June 22, 2017

That man on my lawn

The usual after-dinner routine in our house typically involves a little bit of playtime for the kids, followed by bath, toothbrushing, stories, and bed. It doesn't usually involve hosing down a distraught man who had been pepper sprayed.

The man approached our house after dinner, stumbling around, and wailing from the sidewalk that he needed help. He needed water. He'd been pepper sprayed. Our daughter went into instant hysterics. The man was invited to the side of the house where we had a hose. Kate, in the meantime, called 911 from inside the house, and worked on keeping the kids calm. 

There followed a strange 20 minutes. Essentially, I stood, aiming a jet of cold water into the face of a shirtless, shoeless, bleeding, high/drunk young man. I talked with him as we stood there, to keep him as calm as I could. He called himself Paul Bear. Said two Chinese guys had pepper sprayed him. Wouldn't say why or where. He also had with him a bag of sealed, raw meat of some sort (later identified as squid). Wouldn't say why he had it or where it came from. Lots of money in his pocket, which he was now worried was getting wet (it most certainly was). His emotions swung all over the place. In one moment, he was expressing how disappointed his parents were going to be in him; how he had to stop doing this to his mom because it made her feel bad. In the next moment, he would growl aggressively and hit himself in the head. Then he'd be fearful. "Please don't call the cops, please don't tell them you know my name." (Kids, stay away from drugs, mmkay?) 

Emergency services arrived. There were a few moments of chaos. A paddywagon, two unmarked cars, two cruisers, a fire truck. Police and fire crew coming in the side and front gates. 

I was off the hook at that point, and became an observer to the scene. The police and fire were admirable in their behaviour. No matter the insults thrown at them, no matter the erratic behaviour. The man was placed in handcuffs, and was sat down in our yard. It was a long time before he was taken away. Paramedics couldn't get there in good time, busy with other calls. The man was eventually led into the back of the paddywagon. 

It was listening to the man swing through his emotions. That was the hardest part of the whole thing, I think. He was angry at police, and then himself, and then calm, and then sobbing, and then telling the police how he loved and hated them... it just went on like that. Despite his earlier requests not to call the police, he even took time out to admonish the police for taking so long to show up! And then, a deep, woeful cry, on his knees in handcuffs, at the feet of an officer, being hosed off (at his request)... "This is SO FUCKIN' HUMILIATING!" I felt that, for him. I'm sure the officers felt it, too. But then, back to yelling about his ruined $40 t-shirt, and yelling at the police. 

"The Good Samaritan, the man who lives here, he helped me for like, 20 minutes, and WHERE were YOU guys, huh?!" 

After he had been taken away, the kids were invited outside. They were the ones truly freaked out by this, our daughter in particular. Stickers from police and fire were handed out. Friendly chats with officers about what kind of animal a squid is. Pictures in front of the police cruiser (Sacha got to wear a tactical vest over his housecoat and PJ's). Encouraging words and 'thank you's' for all involved 

It wasn't over for us, of course, once the police left. It was bedtime, and there were questions. Why did the man have sore eyes? Why did someone do that to him? What did he do to himself? Why did he do it to himself?

There was lots of discussion of the choices we make, of problems we don't know about, of helping without judgement, of lending a helping hand if you feel safe to do so, and what to do if you don't feel safe helping. We talked about how we've helped before at our house, and we'll do it again if we have to, because that's what shapes you as a caring individual. There was discussion about our paramedics and firefighters and police officers who have chosen to rush to these situations as their life's calling, and how we can be glad there are people willing to do that for us. 

Our neighbourhood has presented more than a few moments that have chipped away at our children's (and our adult) innocence. I'm not blaming the neighbourhood, because there's no perfect place to live, especially in a big city. We've had fights. Gunfire. out of control partiers. Kate was confronted with a bike thief on our property once, and threatened with a knife. Car crashes. Domestic situation, with screams heard across the neighbourhood.

I make it sound like we live in a terrible place. We really don't. We live in an amazing neighbourhood, full of awesome, caring people. And we live in an amazing city, full of awesome, caring people. 

Long story made slightly shorter, we had a rough night in our house. Questions will no doubt continue to arise, and we'll answer them as honestly and thoughtfully as we can, as we always do. It is my son's 9th birthday today. The last day of his 8th year will no doubt go down in his personal history books as one to remember. My daughter wears these moments heavy in her heart and on her psyche, and for sure she'll be analyzing the situation for days to come. 

And at the core of it, we'll wonder, together, about "Paul" and pray that he finds some good help, and figures out a safe way forward in his life. Pray for Paul, indeed, and others like him. This wasn't the first call like this the police have had to respond to, and it won't be their last. 

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!