Opinions

Safer streets

Edmonton City Council’s recent motion to apply 40km/h limits to all local residential roadways in Edmonton is shortsighted and does not effectively address our Vision Zero goals. If Edmonton wants to make our streets safer for the humans using them, there is a better option. Research shows that a driver-pedestrian collision is far more survivable at 30km/h than at 40km/h. A passionate group of Edmontonians is proposing the #YEGCoreZone, also called Livable Streets, where all local residential roadways would be 30km/h and all collector roadways (roads designed to “collect” neighbourhood traffic and move it to an arterial road) would be 40km/h.

If we want our streets to be safe, they should communicate that to the drivers who use them.  The proposal recommends temporary, low-cost modifications like paint, bollards, curbs and other methods to actually cue drivers to slow down rather than relying on heavy-handed police enforcement or photo radar. The upcoming neighbourhood renewal in Strathcona (which would fall within the proposed Core Zone) already supports lower speed limits through street design elements.

I want our streets to be safer. I want my fellow Edmontonians to be able to choose how they get around, and I want our city to design infrastructure to support those choices. I have lived in multiple neighbourhoods within the proposed Core Zone and I feel that Livable Streets would make our streets safer for everyone at any time of day and in all seasons.

The Core Zone proposal is not perfect. But we need to take a decisive first step. The Core Zone and Livable Streets would get Edmonton closer to our Vision Zero goal by making our streets safer for the people who live and work on them.

Family · Opinions · Parenting

We’re here for the party…

We’ve had another baby and she’s nine months old now. My girls keep me super busy, but they are incredibly precious. I’m older and more tired. I think I might be wiser. My bounce got stuck between sleep deprivation and anxiety about being a sufficient parent, but my optimism isn’t going anywhere.

Opinions

…what is sleep?

In case anyone is wondering what life is like with my two kids, V and I are just now headed to bed for the night.
E has been up since 11:30 (I put her to bed around 8:30) and shows no sign of tiring.

Sleep deprivation is something else.

We’re all thankful for backup.

Good night. Breakfast will be at noon. Possibly later. Bring coffee.

Opinions · Parenting

My Five Favourite Budget Hacks

As a working mama, I’m scheduled to the minute. Sometimes that results in poor decision making. Those incidental expenses are a killer! Extra coffees to stay awake, running to the mall to replace a forgotten lunch, resorting to vending machine snacks…the list goes on.

Over the last few months I’ve been trying to get a handle on my extra spending. We’re still recovering from my husband being at home for over a year and blowing our savings last summer on the trip of a lifetime to Europe — not a decision we regret, but one we have to live with. We still only have one source of steady income, so there’s a definite need for budget trimming for the foreseeable future. And you know I’m not going to win the “cable or no cable” debate with the baseball postseason just around the corner …

So here are five tips to help tame daily spending and reduce that end-of-the-paycheque anxiety.

One – Coffee.

If you’re a caffeine addict like me, one of your biggest incidental expenses will be your morning cuppa. Disclaimer: always support your local cafe. But sometimes a drive-through Starbucks is the only thing in the cards. The hands-down BEST way to manage your coffee budget is to use the Starbucks App to pay for coffee. You can load your card with a certain amount for the week or the month, and if you’ve spent the balance before your time is up, no more coffee for you! It might help if you set up a bit of a routine, especially if you can deal with not having take-out espresso every morning. For instance, I budget for a coffee on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a floater I can “cash in” on either Monday or Friday. We also get coffee for the household most Saturday mornings. You can apply the same principle of a set spending amount to purchases made at your local coffee shop.

Two – Breakfast.

It’s very tempting to grab a pastry or a savoury sandwich to go with your morning brew, but café food is often more expensive than the coffee, which adds up as the month goes by. This is especially problematic if, like me, you often don’t have time to stop and eat before you leave the house. To combat the morning munchies, keep easy breakfast supplies in your desk/workspace. I have a can of oatmeal in my desk that I can pour into any handy cup or bowl (bring a reusable one, there’s a climate crisis), add hot water, and let it sit to cool and thicken. The little instant packages cost more, so bulk is better! I also keep a jar of crunchy peanut butter on hand. My office cafeteria has a toaster, so some mornings I pack bread, and I keep a little bit of butter in the fridge. Packing a mandarin is a good way to add some Vitamin C.

You can still treat yourself to a scone every now and then, but it’s better if they’re not a regular part of your morning routine. (Exemption for homemade scones. Obviously.)

Three – Used-book trade-ins.

I’ve been buying books all my life, but I just recently found a new store that will take gently used books as a trade-in for store credit. It’s a life-saver.

This is a concept that also applies to anything you can sell on consignment.

And is very helpful in managing bookshelf clutter. Need I say more?

Four – Value Village.

Parents know kids clothes cost a fortune. And they make so many messes and grow so fast you’re buying a whole new set every quarter. When you buy new, it adds up quickly. Secondhand stores are your best friend, especially if your baby is the first in the family and hand-me-downs aren’t a thing yet. You don’t have to buy absolutely everything secondhand, of course. No one is going to begrudge you a non-stained coat or that really cute dress, but there’s no reason to spend $10-$20 on a t-shirt. Or shoes they will grow out of in less than six months.

Five – the Cash Only principle.

This is my top spending reduction tip. It might not work for everyone (for example, my husband hates carrying cash around and only ever uses debit) but it’s been incredibly helpful for me.

The principle: figure out how much per paycheque you can afford to spend on incidental or luxury expenses, and withdraw that amount in cash. Keep it in your wallet, and use it for all those packs of gum and work lunches and coffee dates and book purchases and that new shade of lipstick you just NEED to have…and when it’s gone, it’s gone. No more coffee, no more snacks, no more impulse buying. It’s tough to get used to, but this habit goes a long way in curbing those budget-draining incidentals.

Bonus: Use that savings account!

Bi-weekly paycheques are nicer than monthly for their constant cash flow, but does anyone else find it hard not to overspend in the middle of the month? I’ve ended up paying bills from my overdraft in the past, which is just not good! This summer, I took to setting aside a portion of every paycheque in my savings account as soon as it came in so that when those bills came along I already had the money set aside.

In closing…

There are always ways to curb your spending without becoming a frumpy, decaffeinated hermit.

Do you have a favourite budget hack you’d like to share? Comment below!

writing

Retrospective 

I dug up a couple of my old notebooks today, and one of them had a couple scraps of fiction in them. Nothing even so long as a short story, just a couple free-written snippets. Probably would come to a page and a half typed out and single spaced. But there are a few good ideas in there! One about a female pirate, one about a historical novel I’ve had on the brain for at least half a decade, another semi-autobiographical piece that reads more like a YA novel than anything right now.

I’m going to compile them all digitally so they don’t get lost again. And then I’m going to keep writing. New stuff, revisions or additions to old, all of it. I just need to write.

Opinions

Thought bubble

I’ve been thinking lately about changes in cultural norms and belief and milieu and the movement of zeitgeist and the insulation and isolation of the different thought groups in society. Like tumblr, for example, has got a sort of general feeling and thought espoused by the majority of the people I follow, but there are lots of other streams of thought.

Ok, so any social media platform is like this. You can customise the content of your daily feeds, choosing who you do and don’t interact with and blocking and filtering people so they can’t interact with you. Everyone with an internet presence who spends any time there ends up curating their online experience in some way. And the various interactive platforms keep making it easier for us to manage the content we spend time on and interact with.

This results in us living (at least our internet lives) in a lovely mental bubble of our own invention. We maintain and guard this bubble with great care, because it allows us to feel good and smart and happy and content and sometimes stimulated (but not too much!) and seldom do we get called out for being wrong by anyone we respect or have to listen to. We are usually just the targets of shouting trolls who out as much effort into their combative outdoes as we do in clicking the BLOCK button. But the lack of confrontation, real conflict, dialogue resulting in critical resolution,  and perspective creates a whole bunch of people, myself included sometimes, who espouse their set of beliefs and ideals without the foundational path of rhetoric and knowledge gleaned through discovery and examination to back up those beliefs. I can say whatever I think about the trans* community, for example, but not having a degree in gender studies I’m certainly not qualified.

I didn’t think this was going to be a rant about university but I guess it is a little bit.

Any belief worth having is worth having and defending well. One should never stake part of one’s identity on something one has encountered and researched only through anecdotal evidence and secondhand experience one has read on the internet. Maybe this sounds elitist and slightly intolerant but bear with me here. I think it is never possible to know everything about an issue, and that is is invaluable to engage in protracted FACE TO FACE discussion of important issues and ideas. Humanity needs consensus. We crave to be agreed with, but it is through disagreement and dialogue that we grow.

Besides the ontological problems posed by this intellectual isolation, there is also the matter of perspective and empathy. To never encounter someone who disagrees with you except as an anonymous internet troll or as the mythical other or as your definitely out of touch racist sexist mysogynistic gender insensitive family cripples your ability to see others with differing opinions as human. We are all human beings and each of us holds things close to our hearts in the same way. Different things, same emotions. And to know how to respectfully agree with people who have different opinions and to navigate confrontation gracefully is crucial to our life especially is part of a community – both our local communities and our larger ones, both internet and irl. We need each other, and we need to be able to interact with each other with respect and tolerance.

Tolerance goes both ways. And it’s easy to forget that on the internet, where we know we are always right.

The internet – social media sites or forums or discussion boards and the like – ends up isolating the very people it excels at bringing together.

“A community in isolation can never truly thrive.” – someone famous, probably

Family · Parenting · thoughts from places

Choosing who you want to be

So, this is going to be a two-part thought I think. Stay tuned for part 2, about being a working mom…it’ll be a bit of a followup to Mommy Dreams. This is part 1. Partially inspired by this post from dear RB.

I’ve been thinking about life. Maybe everyone does this, but I find myself getting introspective whenever something in my life changes. Right now, I’ve been trying not to get too introspective. That way lies melancholy and anxiety. So I’ve been escaping.

I’m rather a pro at escaping real life. I’ve been doing it ever since I could read. I would take my book up a tree and read and read until I was forced to come back down by supper or chores or other commitments. As soon as I had a room alone with a bedside lamp I would stay up well past midnight, reading and reading and reading…

I devour books. I fully immerse myself in them and after they are finished, if I enjoy them, I can re-read them over and over again.

You get the picture. I read a lot. And having my phone around all the time has only made reading material more accessible. I can scroll through Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr endlessly, reading anything that catches my eye. It is very easy to spend all my spare minutes escaping.

But I have a daughter. And this is not how I want her to behave. So I can no longer permit this sort of behaviour in myself.

That’s it, that’s all.

I asked myself: what do I want my daughter to see me doing? What do I want to teach her? What can she learn from how I live? And, closely connected to these questions: What does my ideal life look like?

Those thoughts are connected because I want my daughter to possess all the skills and knowledge and abilities to be able to identify and construct her own ideal life. Ideal, in this context, isn’t about perfection. I’ve seen people call it “living my best life”. I think I’m well on my way to figuring out mine and I want my daughter to be able to “live her best life” as well. Even if, in the end, it turns out not quite the way I might dream for her.

I want to live intentionally. And I want to set an example for my children.

First Things First: A Plan.

I’ve never been a big planner.

I’m learning German. Little by little, every day.

I want to spend less time escaping in non-productive ways.

books, art, music.

I want to travel

I want a new car, eventually. I want to find us a place in the neighbourhood near the German immersion school, so Lizzie can go to school with her neighbours and my commute isn’t so long every day. Those things aren’t urgent, more like goals for the next three years.

Equal parts exciting and terrifying, I want to have a second child.

Part the Second: Work

The shrewd among you will have noticed that the goals above deal almost exclusively with what I do on my own time. Work, which actually takes up the majority of my wakeful life, is a whole different discussion.

Today I read an article, poignant and provocative, on the construct of the 40-hour work week and bemoaning, among other things, the rather careless spending habits it seems CONSTRUCTED to encourage. Having been back at work for nearly a year, I can say this is extremely accurate. This, especially, resonated with me:

Keeping free time scarce means people pay a lot more for convenience, gratification, and any other relief they can buy. It keeps them watching television, and its commercials. It keeps them unambitious outside of work.

We’ve been led into a culture that has been engineered to leave us tired, hungry for indulgence, willing to pay a lot for convenience and entertainment, and most importantly, vaguely dissatisfied with our lives so that we continue wanting things we don’t have. We buy so much because it always seems like something is still missing.

I know I’ve fought that vague dissatisfaction almost every day of my life. Lately, I’ve actually gone to the mall right beside my office and bought things because I was restless and unhappy, but not bored enough to sit down and make some serious changes.

Adulting is hard.

It’s about balance and intentionality

Also inspired by this article.

Little Bear · Parenting

Sleep is for the weak, apparently.

My daughter is so funny. She just would not fall asleep tonight; I would hazard that it’s too warm to get comfortable. After an hour and a half of soothing, shushing, and laying next to her bed, I left her alone in her room with some music playing. She let out a few halfhearted cries, but that was it, and she’d pretty much been asleep when I left so I wasn’t surprised that she quieted down right away. Fast forward an hour and I hear a door knock against a jamb. Now, all the windows are open in our flat so there’s a fair crossbreeze. I propped the other bedroom door open because it’s usually the culprit of such a noise. Five minutes later, I heard the noise again. So I got up to check on her door…and found her on the other side trying to get it open. She had moved her little toy bench from under the desk to beside the dresser, got up and grabbed the phone and her milk (I forgot to bring it out with me) and had clearly been laying in bed watching YouTube for an hour. Sigh. Now we’re all going to be cranky in the morning.  #parentingfail 

thoughts from places

When all is dark

This has been a pretty rough week in the Western world.

  • Over 100 young people in Florida lost their lives last weekend.
  • An MP in Britain was shot and stabbed to death while she was working in her constituency today.
  • A musician was shot and killed while meeting her fans after a performance.
  • Between clashes with police in Paris and rather brutal football brawls in Lille, France is in turmoil.

And those are just the things that made major headlines. I don’t generally go digging for bad news. I know it will find me eventually.

I have pondered. I have prayed. But thoughts and prayers are not enough. Our world is broken. And I don’t know if we can fix it. And that is scary.

But I believe that love is stronger than hate. I continue to hope that we can make the world better than it is right now. I know perfection is unattainable. But at the very least we all need to stop and take a good long look at our own lives. Are you showing love? Are there secret seeds of dislike or hatred? And what are you going to do to change that?

Be kind, everyone.

Opinions · Parenting

Being a mom in a vaccum

I don’t know very many moms. And I know more now than the year I had my daughter. R.B. had her first boy when my Tiny Bear was four months old, but they lived on the other side of the city, a 30 or 40 minute drive depending on traffic, and we were never able to meet up for play dates or coffee as often as I would have liked.

When I emerged from the fog of sleep deprivation at about month five or six, I realized I was very alone in my downtown apartment with my baby, all day every day. We did lots of fun things together, and we would get out of the house for a walk pretty much every day, but we didn’t have other mothers and babies to visit. Only one of my other girlfriends is married and none of them expect to have babies for a while, so I can still count the number of “nephews” I have on one hand. (Hi, Monkey and Eggs. 🙂

I’m excited to become a bona fide aunt this month though. My sister-in-law is expecting. I don’t imagine I’ll see them very often, since I’m stuck at work all day during the week, but I’m going to do my best.


When I was home full-time, I wanted to connect with other moms. I wanted my daughter to learn to interact with other babies. I wanted to share my joys and struggles with women who would understand exactly what I meant. It never really happened on a consistent basis. I would meet up with distant friends occasionally and we would gush over each other’s children and swap stories, both good and bad, but it was always fleeting. To top it off, my dear B moved back to our hometown, over an hour away, and it became even harder to connect.

I floundered.

I love my girlfriends, and they are always supportive and they came over to visit lots, but some part of me wanted playdates and sharing and group activities…

But now I’m not so sure.

I mean, I do wish she got to hang out with more babies. She loves people, and she’s always fascinated by little people. But she doesn’t know what to do around them really. One of my goals this next year is to fix that, get her socializing a bit more. It’s difficult because my husband doesn’t drive, and in this city to get pretty much anywhere you need to drive. So they don’t get out much.

However, I don’t think that comparing yourself (or your children) to anyone else is always healthy.

I do believe we need to share our experiences and listen to each other, and it is best when the listener understands where you are coming from.

But over and over again I see examples of mothers who just want to gush about their own experiences to anyone who will listen without taking the time to return the favour and listen to someone else. And everyone has met the mother who has a “my way or the highway” attitude and disapproves of all decisions that don’t line up with their specific set of treasured mommy lore.

And we’ve all been that mum at some point. I know I’ve caught myself doing it.

This is, of course, worst online, where one’s social filter is less likely to get in the way of a misspoken word or an ill-advised action. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a picture or blog post or article or tweet about motherhood that hasn’t included someone in comments “correcting” the poster on their attitude or behavior, usually in a “sorry, but your’re wrong” sort of way. This bothers me. I know most are just trying to help – but advice unasked for is usually unwelcome, people.


Whoops, got lost there for a bit. That’s a whole other post, right there. I think I’m going to keep struggling with this sense of isolation. But the future looks bright ahead. And I’m so very grateful for all the wonderful friendships I do have. My friends all love my daughter so much. The quickest way to my heart is through her.