April 13, 2017

For all that you've missed, you are missed.

Hey dad, it's been a while. This year is a bit of an anniversary.

It's been 10 years since you passed away. There's been a lot of change.

I remember back then, this sense of urgency that I had, that I wanted to have all these various pieces in my life in place. So that before you died, you could see that I was doing well, that I had some things going that would give you an idea of the life I was going to have.

Well, ten years later I've become smart enough to know that was crap. Life is a constant state of change.
When you died, you had one small grandchild to hold in your arms. Now, you have six. And they're all growing so fast, changing all the time.
When you died, I was working for the provincial government in what I thought would be a role for ages to come. Four organizations later, here I am, way far removed from that job.
When you died, Kate and I were plucking away at fixing up our house. The house that stands today is unrecognizable from the one you last visited.

One other thing that has changed in 10 years: the grief I, and so many others around you, felt back then. Sure, I have my 'you should be here' moments, and the 'I wish you could see these kids' pangs of sadness, but on the whole, you know what? I'm good...I really am good. And I'm thankful for that. For all the things I wanted to lock down, to have in place back then, grief over losing you was not something I wanted in my life as a constant. I didn't fight it--it's natural and important--but I didn't hold on to it.

Yeah, I'd love for you to be able to play with the kids, and yeah, I'd love to chat with you about the work I'm doing, or the garden, and have you be proud of me for what I'm doing with paddling. Maybe, somewhere, you are watching all those things. And I wonder what you'd look like now and how you'd be spending your retirement, and if you'd have figured out Skype, so the kids could see you on a Sunday morning call.

Instead, I keep close to the memories of who you were. I spin your old records and play oldies stations and think of you. I make dad jokes, because that's what you would do, and I make toasted sandwiches, because that's what you would do. I  embarass my kids by dancing in the kitchen, because that's what you would do.

I miss you, dad, for sure. But I don't grieve you, so heavily as I used to. I hope you understand that that's a good thing, and that you have an eternal life somewhere, just like you talked about having.

"When you die, dad, what you do believe? Where do you think you're going?"
"Stu, I think I'm going to go to sleep, and then I'm going to wake up, and I'm not ever going to know that I died."

And it's true, dad. That happened. You live on. In hearts and minds, and in photos and in music and in every piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken memorabilia I lay eyes on.

And I don't cry at the thought of these things.

I smile.

All my love to you, dad.

That, for sure, will never, ever change.

March 30, 2017

Hi, anxiety!

OK, something to get off my chest. I’m feeling anxious these days. It’s not usual for me. I’m pretty laid-back, take-it-as-it-comes.

But something about paddling has me a little tied up in knots.

In a little under a month, the International Canoe Federation (ICF) will release their research on classifications for paracanoe. That’s the boat I mainly race these days.

My anxiety lies in the thought that I might get declassified, yet again. Readers of this blog will recall that a couple of years ago, the ICF removed the tests for upper limb impairment from parakayak.

For the record, I think the removal of any upper limb test in a sport that requires holding on to a paddle is…uhh, well, kinda stupid.

I can, in any circumstance, still race in able-bodied kayak categories, and I will do that. But where the paracanoe is concerned, it’s sort of make-or-break where this classification stuff is concerned.
See, I like to have a good idea of what my year will look like. As a husband, father, and full-time worker, it’s actually kind of essential that I know what lies ahead. Vacation time needs advanced booking, family plans, etc.

With this reclassification coming up, I have two alternative routes laid out, and as yet, I don’t know which fork in the road I will be able to take.

Down one fork lies continued acceptance of upper limb impairment in paracanoe. That means thinking about getting to go to national team trials. Trying to qualify for worlds. Defense of my national championship title. There’s also the added carrot of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) consideration of adding paracanoe to the roster for Tokyo 2020, so there could be a long-term goal, too. 
That’s all a lot to plan for. 
More training, more focus. 
It’s a selfish route, I know.

Down the other fork lies rejection of upper limb impairment tests. That means racing either junior-level able-bodied (read: get my ass kicked by 18 year-olds!) or Masters-level able bodied (read: racing for old farts like me!). That (presumably) means the end of my provincial TeamBC spot, which would be the only reasonable thing, since I'm on the team based on my para results, not my able bodied racing. 
so all in all, this fork = less to plan for. 
I would likely keep my racing to the local regatta circuit, which I do, and would enjoy. I would not go to nationals for this. 
Obviously, this option opens up a whole ton more time for vacations and family time. 
Less time thinking about training camps and regattas in faraway places. 
Way more family time.

But if I’m here to speak my truth about this, I know which fork I would choose.

It would be the first.

My passion for involvement and growth in paracanoe is way up there. I know it means more sacrifice of free time. 
I know it means stress of making time for work, for training, and for family.
I know it still comes with uncertainty of maybe or maybe not making time standards and team spots. Life would be simplified without this sport.  

But I want it anyway.

I want it. Man, I want it.  

But right now though, I just want that decision, so I can choose a fork. So I can know which way this is all going to go, or at least, could go. One fork gives me options, the other, not so much.

It’s true what they say: waiting is the hardest part.

In the meantime, I’m just itchy as Hell to get on the water. Since we actually had snow and sub-zero temperatures for a few months this winter, here in Vancouver, our usual year-round paddling game was changed, and I haven’t been able to get out much even since the temperatures warmed up again. I'm still training in earnest, regardless of the decision coming my way!

So, keep your fingers crossed for me (hand amputee pun intended). All in all, I will continue to contribute off the water. It must be a sign of my age that in my roles as Canoe Kayak’s BC Athlete Representative, and Chair of the Canoe Kayak Canada Para Committee, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. I’ll keep contributing in those avenues.

With any luck, the ICF will make a decent decision around upper limb impairment, and I’ll be able to keep contributing on the water, too.

February 6, 2017

Rise of the Phoenix

It’s been a while since I’ve thrown up a post, so I’ll try not to make this one too insanely long. I could update you on all things going on, but for the moment I’ll leave it at some of the adventures I had last week!

I was able to go down to Phoenix for a work conference, and on either side of work days, I had a few hours to get out and explore.

First of all, I was really impressed how quick the flight is. I don’t know why I hadn’t contemplated just how close to Arizona we are (by air, anyway). So at just over two hours flight time, I could even contemplate taking my family to a spot like this. Further, the flights were cheap!

I digress.

Upon arrival, I did a zig to the hotel before zagging out to Camelback Mountain for a couple hours of hiking. It was a perfect day at 23 degrees, and as the afternoon wore on, it got to that lovely long-shadow time of day. Camelback is an aggressive vertical trail in many places, but the view from the top makes it worth the effort. There are no other hills nearby, giving you an uninterrupted view of the Valley of The Sun, in any direction you may choose to look. It was fabulous.

The Camelback trail was busy, but not ‘crazy busy’, and I often had stretches all to myself. It was two hours round trip, and that was with ample time up top, and stopping along the way for water breaks and photos. You can catch some video of that climb in one of the two videos I’ve put on my YouTube channel! 

 It does make an appearance in this video, however (part two of the video linked above!). Following the conference, I had a few morning hours left before departure. My wife’s aunt and uncle, conveniently, live in Scottsdale. Jacques, one-half of this dynamic duo, is a steward of the Sonoran Desert Preserve, and he gave me a fantastic tour of a small corner (Lost Dog Wash) of this expansive section of protected desert. 

It was a whirlwind tour, but a memorable one. How many of you have been to Phoenix and area? I’d go back in a heartbeat, I think!

The peak of Camelback

Once back in the hotel, I managed to connect up with some of my never-before-met-them-in-person colleagues who were in town for the conference as well—there’s not much to say about tripping around our hotel area on foot, as it’s all sidewalks, six-lane roads, strip malls and gas stations.
I’ll gloss over the conference, cause that’s my work and while I may be super-stoked about it, you might not be all that interested :P 

The saguaro cactus is one of the defining plants of this area. They are huge, columnar cacti that develop branches (or arms) as they age, and are probably the most iconic thing you can think of when you picture this type desert. Reality is, though, there is a multitude of cacti species in the area, as well as many other desert plants. It was very cool to have a knowledgeable guide to tell me all about these things, as well talk about the animals in the area, geography, and a bit of local history, too. 
The trip concluded with a nice bit of brunch back at Jacque’s house, with his wife, Mercedes, before being taken back to the airport in time for my flight home! 

But for now… it's back to shovelling snow! D’OH! 

Last but not least, I'll say that I've thrown a LOT of videos on my YouTube Channel lately. Head over there for plenty of family fun! You might even consider subscribing... I seem to do more videos than blogs these days! 

January 10, 2017

New year, same course

Beautiful Vancouver on an acceptable winter day

Ugly Vancouver on an icy, crummy unacceptable winter day

and more winter beauty. 
Happy 2017, everyone! 

It seems like the last month of 2016 was nothing but chatter about lighting a match to the old year and watching it burn. So many bad things in the world, from Syria in shambles (actually bad), to celebrity deaths (lots of them were getting older... so, not actually bad, just 'life playing out') and plenty in between, it seemed like there were a lot of people staying up until midnight on New Years Eve just to make sure the year actually ended.

Me, not so much. I had a personally very satisfying year. No major traumas in my own life. Great work, good sport and health, fun with family. All I needed was there. So for 2017, I'm not interested in resolutions. I'm interested in more of the same.

There's plenty to be concerned about on the world stage, I'll say that. But at my doorstep, life.is.good.

Now, around Vancouver, we could use a little less winter weather at the moment. Yes, we know we're a laughing stock for how the season gets managed. See my previous post, if you wish to continue that debate with me.

We've had some great snowy adventures both at the end of 2016 and the start of 2017, so I'm attempting to make the most of the snow... up in the mountains where I generally prefer to see it :D.  Cruise over to my YouTube Channel for some of the latest videos in that respect.

Here's to hoping you have some adventures of your own lined up for the new year, and in general, wishing all of you a happy, healthy 2017!

December 12, 2016

An open letter: Snow in Vancouver is actually a big deal.

OK, I know I’ve already lost some of you right from the headline. Or, you’re snorting to yourself in that ‘Okay, buddy, sure’ sort of way.

Before you get all ‘Canadian Winter’ on me, hear this: I do know a thing or two about snow.

I grew up in Kamloops, back when Kamloops got snow on the regular. The deep stuff, the cold days. And no, I never got a snow day from school.

I also spent a few years in Edmonton. Props to the people of central Alberta. You know how to do winter. My shovelling muscles were never so well developed. Alberta, I’m pretty sure, is where block heaters were invented. -40 temps AND mountains of snow… I’ve been there, and I ain’t never going back.

In summary, I know how to drive in it, I know how to shovel it, and I know how to bundle up against the cold.

And here, my final disclaimer: Unless I’m skiing on it, I have no use for snow. I hate the stuff. Looking pretty on the trees is not enough payoff, as far as I’m concerned, for all the work that’s involved in dealing with it.

Now, Vancouver. There are some things you need to know about Vancouverites before we talk about snow.

1.Of imported Vancouverites like me, I’m certain that most of us love it here because there’s only a small chance each year that we will get any hint of the white stuff. Bring on the 400mm of rain, I say. It, at least, has the decency to head for the drain as soon as it’s hit the ground. We Vancouverites like it between 17-22 degrees, with variable sun, cloud, or showers. And that’s how it is, most of the time. Bland, predictable, not too hot, not too cold.

2. Along with that, we like our transit options, we like our bike lanes (well, some of us), and we like having to mow our lawns, year-round. Whenever the words ‘Snow’ and ‘Vancouver’ are uttered in the same sentence, it’s usually because someone is making a joke, or rolling their eyes at the chaos that always ensues during a Vancouver Snow day (see video below for just a touch of that).
But the truth is (and this is a biggie)

3. Snow in Vancouver… isn’t snow (skip to 6. for the full explanation) Not like most Canadian’s know it, anyway. And Vancouverites don’t even receive it each year, which makes everyone extra-panicky when the snow shows up.

4. Obviously, many Vancouverites do create their own problems around snow. Many do not own snow shovels, far too many people think they can get away with all-season tires, or worse, and the locals think a credit card makes a good windshield ice scraper. This is still Canada, and that laissez-faire attitude is just stupid. And when Vancouver “snow” falls, those tires just don’t cut it, and having no shovel or salt for your sidewalk is just plain neglectful.

5. The City of Vancouver, as an entity, creates its own problems. It’s fleet of 49 salt/sand/plough trucks are, for whatever reason, are never quite ready to go on time, and they never quite manage to actually plough/sand the whole city, no matter how long the snow lasts. I can pretty much put money on the fact that my street will never. ever. see a plough or drive-by sanding.

But here’s the real deal: 

6. You see, the snow that falls out of the sky in Vancouver isn’t like the snow you get anywhere else. Our snow is a form of white Teflon.

And you are at its mercy.

There are those folks who just recently moved here from “somewhere else” with their pickup trucks and ‘Vancouverites don’t know how to drive in the snow’ attitudes.

These are the first people to be humbled.

I see you in the ditches. 
I see you spinning out on gentle slopes. 
I see you doing your paperwork on the sidewalk after you’ve just rear-ended someone because you figured you could stop in time. 
I even see you spinning your tires, just trying to get out of your parking spots. 
Because, sometimes, the snow is so slick, even good snow tires are made impotent by our special brand of wintery goo.

As evidenced by the recent viral video of downtown Montreal, where two buses, a commuter car, a police car and a tow truck all slid into one another, NOBODY knows “how to drive” in that kind of snow. That snow was out of the ordinary for Montreal. Here in Vancouver, that’s basically the only kind of snow we get.

sure, it looks pretty...BUT WHAT GOOD IS THAT TO ME?!
First, it falls slick as snot, causing initial commuter chaos. 
Then, it becomes slush within hours, clogging drains across the city. 
Then, if we’re lucky, it freezes, turning the entire city into an ice rink.

I’m going to go ahead and say that the majority of Vancouverites hate snow. My modest-sized house on my modest-sized lot—just like all my neighbours’—is worth millions. Surely, with all that expense, we shouldn’t have to deal with snow, too? Oh, the injustice.

The only real winners in Vancouver snow are the kids who head for any local hill they can find, using anything they can get their hands on, to do some sledding. Cardboard, plastic bags, crazy carpets, cut-up milk jugs… anything that could be perceivably used as a sled. And the payoff is big. Within just a couple of runs, the Teflon snow has condensed, and kids are setting land-speed records that would make Clark Griswold jealous. And snowmen? You’ve never seen packing snow like this. You can roll an entire field of snow into a single ball that won’t break apart (but don’t get too excited, that snowman will melt the same afternoon when it starts raining).
So the kids have fun with the snow, and that’s as it should be.

But the rest of us suffer.

We miss our walks on the beach, and we just want to get back to having clear sidewalks and roads. It’s hard to get to the marijuana dispensaries and Starbucks with all this muck underfoot.

So please, Canada, take pity on us, and thanks for listening.