When you look back on the grand scheme of things, of all the places you’ve gone and tasks you’ve accomplished, it can often be really difficult to pinpoint exact moments that have impacted or changed you in some way. Barring the big ones like meeting your partner, getting married, having your first, second or third child – can you think of smaller moments that have truly changed your life?

On a recent backpacking trip to Catalina Island with Scott, while essentially stranded on a remote beach with absolutely nothing to do, technology to entertain us, or external stimulation to consume ourselves, we spent a lot of time talking. Now, if you know Scott, you’ll know he’s not the most deeply emotional person – he spends his days operating in 0s and 1s and building “cool technology stuff.” He’s deeply analytical, and so it’s rare for him to open up about something emotional or self-reflective.

As we were sitting on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, we got to talking about the things we’ve done together and our passions. I think the conversation started about how I half-forced him into scuba diving (it was one of the things I was absolutely determined to do in my life) and how it’s one of our most favourite things to do in the world. We got to talking about our advanced certification process and how as part of our requirements we had to do a “diver appreciation course” – basically, we had to go find a square foot section of coral and just sit and watch it for 30 minutes straight. At the time, it sounded like one of the most boring things possible – most people want to see sharks or turtles or clown fish….so we weren’t really stoked for it. As Scott and I were sitting and talking about this, Scott blurts out “you know, that dive actually changed my life. I always thought scuba diving, and life really, was about covering as much ground as you could and seeing as many big ticket items as possible; but that experience taught me that often there is so much more value in slowing down, stopping even, and taking the time to appreciate the small things.” And while up to this moment we had never talked about it, I got chills and said “ME TOO!”

Sitting and watching a piece of coral for 30 minutes was truly one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. When you first stop at a piece of coral, it looks pretty bland. Not much is going on. But when you hunker down and let the environment get used to your presence, things start to shift – flora starts to open, small creatures start to come out of the cracks and magical things happen. On that one piece of coral, we saw some of the tiniest and most interesting creatures we have ever seen diving – minute fish, little crabs, oysters opening a bit further to show glimpses of their pearls inside….truly beautiful and amazing things.

That experience was a life-changing moment to the old adage “take the time to stop and smell the roses.” Take a rest from the race, from trying to see all the big sights and highlights and take a moment to slow down and let your surroundings open up to you – and you’ll probably be amazed at what you find.

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One interesting thing about being a Canadian in America is that pretty much as soon as someone finds out you are Canadian, they want to talk to you about it.

After asking you to say “about” over and over again – the first things people want to talk about are either healthcare, or the economy, and how Canada has fared so well with both.

I am going to start posting these conversations on my blog, because I find them so utterly hilarious. While I love living in America and the opportunities this country is affording me here, I struggle sometimes with the value and belief system of many Americans. Yes, I meet many many intelligent and amazing Americans every day, but this is usually in my professional context, or somehow related to it – the minute I am dealing with the general public, things start to “get real.”

My most recent such interaction was with my dental hygienist. While the dentist smartly asked me about hockey (nice neutral topic) when he found out I was Canadian, the hygienist started off on this hilarious monologue that actually ended up being somewhat tortuous (keep in mind, I’ve got stuff in my mouth and can really only mutter and grunt back at her): “Oh, you are from Canada? You guys have fared so much better through the recession than us. Why do you think that is? (pause – I grunt) I met this Canadian couple when I was traveling Italy last summer and I was talking to them about this, and they said it’s because the government raised taxes when things started to take a downward turn. (pause – I grunt) You guys really seem to know what you are doing up there. This couple that I met – they really had their lives together. Highly educated, newly married, around 30 and DEBT-FREE, my goodness, imagine that – it’s so RARE. (I’m thinking, not really lady, most of my friends sound just like this couple, they’re actually probably people I know….)

At this point she removes all of my apparati from my mouth so I can say something, so I chime in: “Yes, having a sustainable tax rate is very important, and so is lowering the interest rate to stimulate the economy. You know, I really don’t understand how so many states can get away being completely tax free here in the US. I mean, how do they pay for their infrastructure?”

She puts all the stuff back into my mouth and goes back to work and onto another monologue: “Well, those states have no people living in them. Vermont has like, 6 people. So they don’t need to pay for infrastructure or any type of social support. They don’t even need roads in those states! That’s how they do it. (pause – I grunt in horror) You know, I really wish I lived in one of those tax free states, I think I should move to one…I am just being taken to the cleaners here in California. And for what. For nothing! And there’s so many people here – it’s so crowded! I’m paying taxes to support all the people in this state who can’t get it together!”

At that point, the conversation got so ridiculous that I tried to close my eyes to get her to stop because my little heart was beating so fast. Was this woman serious? She completely identified the problem in her first statement, and when I thought we were on the same page…WHAM. Some weird belief system about taxes and what they go towards comes out! She then proceeded to tell me how the tax-free states are importing Mongolians and that she doesn’t even need to go to Mongolia, she can just go to Wisconsin to eat Mongolian food and experience that culture, and how this country is going downhill due to loose immigration policies and is just becoming one big cultural mess and tax catastrophe because you need to pay to socially support these newly immigrated populations…..

This woman’s essential monologue provided so much insight into what I often see with the value system of many individuals I have random conversations with: hardcore capitalism is so deeply ingrained in this society. I hear it over and over again “I work hard for my money, every penny should be mine to spend as I see fit – not to support my environment and the infrastructure that surrounds me.”

Ok, I get it….who needs roads, right? Or schools? Or policemen?….I know I plan on being so rich that I will live in my own compound, teach my children myself and hire my own bodyguards to protect me. But not until I’m much older than 30 and dig myself out of all this debt that every newly married young person has….

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Today was this unusually windy and gusty day. When you live in a place where the weather is a pretty constant, temperate, “mild and sunny” twenty degrees year-round, you really take notice of things like this. On my way home on my bike this evening, I decided to take the scenic route down by the beach. I was literally taken away by the beauty tonight – the tempestuous wind had created the most beautiful rivets in the sand and the slightest marine layer had wandered it’s way inland, creating this eerie and ethereal haze, through which the sun was setting.