What do you do - April 7-30

What do you do? April 7th edition


Friday Apil 7th, 2017 – Nothing exciting to report, some information about Toronto’s PATH system, summer vacation planning, and some of my favourite places

I’m writing tonight because I committed to it, but I’m not feeling it.  I’m a little grumpy from a situation that happened today. One that I need to consider more carefully before I react to – including sharing any details. I am naturally a very reactive person – and my first reaction, or my emotional reaction, is not always appropriate.  So I’ve made a rule for myself that when I know I’m reacting emotionally – I wait 24 hours before responding. I’m not going to talk about that situation, but maybe about my perception of people’s expectations of public officials. So setting that aside…

I don’t really have much city news to report today.  I was in Toronto. Besides blogging and a few emails and calls, I was not focused on London stuff today – I will be working tomorrow and Sunday, and hope to have some interesting things to share. I caught the way too early in the morning train (6:25 am), and I got home around 8:30 pm.

I have been to Toronto many times over the past ten years or so, and only recently have I been accessing PATH.  How did I know that this existed, but not really what it was, or how useful it was?

For those of you who don’t know PATH, I am copying the following directly from the City of Toronto’s website:

PATH is downtown Toronto’s (mostly) underground walkway linking 30 kilometres of shopping, services and entertainment. Follow PATH and you’ll reach your downtown destination easily in weatherproof comfort.

PATH provides an important contribution to the economic viability of the city’s downtown core. The system facilitates pedestrian linkages to public transit, accommodating more than 200,000 business-day commuters, and thousands of additional tourists and residents on route to sports and cultural events. Its underground location provides pedestrians with a safe haven from the winter cold and snow, and the summer heat.

PATH facts:

  • The approximate 1,200 shops and services, such as photocopy shops and shoe repairs, found in PATH, employ about 5,000 people. Once a year, businesses in PATH host the world’s largest underground sidewalk sale.
  • More than 50 buildings/office towers are connected through PATH. Twenty parking garages, six subway stations, two major department stores, eight major hotels, and a railway terminal are also accessible through PATH. It also provides links to some of Toronto’s major tourist and entertainment attractions such as: the Hockey Hall of Fame, Roy Thomson Hall, The Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, and the CN Tower. City Hall and Metro Hall are also connected through PATH.
  • There are more than 125 grade level access points and 60 decision points where a pedestrian has to decide between turning left or right, or continuing straight on. The average size of a connecting link is 20 metres (66 feet) long by 6 metres (20 feet) wide.
  • The building furthest north on the PATH network is College Park at College and Yonge Streets. The building furthest south that can be accessed through PATH is the RBC WaterPark Place building which is just across the street from the Toronto Island ferry terminal and the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. PATH does not follow the grid patterns of the streets above.
  • Each letter in PATH is a different colour, each representing a direction. The P is red and represents south. The orange A directs pedestrians to the west, while the blue T directs them to the north. The H is yellow and points to the east.
  • Signage includes a symbol for people with disabilities whenever there is a flight of stairs ahead.

PATH history

  • The first underground path in Toronto originated in 1900 when the T Eaton Co. joined its main store at 178 Yonge St. and its bargain annex by tunnels. By 1917 there were five tunnels in the downtown core. With the opening of Union Station in 1927, an underground tunnel was built to connect it to the Royal York Hotel (now known as the Fairmont Royal York). The real growth of PATH began in the 1970s when a tunnel was built to connect the Richmond-Adelaide and Sheraton Centres.
  • In 1987, City Council adopted the recommendation that the City become the co-ordinatingagency of PATH and pay for the system-wide costs of designing a signage program.
  • In 1988, design firms Gottschalk, Ash International, and Keith Muller Ltd. were retained in by the City of Toronto to apply the design concept for PATH.
  • PATH’s name and logo are registered to the City of Toronto. The City co-ordinates and facilitates the directional signage, maps and identity markers throughout the system.
  • Each segment of the walkway system is owned and controlled by the owner of the property through which it runs. There are about 35 corporations involved.
  • In the early 1990s, signage for PATH was developed to provide pedestrians with better ease of use and functionality. The signage enhances PATH’s visibility and identity, ultimately increasing its use, attracting more people to downtown Toronto, and drawing more businesses there.

On a day like today with winter weather blowing, it was awesome to be able to use PATH to navigate from Union Station to my destination.

I think what I find most interesting is that we have private property and corporations that have created an additional public space and separate mobility option for pedestrians. Next time I go to Toronto, I am going to plan time to explore this more.

 

One thing I enjoy doing when I’m in a new city is looking for the things I love about that city, and considering whether or not we have anything similar in London.  For example – in Kincardine – every Saturday night all summer long they have the pipe band parades.  If you have never been – make a point to check it out!

I enjoy looking at antiques and wandering from shop to shop in St. Jacobs. Walking through Old Quebec City – it’s like be transported to another time and place.  A very old European feel to the houses, streets, and buildings.

Another place I enjoy is walking through Old Quebec City – it’s like be transported to another time and place.  A very old European feel to the houses, streets, and buildings.

In London I enjoy our festivals in the summer – the buzz and excitement of people, culture, and food.

Looking for a common theme in that list, it appears that what I enjoy the most is people – being leisurely – enjoying their surroundings.  Those times and places when we aren’t rushing to be somewhere, but when we are enjoying just being where we are.

This summer we are taking the boys on a road trip.  We have set aside two weeks, and have only booked our first night’s accommodation, as our goal is to head east and see all that we can at a pace that allows us to enjoy ourselves and time together.  It is Canada’s sesquicentennial year – and while I will be celebrating many community events all year long, our goal this summer for the family is to experience a little bit of Canada and to enjoy some of the many sights and places along our journey. I wonder if I can convince Matt to stop at City marker signs along the way – to see if we can collect family pictures at 150 different Canadian towns this summer…

 

What do you do? April 8th Edition

April 8th, 2017: Laundry, Groceries, Laundry, Neighbourhood chats, Laundry, family time – and did I say laundry (seriously – how much laundry can 2 little boys and one big one make??)

Do you know what your City Councillors does? Or more specifically what she does on a Saturday night at 10:30 pm? That’s right – blogging time.

(Before I start in earnest, I should tell you that after last night’s blog, I received a return phone call from one of our dedicated staff members.  I had emailed them earlier that day asking them to call me – and they only got the message at 10:30 at night – thinking it was urgent, they wanted to get back to me.  While it wasn’t urgent and we made plans to talk next week – I have to say, City of London staff really do embody “At your Service”.

I additionally spent another hour chatting with one of my council colleagues about an item coming up – we left the conversation with plans to talk more next week.  Lastly, I made a few notes on things I would like to work into this blog over the coming month that I haven’t touched on yet. I think I made it to bed around 1 am!)

It is 10:29 pm, and I have a load of laundry in the washer, one in the dryer and about 8 piled on the guestroom bed waiting to be folded. Clearly, as much as everyone in my house can make laundry, no one in my house can fold laundry. Meh. I usually do it all on Sunday’s anyway – and I was successful at folding about a quarter of it through the day between other things today.

So, I got started blogging about 30 minutes later than I usually do – that’s because I’m fighting with Gmail right now – trying to send an email, and I think I’m overworking my computer or have too many windows on the go at the same time -my email is not keeping up with my typing. I decided I might as well take a break, and write this before I flip back to that email.

Today, I was able to sleep in – one of my favourite things to do. By nature, I am up at night – I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I get my energy at night and do some of my best work at night. But that usually means I stay up too late, and wake tired in the mornings. On weekends, I usually have the opportunity to sleep in, which I do when I can, and I love it! There’s nothing like waking up when your body feels rested, and not because there is an alarm ringing.

Mid-morning, Matt and Andrew left for the cottage. We haven’t been all winter, and need to start prepping it for the rental season. I have my first renters scheduled in May and am booked on and off until Labour Day so far. There will be at least a few more weekends of heading up there to make sure it’s in good shape for renters, but this weekend was getting the water on and checking for any winter damage. By all reports, it fared well this winter.

Once Matt and Drew were gone, Ben and I made our plans for the day – for me, I knew work was on the agenda, as well as housework, groceries, a few errands, and perhaps a special dinner out for Ben. Benjamin wanted computer time, time to scooter, and to get a gift for dad’s birthday.

We started out with a little work for me – and computer time for him. Once I got through the most pressing things – which was a frustrating process as the outlook web app for the city of London is not working well and disconnects from the server every 4 ish minutes, we decided we might as well head out. Our first stop was to pick up some dry cleaning. A colleague had been kind enough to lend me a formal dress for the 100th anniversary Vimy Ridge dinner last week, and I wanted to get it cleaned to return. We made it to the cleaners just before 2 pm, then went straight to the Western Fair Market.

We should have been to the market by about 2:15, but a train on Egerton delayed us by about 20 minutes.We arrived at the market around 2:30 and had a number of stops to make. We stopped first for some delicious Apple Fritters. I had been craving one for about 3 weeks and was glad they weren’t sold out. A fresh loaf of sourdough bread, and some candy for Ben. We bought grilled cheese sandwiches and fresh fruit to take home. I bought a local garlic for roasting and spreading on the sourdough bread. We took a quick wander around the second floor, but by this time everything was closing up, so took our goods home, and Ben went back to enjoy another computer game.

I thought I would try to get to some more emails, however, the computer was still not connecting properly, so I did some laundry and tidying up instead. Ben decided he wanted to go to the park – and today was a great day for it.

We went to our neighbourhood park and were surprised at just how many people were there. At least 15 kids, all enjoying the equipment. I chatted with some of the other parents and learned that the park off Elmgrove is still experiencing drainage issues – thus they came over to Village Green Park. Parents and I talked about speed zones, and safety measures, and a few other city hall events. We stayed at the park until dinner time, and then made our way home.

 

https://www.facebook.com/vwall605/videos/410353439330047/

Ben has mastered the scooter – his favorite activity at the park is to use the trails where it is hilly to gain speed on the scooter.

After returning home, we tried to decide where to go for a special dinner. I was still full from the grilled cheese at lunch, and Benjamin was most interested in sushi. I normally like (read: LOVE) sushi, but the idea of All You Can Eat sushi on full stomach was just not appealing tonight. Saturday nights are usually more expensive, and I knew I wouldn’t be eating much. After some back and forth, he decided that what he actually wanted was Kraft Dinner. Perfect – we had to grab groceries anyway, so it worked out perfectly. We stopped at a shop along the way to grab supplies for the birthday gift for Matt, and did our shopping. This was also a good time to work in a brief financial conversation with Benjamin. We talked about making good choices with money, and how eating out can get expensive – so while it’s a nice treat, making the choice to get groceries tonight was a much better decision. We talked about how eating out would have cost us between $30.00-$50.00 – and after our shop, he noticed that our grocery bill was $70.00. Matt and I have always worked in conversations like this whenever a learning opportunity presents itself.

A few things to note about being a city councillor and being in the community. I’m no longer anonymous. I often get the corner-of-the-eye / double looks from people. That “I think I’ve seen her before look”. That, and I get the people who know exactly who I am and who want to chat. Today, I ran into one of my favourite constituents, a man who I hadn’t heard from in a while, and we spent a few minutes catching up in the produce section.

Ben and I finished our shopping and made it home with enough time for him to work on his gift, and me to make him Kraft Dinner. Then off to bed, for him, more laundry for me, and here we are.

I guess the question that really came up through today’s blog is when am I not ‘working’. When I’m at the grocery store, or at the park, I am not there as a part of my job, but I’m always on. I have to be prepared to answer questions, to be accountable for my decisions, and to engage with constituents. I have been known to take notes while pushing kids on the swing – so that I remember to follow up later. This is not a bad thing, and in no way do I want people to stop engaging with me. I love helping people and talking about what’s going on at city hall, and what changes people can expect.

Well – the dryer buzzer just went off, it’s now 11:19 pm and time to put more laundry through and to finish up a few more things before bed!

Tomorrow will be the rest of the housework and some personal/household correspondence and chequebook balancing; prepping for the school week; Matt and I working out our schedules for the week, and a few hours at City Hall Sunday night preparing for the work week ahead.

What do you do? April 9th edition

Sunday, April 9th – juggling schedules, City Hall office space, career changes, and cat pictures (ok – just one cat picture)

So it’s Sunday – which for most people is a day off.  I don’t seem to take a full day off each week – instead, I spread my work across the whole week, and it allows me flexibility in each day to take care of family and personal needs.

Today, I woke up to my phone ringing – my sister called asking for some advice.  Clearly – I should never answer the phone from an asleep state.  Some people seem to be able to do it, and appear both alert and awake to the caller – I am always caught! Once we established, that yes, it was 9 am and I was still sleeping but was awake now, I helped her out.

Today marks the 100th anniversary of Vimy Ridge.

 

I missed out on the Vimy Ridge services today. Having Ben home, and Matt out of town, it did not work out.  Crowds and noise don’t mix with Ben very well.  Instead, we watched some of the services from Vimy and talked about war, and peace, and sacrifice.

Ben and I hung out at home this morning – still tackling Laundry Mountain, and tidying the house before Matt and Andrew got home from the cottage.  in the midst of doing laundry this morning, I had left the dryer open – and when I went to add the next load, our cat Oreo was curled up inside!  Cats!

 

Have I told you I feel like my house is a zoo somedays? Besides the 4 humans – we also have a 5-year-old Collie-Shepherd, named Cali; Oreo, who we got as a kitten 2 summers ago from London Animal Care and Control; and 2 fish tanks, all of our fish are named Bob – one tank we got for the boys for Christmas with about a dozen fish, then a second tank we purchased in February to prevent new little fish from being dinner for one of our big Cichlid.  The small tank houses 8 fish right now.  At least one other City Councillor has a fish aquarium, do you know which one?

I enjoyed a few hours of conversation with a good friend who came over for coffee and a chat this morning, then Matt and Andrew arrived home in the early afternoon.

So – how do we do it? We’re both busy people, and like most parents, we have to juggle.  Sometimes it feels like we tag in and out – “Tag – you’re it” as one of us comes or goes. Having two children with high needs – one confirmed on the autism spectrum, the other with a case of the 9-going-on-nineteens also possibly on the spectrum – structure is important! If you’ve followed along this week – you will notice that there is a severe lack of consistency – some nights I’m home, some nights I’m not etc.  Every Sunday we update the board.

The board hangs on our kitchen wall and tells the kids who is going to be home when, who picks them up from school, chores, discipline, dinner, special events etc.  Having kids who need routine and consistency this is as close as we can get.  So far this works out well – if there is a change through the week – we make the change on the board and make sure they know about it.

I usually go into the office after the kids go to bed on Sundays, but having had connecting issues all weekend, I knew I had a number of emails to reply to. I went in earlier than normal, to get as much done as possible.

 

Somehow I ended up with a corner office – with two windows – one facing Central Secondary School, and one facing Centennial Hall.  In the Councillors Office – each ward Councillor has a private office.  Except for those Councillors who were already settled into their offices from the last term, all the 2014-2018 Councillors were assigned offices by ward number. Mine landed in the corner. It’s a great space and easier for me to focus than at home – especially on Sunday nights when no one is there.

While I usually do my emails and prep for the week, I was trying to make my way back home for dinner. For the first time all week – all four of us were home for dinner tonight! A rare treat! Tonight I just did my emails (about 70 emails requiring lengthier responses than my iPhone typing wanted to tackle this week) and left the weeks reading for tomorrow.

 

Councillor Helmer could tell me exactly how many pages of reading we have – but I would guess about 250 – 300 pages this week.

So, the other big news of the day.  I resigned my position with the Children’s Aid Society tonight. Let me back up a little here.  I have been with CAS for almost 15 years.  I started as a Child and Youth Worker and later moved to an administrative position. Once I was elected, I tried to work part time and do council as well.  That provided to be difficult as the hours and responsibilities of council did not suit a standard schedule that would work well for CAS.  I ended up taking a leave of absence. Fast-forward to the present:

I have since been given the opportunity to work for another organization – part time on a schedule that works really well with council. I work 20 hours a week, mostly from home (some travel from time to time), and can work hours around my council responsibilities.  This position is a really good fit for me, allowing me to do all of the same work for council, and still continue to grow professionally.  I will miss CAS – I worked with some really great people and learned a lot. This new role will allow me to continue to grow professionally while serving the community as an elected official at the same time. It’s a really great fit for me. Letting go of CAS was a hard decision, but it was time.

Matt and I spent some time together tonight watching a movie.  I’m not sure what it was- something about Hockey… I have a real hard time watching tv/ movies, as I can’t seem to sit still that long – or to just focus on the tv.  I never really had tv or cable growing up – so it’s something that is not a part of my regular routine.  We have Netflix, so sometimes I will watch something in bed right before I fall asleep – but without cable, I still don’t catch on to a lot of pop culture references.  If there is something on the News – I have to wait until the CTV website posts it to their website to see what was reported – something Daryl Newcombe from CTV laughs about.  I think he’s promised/threatened to buy me bunny ears a few times so that I can catch the news live- I replied he can just text me what I need to know.  I don’t think either of us is going to budge – him in his resolve I catch the news live, and me in my resolve to catch up later.

So there you have it – Sunday as a City Councillor – work, family, laundry, and planning for the week, and I might make it to bed before midnight today!

A sneak peek at the week ahead – I will be working int he mornings – a few appointments for the kids, and council and committee work in the afternoons and evenings.  Matt is headed out of town for another Beal 5024 First Robotics Tournament this week, so I will be doing all the juggling with the help of my amazing support network.  The following week it will be his turn as I head to Toronto for Ontario Good Roads Association board meetings.

 

What do you do? April 10th edition

Monday, April 10 – baked goods, reciprocating saws, Civic Works Committee, and celebrations 

Today was a pretty average Monday.  I started working at 8:30 am to put in 4 hours with my other job.  Having completed a great number of items from my worklist for the week, I was feeling pretty ready to tackle city business.

I arrived at City Hall around 1 pm, and met with one of my part-time staff.  I have two part-time staff who work a few hours a week for me on various projects.  Sula comes into the office and uses my office most Mondays, working on policy analysis, and constituency work.  I try to make it in before she leaves for school at 2 pm, but it doesn’t always work out.  Today it did, and we had the opportunity to catch up.  She will be transitioning to grad school this summer and is looking at a few summer opportunities that may have her leave sooner, so she has been working on making sure we can on board the next person easily when the time comes.  I will miss working with her, but she is destined for greater things.

I ran into one of my colleagues in the office and we chatted about a few matters that we hadn’t connected on recently.  At 1:30, I had a meeting with Councillor Morgan, and our Director, Roads and Transportation, Mr. Soldo to discuss the rapid transit project.  I am constantly in touch with staff, asking the questions that I am getting from the community, and trying to sort our next steps. Councillor Morgan and I had some conversations and realized we had similar questions – therefore a joint meeting was likely the most efficient use of our staff’s time.  It was a productive meeting and has left us with a few things to consider.

On Friday, I told you I was grumpy, and that I needed to step back and think before I shared.  I am less emotionally connected to the issue but still bothered by it.  A constituent had emailed me on Friday with questions, and I provided the answer.  I later was asked about my answers, by someone else in a public session.  While I have no problem standing behind what I said, I felt a little – deceived.  When I provided the answers to the resident, I was not expecting that those questions were being asked to broadcast my responses publically.  I don’t know if this is the intent of the resident, or if it’s just what happened, but it felt icky.  My email to residents are not confidential, and absolutely have no privacy, but I don’t think I expected someone to ask me something and for my responses to be posted or broadcasted.  I was feeling somewhat used to move forward someone else’s agenda. That being said, my answer would have been the same.

After my meetings at City Hall, I picked up a cake and some sweets made by a local entrepreneur for Matt’s birthday celebration.  They were all great! I picked up 6 butter tarts, and a cake – after both kids and babysitters ate – only two tarts remain (enough for lunches tomorrow).  I’m told that they were delicious!

 

We enjoyed dinner together (two nights in a row!) and then cake and gifts.

 

Ben and I had shopped on the weekend for his gift to dad – and now that Matt has received it I can share.  Ben hand painted a box for Matt to use to store some little things – I think button covers and cufflinks, but who knows what might end up in there.  He blended the paints himself, achieving colours that represented the sunset.  It was a fun project for him to do, and he did it mostly on his own (I helped with the printing on the lid.)

 

Andrew had decided he wanted to purchase some Reese’s chocolates for his dad because they are dad’s favorite.  He got two bags of mini Reese’s Pieces Cups for Matt.

 

Matt had asked for some blades for a reciprocating saw – so that was my gift to him.  I can’t say I really know what they do or what they are for – but it’s what he wanted, so viola!

 

While I was at the hardware store, I noticed that everyone seemed to have lightbulbs in their carts – lots of light bulbs.  I asked one of the sales associates what that was about – and here is my money saving and environmental tip of the week for you: Home depot has 3 packs of LED bulbs on for $9.47 – and a $8.00 off coupon.  Having just purchased a 12 pack of LEDs a few months ago, I can tell you this is a great price.  If you are worried about energy use at home – it may be worth the trip to a Home Depot to swap our your light bulbs with LED bulbs 

After dinner, I read the CWC agenda for tomorrow – although I usually do this on Sundays, I hadn’t done it yet.  When I read agenda’s I use my google drive – which I love – and a template I created to record what the item is and any questions/comments I have.  I also typically will send my questions to staff ahead of time so that they are prepared to answer at the meeting.

I use google drive – for pretty much my entire life, and it has been wonderful so far.  I have folders in a hierarchy system – and can access pretty much anything from anywhere – provided my filing and scanning is up to date.  I save my meeting notes in my google drive and can access it during meetings. It took me about a year to figure out a system that worked – and so far this has been the most successful.

After the agenda – I landed here – blogging the day’s activities.  So there you have it.  Besides a brief dinner and gift break with the family, I’ve been doing city work since about 1 pm today.  After editing this blog it will be 10 pm, and time enough to do the dishes and head to bed.

 

What do you do? April 11th edition

Tuesday, April 11th – Hoodies, favourite constituents, new school tours, family support, Civic Works Meetings and more

Another day, another blog post.  Today I worked, as usual, this morning, but also Andrew had an appointment at the house first things, so Ben went off to school on his own, and Andrew stayed back for his appointment.  Once he was through with his appointment, the house was finally quiet, and I was able to get another solid two hours of work done this morning.

I received a call from my favourite constituent – my grandma – last night asking for help with an errand today. I stopped in to see her when I was done work this morning and grabbed her package to be dropped off.

Today I had a tour arranged at Ben’s new school. He was accepted for a specialized classroom, which we hope will be a really good fit for him.  It’s still with the Thames Valley Board, but will meet his needs better and hopefully help him to socialize with peers who better understand him.  We are looking forward to starting this new journey with him in September.

After the tour, I dropped off grandma’s package for her and made my way to city hall for a meeting with a Richmond Row business owner who wanted to talk about Rapid Transit with me. We chatted for about a half an hour, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear we were more or less on the same page.  Some of the concerns that were highlighted, were things our staff team were working on already and would be covered off in the report back next month.

 

I went immediately to the Civic Works Committee meeting and was disappointed when I was having connecting issues with google drive! All of my notes from last night were not available to me after I was raving about how good the technology was! I was able to pull it up on my phone, and luckily my assistant Ashleigh was still in the office and was able to bring me a print copy.

The committee meeting was brief. I made two errors – one I was able to correct, and one that I will be correcting at council.  During the committee meeting, there was a request to change the staff recommendation regarding some no parking areas.  While I heard part of the staff response, I missed another – and more key part of their response due to side conversations that were happening.  I voted to support the change to the recommendation, however, realized shortly after the meeting that the information I did not hear would have changed my vote.  I will be addressing both the motion – and voting differently at council as well as the side conversations.  I don’t thin I’m losing my hearing, but rather the design of the chambers means that any side conversations can block hearing information coming from our staff – which could lead to bad decision making.  Either that or I will start wearing this to meetings…

 

After council, I made my way home to relieve my mama who had come over to relieve the babysitter tonight as both Matt and I were going to be out.

I am truly blessed to have an amazing and supportive family.  Matt starts work early in the morning, and when I am out of town, my dad or brother in law will take the kids and make sure they get to school on time.  In the evenings, we have a respite worker and a babysitter who make sure the kids are home and settled into their routines.  Both have other obligations after 5:30 – so if Matt and I are going to be later than that, my mama often will fill the gaps for us, and help out with the boys. We could not do our jobs, or meet our commitments if we didn’t have a great family to support us.

 

Once Matt and I were both home, and the boys were settled for the night, I sat down to write this blog.  Last night, I was answering emails and social media until well after 1 in the morning, and I’m feeling the weight of that today.  Today was a pretty relaxed day, a few hours of work in the morning, some family errands, and a few meetings at city hall. I have to work again tomorrow morning, but will be spending the afternoon catching up on phone calls and emails.  I am trying to integrate a Wednesday night in the office to do emails but will have to work on that next week as Matt heads out of town again tomorrow for a few days.

I also owe a shout out to a few people – Annette Drost who I forgot to mention yesterday. She also read my blog and noted she didn’t get a mention yesterday – so here you are Annette! Annette kindly called me from home at dinner time to get me some timely information I needed to get to a resident. I was able to get the information to the resident, who was pleased that I was true to my word in getting back to them on Monday – which I couldn’t have done without the support from our staff team.

Josh Morgan was also looking for a shout out.  He posted some great information on social media for the residents of Ward 7 yesterday and told me if he receivedprime position in my blog he would consider posting information for Ward 10 as well – so here’s hoping!

 

And, of course, I was well dressed today in a dress and scarf for spring but forgot to get a daily selfie until after I pulled my hair back and changed into my normal work at home uniform. So today’s selfie is a picture facing my office – so you can see where all the magic happens (and how I’m usually dressed when it does!)

 

What do you do? April 12th edition

Wednesday April 12, 2017 – computer issues, Ward 10 restaurants, self care, and coin returns

I suspect today’s blog post will be short – not because a lot didn’t have but because I am still having computer issues.  It’s frustrating!

Today my personal laptop has completely frozen on the sign in screen.

 

My battery is integrated – so I can’t pop it out for a reset. I’ve unplugged it and am typing on my iPad.  Hopefully tomorrow when I plug it back it, I will be back to normal, if not I will have to send it off to a computer doctor to diagnosis and fix.

Whining aside, I am writing from my iPad, and will do my best.  Please allow some extra latitude for spelling or typos today. I actually have a fair amount to say, and will stick with it as long as my wrists allow.

Today, I worked in the morning – a little shorter than normal as I had an appointment at 11:30.  I spent about an hour on the phone with two constituents providing updates and answering questions.  Then I went for a massage. I try to go once a month, but it doesn’t often work out. This month it did!

Today when I paid for parking, I did what I always do and check the coin return.  This is something that I’ve done since I was a kid – I don’t know how it started, but I remember cigarette machines (so mid 80’s maybe) and pulling on the knobs/pressing the buttons while I waited for my mom to buy something in a coffee shop – and I hit the jackpot.  It must have been $5.00 in change fell out of that machine.  While I don’t press the buttons or pull knobs anymore I always check the coin return of machines I am using, and you would be amazed at how much change I find! Today it was about $1.40

 

After that little bit of self care, I met with a friend for a coffee at Angel’s Diner.  Angel’s is one of my favourite local food spots.  It is owned locally, and the owners are often on site working.  Their staff are friendly, and welcoming, and the prices are great.  I often use Angel’s as a meeting spot for residents, and friends.

After Angel’s I finished up my time for myself by getting my nails done.  I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in a few months, and as a life long nail biter who broke hte habit two years ago, getting my nails done is my way of ensuring I don’t revert back to my terrible days of nail biting.

It was interesting that at those two local stops, not only do I know the owners by name, but also many of the customers – who are also community members, frequenting local businesses.  It’s always great to run into neighbours and friends while out and about in Ward 10.

So – enough with the self care! I made it home shortly after school was out to spend time with the boys.  They were unhappy with me, as about twice a week I serve smorgasboard.  I refuse to make more food when we have perfectly good leftovers that are wasting away in the fridge.  While the boys say “There’s nothing to eat” I open the fridge and think, I could eat for three weeks on what we have in here.  Tonight was a smorgasboard night – I was not making anything new until the leftovers were eaten. Andrew had leftover Hamburger helper, and Ben had rice and roast beef.  We are down to hummus, cheese, a little hamburger helper and condiments, so my work here is done! The boys will take the other leftovers for lunch tomorrow, and I’ve arranged a sushi dinner date with their cousins tomorrow afternoon.

Funny story – their cousins live out of town, and have been following the blog – (Hi Katie! Hi Eric!) – my sister in law messaged me tonight to say that they would like to connect for sushi – having read that we almost ended up there last weekend.  Tomorrow is the perfect night for a sushi dinner, and I’m excited to get the kids together for the adventure.  I have kids chopstick helpers I will have to locate and bring with me to help them practice.

I made it to the official open house of the Cranbrook Community Association, hosted at Shoeless Joe’s (another great Westmount restaurant and favourite local businesses.)  The Cranbrook COmmunity Association is a brand new community association started up by some passionate Londoners a few months ago, and now launching a formal structure.  They are working on making the community a better place through community engagement, and neighbourhood activities.  It was nice to socialize with the group, and to get my membership card!

 

Look for them on social media – or email cranbrookca@gmail.com to learn more!

After the community association open house, I had enough time to make my way into the office to work for an hour before the babysitter had to get home. I arrived shortly after 8, and by 8:15 I had to give up – my computer is on the list to be looked at by IT as there is some sort of email issue – something to do with credentials.  I tried trouble shooting myself, and by about 8:45 pm, I had to give up.

 

I made my way home, and pulled out my iPad.  I don’t often work on my iPad, because I can’t categorize and organize emails when I do – but I knew I was getting behind on emails.  I made a commitment to read and respond to all communications, and I do my very best to do that.  Sometimes, my office staff will action emails before I get to them, but I am always loooped in and review them. If I have anything else to add or different to contribute, I will send a follow up email as well.  Often if it is a work order, pot hole etc. It is more efficient for Ashleigh to get that auctioned right away, than it is to wait on me!

Once I got through some emails, I got a text message from my husband with a reminder to blog so he could learn about my day! HAHAHA.  Matt’s out of town for a few days, and it was a kind, and humourous reminder that it was getting late.  I’m not sure if he will read this tonight, or in the morning, but I know that he reads it.

In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised at how many of you are reading it! I’m hearing from you when I’m out in the community, getting questions, about things I have written, and hearing second and third hand that you are reading.  So to those of you who are reading – and who are talking to others about it – thank you. I hope that you are finding this exercise interesting.  I have some thoughts and learnings so far I will share towards the end, but I can say that I enjoy ending my day reflecting on what I did.  Today especially, it feels like I didn’t do much, but really, I worked on a variety of things from 8 am until now (11:30) and took 3 hours off to do some things just for me.  I answered about 50 emails- intimated another 30 or so emails, I sent or received about 20 or so text messages. I made or received 17 calls today, and I responded to about 12 people via social media.  I attended a community event, and I cleaned out my fridge and did a load of dishes – so all in all a fairly productive day!

I have set a date for my next ward meeting – May 25th 6-8 pm at the Westmount Public Library. I am still narrowing down the topics – and reaching out to the appropriate staff to see who is available to attend that day.  Do you have topic suggestions or staff you would like to hear from?

I don’t have any specific shout outs requested today, but will give one to my husband and the Beal Robotoics 5024 team – good luck at the provincials!

 

What do you do? April 13th edition

Thursday, April 13 – The right and wrong tool for the job, the London Plan, sushi, and early mornings!

Before I start, and now that it’s out there, I can say that I am glad to hear that the City and the London Professional Fire Fighters Association reached a tentative agreement last night.

What a day! As you may have gathereed, I am not really a morning person.  I tend to stay awake way too late and wake up after too few hours of sleep.  Normally, this is fine, as I work at home in the mornings, I don’t have to be ready to be out of the house until later on.  Also, my hero, I mean my husband, takes care of a lot of the morning stuff.  He leaves the house at 7 am, but usually, the kids have received their medication, and he has made a pot of coffee (thus the hero comment).  I wake up around 7:30 am and make sure the kids have eaten breakfast, prepared themselves for the day, then out the door at 8:30 when I start to work.

With Matt gone, things go a little sideways in the mornings. Today, I also an appointment with Ben at the school in the morning to review his Individual Education Plan.  It is reviewed with the teacher and parent a few times a year, and we were getting close to the cut-off period. This meant I also had to be ready and out the door for 8:25 am.

Once his meeting was completed, I treated myself to a drive-thru coffee before heading back home to work for the mornings.  Blessedly, my computer is not as broken as I feared last night, and after the battery died and was recharged, I was able to log in as normal. I got lost in a spreadsheet, and when I checked the time, it was about 1:30 – an hour later than I usually stop working.

I had heard from Ashleigh who had been working with IT to repair my office computer as well.  In turns out there was some sort of update which caused my computer to switch from a hardwired internet connection to wifi, however, my email was trying to connect via the hardwire connection – thus the issues.  It appears to be repaired now, which will allow me to get my work done more efficiently.

I had a meeting in the office this afternoon with a community organization regarding the London Plan – our official city plan.  I could describe what the London Plan or an official City plan does, but this statement from www.thelondonplan.ca does it better:

The London Plan is our City’s new Official Plan.  You can consider it our future playbook for city-building over the next twenty years.  It’s not yet approved by Council, so what you are seeing on this web site represents a final draft that is being submitted to Council for approval.  The Plan was created after an extensive two-year conversation with Londoners about their hopes, dreams and aspirations for London’s future – to the year 2035.   This engagement program, called ReThink London, involved thousands of Londoners and over 100 different meetings and open houses in our community.

Two previous drafts of the London Plan were prepared and released to the Public for review and feedback.  Even more meetings were held after each of these drafts were released, so that Staff could provide information to members of the public and hear their suggestions for changes.   Public meetings were also held at Planning Committee, allowing Londoners to give their input and suggestions directly to members of City Council.  In response, many, many changes were made to the first and second drafts of The London Plan to arrive at this Plan that will be submitted to Council on June 13, 2016.

The London Plan sets out a new approach for planning in London.  It emphasizes growing inward and upward, so that we can reduce the costs of growth, create walkable communities, revitalize our urban neighbourhoods and business areas, protect our farmlands, and reduce greenhouse gases and energy consumption.  The plan sets out to conserve our cultural heritage and protect our environmental areas, hazard lands, and natural resources.  Through the London Plan our community is planning for vibrant, healthy, safe and fulfilling neighbourhoods, attractive and viable mobility alternatives and affordable housing that is accessible to those who need it.  At the root of The London Plan is the goal of building a city that will be attractive as a place to live and invest in a highly competitive world and one that will offer the opportunity of prosperity to everyone – one their own terms and in their own way.  

The London Plan will shape our City over the next 20 years. When approved, all of our by-laws and all of our public works must conform with the policies of this Plan. It will set the stage for the next twenty years of city building in London.

After my meeting at City Hall, I made my way back home. With the warm weather, we were having Matt had opened our bedroom window before he left – but as you would know, the weather dropped significantly last night and today. We have older crank style windows and have somehow lost 2 of the three cranks, so we use one as a master for all three. Somewhere along the way, the threading has been stripped, and I could not get the window closed last night! I nearly froze! I ended up using a heating pad and extra blanket, but it was chilly. I made it home in time to grab the crank, and head to the hardware store to find a replacement. Since we were missing 2 and 1 had stripped threads, I bought all 3 replacements – AND replaced them.  There is a problem with the track on one of the windows, but it is beyond my scope of repairs, so I will leave that for Matt when he gets home. I kind of wish I had taken some pictures at my repair work.  I think a few of you – and especially my husband would have had a laugh at the tools I used.  Although I’m sure we have the right tools for the job in the house somewhere, I made it work using a rusty wrench and a small screwdriver.

 

Also – those saw blades I was so proud of buying for Matt for his birthday:

 

Ya… so I totally got the wrong one.  While I thought he said he wanted a saw blade for his reciprocating saw – he actually said he needed a saw blade for his miter saw.  Who knew that they were not the same thing? Oh well… lessons learned! And your lesson for the day – when it comes to buying or using the right tools – I’m probably not the person to ask.

I also stopped at London Animal Care and Control to donate a few bags of dog food. If you have unused pet supplies or leftover food, they are always happy to accept donations from the public.

After my errands, we had Matt’s sister and her kids come over to the house.  They recently moved north of north (where there is still snow anyway) and were in town for Easter.  You may remember that my niece wanted to give sushi a try. We decided to invite all the cousins and moms on Matt’s side of the family – which means his 3 sisters and me and took the whole crew to Sushi 168.

Those kids can eat! I think they may be revisiting their child menu rates after this crew ate through half the restaurant’s food tonight!

I really enjoy going out for sushi, but since I changed my diet last August, I don’t have the appetite to eat as much.  I think every kid there ate more than I did!

Upon returning home – we were already past the kid’s bedtime, and with all the excitement, the boys were a little slower to settle tonight. Bedtime for them is typically around 7/7:30 pm, which allows me a few hours to work after they’ve gone to bed before I’m ready.  Tonight I filled my time with a few phone calls to City staff on some outstanding questions, and conversations with my council colleagues.

I will be spending time with the kids tomorrow and picking away at some emails.  I do intend to blog tomorrow night, and hopefully, I have some interesting events to share with you!

 

What do you do? April 14th Edition

Friday, April 14- census records, Boss Baby, genealogy, and family time

Today, I did not work! I really don’t have a lot to report on, as I spent the day with the kids doing various things, so here’s the quick rundown:

Today I slept in, and it felt great! Once we were all awake, we really just hung out at home.  I didn’t even get to much housework today.  Ben went out with his respite worker for a few hours this afternoon, so Andrew and I decided to go over to Springbank Park.  He had a list of about 10 things he wants to do and considering most things were closed, that’s what we settled on.  Unfortunately for us, Springbank Park was being well used, and there was nowhere to park. We decided to come back home and formulate a plan for when Ben got home.  The top three things on his wish list were: Go-Karts, Bowling, or a movie.  Ben vetoed all but the movie. We made it to the 4:30 showing of Boss Baby – which did give me a few laughs and I enjoyed the popcorn!  Once home, we made a quick dinner, and the boys were off to bed.

Once home, we made a quick dinner, and the boys were off to bed.

I renewed my ancestry.ca membership and added global access.  I have done genealogy research for the past 15 or so years on and off but had really maxed out what I could research with my Canadian only membership, so once I post this, I’m heading back into census and immigration records for a few hours. Last year for Christmas, I compiled all of my research thus far and self-published books – one for my mom’s side and one for my dad’s, then gave them out at Christmas.  I’m hoping in the next few years that I can do a second edition, and include more of the interesting stories that I have come across.

For example, my dad’s family is from the East Coast – and Ireland before that on his dad’s side.  His mom’s side are actually one of the original colonial families in New England (which makes that family really easy to trace).  At one the borders between Maine and New Brunswick shifted frequently enough that one ancestor was denied his right to vote (for himself as an elected official) because his citizenship was determined to be invalid as he was born in Canada, but without moving, was an American and was therefore unable to vote for a position he held at the time.

While I’m still researching and verifying, it would not be surprising to me at this point, if I have deeper connections to the indigenous communities of Eastern Canada, such as the Passamaquoddy and Mi’kmaq First Nations than I have known before.  Many of the older census records are marked Native, especially for my descendants from Deer Island New Brunswick, however, that could also be the census takers error in implying born in New Brunswick.  I am sure that at some point through my research I will find out more.

On my mom’s side, one of her ancestors may have actually been the first female postmistress, serving in Duck Lake, after Jennie’s husband was killed during the Riel Rebellion by Almighty Voice.  There was no one willing to take over the Duck Lake Post Office, and so the government of the day appointed her to the position of Post Mistress, both to fill the position, and to assist her with a means to raise their four children.

There are many more newspaper clippings and bits of information that I did not include in the first edition, but hope that at some point, I can create a more comprehensive edition for family members.

I am hoping to attend one of my colleague’s community meetings tomorrow. We also have lunch plans with my grandma and extended family on her side and have been invited to attend church services this weekend as well.  Although we are religious – I attend catholic schools and Matt attended the United church as children, we have not been affiliated with any church for a number of years, and instead, attend different church on an ad-hoc basis or when we are invited and when it works.

Anyway, that’s it for the day – a little insight into one of my non-political or community interests. Researching has certainly provided me with a good skill set in organizing, researching, cross-referencing records, patience (this is a very slow hobby – it took me ten years to find and verify the name of my great-grandfather on my father’s side – which now leaves me stuck at the next generation), and endurance.

 

What do you do? April 15th edition

Saturday, April 15 – politicians wearing hats, Start.ca, Easter shopping and robotics competitions. 

Today was a great day.  There was just the right balance between work and pleasure.  This morning was the Forest Edge Easter Egg Hunt.  Our attendance was tentative as I wasn’t sure how things would go with Ben – too many people and general disarray doesn’t typically bode well for him.  As you know if you’ve been following along – Matt’s been out of town with the Beal Robotics Team at their provincial competition, and I was on my own.

We didn’t make it, but I did have the opportunity to hear about it from many people in the community.  By all accounts, those who attended – even in the rain – had a great time.  I love that the there are so many great things going on in our community!

I used to sit on the Forest Edge Community Club Board of Directors – in fact, I was President for two years.  It is a long-standing organization in the neighbourhood, having been formed almost 50 years ago.  FECC has traditionally run an outdoor pool in the summer.  At the time I joined the board, we developed a strategic plan that identified more community-based activities as one of our objectives.  It’s great to see that there are so many energetic and passionate community members carrying on the tradition.

My sister and nephew stopped by for a coffee – they had attended the Easter Egg Hunt in the park and decided to pay us a visit while they were here. It was nice to see them.  Luke just turned two – and was extremely happy to throw the ball for our dog Cali for the entire duration of their visit. Cali was happy to have the attention and activity too!

Once the left, the boys and I got ready for lunch with Grandma, Grandma’s cousins, and Great-Grandma.  They do an annual lunch around Easter weekend, and we try to make it whenever our schedules allow. It’s nice to spend time with extended family that I don’t see very often, to share updates and to listen in on some of the stories.

We went to Waldo’s in Byron – another one of my favourites! I hadn’t been in at least a year, but it was just as good as I remember.

After lunch, the boys and I went back home to relax.  Unfortunately, the internet broke.  Well – at least the internet in our house.  I spent an hour on the phone with Bell.  If I’m fair, I will tell you that they are trying to fix my problem.  They are shipping out a new modem, as they believe the issue is with my modem.  Regardless, after the hour with them today, and a few hours just on Tuesday, I shook my head and said enough.  I called Start.ca – a local company that I had been hearing good things about, and made plans to switch over.

Currently, with Bell, I pay about $95.00 a month for 5 Mbps download, and 1 Mbps upload speed.  That includes unlimited usage.  With Start.ca – they offer 30 Mbps download and 5Mbps upload – also unlimited for just $50.00  per month.  I  don’t know a lot about the implications of the Mbps – but from where I’m sitting – it appears I am getting more speed for less money.  Also, they are a local company in London, which I am happy to support! Full disclosure – there is a $25.00 connection charge, and I have to buy a wireless router – which I ordered for $27.99. I spoke to two of their customer service agents and was impressed by the level of service so far.  I have also been hearing great things about their service from other Londoners.  I’m looking forward to the switchover.

Shortly after that was sorted out, my mom arrived to watch the boys.  I typically don’t take them grocery shopping, but this week especially – I still had supplies to buy for Easter tomorrow, and couldn’t bring them with me.  My mom was generous with her time, as always, and came over to give me the time to get out on my own.  A few groceries, and supplies for tomorrow, as well as a stop at Global Pets for dog food, and I was back home by 4:30.

I was still full from lunch, so the boys were on their own for dinner tonight.  There were leftovers from dinner last night, and from lunch today, so they made out juts fine.  Ben even made popcorn for both of them to enjoy with The Peanuts Movie on Netflix.

I started tidying the front yard today, sweeping off the porch, and moving the planters towards the sun.  I will have to get some colourful plants to add in the near future.  I always do it too soon, and the frost get’s them.

Ben and I did his book tonight – which we hadn’t don’t in some time as we only do it if we are both home and he get’s to bed on time.  It’s one of those fill-in books, where I ask him for a noun, adjective etc, and fill in the blanks, then read the story back to him after.  He enjoys this, and it’s good for his language and literacy development.

And that’s it! Another day in my life!

I hope everyone has a good Easter morning tomorrow and enjoys some time with family or friends or both.  Matt will be home tonight, so I’m thinking that I get to sleep in (as covered in a previous post – my favourite thing to do) while the boys hunt their eggs under Matt’s supervision.

Some of my other favourite things about Matt being home:

He makes the bed.

He makes coffee in the morning.

What do you do? April 16th edition

Sunday, April 16, 2017 – Easter, office work, organizing, neighbourhood walks and yard work

Today was Easter Sunday.  My family typically celebrates Easter with an Easter Egg hunt in the house.  Andrew, work up at 3 am ready to go and woke Ben and us up too.  Well – the actual time is debatable – he says it was 3, Matt thinks it was 5.  Regardless, they were barred from leaving their rooms until 7 am.

The boys found 22 eggs this morning – that means there are likely another 2 somewhere yet to be found – I will have to do a thorough search tonight for any missing eggs!

Andrew and Matt left early to return a trailer that Matt had rented last week for the robotics competition. Once they returned we spent time as a family around the house.  I sat on the front porch during this morning’s rain, and just enjoyed the smell of the spring rainfall.  The rain was light and over quickly.  With the warm spring weather, I was able to get my backyard tidied up by afternoon, including the patio furniture brought out and sprayed off.

While I was doing some yard work today – Matt, the boys, and Cali went for a long walk.  I finished the yard work and started dinner in the oven.  Then I made my way over to my mama’s house for a short visit. My pop in for a few minutes visit turned into about an hour. While we see each other often, it’s usually in passing, so it was nice to be able to sit in her backyard and catch up.

After our visit, I made my way to City Hall for my normal Sunday work.  Wanting to be home for the evening, I needed to get some work caught up first! I answered all of my emails – back to zero inbox – and followed up on about half of the @waiting items.

@waiting: I’m naturally quite disorganized. Most people assume I’m very organized, and in control of my life. I smile at that because I am not naturally organized.  I use systems.  One of the systems I use for my email is the @waiting.  If I have a ton of emails in my inbox, I am overwhelmed, and things slip through the cracks.  If I file it all, I forget about it – out of sight, out of mind. So I use an @waiting tag.  This way I can file emails as I get them, but tag them @waiting.  @waiting means I am waiting on something or someone. I do a search for all emails tagged @waiting about once a week, then scan for any follow ups I may have missed.  If there is no follow-up, I take the opportunity to send a follow up to the person I am waiting on information from. Once an email is resolved, I remove the waiting tag, and tada – it’s already filed where it needs to be.

I use lots of other systems too – google drive, lists, multiple calendars, etc.  I don’t think there’s much that’s life changing that I use – but the @waiting one allows me to have control over my inbox, and maintain a clutter-free workspace.

After a few hours in the office, I made it home in time to finish dinner.  I made rice with a soup stock base and heated some vegetables.  The boys really liked the rice, and Ben even asked for the recipe.  He’s actually quite the cook – he enjoys doing it and can make several things. I never use a recipe – I kind of add things and try things as I go.

We were supposed to watch a family movie after dinner – but internet issues again, so we went for a walk.  Tonight we traveled to Jesse Davidson Park, then home through Westmount Lions Park. We ran into several neighbours and friends along the way! So nice to see people out and about enjoying the weather and the community.

On the way home the boys were exhausted.  So tired, we had to stop to rest along the way! I hope they sleep well tonight!

Tomorrow is a day off school for the boys, so we will be working from home and hopefully playing outside if the weather cooperates.  Tomorrow night after Matt get’s home, I will head back into the office to prep four Council and for the Ontario Good Roads Association Board meetings this week.  I will be blogging from Toronto Wednesday and Thursday night!

 

 

What do you do? April 17th edition

Monday, April 17, 2017 – Housework-hair selfie, composters, lego security systems, council motions, donations, contests and more!

Today was a “getting things done” kind of day.  Matt had to work, and the boys were home from school.  I felt a little lost not working this morning.  Every weekday I work for 4 hours for my job before doing the other stuff, and today I kept feeling like I should be working, and wasn’t.

Getting housework done with the boys is difficult, but we work at it a bit each day, and at several points through the day.  The hardest is Andrew’s room – he get’s his lego’s spread out – it’s like a security system!

Short of a few unmatched socks, we conquered the laundry mountain again – I’m always amazed at how much laundry we generate.

Luckily, the boys are good at helping out.  If I get it in the washer, Andrew will typically switch the load to the dryer, and Ben will take it out to the guest room for me to fold.  Andrew is great at putting everyone’s stuff away.  Our laundry is on the second floor – where the bedrooms are, and where all the laundry is generated – so there is no hauling up and down flights of steps, which is amazing.  I typically put in a load before bed, and flip it in the mornings, then fold on weekends, and perhaps once in between.

I was able to purge a few outgrown items for passing on – both boys are growing.  In our house, Andrew’s clothes are at least half hand me downs from others, and almost all passed on to Ben when he is through.  Unfortunately, by the time Ben is done, they’ve been through at least 3 kids and don’t have much life left in them.  The ones that are in good condition but outgrown get separated for donating or passing on to one of the cousins.

During my yard clean up on the weekend, I noticed our composter was split.  It is one of the earth machine style – where the body separates into two rings.  Somehow they separated, and will not go back together. The City of London has a great program, where they subsidize the costs of composters and recycling bins for Londoners- available at any of the four Enivro-Depots.  We purchased a new Green Cone Composter for $35.00 (normally $140 retail).

The Green Cone Digester is made in Ontario and is more of a digester than a composter. It is buried in the ground and allows waste diversion of many things that normal composters do not.  I’m very excited to get this installed, and to start diverting more of the organics, rather than sending them to the trash.  Matt will get this installed for me this week.  Did I mention it came with a kitchen collector? If you are wanting to up your composting game you may want to check out one of the many options available!

Feeling industrious, I also tackled some of Matt’s workshop – it has been a bit of a disaster as we work through renovations, and I know it’s frustrating to get things done when we can’t find the right tools (evidenced by my using a wrench as a hammer the other night). We have great storage built into the workshop, but it was full of many things that we would not be using and needed to be passed on to someone who could.  I took three keyboards, two sets of speakers, a heavy tube style monitor and other assorted items to the goodwill donation and electronics recycling depot today.  While I didn’t make enough headway to really start getting organized, I made some!

I also picked up a donated prize for the contest I am running this month from London Ice Cream Company.  Contest? What contest you may be asking yourself? Well, check out the details here! There’s still time to enter, and volunteers are needed for the Clean and Green I am hosting with a community resident on Sunday, April 23rd at SouthWest Optimist Park from 11- 12:30. All supplies are included, all you need to do is come out and be prepared to pitch in!

Early evening had me heading back to my parent’s place to drop off Ben. He had made arrangements to go over for a visit and go to the park with his grandpa tonight.  There was talking of him getting a ride home on the back of grandpa’s motorcycyle, but with the cooler weather, that did not materialize (thankfully, as I wasn’t too sure about that idea!) Andrew and I stayed home, and I was able to get some computer work done.  Matt and I are trying to figure out which project from our long list of reno’s we can fit into our household budget this year, so I have been researching options etc.  I think that my best bet may be to book a few days to get different contractors in for quotes.  Once we have the quotes and a better idea of total costs, we can see which if any we can afford this year, and which ones we will need to keep saving for.

We love our house! It was built in 1969, and many updates were done, but much more has not been done or were done many years ago.  We need to replace a few of the windows, and some other assorted renovations – but will need to assess the priority and timeline that fits our budget. We are getting there, piece by piece, room by room, and project by project.

Ben was dropped off – by car, not motorcycle, and once he was settled, I made my way back to City Hall to finish preparing for meetings this week.  I have a council meeting tomorrow night – there are two items I will be pulling to speak to.  One of them Councillor Morgan is making and I agreed to support. He spoke about it quite well in a facebook post:

Last week I voted against giving $1.6 million dollars to the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). First off, I am a strong supporter of housing and my voting record and comments at Council show it. In this case, and in my opinion, we were circumventing the Surplus Policy to put money into the HDC without enough detail on how this money would be spent. To me, this was not a responsible way to allocate money and it is my opinion that an expenditure of this size would have faced a more robust investigation and greater scrutiny if it were part of the regular budget process.

I do believe that my colleagues are right in identifying housing as an area that not only needs our attention, but investment as well. I would add homelessness, poverty, and food security concerns as areas that also require investments. What I am not convinced of is allocating the entire sum of $1.6 million to the HDC is the best, strategic use of valuable (and limited) resources.

With that in mind, tomorrow I will be asking my colleagues to defeat the committee recommendation and pass the following new direction in its place:

• the Civic Administration BE DIRECTED to place a one-time funding amount of $1.6 million in the Operating Budget Contingency Reserve to be allocated to housing and homelessness initiatives;
• the Civic Administration BE DIRECTED to report back with recommendations as to how the one-time funding noted above, is to be allocated to advance the strategic initiatives set out in the City of London’s Strategic Plan and the recommendations of the Mayor’s Advisory Panel on Poverty.

Councillor Virginia Ridley has kindly agreed to second my proposed direction and I thank her for her support on this.

I remain committed to advancing the goal of housing for all who need it in our City, but I will do so responsibly and strategically so we achieve our goals faster and with greater efficiency.

The other item is one where I made a significant error.  At CWC last week, there were some proposed signage changes for parking and other items.  One of the proposed changes we had a resident request to speak to.  After the resident spoke, our staff spoke to it as well. Unfortunately, partway through the staff explaining the change, there was a side conversation happening near me and I did not hear all that the staff had to say.  Based only on what I heard, I voted to remove the change from the new bylaw.  After listening to the meeting tapes, I realized my error.  A professional recommendation from our staff on a safety issue being overturned by staff is not a good situation for me, or the city, and could create some liability and risk.  I will be pulling this and speaking to it at council, hopefully, enough of my colleagues will be willing to reinstate the recommendation from our staff on this issue.

My inbox is down to 3 items – the rest are filed.  The three that are there are items I will be dealing with tomorrow – so I left them there for convenience. Two were from a resident with a complaint about noise.  I will popping by the home the noise originated from to see if I can offer a gentle reminder that other residents are being impacted prior to sending this to bylaw.  The other is a briefing note for a meeting this week that I need to review in more detail.

 

I also only have about 20 items that are tagged @waiting – most of which I sent reminders or follow ups about last night – so correspondence is looking to be in good shape.

I spoke briefly with the mayor tonight about an item on the agenda – funnily enough he didn’t mention the bunny ears post.  I also spoke with our City Clerk by email a few times today about the motions and items being pulled that are mentioned above.

One interesting email I received this weekend was from Grammarly.  I downloaded Grammarly after my performance survey, as one of the pieces of feedback I received was that there are typos and grammar issues in things I send out. For someone who edited a provincial magazine for several years, that’s not good feedback. Some platforms I type in do not have a live spellcheck, and in my haste, I have not been diligent about going back and reviewing my work often enough. I am acting on the feedback received and am being more diligent – and have also employed this tool to assist.  Grammarly live-checks grammar and spelling across platforms.  The only issue is that in the free version I can’t switch from American to Canadian spelling.

Before I left the office, I thought I would take a video to incorporate into tonight’s blog.  It is a quick (2 minutes) tour of my City Hall office.  Now you can see how unorganized and messy I really am! I will have to get the office cleaned before the end of the month and post pictures so that you also see that it get’s cleaned up!

Video:

https://www.facebook.com/vwall605/videos/415639778801413/

So – you’re now 17 days into what I do, and likely getting a good picture of the average day in the life.  I work almost all day, either for my job, for council, or around the house.  For leisure, I like to spend time with family, d do genealogy research.  Before bed, I often listen to podcasts (which drives my husband crazy when he’s still awake) and sometimes play some mindless iPhone games.  I am in a Clan with Benjamin, two other councillors and a few others for Clash of Clans – and am doing pretty good for a beginner – at least I think I am 

 

What do you do? April 18th edition

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017 – Housing investments, financial planning, Dixie Chicks, council wins and losses

It feels like this week is going to fly by!

I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night – I was mentally wrestling with a few things until about 2 am. Then the alarm went, and the day began. Today – like every Tuesday, Andrew had his appointment at the house, so I sent Ben off to school on his scooter. He has gotten very good at the scooter and really likes the independence.

I got busy working, and Andrew had his appointment.  Today was a full day – and I have a lot on my plate for work right now – we are hosting and annual conference in two weeks, and are busy getting all the logistics figured out. Having given my notice to leave CAS, I had an appointment with a financial advisor to get some information about pension options.  I am weighing my options and trying to make sure I make the best decision.  It’s hard to plan for thirty years from now, but necessary all the same.  Luckily, I am a planner and like to make sure that I am on the right path and regular meetings with my advisor to course correct as needed.

At 2 pm, my City business day began.  I met with a resident and staff member to discuss try cutting, invasive species and their impact on our tree canopy.  We will likely be arranging a community meeting for residents in that specific neighbourhood in the near future. We met at the parking lot at Springbank park, then toured a few streets looking at decaying trees, and learning about when pruning or treatments are appropriate and when they are not.

As I left that meeting, I noticed a BX93 vehicle pull in.  I continued on my way, but was listening to BX93, when I heard that there was a contest for concert tickets if you could find the BX93 truck.  I quickly – but safely, returned to the parking lot and claimed my tickets for tonight’s Dixie Chicks concert! Talk about being in the right place at the right time.

Also, the council agenda was light enough that I thought I would be able to make it. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure a babysitter for tonight. I called one of my contract staff Natalie and offered her the tickets.  Natalie is just wrapping up her exams, and as much as I wanted to attend, when it wasn’t going to work out, I wanted someone who would enjoy and someone who needed the break to go.

I made my way to the council meeting, and narrowly passed the amendment to the parking bylaw I told you about yesterday.  Technically, we had to defeat the committee’s proposal, in order to put my amendment on the floor – we defeated it 7-6.

I was a little frustrated at the proposal Councillor Morgan and I put forward to amend a contribution to the Housing Development Corporation to instead go to a reserve fund and have staff recommend the best investment. Our City Manager (and Treasurer) had indicated at the committee meeting that this was not his recommendation for investment, and to truly make an impact on homelessness nad affordable housing, I believed, like Councillor Morgan did that we needed to get information on other areas.  Our investment needed to make the biggest impact possible, and that may have been through other avenues.  Council ultimately chose to maintain the investment in the Housing Development Corporation. At the end of the day, I respect the will of the council- even if I am frustrated by it.

At council, we also welcomed the President and Vice President from each of our local post-secondary student councils. It was a pleasure to see all the student council members, including Violette, who previously represented Ward 10 on London’s Youth Advisory Council.

I had a few phone calls to return after council, which I was able to do as it was not quite 9 pm. Matt and I compared calendars and have tried to plan some time away at the end of the month with the kids – he was aiming for this weekend, but I have a council meeting on Friday, a public participation meeting on Saturday, and a community clean up event on Sunday, so I’m a little busy! Also, I will be leaving for Toronto after work tomorrow for a few days, and am going to call it a night now.  Hopefully I can catch up on that sleep I missed last night! I plan to blog from Toronto – technology permitting.

What do you do? April 19th edition

April 19th – Toronto, dinner, movie, sports games, and travel. 

Today is going to be short and sweet.  Sorry!

As I said yesterday, I am out of town today and tomorrow, returning on Friday afternoon in time for a City Council meeting.

I will post in more detail when I’m back, but for now, the short version.  After working this morning, I had the boys home for lunch. I try to to do that when I can – it’s a good opportunity to spend time with them, especially considering that I was leaving for a few days.  I packed quickly.  I am actually a very efficient packer.  I take only what I need, and can keep it pretty narrow. I can travel for a weekend out of my purse.

I left shortly after lunch, and only arrived in Toronto at5 pm.  My room was not ready, so I checked my bag, and met with some of my colleagues for dinner.  We ate at Scaddabush – a downtown Italian chain restaurant.

It was quite good, but way too much food! Colette, Chris, Rayna, James and I had a great dinner – I think everyone else was watching a game.  Is there some kind of sports game on tonight? I see a lot of blue shirts here in Toronto.

I stopped back at the hotel to check into my room, and write this blog, and am off to see a movie with James, one of my colleagues from OGRA, as neither of us is into watching the game tonight, and that’s what the rest are up to!

I will also be reviewing my agendas in more detail tonight when I get home as we have a full day of meetings tomorrow.

The movie starts in half an hour, and we have a hike ahead of us – so I will sign off here, but will give a brief update tomorrow, and will catch you up on the weekend!

 

 

What do you do? April 20th edition

Thursday April 20th, 2017 – breakfast meetings, committee meetings, blogging and another movie

Another short post – as I am still posting via mobile, and it’s not as user-friendly as my laptop is.

Today was the first of two days of Ontario Good Roads Association meetings. The meetings are hosted at the Royal York Hotel. I did not include my check in experience last night – my room was not ready when I arrived, and I was upgraded to a two room suite.  The rooms are booked by OGRA, and are often quite fancier than I would normally stay at.  My room has two bathrooms, a sitting room, and a separate bedroom.

The committees meet today, then the board meets tomorrow, to ratify the committee work and to manage any board specific items.

I met with Nick, a City of London employee in intergovernmental affairs for breakfast first thing this morning.  He will be attending meetings to observe and to assist as needed.  Last year, staff were not able to make it, but this year, Nick will be attending.

We went attended the membership services committee – I am not a member of this committee, but it is OGRA tradition that board members attend both committee meetings.

After the membership services committee, I enjoyed lunch with my board colleagues and OGRA staff.

Next came the policy committee – this committee I vice chair and enjoy quite a bit.  The policy meeting took just over two hours.  After the policy meeting, I received a package which had been sent to me from the city to prepare for the SPPC meeting in London on Friday. Nick and I met briefly before he left to catch his train and I spent about two hours reviewing my package for Friday’s SPPC meeting.

I called Matt and the kids before dinner and spoke briefly via FaceTime. FaceTime is one of the things that helps my family and I to stay connected when we are in different city’s.  It’s nice for the kids to see and talk to me, and to feel connected.

The board met for dinner and wished fair well to one of our colleagues who has left the board for another position.

After I have to stay, I’m kind of tired out! I watched a movie in my room, and am writing this post as it plays.  I do have some pictures from the past two days and will go back and edit these posts with some more details when I’m home.

 

What do you do? April 21st edition

April 21, 2017 – photo uploads, LPFFA agreement, podcasts and coming home!

I feel bad for not blogging well while I was away! I have the WordPress app on my mobile, but with a compact keyboard, and an inability to insert pictures it was difficult.

I am going to blog today’s entry and add a few pictures and captions from the two previous days as well.

Today I woke up with a bit of a sore throat. Luckily, I don’t typically use medications, so I wasn’t missing out by being in a hotel room with a sore throat.  I don’t drink much (maybe a glass of wine a month or so), and I rarely take medication – with the exception of a daily injection I take to control my blood sugars – so most over the counter meds do a number on me. Like can’t think clearly, or pragmatically sort of number.  I prefer to avoid medication whenever possible.

I made my way to the board meeting on the 19th floor of the Royal York. If you have never had the opportunity to be on the 19th floor, you simply can’t imagine the opulence.  I’m including a few pictures for appropriate visual effect here.

Our committee and board meetings typically occur in a meeting room on this level.

The board meeting was actually rather quick – which was good because I had yet to pack.  We ratified the decisions of the committees from the previous day and there was no new business.  We wrapped up shortly after 10:30 am, and I went to pack.

I think I told you I travel light in a previous blog.  I remember when I first started traveling for work, it was a process to pack that took at least an hour.  Now I can travel basically in my purse for two days.  I have a travel kit which has all my hygiene products always ready to go.  It is used solely for travel and includes just the basics – toothbrush, toothpaste, face cleanser and moisturizer (Arbonne of course, because I’m hooked on it!), and a few random pics of makeup just in case. I’m not a regular makeup user, but lipstick and mascara fit in quite well.

I usually put on freshly laundered pants, that I can get a second day out of, and pack a clean shirt and undergarments.  That plus a dress for the second day, and a hairbrush and I’m good to go! I have it down to a science.  The one thing I’ve started including is socks.  I am not a regular socks wearer.  I just am not. I don’t know why, but I prefer not to wear them. No one ever notices this, and of course, I wear them in winter, but as soon as that snow is gone, I’m in shoes that don’t require socks.  One time I got caught in a situation where everyone was going bowling, and I had to decline due to lack of socks.  I now pack a pair, just in case. You never know when you will need them.

Another thing I have learned along the way is that most hotels will supply you with the basics if you forget them.  Things like floss, combs, toothpaste etc. are almost always available upon request.  (Between the dentist and hotel stays, I haven’t bought floss in a long time.)

Ok, so where was I – ah yes, leaving for London.  I got out of Toronto just after noon.  (I spent some time on the phone and doing emails after the board meeting.) Traveling home takes at least three hours, and with the Young/York exit closed, traffic is a little heavier to enter or leave downtown.

I actually really enjoy driving.  I put a podcast on and relax.  Right now I am listening to the Casefile podcast, which I find interesting.  The walk you through a true crime case from beginning to end.  I think I managed to get three episodes done this trip.

I came into London around 3 pm, and made my way to the office.  I had a 4 pm radio interview lined up with CBC to talk about Council Compensation. I blogged about this back in October of 2015 – you can read that blog here.  The task force has wrapped up their meetings and is preparing a recommendation to go to council.  This is hitting the media cycle and causing some community feedback once again. I have said many times since we referred this to another task force, that I expect the task force to engage the community and to find a fair number for compensation. I do not want to politicize this, even though many of my colleagues will. We should not be debating our salary – we should accept the recommendation from an arm’s length community task force, and vote for an annual increase which aligns with a number such as inflation, and not do this every term to no avail. I know that some of my colleagues will – and already have – stand up and say let the next council decide, or try to gain political favour by not addressing the issue.  I could do that, and people would be happy – but it’s not fair to the position.  So, we will have the debate again, and see where it goes.  I do not plan to take a lead on this, but I will support the committee’s recommendation.

After my interview, I prepared for tonight’s meeting.  We met in camera at 5 pm, and once we had finished, we began a council meeting to have a public vote concerning the collective agreement between the City of London and the London Professional Fire Fighters Association.  Council unanimously supported the collective agreement, which will go until 2019.  Initially we were negotiating a 2011-2014 deal, however, after years of negotiations and arbitration hearings, both parties were able to negotiate an agreement.  I am so pleased that we were able to come to an agreement, and our staff are once again working with an agreement.

I met briefly with Councillor Squire – and we arranged to talk more tomorrow as he was on his way out, and I had a good opportunity to talk with Councillor Cassidy tonight after the meeting as well. I have prided myself on developing an individual relationship with all of my colleagues.  I believe in relationship building, and in a setting where we regularly disagree and debate each other, it is important to communicate well with each other.  I have made it a point to get to know each of my colleagues and to keep the lines of communication open.  Sometimes, minor misinterpretations lead to significant misunderstandings and by checking in with my colleagues, and encouraging them to provide me with feedback, I feel that I have a good working relationship with each of them.

I got home just after 8 pm, and got to see the kids as they were getting ready for bed.

I also updated our family finances (I usually do this daily) and reviewed all of our mail.

Matt and I chatted for a few minutes to catch up and plan our day tomorrow. I have a public participation meeting on ranked ballots tomorrow, and he has plans as well – so I called my mama, who of course is happy to help with the kids for the overlap.  We will likely spend tomorrow night connecting as a family – maybe a movie, or a walk if the weather is nice, but that will be tomorrow’s blog!


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