Monday, July 25, 2011

Journeys, Destinations and Everything In Between (A Guest Post)

I'm at a Lake Erie cottage this week, to sit about and eat, laugh and collect more freckles on my arms.  While I'm west of the Friendly City, Tina Klein-Walsh (who lives east of me, in Ottawa) will fill my musing space with some compelling musings of her own.

I can't remember exactly how Tina and I became fellow-followers on Twitter, but I'm awfully glad we have. Aside from a mutual love of coffee and wine, Tina has some pretty big changes to contemplate and I'm happy to share her thought-process/mulling here - kinda like watching the inner-workings of a wise, Mama mind!

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Recently, I posed the following question to my two closest friends:
“I am seriously flirting with the idea of relocating downtown and living car-free... provided I can line up near-enough work to support the habit and solve the problem of where to keep the bikes! Does this seem out of character for me, or could you easily imagine the next chapter of my life story playing out this way?”
Within minutes, this Dalai Lama quote appeared in my Twitter Feed:
“Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.”

I am deeply moved. And inspired:
I am 43 years old. Nearly 44.

Life has been kind to me: I am the mother of two [internationally adopted] children. My eldest, nearly 11 now, splits her time between two divorced parents. At 6, my youngest lives with me full-time. I adopted her as a single parent when I was 42. She’s the reason I went back to full-time work in 2009, after 7 years of part-time consulting project.

Even half-time daycare does not come cheap.
A few weeks back, I learned that my current full-time job would be ending soon. As a single mother of two, it’s a bit scary not knowing how the next chapter of my life story will read. I am not sure I have the nerve to write it either, but I am feeling pretty good about the door opening again.

I still have my consulting company. I have mixed feelings about reviving it.
I moved out to Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa, from Nepean shortly after separating from my ex-husband in 2006. There are a lot of high tech companies in the area. At the time of my move, many of them were my active clients. I am an all-season bike commuter. I bike approximately 100 kms a week.
Yes, I do own a car. My bike commuting slows down considerably in winter, but only hail and freezing rain will scare me off the roads completely. There are bike lanes out here and they are well kept in all seasons.

In that sense, I am already living the dream.
I’ve enjoyed several luxuries during my time in Kanata. My family lives close to all amenities, including the public library and ample forested spaces with real live deer. We walk across a pedestrian highway overpass for our groceries and take a shopping cart.
We are also very fortunate to have exceptional home daycare within walking distance, which has been a luxury item with two years of half-day school. These past two years, my daycare expense has been higher than my mortgage, but the worst is over. My kids are growing up.
My youngest starts full-day school in September, and my eldest is nearly old enough to babysit. I’m not quite ready to leave her in charge of the household though, but for sure the times are changing.
Lately, I’ve been doing a bit of recreational night cycling, with my youngest in the attached Chariot (and my eldest off for summer vacation with her father). We go downtown, and much to my surprise, the urban core of this city appears more vibrant than it used to be. I see lots of cycling families, and I entertain the fantasy of relocation for my family, to live completely car free.
I’ve opened my job search to something in the downtown area. It can’t work otherwise. I don’t thrive in isolation and I need my exercise. While I like the flexibility on paper, I know that working completely from home is not healthy for me.
I’ve worked downtown before, and I know how to stay there once I get there, despite the volatility of the high tech sector. After five years in Kanata, I am open to a change. Kanata North is a wonderful place to raise children.
The cons of such a move involve a change of schools for both children. However, the eldest is on the brink of it anyway. Getting rid of the car does not mean eliminating transportation costs entirely either, but I think it would reduce them.
In the plus column, the Vrtucar service is more established than it used to be. Between that, the school bus, the bikes, and public transit… I think that we could work something viable out.
I have mixed feelings about selling my place in Kanata. It would make a good rental property, it’s a nice location, and I might prefer to rent a place downtown for the next year at least.
In writing this post, I learned that the wise real estate agent who advised me to buy close to the highway is Liz's aunt. I met her once, five years ago, at an open house in the area. She told me I’d be moving again soon.

(From Belly: Isn't that something? When Tina sent me her original piece, I mentioned how excited I was to forward my blog link on to Mark's auntie (She's mine now. I claimed her, fair and square) who is an Ottawa-and-area real estate agent. Turns out, Tina and Emma have already met. I love the universe.)
I shift my focus back to my job search. I am the sole breadwinner in this family, and I do have a lot of responsibility. Reducing expenses and living more in tune with the planet are closely aligned with this theme and my values.
For sport and out of curiosity, I rode in the newly constructed bike lanes on Laurier Avenue downtown last night. It’s the dawn of a new era. The urban space in this city is getting bike friendlier, and I want in.
I’m more about the journey, than the destination.
And you?

If you have the opportunity to align your entire life with your inner values, what would you do? Where would you live? Would you every day experiences look the same or vastly different?


  1. You are lucky to have Tina as a friend more than a follower on Twitter. In todays world its very difficult to find good friends. I wish your friendship grows better and even more stronger.

  2. It was over something you tweeted about coffee and politics. The retweet via Margaret Atwood hit my radar, and I redirected it to a tech-savvy mathematician friend who runs with the Greens. And there you have it. The story of how we met.