way to cut through the logjam.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Home comforts

It's been a tough day at work. I feel like I'm banging my head against brick walls all over the place, and taking at least one step backwards for every tiny step forwards.


I'm fortunate that my employer supports work/life balance. I've done as much as I can for one day and need to get home, and that's OK and understood. Unless something major happens, I can leave it all behind at the end of the day.

Sure, all the same issues will be lying in wait to do battle again tomorrow. But meanwhile, I can come home to a loving embrace, a crackling log fire, and a cold beer.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Food for thought

The Peninsula Hike For Hunger today collected food for the local food bank.

It was 2:30 by the time we finished and returned home for lunch. Hungry. Appropriate. It reminded me how thankful I am that we had food to return home to, and that I have never suffered real hunger in my life.

As an aside, did you know that roughly half the food in North America goes to waste? And that the world easily produces more than enough food to feed every person on the planet, but the juggernaut of modern economics prevents it from ever reaching the mouths that need it most?

Another totally unrelated and random blessing: duct tape. Took the cover off the trailer today (figured we were unlikely to be in for any more harsh winter). There are a few rips where it rubs against sharp corners. Last year's duct tape repair seems to be holding up, so treated two new rips the same way.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

How this started

I heard from a blogger friend today, someone who's been quiet for a while now. Both she and her husband are out of work and life is tough, which is why she hasn't been blogging recently.

Her blog is bitingly funny, but focuses on the dark side of life. As she said, "Trouble tends to attract more of itself and I don't want to encourage it to stick around by paying attention to it."

Wise words. But it got me thinking, what if the opposite is also true? So I'm trying a little experiment. See what happens if I focus on the positive side of life. Does that also attract more of itself?

Let's find out...

The purpose of this blog is very simple: to celebrate each day things in my life that I should be thankful for. Not so much the big, sweeping, but rather vague things like health, happiness, and apple pie, but specific and tangible things that catch my attention each day.

So, here's a starter pack of random thoughts to get things going

A loving wife and two adorable children. Just had to get that out there first!

Having a job (in these uncertain times) and one that I can see is of immense worth to the public in this province. Had to get that out there too, given the inspiration for this blog.

Yes, all of the above drive me to distraction sometimes, but whenever I want to tear my hair out I must remember that I wouldn't be without any of them.

Living in a spectacularly beautiful part of the world on Vancouver Island, BC.

At the grocery store today, meeting the man from Island Farms who makes the Mint Moose Tracks ice cream I was picking off the shelf. This reminded me what a connected community this is.

Being able to make him feel good by expressing my happiness as a customer.

Also being able to suggest, to someone who might be able to make a difference, that it would be great if they could do a pistachio flavor.

Speaking on the phone to someone the other side of the country who just finished clearing ice from the gutter, while I gaze out at blue skies and bright February sunshine.

Oh, what the heck, let's throw pie.