the simply stephen story

Childhood – Born and raised in ’68 from Toronto, Canada simply stephen was adopted as an infant. His father a now retired dentist was also raised by a dentist – his grandfather from several generations of farmers in the province of Ontario, just north west of the city of Toronto. Pioneers that arrived in the 1830’s from south west England.

His mother worked at Women’s College Hospital where she also played an active role on the volunteer board for over 40 years. Born in England at the start of world war II, she went to travel the world in the late 50’s, her first stop Canada. She met his father, and never did finish her trip around the world.

One sister, also adopted, is a strong leader in the Toronto District School Board working as one of the superintendents, currently in charge of literacy for over 300,000 in the Toronto community.

A rare photo of simply stephen in a suit

A rare photo of simply stephen in a suit

It is fair to say that simply stephen did not have a normal childhood. Somehow, he knew something was different about him.

Though we all have unique attributes there was something more, an intuition, a view that the world could be changed. Ask questions, make changes, that is the simply stephen attitude. Many answers, not always the one wanted often got him into trouble.

Sensitive, introverted and compassionate he still learned to speak out, ironically, the title of his first guitar composition.

His parents encouraged creative and physical pursuits: piano lessons, arts & crafts, hockey, swimming, skating and all the regular activities. Unlike many children of that time, he remembers listening to a tiny Zenith Radio under his pillow at night, waiting to hear the next song (or listen to the hockey game). This was unusual for children in that era, most kids didn’t get into popular music until they were teenagers.

His parents promoted reading and he fondly remembers going to the library to seek out the next great book – an adventure for the next few days. He poured through these books as quickly as a child eats candy and looked forward to the next visit to replenish the cookie jar. Interests varied but often led to escape stories (perhaps to this day still promoting a need to escape and change things), nature and adventure.

5 years at private school didn’t suit him, the atmosphere – pretentious and cruel. He escaped the private school trap for most of high school and learned the value of independence and choice. A few influences changed his perspective on life and still play an active role.

Bike riding, snow forts, lego, rock collecting and cooking in the kitchen with mom also played a part in building simply stephen. Activities tended to be solitary, an introverted and rare Meyers Briggs INFJ character type, introverted, yet outspoken.

As a child most of the summer was spent at a cottage on Georgian Bay, a few hours north of Toronto. It was here he learned to swim well, water ski, drive a boat and many other activities. His father taught him cribbage a game he still plays today, along with euchre.

A lot of reading at the cottage but his favourite pastime – catching frogs. He learned to appreciate nature and what it offers us. The air at the cottage was clean, the pace was slow, the food was great, the weather was beautiful, the water was pure and the nature was splendid. Those frogs are still dear to his heart and now they are endangered, the environment and slow adaptability of amphibians (along with a quick moving virus) has jeopardized their existence.

There are things we can discover on the simply stephen network that will help conserve and protect.

splendour of travel & grandeur of nature

It wasn’t only at the cottage that he learned to appreciate nature and Canada – 4 years at Camp Ponaka learning pottery, soapstone carving and lapidary (rock cutting and jewelery making). Driving trips, oh, the driving trips, a pleasure to this day. Weekends at Point Pelee National Park, The Wye Marsh, Beausoleil Island and Algonquin Park captured wildlife – birds, mammals, trees and plants and landscapes.

Memories. Trips through many states to California imprinted the majesty of the giant sequoia.  Western Canada – Britsh Columbia, sea anemone’s at Vancouver Island’s Pacific Rim National Park; deer, elk, moose, bears and scenery in Banff, Jasper, Revelstoke, Glacier National Park and Radium Hot Springs. The Drumheller dinosaurs and vast Prairies. The great Superior Shore in Northern Ontario. A french exchange to Quebec. Lobster in Prince Edward Island and the vast red beaches of Sandbanks National Park. Puffins and mating terns on Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick.

Europe – trips to England to see family, castles and history. Our grandparents had retired to Malaga in the Costa Del Sol in Spain so we visited many times…beautiful people, wonderful food and spectacular sights the mountains, fields and buildings seem to blend as one with the landscape and inhabitants.

early career & influences

At 18 it was time to discover the world and simply stephen, naturalized as British, decided Europe was an option for half a year. The time proved to be one of discovery and the addition of a friend that has stood the test of time, an Australian writer and singer. To this day, though distance limits visits, James was inspirational. He spent years helping the people of East Timor gain freedom from oppression through activism and writing two books. We could learn something from this…we could be next. These time were great eye openers and immersions to different cultures.

Returning to Canada, it was time to figure things out, though simply stephen was always aware that creating an impact on the world was his calling. He attended Centennial College for Business Administration and though it took 6 years (on and off) completed with High Honours and even took a second program in Marketing Communications.

In between he had the good fortune of working as the Document Manager for GE Capital Fleet Services in 1989 at the early stages of the home computer where he first started clocking hours on them. At GE he developed many unique projects that converted customer files and reduced physical storage capacity. He was also highly involved in GE’s Qualitivity Process – quality and productivity and the Workout Process that taught employees to look for the most efficient way to do things – cutting out the fat. Self directed work teams with only three levels – workers, managers and executive enforced his views on a self directed workforce, instead of bureaucratic levels and classes.

His own business operating coffee and vending machines was a success in it’s own right but he returned to the animal industry where he had worked as a teenager in a pet store. For most of the nineties he worked in various aspects of this industry as a store director but again found self-employed autonomy the most enjoyable as a dog obedience trainer, pet walker and pet sitter.

shaping of simply stephen

While on a trip to the Dominican Republic in 1994,  he met his now ex-wife and returned to England for a short while to get married! He moved back to Canada and tested out the waters in Vancouver. Returning to Toronto to have a child, Sylvie, the true love of his life who arrived in March of 1997. Homesick and lonely, his wife wanted to return to her family in England, so onward to Colchester, Essex just outside of London.

An amazing thing happened in between all this. In 1994 while getting ready to move to England he got a letter from the adoption registry saying that a birth relative had been found and wanted to contact me. After a few letters and a lot of emotional outburst, he met his birth sister, Michelle, on boxing day of 1994 and her two lovely children, Scott and Samantha.

We later discovered that our mother had named me Michael to match the name Michelle and that my sister’s adoptive family had been offered a baby boy but many years before (me, so I could be kept with my sister). Needless to say my reunion was tearful and one of the most surreal and exciting experiences in my life. The following summer, we both met our birth mother and two other siblings, Nathan and Tamara. We all keep in touch and have great relationships.

In 1998 an interest in the growing technology field precipitated a change. an avenue for his marketing and writing skills to research and develop computer markets for Info’Products and also Sustainable Technologies a British company specializing in recycling and re-marketing computer equipment and components. It was at Sustainable Technologies that an enforced view on the environment and sustainable practices was re-established. Consumption has overtaken the resources available. A book in the early nineties called, 2 minutes a Day for a Greener Planet, still sits on his shelf along with another favourite Walden by Thoreau.

Returning to Toronto in 2000 after a difficult divorce. simply stephen decided to build his writing and web skills and assisted in the process of creating content for the University of Toronto, Department of Medicine website. He also created content and helped maintain Strategic Networks Group website. A couple years of technical support and writing at Maclaren McCann rounded off this contractual work.

a reflection of life, farley in reflection

a reflection of life, farley in reflection

But something was missing. There had to be more…Why are we doing all this? What good is the world if my daughter can’t enjoy the same things I did as a child? It was here that the idea of simply stephen was born – a culmination of everything that represents him, each skill, pleasure and everything he believes in. The workforce isolates and lays off workers, mergers and shutdowns saw to that and it wears you out. We work our jobs, Monday to Friday, day in day out. Some of us never get out of the trap and learn to recognize that there is more to life. But simply stephen has his own ideas and solutions, many of them will start to unfold on this website.

In 2002 I met the other love of my life, Linda Hanchar, who taught me to look at the world from a different angle. A singer and high level musician, originally from Northern Ontario she brings small town Ontario and big city together. She spreads joy and maintains a positive attitude with a “can do” approach.  In 2003 she recorded If only I Could, written by her long time friend Vezi Tayeeb, owner of Kensington Sound Recording Studio. The song captures the essence of the world and still brings tears to my eyes. Linda is perhaps the single greatest influence in my life, a beautiful person with a full heart. My ability to adapt in a relationship has been a learning curve.

The road has been long and hard but learning to enjoy each minute of each day and take life one step at a time is a valuable tool. There’s no hurry. Do what you want and don’t do what you don’t want.. We shouldn’t live in the shadow of others but should follow our own path and destiny.

other influences

Other friends have inspired me. One, a very conservative top level executive works with the Bay Street Crowd in Toronto and during lunch (years ago now) one day was asked for money. Instead of getting upset he told the guy to join him at a food vendor. He continued this every week with others.  Some friend embrace the non conformist environmental approach. Others have struggled with finances yet kept their homes and families together and always had an open door.

A childhood friend, who now lives in Korea, protected and contributed to my life in ways you can’t imagine – when bullied as a child, he was always there to bail me out, when I needed someone to talk to he just seemed to understand and had a story to make it all better – and these things have made all the difference.

Perhaps the most inspiring – several years ago a friend needed a kidney transplant and finally a donor was found. When I am struggling or think I have something to complain about, I realize how fortunate I am.

transition to today

About three years ago, simply stephen thought the bottom had dropped out. He needed to get away from the rat race and decided to retire from a traditional way of life (though he’s always lead a road less traveled).  Moving out of town to Kingston, Ontario for some r & r, he hoped to avoid a complete breakdown…but it was too late. Life had taken it’s toll. Instead he returned to his parents and took a web design course to complement already active writing and computer skills.

Life is about making changes, as Ghandi said “be the change you want to see” and a popular Canadian Rock Band of the 70’s made it even clearer with the words “if you don’t like what you’ve got, why don’t you change it”! We all have the ability and responsibility to change the world. The simply stephen path was to use his life experiences to help others gain a more fruitful life…and discover greener, cleaner solutions every day.

Some time balancing physical and mental work has helped shape a new approach to living. The summer of 2007 was spent painting (green friendly) with a master painter and close friend in the Yukon. What a summer, the drive out there was life changing. Best man at a wedding in Lethbridge, Alberta on the return trip and a 6500km drive each way with stories that inspire, including the moosehap (being driven off the road by a moose) and ride home with a fellow that leaves a zero imprint on the world and is experimenting with a year of living a life free of all modern age amenities…nothing.

Though simply stephen is trying to integrate changes it is necessary to share them with the world. There are projects…some offer affordable living solutions, others offer ways to green your life, get out of the rat race, save the planet or learn to make the world a little better. So share the information, ideas, insights and vision inspire others. If you have read this far, then you want to make a difference hopefully, simply stephen will help you along the way. The saga continues…

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