Sabbatical Project #4: Start a blog

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Welcome!

As you can see, I’ve been posting things here for a little while.

My main motivation for starting this blog is to give myself a deadline to write on a regular basis. I intend to post something (anything!) at least twice a week.

Will anyone read along? Who knows. This space for writing is – like everything else this year – an experiment.

A few things I plan to include in this space:

  • Updates about my sabbatical
  • Writing about my current and past travels (coming soon!)
  • “Research notes” about interesting tidbits I find while researching Alberta’s history and my own family’s history for a writing project I am planning to work on later this year
  • New poems and other short pieces of creative writing
  • Thoughts about creativity and the writing process
  • Notes about books I’m reading

If you’re reading this, please say hi in the comments. All kind and thoughtful comments are welcome.

Sabbatical Project #2: Get Back Into the Pottery Studio

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first pots in over a year

In April, I went back to the pottery studio after more than a year away.

Before, when I was working, going to the studio was about doing something with my hands. About the pleasure of taking my frustrations out on an unsuspecting lump of clay and feeling a bit better at the end of the evening.

I was happy to make the same bowl over and over and to glaze those bowls with a few favourite glaze combinations. I learnt a lot about technique making those bowls, discovering exactly how thin the sides could be and how little clay I could leave at the bottom before a piece collapsed in on itself.

I was always late for my Thursday evening class – but I made it, and that was an accomplishment by itself. At some point, during the busiest part of managing the library expansion project, I decided I didn’t have time for pottery any more.

Now, I have more time and I’m on time: I get the full three hours of studio time. I find myself thinking about new techniques and designs to try next all week. I discovered Pinterest and am busy pinning pieces that inspire me. I’m not throwing many bowls these days – instead I’m trying to create my version of this creamer with a matching sugar bowl and playing with vases with cutout designs.

Not all of my experiments turn out well; in fact, my bowls were probably more appealing. But for the first time I am thinking about design and balance and composition and “what if” and “how about…”

For the first time, pottery is about more than just technique.

Suddenly, I am a beginner all over again.

And I’m having fun.

A few of my favourite finished pots:

pots1

pots2

pots3

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Note: this post is part of a series about my adventures during a year long, self-funded sabbatical. For more, click here.

Sabbatical Project #1: Meet my nephew

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With Simon

This is my nephew Simon. He is incredibly adorable. I am incredibly biased.

Why am I writing about him?

A big part of my sabbatical is about resetting my priorities, and after several years of focusing on my career the desire to reconnect with family and friends tops the list. A week after my last day of work, I drove through one of those April snowstorms that only Alberta can produce to catch a flight to Ohio, to visit Simon and his parents.

The week-long visit reminded me – as I spent lots of time snuggling with the little guy – that I am in charge of my own priorities. I get to set them, and then it is up to me to act on them. When Simon was born in January, I was disappointed that I couldn’t visit right away. Thinking about it now, I realize that I could have managed a quick trip… except for the fact that I allowed someone else’s priorities to come first.

During the coming year, I will be exploring these questions:

What are my personal priorities? My core values?

How can I act on those priorities and values right now?

What strategies will I use to maintain a balance between work and my personal priorities and values when I return to my career a year from now?

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Note: this post is part of a series about my adventures during a year long, self-funded sabbatical. For more, click here.

Sabbatical FAQ #1: So what are you doing?

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For the past eight years, I worked as the Director of the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library. The largest project I managed was the design and construction of a 6,000 square foot expansion and renovation to the facility – a project that modernized the library and brought its space to 17,000 square feet.

I am incredibly proud of the new space, which will ensure that the public library will continue to meet the needs of a city that has grown from a population of 14,000 to more than 22,000 since 2006.

FSPL children's area 2013
My favourite corner of the new library, in the children’s area.


In January, community members came together to celebrate the grand opening of the new Library.

In February, I did something that surprised many people: I tendered my resignation.

Not because I was moving on to a better job. Or because of some problem.

I quit my job to do something not many people seem to do: take time for myself.

My last day was April 7, 2014, and since then, I’ve noticed that people don’t know what to think about what I’m doing. They don’t understand how I could quit “such a good job” and be – let’s call it what it is – unemployed.

Although I prefer to think of my current state of being as “blissfully unemployed,” I have no guarantee of a job when I’m ready to go back to work.

I get asked, “So what are you doing?” [insert puzzled expression] a lot.

There isn’t a short answer to this question. Right now, I am enjoying having time off. The word “sabbatical” seems to fit, even though my sabbatical isn’t structured in the same way most sabbaticals are.

I have lots of things I want to do during the coming year – including writing and travelling – and I intend to use this space to write about some of my adventures as they happen.

In the meantime, I would like to share Stefan Sagmeister’s TED talk that inspired me when I was thinking about how to create my own sabbatical: