Playing the role of “Classroom Volunteer” (on his day off) in tomorrow’s performance of “Grade Two” will be… this guy.
I helped out at the Societe France Edmonton cooking and prepping crepes at the Heritage Festival just a couple weeks ago.
The Edmonton Fringe Festival starts in two days, and for the second year in a row I’m not involved. After nearly a decade of volunteering, and my Augusts revolving around volunteer coordination, performances, street acts, greasy food, long August evenings on site, and thousands upon thousands of photographs I bowed out to pursue other things at the end of the 2012 show. That was two years ago. A little piece of me misses it, but not enough yet to yearn to jump back in or fight for a spot back on the team. In the years since I realize that when I volunteer I’d rather be a grunt than a manager: leave that coordination and “leadership” to the young-uppers who need the experience for their resumes. But hopefully I’ll at least get to a show or two while it’s on.
It’s been the perfect week for an awesome new hat. The weather has either been pounding rain or burning sun, with temperatures in the low 30C range. On Saturday, we drove out to a little lake in North-Eastern Alberta called Lac Santé where we spent the day faux camping in the undeveloped lake lot of a relative of a friend of a relative. Three degrees of separation gets you something I guess. Tilley got a bit of light drizzle in the early afternoon and then enjoyed some scattered cloudiness for the rest of the day while I did some photography. Yesterday, however, the true test of hot-weather-awesomeness rolled in as we were down in the park, helping the local France Society set up for the upcoming Heritage Festival, by pitching tents, building wooden walls, assembling a temporary kitchen, and trying to stay cool in the late afternoon heat. The rim actually got pretty stiff from the extra sweat by kept cool and some quasi-cowboy styling likely made up for the sweaty-doesn’t-speak-french random-dudeness of my presence in the francophone crepe tent.
Distance Logged: about 500km.
Had a great time last night helping the Societe France Edmonton set up the crepe making tent at the Heritage Festival. My French may still be pretty weak, but I can unload a truck and pitch a tent pretty well.
What posts in June? Oh, thooooose thirty posts in June… again. It seems that for the fourth year in a row I’ve climbed aboard the daily blogging train and continued that monumental, multi-year writing effort to string a topic or idea across the vast reaches of years. Each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be:
June 20th // Something You Are Feeling
I spent about four hours in the middle of today volunteering on a school field trip with Claire’s class. And I feel like I’ve run a half marathon.
Sandwiched between a pair of jostling, bone-jarring yellow bus rides (where a kid actually threw up within five minutes of leaving the school) we filled a few hours in the sun of a nearby spray park with a hot dog lunch and the chaos only possible by forty-five engergized almost-done-first-graders and their teachers who are probably in desperate need of summer vacation.
I got too much sun, ate too much junk food (and I was keeping relatively moderate) and was pretty much the only dad in the diverse group of moms who revved into gear and served lunch, carted kids back and forth to the lone bathroom, and picked up countless bits of stray clothing as it was randomly shed across a few acres of city playground.
I got home and had a nap. And I’m still tired.
Read this very carefully because I’m going to ask you for something, and it’s a very simple thing that might make a big difference.
Now, I know that there that really simple truth of your already-hectic existence. You get this question all the time: a simple ask, but with big impact. I know I hear it, read it, see it, feel it. But this time it really is something simple. All I want it your attention and maybe a really simple idea — if you can spare it.
In less than three years I’m going to be turning 40. It’s not old, exactly, but it is one of those milestones of age –mid-life– when you turn and look back, wondering what you’ve accomplished with your time. Some people have a mid-life crisis by running a marathon… but then I just did that. Other people have a mid-life crisis by buying something big or trying to re-capture their youth… but that has never struck me as very practical. And yet other people have a mid-life crisis by flipping their lives upside down and looking for something exciting and new… but to tell you the truth, I’m pretty happy with my life right now so I’m not looking to change it much.
But I’m going to have a mid-life crisis pretty soon, or so statistics and popular culture tell me, and I’d like to make it something cool… big… different… positive.
The purely selfish part is the part where I tell you I want to do this so I can write about it here. I will do just that. A new blog series, perhaps. Write about it. Brag about it. (And maybe inspire others to do the same thing?)
But the other half of that equation is when I tell you what I want to do… and how I need your help.
Giving back. Doing right. Teaching. Donating
Before I turn 40 I want to do 40 Random Awesome Things… for other people. Call it acts of charity, generosity, or whatever. I want to figure out a list of 40 things that are (a) awesome and (b) help a person or people or kids or animals or the universe. Strangers. Family. Friends. Enemies? Big act of kindness. Small works of lending a hand. Giving back. Doing right. Teaching. Donating. Anything.
I just don’t know what, exactly. I have some ideas. I have an ineffable notion in my mind of what I think some of those 40 things might be, but I don’t know exactly what they are.
So, I’m going to ask you for something, and it’s a very simple thing that might make a big difference: first help me make that list, and then keep me honest towards my goal. That’s all.
Comment your ideas below and stay tuned…
In 8 Pics: A blog-type series dedicated to narrating the odd collections of photos I gather as I roll through the adventures of my life. Click to enlarge. Or visit the full gallery and respective album for more.
Volunteer, Volun-told, Or Just a Good Cause?
Nearly every year — or perhaps actually every year, but who’s keeping track anyhow? — since moving back to Edmonton we’ve made the mid-September trip one hundred and fifty kilometers south, back to the city of our formative youths, to lend a hand with the local Terry Fox Run.
Do you know anything about Terry Fox? If you are Canadian, you should. The guy is a national hero; in fact, when I was flipping through my brand new passport last week, I noticed that his image is now embossed onto the international consciousness through the classic photo of him on his cross-country run right there on page 31. Thirty-some years ago the guy, having lost his leg to cancer, set out to run coast-to-coast –before that was the cool thing to do– to raise money to combat the disease that would change his and so many other lives, and would ultimately cut that life all-too-short.
Each year, all sorts of people gather in local events, large and small, to run a bit, raise some money, and maintain that awareness and the memory that defined it. My mother-in-law got involved years ago after loosing friends and family to cancer, and for the last few years has been the head-honcho-madam-organizer for the Red Deer event.
And we do what we can to lend a hand: usually that makes me the official event photographer, for whatever that is worth, plus general all-round lackey for loading, cleaning, and go-fer-ing.
And for the last few years, I’ve been juggling those responsibilities with full-on event participation: in other words, I snap some photos, lace up my shoes, run the ten-ish klick run, and then return to the main show to snap some more photos.
But then life got in the way: my Achilles tendon –or something in that vicinity– has been a little sore, we were having a busy, rush-filled weekend, and y’know, I kinda just wanted to take a day off. So, I didn’t run it.
Instead, I loaded up my camera pack, strapped my GoPro camera to my chest, and buckled up my inline skates.
The Wheels on My Feet Go Round and Round…
Remember those? Brand-name = Roller Blades!
I don’t inline skate much anymore. It used to be my deep and abiding love: in fact, back in Vancouver I was skating home from work on a fairly regular basis, navigating the mean streets of the city, through some residential areas, up some daunting hills, around some fearsome traffic, and covering nearly eight kilometers of slightly dangerous commuter roadways to get from uptown Vancouver to our little apartment in Burnaby.
But, yeah, the blades have been gathering dust: I put them on a couple times each summer, sure, but usually they are relegated to the back of the closet.
Not this weekend, however: I was thinking of getting some more interesting photos of the Terry Fox event. Every year, I huddle at the start line with everyone else, snap some low-action pics of prepping-runners stretching and warming up, and then –bam– race, camera goes away, and the next pics are of more idle runners, post-run, eating hot dogs and milling about waiting for the prize draws.
An Alternate Event Plan Develops
So I started thinking: on blades I could do two things. First, with my GoPro I could attempt to get some awesome high-def video of the course and the actual run. And second, by leapfrogging the runners and bikers along the course, I could hunt out some photogenic locales, plant, and get some on-route race pics. Neither of these were images we’d nabbed in the past.
And it worked out so much better than I could have hoped.
The sun was out. The people were smiling and friendly. The light was perfect. The scenery was contrasting and beautiful. And I didn’t take any sort of spill on my skates rendering either me or my camera equipment prone and injured on the ground… a real possibility given my aforementioned lack of recent practice.
I hit record on the GoPro and followed the crowd out of the gate and down into the river valley. I wasn’t capturing continuous video for two reasons: (a) I was breaking for photo-ops and (b) I still don’t trust the camera fully to not corrupt the video file of anything more than a five minute stretch of recording… sorry GoPro, my trust is still weak after a few unfortunate media losses. Either way, I wound up with about forty minutes of various-length 1080p 30fps video, and –with the camera in simultaneous photo mode– one shot every five seconds for a total of about five hundred completely random pics, some of which are actually not too bad.
My first stop was the footbridge, while the runners were still quite fresh.
My second stop was along the river path where I found a pretty little spot with some of the turning foliage forming a canopy over the path, with strategically placed beams of light illuminating some well-timed images.
My third stop was on the old train bridge, a converted trestle footpath that is a favourite among photogs –in fact, we had some wedding pics done there ten years ago– where the shadows and contrast made for some interesting perspectives.
At the end of the day, the choice to play full on photographer –rather than the half-and-half volunteer-come-participant– resulted in some photos that I’m very happy about and an experience that was worthy of trading in a training day on.
Lotsa Pics, Lotsa Vids, Lots Fun
I mean, sometimes you just gotta do something different and get your mind into an unfamiliar space: old blades, new city, same event, neglected hobby. From that kind of mix, interesting things can occasionally blossom.
A reloaded post is a short-and-sweet collection of the (sometimes-interlinked) randomness from my recent life, universe and everything else in between. They would be more detailed but they tend to be events lacking in either (a) details or (b) depth; Or lacking in the time to more fully record them. Enjoy.
It’s the last day of February. This year is already one-sixth over, and I’m still trying to remember to replace my 2s with 3s.
Maybe you care. Maybe you don’t. The problem with leaving all our gadgets at home whilst on vacation — or so I know realize — is that the motivation to write about and re-hash your adventures dwindles on an inverse mathemetical curve with the passage of time following said vacation. On a few dedicated mornings on-ship while the girls slept-in, I wandered down to the cafe and drank my coffee with a notebook (yes, a real paper one) and a pen in hand, scribbling little snippets of memory for later reference for just this task: writing some redux articles upon my return was the ultimate goal. Two weeks home and I’ve not breached that effort very well, I admit. Maybe you’ll read them. Maybe you won’t. But I am definitely planning on writing them. Soon.
And Then There Was Being Sick
I could blame a number of factors beyond my own lack of focus, but if I had to pick a major culprit in the delay it would be the fact that we all, in turn, came down with some form of illness in the two weeks following the boat ride. I’ll spare details, but needless to say our levels of engagement on the ‘recalling-our-vacation’ front have been suffering as a result.
Oh, Briar Where Art Thou
My curling-obsessed wife finds herself with the day off work today and instead venturing down to the local hockey-arena soon-to-be-converted competition-curling-rink. The ultimate in Canadian men’s curling, the Briar, begins this weekend, live from Edmonton and Karin wrangled a pretty sweet volunteering gig (thanks to the connections of your’s truly) which starts today with a day of setup and grunt work. So, while the rest of us get ready for work, she’s put on her grubs and is off to run wires and set up comptuer systems or phone systems or — well, I’m not entirely sure to tell you the truth. Either way, she’s got some technical role supporting a major curling tourney and is happy a as lark this weekend.
The Talk, Sort Of
It happened. Sort of. Just sort of, though. I was putting Claire to be last night and she gets this very serious expression on her face, and then asks me: “Dad, how you you stop babies from being born?”
“Stop them?” I ask. “What do you mean? Why do you want to stop them?”
“No. How do you decide to have a baby or not have a baby?”
“Uhhhh.” I stutter. “Do you mean where do babies come from?” I hesitate a bit then ask, finally. I mean it was a kind-of, sort-of backwards way of asking the question, but it was what she was getting at right?
“Yeah.” She adjusts her request. “How do you make babies?”
So… we had the talk. Version One. Rated G, for five year olds.
Another instalment from my third week of lists, a clinging-to-the-trees, back-to-school-special, dreading-impending-winter edition all about school, kids, and being an involved dad: because there are these things — simple, routine, and important things — that awesome dads do when their kids go (back) to school each year…
Me? With my only daughter a few meagre weeks into kindergarten, I’m just learning and I’m certain that this list is but the tiniest tip of a very large metaphorical parenting iceberg. But this is what I know so far: pay attention, get involved, and step-up… and try a few of these ideas for a start.
6 Back to School Chores For Awesome Autumn Dads
…stop them from turning into social pariahs of the always-fashionably-late kind…
[ 1 ] Start a Family Calendar
So, you want to do your kids a real big favour? You do? Then how about teaching them one big skill that will make everyone’s lives easier, assist them in holding a job later in life, and stop them from turning into social pariahs of the always-fashionably-late or double-booked kind: how about keeping a family calendar. And not only keep one, keep one up-to-date and show them how responsible people — awesome dads, included — pay attention to appointments, committments, schedules, and routines. Whether like us you are in your first year of school, or you are well into that process and appoaching your last, life here in the twenty-first century, like it or not, is all about time, dates, and the allocation of the same — and your kids will pick up those skills, lessons and habits from you. Plus, you’ll be all-that-much closer to being an awesome dad, what with knowing every detail of your kid’s days.
[ 2 ] Start Learning Names
For the first four or five years of a kid’s life we as parents find ourselves at the unalterable core of that life. Dads and moms are central to a child’s existence. And then a funny things happens: kids go off to school and start to build this whole other social circle of friends and teachers and random people of influence on their lives. You as parents remain pretty central, but it quickly becomes obvious that your kid’s social life is becoming a Venn-like diagram of two quickly diverging circles: theirs versus yours where the overlap is a shrinking percentage of the whole labelled “people we all know.” You have a choice here: you can become a helicopter-parent and impose yourself on that social circle in an attempt to wrest control of the situation… or you can accept that your kid has their own independent life and will spend the rest of it diverging from yours (and that’s a good thing.) Either way: understand this life, and at the very least learn the names of as many of those unfamiliar kids, teachers and other folks as you possibly can.
Those days of curling up in front of the television for a couple hours when you get home after work each evening are officially over, Mr. Awesome Dad. Sorry. That’s right. It’s time to get serious about homework… and more serious than you ever got twenty years ago when you were still in school. Sloppy parenting may have been just fine when all you were worried about was paying lip-service to the child-safety industry with your shoddy installation of plastic gates and when you put those latches in your cupboards that only caught correctly half the time anyways. Education and putting your foot down on getting the homework done is where those five years of playing dad in the pre-season go full on into the regular season, you really turn into your father, and your coaching skills need to fire into high gear: hey, I suck at sports metaphors so give me a break here. You’ll never be directly responsible for what your kid accomplishes in life, but how you play from here on out — how much you ride them to get their “homework finished before you watch another episode of Spongebob” — will directly correlate to how your parenting skills will be judged, blamed, thanked, or otherwise go underappreciated for thrity years prior to that honourable mention in some post-doctorate graduation speech. It’s what you do.
[ 4 ] Get Serious About Playtime
On the flip side of the homework question, when you kid doesn’t have their nose burried in a book or their fingers poised at the keyboard (computer or musical) they might just have some free time: learn to get serious about cherishing those few scattered moments. They don’t last.
You just knew it was going to happen. One day your daughter comes home with a big manila envelope with a letter inside instructing you of your obligation to become a traveling salesman on behalf of the school’s razor-thin budget, the dance studio’s group vacation fund, or the scout group’s camping gas money shortfall. A few days later you find yourself and your free time suddenly allocated to selling chocolate-covered almonds, coupon books, or microwave popcorn. It is inevitable. You will not avoid it (save by buying every single fundraising product with your own money and giving up on real groceries for the next twelve years.) So, what are you going to do? Are you going to warn your office co-workers that the days you begging for money are close at hand? Are you going to be person who pimps cookies on Facebook? Are you going to hit up social and family gatherings with your hand out for the next decade? Or, are you going to going to use your blog to guilt readers into supporting your child’s extra-curricular activities… hint, hint. Chances are yes, yes, yes, and definitely yes: so start thinking of your game-plan now, because unlike the last surprise you had with your kid, you’re not getting nine months of warning this time.
It takes time, effort, and some sacrifice: but it\’s what an awesome dad would do.
[ 6 ] Plan to Volunteer at School
Look into it: all the planning, the work, the play, the fund raising and careful adapting to new and changing social circles… what does it all mean if you go your separate ways each morning, converge each evening, and never cross paths otherwise? Some schools welcome parent volunteers in the classroom, some look for guest speakers, some need board members, some just want extra hands during recess. Look into it. It takes time, effort, and some sacrifice: but it’s what an awesome dad would do. Would you?
The author is looking down a the road of a long journey knowing full well that more than a decade of public school awaits his completely inexperienced fatherly oversight. Any advice is welcomed…
Why am I in a photo with a bunch of my (quasi) co-workers and the Mayor?
I don’t normally write about my office or the business that goes on there, but I thought my participation here made it worth a rare exception and also worth sharing a bit of my own personal pride on this one: The attached photo was taken after a meeting in late August as part of some committee work that I’ve gotten involved with through my job. A whole lot of my enthusiastic fellow staff, and in fact representatives from every single City department, have joined forces and coordinated an effort to get our municipal government employees involved in an employee-led United Way fundraising campaign, and I — not wanting to miss an opportunity to lend a hand — put my name forward.
The theme for this year’s campaign had been recently chosen as “Be a Superhero” and as we met to plan the kickoff event, still a month away at that point in time, we had a bit of impromptu costume-design-slash-working-meeting session… of course followed by the idea to pose for a picture in City Hall with the whole committee. Photo op, y’know. We wander over at the lunch break, wrap ourselves in our dollar-store capes and masks, and what luck: the Mayor (who offered us his full support in our efforts) happened to be chatting with the media in front of Council Chambers right there on the steps of City Hall and, wouldn’t you know it, graciously stepped into our committee photo. I guess he had quizzed someone in the know and discovered who we were and what we’ve been up to. Some goofy poses and a handful of quick snaps later and… there you have it.
I’ve had a copy of this pic sitting in my email since August, but I’ve been holding off on sharing it because I didn’t want to steal any “thunder” on this one…
…it’s always good to be involved in a great cause.
But as this post was (a) mostly written a couple weeks ago and (b) set to be auto-magically published while I’m personally scheduled to be sitting in Council chambers waiting to stand up have this information publicly announced as a protocol item, I figure the thunder has already echoed across the city (and so… well… share and enjoy!) and probably could use whatever boost I can give it at this point, to boot. I even wore I tie for the Council event — no doubt, the least that I could do — which impressed my lovely daughter Claire for not only the reason that she was also dressing up for her Kindergarten photo day, but because she has in her head, thanks to television, a vague sense that having one’s photo with the Mayor is significant and important, and something she was going to brag about to her teachers and friends.
Our big fundraising kick-off is planned for September 28th, where if all goes according to plan, we’ll be hosting a large outdoors event for City staff: Fun, games, and soft-sell solicitation for donations. After that we’ll be jumping into the next few months of widespread departmental participation with mini-events and smaller focused campaigns. It’ll be lots of work — lots of personal time and side of desk stiff — but it’s always good to be involved in a great cause.
A reloaded post is a short-and-sweet collection of the (sometimes-interlinked) randomness from my recent life, universe and everything else in between. They would be more detailed but they tend to be events lacking in either (a) details or (b) depth… or in the time to more fully record them. Enjoy.
…moments are lost, days go on, and while old things end, new things begin…
It’s odd. Summer creeps a little bit closer to over-ness and things just sort of… well… wrap up. It’s been a weekend of lost things and last things, things gone sideways and things gone to a state of being over. I’m feeling a little bit sad, but a little bit lighter too.
At work we’ve had a couple of young guys working with us through the co-op program for the last four months. The interesting thing (neither bad nor particularly good, either) about co-op students is that — for me… now, at least — they continually remind me that I’m getting older. Two guys in their early twenties, late-teens, whatever studying, traveling the world in search of an education, and stepping into a job for a few months: I used to do that, didn’t I? They finished up on Friday, we all went for lunch, and while the rest of us wander back to work on this particular Monday, trudging back into the grind after just another weekend, I can’t help but be reminded by two empty cubicles that they are off to other interesting adventures. I doubt they are reading this, but… er, good luck, guys!
We dragged my folks to the Fringe on Saturday to use up a few more of the comp tickets that I earn each year for volunteering. For the first round, the girls went to a kids puppet show of some sort while dad and I had tickets to a… well, let’s call it a kind of modern clown show. The clown show started out al-right but then built to an abrupt and (literally) “crappy” conclusion — as one review put it. Dad and I stopped at the beer tent to cleanse our brains from the memory of that show and met back up with the girls. Later, my parents went off to another ‘grown-up’ show while Claire and I went to watch some young improvisor comedy — which went mostly over her head — and Karin off to yet a different one. Those were less eventful, and after re-grouping we went off-site for supper.
I was back again on-site on Sunday to volunteer, while Karin and Claire went to one last show… a show they stated was one of their favorites from the whole festival, so all-in-all: win! I spent much of my shift frantically catching up on the tagging, export, and uploads that needed to be done before we lost access to the computer and the sixty-six hundred photos the team captured over the course of the week. There was some clean up of our ‘office’ and some inventory and packing to do, then we folded it all down, stored it neatly against one wall, and wandered back to the cars. And that was… well, that was that. Done. Over. Last fringe, last shift… and onto other things.
Who would have thought running would be so political?
I ran about twelve klicks with my group on Sunday morning and while this is notable for a few reasons, the most interesting reason in the context of this post is the stupid-drama-politics evolving within said group. See, the clinic is over. The instuctors have gone back to the other store where they normally train. And the de-facto social organizers who “run” our group have stepped back in to fill the vacuum… and those folks — well, most of us actually, but that’s a different story — don’t get along with the store manager (in a very serious way.) So, at least as of yesterday, it would seem that our little group — a dozen or so runners — has gone slightly renegade, defiantly inching away and forming our own little running collective near the store, but (or so we were told) not with it. Whatever, I guess? More details are sure to follow here as this silliness develops. Who would have thought running would be so political?
A (Short) Ode to Daycare
Earlier this morning I did the regular, usual and routine drop off of Claire at her daycare. I should say it was almost regular, usual and routine. It was almost regular, usual and routine because today is — was — will be — her very last day at daycare… or, at least going to that particular daycare. She is moving into the out-of-school care program at her new kindergarten next week (after an upcoming week of vacation at home with her mom!) The new care program is in the same building with her kindergarten, which means we drop her off in one spot, pick her up in the same spot… but over the course of the day they take her where she needs to be, feed her, teach her, and all that fun stuff. Still, the point of this particular note is that at about four o’clock today another phase in her life, that going-to-daycare phase, is over. *sniff*
And thus… moments are lost, days go on, and while old things end, new things… hopefully… begin anew.