The “Constant” in Life

Over the past year, I’ve taken on a more “public” profile with my advocacy and activity in local issues. I always say that it’s my friend Cheri’s “fault” because she taught me to become more engaged in the happenings around the city (London, On).

Given my tendency toward vocal pursuits, I have undertaken many ventures over the years – advocacy and leadership for Parkinson Society, running a networking group for small businesses, starting my own business, fundraising for many different causes, and promotion of those causes through social media. This past year was no different. But I’ve realized that with more public involvement there is more public communication required. I know I’ve entered into several discussions and contemplated very publicly several advocacy issues that now require some culminating and resolution. The following will be a summary of those things for any interested party (NB: this is a fairly long post).

1. #TransitTrial

With a very active Twitter profile, I found one of the most active (and divisive) conversations became one of my biggest commitments. As the discussion of local Public Transit issues ramped up, I jumped in with both feet. My empathetic approach to life dictated that I consider the issues from the inside, putting myself in the shoes of someone needing Transit and then advocating accordingly. As I delved into the thick of things online, I lost friends (or contacts I had considered “friends”), I studied city planning, and I asked tons of questions. Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, right around that time I was also dealing with some significant losses and financial troubles.

So I faced the big decisions and considered my options (there weren’t many). I had to cut my costs significantly, meaning I was forced to take my car off the road and undertake a #TransitTrial in order to make ends meet. This was my chance to assess the system from the inside, and to put my advocacy voice to good use.

2. #MultiModalTrial (Cycling and the #PedestrianLife)

Getting wind of my #TransitTrial, a friend recommended I try adding cycling into the mix to decrease wait-times and increase efficiency throughout my day. And so I did. During the summer months, the cycling was a welcome addition to the transportation options. It was a great work-out, gave me more flexibility in my day, and put me in touch with a new community of Londoners.

In the winter months, however, I was not as eager to commit to cycling but I continued my Transit advocacy and even recorded experiences of the #PedestrianLife around the city. I learned quickly that the accessibility of London is definitely lacking.

3. City Council (bettering London)

Amidst (and probably due to) my experience of engagement in local issues, I heard from several friends and contacts who believed I may be a good fit for the “next level” of involvement – City Council. I knew right away that there was no way I could run for council in the immediate future (2018 fall election), but it got me thinking about the possibilities for the future. As is my way, I started researching the requirements and commitments that were involved with the position of City Councillor. I met with several men and women in the position currently and from the past; I surveyed friends and random local contacts in social media; and I spent a lot of time reading about and observing the activities of those involved in local representation. In the end, I was both surprised by the negativity of some but pleased by the positivity of others. The investigative process itself taught me a lot about the people and their methods in the local political scene.

To those who were following this line of investigation, I am not discounting the possibility that I will one day be involved in a political campaign but I am not actively pursuing anything at this time. I am, however, still advocating where I can at a grassroots level for the overall improvement of the City and its functions.

Other Updates…

4. Parkinson Society – While mentioning my updates for the public discussions, I thought I’d also post here the changes related to my quieter commitments. As many of you know, I have been a “helping hand” partner in the facilitating of the London Parkinson Support Group. With the head speaker-coordinator and organizer moving on, I have committed to increasing my involvement and starting in September I will be taking on her role. This has been another factor in my overall major shifting of “life-stuff”.

5. Brain Injury – And lastly, but definitely not of least significance, is the discussion around my brain injury (its effects and ongoing implications for life as I know it). As I age and consider my personal commitments to myself and future family, I have been making every effort recently to establish healthier routines, facilitate a life of optimal function, and giving myself the best chance at success despite my challenges.

That is why as I fast-forward to April, 2018… I am in a much better place in life overall. I have reset my finances (sold my townhouse and purchased a “family home” with my life-partner) which means that now I can put my car back on the road because I can afford it. Which is good because the house I was able to afford is in St Thomas! So that means I’ll be driving back and forth to clients instead of taking bus. And there is definitely no chance of my running for City Council in London now.

BUT…having said that, I am excited for the new possibilities in my new city. I’m looking forward to the free time for my brain and the increased attention and energy available for personal pursuits. And you can bet I will still be active on social media with local conversations and attending events in my favourite city whenever I can.

Peace out, #LdnOnt! ✌️

Facebook

Good evening, friends. If you see this post on FB and comment or interact on FB I likely won’t see it for a while. Please send me a private message or comment on my blog if you want to interact with me directly. I took the Facebook app off my phone. 

I love Facebook for how it brings people together and helps us share uplifting or cautionary messages with those who might not otherwise be in touch. I love that we can share photos of our experiences and celebrate one another’s accomplishments. I love that I’ve gotten to know some of my extended family and classroom acquaintances (or even teachers!) more, because we’ve stayed in touch here. It even helps me plan Free Hugs Days or birthday parties, or going away parties! There are so many positives. 

However, as most people know, Facebook also has a darker side. It can be a real distraction for those of us who struggle with distraction. It can also be a very dangerous tool of comparison – even for those who wouldn’t necessarily say they struggle with mental health concerns. In a capitalistic (or any type of) society, being on the “right” side of the proverbial fence tends to be a destructive experience. 

Sociologists and psychologists alike understand that being so connected has become a great thing for the spread of knowledge and news but also a hindrance because of the spread of misinformation and pseudo-facts or comparison. The price of connection has definitely taken its toll. I understand the frustration completely. Though “Freedom of Speech” is a good thing in many ways, its dark side can be more than just disheartening, words can be very damaging.

So…the moral of the story is…if you’ve read this far, I am super excited that you care enough to look into how I’m doing. Please stay in touch by commenting here on my blog or send me an email or text or Facebook private message (if you have that info). You know me, I love connecting with people in a genuine way.

Happy Labouring Day!

Happy Labour Day, friends! While much of the city is having downtime, I am part of the other portion of the city who is still working away as if it was just another day. So far, my first bus ride on the new 25 route was a pleasure. The driver was very friendly, chatted with me about the new route and how he looked foreward to it. He said the drivers have been recommending a route from Masonville to Fanshawe for the last 4yrs, so it’s nice to finally see it happening. 

I grabbed my lunch, had a 45min break at home and then James and Gavin were on their way to see a movie at Masonville so they let me ride along. Now here I sit for a few minutes until my bus on the Express Route arrives. With a cursory look over the routes that I frequent, it looks as if most transfers on a normal day should be a 2-5minute wait (possibly 10 at the most). Though I need to transfer more often in some cases, in order for me to get from one end of the city to the other, it does appear that the wait times are shorter and therefore the overall trip is faster. Imagine what it will be with BRT! I’m excited!

I’m sure there will be kinks to iron out, but overall I am very excited for the betterment of our transit system. On my way home now I had to make sure to leave a few minutes earlier because my normal 19 bus route runs only once every hour on holidays. Luckily I have a boyfriend who is off work today and doesn’t mind picking me up at the mall. I’m hoping that even Sunday’s and holidays will be more accessible with the changes to come.

Change can be difficult, and sometimes painful, but in the end I trust that these things eventually work themselves out. I know there are many doubters out there, but I’m hoping that my experiences can lend a personalized perspective to the discussion. For this to be a great city, we need to be accessible for all – those with and without means for personal transportation, or those who are dependent on the public system. We are all in this together! 

Late summer reflections…

It’s starting to feel like fall already here in London, On. My boyfriend and I are preparing for my step-son’s new school year, and with it a transition back into routines and regularity. I love it!! 

Sitting here in the reflective mood that I’m in, I realized this morning that I am the same age right now that my mom was when I was and 15 riding in the front seat of my friend’s car on the fateful morning of my acquired brain injury. It just boggles my mind. I can’t imagine having 3 children, the oldest of whom is 15yrs old and in a car accident – let alone having children in high school! 

Life is such a funny thing. We live, we have expectations, we compare ourselves to those around us, and we strive to find meaning in our daily struggle. For some, there are more challenges than others. But, through it all, no matter the level of challenge, I believe we are all still left with the ultimate question of significance. Why are we here? What is the point of all of this anyway?

Spending time with seniors every day, perhaps I am faced with this reality more than most. Or perhaps it’s simply my reflective nature. Either way, this cool fall-feeling sunny morning has put me in a wonderful mood and crossing paths with an old friend on the bus this morning only served that same purpose.

I met with a newer friend last night and received some very uplifting words of encouragement through prayer. It reminded me of my significance in this world. And I was touched again by the impact my life (and struggle) has had on those around me. Therein I find my purpose. And on a grander scale I believe in a Higher Power at work directing it all.

Happy Friday, Friends! ❤️

#MultiModalTrial Perspective (Embrace the Suck)

So here I am, half way through my day, waiting for my bus with a soaking wet butt and grey skies overhead. The rain has stopped, thankfully, and I’ve had a chance to dry off. I told the women at the nursing home where my first client lived that I guess today’s the day I put one of my favourite “momisms” to the test: “You aren’t made of sugar – you won’t melt.”

I’ve had a few times this past week or two when my perspective was challenged. Today is one of them. As I zipped down the road on my bike in the steady but fairly light rain, I reflected on the fact that I COULD be standing in the rain at a bus stop. But I’d still be wet. And waiting for the bus meant that my day would be set back an extra hour or two (in addition to being wet) and I’d miss the opportunity for some activity (which my brain and body desperately need).

Funny that, as I was having this epiphany, I crossed paths with another cyclist at the crosswalk who must have been 30-40yrs my senior (at least). She grinned and zipped by me saying “we get a free shower!” ? Her energy was contagious even as she kept riding by. In that moment I smiled from my liver (bonus points if you know the reference). ?

That woman’s response reminded me of the choice I had – to mumble and complain about the situation, or to be glad that at least I was moving from point A to point B with some efficiency, rather than spending my day an hour behind. Of course, that also led me to the wisdom of a friend who was my trainer at the gym for a while. When the members would fuss and moan about the latest excruciating workout, Merritt used to smile and just say: “embrace the suck”. She’d explain that even seasoned athletes who had been working out their whole life knew that the secret to pushing through is expecting the inevitable (but temporary) pain and learning to embrace it.

Likewise, I’ve chosen to “embrace the suck” today. Knowing that today’s rain is not a constant downpour, but a manageable “here and there” wetting. Plus… I’ve gotta make it to Rita’s this afternoon to get groceries with my lovely new basket on my bike! I used to feel like I didn’t want to ride my bike if it was raining. But now I’ve decided that I’d much rather be caught in the rain on my bike so that I can get OUT of the rain faster! ? (It’s all about perspective).

New Basket for #MultiModalTrial 



So, here I am sporting my new basket for my #multimodaltrial. This should make buying and transporting clients’ groceries way easier now! I even took the bike on the bus tonight and the basket unclips from the front to allow better visibility for driver and better safety of the items I’m carrying. I am very pleased with this new addition! 

I am also very pleased with the education and customer service at the London Bike Cafe. The bike guys Giancarlo & Ben were excellent in guiding my basket choice and installing it, while Barista Jenn made me a coffee (at the same time educating Gavin and I on the finer points of the process). Such a great morning!

#MultiModalTrial with Bad Weather Surprises 

One of the biggest complaints about taking transit is that of dealing with inclement weather. In a car, at least there is the comfort of staying mostly dry and warm. There are also privileges with higher levels of accessibility and public services prioritizing automotive traffic. 

In bad weather cars are forced to slow down for better visibility and more control of handling. Buses are the same. However, the bus riders must also factor in extra time to arrive at their stop (and they MUST be early as drivers are known to leave before their scheduled times), as well as extra time to travel between transfer points. All in all, the planning for a transit trip is possibly tripled with inclement weather. 

Today I checked the weather while drinking my coffee and it reported only a partially cloudy day – no rain (although a couple days ago I did see rain in the forecast for today). So I went about my morning getting ready and just as I was rolling my bike out the front door (I live in a townhouse, so storage options are limited), I was met with rain. Ugh! Have you ever tried to hold an umbrella and ride a bike? I personally find rain and biking a bit incompatible. 

So, I mumbled a few frustrating comments, grabbed my hat and pulled out the umbrella, and fired up the walking to lightning-speed. I made it to the corner bus stop in the same amount of time as with a bike (and that’s even with dropping my water bottle mid-street as I was crossing at one point). I breathed a sigh of relief as I gathered myself, took a deep breath and looked at my watch after boarding the bus. We pulled away at 10:07am and the schedule reports a 10:08am departure. That might seem insignificant to most and “not a big deal”, but for a #multimodaltrial transit rider without her bike that one minute can mean the difference between making the connection and being 20-30mins late for an appointment. 

As it turns out, a call from my afternoon client that just came in reports there is no rain in Oakridge. And now that the bus is driving through south London I see this area is also dry. So now I’m kicking myself for not having my bike because it means an extra 30mins travel-time mid-day to make a connection via bus, and an extra 30mins end of day. 

I can just imagine the stories I’ll be writing come winter and the plows don’t touch the sidewalks for days at a time. I’m thankful it’s just rain I’m dealing with today.

Good People Along My #MultiModalTrial Journey

I know it seems an obvious detail in life, but it’s becoming more and more important to me that I surround myself with good people – people with generous hearts, positive energy, and genuine intentions. Today I was reminded again that I am on the right path in that regard. 

This has been a particularly rough and emotional couple of weeks for me for many reasons. I’ve had some personal set-backs and some really challenging interactions lately. To top it off, I tried for the first time getting groceries for a client on my bike – quite precariously, I might add.

Today I received an anonymous message that a nameless someone was interested in helping with my bicycle woes by adding a basket to my bike. To whoever you are, this is a very unexpected but very much appreciated surprise. I can’t tell you how much it means to me – to be reminded that, even during dark times, friends are like rays of sunshine that pierce through the clouds. 

Empathy For Bus Drivers on #TransitTrial

In the span of 20mins I watched as one driver was screamed at (with F-bombs) by a self-identified woman with schizophrenia, then the next driver is beat down by 2 passengers upset that he’s late (because traffic on Oxford is at a standstill. 

I have said it many times to many drivers, I have so much respect for them and their job. I would not want to do what they do. My dad was a truck driver for 40yrs and I know the stress he dealt with from his job. Add to that the complex component of dealing with hundreds of passengers each day and I can’t imagine the frustration.

Now the driver is talking to a passenger about the complications of BRT and “can you imagine if they go through with that – I hope they come to their senses!” I’m sure it’s been frustrating for the drivers as they deal with all the changes in routes and the congestion in the city.  I hope somehow they come to understand that the BRT system will only help them in the long run. 

I think a lot of it has to do with how we treat the drivers in the mean time. Whether it’s a situation with another passenger or a complication with traffic, we all have a choice to respond with kindness to our drivers and show them compassion and gratitude for their mostly thankless job.

It is Time…

Well, friends, as my title today says… “it is time.”  It has taken me a while to wrap my head around this, but I’ve finally come to the realization that having a car just isn’t working for me in this stage of my life right now. 

Three years ago, I foolishly – but with great intention – bought an almost brand new vehicle when I started my new business. In retrospect, I wasn’t foolish to buy a vehicle, but maybe to spend so much money on one as I was just getting my business up and running. I do have to say that I put a lot of thought into my choice of car and I chose my type of car for many good reasons. At the time, I also qualified for the car loan because I was on a government subsidized program to start my business. But at the end of my 9month program, I still wasn’t making enough money to live off of. 

So, of course, I made do – living off my loans from the bank, hoping and praying I’d eventually get enough clients and make enough money to get the loans paid off. Well, honestly, who would have guessed that I’d slip on the ice and have a minor fender bender that would eventually almost bankrupt me because I had the wrong level of insurance on my vehicle. No one could have anticipated that. And now I’ve gotten myself in so deep that, if I continue on this path, there’s absolutely no way I will get out. Of course, the banks will continue to lend me money, but that’s not exactly the wisest decision.

After much stewing and “figuring” this week, I finally made the decision to give up my car altogether. Having evaluated my finances, I’ve realized that it’s just not possible for me to afford a vehicle at this time in my life. As it is, by taking the vehicle off the road altogether, it will take me 2-3yrs to pay back my lines of credit at the bank.

It’s time for me to stop pretending.

I started taking transit because of the Great Transit Debate happening in London at the beginning of this year. I had to put the system to the test in order to honestly give an opinion. And secondly, I knew immediately that it would help me save money if I could make it work. 

But now, it’s more than a cutesy “Transit Trial” for the sake of proving a point. Now it’s about survival and the Universe saying, “be grateful for the small mercies”. I am fortunate to be in a position where I can take the transit system in London – as terrible as it is – to see my clients. A) I am in the physical condition to be able to get around freely. B) Almost all of my clients live on or near a bus route (except for the one closest to my house, to whom I can walk). And C) I am grateful for the flexibility of my clients, allowing me to be a few minutes later here or there if I need to. 

I have been feeling this draw for quite a while that I need to simplify my life – hence, my interest in “minimalism”, a simpler way of eating, getting out into nature, and removing people from my life who cause me stress. The Transit Trial, though aggravating as it may be, is teaching me to slow down and to notice the world around me differently. Also, it is opening my eyes to “the state of things” for a group of people in London who have even less than I do. This experience is one in empathy and also advocacy. It enables me to more effectively and consciously use my voice for a cause that is pertinent to the very fabric of London’s being right now. 

Improving transit, is a necessary part of improving this city. People are quick to speak poorly of the system, but then in the same breath say “London isn’t big enough for this kind of thing.” It is that same small-minded thinking that keeps us in this place of lack. And it is strangling the “little guy (or girl)”, disempowering and disenfranchising them and keeping them in a place of oppression. It’s a symptom of the greater issue of power and greed in this city. Mark my words, if you want to create a better quality downtown, if you want to create a better quality of life for ALL Londoners, improve the quality of transportation and watch how that freedom opens the doors to opportunity (for industry, for social engagement, and for the overall morale of the community).