A Money Coach in Canada

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Network Hub (rent by the hour or day)

This is not my office. This is the co-working space, The Network Hub, in Vancouver that I rented during my working-holiday in October. More on it later.

My actual office in Yellowknife is grey. Grey walls, grey carpet and no windows.

It’s a funny thing about offices. When I lived and did business in Vancouver, I rented from Workspace and I was In.Love.With.It. Most interesting thing about it? It wasn’t an office. We all rented… well.. space! There were simple tables we could use, and four small rooms if we needed to meet for an hour, and a coffee bar. But mostly, we rented space. You can get a bit of a sense of it here:
Good Ideas in Media
or here:
Workspace Photo Shoot
or on a busy day (Barcamp. Go look it up if you don’t know what that is. It’s worth knowing!)
BarCamp Vancouver 2007 - 51 - PhotoCamp

Having an office per se soon became meaningless to me. It was far outweighed by the sense of zen and spaciousness and the way in which the open-ness invited collaboration. Offices were a thing of the past to me.

So when I moved up to my new job in Yellowknife and there wasn’t office space available at the time, I didn’t blink an eye. I attempted to continue with my paper-free lifestyle and a clutter-free desk. Except – People.Kept.Asking if Didn’t I have any work? and over time I began to re-associate an office with status. And worry that folks would perceive me as low on the totem pole (a silly construct I’d happily let go of just months earlier!) since I was sans bureau.

Now I have an office. And I hate to admit it, but I think my nose would be out of joint if for any reason I had to give it up. Or move to a cubicle (a fate worse than hell). Even if it is an office, it’s *my* office, grey walls and all.
Do I do better work than I would in a cubicle? I imagine not. But I would feel less a valued part of the team and more a drone without it. And that could well lead to a lower quality of work.

My point is this: our work-spaces inform so very much more than you’d think, don’t they?
Readers – care to share what your work space is like? Do you like it? Does it contribute to working effectively? Does it lead to collaboration or isolation? To what extent is it a status symbol?

And if you are traveling to Vancouver and want a place to try out co-working, I recommend The Network Hub pictured at the top of this post. Lovely, is it not? Oodles of character. The rates are crazy-reasonable and the service is friendly. And if you see my pal Raul, please give him a Hi from Nancy.

Have you ever travelled someplace which has very different standards of living than your own? Or have you done some serious backcountry hiking?  A former money-coaching client of mine, the super-awesome, world-travelling, (and gourmet-dessert-making) Katherine, recently spent some time in Yukon’s backcountry.  She had some insights about possessions and the joy of life.  If you relate to her guest post, I’d be interested in hearing from you.  Leave a comment (below) on this post if you have a moment.

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a month in the Yukon on a leadership course with NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). The company I work for sponsors 2 people a year to attend. The premise of the school is that while you spend a month in the Yukon backcountry learning backpacking and whitewater canoeing skills, you’re also taught valuable leadership skills that you can take into future outdoor guiding, work and life.

As much as I had enjoyed the outdoors in the past, I hadn’t spent more than 10 days in the backcountry since I was 14 years old. However, because of the work that I do, I am familiar with what it takes to do a trip like this. Or so I thought.

I knew that living minimally was going to be essential. Especially for the backpacking portion where you have to carry everything you need. The motto goes “ounces equal pounds and pounds equals pain”.

Though I don’t live a luxurious life, I do enjoy certain comforts in life; indoor plumbing, toilet paper and nice sheets all rank high on my list of life’s comforts. Though I did prepare myself for a month of thermarest sleeping and “nature’s outhouse”, I was terrified at the idea of using “nature’s toilet paper”; smooth rocks, moss and I still shudder at the suggested pine cones.

Before setting off, the instructors did a final check of our goods for the 2 week backpacking section. The course recommended a 90L pack. Though I hadn’t backpacked before, I knew that this was absolutely gargantuan given my 5’5” height and smallish frame. Especially considering that my personal gear consisted of 2 pair of long johns, 2 pair of underwear, 2 pair of socks, 2 layering tops, a rain jacket, rain pants, a warm jacket and some toiletries. The rest (pants, t-shirt, boots etc…) were on my body. I even had to argue with the instructor to bring my 2oz deodorant as my “luxury” item (there were certain things I wasn’t prepared to live without) However, once we packed in all of the group gear (including an astounding 1.5lbs of food per person per day) my pack weighed 47lbs. I was set. Everything I needed to live was on my back.

As the days went on, the group of us (14 students in 5 tents and 3 instructors) finally found our groove. Our days consisted of waking up, packing up, breakfast, a class, hiking, a class, dinner and much needed sleep. Since I’d never backpacked before, I considered the end of each day an achievement; I was still standing.

Because I wanted to remember this experience, I journaled. I made it a point at the end of each day to find 3 things to be thankful for. As our time went on, my 3 things became more and more basic such as; being dry, being warm and thankful that I avoided blisters and illness.

Then it occurred to me, here I am in the Yukon, tackling quite possibly the greatest challenge of my life, having a great time, making new friends, learning new skills and I only have 47lbs of “stuff” with me. In the past couple of years, I was guilty of trying to fill my life with “stuff” to fill a void and try to find happiness after going thru a painful divorce. Constantly buying new clothes, new furniture and shoes, Ah! Shoes!

Many people warned me that this experience would be life changing and I can now agree. Since I’ve been home, I scrutinize every item I own. Did I really need that? Did it really bring me the joy I thought it would? To be fair, there are some things that did (the new couch sure is comfy) but did I really need all those shoes?

To my knowledge, he is the only boyfriend who cheated on me. It was as devastating as you would imagine. For nearly a year he continued to try to regain me, but the problem wasn’t simply the act itself, it was this: his word no longer had currency with me. Not only had he cheated, he had used words deceitfully. He could not offer re-assurances or promises that had weight because his word had lost its inherent value.

Someone significantly above me in a chain of command excelled at subtlety and crafting his words to achieve his ends. Many staff had intuited that although the words were technically truthful, they were not the whole truth, and the end result was in fact a dissembling of the truth. Through an extraordinary set of circumstances, an absolutely critical moment to him came up and I held an important key. He approached me, nearly frantic, for that key. But he had no currency to bargain with. His words were the equivalent of tin. I declined them.

My friend Doug takes his word very seriously (and for that matter, thank God, so did the man who followed the boyfriend referenced above) . Doug often challenged me: Be impeccable with your word.

Impeccable:  In accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless

Being impeccable with our word isn’t about superficial truthfulness – the kind that allows us later to say, as if surprised, oh! Did you think I meant *that*? I didn’t say that! I meant *this*.
Being impeccable surely must mean we take care that the hear-er has a reasonably accurate and complete understanding of things. That they have the information they require to be safe at minimum, but better, to thrive.
Being impeccable with our word is also about restraint, I think. This is not easy for a blogger! But excessive words by definition are deceitful, are they not? – they suggest more than really is – hence the sad expression: Talk is cheap.

I don’t want my talk to be cheap. And I’m so deeply grateful for the many people in my life whose word has high currency value. This is no an easy thing, increasing the value of our word. It costs us so many things – we can no longer duck out of things, we may forfeit opportunities, it may be lonely sometimes. But as I enter midlife I am increasingly convinced that I want to offer – and receive – ie., exchange, high currency words than nearly anything else I want in life.

God help me in this.

Photo Credit: Wasabicube

Since being once-and-for-all put off the Mass Meat Industry after seeing Food Inc summer ’09, I’ve made an effort to mend my meat-eating ways.

I’ve ordered 1/4 pig and 10 chickens from a free-range organic farm in Alberta. And I committed to learning to fish..
I haven’t made much progress on this. To date: I went fishing with some friends and a guide last summer and literally prayed I woudn’t catch a damn fish and thank God I didn’t although every other person did and at least the guide was very quick at bonking the flopping living things swiftly so they then became very dead but still it was hard to eat the meat even though it had been deliciously panfried over an open fire and everyone else was pretty much having a fish-eating orgy but I wasn’t.

And that’s as far as it went.

So for 2010, when the opportunity arose to learn how to fillet a fish (bring your own knife; dead fish provided) I thought I should take it to the next level.

I learned a few things.

1. It’s easier to eat a fish that looks like this:

Mouth of a jackfish / northern pike

This friends, is what is derisively term a Jackfish, but we prefer to call it Northern Pike. It abounds up here. They are tough-spirited fish, and check out that set of teeth.

2. The steps to filleting a fish are:
a. Cut just behind the gills
b. Cut along the spine, from neck to tail
c. I forget how to get the side of the fish completely off next (I looked away)
d. To skin it, place your knife flat between the skin and the flesh. Keep your knife relatively motionless, but tug the skin towards you. You can cut a hole in the skin to put your thumb through (extra tugging power).

Learning to fillet fish

3. The stomach is apparently a delicacy. (I think I threw up in my mouth a bit) (probably politically incorrect)
Fish (northern pike) stomach

So here’s what money’s done to me: it’s so disconnected me from the primal life-and-death biology of FOOD that even something as basic as fishing and filleting (we’re not talking pretty goldfish here, much less gentle cattle or smart pigs) has me all disoriented. Pathetic!

In contrast, our instructor was completely at ease.

Learning to fillet fish

Do I have any readers who fish?

If so: I wanna know – how did you get past all the squeemish stuff?

Give me a fish and I’ll eat a meal. Teach me to fish and I’ll save a lot of money, eat more healthfully, and live more sustainably. If I can keep it down.

Disclaimer: I am not NDP. I am Green. But this was a great opportunity to meet some dedicated politicians in a small setting compared to whatever I’d experience “down south”. Besides, I really do believe that Loving My Neighbour As Myself is truly what all of us in my faith tradition are called to (and none of us do very well, esp. me) and NDP tries, more than other parties, to live into this.
There’s about 100 northerners here at the Tree of Peace.

7:08 pm
Couple local MLAs here (me: mildly dubious)

Prayer said by a dene man (I didn’t catch his name, sorry).

Jack, Dennis Bevington (MP), Olivia Chow here, introduced by Mark Hyack (sp?). Layton looking well – quite serene, frankly.

Jack now up. Referring to being at the top of the Nahanni falls (on my bucket list). Talking about the word Majesty. Segues into mention of Climate Change in the north.

Inuvialuit need to be part of process of northern development. Need to have a voice. Discussion must include them, not focus sole-ly on non-northern firms exploiting the vast resources in the north.

Now referring to courage and alluding to Tommy Douglas.

Layton questions Military as ways to prove Canada’s sovereignty. He says instead: support communities of the North. (OK, I totally agree on this one).

This means we must have a different relationship with the original inhabitants up here – nation to nation, eye to eye with First Nations. (again, I agree)

The recent apology needs to be accepted. At one point, the gov was not going to let the First Nations on the floor of the House to accept it. (pointed out by Bill Erasmus to Jack Layton at the time). Further, must put action.

Now moving on to affordable housing.

and moved swiftly to a call for a Pharmacare strategy.

He’s now pointing out Harper’s strategies and refuting them (eg. buying $16B of the world’s most advanced fighter jets. anyone know if that’s true?)

Now he’s asking for thoughts of the audience: What should the NDP be focussing on?

Q: drives man nuts how Ottawa has one-size-fits-all re: electricity rates. (CEO of dene first nation of yellowknife)
Q: local colour – man who previously had been on Jack Layton’s roof protesting or something – will die without seeing his children because of Bill C422. Will you go back to Ottawa and call for a revote (? missed that).
Q: Pembina Institute rep asking: unconventional energy – review of policies – how was it received by the Federal Gov’t?

Layton’s responses:

A to Q2 – we want all parents to have access to kids, but not sure what Bill C422 specifies. Will talk personally after. But we hear your pain while dealing with the system.
A to Q2 – one-size-fits-all = huge problem in Ottawa. 22¢ per kilowat/w in a cold place is indeed painful. We’ve said we should have nat’l strategy to retrofit homes to be more energy efficient.
Layton was the brunt of Rick Mercer about his own home – see below 🙂

A to Q3 by Bevington: this resolution called for complete review of all policies re: unconventional oil and gas. Why? because it’s happening all around the world – recognizes regulations were inadequate. Shale gas – what happens to underground acquafirs (?) when compound forced underground to extract gas? What are the dangers to the underground eco-systems, like water? In the fall we will be pushing hard to get this resolution back on the table. (note: the deep water drilling is close to home in the north – arctic Delta – could it be the next Gulf?)

Bevington talks about the good initiatives going on re: green energy in Yellowknife (it’s true)

More Q’s:

Q1: I just asked Q tweeted to me by BigCajanMan:
@moneycoach how will they deal with the coming pension meltdown? CPP may be OK but others seem on thin ice, how do u protect the members?

Q2: could NDP cooperate with other parties for the”greater good” of ousting Conservatives? (readers: don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just repeating!)

A to 2: that’s exactly what we attempted, and I played a significant role in trying to make that happen. I did that because of the economic crisis we were in. I’m always ready to work with other parties. We worked with the Conservatives to put more $ into EI in exchange for not calling for an election. We worked with Liberals (I missed the example). Ultimately though it’s up to the Cdn people. They wouldn’t appreciate not running candidates in particular ridings. Our party will always try to get the best result we can.

A to 1: this was the first and most important thing we needed to work on re: budget. (I don’t know if I heard that correctly). Give the banks a little bit less, and help seniors be at or above poverty live. CPP is quite solid. Guess what it is: It’s all of us coming together and creating something we can all benefit from. We’d like ultimately to see CPP doubled (me: even I am taken aback. doubled??) Wants to put some kind of insurance in place for retirees who learn their companies never put appropriate money into their pensions, and now they are left stranded.

A to Q3: tarsands – foreign temporary workers now in Alberta to provide labour. They and their money go home. We now bring in more foreign temp workers than immigrants. That’s not right.

Bevington pointing out (in my words) that changing extraction practices to be green means more attractive to market. Alberta’s brand is now Dirty Oil Alberta because they didn’t do things right. Ppl feel guilty about what they’re creating instead of good about it.

Olivia Chow now up.

Q 1: Suzette Monteuil: What is NDPs national childcare strategy?
Q2: I used to be a citizens of France where workers have rights. On paper I have rights, but my employer’s work practices resulted in an injury and employer bullied me against raising the issue. What is your stance?
Q3: Lyda Fuller (YWCA) Has the report on the long-gun registry changed people’s minds about the long-gun registry? I have a letter signed from every single shelter across the country asking the gov’t not to reconsider the Registry.

A to Q3: this is a controversial topic. It’s really about public security. We’ve ended up with a black or white vote in Sept. (I think he tried to lay down arms and work together)
[interesting sidebar – the NDP apparently does not Whip its members into voting a particular way on an issue in the House] First time he’s heard of such a letter. Lyda doesn’t sound satisfied with answer.

A to Q2: introduced her to head of local Labour who’s also here of course.

A to Q1 by Olivia Chow – why can’t we provide non-profit, affordable care for our kids? It should not be only for-profit (profiting off caring for children = weird?). To have national strategy we would need an Act, just like we have a Health Act. The childcare options would have to be local, flexible, but the financing and standards should be enshrined in law. We know a child’s brain grows the most during the first six years of their life. There is no reason why, if we have an education system, we could not extend it slightly younger. That forms the basis of the NDP national childcare plan.

(NWT MP) Bevingon: I’m very much in favour of gun control. I grew up in the north and saw the results of poor licensing, lack of training, poor training. Those things killed a lot of people. The long-gun registry has saved lives. Spontaneous shooting not as easy.

Q1: Lydia Bardack, John Howard Society – if gov’ts had to undergo the same scrutiny and accountability the NGOs do, they wouldn’t still exist. What are we doing to promote safety for gov’t? How are we supporting victims of crime?
A1: Layton: I want to connect you with our public critic on safety, Don Davies. The conservative approach is on the american style of justice, which is moving away from typical Canadian approaches. NDP has supported minimum sentences for 3 gun crimes. Conservatives were going to cover all kinds of offences -> minimum sentences. When you’ve been in jail crammed in with 4 people (double bunking), and the likelihood of getting out of jail and becoming a taxpayer again are minimal. In some cases, this is possible. How do we support them? What if they have FAS? What if they have an addition? A mental illness? Do additional jails help? And are people who want more jail times willing to pay more taxes?

It’s 8:30pm, my battery’s at 10%, twitter is on FailWhale, and i think it’s time to close.

but — last comments by Bevington: It’s time to acknowledge the War on Drugs is an abject failure. Another option needed. Look at Mexico (ie. what’s happened there due to War on Drugs)

PS – you know what was interesting? Truly and for real, there was “civilized discourse”.

oops – maybe not – woman claiming Treaty Rights to speak despite — oh wow — she states she’s hear from Ft. Smith, standing in front of Layton (who quietly stood) and talking about her experience with crack. I think I’m gonna cry.

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