Saturday, November 28, 2009


It’s funny - - - The other evening I was filling my mind with thoughts that would hopefully, soon lead to another art assignment for the students who ride The Peacebus and then this idea popped into my head…

I figured that this poem would inspire others, so I’ve simply posted this image on my Facebook profile and – here – on my blog. I’ll be making some stickers from this image to hand out to the students who ride my bus, very soon! They’ll love them!!!

Sometimes the most inspiring thoughts are the ones that take the least amount of energy and effort to create.

I’m remembering a saying from one of my old high school teachers…


K eep
I t
S imple

Words to live by!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Birthday – Here’s A House!

We took possession of our new (old) home on November, Friday the 13th – a very lucky day, indeed! Two days later it was Joanne’s birthday – a day neither one of us will ever forget!!!

Actually, we may both soon forget what happened that day (and the whole entire weekend), cuz those days are now a bit of a blur. When I close my eyes to try to remember all I can see are boxes – lots and lots of boxes! We were both quite exhausted from the move.

We finished moving everything by about 6pm on the Sunday – Jo’s birthday – and then it was time for pizza and beer! Less than an hour later we were crawling into bed, completely exhausted. It seemed like I had been asleep for about two minutes before the alarm was waking me up for work the next morning.

It wasn’t until that afternoon – when I was home between runs with my school bus – that I got a chance to really take a look around our home and yard.

This is our Maple tree! As you can see – cuz I couldn’t get the entire tree in the photo – it is quite large. And beautiful!!!

The rest of the backyard, beyond this maple is also quite large. There are a few small flower gardens running alongside the edges of our property, but other than that our backyard is a ‘blank slate’ for me and my shovel. My mind has been on overdrive, designing all the flower and vegetable gardens that I want to build!

Looking the other way, towards the house, you can see that we have another nice spacious area for enjoying the outdoors. I’ll be leaving a little bit of the existing lawn in this area, as I imagine we’ll be using this area for bbq-ing and playing badminton. There is a nice roof extension coming off of the garage that will allow us to stay dry while we watch all the thunderstorms that frequent this area.

One of my favourite things about our house is found in our neighbour’s yard. A huge white pine tree.

Most of you know how the Temagami forestland first inspired me to become an artist. Well, a large portion of the trees that live in the Temagami region are white pine. While I was in this part of Northern Ontario – so many years ago – I had many experiences that positively changed my life. Since then, I’ve always felt deeply connected with the Earth when I can let my mind escape into the presence of a white pine’s spirit.

I saw my neighbour’s tree and I felt blessed.

And this is Koly enjoying the front of our house. As you can see, there is wheelbarrow and shovel in this picture, as well.

It didn’t take me very long to get started. The amazingly warm weather we’ve been experiencing this year also helped to motivate my first gardening initiative in our new home!

I figured that this garden would be a good one to start with – simply edging the walkway that leads to our house. After the top layer of grass had been removed, the soil turned over and the roots from nearby bushes trimmed back, my first 2’x 3’ garden patch was finished – LOL!!!

I always like to kinda ‘feel out’ a project before I get too involved. After I had learned a bit from the first small square I had dug up, I was ready to really get dirty.

After the outside edge of the new garden was determined I used my edging shovel to cut the lawn into small squares.

I took each square of lawn and banged it against the side of my shovel to remove as much of the soil as possible – leaving a small mass of just grass roots.

Then, I took the squares of grass roots and created a ring around the maple tree at the front of the house. Since the lawn closest to the tree is higher that the lawn just a foot away, I laid down the grass squares only in these lower areas. Later I will add some more soil and voila! A new raised flowerbed circling my maple tree.

I always like to find a use for everything when I’m doing any sort of gardening work. Someone else, doing this job, may have regarded these squares of grass roots as useless and simply put them into garbage bags for the dump. I’m figuring that the roots will decompose over the next while to add nutrients to my new gardens. They are also helping me raise flowerbeds so I don’t have to buy any soil to accomplish that task.

Gardening is a great way to get a full body yoga workout. First I’m standing up, balancing on one foot as I cut the grass – then I’m bent over, stretching my back as I cut the grass squares loose – then I’m squatting, balancing with my knees bent, stretching my leg muscles as I bang the soil off the grass squares – before I do it all again and again and again!!!

Still, like any workout… after about two and a half hours I do tend to get a bit tired.

I was rather pleased that I was able to get this much done in one day. I really had to push myself – at the end – to get the beginnings of my ‘S’ curve dug out.

I may not be planting anything in these beds – especially at this time of year – but I’ll be so happy (next spring) when many of my flowerbeds are ready to go!!!

Hmmmmmm! I was hoping that writing this story would take a little longer, but I see that I’ve reached the end. Now, with three more hours of sunlight left in my afternoon, I guess I’ll have to go outside and continue with this garden. I was kinda hopin’ for a bit of a break… I think I hurt something, yesterday!!!!

Laughing Out Loud


Monday, November 23, 2009

Cat In A Box

The last two months have been very busy for Joanne and me. Every spare moment – outside of work – was filled with looking for our first home! And I mean every spare moment. During this period I couldn’t even find time to pick up a paintbrush.

Our real estate agent was recommended to us by some friends and we made Bud work very hard!!! After we had found our new (old) home Bud told us that our experience with him was one of his most satisfying… we had been through a lot.

We went to view a few houses that had been advertised as ‘needing a little love’ only to find that the kitchen ceiling was on the floor, or the staircase leading to the basement was a hole in the floor. We learned quickly to skip over these kinds of ads.

One evening we went to see a house that was in a good location and the yard seemed to be a nice size, but it had a shared driveway. Joanne thought that the house was nice enough – possibly good enough to warrant a second closer look in the future, so we continued out to the back to see the yard. Then we heard the voice. “Hey! What are you doing back there?” We looked up to see the next door neighbour coming outside waving his pointed finger at us. Bud replied, “We’re here looking at this house that is for sale.” “Well, you’d better move your car… it’s on my driveway!” Bud queried, “We were told that this was a shared driveway for both homes to use.” “Well the ad is wrong. It’s my driveway… but I let the neighbours use it.” Joanne tugged at my jacket and whispered, “I’ve seen more than enough!!!”

After two months we had found our perfect home. We had one more month to wait until it was time to move in. Joanne kept very busy bringing home empty boxes from work and she slowly packed up all of our things. The cats were a great help…

They inspected every box that was brought home, very thoroughly. First they would sniff around the outside of the box and once that had met with approval, they would jump inside to continue with their inspection.

Joanne also brought home some packing paper for our glasses and mugs. The cats loved this.

Elly would hide in the paper while Guido pretended to be a great hunter.

Most times a box would need just one inspection.

Occasionally, however, situations would arise that would make Guido want to give the box a second opinion!

Higher and higher the mountain of boxes rose. I’m sure that the cats felt like great mountaineers as they climbed to the top looking for their beds!

The cats also helped us by inspecting the drawers that we were in the process of emptying. They wanted to make sure that we got everything packed properly!

Near the end there were no more empty boxes left for the cats to inspect, so they spent their time making sure that our piles of boxes were piled in sturdy structures.

Of course, at the end of the day the cats would be tired from all of their inspecting so then it was time to stretch out and relax.

It has been a very busy and exciting time for my family. Yes, we have moved many times in the past, but this new move was to a place or permanence – a place where we could truly say “home”. The reality of this situation started to really sink in when I came home from work to find that my artroom had been reduced to two shelves filled with my peace Stik-ers, a dictionary, a few paintbrushes and a box with something in it!

So… we were packed! Now we just had to wait another day or so until it was time to move…


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Making Me Laugh With Unexpected Insight

I started my week, yesterday, in a great mood. A few blocks away from the elementary school I asked the students on my bus if they wanted to play a game with the winners receiving my (now London, Ontario famous) peace Stik-ers. Of course, they said yes!!!

The game was simple… all they had to do was tell me what it was that I did during the weekend that just passed. If they knew the answer they would raise their hand and I would call on a student to answer – this keeps all the shouting and screaming out loud to a minimum.

“Okay, J.P. What did I do this weekend?”

“Did you paint a new picture?”

“No, I did not paint a new picture… Laura, what do you think I did this weekend?”

“Did you play your guitar and write a new song?”

And this was how it went on. I was really surprised with their answers as they were all things that I could have done and usually do. They have gotten to know me very well!!!

“Did you add more of our artwork to the bus?”
“Did you go to the movies?”
“Did you go to the circus?”
“Did you do something peaceful?”

I think I might have swerved the bus a little cuz I was laughing so hard when one girl at the back of the bus yelled out, “Did you save the Amazon Rainforest by NOT eating at McDonalds?”

“Well… I guess that is correct that I did save the Rainforest by not eating at McDonalds… but that’s not really what I DID did?”

So… where did that statement come from???

There might have been an after-hours school activity happening (not sure) on one of the days, last week, cuz there were very few students on my bus. This meant that I proceeded through my route with a greater speed. Near the end of my route I found that I was almost five minutes earlier than normal and this meant that the parents of the remaining students had not yet arrived at the bus stop. I pulled the bus over and I wondered how I could use this time wisely. I asked the students if they would like to know of one very easy way that they could help protect the planet. Of course, they said yes!!!

I then shared with them a little bit of information that I knew about the McDonalds Corporation.

Now… back to my present story. After I had finished laughing at this great and inspirational answer I thought that I would use this opportunity to educate the rest of the students on my bus – who weren’t there for the discussion last week.

“Now – Mikayla… I’m sorry but you have me really confused! Are you telling me that if I DON’T eat at McDonalds that I will be saving the Amazon Rainforest?”

“Yes, Mr. Jim!”

“Okay… but I don’t understand the reason. Can you tell me why the Rainforest is being destroyed if I go to the McDonalds in the Masonville Mall? After all the Rainforest is just a bunch of trees that grow all the way in a different part of the world and McDonalds burgers are made of cows. I just don’t get it… trees – cows… how are they connected?”

“Well, Mr. Jim… McDonalds needs to feed the cows that they use to make hamburgers. So what they do is they chop down the Rainforest and clear away all the trees and then they grow grains and things that they feed to the cows.”

“Really!!! Are you telling me that McDonalds is paying companies to chop down trees in the Rainforest, then they grow grains to feed the cows that they then grind up to make burgers before they send this meat all over the planet???”


“But… that doesn’t seem like a bad thing, does it?”

“Oh, Mr. Jim, it’s much worse than that!”

“Really! What do you mean?”

“Well… because all the trees are now gone, there is nothing left to collect and soak up all the rain that falls in the Amazon. The trees used to soak up all the rain and now the farmer’s fields are being flooded and the soil washes away. When all the soil is gone the land becomes a desert!”

“A desert! In the middle of a tropical rainforest! That doesn’t seem right.”

“Yeah – so if we all stop eating at McDonalds they won’t have to chop down anymore trees and that will save the world!”

I almost felt a tear of joy in my eye. Who would have thunk it!!!! A busdriver creating a network of youths that will share this information with each other to stop eating at fast food restaurants… maybe my post-industrial dream will come true.

This is what the world needs now – a generation of future leaders receiving the proper education, inspiration and encouragement to realize that they can create actions to make this world a better place. This world belongs to them and it’s time that they started acting like it!

By this time I had pulled into the school parking lot. One of the students asked, “Well, Mr. Jim… what did you do this weekend?”

“Oh yeah!!! I forgot how this all started. Well, this weekend my wife and I moved into our very first house and to celebrate I’m going to give each of you one of my peace Stik-ers as you get off the bus…”

Hmmm…. new house! I’ll bet there’s a few stories to be told about that…


Wednesday, November 11, 2009

K’s For Carol

At first one might think that I made a mistake with the title of this blog entry – ‘Maybe Jim means C’s For Carol’ – but that’s not the case. The K’s represents kilometers and Carol is the name of the person that many people walked for, just a few weeks ago.

When I first mentioned that I would be participating in a walk to raise funds for the Canadian Cancer Society for the company that I work for, I told how this walk was inspired because another employee – Carol – had died from this disease. Oops! I was wrong. I became aware of my mistake when we arrived in Lucan, the starting point for our 22.7 km walk.

There were a few organizers and police officers gathering around the back of the official ‘K’s For Carol’ bus for a photo when I heard someone say, “There’s Carol, now.” I felt a little awkward for having made my mistake, but that feeling soon faded as I realized that I was more than happy to be wrong.

The first twenty minutes were spent waiting for everyone to arrive. There were a number of newspaper reporters interviewing people and taking photos. Three or four police cars had arrived to be our escorts to ensure our safety as we walked along the country roads back to Arva where a hot chili lunch was waiting for us.

Soon enough, the walk began.

It was a beautiful autumn day, with the sun shining and a crisp chill to the air. Many walkers were wearing their jackets and coats but once we started moving these items were quickly removed.

For a few weeks before the walk, I was busy collecting money from a few friends and neighbours. I also asked the high school students that ride my bus for donations. I was really surprised when one on my students asked if he could join me and the other walkers. Of course, I said yes!

This is a photo of Matt – the high school student who rides my bus -, Fran – the bus driver who trained me last spring – and me – the guy who wore the wrong shoes for such a long walk!!!!

It was a great day for a walk. Our route took us along several paved country roads that ran parallel with the major highways. We stayed off of the main roads for safety reasons and I’m glad that we did. There was less automobile traffic and the scenes of orchards, fields and distant forested lots were more pleasing to look at.

I’ve always enjoyed walking. Joanne and I take Koly for walks almost every evening. A little over a decade ago I organized a walk that took me across a huge portion of Southern Ontario. After I had graduated from college, in Toronto, I traveled to the mountains of British Columbia where I spent the entire summer walking along hiking trails.

I had some problems with this walk, though. Just one hour into the walk I started to feel a bit of pain in the middle of the bottom of my right foot. I had been wearing my regular work shoes and I guess I had misjudged their efficiency for such a long walk. About half an hour later I knew that I had at least one giant blister on the bottom of my foot.

I started to walk a bit more on the side of my right foot, to take some of the pressure off. I think that this made things worse. I had taken the pressure off of my foot but I had added more pressure to my hip joints as a result.

I took this picture about 2 ½ hours into the walk. You can see that I’m really trying hard to smile, but the aches and pains I was feeling were starting to take their toll.

I didn’t take any more photos after this. My priorities were changing from taking pictures to surviving this walk. I found that I wasn’t even taking in the scenery any more. My eyes were focussing hard on the road ahead and all I could think of was, “Don’t stop walking, don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop!”

After I had passed the last check-point I knew that I couldn’t go on the way I had been. My feet were screaming in pain. With less than 3 kms to go I decided to take off my shoes and finish the walk in my socked feet. My feet did feel better – having been loosed from their confines – but my legs had been worn down quite a bit. I was determined to persevere so instead of hobbling my way to the end I decided to pick up the pace – I started a slow jog. I started to pass by a few other people and everyone was laughing as I stumbled by with my shoes in hand and not on foot. This laughter gave me strength. I picked up the pace.

I found that the aches and pains began to disappear as I got my body moving in a more elastic and stretched out way. The finish line was getting closer and closer and this encouraged me more. I picked up the pace again and found myself in a slow run, zooming past many of the other walkers.

Then it was over. I had done it! I had walked 22.7 kilometers in one unbroken motion and now I could rest. After all the walkers had gathered together we all enjoyed a hot chili lunch with lots of yummy sweets for desert. A few speeches were shared to thank all of those involved and lots of laugher filled the air when I suggested that next year’s walk should be sponsored by Footlocker!

The next few days at work were filled with lots of joking around as we shared stories about what was aching in our bodies and how many blisters we had received.

I was really happy to have participated in this worthy event and the tales of my woes just bring a smile to my face. I guess it makes for a more interesting story. I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my adventure and that you may be inspired to try something new to help others in your own community. Just remember – wear the proper shoes!!!


Saturday, November 7, 2009

‘OUI’ Can Change The World

I finished my last blog story talking about a T-shirt that I had given out as a special prize at a library talent show for London youths. I think I should have told the story about the creation of this T-shirt beforehand…but since that time has passed, I’ll share the story now!

I have a lot of fun with the elementary school students who ride The Peacebus! We sing songs together, the students are always creating ‘peace’ art for the bus and I create special days on the bus, as well. For the last two months, every Friday on The Peacebus has been “T-shirt Day”.

I told the students that art is not just to be hung on our walls, it can be used for many different purposes. Since art is a way of sharing ideas and inspiration with the world we can wear T-shirts that tell the world about things that we think are important. Fridays were the days when the students were asked to wear T-shirts that had positive messages to share. I told them that they could wear T-shirts that had images of hearts, flowers, trees or animals to show that they think Nature and Love are important to them. Some students told me that they didn’t have anything like that to wear. I thought for a moment and then suggested that they could wear plain coloured T-shirts as well – blue T-shirts represented the Earth’s skies and oceans and green T-shirts represented the land of the Earth.

On these Fridays, as the students were getting off the bus, once we arrived at the school, they would show me the art on their T-shirt and I would give them one of my Peace Stik-ers! The first time I did this I handed out about ten Stik-ers. The next week and every week since then, I’ve been handing out about thirty Stik-ers as almost every student has been inspired to participate!

This went on for a few weeks and then I had an idea to create some very special peace T-shirts for the students. I could only afford to pay for a small amount of T-shirts to be made so I decided that I would create an art contest and the winners would be awarded the T-shirts.

Since these students attend a French school I came up with a funny caption that became the focus for the contest and the T-shirt design: “OUI” Can Change The World. I thought that this was a rather clever idea… if you say this outloud it sounds like ‘we can change the world’, if you translate it into English is says ‘Yes’ can change the world – which is a positive affirmation!

The students had two weeks to create their artwork for this competition and the very next day their creations starting rolling in!

Because I could only afford to give out a few T-shirts as prizes I came up with another simple (and cheaper) idea that would allow me to give each student who participated in this contest a special prize. I created a new sticker design. I was able to fit nine sticker images onto a standard size sheet of sticker paper and each page that I printed cost under 70 cents, making this affordable. The T-shirts, however, were costing me about $12.00 a shirt.

I was really excited to see the T-shirts, once they had been made. Joanne came home from work and saw me with my silly grin as I held out a T-shirt to show her. She laughed and said, “No wonder you’re always poor… every time you sell a painting you spend all your money making things for your students!” It’s true. I had recently sold a commissioned painting and now almost all of that money had been spent. I did set aside a few dollars and that evening Jo’ and I went out to enjoy one of those rare evenings out on the town where I shared with her the next peace art idea that was brewing in the back of my mind… but that’s another story!