Our Family’s Paris Accord – Two Years Later

The odometer of our cargo trike clicked over to 2200 kilometers this week. As large and wonderful as that number is, the biggest achievement in our family’s journey to reduce our carbon footprint turns out to be what the bike represented. By investing in the bike and the goal of putting as many kilometers on our Nihola tires rather than our van, we made a visible commitment to ourselves and our community. That commitment has snowballed and honestly, despite doing my best to live in an environmental manner for the past ten years, this outcome was unexpected.

The thing about making large changes, for example choosing to bike over any other form of transportation, is they force you to reevaluate other aspects of your life. Since getting the bike, our family has increasingly said the words “That’s wasteful”. It makes me so proud, each time I hear my husband say that phrase or when he nods in response to me saying it. We haven’t heated or cooled our house in weeks, choosing instead to exist within the temperatures Mother Nature gives us which have been between 67 degrees Fahrenheit and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Compared to May and June last year when we lived in a tiny fourth floor walkup with no air conditioning or air circulation at all, where temperatures were over ninety degrees each night, this is easy.

The kilometers we’ve racked up on all of our bikes are peanuts in comparison to the kilometers that we have not put on our van. Previous to our family’s Paris accord, my husband was putting 25,000 kilometers on our van each year easily. Since then, we’ve done our utmost to avoid long trips to the nearest city which is four hours away. When a trip can’t be avoided, we schedule necessary city appointments and complete city errands while there. In spite of living more than double the distance from a major center than we were two years ago, we have succeeded in only putting 15,000 kilometers on our van this year. That’s 10,000 kilometer difference, never mind the mileage on our feet and bike odometers. In addition to this, my husband is changing jobs this year so we are hoping to cut our yearly mileage even further.

My husband, who loves convenience, has an ongoing list for the secondhand shop rather than ordering whatever he needs off of Amazon. Our three year old son talks about taking care of “living creatures”. It’s his new favorite term in reference to insects.

The most remarkable part is the way that change has spread. Tex’s family was always extremely environmentally conscious but mine has even jumped on board. After I told my Dad about the reason why we avoid palm oil and what products contain it, he stopped purchasing chocolates for us- win! My mother bought my son a second hand toy as a gift this year- I was proud of her. Ultimately, as a planet we need a lot of people making lots of little changes to their life to better the environment.

Think about yourself, is there something that you would like to try this week? Taking the bus to work perhaps? When we lived in a city with public transportation, I loved seeing the world awaken and ready itself as I sipped my coffee and watched from the bus window. Could you sleep with just a sheet or less and enjoy the feeling of the hot summer night?

Or could you go bigger – write to a governing office about your thoughts? Or maybe would you like to satisfy your curiosity about cargo trikes? Ours was purchased from the good people of Curbside Cycle in Toronto Ontario, however they ship across Canada. Before you balk at the price, consider for a moment how much your car costs. Cargo trikes are not merely a bicycle- they’re a vehicle. We use ours to transport children for playdates and groceries. My only regret with regards to our cargo trike is that we didn’t buy the larger version. By contrast I regret owning a car every time it goes in for yet another expensive oil change or repair. Especially that last action given that car payments are still being removed from my bank account monthly.

Small changes snowball, just imagine how different your life might look in two years if your family wrote their own Paris accord today. If you’d like a starting point, here is a link to our original accord.

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The Greatest Love Story of My Life : Casablanca, The Notebook, Beauty and the Beast all in one

My favourite love story doesn’t have a prince. It doesn’t feature Ryan Gosling. And shockingly, even though I love my husband to the moon and back, my favorite love story isn’t even my own- it’s my grandparents’.

What has always made my grandparents’ relationship remarkable to me was the fact that they liked each other. I grew up in a house that felt like the United States during the 1960’s Cold War, where at any moment one side might detonate the nuclear bomb of divorce and annihilate my world. Thus, the feeling of genuine friendship that my grandparents shared, formed the basis of what a loving marriage looked like for both me and my sister.

You couldn’t separate one person from another. Gran came with Granddad; their names were said together, always, because that was their life. My grandparents tackled the world head-on, side by side. They danced west coast style together, they sailed together, they biked together, they geocached together. It didn’t matter that every single one of those interests belonged almost exclusively to my Granddad, they did them together. My Gran spent her life sewing matching costumes for their nights out dancing, scrubbing the boat to ready it for a trip, preparing elaborate lunches to feed my particular Granddad during their outdoor adventures. Gran supported Granddad while he captained the ship of their life.

The way that my grandfather supported my Gran was more subtle. As a child, my sister and I would watch for his love- in the way that Granddad would come up behind Gran and hug her. Or the way that, despite living on modest means and carefully budgeting every month, Granddad insisted that they could afford a sewing machine the price of a used car so Gran could add detailed embroidery to her sewing projects. When I went to university, Granddad truly proved his love for Gran by buying her two dogs then walking the canines twice a day, every day, after that.

In the same way that my sister and I liked to bask in their love for us, we would delight in our grandparents’ love for each other. As teenagers, whenever our family traveled together, despite having our own space, somehow Diana and I would end up in Gran and Granddad’s room. They wouldn’t be paying any attention to us necessarily. My sister and I just enjoyed watching our grandparents be together.

Even the off moments of my grandparents’ marriage were endearing. The same night that Granddad unwittingly revealed Diana’s actual age (as opposed to the one on her fake ID that she carried in her pocket) to the nightclub bouncers, my sister and I sat in my grandparents’ room beforehand. Both Diana and I were ready for a night of dancing, but Gran and Granddad still had to put on their matching country Western outfits. Granddad carefully set a map on their bed of how to get to the club and said to Gran that the directions were there and could she please remember to bring them.

Fast forward to the four of us walking to the dance club, Granddad is about two minutes away from loudly declaring Diana’s underage status to the bouncers. Granddad turned to Gran and asked whether she had brought the map. “What map?” my Gran asked. “The one I said that I laid on the bed for you to bring in your purse, and you said ‘Mmmm hmmm’” replied Granddad.

“Dear, you talk an awful lot, sometimes I don’t always listen” my Gran confessed. All of us laughed and I marveled to myself how wonderful it must be to live with someone for so long that on occasion you just allow the cadence of their voice to fall around you without listening, not in an inconsiderate way but more in the manner of letting your chatty spouse talk. Then my Granddad shouted Diana’s age to the bouncers, setting off a course of events that would end with my other, paternal grandmother being dropped off by the police at midnight and the spell of goodwill was broken. Evidently we hadn’t needed the map, only a set of Ontario legislation for Granddad.

It wasn’t just my grandparents’ friendship that makes their love special to me- it was the endurance of that love. My grandparents met, married and had children in their teens. They traveled across the globe as a family when my grandfather was in the military. They lived in more places than I have, which is astounding because I’ve moved a lot in the past couple of years. And through all of that, they were together, creating stories, supporting one another.

My whole life, I’ve been fortunate to watch my grandparents live their marriage vows; for better or for worse, in sickness and in health. Often I’ve marveled at the achievement of loving the same person for your whole life, choosing to endure every peak, plateau and decline together and the determination it must have taken for both of them to achieve this.

The last time I visited my grandparents, my grandfather turned to me and said “Gran and I are friends.” I smiled at him and replied “I know” because I do, their love for one another has been a fact of my life, every day since I was born. My only hope is that I can create the same caliber of love story for my own family.

Love and Thunderclouds

“Are Grandma and Grandpa at my house?” my three year old asked me as I walked him home from daycare. His grandparents had appeared the day before and stayed over to help us with our upcoming move. Tex’s parents had dropped my son off at daycare but I had neglected to inform my little boy that Grandma and Grandpa wouldn’t be there when he returned.

“No buddy, sorry” I replied.

A grey cloud appeared over my three year old’s head and I heard a clap of thunder as his face darkened. “I want to go see them!” Mini-Tex all but stamped his little foot.

I felt badly, because I understood my son’s sentiments exactly. I was raised partly by my grandparents. Every other weekend when we were small, my mom would drive my sister and me to their house. What followed were the best two days of my week, filled with love, extra attention and fun.

As we got older and started school, my favourite moment was the school secretary announcing over my classroom’s intercom “Please remind Sarah not to take the bus home today”. That announcement signaled only one thing- that Granddad was picking up Diana and me from school, then he was going to drive us to his and Gran’s house.

My grandparents were present for every important event in my life, every performance, every achievement. My grandfather left school at grade ten and only later completed his GED, so education was paramount to him. My sister and I would proudly display every one of our report cards and he would fawn over our academic triumphs.

Christmas didn’t begin until we stepped foot in their house. It didn’t matter if it was the 27th or the 29th, to heck with Santa, as far I was concerned, Christmas at Gran and Granddad’s was the “true” Christmas. To me, if my grandparents weren’t there, it was as though I couldn’t totally celebrate.

The worst part of the year came after Christmas. Each January, Gran and Granddad drove down south for twenty nine months. Or at least that’s how their winter sojourn felt to my childhood self. Like my birthday wasn’t actually my birthday until they returned. Sure I enjoyed partying with my friends, but I never truly turned a year older until I received a hug from my grandparents and the completely unnecessary congratulations of living another year.

From the outside, my son’s scowl looked like frustration and anger but I knew better. It was an expression that said “I love my grandparents and they love me and we are accustomed to being together”.

As I apologized to my surly looking three year old, I did my best not to smile and in my head, I made a mental note to talk to my husband about when we could visit his parents next because even though I’m grown up, a part of me desperately wants to see my grandparents too.