pilots needed

During the pandemic, teachers were moved from ‘in-school positions’ to teaching online. Many parents had high expectations. Many teachers had poor I.T. skills. Training mostly consisted of throwing resources at the teachers, but with no actual training. Think of it this way….

Employer: Hello sir.

Employee: Hello.

Employer: I’d like to thank you for coming today. As you know, there has been a global pandemic and so we need to change your job description. Previously, you were driving a bus… and… might I add… you were doing a mighty fine job of it. Now, due to the pandemic we will need to move your position to that of driving a plane.

Employee: ‘Driving’ a plane? Don’t you ‘fly’ a plane?

Employer: Drive/fly… you were great at driving the bus, I am sure that you will be great at driving the plane.

Employee: Thanks for your faith in me, but I have to be honest… I really don’t know how to ‘drive’ a plane. Is there some training that I could do first.

Employer: Of course! Now, because of the pandemic, this is all a bit rushed, but here – these are flying goggles. You place them over your eyes and they make flying a plane easier.

Employee: Thanks. I’m sure that they will be useful, but what about some actual training?

Employer: Ah! I see what you are getting at. You need some advanced training. Well, here are some sun glasses! They will be really useful when flying east in the mornings and west in the afternoons. Also, they make you look really cool… see… the lenses look like mirrors!

Employee: Thanks. I really like them. All this stuff is great, but no real training then, eh? Don’t worry, I get it. This is a global pandemic. It’s the first time our generation have ever faced anything like this. I will do my best to ‘drive’ this plane and keep all of the passengers safe and well. I’ve got this.

Employer: Thanks we knew you would!

Employee: One last thing though… any chance of parachutes for me and the passengers?

Employer: Our experts are working on those right now. They should be with us in a few weeks. Till then, hang in there. Thanks for your positive attitude. Good luck and please try to keep all parental complaints to a minimum.


At the end of my first day with the Light Phone 2… here are my thoughts:

  1. I do feel instantly ‘lighter’. Knowing that I cannot check my social media, email, etc. seems to have helped keep my mind present and less cluttered/busy. My thoughts aren’t wondering to all that ‘stuff’… at least not as much as before. Honestly, it’s a relief to not have access to social media at all times
  2. Years of using a smart phone have conditioned me to the way it works. Using a new interface is going to take some getting used to.
  3. I really, really, really like the simplicity and ‘calmness’ of the Light Phone 2 screen compared to the stimulating busyness of my smart phone.
  4. Smart phones are really easy to text on… again, it’s going to take some time to get used to the new screen and lack of predictive text.
  5. So far (early days, I know!) I’m incredibly glad that I’ve made this change.

A little anecdote… I went to a local coffee shop today and was struck by how many people were in there staring at their phone screens. Inwardly, I felt happy to not be doing that anymore. This positive feeling put a little skip in my step as I left with my espresso, happy to be #goinglight.



So let’s get down to this.

What is the Light Phone? The Light Phone 2 is a phone designed for people who want to disconnect from all the digital busyness. It’s for people who find themselves distracted by their smart phone and want to be more present in whatever it is that they might be doing. It basically makes/receives calls and messages.

Why get a Light Phone? There is a rapidly growing school of thought that all this digital connectivity might not be good for us (some of us). Perhaps the ability to access all of this ‘stuff’ via our phones is adding negative noise to our minds. I won’t go into detail on this topic, but I highly recommend Matt Haig’s book – Notes On A Nervous Planet where he talks about this at length.

“It’s great to be able to move away from the Smart Phone world, but still keep an aesthetically pleasing device.”DSC02690-Edit

The Light Phone is beautiful… well in my opinion. It has a sleek, modern-looking design. I love it’s simplicity. It’s great to be able to move away from the Smart Phone world, but still keep an aesthetically pleasing device. Previously, I thought that moving to a phone of this type would require getting a device from the 90’s or early 2000’s. Of course, there’s a certain pleasing retro vibe to that option too. Thanks to the Light Phone 2, you have options!

Ordering one is simple. Their website http://www.lightphone.com is as simple as their phone. It took me about 5 minutes to complete my order. Their company is in the good old U.S.A. and I live in Canada. The phones costs $350 U.S., and this converted to about $500 Canadian. It arrived FAST! I placed my order on a Thursday night and it arrived Tuesday morning!I will say though that I had to pay $50 Canadian duty upon receiving it. It does say on their site that you are responsible for any local duties.

The phone comes simply, but pleasingly packaged. It arrives packaged in a book. Plastics are kept to a minimum. A charging cable is provided and this plugs into a USB port to charge. The phone is unlocked, leaving it up to you to choose a provider. Switching my plan to one without data saved me over $20 a month compared with my previous plan. The phone doesn’t work on every network, but at www.thelightphone.com you can search your country and find a list of all compatible providers.

Phone arrived. New provider chosen and signed up with. Monthly phone bill reduced. Ready to go…



GOING LIGHT part 2 – ‘stuff’ math

“But if you’re buying a new phone, isn’t that just more stuff?”

Very true. In my quest to disconnect from the tech I, ironically, need to buy new tech – a new phone (more stuff).

So I came up with a plan. Sell stuff that I already own. Use this new money to buy the new phone. Apps such as ‘Kijiji’ and ‘Let Go’ enable you to sell things that you no longer need. So, that is what I did.

A Light Phone 2 costs about $500 Canadian. How did this translate in terms of selling stuff that I already own? Here’s the breakdown:

  • 1 guitar amplifier that I no longer use (I have 4)
  • 1 ten year old flat screen T.V. (I have 3 T.V.s for some reason)
  • 1 never opened rodent cage.
  • 1 snowboard (I own 2 for some reason)
  • 1 vacuum cleaner (yep, I own 2 for some reason)
  • 1 blues driver guitar pedal (I have way more pedals than feet)

6 items of stuff sold. 1 new item of stuff to be purchased (Light Phone 2). I have reduced my overall stuff by 5! Stuff math rocks!

It took about 6 weeks to sell all of these things. I saved the cash at home until I had enough to buy the phone. I took the complete amount to the bank, deposited it, returned home, and ordered my Light Phone 2.

Well it wasn’t quite 100K, but I did pay the bank!

GOING LIGHT part 1… digitally disconnecting

We like stuff…

Make stuff.

Buy stuff.

Make faster, shinier, more impressive stuff.

Buy new stuff.


Replace the word stuff with items of your choosing… Make car. Buy car. Make faster, shinier, more impressive car. Buy new car. What other stuff do we do this with? Phone? Computer? Shoes? Underwear? Pretty much everything?

Some stuff we buy and use. Some stuff we buy and don’t use. Some stuff breaks fast. Some stuff lasts forever(ish).

I’m newly bothered by the stuff, even though there is a lot of stuff that I like… guitar stuff, skateboard stuff, biking stuff, art stuff, power tool stuff, stuffy stuffy stuff stuff. Had enough of the word ‘stuff’ yet? I usually end up buying more stuff than I actually need (as my wife likes to say, “How many guitars can you play at once?”) One bit of stuff in particular bothers me lately… my ‘smart’ phone. It’s one bit of stuff that can do loads and loads of stuff. It makes me smarter via its instant access to the internet. Its G.P.S. prevents me from getting lost. It keeps me up to date on the glorious lives of my friends and family thanks to instant social media access. It is a camera that is always with me, a book of addresses and phone numbers, a calendar, a mobile TV, a whole stack of newspapers, and my entire music library. But I don’t like it. I’ve started to ask myself – why do I need all this stuff on my phone? Why do I need it with me all the time?

It’s convenient, yes! But, what bothers me is that my mobile smart device has become a digital distraction. I find myself distracted from the people around me… checking social media accounts, reading emails, watching funny videos, playing a game, or watching a show. Have you ever had that realization that you are out for dinner with family/friends and you are all busy on your devices instead of enjoying each other’s company? I have. I don’t want to be distracted anymore. I want to be present.

So begins my plan – Get rid of the smart phone. Get a simple/dumb phone. See what sort of an impact this has on my life.

I have chosen to go with the Light Phone 2. It is a sleek , modern-looking phone that only does phone calls and messages. Well, it also allows you to set an alarm, use a calculator, and in the future it might allow you to play some music too. But, no apps. No YouTube. No social media. No camera. No games. No email. No INTERNET!!

I’m not giving up social media, YouTube, and all that other stuff. I’ll just do it at a computer, at a time of my choosing. I’m admitting to a lack of will power when it comes to looking at my phone, but fear not, there will still be pictures of my dogs on Instagram!

I’m not saying that everyone should do this. I might even end up hating it myself! There will be advantages and disadvantages to this choice. I’m just going to give it a try and see what happens. And for those who are interested, I’ll blog about the experience here.

Youth and mental illness.

“You keep finding dead ends to what you thought were good beginnings”

Life can be agonizingly difficult during a depression and/or anxiety episode. I am lucky that my experiences are limited to ‘curable’ episodes (typically lasting a few months). For some people, the symptoms never go away. I am also lucky to be an ‘adult’ in my 40’s with a fair amount of life experience, a loving family network, and a large (very large) amount of therapy and medication behind me. It must be so hard for children experiencing the same illness. It’s a testament to the strength of the young that any of them make it through at all. It is this strength that we now see rising up again and again in the form of youth who are coming forward and talking about their experiences with mental illness. The courage of these young role-models never ceases to amaze me as they make use of social media platforms to get the word out there… “mental illness can and does affect anyone! So, let’s talk about it…”

So I turn the rest of this blog post over to a talented young (13 years old!) advocate called Olivia. This is her ‘Slam’ poem in which she bravely and insightfully shares her experiences with some very problematic mental health. Her words speak for themselves, so I will say no more…

At just the age of 4,
I was already having anxiety about every little thing in my kindergarten class.
Whether it was taking the attendance down
or sharing something in a circle.
I always felt nervous.
At the age of 8,
I felt the need to be perfect with all the work that I did
because the last thing that I wanted was
to be laughed at.
When a test was being handed back,
I could feel my teacher’s eyes burning on the back of my head.
I could see a gleaming red ‘A’.
But later in the day,
peers were telling me that I did worse than them
as my worth was merely something to compare to.


At the age of 12,
I was more worried about the routine I had to do every night than my homework. All my books must be an odd number.
My laptop must be clean.
My bed needed to be made perfectly.
These routines anchored each passing day
and tricked me into thinking that my anxiety would go away
Now, at the age of 13, all of this combined is my reality.
Every little thing you can think of in a day, make me nervous in some way.
Even simply getting on the bus…
All I can think about is the hundreds of things my bus driver might say to me.
Before a presentation,
I find myself slowly shaking to the point where its uncontrollable. I can see the sweat on my hands leaving marks on the table. 
And then my name is called…
I find myself slowly moving to the front of the class.
I feel like a deer in the headlights,
waiting to be hit with the stares of my peers.
If one little thing goes wrong in my day,
my brain latches onto that memory
and keeps on thinking about it for two weeks…
until it finally goes away.
Only to find that it comes back haunting me 
the next day.
If I get invited to go somewhere
My thoughts go to every situation imaginable.
Just thinking about that
makes me feel so ashamed because I just want
to go somewhere
without having to say “no”


Anxiety is like going through a maze.
Except it never ends.
You keep finding dead ends to what you thought were good beginnings.
No one is around you trying to help because they can’t see you on the inside.  

…You feel truly lost without anyone.

“1 in 5 Canadians experience a mental illness in a given year. As people get older, their mental health often gets worse. But, not many people talk about it because there is still… a mental health stigma which creates stereotypes and offensive comments. This can lead to many dreadful outcomes. We must speak out because…

…there shouldn’t be any shame.”

Written By Olivia

Mental health advocate

Age 13

When Body Art Meets Mental Health

Getting a tattoo isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, for some it’s the perfect way to express themselves to the world around them. For some, it’s a spur of the moment decision. For others it’s a carefully considered choice. One thing that I have discovered on my ‘tattooing journey’ is that once you opt to get tattooed, it can be difficult to decide just exactly what to have permanently inked on your body. A favourite quote? A picture of your pet? Something tough? Something meaningful? Something funny? Something big? Something small?

I often get asked about my recently acquired tattoo ‘sleeve’. As a man in my forties, I joke that if you look at it in just the right light, from just the right angle, you can read the words ‘mid-life crisis’. This is not actually true… on either front. There are no words in it, and neither was it the result of a mid-life crisis. I prefer to call it my mid-life realization (although I’m having trouble getting my family to adopt the new terminology).

It has taken me 40 years to realize that I suffer with a cyclical mental illness. I have experienced recurring depression since at least my teenage years. The details of my journey with depression can be found in my other blog posts, however, long story short – I decided to have my tattoo reflect aspects of my experiences with mental illness. Here is how:


  1. The circles on my arm reflect the cyclic nature of my mental illness, reminding me that it can come back at any time and that I must be on the look-out for warning signs.
  2. The two mandalas represent my two biggest episodes of depression. After both episodes, there has been an discernible calm in my life where I appreciate things again and I am no longer depressed. At these times, there’s an overwhelming sense of my life starting a fresh.
  3. The triangles (which make up the pattern between the mandalas) represent the three key phases that my mental illness has thrown at me. Picture at each point – mania, depression, and the calm in between.
  4. Finally, a line flowing all the way through the tattoo shows how life carries on with all of this happening around it.

That’s it. I’m happy. Happy that I’m not depressed right now. Happy with my tattoo and the ‘mid-life realization’ that it represents. Happy that I’m in a place where I can talk openly about my mental health. I hope that I don’t need to get any more mandala’s tattooed, but only time will tell. I do have another arm!


Check out more designs by the awesome artist Raimundo Ramirez here.

The Art of The Apology

They are two pretty powerful words – “I’m sorry”. Some find them hard to say, others say them so frivolously that they become meaningless. Many of us were taught to use them as kids, “Say sorry to your brother/sister/friend/aunt/goldfish” etc. etc. Sometimes the lesson went a bit beyond this with wisdom like, “and don’t ever do that again”. Although this latter comment reaches a bit deeper, when it comes to apologies, we usually only teach the tip of the iceberg.

“…the ‘I’m sorry’ part… is just the start of the apology – just the start of making things better and earning true forgiveness.”

When a behaviour or action has resulted in someone being upset, then an apology is generally required. If the action was an accident, for example a child tripping, bumping into and hurting another, then the offending child would say “sorry”. In this case, the hurt child would typically say something like “it’s O.K.” This response acknowledges that it was an accident and there is no need for the child who tripped to feel bad. However, when the action was intentional the response of “it’s O.K.” is not ‘O.K.’ The fact that someone committed an intentional behaviour to make someone else feel bad, is never O.K. In this latter situation, a better response is, “I accept your apology, but please do not do that again”. This emphasizes the need and expectation of changed behaviour from the offending person (i.e. “and don’t ever do that again”). Those words… the “I’m sorry” part… are just the start of the apology – just the start of making things better and earning true forgiveness.

“True forgiveness is earned over time. It happens in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months following the incident.”

True forgiveness is earned over time. It happens in the minutes, hours, days, weeks, and months following the incident. It happens as the result of two things – changed behaviour, and kindness. The offending person must change their behaviour by never performing that action again. They must also be extra kind to the offended person. If they do these things then true forgiveness might be achieved. This is what we need children to understand so that they do not grow-up thinking that ‘sorry’ is all that is needed to make things better.

If you say something really horrible about the way I look (it wouldn’t take all that much imagination) and then say sorry, I don’t automatically forget what you said. It isn’t O.K. that you said those things. I may not really care about the fact that you said it, or I might care a lot. This can depend on a variety of factors such as our relationship, my own level of resilience, what lead-up to the incident etc. Either way, it will not be erased from my memory. I will remember that you are someone who said that to me. What follows this incident is not typically complete forgiveness, even if the offended person says, “I forgive you”. However, if you are kind to me from here on, and never repeat that type of offending behaviour, then perhaps eventually we arrive at a point of genuine forgiveness.

Children deserve to be taught this. They need to understand how to accept an apology (according to whether it was an accident or intentional action), how to give an apology, and how to follow it up with kindness and changed behaviour. As adults, we need to both model this and explicitly teach it. Now go forth and apologize.

The Difference

I have had many episodes of depression, but two of them stand out among all the others. These two put me out of commission for about six months each. They both involved suicidal thinking, complete loss of appetite, and a general ability to carry on with everyday life. There have been other episodes in between them, but they were not as significant.

While both of these major episodes of depression were similar in severity, the more recent of the two was a much different experience. Overall, I felt more supported during it, I made a fuller recovery from it, and most importantly, I learned more from it. The following points highlight why I think this latter episode was the more positive of the two experiences:

  1. I accepted that I was depressed.
  2. People close to me understood that I was depressed.
  3. I started medication earlier.
  4. I went for more extensive counselling.
  5. I told people around me that I was suffering with depression.
  6. I talked about my experience to anyone that I thought would listen and potentially understand.
  7. I took time off from work to help me rest and recover.
  8. As I recovered, I actively made time to engage in activities that I usually enjoy such as writing, drawing, exercise, and music.
  9. I saw a psychiatrist (OMG we need more access to them!).
  10. I had already had the first/earlier experience, which helped to build acceptance and increased my determination to pursue treatment.


It’s too bad that I couldn’t have arrived at where I am after just one experience. There have been many, but this highlights the difference between my two most major episodes. Good luck. Hang in there and feel free to get in touch. #depressionsucks… more than people realize.

Sowing Seeds of Acceptance

At the age of 42, I now realize that I have suffered many episodes of depression over the years. However, I have only now learned that depression is what I had. Those times were confusing. There were moments when, I wanted to end my life. I made major life changes in an attempt to find happiness. I blamed things, events, and people around me for the feelings inside me, instead of understanding the real cause. I didn’t know what was happening. I hadn’t been taught what to look out for.

As much as I’d like to blame this all on a lack of education, a failure of society to prepare me for the possibility of mental illness, there’s another factor at play too. It’s acceptance. Even once I was told by someone else that I might be depressed, I couldn’t accept it. “That’s not something that could happen to me. I’m just sad, and there are reasons for it.” Little did I know that the reasons were likely to do with activity and chemicals in my brain rather than just things going on in the world around me.

“That’s not something that could happen to me. I’m just sad, and there are reasons for it.”

I was around 27 or 28. Just days earlier, I had ended a pretty significant relationship (8 years or so… most of it common law). Depression was crippling me. I had returned to our house to collect some belongings. There was a note waiting for me. The note was not from my (ex) girlfriend, but from her mother – Anne. I’d had a good relationship with Anne. She was (is) a very caring and genuine person. She had always been kind to me and I trusted her opinion on just about everything.

I opened the letter. As I read it, I felt every word with the vividness that I’ve only ever experienced during depression. It’s like all of your nerve endings are exposed and your regular feelings (well, just the sad ones actually) are magnified to the point of being unbearable. I cried openly as I read it. Sobbing and wiping tears from my eyes to read each word. Towards the end of the letter she suggested that I might be depressed. It was there in ink… “depressed”. I don’t know if the statement literally took my legs out from under me, but I do remember sitting on the floor by the end of the letter, crying so hard that I couldn’t find my feet until the crying passed.

“Towards the end of the letter she suggested that I might be depressed. It was there in ink… depressed”.

I honestly believe that part of me knew that she was right, but the rest of me couldn’t accept it. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t understand what depression was. I simply couldn’t accept that it was something that might happen to me. I marched on relentlessly. I went through hell, and found happiness again. But eventually, depression came back.

I’ve learned that I do suffer from episodes of depression. I hope that I have learned enough to navigate my future around it. I’ve learned what medications help to make me well again and I’ve learned what life choices help to keep it at bay. I think that the letter from Anne marked an important point in my life. In many medical and therapeutic appointments, I’ve talked about reading that letter. I’ve talked about how I look back and know that Anne was right. She played an important part in getting me to where I am today. She sowed a seed. It was the seed of acceptance – the seed that guided me, at least in part, to where I am now. I accept that I sometimes get ill and that the illness is depression.

“I accept that I sometimes get ill and that the illness is depression.”

I thank many people for helping me to be the person I am today. I am well right now. I was able to get the help I needed, but to get it, acceptance was a key factor. I think that for many people, we cannot accept that we have depression when we first hear it. Maybe it’s because we still lack a definitive test that tells us we are depressed. Whatever the reason, I believe that once that seed is sown, acceptance is in our future. Thank you Anne for sowing that seed.

To others out there, don’t be afraid to use the word depression to a friend who you think might be ill with it. Perhaps you will be that person who sows the seed, that leads to acceptance, that then leads to the cure… and in the cure lies happiness.

Happiness is everything.