A Moveable Feast – Why Experiences Are Worth More

A Moveable Feast – Why Experiences Are Worth More

I’ve recently finished reading Ernest Hemingway’s Paris memoir, A Moveable Feast, written in the 1920’s while he worked for the Toronto Star as a foreign correspondent. The novel chronicles his personal accounts and experiences living in the city and his observations about life and the people around him. It’s a rather priceless and rare look inside his life as a struggling young writer and his first hand accounts of interactions with such famous writers as Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, and of course, Gertrude Stein. The title of the book originated from a conversation Hemingway had with his biographer. He commented that Paris leaves an impression on those who live there. Anyone who has lived there as a young person can attest to the fact that the city will stay with them for the rest of their lives. In essence: Paris is “a moveable feast”.

A Moveable Feast was published posthumously in 1964, three years after Hemingway’s death. Edited by his fourth wife Mary, it was compiled using the unfinished manuscript and a collection of material which Hemingway had indicated he did not want included in a final draft. At the time of his death he had not wanted his Paris memoirs published because he felt it lacked a true ending and was therefore not a complete story. A restored edition was published in 2009 by Hemingway’s grandson Sean. This was intended to more accurately reflect the original work of Hemingway, disregarding the majority of Mary’s edits. It’s widely agreed that the new version can’t be regarded as any more definitive than the original. Ann Douglas, professor of literature at Columbia University put it best when she said “there can be no final text because there is not one.”

One of the things I loved most about A Moveable Feast was the simple pleasure of being able to read about Hemingway’s life in Paris as a young man. His vivid descriptions of the city transported me to the Boulevard St-Germain & Place St-Michel. His incredible eye for detail was able to capture what makes Paris a timeless city. He is able to describe the simple staples of Parisian life with intimate articulation. Hemingway encapsulates the most wonderful and rewarding experiences: be it strolling across the Luxembourg gardens, wandering through the Latin quarter, or sitting in cafes enjoying a café crème while observing people.

A common theme throughout A Moveable Feast is the poverty in which Hemingway and his first wife lived. Many times Hemingway makes reference to their poor financial situation. He writes about life in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods and the sacrifices they made on a daily basis to get by. He paints a portrait of his early life and the struggles he experienced as a writer while having to endure continuous hardships. Despite their circumstances, I was most shocked by their ability to live such a full life. Hemingway writes:

“But then we did not think ever of ourselves as poor. We did not accept it. We thought we were superior people and other people that we looked down on and rightly mistrusted were rich. It had never seemed strange to me to wear sweatshirts for underwear to keep warm. It only seemed odd to the rich. We ate well and cheaply and drank well and cheaply and slept well and warm together and loved each other.”

They made sacrifices to have the life they wanted: a life full of rewarding activities with those close to them. If affording this life meant having to use public baths by the river, or having to often skip lunch, or borrowing books instead of purchasing them from Sylvia Beach’s Shakespeare and Company, it was all in an effort to be able to enjoy a lifestyle that made them happy. Spending the money they saved on dining out with friends and on European excursions, such as winter in the mountains for a skiing holiday or summer in Spain for the San Fermin festival, shared a common theme.

Hemingway chose to spend his money on experiences and in no way was he the last person to promote such a lifestyle.  David Chilton, author of The Wealthy Barber, suggests that people shouldn’t be afraid to admit when they can’t afford something and encourages spending more money on experiences rather than on “stuff”. Hemingway was able to live well while poor, not because it was easier back then, but because he understood what was important. Being able to live a life surrounded with good friends, good food, and good drink was the foundation not only to a fulfilling life for him but also a starting point for many of his great stories.

In the original version, the book is concluded with a rather fitting last line: “But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.” This still holds true almost a hundred years later. Just below the pricey restaurants and cafes is a vast expanse of places where people can go and still enjoy a great quality of life on a budget.

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Happy 81st Birthday Grandma – An Open Letter

Happy Birthday Grandma - An Open Letter

Dear Grandma,

I know of your love of receiving letters, so on your 81st birthday I thought it’d be fitting to send you something which would be more at home in the 19th & 20th centuries.

As I sit thinking of what to write I am reminded of some of the great times we’ve had. Our week in Italy comes to mind, walks down by the water, as well as our always eventful trips to the dump. Although many of the earlier times you’ll remember more vividly than I do, I’m more than aware that there are almost too many to recount or keep track of. As I reflect back on life as a young child, my earliest memories of visiting “Grandma & Grand-dad’s” are dominated by Grand-dad. It wasn’t until his passing that I believe we really started to develop our own individual relationship.

I remember that the first couple times I visited you on my own after granddad’s death, the experience was much different than to that which I had been accustomed. You and Granddad were as different as you were alike. While he would keep Erika and I occupied with activities such as woodworking, board games, and outdoor activities, your interests were reading, walking, and cooking; things that at a young age is hard for a rambunctious child to understand, let alone enjoy. I was young and it took me a while to understand that visiting my grandparents was now actually visiting you. We had a couple years where I didn’t visit as much and in some ways, we drifted apart. During those years I wasn’t able to come to terms with the fact that you were not Grand-dad and you would not be able to play with me and occupy me in the same way he had.

The second phase of our relationship began when I was in highschool. Initially, it began as a visit in the summer for the Canada day long weekend. It became a time each year that I looked forward to with much anticipation and excitement. I can’t pinpoint what it was exactly, it could have been your liberal attitude towards beer or the freedom you allowed my friends and I. I can say with utmost certainty it was the first time I felt as if I was treated like a young adult, fully capable of using my own judgement to make decisions. You did not smother nor did you lecture. I found it to be a very refreshing pace from what I was used to at home.

Since then I believe we have developed a very special relationship, one I don’t believe many other people share with someone almost 60 years their senior. I don’t know of many people who would willingly spend Reading Week with a grandparent let alone 3 of them in 3 consecutive years. Our relationship has turned into something where we speak with each other every couple days, and I look forward to hearing how you are and sharing what has been going on in my life. In recent years some of my most favourite times have been sitting across from you in the front room talking about this, that and the other thing. That having been said, some of my least favourite times in the last few years have been when we’ve selected either a risqué movie to watch or when you decide to use words like dildo or lust during our conversations…it’s just deeply disturbing and slightly awkward. But it’s times like these that really show the strength of our friendship and I don’t hesitate in listing you as one of my best friends.

From the bottom of my heart I want you to know I love you deeply and that there are days just talking to you makes me feel better. I wish you all the best in this your 82nd year and look forward to many many more years of visits and hundreds of phone calls. Happy Birthday, have a great day, and see you soon.

Graham

Animal Farm – The Art of Paying Yourself First With Time

Me-Time
A few weeks ago I finished reading George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.  Published in 1945, this timeless novel tells a tale about a group of overworked farm animals who rise up and rebel against the only establishment they have ever known, their farmer. In overthrowing the demands and obligations of the farmer they attempt to create a “worker’s paradise” where all animals are equal. Trouble eventually ensues, leading to a riveting tale that I flew through, page after page.

Animal Farm reflects the events leading up to the Russian revolution of 1917 and into  the early Stalin era. It’s an allegorical novel that helps to simplify and allow the reader to approach the material in a very unique way. As the story evolves, the ruling animals award themselves more and more luxuries, slowly corrupting the system.  Simply put – power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

While working my way though the book I became aware of the underlying theme that drove the farm: hard, long, continual labour today would be rewarded tomorrow through the perks of retirement.

Throughout the novel, Orwell uses the animals to figuratively represent a number of the issues with communist society. One of the older horses in the novel, after having been worked to physical exhaustion reflected on his plans to retire.

“If Boxer made a good recovery, he might expect to live another three years, and he looked forward to the peaceful days that he would spend in the corner of the big pasture. It would be the first time that he had had leisure to study and improve his mind.”

Sadly, in the end Boxer was unable to enjoy his old age and better himself, as had been his dream for retirement.

Much like Boxer, the rest of the animals on the farm were run down, overworked, and exhausted. They were never given time to relax or to focus on either own interests and passions. Unfortunately, North American society operates in a similar fashion, overworked and with an alarming lack of personal time. As we look around we see people who are so engulfed in their work that they forget to take time for themselves and their families.

In today’s day and age people don’t stop to focus on themselves enough. We’ve all heard the old adage: it’s important to “pay yourself first”. I argue that most people pay themselves first in the literal sense but do not reflect upon the figurative sense: time.  Before the start of each week you should sit down and designate time for yourself: time that will allow you an opportunity to focus on the things which matter to you.  Use this time to do something that will make you happy and perhaps even make you a better person. The truth is: we all need time for ourselves. Everyone needs that time in their week to focus on what really matters to them, without the intruding white noise of the world. This critical time needs to be for you.

Hal Urban, in his amazing book, Life’s Greatest Lessons: 20 Things That Matter, lays out 20 things that successful people do. Early on in the book he describes a situation where business executives had compromised everything for corporate success. He talks about how they had lost themselves in the pursuit of the “almighty dollar”.  Research was done into their overall outlook and attitude. Urban wrote: “Almost half of them said that despite years spent striving to achieve their financial goals, their lives seemed ‘empty and meaningless’”.  He goes on to mention that 68% of the senior executives interviewed said they had neglected their family lives to purse professional goals.

Not only did these seemingly successful people feel empty, they also freely admitted to missing out on important time with their families. There is a valuable lesson to be learned here. Corporate success, with all its power and money, can’t do two things. It cannot rewind the clock and it cannot bring meaning to your life. Once you start running, it’s hard to slow yourself down. In the case of Boxer by the time he finally came to rest he was irrevocably burned out. His blind dedication to work not only dominated his past but also robbed him of his future. Don’t be a Boxer, don’t ever allow yourself to compromise your today for the promises of tomorrow.

The Sun Also Rises – The Lost Generation, Then and Now

The Sun Also Rises – The Lost Generation, Then and Now

Last week I finished reading Ernest Hemingway’s masterpiece, The Sun Also Rises. Published in 1926, this novel helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. The Sun Also Rises is widely considered to be the quintessential novel of the “Lost Generation”. The book focuses on a group of thirty-something American and British expatriates living on the Left Bank in Paris during the 1920’s. It follows their extravagant night life in Paris and their trip to Pamplona, Spain for the San Fermin festival (The running of the bulls). The book is an emotional investigation of the cynicism and torment which the post-World War I generation went through in their attempt to find their place in the world after returning home.

The theme from the book that resonates most with me is the aimlessness of the Lost Generation to which the characters belong. The Lost Generation, named by Gertrude Stein, describes the men and women who came of age during the Great War. Their experiences during that horrific conflict undermined and shattered their beliefs in the traditional notions of morality, justice, and love. Without these values and ideals to rely on, the members of this generation found their lives to be unfulfilling, causing them to no longer believe in any one thing. Their lives became empty and they wandered aimlessly in a world that appeared, to them, to be meaningless. They filled their time with purposeless activities, such as drinking, dancing, and debauchery. They slowly became psychologically and morally lost.

Recently, my generation, Generation Y, the Millennial Generation, has been described by The New York Times as Generation Limbo:

“Highly educated 20-somethings, whose careers are stuck in neutral, coping with dead-end jobs and listless prospects. And so they wait: for the economy to turn, for good jobs to materialize, for their lucky break. Some do so bitterly, frustrated that their well-mapped careers have gone astray. Others do so anxiously, wondering how they are going to pay their rent, their school loans, their living expenses – sometimes resorting to once-unthinkable government handouts.”

Most of Generation Limbo’s hardships can be traced back to the Great Recession thanks to it’s long-term impact. During the recession the number of Americans aged 25 to 34 living with their parents jumped 25 percent resulting from the highest levels of unemployment for young people since World War II. While The New York Times refers to us as Generation Limbo, Harvard economist Richard Freeman takes it a step further saying “These people will be scared, and they will be called the “lost generation” – in that their careers would not be the same way if we had avoided this economic disaster.”

Aside from the original Lost Generation of the 20’s the only other age cohort to carry this moniker was the Japanese youth who grew up in the 90’s during Japan’s decade long recession. They experienced widespread unemployment which meant that the majority of this generation never had an opportunity to start real careers. During the recession the number of young people working temporary or contract jobs doubled and created a spike in suicides.

What we are seeing today is that Generation Y is becoming increasingly challenged by listlessness, a condition that will lead to a future of consequences for both the children and parents of their generation. It’s no secret that a large portion of young adults are being forced to postpone adulthood because they don’t feel like they have any other options.
It’s surprising how easy it is to draw parallels between two generations nearly 90 years apart. The average member of Generation Y will tell you that they feel helpless. That their lives are unfulfilling and they aimlessly move from one frivolous task to another. The lives of this generation are full of meaningless pursuits such as TV, videogames, and the internet. Their belief and faith in society has slowly been eroded and those finished school either unemployed or underemployed feel empty, without a sense of purpose. Many in this generation are seeing their futures flash before their eyes as they sit dormant, slowly losing faith in that promise of a better tomorrow.

Fundamental change. A serious conversation needs to be started, a conversation about the fundamental principles which undermine today’s society. This conversation can only be spurred on by a generation so incredibly affected by it, Generation Y. They must reach out to “the establishment” and begin a conversation about the necessary changes they want to see in society. The last few years have seen wide spread change on the issues that were once hotly contested, proof that change is possible. Although, before this conversation is possible, Generation Y will need to ask themselves: “Are we satisfied leaving policy decisions to those who are out of touch with both reality and the needs of the people?”

New Years Resolution

As we are well into 2013, I have decided to undertake the challenge of making New Year’s Resolutions.  The origin of the New Years Resolution can be traced all the way back to the ancient Romans who began each new year by making promises to the God Janus, after which the month of January is named. My promises however are not to a Roman god but to myself. I’ve come up with a number of different goals for myself this year that have one underlining theme: they are all designed to make me a better, more well-rounded individual by the end of 2013.

In no particular order, they are as follows:

1 – Live a Healthier Lifestyle

I’m looking to continue and improve upon the progress I have made in the last few months of 2012 to live a healthier lifestyle. I plan on continuing daily attendance at Limitless Performance, while doing an additional 30 minutes of cardio throughout each day.  I have begun a daily food journal to help track what and when I eat as to help me target healthier habits with regards to eating. Lastly, the most important thing I want to do this year with regards to my healthier life style, is to stop snacking and eating after dinner.

2 – Read 12 Books

Walter Dean Myers tells us: “Reading is not optional”. Thus in 2013, I have decided to follow his advice. I have determined a dozen books that I myself would like to read this year. The last time I read book after book consecutively would have been in highschool. It’s something I got away from while in University and something I want to get back to.  The 12 books I’ve selected are, in one form or another, literary classics. As I finish each book I’ll post a small review and my opinion of it.  I’m currently working my way through Ernest Hemmingway’s The Sun Also Rises. Below is a list of the 12 books which I have determined are a part of my literary reading goal for the year.

For Whom the Bell Tolls Lolita Paris to the Moon The Spy who Came in from the Cold
Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1984 Dubliners Tuesday with Morrie
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn In Cold Blood Sun Also Rises Animal Farm

3 – Get back to playing organized sports

It’s been around a year and a half since I was a part of any organized weekly sporting team. I’m looking to start back up playing both pickup hockey and soccer in 2013. Although I’m still looking for a hockey league, I have found a pick-up soccer game that runs every Friday at RIM Park.

4 – Learn to speak Conversational Italian

Learning to speak conversational Italian has been on my list of things to do since I first visited Italy in 2006. Although I speak and understand basic Italian I can not hold my own in a conversation that doesn’t revolve around the price of something or the location of the nearest bathroom. I’m planning on accomplishing this either through Italian classes or through using Rosetta Stone.

5 – Take a Cooking Course

It may have been because I recently watched Julie & Julia but I want to enroll in a cooking course this year. I want to learn the basics of how to work in the kitchen and learn more about cooking.

6 – Write

a)      Journal

As a way to get back into writing regularly I’ve started to journal in 2013. I find it a sobering period during the week where I can sit alone and reflect and be honest with myself about what’s been going on lately and things for which I am happy and not happy.

b)      Book

Perhaps one of the loftliest goals I have this year is to write a book. I’m not yet sure exactly what type of book, be it a fiction novel or non-fiction, or a collection of short stories, but by the end of 2013 I want to have written a book. I’ve already started to get back into writing by doing daily writing prompts.

c)       Blog

Lastly, I want to do a better job at blogging by maintaining this blog.

So to everyone I want to say Happy New Year and I hope this has helped you think about your own resolutions and maybe convinced you it’s worth making your own or stealing one of mine.

Breaking the Monotony of Job Hunting with Diabetes

Job hunting is perhaps one of the least rewarding activities one can take part in. You spend all day busting your hump viewing job boards, writing cover letters, and applying to jobs with little to nothing to show at the end for all the hard work. In all honesty, it really sucks and over time it slowly works away at one’s morale and spirit.

A few weeks ago I decided that I was tired of devoting a full day to searching for a job and wanted to instead spend a portion of my day doing something rewarding that would help someone else. I knew I wanted to help to increase awareness about the effects of Diabetes before World Diabetes Day on November 14th. I decided the best way to do this was by raising money to send a child with Type 1 Diabetes to a special D-camp where they learn to self-manage their condition.

As some of you may know my father was a diabetic for 30 years. I know first hand how difficult it is for someone living with diabetes and those difficulties are compounded when that someone is an 8 or 9 year old. From the moment a child is first diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes their entire world changes. Where their parents were once able to simply prepare meals for the family, they now must consider glucose levels, count carbohydrates, adjust basal and bolus levels. Simple things like heading out for a family bike ride now involve remembering to pack snacks, juice boxes,  and test strips. D-Camps are able to empower these children and help make that reality easier to manage.

D-Camps allow kids the opportunity to indulge in their sense of fun and adventure in a diabetes-friendly environment. They meet and connect with other kids who share the same experiences and get a better understand of what diabetes is. They also get to participate in outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking, and canoeing that help promote personal growth. Finally, these kids learn how to self-manage their diabetes in a supportive, nurturing environment. Kids return from camp less reliant on their parents and better able to manage day-to-day hurdles.

November is Diabetes Month. It’s a month devoted to raising awareness about Diabetes and helping educate the general public about the disease and prevention. Be sure to check out the links below as they will help you gain a better understanding about what diabetes is and about why it is one of the most serious problems facing this generation of children.

My father was one of the lucky ones. He has been insulin free for 9 years thanks to a pancreas transplant, but he lives everyday with the reminder of diabetes. Not only did he lose the sight out of his right eye but also experienced kidney failure. He spent nearly 2 years on dialysis, three times a week, five hours at a time before his sister generously donated one to him. Managing diabetes is hard because if you don’t, there are consequences you’ll have to deal with for the rest of your life.

Together we can help raise the level of discussion in this country about diabetes while making the life of a child struggling with diabetes better. Remember, a small donation goes a long way in making a big difference.

Leaving Diabetes Behind: Pancreas Transplant Gives Waterloo Man New Lease On Life
Enjoying His Freedom: Despite The Anti-Rejection Medication
Waterloo Man Raising Money To Send Diabetic Child To Special Camp 

What I Learned This Summer In Europe

What I Learned This Summer In Europe

I’ve been home about a month now and beyond it of course being nice to catch up with friends and family, I do rather miss the streets of Paris, the tastes of Florence, and the sights of Venice. In reflecting back on the trip while going through photos I am reminded of the friends I made and the old ones I got the opportunity to see again. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience. It was more than just a vacation it was a master class in French and Italian culture. I want to share some of the few lessons I learned while away:

1: Paris is Real.
In all the hustle and bustle of sightseeing, tourists, and attractions you forget that Paris is a city like any other. People are born there, they live there, and they die there. They fall in love there, they get married there and they start families there. Paris isn’t a make believe place that only exists in our dreams. It’s a living breathing place. It evolves and changes over time. It is worth spending more than a couple days there. To properly experience Paris you can’t rush it you need the time to take it all in, wander around the city streets and experience all things Parisian.

2: Apartments Are the Way to Go.
If you want a real authentic experience I’d highly recommend renting apartments. Not only does it allow you a home base to unwind and relax after a long day it allows you the luxury and freedom to do your own cooking which helps cut down on costs. We also found that the apartments were much cheaper than hotels and in some cases the same price or cheaper than hostels. We stayed 30 nights in Florence for 600 euros. That was $25/night for a 2 bedroom, with a large living area, full kitchen and a balcony. By staying a 20 minute walk outside the centre it allowed us to live as if we were Italians. We used http://www.airbnb.com, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a unique experience.

3: Blogging is Hard!!
Blogging is MUCH harder than it appears. It is very time consuming but the final product is absolutely worth it. I started this travel blog as a way to keep people informed about what we were up to, journal our experiences, and to force myself to write. I’ve learned so much and the blog has been a great success. I plan on maintaining this blog going forward focusing on a variety of things so be sure to check back often.

4: Travel with Someone You Love.
Traveling is tough. It’s delays, transfers, waiting, and the unexpected, but it’s because of the unexpected that you want to travel with someone you love. When Rebecca and I boarded that plane I honestly didn’t know what to expect. That thought made it very scary and very attractive all at the same time. The things we did, saw, and experienced are things I will never forget. There is no one else in the world I would have wanted to share them with. When I look back on this trip in 20 years I won’t remember just the things we saw I will remember the person I was with when I was there.

That’s it for now. I hope everyone has a great thanksgiving and is able to spend time with their loved ones. Remember, life is short, we only live once and some people don’t even do that.

PS — Click on the mosaic to check out 500 of my favourite photos from the trip up close.