Category Archives: the Zillion steps

Step 94: Assemble Crack Team of Professionals

vosteamOkay, I’ve got a doctor, accountant, mechanic, realtor, eye specialist, lawyer, printer, chimney cleaner, piano tuner, and appliance repairman  – none of whom look anything like the people in the picture above  – and today I finally signed us up with a dentist! Am I done now??!

Step 93: Tuning Out

English: January 15, 1938. Mt. Kilimanjaro: Th...

Mt. Kilimanjaro (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

March is officially no-facebook and no-twitter month for me. I was in desperate need of a Brain Cleanse, and my days are much more serene without all that online blather.

Downside? Not seeing immediately what distant friends and family members are up to. (ie. sister who’s just climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro!)

Upside? More time, less distractions. More time for reading books. And actually playing the piano sometimes. Plus the sudden realization that if I miss a few posts (and even the latest hilarious “meme”) the world will not come to an end.

Is isolation from the outside world a good thing or a bad thing? When you’re young it’s nothing but bad bad and bad. Everything worthwhile is happening elsewhere, and (as Neil Young put it) everyone knows that this is nowhere.

But… as you grow older the cultural white noise starts to make your head hurt and the little house in the deep dark woods starts to look like a pretty good option.

Is this part of my country lifestyle slowdown? I suppose so. I still like the hum and buzz of activity, but this month the hum and buzz is coming from me instead of my newsfeed.

Become a fan on facebook

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Step 92: Pick the School

This chore came up last spring while we were packing. Making this kind of decision can fill a parent’s heart with dread, particularly when it involves a child entering Grade One in a brand new school/town/province. What if I make the wrong choice? Will my child learn and thrive or become stunted and scarred for life?

Saltspring Island has three public elementary schools and a few private school options. I could have tormented myself over this decision, which would be the usual way I do things, but it was really a no-brainer. We went with the school with built-in friends –  the boss already had two excellent friends on the island, both of whom were starting Grade One at Saltspring Elementary, located pretty much in the centre of the island – which is good when you’re not sure where you’re going to end up living.

Done and done!

Our new school, Saltspring Elementary, is the largest school on the island. On the first day one mom informed me, only half-jokingly, that it is locally regarded as the island’s “inner city ghetto school”. This is what it looks like:


the inner city ghetto school

And just for comparison, here is our old school in Toronto – in an upper middle class neighbourhood full of doctors and lawyers and other professionalish types:

the posh neighbourhood school

the semi-posh neighbourhood school

As a further comparison, Saltspring has about 170 students, K-5. The entire school body can go out to sing Christmas carols (in the rain):


In Toronto, Runnymede Public School has about that number of kids… just in kindergarten. (In all, there are 1,100 students K-8.)

So when another island parent actually tut-tutted my school choice on the grounds that Saltspring Elementary was way too big… well it just made me laugh. People are funny, and parents are funnier than most.

One other big difference: at our old school parents were not allowed to enter the school yard until it was time for dismissal. If you entered the school you had to sign in at the office and get a Visitor’s badge. (Or risk being challenged in the hall by the vice principal – which happened to me our first week there.)


In contrast, our new school’s fall newsletter invites parents to join the kids in the schoolyard to play!


I liked our old school, it was a little crazy but it was a busy, BUSY, noisy place, with a million activities going on at any given time, and the teachers and committee-mad parents were terrific.

And I also like our small new easygoing school. Our island-style inner city ghetto school!





Step 91: Live in Colour (Be Bold!)

colour chip wallIn a faraway kingdom, long long long ago… okay, so it was just last May… we were painting our house white for resale, and it felt like we were bleaching the fun and joy right out of our lives. The only way I could cheer the Boss up about the “white white white white white!” was by talking about our future home and promising her she could choose the colours for her new room.

She immediately expressed a love of stripes. Yikes, I thought. A few days later she changed to polka dots. Double yikes, I thought.

Skip forward to last weekend, when I finally summoned up the courage to ask the fatal question: “So what colours do you want your room to be?”

We stood a long while in front of the paint chips at our local hardware store. I mean a loooong while. And we finally emerged with a blue, a yellow, and a green.

It occurred to me that it might be insane to let a six-year-old pick her own room colours, but then again, who am I to dictate colour choices? I am an indecisive idiot when it comes to paint hues. A wall of paint chips makes me break into a cold sweat. Having to choose between “washed-out-nearly-almost-pale-green” and “barely-perceptible-green-tinged-grey” makes me hyperventilate. The last time I painted a new house I had to have someone hold my hand and tell me what to do. (Thanks, Alice!)

In light of my chronic style handicap, why not let the Boss – she of the fabulous fashion and design sense – pick her own colours? Why not let her rule her own roost? Why the heck not?

It feels like a time to be bold, and live in full technicolor instead of soul-less white and obsequious beige.

So I ordered the paint and got to work…

okay, here we go

okay, here we go



not bad at all...

not bad at all…



It’s taken a couple of days to get used to, but I like it more every time I walk in there.

Another lesson in boldness from the Boss.

Step 90: Readjust Your Entire Sense of Time

I find my time here is both expanding and contracting. On one hand, it is refreshing to have to allocate far less “travel time” to get around. I keep forgetting that we can drive to most places we need to go in five minutes or less, with the result that we’re early for everything, a most un-Saltspringian trait. In the city things were different. We walked everywhere and I had to allow extra time for the Boss’s extremely variable speed. The 3 blocks to school could take 20 minutes or it could take 45. To travel downtown, it was a 15+ minute walk to the subway station, then add ride time, rush hour delays, etc etc etc.

For me, city living fed into my obsessive nature beautifully. I spent an awful lot of time just calculating walking and transit times and planning my day so that every activity dovetailed perfectly. (That was the plan, anyway. My agendas were often enough foiled by my own idiocy.) I calculated every trip, scheduled every errand. I walked fast, and got into the habit of reading while I walked, when the Boss wasn’t with me, just to get more done.

Zipping about in a car here has turned all this upside down. In Toronto I would never have signed the Boss up for a dance class that starts a mere 15 minutes after school lets out, a couple of miles away, but here we can make it… and still have time to change!

The time I’ve gained however, is lost again extremely quickly, since everyone operates in slow motion around here.

(And yet Saltspringers can also drive idiotically fast on these tricky winding roads. I am surrounded by paradox!)

slug logo by the Rabson family, local entrepreneurs

We are living on “island time” now. Good news: nobody expects you to be on time. Bad news: They won’t be on time either.

But stop-and-smell-the-roses islanders still have their own time anxieties. Interaction with the outside world requires adherence to strict ferry schedules. Nobody is cursed more bitterly than BC Ferries, when a sluggish islander makes the effort to hurry and be on time, and then the dagnabbed ferry runs late!

BC Ferries loading ramp

Road to Nowhere

So where does that leave me, the transplanted city neurotic? The ease of driving everywhere is definitely softening my head as well as my muscle tone. I’ve got to have a book to read in my car for every time I’m too early for school pickup. I have to take a deep breath in restaurants and not let the tortoise-paced service drive me nutty. And I’ve got to take up knitting or something for those damn ferry wait times!

I don’t know. Can I slow down? Should I slow down? I’ve got a lot to do, y’know, what with scheduling in the rose-smelling along with all the wood-chopping, bird-watching, monkey-bars-playing and general horsing around that needs to be done around here.

Step 89: Drive a B.C.-esque car

Which I do!!

In Toronto, when I told people that I was buying a twenty-year-old Volvo with the intent to drive it to B.C. they looked at me like I was nuts. Driving it around the city I noticed a few other similar models, but I still felt fairly unique for not buying the ubiquitous black or silver mini-van that line the streets of my old neighbourhood..

Out here in Lotus Land, driving an ancient Volvo wagon is akin to camouflage! I feel absolutely invisible, especially since I jettisoned the Ontario plates in favour of B.C. ones. I’ve gone deep undercover now.

Step 82-88: Fitting in… Get Your Membership Cards

Very soon after arriving I scurried about securing all the badges of community membership I could find…

82. Saltspring Library Card

83. Co-op Membership

84. Barb’s Buns Bakery card

85. Thrifty’s points card

86. Resident card

87. subscription to the Driftwood (local paper)

88. B.C. Ferries card

All part of my devious scheme to pose as a bona fide Islander…

Step 81: Arrive Safe and Sound

Check! Weary and addled, but WE MADE IT!

Fresh off the ferry, on Salt Spring Island at last…

The boss was getting seriously fed up with posing for photos – I was getting more scowls than smiles recently – so this pic really shows how she felt about arriving and being with her beloved cousins, aunts, uncle, grandma and grandpa…

Epic road trip at an end… but still lots to do…


Step 80: Always, Always Stop at Roadside Attractions

Why? Because they’re there!

Step 79: Swim Whenever You Can

This is a good rule any time, but especially when travelling.

These are the places we swam this summer (paddled, waded, splashed, etc).
Hover cursor over photo to see location.