A Cool Dip and a Big Climb in Waterton Lakes National Park

Waterton Lakes National Park, September 2022

These are the traditional homelands of the Blackfoot peoples in all of their diversity, as well as the traditional hunting territory of the Kutenai people. The Kutenai were most likely driven out of these areas by the Blackfoot when they expanded their range thanks to rifles and horses. The Blackfeet themselves are still present in these lands, but have no official standing within the park. I undertook this adventure because I wanted to challenge my body, expand my mind, and explore a different part of the Rocky Mountains than I am used to. I also wanted to be in communication with nature, immerse myself in her late summer bounty, and say hello to my brother birds and sister trees. While it is not the same as the link Indigenous peoples have to this land, I feel a strong connection to the mountains. My hope is refreshed here, my soul is filled, and my energy stirred to continue fighting for the stewardship of nature everywhere.

While I don’t want this becoming a travel blog, I had some big travel moments this summer, and travel is easy for me to write about. It’s got a simple beginning, middle & end, lots of photos, and uncomplicated facts and opinions. Huzzah!

ACCOMMODATIONS AND TRAVEL

Y’all, this is the boring part. Boring, but necessary. We rented a hotel room in Pincher Creek, which is a 30 to 40 minute drive from Waterton Lakes National Park. This meant it was a bit cheaper, and there was more availability. And to be honest, I have low expectations on short trips like this with Dan. My must haves: clean, a bed, a fridge, a bathroom. Heritage Inn Hotel and Conference Centre stepped right up! Our view was the yard for a tow truck company, so every morning I would push back the curtains and breathe in the exotic burnt out Winnebago. It’s fine. It’s great even. It’s not Maui.

To get even more exciting, we drove down after work on the Friday night. From our home in Edmonton it is a 6-ish hour drive down to Pincher Creek. Even leaving immediately after work, we rolled in around 11 pm in the pitch black. The QE2 is a super boring and annoying highway, but it’s also the most direct. On our way home, when we had more time to sight-see, we took Highway 22 – The Cowboy Trail – before cutting back on to QE2 (and getting stuck in an enormous traffic jam). I personally recommend taking either Highways 22 or 2A to head south from Edmonton if you are not pressed for time. They are way more chill than QE2, more scenic, and sometimes even faster.

A very scenic image. Bottom third is an asphalt highway, middle is green grass and a beige field with hay bales dotted throughout. And the top third is a bright blue sky with white puffy clouds that go no for miles.

HIKING HIKING HIKING

All I want to do on these trips is hiking and more hiking. I need to recognize my limits however, and on this trip the weather pushed back so I had to take it easy on that first full day. I found these trails through a variety of sources: All Trails, the book Canadian Rockies Trail Guide by Brian Patton and Bart Robinson, and the Parks map from the info centre in town. I love those maps, by the way. That was our first stop in town, to pick one up. A National Park info centre or visitor centre is a great place to visit if you are new to the park, or want to try something new. You can chat with the super helpul park employees, or ask for a map with minimal eye contact and hoof it out of there for the least amount of social interaction. I’ve done it all.

Red Rock Canyon & Blakiston Falls

This was the super touristy portion of our trip. Yikes yikes yikes. These places were packed. Thankfully, the Park knows it and has built a huge parking lot to accommodate the vehicles. I have been traveling to Jasper my whole life, and the waterfalls there are bonkers. So much so, that the Parks Service definitely doesn’t want you getting too close. But here in Waterton those rules are out the window (which was very confusing to this Jasper gal). The main trail above Red Rock Canyon is under construction, but that doesn’t seem to be important at all because literally everyone is in the canyon. The instructions seem to be “bring your bathing suit and water shoes and use the canyon like a waterpark.” We did a bit of wandering in the water, but it was so busy that the novelty wore off quickly.

The hike from here out to Blakiston Falls is about 1km. It was 34 degrees C that day, and so few people were carrying water! Fewer than were carrying bear spray. I have FEELINGS about this, but let’s get to the scenery! There is a lot of infrastructure around the falls, which are teeny. Reading about the fire that spread through this area 5 years ago (more on that later) I think that a lot of the bridges, paths, and viewing platforms were probably destroyed. This metal monstrosity looked fairly new. And it did allow us to get some nice views and pictures of the falls. But just like the Canyon, folks climbed right down to the creek and got in above the falls. It was all super picturesque if you didn’t mind having other folks feature in your photos. And it is much more accessible for people who want to see nature, but don’t want to – or can’t – do a long or challenging hike. Kudos to Waterton for providing that option.

Crandell Lake

There are two access points to this lake, and one of them was on our way to Red Rock Canyon. And that parking lot was practically empty, which we took as a sign that this trail was more our speed. The lake is about 3.8km from Red Rock Parkway, and can be accessed from Akamina Parkway as well, about the same distance on foot. I would classify it as “easy and short”, and totally doable with kiddos. Folks who are less active might find it a nice challenge. Most of the walk is through burnt sections of forest, but there is still a lot of (low) greenery this time of year. And I fell in love with the shiny, white, dead aspens. These “ghosties” were a favourite sight throughout the trip. I primarily wanted to check out the lake so I could go for a swim. It was cold, really fricken cold. And I didn’t have my boogie board so I didn’t want to go too far out in the water.

Rowe Lakes and Lineham Ridge

Ooh baby, this is the hike I had been looking forward to. The description in our trail book was in plain language, and really painted a picturesque picture of the area. Two lake options and a more challenging hike up to a Ridge to overlook some other lakes. Easy peasy, right? To be honest, you could do the hike to the Lower Rowe Lake and call it a very rewarding day. The fire took out a big chunk of this mountainside, but not all of it. We crossed through burnt trees, then came out onto a huge space filled with saskatoon bushes! I was dumbstruck! And bear-aware! We hit a lush green forest, then Lower Rowe Lake (1960m) at mid-morning, so the sun was peeking through the haze. It was just us and a deer up there.

At the next junction we decided to tackle Lineham Ridge over Upper Rowe Lake because my priority was the Ridge and I wasn’t sure I would have enough energy to do both. It was so windy as we got out of the treeline and started to cross the inner bowl. I was using both poles by now and taking a lot of breaks. Both to catch my breath and for pep talks. All those scary moments were made totally worth it when we got to the ridge and could see over into the next valley and the Lineham Lakes. It made me giggle and cheer! Climbing mountains will never get old.

Back down the mountain, where we encountered the same family group of big horn sheep and a few women hikers looking to make the trek up. I cheered them on! Telling them that it might look scary and tough, but it’s worth it. We decided to pass on the Upper Rowe Lake, because while it was only a 1km detour, it was a steep incline of switchbacks. And my legs were not excited about that. We did stop at Lower Rowe Lake again on the way down. And I got to go for a swim in another mountain lake. It felt like a bonehead move to carry my boogie board up a mountain, but it was 100% worth it when I hit that water. The freezing coldness cut my swim down to only a few minutes, but they were minutes equal in happiness to making it to the top of Lineham Ridge.

SIDE TRIPS

We did a few of what I will call “side trips” during our time down south. I am not including the drive to the Pizza Hut, although that was fun too. The bison paddock was very rad, as I love bison. And Frank Slide was a dud, even though I love rocks. We also saw a pet goat named Boots walking around the Wateron townsite. And I got a selfie with haybales while I was trying to get closer to a wind turbine. So many of my favourite things in one vacation!

MY VALUES ON VACATION

It’s weird to be an activist of any stripe and go on vacation. The systemic problems that we face don’t disappear, they just take a different shape in a different place. Waterton Lakes and Pincher Creek gave me a close up look at my climate values. Our hotel has “eco” branded soap, but individually packaged coffee in the room. There are wind turbines surrounding the town of Pincher Creek, but plans for a coal mine in Crowsnest Pass.

In August 2017 (almost 5 years to the day of our trip), a massive wildfire entered Waterton Park from the province of British Columbia By the time it was controlled and extinguished it had burned over 19,000 hectares and destroyed a lot of the built infrastructure within the Park as well, despite the “best efforts of facility protection crews” (Source). The source of the fire was an intense thunder storm, and Parks Canada notes that 2017 was the third driest year on record for Waterton. We know that as our world gets hotter and drier, our forests are more at risk for events like this. Especially considering the other pressures on them – pests and industrial deforestation for example. It was wild to wander through the dead trees, and see the bare mountains around us. As John Hammond says, “life finds a way”, and there are already a lot of plants coming back in – raspberries, saskatoons, pigweed, and even some baby pines – but there were few birds and small animals.

I enjoy travel, and I probably won’t stop any time soon. But there are ways I can make my vacation more in line with my values. Dan & I pack our own lunches for our hiking trips for example. And I want to get into the habit of bringing my own coffee pot and hand soap. This reduces some plastic packaging, which is a drop in the bucket compared to so many other choices that are unavailable to me. For example, I would love to carpool to a trailhead or take public transit of some sort. The National Parks in our Province offer shuttle service, or group transportation (for a fee) to many popular destinations within their borders. My dream is to see high speed electric train service between Edmonton and Calgary, the larger city to the south. That would make me happier than a pig in a puddle. It’s been discussed for years, but always with some nonsense price tag, or imaginary impediments. If we want to meet our targets to save human life on this planet, we need to get working on these big, seemingly impossible projects. Our provincial government reported a $14 billion “surplus” this fiscal year and chose to use it to pay down the “debt”. Y’all, debt is already meaningless, but it will be even more so when humans are extirpated from these lands.

FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES

On Saturday We Hike 2021 Review

On Saturday We Hike 2021 Review (and what comes next)

2021 was our first full calendar year of On Saturday We Hike. And what a year!

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Christmas Day + New Year’s Day in -35 temps
  • Elk Island Birthday Hike
  • Huge groups in the summer, including 6 out-of-towners
  • A Guest Host (thanks Dan!)
  • A couple of Land Acknowledgements
  • Improving at my accessibility notes
  • Lots of cool animal sightings: bald eagle, family of coyotes, deer, waxwings, cougar prints in the snow

WHAT IS ON SATURDAY WE HIKE

It is an Edmonton and area walking group that I started in summer 2020 after Dan & I took a day trip up to Sulphur Gates Provincial Rec Area and I bought Mable the Mazda. I wanted to help other people access the outdoors beyond just inspiring them with my photos on Instagram. At the time, my plan was to drive people to the trailheads, but the pandemic axed that (and for good reason too).

Our group has settled into a nice routine. We meet every Saturday morning at 9:00am at a trailhead in or around Edmonton. I choose the trailhead, but each participant chooses their pace and ends on their own terms. Our hikes seem to naturally wrap up for everyone around the 1 hour mark. This is an open walking group, and accessible to all ages and abilities. Due to the nature of the “marketing”, the hikers are mostly my family members, a work mate, and a few of my best friend’s friends.

On a personal note, it has been spectacular to watch my two families become friends. My two Moms talking about their weeks, my cousin and Dad (unrelated) bonding over who knows what. Even if I don’t achieve some of the lofty goals I had for this group, these small actions feel enormous in my mind.

MY CONCERNS

My personal “social justice” work has always just been personal. I am not sure how to bring this to the group, other than being an example. Which I don’t think is enough in this case (or anymore anywhere). No matter my intentions or feelings about it, we are a group of higher income, mostly able-bodied, visually non-disabled white people walking about in the world. Unfettered by any restrictions or assumptions about our rights to be in these spaces. We are out here walking like we belong out here, because this world was made with us in mind. We are not purposefully excluding racialized or marginalized people, but by appearance only you could assume that we are. What in the hell am I doing to address this?

The fact that we are a small walking group, attended mostly by family is no excuse. We have very little power over trail accessibility, and I never want to have a token person of colour in our group just for aesthetics. But it is my job as a white person to use the power that I do possess to tear down white supremacy and colonial systems in the places I can. And right now, that’s in my little walking group.

Here is my tiny list of places I want to start:

  • Land acknowledgments; do them more often and do better ones
  • Learn the history of these places and share it
  • Conversations in the group about who they see on the trails
  • Accessibility notes, choosing accessible trails (and learning what that means)
  • More reading and learning about diversity in the outdoors, the history and impacts of exclusion, and what people are doing about it in their communities

Being an ally is not an identity. It is a series of behaviours. This year I want to explore what allyship behaviours I can encourage in the OSWH group so they can take those out into their lives and the difference we all make will be like a ripple in my favourite mountain lakes.

“ACCESSIBILITY”

Hosting a weekly walking group has opened my eyes even more to the inaccessibility of the majority of our trail system. And it’s a huge bummer. This includes for folks with physical disabilities, but also marginalized or racialised people not feeling welcome and not seeing themselves represented in these spaces.

You don’t have to climb a damn mountain every weekend to experience the magic of nature. Getting outside, even “just” to a neighbourhood park counts. You also don’t have to look a certain way to explore the outdoors. This includes a visible disability, body positivity, and celebrating all skill levels and abilities. And you shouldn’t have to look a certain way to feel like you belong outside or to participate in outdoor activities. But the reality for many folks is that they don’t feel like they belong outdoors, which has a ripple effect all the way to how we will be preserving these places in the future.

If this group had a vision statement, I would want all of that included in it. I want to explore what is preventing people from accessing our local trails, and then I want to help them smash through that barrier in whatever way makes the most sense for them. And ultimately I want to dissolve all the barriers that exist at the systemic level, but y’all I am still just running one little walking group! Perhaps I need to start a “writing letters to City Hall” group too. (No more groups Lisa!!)

WHAT’S NEXT

I try not to plan locations too far ahead because I never know what the conditions will be like, but also we hike in rain, snow, and -40. But also, this gal who doesn’t read weather forecasts thinks about the weather sometimes. This is especially true for seasonal changes: when will the snow and ice be gone, when will the trails dry up, when will the snow and ice show up again? Inevitable questions in Edmonton.

Here are some big and small and in between ideas I have for 2022 OSWH:

  • A few adventure hikes and evening hikes
  • Different times to see if that appeals to more/different folks
  • A trail head location 45+ minutes away from town
  • Guest hosts
  • Land acknowledgments
  • Programming
  • Hike events for introverts
  • More tracking
  • Take requests, get input and reviews from attendees
  • Improve my accessibility notes and choose better trails

I have already started a better tracking system in my planner, and I have a few polls planned on Instagram to get some input into trail selection. I also want (need) to acknowledge that this is so far my most successful group, and it is barely that. This year I will be exploring why that is, and what lessons I can learn from this to bring into my other community building goals.

FURTHER READING

Unlikely Hikers

Diversify Outdoors

Five ways to make the outdoors more inclusive (The Atlantic)

To diversify the outdoors we need to think about who we are excluding (Outside Online)

A path towards diversity and inclusion in the outdoors (Join the Wildlife)

Getting outdoors when you’re disabled (Outside Online)

The Adventure Gap (Sustainable Play)

Benefits of a walking group (Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues)

Alberta Parks brochures in multiple languages available here

Even more resources here.Fitness Inclusion Network (PDF brochure)

Daily Pages Flipthrough

Ahh yes, the heady time of December 3, 2021 through January 21, 2022. Where each day received a little extra notice in the form of a daily page. Freezing toes while I crafted in the basement were a small inconvenience to pay when the end result is this lovely, fat, book.

I started this creative habit in October 2021. I did it as a way to kickstart my creativity, get me working in my craft room, and give me a space to create within boundaries but without expectations. In 2021 it served its purpose and more. I also joined a lovely community of women working on Daily Pages of their own. Which provided me with support I didn’t realize I needed at the time.

I have now finished two books of my own making. This flipthrough represents “Volume Two” and captures the time between December 3, 2021 and January 21, 2022. I created something in this book every single day during that period. Wowzas. It feels momentous, while also being simple and small. It showed me that I could start habits, and maintain them. With a little bit of effort. And I am immensely proud of myself. I haven’t done any Daily Pages since that last day in this book.

So I also want to hold space for folks who have lost a habit. For whatever reason. My reason specifically was Dan working on a wall in our basement and my crafting space disappearing for a few weeks. Those few weeks was all it took for me to lose this daily habit. I was distracted at first, and then sad, and now I’ve become reconciled to its absence. With the knowledge that I will pick it up again at some point.

Habits are a strong theme for my year, my word, my 2022 plan. And this year I have decided to be more mindful about how I am spending my time. This is going to be hard. (This is already ehard). In an attempt to make it go more smoothly, I post to myself this question: is what I am doing right now getting me closer to my goals or aligning me with my life’s purpose? Yep. Nothing like a simple question to get me on track. HA! But it’s good, I’m good. SometimesI forget to ask myself this, and use up all of my allotted Instagram time before I leave for work in the morning. Oh dear.

And it would be ridiculous if I didn’t do my due diligence in linking literally everything in my life back to my Word. Typical. And, since I am (strangely) currently enchanted by habits, I am fervently asking “how does this habit fit into Care 2022?” Going beyond “does it or doesn’t it”, and literally interrogating its place in my life, my goals, the habits I am forming.

There are so many BIG pictures I am looking at this year – social justice, rest, climate activism, covid frustrations, organizing, community-building – I want to ensure my time is well spent. And that my leisure activities are relelvant and doing their job to allow me space to rest up for what’s next.

FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES

Daily Pages Creative Habit (Not Ladylike)

Daily Pages – My New Creative Habit? (Not Ladylike)

The Awesome Ladies Project (rukristin)

4 Things I’ve Learned from my Daily Habit (Jill Elliot, Wit & Delight)

Daily Creative Habits (Verbal to Visual)

No Spend Month – How to CARE for $0

I am stumped.

My Word of the Year is “Care”, and every February I participate in a “No Spend Month” challenge. But how do you show care for $0? I started brainstorming ideas, but they all ended up costing money. I am very out of practice with caring for people. I chose this word as a challenge, and only two months into the year I am feeling it. February is coming in hot.

Okay okay, so here are some hopefully not lame ideas:

  • Shovel someone’s sidewalks
  • Have a conversation with my neighbours (we’ve lived here for 2.5 years, it’s way past time for this)
  • Donate blood
  • Write letters to folks in prison
  • LiLu Night Out for $0
  • Offer specific assistance of my labour or attention
  • Use gift cards currently in my possession to buy items in need for mutual aid groups
  • One-off volunteer opportunities
  • Don’t just “phone it in” with my current volunteer positions

What do you think? Is this list doable? Does it make sense for what I am trying to put out in the world and how I want to make an impact? That last question is one that only I can answer. And perhaps it might take longer than one month to figure it out.

A huge part of my word for the year is still shrouded in mystery. That is, care as social justice.

“What if we shifted our collective creativity toward cooperation and caring instead of individualism?”

Intelligent Mischief


I also recently read something about rest that I can’t find right now, so I will have to summarize it here from memory. Rest is incredibly important for our brains and bodies, but it cannot be just an individual exercise. We must take care of others in whatever capacity is available to us, so that they have the time to rest as well. Especially if we have the privilege to do so. My brain is filled with this idea. I can’t get away from it.

I will report back when the month is over. And I will accept any and all tips or suggestions in the comments.

FURTHER READING

LiLu Night Out

No Spend Month – Day 28 (Not Ladylike)

The why and what of my month long spending freeze (Bravely Go)

Canada Blood Services

Atlanta-based organization advocates for rest as a form of Social Justice (NPR)

Prisoner Correspondence Project

Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton (where I currently volunteer on their support line)

LiLu Night Out

As I started to write this post, I finally googled “fun things to do with your teenager”. The results were hilarious. Somebody actually wrote and published the words “design a scavenger hunt for friends,” “let your kid drive a golf cart”, and one other author thinks kayaking is a great inexpensive activity for you and your teen. What the heck.

If any of y’all have a teen like mine, 90% of the suggestions in these articles will be a waste of breath.

Two-ish months ago I realized that Lucas & I weren’t interacting as much as usual. I’m sure a lot of that is due to his age – this is the time of your life when you’re supposed to push your parents away right? But I also knew that we were still on speaking terms, and we still liked hanging out together. We just needed a little reminder of that, and an intentional time to connect.

And so “LiLu Night Out” was born.

WHAT IS LILU NIGHT OUT?

LiLu Night Out is a dedicated night for Lucas and I to do something together. It is usually outside out the house, and only involves the two of us, but we’ve made exceptions. I try to keep the cost down, and have built out a budget category for this specific expenditure. February for me is “No Spend Month” so I have a few ideas for activities we can try that cost nothing. I do not have a master list, and I make all the suggestions as Lucas hasn’t shown any interest in the planning part.

FUN THINGS TO DO WITH THIS TEENAGER

Not every teenager likes the same activities. Lucas’ idea of a perfect night in include gaming by himself in his room with snacks. He’s not into sports or crafty things. He doesn’t like movies or music. This made it difficult for me to think of some activities we could try together, especially in the winter when mostly everything needs to happen inside. These are the LiLu Night Out activities we’ve done so far:

  • Tubing at Edmonton Ski Club (twice)
  • Rec Room to play arcade games
  • Art Gallery of Alberta
  • Southgate Mall for browsing and food court snacks

Lucas alternates weeks between his parents, so I don’t plan more than the week ahead. And I always get his buy-in. If there’s one thing that stays true for kids from toddlers to teens, it’s that if you take them somewhere they don’t want to be it’s just a pain in the ass for you and absolutely not worth it. Once the weather starts warming up, there will be different opportunities. And we will definitely have to do the same things more than once, which is actually a blessing for us socially anxious introverts.

BENEFITS OF BONDING TIME

I delight in hanging out with Lucas. He is at once my smart teenager and my sweet boy who called me Mama and had to hold my hand at all times. I know that I only have a few more years left of his childhood to soak in. He already spends most of his time away from me, and that is challenging on my heart. I am excited for him to find his way in the world and have his own adventures, but I will also squeeze out every last second with him that I can. There are still so many lessons to teach him, and examples to set.

Five Waste Reduction Resolutions

Five Waste Reduction Resolutions You Should Make…Even Though They Won’t Solve The Climate Crisis

When the calendar turns and I start evaluating my goals and purpose, my thoughts turn to how I can strengthen my actions around the climate crisis. In taking a look at what I want to do next, I noticed that I already do a lot! So I’m passing some ideas along. Keep in mind that ~100 energy companies are reponsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions (read about that here and lots of other places too). They are the ones holding us back and causing this mess. Everything we as individuals do is a drop in the bucket BUT it’s still important. Especially if it inspires or encourages behaviour change in others and gets the attention of those 100 companies so they can finally be forced to do what’s right.

I will also caveat this list with an extreme privilege warning. That is, I have the ability and ease to consider a lot of these resolutions because of the colour of my skin, my able-body, my level of education and the fact that I have a full-time job and a partner. All of this also means that I am statistically more likely to be causing more emissions and waste than those who hold “opposite” identities to mine. I consider it my duty and purpose to show compassion toward others (both human and non-humans), and dedicate my life to negating the effects of my life and lifestyle on this earth and on those others. It may sound corny, or like some of those wellness lifestyle brands (gross and yuck), but *shrug*.

And before I get any more philosophical or dramatic, let’s jump into Five Waste Reduction Resolutions!

Refill

You probably don’t think about “Refill” when you think of the infamous “Rs” of waste reduction – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – but it’s one of my favourites. Think of some commonly used items in your home. There might be a refill option for you. In our home we refill no less than the following:

  • Dishwasher tabs
  • Toothpaste tabs
  • Granola
  • Deodarant
  • Body lotion
  • All spices, salt and sugar
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Rice, dry beans and lentils
  • Dried fruit
  • Candy
  • Maple syrup
  • Tamari (soy sauce)
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Molasses

Why Refill?

Plastic bottle that end up in landfill will not decompose in your lifetime or your kids and grandkids’ lifetimes. We’re talking hundreds of years. While recycling is important, we also know now that not all plastic is equally recyclable, and much is not recyclable – or recycled – at all. Refilling those bottles and jars saves the energy required to recycle them, and especially in creating new plastic bottles.

Try This

When you finish off a box of cereal, noodles, or flour, head to your local refillery and find the comparable type to refill. Save three glass jars from the recycle and take them – along with your kids/partner/roommate – to the local refillery and find some new-to-you snacks to refill. Y’all, it is a big treat day in our house when we each get a jar and unfettered access to our local Bulk Barn. It can be easy to get caught in the trap of wanting to buy new storage containers to refill, but I encourage you to look around your home first, and consider if you have any current containers that can be used instead.

If there aren’t refilleries in your area, instead resolve to notice the overall packaging of your individual purchases and see if you can make changes there, buying cans or glass jars instead of plastic where available. Buying in bulk might be a great option for you as well. If you can’t afford ($ or space) the larger sizes, ask a friend or family member to split the cost – and the box – with you.

More Plant-Based Meals

Perhaps you have heard of “Meatless Monday”? In our house it’s “Meatless Most Days”. I’ve been a vegetarian, a vegan for half a second, and now a mostly meatless eater. Cutting back on meat is a simple resolution that can benefit your health as well as our planet’s. Awwwww, so sweet!

Why plant-based?

Our meat-centric diets account for one-fifth of global carbon emissions (Project Drawdown). Other stats I’ve read around our “business as usual” diet blow my mind. For example: if cattle were their own nation, they would rank THIRD in the world for largest greenhouse gas emissions! If we all switched to a vegetarian or vegan diet, we could reduce between 63% and 70% of our current emissions. This is a huge deal! (All of these stats from Project Drawdown.) Of course, not everyone is ready to go full vegan overnight. And sometimes habits are built slowly, one piece at a time.

Try this.

Swap out ground meat with shredded jackfruit or beans. Try one of those plant-based “meat-alternatives”. Burgers, sausages, ground meat all have a plant-based equivalent now, and most of them are very tasty! Like all of the other resolutions in this post, accessibility is a huge component of success. I personally can’t afford those meat-alternatives in my grocery budget. So I buy a lot of beans instead.

More Active Transportation

I am very privilege to live in a super walkable neighbourhood and have the mobility to get around easily. So I take advantage of it. Walking a 3km+ round trip to pick up library books, groceries, and my prescriptions has become part of my weekend routine.

Why active transport?

I think we can all agree that driving our cars everywhere all the time is not great. I shouldn’t need to do much convincing of that! I do a lot of reading on how to build healthy, welcoming cities for all citizens, and cars don’t feature much in those plans. For a multitude of reasons. (I will post more links at the end of the post.)

Try This.

Try completing one of your car errands this week with active transportation instead. If you don’t have access to active transportation, try and bundle your errands. Park your car at the first location and walk or bus to the rest. Go inside the store instead of using the drive-thru.

Drink from the Tap

Most tap water in North America (barring some very specific and insidious examples) is very safe to drink. A lot of the bottled water you pay for comes from tap water. Why pay for water twice? And why do we have to think about bottle vs. tap anyway?

Why tap water?

Here’s a couple of stats for you about bottled water:

  • More than 17 million barrels of oil are required to produce enough plastic water bottles to meet America’s annual demand for bottled water. (Earth Policy “Bottled Water: Pouring Resources Down the Drain”)
  • Bottled water is about 3,000 percent more expensive per gallon than tap water in the US (Harvard Engineering and Utilities and Poland Springs)
  • Microplastics are found in 93% of bottled water (CBC News)

I really enjoyed this quote from a health researcher in Barcelona (quoted in this Guardian article):

“People trust bottled water because advertisers have done a good job of convincing people it’s a good option, so we need the effort on the other side.”

Cristina Villanueva

The majority of tap water tastes the same as bottled, must pass strict quality tests, is not filled with microplastics, is a lot less expensive, and doesn’t take millions of barrels of oil to manufacture. My heart aches when I see all the plastic water bottles when I go my trash walks. I read a lot of stats about the tiny amount of plastic bottles that get recycled every year. And then I get cranky to think that we have been tricked into paying money to drink water out of a piece of garbage.

Try this.

Buy yourself a nice water bottle and start building a habit of carrying it with you. If you are a parent, do the same for your kids. (My teenager’s enormous pink water bottle follows him around the house.) Ensure folks who need access to safe, bottled water have it. Advocate with your municipality to install water fountains, and your local or state government to ensure everyone has ready access to safe drinking sources.

Make Do & Mend

Don’t ask me specifically how this happened, but we in the Global North have become a “throwaway, buy new, repeat” society. It’s been creeping up on us for years and is closely linked to toxic individualism as promoted by capitalism. Bigger TVs, smarter phones, faster fashion. I see it on social media daily, and it is catching up to us. Think about all the articles on microchip shortages and the ripple effect that is having across so many industries. We could have a huge impact on the climate crisis by pausing this cycle in our lives and making do with what we already have.

Why make do & mend?

There is so much to touch on here, but I am specifically going to give a nod to fashion and home interior decorating.

There has been a lot written about fast fashion and its toll on our world and our lives, so I will add some links to the end of the post if you want to do a deeper dive. But it’s bad y’all. We’re talking slavery, life-threatening working conditions, mountains of waste clogging communities in the Global South, and water and air pollution from the manufacturing processes (read more here, or watch this video). There is no comparable buzz word for the trends I’ve been seeing in the interior design world, but I have noticed that many people in my circles at least are choosing to do renovations where none are needed other than for aesthetics. Just like in fashion, the interior design trends seem to be changing faster and faster, and encouraging folks to keep up with them is environmentally irresponsible.

Try this.

Stop going to Home Sense and watching HGTV. Unfollow interior designers on social media. Your pillows, or shower curtains, or tile flooring might not be the latest style, but “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. And if it is actually broken, find a qualified repair shop to have a look at it. Take clothing that needs repairs to a tailor instead of tossing it. And if your clothing is beyond repair, consider second hand pieces.

Accessibilty

As with anything related to waste-reduction, there is vast inequality at work. Refilleries are still a new thing, and many neighbourhoods that already suffer as food deserts might not have ready access to them. Our streets and sidewalks are not usually designed with folks with disabilities in mind. Items that are considered “more sustainable” can often be priced higher than the less sustainable option, forcing the hand of many individuals and families. I’m know many smarter people than me have written and researched this topic. I won’t try and emulate their work. I just want to put it in your head to consider when you are trying to make waste-free choices. How does your identity impact the types of choices you have? How does your privilege show up, and how can you use it to help others?

Y’all I feel like I’ve been talking – writing – for a hundred years. If this inspired you even a little bit to add a Waste Free Resolution into your life, let me know. It’s tiring just thinking about all of these changes – especially considering the fact that most of the emissions generated during our lifetimes have not been by us. But we are all in this together. So, let’s try and get out of it together as well.

SOURCES AND FURTHER READING

I like Project Drawdown for overall information about current issues and their solutions. They cover a lot of ground on the website, and there are local chapters popping up as well.

Refilling:

Bottled Water:

Cars & Healthy Cities

LiLuDa Times December 2021

At the end of every year, I write a short newsletter to accompany the cards sent out to family and friends. This is an important tradition for me, and I know many folks truly enjoy receiving the cards and the updates. It feels cozy to me, a throwback to simpler times before social media made it so we know every surface detail of each other’s lives. Here is the 2021 edition.

This December 2021 issue of the LiLuDa Times is dedicated to my dad Myron Seibold who has been sending out Christmas letters for 30 years.

Thank you for being a great role model, for weekly phone calls, and for reminding me of what’s truly important in life. I love you.

Whatever life looked like for you this year, you are here. And I am so glad.

What big or small things did YOU celebrate in 2021? Here are some from us:

  • All three of us got our double doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and were happy to do so! Lisa is due for a booster any day now.
  • Lisa had a seizure in April, and has been diagnosed with epilepsy. Dan got to call an ambulance and Lisa got to ride in one, although she doesn’t have a solid memory of the experience. Her current meds are working, and she was grateful to get her driver’s license back in November. Even more grateful to the hardworking firefighters, paramedics, and ER staff who took care of her that night. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
  • Lucas got his braces off in the spring; he has a lovely smile and has a better flossing habit than his Mom.
  • Dan left his previous job for a temp position; a three month contract was extended twice, and he is enjoying working in town.
  • Taking the utmost precautions and care with local Covid-19 restrictions, we had the opportunity to do some traveling this summer, close to home. Lucas & Lisa headed to Calgary in August, rode karts down a ski hill and ate the best Indian food ever. Dan & Lisa did a couple of camping trips, hiked a couple of mountains. Alberta is a beautiful province to explore.
  • Lucas celebrated his 16th birthday with a party in our local park. He also got his learner’s permit and has been taking exclusive driving lessons with Grandpa Myron. Turns out this car fan loves driving!
  • Welcomed Lisa’s sister Amy and her family back to Edmonton from Dubai for a few weeks, which meant lots of activities and family time to keep us occupied. Lucas and his cousins picked up right where they left off.
  • Lucas started Grade 11, back to in-person school. He was very happy to reconnect with some good friends in real life that he hasn’t seen in awhile. He loves social studies and mechanics best. Otherwise, he hangs out with friends online playing racing games, Minecraft, Fortnite. There is always lots of laughter coming out of his room. (He’s such a great kid).
  • Lisa celebrated her 41st birthday at Elk Island National Park with family and friends, an ugly cake, a short hike, and a (now) traditional camping trip. It was a beautiful autumn weekend.
  • Two elections for us in the Fall: federal and municipal; Lisa got out canvassing for her municipal candidate of choice.
  • On Saturday We Hike was a huge success! Almost every Saturday a group of us head out to a local trail for a walk. 45 events in total this year, in Edmonton’s beautiful River Valley, ravines, and out of town. We’ve got our core group, but we’re always looking for more walkers. The best way to start the weekend is in the community of nature and friends.
  • We said goodbye to Online Art Night this year. Almost three years, but it has run its course. The pandemic pushed us online, which worked for awhile, but it turns out that crafting together is better in person.
  • Dan built us a “friendly-sized” fence in the front yard, an amazing canopy for his mini truck, helped the neighbour do some roofing, and got a lovely new (old) stove for his garage with a great story.
  • Lisa is currently the Secretary on Lucas’ high school Parent Council. 2022 is her five year anniversary volunteering on the support line with the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

“It is love and friendship, the sanctity and celebration of our relationships, that not only support a good life, but create one.” Wallace Stegner

In memory of Grandpa P, Carolyn, Great Aunt JoAnn, Nanny, Jan, Patty, EJ, LN, AW, and beloved pets Simone, Jaco, and Miss May.

Recap of a RADICAL Year

Late in 2020, when we were staying home because Covid was infecting and killing us at a staggering rate, I chose the word Radical to guide me in 2021. I knew that it was going to be a radical year for everyone without even trying, but I also recognized an opportunity to push myself, and explore actions and feelings that scared me. I dug up definitions, mapped out my feelings quadrant, and then didn’t set aside much time for working on my word throughout the year. But somehow it still worked for me. #iykyk

In no particular order, here is a list of some of the Radical actions I took in 2021:

  • Epilepsy diagnosis
  • Made some friends on the Bus
  • Visited my Pa in his long-term care home
  • Stared therapy
  • Met Amy from IG in real life, and Tabitha from IG in Zoom-life
  • Events through NLL Community (National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Full Moon Picnic, Holiday Lights meetup)
  • I got back into scrapbooking, and started a daily creative habit
  • Attended a weekend online conference
  • More working out and taking better care of my body
  • Completed 9 out of 12 home projects
  • Celebrated my 41st birthday with a party at Elk Island Park
  • Ended Art Night
  • Climbed a few mountains
  • Volunteered for a political campaign
  • Had an amazing summer and documented it in a great scrapbook
  • Tracked my grocery spending every month
  • Practiced resting
  • I had tough conversations and I asked for help
  • I understand myself a little better
  • I have been using my voice more
  • Called out my racist uncle

DOCUMENTING MY WORD WORK

As a companion for my word work, I like to build a special scrapbook album. This year I picked out a precious vintage ledger book, and I am sad to write that this documentation did not go as planned. And as I build my 2022 book, I have been thinking about why so I can make different decisions and find more success with the documentation aspect of my word in the future.

  1. Too much writing and photos. The amount of writing (journaling) and photos I expected was difficult for me to keep up with. So once I fell behind for a month or two, I was never able to catch up. It made documenting feel like a chore.
  2. Black pages. I front loaded the book with a bunch of blank pages with no firm plan for content and I never came back to them. And then I ran out of space later in the book.
  3. Formula. I needed a formula or a theme to follow and replicate. It’s not boring, it’s soothing and it would have made each page much easier to follow through on.
  4. Time. I never dedicated time to work on it, to make it a habit and an intricate part of how I was exploring my word. Stacking it with other creative work would have been ideal, and this lesson has already come into play for 2022.

Radical was a completely appropriate work for 2021 and for me. I know I could have explored it more thoroughly, and a lot of that is reflected in my scrapbook. But that book is still filled with significant memories and growth moments despite my less than best efforts. I also fully comprehend that simply staying afloat in this pandemic is a huge victory. Even the little things start feeling radical when you consider the terrifying state of our world, the ineptitude of our neoliberal governments, and the collective grief experience that we are grappling with on a daily basis. As of the first draft of this post, I hadn’t found my 2022 word but I know that Radical will continue to be present in one of my feelings goals/quadrants (or map as I am calling it now).

This exercise of discovering a guiding word, exploring its meaning and building a feelings quadrant is integral to me in this time of my life. Even if I half-ass it, I always learn something about myself. I don’t use it as growth for growth’s sake, or to increase my productivity as a human being or any of that capitalist self-help nonsense. But I have successfully used the growth inherent in self exploration to pursue my life’s purpose and fuel my goals. Radical means root, and these roots make a strong foundation for life.

2021 Fourth Quarter Books

Okay okay okay. I did a terrible job of tracking my books this quarter. Shame on me. I also did that thing where I put many many books on hold and they all come available at the same time. Yikes. Which means there are also loads of books that came home with me, and I barely cracked the spine before they had to make their way back to the library. They usually make it back on the hold list, but there were a few duds this quarter that I was not sad to return early.

Keeping the above in mind, it surprised me to see how few books I read this quarter. It felt like I was always moving a book off the couch or table to make room. But perhaps it was always just the same two books!

FAVOURITES AND SURPRISES

It used to be that I could choose a favourite book quite easily. I suppose with reading more books, it becomes more difficult to choose just one. At any rate, I was having another hard time and was ready to create a “4th Quarter Favourites List” when I read the final book in the Wayfarers Series by Becky Chambers (The Galaxy & the Ground Within). Nothing can possibly touch her way of writing heartfelt, exciting, beautiful, fully-formed aliens doing mundane things. I eagerly await anything else she writes. I am beyond blessed to be living in her time.

This book follows a random grouping of folks who become stranded at a rest stop. Their hosts are furry and eager to please, but all the travelers want to do is get on their way. Each Alien has their own backstory and baggage. They spend a few days together and become the bestest friends, despite their differences. There is a lot going on, and yet also not much at all. There are a lot of snacks. All five beings have to negotiate being very stuck in a small place together, and Becky Chambers keeps things moving perfectly. There are a lot of scary, boring, action-packed, eating, and heartwarming moments.

I grabbed a mystery bag of books at my local library with the theme of “food based mysteries” and oh my god. I was not prepared for the sub-genre of food crime. There were recipes, there was so much awful banter and cringe. But I somehow loved it, and I will probably seek out more titles when my brain needs a break from the stuff I usually dig into.

2021 Results and 2022 Goals

In the fall of 2021 I started to struggle with the way I had written my goals, compared to what I wanted to achieve. I called them “white supremacy” goals. I was ticking off boxes for diversity, and patting myself on the back for each POC or Indigenous author I read. I was using these folks as trophies in my bookcase and it felt awful, and gross. But I also really love reading books by “more diverse” authors, which I concluded meant “less white women, and even less white guys especially if they are old and straight.”

I am still doing work around this, and will probably struggle with how best to frame my goals in 2022 and beyond. And maybe that means I won’t have specific reading goals. Diversity doesn’t mean anything if you don’t back it up and change the system that makes things un-diverse in the first place. Yeah I’m pretty sure that isn’t a word.

Ignoring those goals I am having *feelings* about, I still found victories in 2021. Looking at my overall goal to read 70 books, I came in at 83. Every year I put “read one book of poetry” on the list, and my spreadsheet is showing me that I read zero. Well, dangit. At least I found eight books of essays or short stories this year, outstripping my goal by three. There were some high hopes in January of recording more videos where I talk about books. Thankfully, I did none of those. But I still enjoy these quartery roundups, and met my goal to do one per quarter. They are all linked at the bottom of this post if you want to get the full effect.

I read 61 books by women! I read 15 non-fiction books, which was a struggle for me for many years. I read a book that was translated into English and it was really weird! More of all that please.

I know I want to read more books overall in 2022, and I want to really expand the authors I reach for. Kind of related is the fact that I have been spending more time working inside the library lately and I love it. More of that is on the list for 2022 as well, which makes it a reading-adjacent goal I suppose. Lucas also seems more keen on going to the library so it pleases me to the dang moon that I will get to share this with him.

2022 is the year I really expand into my reading in a new way.

FURTHER READING

Here are the other three recap posts from 2021: 1st quarter, 2nd quarter, 3rd quarter.

Reflecting on Three Years of Sobriety

I call December 28 my “Soberversary”. Way back in 2018, I made a decision to stop drinking. I thought it would last a year or so, and then I would re-evaluate. But I very quickly realized that this was a forever thing for me.

Every year that goes by, I notice more things about my sobriety, and about alcohol in our culture. I have become hyper aware of the pervasiveness of alcohol in our society. And the normalization of the drinking requirement to socialize and to “fix” things in our lives. I personally don’t need alcohol to have fun or experience belonging. And I firmly believe that the opposite to addiction is connection, and that despite all the social drinking we partake in, we are continuing to lose our sense of belonging to each other and to our community.

I can say no and am confident when speaking up about my sobriety. But I need to learn better ways to have conversations that de-normalize drinking. Sobriety is part of who I am, it’s part of my purpose and my goals, so I often ask myself “is what I am doing or about to do getting me closer to my goals or helping me be the person I want to be?” With alcohol the answer was always “no.” How do I share that without preaching or shaming? I’m still working on that.

I have never identified myself as an “alcoholic” and now that I am more comfortable using person-first language, I probably never will. My experience taught me that you don’t have to identify as an “alcoholic” to want to quit drinking. Perhaps because of that, not everyone understands why I pursue sobriety.

While I miss gin, I don’t miss hangovers and lost time. Time, which it feels like I have so much more of now. Everyday I choose to not fuel my complicated relationship with alcohol. Most days it’s really easy for me, and I feel really lucky to know I made the right choice.

FURTHER READING

My Year (At Least) of Sobriety – Not Ladylike Blogspot

Celebrating One Year of Sobriety – Not Ladylike Blogspot