Different type of book tour

Back in November I read a great book written by a local friend Laura Churchill Duke called Two Crows Sorrow. It’s a creative nonfiction about a murder which took place in a local community in 1904.

Before reading the book I had not heard of the story, but am glad I do now. The story hits home for me for a number of reasons and I recommend it even if you aren’t local and have some of the connections I do.

Though it took place long ago the stories of domestic abuse and unequal rights are still very relevant today.

Some scenes in the book take place in a home that is still standing today, though expanded and upgraded in many ways. This is the home I lived in when I first moved to the Annapolis Valley.

This morning Laura, the Author, took a group of us to hike to the main setting of the book, to the old farm stead and place of the murder. The path is through a now abandoned road, and the farm land is overgrown, but you can still see the rock foundation of the home and other remnants from the time.

The research Laura put in to write this book is impressive and getting to hear more about things along the way and in the place it took place was a really neat aspect and addition to the book.

It was also a beautiful day and a nice hike through the woods. The group of people we were with were really nice as well. I met a neighbour who lives just around the corner who I hadn’t met yet, even though they’ve lived here longer than us and we’ve been here for over 8 years now. Was able to make a new puppy friend, Little Anne, who is a very good dog.

Writing, Creating, and Personal Perspective

Writing, Creating, and Personal Perspective

This morning while sitting at a coffee shop reading a bit of His Whole Life by Elizabeth Hay. I’ve had it on my shelf for a while now and slowly getting through it. Not because I don’t enjoy it, I just haven’t made the time to read lately. This is the second book by the author I have read. I found the first, Alone in the Classroom, on clearance table at a book store and bought it based on a review on the back of the book saying it reminded the reviewer of Annie Proulx. She authored the book The Shipping News which I very much enjoy.

Anyway, this paragraph really hit me for this morning.

If you like different points of view, and Jim did, then you like old magazines. They open doors into other worlds and you slip in so easily. He used the typewriter too. Typing with two fingers THE SKY IS BLUE, he discovered he had made it so, even though it was raining outside and was supposed to rain all day.

Writing is a big part of my job and I’ve been working at improving it, I want to be a better writer. To be able to create new worlds people can feel a part of, or that I could get lost in myself, is a remarkable thing to be able to accomplish. While I believe I can and will improve the technical aspects of my writing, I don’t believe I have the creativity needed to imagine characters and their surroundings out of my own mind. Maybe some of that could come with practise and by reading more, but I’m not convinced I’d ever get there.

For a brief while I thought about writing some short stories loosely based on some past adventures I found myself in as a child and teenager. At least I wouldn’t have to completely make up the people and have a place to start from. Even as I reminisce and type out the facts for myself I can’t describe the details enough to really draw people in or allow them to slip into the story.

Writing probably isn’t the outlet for me. Maybe it is more about creating something in general. Previously I built digital things. Programming web applications, or little tools to make things easier. That was creating something new, but I don’t do it very often anymore. Is that what I’m missing? Maybe there’s a personal side project I can come up with and find time to work on to create something new again. Even better can I find away to incorporate this to my work?

There has been lots written about moving from an individual contributor role to a leadership or management one. When most of my day was spent directly with customers and helping them I was Engineering Happiness and problem solving. Most of the time these were short term problems where were resolved while talking with the customer or shortly afterwards. There was that instant gratification of completing that. While self employed and building things for clients there was something tangible at the end and clear progress along the way. These were usually smaller projects not big complex systems. There were tests I could run and in short time see if changes I made were working. In my current role there isn’t typically that instant gratification anymore. Challenges being worked on are longer and not always as easy to see and measure the results.

Perhaps this, like many things, is all about perspective and I need to find a new one or adjust mine again. Find those gratifications and better see things I can help create in a different way. As an example I’m struggling through now, instead of getting the specifications for a new tool or project and creating it, I need to put the thought into what the specifications are and communicate them in a way that it can be built. There is obviously so much more for me to learn, work on, and grow.

Nova Scotia Summer

Nova Scotia Summer

While most summers we take a trip away from home and away from Nova Scotia that is only small part. We still love Nova Scotia and spend lots of time finding things to do here as well. 

We have a really great Muesum system here. There are 28 sites as part of it across the Province. In years past we buy a family annual pass which allows us access to all of them. We haven’t done that this year so far but we may still. 

This year, in partnership with our also awesome library system, they are piloting a Culture Pass. It works like borrowing an eBook from the library. Each library group in the system have so many available and people can borrow one for the specified time and use it to have access to the museums!

Yesterday we tried to borrow one for the first time to go to one of the museums but they happened to be all taken. I have access to two library groups and one has. 200 passes available with 6 people waiting for each and the other had 100 with 2 people waiting for them. Even though j was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to be able to use the pass, it was also very exciting to see it getting so much use. Hopefully everyone borrowing them are visiting museums!

Our local library group also has a Summer Reading Club which I’ve written about before. The kids get to do activities and spend time reading to earn a pass to Upper Clemments Park. This makes another good day trip which we always enjoy as well. 

Today we are off on another day trip to do one of our favourite things and visit relaxing Nova Scotia Beach. Yesterday as part of your day we stopped at one as well. There are so many to choose from but today’s is one of our families top choices each year and we haven’t been yet. A few years back we started making a point of visiting new ones we hadn’t been to yet and I want to do that again soon. 

There are so many things to do and lots which don’t cost much or anything at all for families to do here. How are you spending your summer?

March Challenge Update

The challenge I had given myself for March was to read and become more productive. While there is still a lot of work to do and a lot of progress I can make I did come a ways.

Typically I would read maybe one book a month, and this month I was able to read three. Each one was a recommendation and they lived up to them. With the help of the books I have been able to increase my productivity especially in this last week.

Managing Humans was the first book I read through. I’m not sure how I’ve made it this far without at least reading Rands blog previously let alone his books. This book has a lot of ideas and concepts which I believe I will help me as I look to move into a leadership role in the future. It also gave me new insights to the way I think myself. As it turns out I believe I really am a nerd.

The way I think and get into a project is really put well into words by Rands in this book. It helped make some of these things clearer while at the same time allowing me to gain perspective on how I come across to others. Both things will serve me well going forward.

The next book I read was Game Storming. This was introduced to me last year on my teams meetup by co-worker Simon Ouderkirk, who if you are interested in support or remote work you should certainly be reading his site. He led our team meetup project last year and used Game Storming to do it. At my upcoming team meetup I’m going to facilitate a similar type of activity to help our team build a road map for where we should go in the coming months.

With Simon’s help and this book I’m feeling confident that I’ll be able to help run this and get some meaningful work done with our team. The concepts of using games to brainstorm hard problems and come up with creative solutions is really interesting. Seeing it first hand last year not only did we come up with a good road map, I think it helped bring us together as a team. Hopefully we can duplicate that this time.

The last book I finished is the Effective Executive. Don’t let the title fool you though this book I believe can be a benefit to almost anyone who wants to be more effective in their life or job. My co-worker Andrea Badgley recently read it as well and wrote a great review and the part that stuck with her most.

The part that stuck with me the most was a bit different than Andrea though. One of the instant things I was able to take away and put into effect is to know my time. The author Peter F. Drucker says this of time.

Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed, nothing else can be managed. The analysis of one’s time, more over, is the one easily accessible and yet systematic way to analyze one’s work and to think through what really matters in it.

Thinking about this I took a look at my time. I didn’t go super deep or keep records of what I spent time doing, but I looked at my schedule for a typical day and then restructured things and to hide things that could be a distraction. In the past I’ve noticed, and had co-workers say, that adjusting their schedule helps them be more productive. This book helped me realize why this is and the importance of revisiting your time frequently.

If you adjust your schedule it forces you to think about your time. Just the act of doing this has helped me get more focused work in this past week which has helped me get more done. I’m now going to be more purposeful about revisiting often where my time goes and how I can organize my day for the best results.

March Personal Challenge

Since February went so well I figured I would keep up, at least for a while, doing monthly challenges to myself. I’ll still keep on with the fitness but not be quite as strict with myself as I was last month. 

For March I’m going to focus on reading and personal organization / productivity. Recently I’ve taken on a number of tasks, all of which I’m excited about, but a lot of them outside my comfort zone. For example there are two upcoming talks I’m doing. I’ve also volunteered to help organize our team meetup as well as run the project we are going to work on while there. There are also other tasks at work I’m doing, all of which I need to get organized so I can get them done. 

With all that there are some books that will help me in both the planning and executing these things. So that is the main goal to read and use these books and other resources to help make me a more productive person and be able to complete these projects. 

Three of the books I have already and another one is on its way to me. I think I’m going to start with the top one in the picture so it can help me figure out how I can get to the rest 🙂

Getting Things Done, Managing Humans, Game Storming

My main goal is to read at least 5 hours a week as a minimum. Hopefully even more than that, but I’ll aim there. 

Getting Up Early and Being Vulnerable

Not long ago there was a time when I always was up early and before anyone else in the house. That time I would use to go out and get an early morning run in before the day began. When days started getting shorter and the mornings were much darker I fell away from that habit. Instead I started getting up just shortly before I’d start work for the day, or what ever other plans we had going on.

Even with the recent falling back of time it’s still darker than I’d like at 6:00 am to go running but this morning I decided I was going to get up early anyway. Before I went to sleep last night I set my alarm for 5:30 am so I could get up and have the house quite to myself. Quietly I made a coffee and headed to the couch to sip it and read a new book I started a couple days ago.

The book arrived from Amazon over a week ago, but I only just started it and was finding it hard to find quite time to sit and read which is what prompted the schedule change. I’ve been looking forward to the book a great deal ever since I heard about it in a co-workers flash talk while at our Grand Meetup.

There were many great flash talks that I listened to while I was there, but there were two in particular that really hit me and stuck with me. The one about this book being one of them. The book is Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. It alks about the Authors research into vulnerability. Both of these talks had the speakers being very vulnerable which is why I believe they really hit home. They made me want to be able to be more like that as well. Thank you to both of you!

Having that bit of time before I jumped into my day really set the tone for me. I was still able to go for a run at lunch time when the temperatures were warmer and it was lighter out so I didn’t miss out on that either. It may mean a bit of an earlier bed time that normal, but that probably isn’t a bad thing either.


Thoughts on Fatherhood

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about families, and in particular Fathers. Previously I wrote about my own Father, I never really had a role model around except for some old memories and stories about things I specifically would not do as a Father myself.

Having just finished Scott Berkun’s book The Ghost of My Father it has given me even more to think about. Scott is becoming quite an influential author in my life pretty quickly. I had first read his book The Year Without Pants while looking at applying at Automattic. It certainly confirmed many of the things I had read elsewhere and gave me great insight into the company. It helped assure me I was making the right move working at becoming an Automattician. His other books will now be ordered soon.

Reading his latest book, a memoir about his own family and relationship with his Father, it really hit home with me personally. It has me thinking even more about all my relationships with my children and the things I need to really work at to make sure I have the kind of connection with them that I truly want.

Having the career I do gives me the opportunity and flexibility with my work life to really be a part of my kids lives. For the most part I do believe I have a strong bond with my children, but I really do need to be more present and active in their lives. While I do take them t,o and love watching, their extra curricular activities, my wonderful wife is usually the one that does a lot of the day to day things.

It’s not enough to just be present in the home with them I need to make a greater effort to talk with them about things, about their lives. More one on one time where I can show them individually how much they mean to me and how much I value them. This happens sometimes, but it is usually just something that occurs, I need to make more effort to purposely plan these things.

The one relationship that I need to work on the most is that of me and my oldest Alexandria. It seems we’ve struggled for a long time, and while I could make millions of excuses why that might be, they don’t really matter. What matters is I need to work to fix it.

Alexandria is turning 16 this month. When I was only a year older than that I left home and not on great terms. I wasn’t happy with my family and thought living with friends while I still wasn’t done high school, or have a job was a better alternative than living there in my mind. This put a huge strain on my relationship with my family that has taken a long time to overcome. Even still there are wounds there as well. My relationship with my youngest sister is almost non existent as she was so young when I left. This is a pattern I desperately don’t want to repeat with Alexandria and I need to fix it before it’s too late.

We have different personalities and different interests. She struggles with school a great deal which has always been a barrier between us. She will never be the strongest in some subjects in school and I need to learn to accept that, yet be willing to be there and help her without letting the historical battles frame how I approach it.

While reading and writing might not be strengths for her she certainly has the potential to be a great artist. She is taking her first real art class now in school and some of the sketches she has been doing are very impressive. Helping her develop these skills even more while improving in the areas she struggles in is going to be a balancing act I need to help her achieve.

While I don’t think I’m a horrible Father, there are certainly many areas that I can use work. It won’t be easy, especially in the case with Alexandria, there is already a lot of repair that needs to be done. The other night I took the first tiny step, I sat down and had a real conversation with her. Pretty casual, but I let her know that I’m proud of her and the hard work she is already putting in this school year. A small start but I’m going to build from there.

Reading, Setting an Example

Reading is important to me. It’s something we’ve tried to instill in our children from early on. We’ve always read to our kids since they were very little. Before they could even fully comprehend what was happening. Jen still reads all the time to the young kids she cares for.

One thing I’m bad for though is not setting the example. For a long time my kids would never have seen me sitting down to read for myself. Lots of the reading I did was either in my office, on the computer, or when they were in bed. Reading more has been a goal of mine for some time now, but haven’t done a great job at working at it. In the past couple of years though I have read more books than I had in years, but that’s still not a big number.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Fatherhood and Parenting in general but I’ll write more about that soon. Yesterday morning though I had just a small simple experience that helped remind me the effect we can have as parents on our children. Caile and I were home along for a bit of time. We were all ready, chores done and she was playing on her iPod in the living room. After making myself a coffee I came and joined her on the couch with my book I’ve been reading.

We talked a little bit, but for the most part we were each involved with our own task, or so I thought. Not long after I sat down with my book Caile got up and put her iPod away. She went to the kitchen and then came back with her book she’s been reading and we sat and read together until it was time for us to go meet everyone else.

On our drive I took the opportunity to talk about reading in general, it’s importance / benefits, and about the book she was reading. This wouldn’t have happened if she hadn’t seen me showing by example that reading was enjoyable and something worth me using my time to do.

Finding Time for Yourself

The topic of freedom has been on my mind for a while now. During my later teenage years I had more freedom than I knew what to do with. Now there are days when it sometimes feels like my time really isn’t my own.

Honestly I have nothing to complain about in my life, I’m a very lucky guy but some days can get hectic and it makes me wish for a little down time while I’m still awake. As it is I get up early in the  morning to try and fit in a run then start work at a good time so that I’m free in the later afternoon / evening to be there to run errands or run kids to where they need to be.

No one kid is in a lot of things, but multiply that by four and it doesn’t take long before the schedule is getting full. For the most part it’s great. I get to watch my oldest ride horses, something that she excels in and loves doing. My son playing soccer with so much energy and enthusiasm. My middle two, daughters who love performing. Whether it’s drama, dancing, or combining the two.Watching them do these things gives me great happiness and I’m thankful that I’m able to be there and am able to provide these things for them.

Dance class can be rather nice break sometimes though. As you’re not able to watch them practice if you can get the errands ran quickly it leaves some time you can go grab a coffee and read a book before it’s time to pick them back up again.

Yesterday I had to go to the library to return a book and then check it right back out again because I had renewed it twice online and couldn’t do it again. It’s a really good book, but I just can’t seem to find the time to read it while my mind is awake.

On occasion where I try to sneak off to get a few pages in the guilt I feel is real. My wife is a super human I’m convinced and that doesn’t help. She never seems to need a break and is always going strong. As there are always things around the house that can be done she is always finding them and doing them. So if I’m off reading while she’s making supper, or vacuuming, that just doesn’t seem fair does it. If I could convince her to take some time for herself it might be better, but that’s a hard sell.

With the kids getting older it seems to be getting worse. They stay up later which takes away from the quiet time we used to get when they went to bed earlier. There are some nights now that the oldest and I go to bed at the same time.

As I mentioned before as a teenager there was a time where I answered to no one. I had pretty much as close to zero responsibility as there was. That wasn’t a good thing either. As it was it took my life down a harder path than I needed to go. There has to be a happy medium though. It’s important to get a bit of time by yourself to recharge.

Maybe I’m feeling this way because for the past few days I haven’t been getting our running, so that bit of time that I used to clear my head isn’t there. When I was running more often last year that was one of my favourite parts. Having a cold has made it tough so I’ve been trying to rest so I’ll get better quicker. Tomorrow might be the day that I give it a try again. The last week when I was running a lot seemed to go much smoother and have me in a better mental state.

How does everyone else find the balance of work, family, and personal time? Do you feel you get enough personal time?