Posts from the ‘Life’ category

Let’s get this straight; I don’t build things with my hands.

In the caveman era, I would not have been the guy making the clubs.

It doesn’t come naturally, nor have I been able to acquire the skills at this point in my life.

I’ve never been interested in how things are designed or put together.

Tools are people I think are fools, and hardware has something to do with computers.

Monkey Wrench is a Foo Fighters song.

Scraper is missing the word sky.

Bolt is the surname of a fast man.

Who is Phillip? And, why do I have Allen’s key?

And then…

My daughter is bunny sitting for the summer, and she asks me, “Daddy, can you build me a bunny hutch?”

Her hopeful blue eyes stare at me, and I melt.

I immediately reply with “Of course, sweetie. Let’s look at some designs and see what is best for the bunnies.” In my head I’m thinking, ‘I’m in trouble if she want’s anything more than a small square box’.

Suggesting to look at designs was my first mistake. There are some extremely nice bunny cages out there.

Suddenly my requirements included a cosy sleeping area, a grassed area for them to eat and play, a run long enough for them to hop a few times, and multiple opening and closing areas to control where the bunnies are, and for cleaning purposes.

What’s that saying? ‘Fake it til’ you make it’.

I had wood lying around, so my first trip to the hardware store was for nails. I thought I’d start simple.

While looking for nails, I picked up a saw. A wire attached it to the shelf so it couldn’t be stolen. So, here I had an electric saw with no power, with a plastic cover over the blade, and I still managed to cut my finger on the wire. Good start.

I located the nails. Who knew that there were so many different types of nails? Different sizes and finishes had my head spinning. I didn’t realise it’d be so specific. I just needed a multi pack of about 1000 nails, because I really had no clue what I needed. However, that didn’t exist.

I left dazed, with a few packets of nails and screws, wondering what I’d gotten myself in to.

Before I started building, I sketched, and measured, and sketched some more. Having the design on paper was not really helping me feel any more confident with actually building the bunny cage.

But here’s only one way to learn, and so I began.

I hit many design problems along the way, including the need to reinforce components of the design, and using an excessive amount of nails to hold the thing together. However, I was feeling more and more confident it could house 2 bunnies.

My daughter was incredible throughout the build. She helped where she could, provided moral support, and at one point said to me, “Dad, it doesn’t matter if it’s perfect, as long as the bunnies have a home, they’ll love it!”

I battled through my own doubts, knowing that this was an important moment in my father/daughter relationship. I started to laugh off mistakes, be creative and innovative when faced with design flaws, and enjoy the experience of using my hands to build something.

Meanwhile, my daughter reminded me that she loves me unconditionally. She also loved that I was able to get blue and pink outdoor paint to complete her dream bunny cage.

So I finished the bunny cage. It’s true; if you build it they will come. The bunnies have arrived and are loving their new home.

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And then…

My daughter asks me, “Daddy, can you build me a dolls house?”

Stay tuned.

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Side 1: 

Let me tell you, living in Canada is not all about playing with white stuff or feeling like the incredible hulk as you add a 5th layer of clothing.

Southern Ontario was hit this week with a major ice storm, and I was reminded how foreign winter phenomena’s are to many people.

An ice storm consists of freezing rain. This is not hail, but instead it’s rain that falls at or just below zero degrees. As it falls it becomes supercooled, which helps it freeze on impact with roads, trees, cars, and powerlines.

Ice storms are much less frequent than the typical snow storm, but have a tendency to wreak havoc. Since the freezing rain causes ice to form on the trees and powerlines, it adds a considerable amount of weight, so it’s common for tree branches to come down on powerlines and cause power outages.

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We got a call at 10pm, “The back up generator hasn’t kicked in, the basement is starting to flood”.

When the power goes out in the country, there’s one main issue … so let me introduce you to a sump pump.

A sump pump is probably the most important machine to operate at all times in a rural property. You will generally find a sump pump submerged in a basement, particularly in townships which have a high water table level. It pumps as needed to remove water from the basement drainage system to avoid overflowing and flooding.

When the power goes out in the country, the sump pump stops working.

When your back-up generator doesn’t kick in… any guesses? Yep, your right. The basement starts flooding, and during a snow melt and/or heavy rain, it doesn’t take long.

We asked, “How much water?” 

“I’m treading in water, and it’s only been five minutes.”

“Really?” (Or perhaps some other words to express surprise and immediate concern.) “We’ll be there as soon as we can.”

When we arrived at the property, the water level on the lower half of our basement was now a solid 4 inches underwater. Most things in this room sit on crates to avoid too much damage in this exact situation. However, we probably had only an inch or so before it would move into the higher (and finished) half of our basement, which was full of belongings.

Outside with torches we checked the generator. Maybe the battery was dead, causing it not to start? Well, there was only one way to find out. After finding the manual override button, this was the moment of truth. Would everything be lost in the basement, or would we avoid this by the narrowest of margins?

As we held down the button, it tried to start. It kept trying to start, and a few seconds later it turned over. The sump pump came to life and the water started receding immediately.

A very close call. Phew!

Side 2.

It was a beautiful storm.

There’s two sides to every storm.

Happy living

Roaming Days

 

 

 

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If I were to tell you that we’ve moved 5 times in 2 years, you may be right to question our sanity.

I’ve heard that the average person moves around 11 times in their lifetime, and we’ve knocked over nearly half that in the same time it takes some people to unpack from a single move.

Recently, we’ve taken a fairly liberal approach to life, letting the tides flow how they will, and not trying to swim against them.

It all started back in Australia, with our kids running naked and free in our backyard. Bathed in sunlight, ice blocks (popsicles) dripping everywhere, the sound of lawn mowers running, kids laughing, and friendly neighbours dropping by.

This was home, and we loved it.

But who wants 8 months of summer every year? It was time to four season our life and move to Canada. The move aired adventure and opportunity, with absolutely no clue as to how the next year or two would transpire.

We started living with family in a finished basement while we adjusted to the new sub-zero weather conditions. We had to adjust quickly, as we faced a record breaking winter of low temperatures and snow fall. If we could survive the worst winter in almost 60 years, we were going to be okay!

This was home, and it was great to be living with family and having our own little space to retreat.

When you dream something so grand as to live in a motorhome and travel North America with 2 kids under 5, it doesn’t happen magically. There’s a ton of work, commitment and sacrifice to make it happen.

As we loaded the kids into our new (used) motorhome and set off on this adventure, I’m sure I heard my wife laugh and mutter ‘What the f#%k are we doing?’ It seemed surreal that we’d made this dream come true!

A wise soul said to me recently, ‘it’s not about the length of time you spend on the road. The road is the road. It’s the openness to learn and grow… and to let go.’ We love these words, and they are close to our heart. Living on the road is such a humbling experience.

This was home, and North America was our backyard.

We then decided to spend some time establishing ourselves in a new country. While we searched for work, we moved back into the family basement as the cold weather made the RV unliveable.

Fortunately, the job hunt was quick and we were packing again. The move to a high-rise condo was contrastingly different to the freedom of a motorhome.

We had every possible convenience at our doorstep. It was big city living; an endless choice of shops, restaurants, and nightlife. However, we hardly used any of it. Instead we focused on experiences. We took them hiking, biking, to parks, and shows and ballets, and lots of swimming in the condo pool. We even had the kids skiing down a little hill in the middle of the city – which was perfect for teaching them.

This was home, and for a short time, it was fun to be as high as the birds (we literally watched birds soar passed our window).

In the last two years, we’ve not had a clear destination in mind. Despite this, we’ve not been lost, nor have we been blindly out of control. We left Australia with an open mind, willing to let go of the life we knew, and embrace whatever came our way.

As a result, the concept of ‘home’ became more fluent for us. We learnt by living in the motorhome that once we closed the blinds at night, no matter where we were parked, we were home.

One night in the condo, as we sat overlooking the city lights, my wife and I realised this was a temporary home. It didn’t represent us, or the things that we wanted for our little family. The sheer recognition of this immediately opened up new possibilities. Within weeks, our life was heading in a new direction.

Now, I’m staring out into our newest backyard. Touched by the lightest remnants of an icy snow, the leaning wooden fence loosely defines our backyard. Beyond is a huge horse paddock, and beyond that seems to be endless acres of rural land to explore.

We find ourselves in an adoring and thoughtful community, in a farmhouse that sometimes feels like the middle of nowhere (in a good way).

This is home… for now.

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What do we miss staring into our mobile devices each day? What do we miss by having a head full of ‘to dos’? What do we miss by not seeking ‘real’ human connection in our day-to-day lives (even with strangers)?

We miss this…

It was just another mid-week morning.

These people had one thing on their mind… ‘Morning coffee’.

Almost on autopilot, they’d steered their cars into the drive-thru and given their order into a little faceless box. Now they waited. Their cars’ hummed and crept forward at any opportunity.

As they waited to drive up to a little window to pay, some drivers chatted to the passenger, and others starred blankly ahead. In a moment, they would collect their cup of motivation and survival for the morning.

But one thing was different this morning…

Inside the coffee shop was my family. We were sitting in a corner booth, which just happened to be right next to the drive-thru. As each car pulled up next to us, my wife encouraged the kids to wave. My kids liked the idea and started waving at each car.

It became evident that many people don’t react well to change in their morning routine. It was astounding to me, how many people could blatantly ignore two gorgeous little kids (under 5), waving and smiling at them from the window.

My kids don’t give up on anything that easily. They were committed to their plight and were not discouraged even for a second by the lack of response.

It was their sheer joy of the experience that sent positive energy out to each and every one of these strangers. Their energy grew car after car. Sure enough, people started waving back. We even got a few smiles.

It was uplifting to watch strangers find that unexpected moment of joy in their morning routine.

And then it happened…

In the next car was a woman we didn’t know. As she looked in at the kids waving and smiling gleefully, she burst into tears.

We don’t know her story. We don’t know whether there was pain behind those tears. But there was certainly joy. She managed a smile. It was a moment that broke all of us.

Having an impact on others from behind a window in a coffee shop was truly magical.

Tis’ the season to make others happy!

Happy living,

Roaming Days

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Dear Sparkles,

Our beloved motorhome, we owe you this long overdue thank you!

To the unobserving eye, you’re just another of the voluminous number of motorhomes across North America. You see them everywhere: transported to the same ol’ trailer park, driven south to escape the white stuff, or permanently residing in a backyard.

But not you Sparkles. You gave off a vibe that you were ready for adventure.

Were we destined to meet? Well, we searched motorhomes online for over a year to find you, at times very confused as to what would be the best motorhome for our trip. When we landed on the shores of Canada, you were on our short list. You stayed on the list through an RV show, and a couple of visits to RV traders.

It then came down to two. Although the 5th wheel was absolutely gorgeous, it didn’t make sense for our trip. We would be stopping often, we wouldn’t be in places very long, and the kids needed a table to play and do craft while we drove (rather than being stuck in the back of a truck).

You were the one. You were going to drive us 14,500 miles (21,000 kms) around North America. You were going to be our everything; our hotel, our restaurant, our playground, our transportation… our home.

I loved driving you from the minute I hoped in. You didn’t exactly hum. Perhaps I was fulfilling a sudden ‘trucker’ dream. You definitely had heart, and some impressive grunt. That’s why I wanted to call you Grizzly.

However, the name ‘Sparkles’ prevailed, as every time during the trip I said to the kids “Let’s get back to Grizzly”, I was instantly corrected with, ‘No Daddy, it’s Sparkles”.

We picked you up near Hamilton (outside of Toronto), and we both survived our trip home. It wasn’t a direct route as we were hoping to give you a new set of runners (read tires). I’d pre-ordered a beautiful set of 6 Cooper Discoverer tires. As we got closer to the gas station, which we had to go through to get to the garage, it dawned me how big you really were. It didn’t help that the gas station was minuscule, by far the smallest gas station I’d ever encountered.

Against my better judgment, I turned in and I felt like I was driving a monster truck through a kids miniature-land. Some tight manoeuvring found us alongside the garage. I jumped out and took a few steps towards the mechanic who had stepped out of the garage looking somewhat perplexed. “We can’t fit that in the garage, who did you speak to?” It’s ironic because it would not be the last time I would hear those words.

If I’d thought entering the gas station was difficult, the stakes were suddenly raised as we pulled out into Toronto traffic.

Now for most ordinary North American folk, you may scoff. But in Australia, we‘re still building 2 lane highways. So when I was faced with the goal of moving a 31ft vehicle across 4 lanes of Toronto traffic, from a standing start, with the maximum acceleration of a truck, and with my exit only a stone’s throw up the highway, you could say I wasn’t overly excited. Did I forget to mention that my read view mirrors had swung in without me noticing!

Over the next month or so we gave you a lot of lovin’, and finally a new set of tires. It was only fair that as we prepared ourselves for this adventure, we got you ready as well.

Ready to roll, goodbye snow.

What you gave back to us is something that we are forever indebted to you for. This is what you taught us…

1. Dream big, and have the balls to make it a reality

From Elvis’ house in Memphis, to waking up beside the Mississippi River, from watching a bison crossing in Yellowstone National Park, to overlooking the mountains in Whistler, you allowed us to wake up somewhere new almost every single day for 7 months.

We fell in love with country music in Nashville, Tennessee, and were blessed by beautiful little cities like Jefferson City, Missouri. We reached the werewolf ridden La Push beach, Washington, and explored remote towns like Moose Factory, Ontario. Of course, the trip wouldn’t have been complete without visiting Anne of Green Gables in Prince Edward Island, and touching the Atlantic Ocean at the Fortress of Louisbourg, Cape Breton.

We lived our dream.

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2. Be open to learning and change

Don’t get stuck in your ways. Be willing to try new things from which you may learn. Take a look at how you react and behave in different situations. Give yourself a chance to change!

3. Home can be anywhere

There is something very freeing about not knowing where you will sleep at night.

We tried Walmart parking lots, truck stops, little hideaways in National Parks and RV parks. You also managed to go ‘undetected’ for a few nights only a block or two off the main street of Banff, and saw us spending almost a week in Vancouver for $0.

It didn’t really matter where we went to sleep at night. You were our home. Once the blinds were drawn, we could have been anywhere and it didn’t matter.

You were the constant in our life, and you let our family be together in a way like many families couldn’t even imagine.

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4. Appreciate the little things

A big house and lots of space rarely contributes to happiness. It just gives you lots of stuff, clutter, hard work, and a bigger debt to spend all of your time working to pay off.

It was so lovely to go back to simpler times with fewer things, and instead be out appreciating all the beauty this amazing continent has to offer.

5. Throw away the schedule, and just live in the moment

We had no itinerary, instead we listened to people we met on the road and made on the fly decisions about which direction we would head next.

We cleared our schedule of all organised activities, and let ourselves roam. We gave the kids North America as their playground, and WOW, did they embrace it!

You enabled us to cook dinner alongside many children’s playgrounds, giving the kids something to do at that crazy hour of the day when kids just need to burn off energy! You let us park, and have lunch, at the end of the beautiful gardens alongside the Parliament in Regina. We even had an afternoon nap and then got ready for the Grand Ole Opry in the parking lot.

We learnt to go with the flow, and live in the moment.

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6. Be thankful

Each day we told each other what we were thankful for.

Looking back on the trip, we were thankful that you were with us everywhere! It was a convenience that we greatly appreciated. We could be out sightseeing and just drop in for lunch. If we forgot something, you were minutes away. If we went for a swim by the beach, we could come back and rinse off quickly in the shower. When I spilt my beer all over my daughter whilst out for dinner, I could whisk her away for a clean set of clothes and be back well before mains arrived… and just in time for a new cold one to be delivered to the table.

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7. What do we really need in our life.

We had a tiny kettle that boiled just enough water for 2 cups… all we needed. Marlea found a neat set of kitchen utensils that magnetised to each other, and took up no space at all.

The reality was, we couldn’t buy anything more than what we needed. We food shopped for a couple of days at a time. We had not the space inside, nor the storage underneath, to carry excess baggage. Everything we had on us for the trip was essential, almost daily.

8. Family and friends are everything, and new friends are everywhere

While we de-winterised you, we had the pleasure of staying with two very wonderful family friends. Our hosts were incredibly thoughtful to invite us into their home. It was hard to leave such an amazing home, that had the most peaceful outlook I’ve ever been privileged to see and experience first hand.

In Calgary, we caught up with cousins that Marlea had seen only for 10 minutes in 10 years. It was a wonderful week with a very beautiful family. The kids played amazingly well, I got a fishing lesson, and cousins reunited.

In August, we hit Quebec for an incredible family reunion. It remains one of the highlights of the trip, and it was wonderful to meet the extended family for the first time.

Of course, we will never forget the moments created on our trip thanks to wonderful people that came in to our lives.

Our first ever RV park in Myrtle Beach was the perfect start to our trip. Dora found an adorable little friend, and they sung Frozen together at a Karaoke night. It was such a lovely way to start our adventure, and really set the tone for how we interacted with people along the way.

Golden, Colordo was a place we intended to stay for only a night or two. But we connected with another family, and we spent a week there. We hardly saw Dora for the week, as she found a new bestie. Boots had a friend too, and so did mommy and daddy. Great times, lasting memories.

Again, in Yellowstone, we extended our stay in order to spend more time with new found friends. Nearly every night in an RV park, we spent the evening chatting with our new neighbours.

Another friend we still chat with, we met for 5 minutes in a parking lot while admiring her scooter covered in bumper stickers from her RV travels.

It really didn’t matter whether it was a Walmart parking lot, a tourist attraction, or an RV park, we continued to find and connect with people from all over North America.

We shared conversation, drinks, stories, travelling tips, and a general happiness for life. It’s very addictive.

9. Kindness goes a long way

You did not cause one road kill in your 21,000 km. Bugs – thousands. But animals – zero.

We experienced and offered up kindness. It was hard not to when you have travelled the miles and seen the things that we’d seen. People we’re incredibly friendly and kind to us, and welcomed us into their ‘homes’ and lives almost instantly; and we did the same. Where we could, we gave presents to families and people in need. All we can say is that the world is a truly a better place when kindness exists.

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Sparkles, we loved sharing this adventure with you, and you made us smile and the kids squeal every time we saw you. You were always easy to find in the parking lots. 🙂 You faced some tough driving situations, some long days, and cold nights, but you didn’t complain once.

You crossed the Rockies… twice. You kept us safe. You evaded tornadoes in Georgia, Colorado and Wyoming.

We honestly believe you enjoyed the trip as much as we did.

Thank you for being part of our family last year, and creating the most amazing memories.

❤ Roaming Days

 

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January has almost been and gone. It was a month that felt a lot like being back in the RV. We’ve had no internet, no television, and we live in a space only marginally bigger (maybe a double wide for our trailer park friends). But we’re happy. Being back at work is exhausting.

It’s not so much the work, but walking to and from. I cover at least 5km a day, and whilst it may not seem like the greatest distance, the heavy winter boots, and 4 layers of clothing, take some getting used to. I think the main issue is the blisters. In a slightly re-seasoned version of the Violet Femmes, ‘Blister in the sun’ it’s more like, ‘Let me go on, like a blister in the snow’. The temperature in the first week averaged -15 degrees, with the worst day being -29 degrees. A bloke from work says to me, “So you walk to work? You do look a little colder than most coming in”.

The family has adjusted amazingly to this phase of our life. The kids just love living in a high-rise building. To be as high as the birds, gives them yet another perspective on life. There are lots of advantages of living on the 30th floor. Spotting school buses in the morning is just one of their favourite things to do! Roamingdays-8001 However, our windows go from floor to ceiling, which makes me very nervous when the kids run full ball at the window. I’ve relaxed a lot! But we still avoid unnecessary leaning or banging against the window for my own health. They also play, without exception, a competitive game of ‘who will pick the right elevator’. It involves selecting one of the 4 elevators, and the excitement can hardly be contained as we wait to see which door opens. The winner usually jumps around in celebration, regardless of who, or how many people are in elevator. These kids bring joy to the building, and a bit of screaming too!

The condo has a ton of facilities and things to do, and we’ve had visitors for the first 3 weekends in our new place. It’s been a really busy, yet fun adjustment into condo living. The kids are swimming as much as they possibly can. Both Dora and Boots are gaining a lot of confidence in the water. Boots a little too much so. Under close supervision, with no arm-bands, he dived off the steps. He was adamant that he could swim. I’d like to say he just magically started swimming, but that’s not the case. He sank. As I pulled him up, he did not for a second appear perturbed. He just asked for his arm-bands back and off he went again. Dora is mastering floating, treading water, and a slightly wild version of, well, swimming. It looks a little like someone trying to fight off a shark attack 🙂 Seriously, she is progressing wonderfully. Most importantly she is becoming relaxed in the water, and she could make it to safety if it were required. We’re very proud of them both.

So life in the Saga is treating us well so far. The outdoor skating rink is a stone-throw away, and we visited the rink with our good friends from Stratford a couple of weeks ago. This was the first time that we didn’t have one of those plastic pushy things for the kids. Previously, a metre was the furthest distance Dora had travelled unassisted. Suddenly, she was to skate around the ice. She would say to us, “I only fell down 4 times that time!” I really love her commitment to things, and her willingness to give things a go. It was Boot’s first time on real ice skates. Last year he had those skates that strapped to his shoes, and they were honestly useless. He was better walking around on the ice trying to get a feel for it. With real skates, he could walk around exceptionally well off the ice, and not at all on the ice. However, undeterred, and with the biggest grin on his face, he yelled “zoom, zoom, zoom” as we hunched over and skated him around. Mummy and Daddy were thinking, ‘pyhsio, pyhsio, pyhsio!!!’

We can’t wait to explore and start roaming around Mississauga. We’re not too far from the water, there a few big libraries and parks, play centres and kids activities. Of course, there’s the Living Arts Centre, which hosts many productions for both the young and old. I think we will have a really great time here.

I’m excited that February is around the corner. It means that we have 1 or 3 months of winter left. Either way, Mississauga is not the snow haven that Grey County was. Unlike the Queensland (Australia) slogan, “Beautiful one day, perfect the next’, Grey County’s slogan was ‘Snow one day, buried the next.’ Mississauga on the other hand has had very little snow (maybe 2 or 3 days in January). The biggest plus is that there’s zero snow accumulation. It’s always gone within 24 hours. Whilst I miss the beautiful scenery of the snow in the country, the practicality of getting to work is much easier.

I’m truly thankful for the wonderful experiences the last year or so has presented us. I may have taken a step back into corporate life, but somehow I still like I feel like I’m on a holiday. Trust me, it’s not a lack of work. It’s the mindset. Happy living everyone!

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