So nice to see you here. 🙂
Last year in our Christmas newsletter I alluded to going digital some day, and it turns out that’s today—with our lucky 13th annual edition!
Right now the most exciting rural news is that we should soon be getting fast and unlimited internet! (I hope I didn’t just jinx it. 😉 ) The last few years we’ve been using satellite, which although purportedly high-speed, doesn’t much compare with what city folks enjoy. And in the last few months they actually started charging us extra for use over a set amount. Good-bye Netflix.
Anyway, Rocco ran into our original guy, the one who installed our awesome 50′ tower, and it turns out he’s been buying fast bandwidth and new equipment to set up again. He knows Rocco likes to play, so he’s going to set us up first and Rocco will help him test everything, maybe even putting a repeater on our tower. Everybody wins! Hello again, Netflix! Maybe Rocco and I can finish watching Fringe this winter. Haha.
Oh! And we also managed to stack all two and a half cords of firewood before the snow came this year! We rock.
Enough of that. Here’s what we’ve all been up to this year …
This year was host to an amazing milestone for Michael: earning his black belt. On his birthday! Seven years in the making, with classes usually 3, 4, sometimes 5 nights a week, 50-ish weeks a year.
What was also so meaningful was grading with two other people with whom he’s trained and become close friends with over those years. In fact, he and Devon started within a few months or so of each other, and have trained and competed together ever since, so for them to grade together was the beautiful cherry on an awesomesauce sundae. Sniff (mommy moment).
The grading was grueling eight hour affair that started with a 5k run and then moved to the dojo where they performed EVERYTHING they had learned, at every belt level: kata, weapons, jui jitsu, self-defense (including over a hundred pressure points), and to finish it off, 20 (twenty!) three-point sparring matches. It was lovely to see their dojo friends show up on a Saturday afternoon to partner them in self-defense and sparring matches. By the time they were done they were sopping wet. So many people came by to congratulate them and take pics! Eventually we all went out to eat—there was no way they could eat before. Or during. By then, they were ravenous.
There was also a write-up in the local paper. Of course, Michael loves to challenge himself, so the next day he joined friends from the dojo to run the Colour Me Rad 5k charity run. He’s a little bit cuckoo. 😉
The cool thing about taking this newsletter online? I no longer have to try to explain what this karate and stunt stuff is all about. Now I get to show you! They set up a camera at the Canada Day demos this year and here are a couple videos for your enjoyment. The first one is The Matrix routine that Michael does with Sensei. It was a little windy that day! LOL! The audience was pretty big, though of course they were all sitting and standing behind the camera.
This one is Michael’s musical open form.
He’s won first place in musical forms at tournaments pretty often with this routine and its variations. Then the winners of the different divisions (forms, weapons, and musical, at each of the different age groups) all compete against each other for overall tournament grand champion, usually grouped into adults, and 17 and under. He’s won grand champion a few times this year, bringing home a bike, a 6ft trophy, and cash.
The video below is all about fun at the dojo. Michael’s friend Marcus put this together after a night of flipping and filming. I love that you guys will get a glimpse inside the dojo! This is his second home, his second family. Many, many, MANY fun and intense hours have been, and continue to be, spent here. Even I begin to miss the place when I’m otherwise occupied for a week or so. It’s a wonderful group of people. (Be sure to get to the end of the video to see Michael’s blooper!)
Michael and Lucas had a great time tricking with Danny Etkin last month! Danny, an amazing young martial artist from New York, came to Toronto for the Tournament of Champions to teach a seminar and compete. They attended his seminar, and later that evening, as life is wont to flow, the three of them found themselves hanging out near a mat. Now, most everyone I know would sit down, remarking how lucky we were to find such a comfy spot to roost. Especially after such a long day. But not these three! A lot of fancy flipping ensued, accompanied by enthusiastic cheering from the rest of us tired onlookers. Memories.
As I mentioned last year, Michael continues his stunt training with Chris in Scarborough—when Chris isn’t filming in Vancouver or LA, which has been pretty often this year. But we’re thrilled for him! Earlier this year Chris invited us to spend a day on set when he was filming in Toronto. It was so much fun to see it all in action, from wire stunts to fight choreography. We were there until after 9pm when they finally wrapped.
Michael also continues to take trampoline. Recently, his local coach told him that she had taught him everything she could and suggested he might like to try out the club where she trains, Skyriders Trampoline Place, in Richmond Hill. So come the new year we’ll be trying out a ten-week session there. It’s where Canada’s Olympians train, so I imagine the facility will be pretty great!
Well, once again, I find Joseph’s more cerebral pursuits a bit challenging to document. But lest you worry he’s wasting away, let me reassure you, he’s not. 🙂
Here I’ll note the many, Many, MANY conversations we have. As I was thinking about them recently, a word I haven’t used in years jumped to mind: sociology. And I immediately realized it describes the common thread that has woven its way through many of the in-depth conversations I’ve had with Joseph over the last few months.
A quick trip to wikipedia: “Sociology is the scientific study of social behaviour, its origins, development, organisation, and institutions. It is a social science that uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about social order, social disorder and social change.”
Nailed it! That summarizes hours of our conversations, not to mention his countless hours on top of that, participating in forums, reading blogs, watching videos, and synthesizing all that info from various perspectives with his own experiences. It’s been a pretty powerful process to witness. And our conversations challenge me to really dig into my perceptions, beliefs, and understanding of society. All of which will deeply inform his life, and his stories, for years to come.
And alongside all that, he’s keen to pick up Rocco’s impressive handyman skills, he’s planning to plant a garden (and some fruit trees!) next year, and play with preserving and fermenting foods and making wine. All very yummy things!
Two years into her three year US visa and things are going well. 🙂
I kinda love how each of our kids are finding their own paths through young adulthood, ones that work uniquely well for them. And that they are open to tweaking it whenever they find things going astray.
Lissy has an interesting photo series called “Home”—a collection of pictures from each place she has lived. This summer she was pondering the nature of “home,” and wrote this insightful bit on her blog: “I calculated today and I’ve spent 4 months of the last 6 months of this year on the road travelling to little bits of my family or shooting and stressing for clients or up in Oregon with my love.What’s the point of a home anymore? Why was sleeping in the living room of a foreign apartment for two months home and why was 4 hours of buses and trains upstate to see my mother speak at a conference home? Why did I cry when I left her and my brother that week more than I ever did leaving New York? When did I start calling New York my home instead of Canada my home? Why is it when I get off at Brooklyn Museum on the 3 train or Morgan or 8th Ave on the L I can feel my feet pull me to my old homes and haunts and I can picture walking down that street a million times and I can be 17 or 18 or 19 or 20 but it always feels the same? I’ve realized home is becoming muscle memory to me, and I’ve been having spasms lately.”
Have you pondered what home means to you lately?
Lissy mentioned clients. (How’s that for a segue?) Have any of my Canadian friends and family come across this Cashmere ad in magazines this year? I grabbed a copy of Canadian Living for posterity. The client actually brought Lissy back to Toronto to shoot this. Her days were so busy with meetings and set prep that we didn’t manage to visit. It was okay though, since this was early January and we’d just seen her at Christmas.
Speaking of, ice storm! We didn’t have power for five days last year, including Christmas Day! It was a very fun and memorable holiday, though. And the first time Jacob had come to visit us. Haha! Power returned on Boxing Day, after I’d left to take them to the bus that would carry them back to the US. More memories.
But I digress. Clients. Another client, the Japanese kids clothing line I mentioned last year, hired her again and this time flew her to Europe for the shoot. Such an adventure! Lissy’s blog summary: “Here’s a campaign I shot for FaFa a bit ago, I traveled to Europe and spent a night in Paris wandering around alone and peeking into book stores and cafes and tried to navigate airports and train stations without knowing a word of French. I took a train to The Netherlands and accidentally got on the wrong car going to Brussels and had to sprint down the length of it during a 20 second stop. Later that week I met up with the designer and her lovely daughter Kiki and had to cart 20 pots of flowers up the steepest stairs I’ve ever seen. We found a snail hidden between the daises and named him Mr Doddles and he lived in a mason jar for a couple days. I built Kiki a fort at 3am a couple hours before my flight home and I spent 6 hours at the Dublin airport sitting at a Burger King looking over my photos from the trip. I miss Europe dearly and I cannot be more grateful for the experience and the chance to create such magic with such talented people!”
You can see the rest of the beautiful campaign images here.
In the summer, out-of-the-blue Lissy got an email from Flickr, one of the web’s most popular sites for photography, telling her she had been selected as one of their inaugural 20 Under 20 winners, a new annual event. But we weren’t allowed to say anything until Yahoo announced it a couple months later (Yahoo bought Flickr a few years ago). Small hiccup, Lissy hadn’t been able to access and update her Flickr account for a few months! She had contacted Yahoo support but they wouldn’t reset her password, saying she couldn’t prove it was her. But after mentioning it to her 20 Under 20 contact, we discovered the existence of a lovely concierge level of customer service—one where they tell you their name and their work hours and give you their phone number. And fix you up immediately. Yay!
She was also selected to be interviewed for The Weekly Flickr, so she spent a few hours filming at the Yahoo studios in NYC. You can watch the video interview here on their blog. You’ll see a great selection of her work during it!
Each winner and a guest was flown to New York City for the awards show and dinner at the end of Septmeber. Since Lissy already lived there, Yahoo generously agreed to fly both Rocco and I there. They also paid for a swanky hotel room, the kind where a dude hangs by the elevator pushing the button for you as you approach (in the evening he also watches out for the drunks trying to get to the nightclub on the roof). Well, technically, the reservation was in Lissy’s name and she generously let us stay with her. LOL!
At the dinner, our Flickr host congratulated the winners, explaining that the judging panel had searched through hundreds of thousands of Flickr profiles from around the world, working months to eventually narrow it down to the twenty young photographers who they were celebrating that night. There were winners from Canada, the US, Germany, Australia, Brazil, and more. It was cool that most of them knew, or knew of, each other online, and really enjoyed the opportunity to meet each other in person.
The group show and award presentation was the next night. We had a great time! And we got to meet more of Lissy’s friends! Lissy had them added to the guest list, as it was an invite only show. Open bar. Did I mention swanky? Lissy said it was one of those shows that she and her friends glimpse through the windows and wish they could get into as they walk by on their way to regular show openings. Haha. 🙂
Also around that time, Jacob was visiting her in NYC, and through an amazingly serendipitous series of events, ended up working full time with a well-known photographer. His wish to move to NYC in the next year or so came to fruition much earlier than expected and they are thrilled to be living in the same city! And Lissy has discovered just how much she loves apartment hunting in NYC. Really. If you ever need a spot, get in touch.
Now in his third year with Phoenix Contact, he’s still enjoying working with the company. They’ve given all the employees off between Christmas Eve and New Years again this year, plus their week-long kick-off sales meeting in January is going to be in California! Granted, we’ve been enjoying the warmer fall here after the menace of last winter, but you can’t beat California for a boost of enthusiasm.
He’s still following Italian soccer and, of course, his beloved NHL Blackhawks. And they’re doing pretty well so far this season. Bonus! Have you seen his home office? Here’s a pic of what greets him most days when he walks down the bedroom hall to his desk. No wonder his numbers were so good this year! 😉
He has also started up a small side business, Cracked Displays. The name says it all, doesn’t it? He has loved playing with and fixing electronics forever, so he figured he might as well help some people out and make a bit of money along the way. Between us, our friends at the dojo, and their friends (and so on), he’s usually got something on the mend. Who knew we dropped our phones so often? LOL! He also had a booth at the Erin Fall Fair this year—which is actually a pretty big affair. So many of you city folk drive up for it that it’s billed as “Ontario’s Preview to The Royal.” Rides and tractor pulls and horses and beer tents and games and vendors galore! FYI, the biggest pumpkin weighed 1,389 lbs.
He says he’s checked off a lot of stuff on his bucket list: “I married my bride, had three wonderful children, the Hawks won two Stanley Cups, and Italy won two World Cups. The only thing left is grandchildren!” Haha! Patience, my love.
This year I spoke at conferences in Minnesota, New York, Massachusetts, Montreal, and Florida. In June, Lissy joined Michael and I at the We Shine Conference at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park campground in NY. We try to visit Sam’s Point Preserve whenever we’re there, though it seems it only happens when we have the car—our van overheats when it tries to make it up the mountain. This year Michael encouraged us to make the additional trek to the ice caves and we’re so glad we did! It was the first day that trail was open and it was breathtakingly beautiful.
Lissy also came with me to the Boston conference. She came home for a visit the week before and then we drove to the conference together. One night we slipped into the city and enjoyed walking around harbourfront. But those downtown roads are confusing! On our way home from the conference, I was dropping Lissy off to catch her bus and we looped the bus station three times before we finally found the right road. Great that we left the hotel with plenty of time because we were mostly laughing about it. Another half hour and it would have been 90% less funny.
In Montreal, I launched the French translation of my first book. It was a year in the making, with two translators working together—so fun to watch, and answer the odd question, as they worked to not only translate the English, but also balance European French and Canadian French so the ideas would come across similarly for both audiences. The launch party was fun! There was music, drinks flowing (non-alcoholic), and there was actually a line of people wanting me to sign their books. LOL! A bit discombobulating. And we sold out of the copies I sent, so that was nice. 🙂
The next morning I caught an early flight from Montreal to Florida, for the last conference of the year. And with flying within the US so inexpensive, Lissy bought a ticket and joined me there too! It was a beautiful hotel right on the beach, Gulf side. It was a wonderful group of people too! I had a great time speaking and talking with people during the day, and then Lissy and I would hang out at night. Granted, we were pretty exhausted—me from speaking, her from the recent 20 Under 20 whirlwind and the hot beach sun all day. LOL! We were asleep early most nights. But we loved the paddleboats, and the sunsets, and the cheesy souvenir shop across the street.
This year I also published my third book, Life through the Lens of Unschooling, and redesigned my website. That was a bit of a feat. I was quite nervous about all the things that could potentially go wrong, but I wrote out a plan, including backups, followed it carefully, and in the end it went so smoothly I surprised myself! Gotta remember those moments too.
I hope you and your family have also enjoyed another year together! I imagine, like ours, it’s been filled with some wonderfully good times and some sad times, frustration and joy mixing together within a week, or a day, or even an hour. Sure, some days feel like they’ll never end, while some weeks seem to fly by in an instant, but I think that’s par for the course. I try to remember to appreciate it all.
It’s a pretty damn good life. And I’m glad you’re in the swirl of it with us. 🙂