December 16, 2009

An anniversary of sorts

On Dec. 16, 1999 I cut off my fingers in a sawmill accident. Ten years ago today.

I remember the event well; the weather, the environs, the people around me. One of those people was my brother Jamie, who was working on the same machine as me, stacking the wood that I was cutting on the chop saw. I remember the ice pack duct taped to my hand, being on the edge of vomiting, the hurried ride to the Kamloops hospital. I remember the air ambulance to Vancouver. I remember waking up from surgery after 22 hours under the knife, I remember realizing I would not be in Maui for Christmas, as was then the plan.

I remember Jamie, days later, in the Vancouver General Hospital Burns and Plastics unit, closer to Christmas. Laying hands on me, he asked God for help with the re-attached digits that I lost from my left hand. I remember Jamie asking a God who has shown he can move mountains, that perhaps he could help these little fingers see life again. Jamie was the last to leave the hospital room that evening.
I remember crying to myself after he left, hoping for the same.

On Dec. 28th, 1999 the now-dead fingers were removed again.


Ten years later, I often think—but never wonder—about that bedside prayer.
The accident was—as I see it—a catalyst to becoming a closer immediate family that we still have today. Lots of hugs and kisses of greeting, lots of sharing what’s on our mind, lots more ‘I love you’. We were close, mind you, but we were not “that kind of family” before that point. And that kind of closeness has helped us through other family tragedies of much greater consequence in more recent years. Thank goodness for building blocks.

Without the accident, I never would have interacted with the Workers’ Compensation Board. FYI: it was as positive an experience as an injured worker could hope to have. More importantly, it led to my first “real” job, in the WCB communications department. This was the opposite side of the fence that I thought my career was going to be running along, as at the time of my accident I was enrolled in Journalism school. Ten years later, I’m still happy to be in PR rather than journalism. The current economic climate means that as news rooms and media conglomerates close down and file for bankruptcy protection, I’m in a field with more jobs than ever as governments and companies scramble for good communications in a bad news environment. Would I have been here if I hadn’t gotten into that accident? Maybe, but who knows. Doesn’t matter, because I got a kick start. Nothing wrong with that, I say.

We have a family friend who chopped off a few digits around the same time as me. His fingers were successfully reattached. He struggled / struggles with remaining sensitivity and mobility issues that I never had to deal with, simply for the fact that I did not have the reattached digits to rehabilitate. I got to work on healing and moving on.

Without the accident, I’d be without the best built-in physical comedy prop... aside from my big ears and clumsiness... that I could ever ask for (reference here: finger stump-up-nose-sight gag). It has entertained children, as it will mine someday, once they figure out that “daddy has a funny hand”. And that sort of gag has led to questions about physical difference and disability from many that ultimately brings people to a little bit of understanding and a broadened horizon or two. Nothing wrong with that either, I say.

So here I am. I can’t take back a moment in a sawmill from ten years ago but these days, I can see I don’t need to.

As for what happened with that bedside prayer a decade ago? My digits ended up in a hospital incinerator, so no, I don’t think they were particularly blessed.

But it feels like maybe, just maybe, the rest of me, was.

November 27, 2009

I don't talk about pee enough on my blog. so...

Here we are!

Actually, this is an entry into a contest at and eco baby steps, where I wouldn't mind being their guest blogger for a few months.

Inspire Natural Parenting Contest

That's the prize if I'm selected! that's right, I'm a dad, and I wanna talk about being a parent! so please: read my post, leave a comment or start a discussion and vote for me if I'm shortlisted! I'll let you know! Now, without further adieu... let's talk diapers!

All of you who’ve been in this situation before with your child’s cloth diapers, please raise your hands: you’re enjoying some quality time with your wee one, sitting on the couch with your tot on your lap.

And then it happens.

Maybe the acidic smell reaches your nose first. Or perhaps the wetness seeping through on to your legs is your first indication. Any way you slice it, you know it’s happened. Your wee one has done... precisely that. Through their diaper, through their own clothes, and on to you.

Oh, the glamours of parenthood.

My wife and I are staunch defenders of the cloth / natural diaper use, but it took us a while to hit on a product that worked well for us. And the language can be a little intimidating at first. Diaper covers? Wha? Pre-folds? Hey, sounds easy! FuzziBuns? Hey, sounds cute! BumGenius? Hey, these will make my kid smarter! Hemp diapers? Hey, sounds groovy man!Monkey doodlz? Hilarious! Seventh generation disposables? Diaper inserts? Aaaand I could go on...

My wife and I were actually planning to use disposable diapers for a few weeks when our son was a newborn, but he showed up three weeks before his scheduled arrival time and at that point, we had only purchased the cloth diapers that we ultimately planned to use. And so it was from the start: our little man’s bottom was swaddled in natural fibres, and we never looked back.

Parents climbing into the green diapering arena ought to do their research, as—noted above—there’s plenty to choose from. The point of most all of them are the same: sustainability. In a population increasingly concerned with its environment, it makes sense to go green. And let’s not kid ourselves: all those cloth diapers add a little extra to baby’s profile, and it makes their little bums just that much cuter as they crawl and waddle around the house.

You just can’t find that in the slim fit of a planet-poisoning disposable!

In searching for the right fit of diaper, we definitely got peed on more than once. Into every life, a little rain must fall. Let this puddle on the floor (or on your leg) not weaken your resolve! Long story short for us has been to realize there is no magic bullet when it comes to buffering baby’s bottom. And the older our little guy gets, the bigger his bladder gets and... well, you get the point. We now live with a combination of different types of cloth diapers that we’re pretty happy with, but yes, shopping around was required. But it’s all been worth it, and it will continue to be so, even if we have to get into another search.


Well, could we have said ‘nuts to this’ and run for the ‘Pampers’ ultra-dry jumbo pack? Yes, of course. But ultimately, we have to look beyond ourselves and consider the future of our little guy—and any siblings that may follow him—and realize that we can’t bankrupt the future health of his planet for our convenience in the present. Cloth diapers are better for your wee one—chemical free and soft on baby’s skin being but two obvious reasons—and if treated right, they’ll last long enough for use with any other kids that might come along. Buying up a stock of cloth diapers may seem like an investment at first, but once you’ve got ‘em, you’ve got ‘em. Once they’re done with, cut ‘em up and use them as rags! And, if you do have more than one tot, the fact that your kids could share diapers is an added cost-saving benefit. The ‘shared diaper’ point could also prove handy when they’re older, fighting about something and you need to prove to them just how similar they actually are... but I digress...

So take heart if you’re early on in the game and still trying to find the right fit with your cloth diapers. It WILL happen! Just look at that pee stain on your leg, and see it as a badge of honour. You are a crusader on a search for a greener world, after all. Get up, change your pants (and your baby’s) and get back to it. You can do this!

November 16, 2009

Quiz Results and Hawaii Pictures!

Well, I have returned to Vancouver after two weeks on the Hawaiian island Of Kaua’i. The Hawaiian hex essentially left us alone, I’m pleased to report, though Kate took a beating on her very first day of body surfing, and she ruined her shoulder and got a brutal knock on the noggin. Near as anyone can figure, she hit a sea turtle full on (they like to surf in the waves, too). Also, the member of our party with lyme disease—who was feeling much better, thanks—rolled her ankle quite badly, doing nothing more adventurous at the time than walking down the sidewalk.

Hawaii was lovely. Lush greenery and azure blue seas, marine life,lazy days on the beach, delicious fruits bought from road-side stands, warm southern breezes, sounds of the lapping ocean wherever we were, and the occasional tropical rain storm rolling though just to amaze us.

So yes, we cheated on Vancouver for a few weeks, and we loved every minute of it.
Like a scorned lover, however, Vancouver gave us glorious views of snow-capped North Shore mountains as we flew back in to town, as if to say “Yeah that’s right, see how good I’m lookin’?” , Just before clouding over and releasing what has so far been a near unrelenting dump of winter rain and wind upon us.


Enough chatter. At least a few of you didn’t come here to hear me wax poetic about Hawaii. You want chocolate covered macadamia nuts... so... Drum roll please...

With 21 entries (at least 220 people read the blog entry... what, you don’t like free stuff? Oh well, less work for me, figuring out a winner), I have to report that there were... zero correct entries! Maybe I should've let family play after all :) So, all the names went into a hat for the goodies and from said hat I have withdrawn the name of:

Marina C. From Vancouver!

This is win-win, because she’ll be getting some delicious packets of macadamia nut treats, and I won’t have to mail them anywhere!

So for those interested, here is the answer key for the quiz! Beyond that, a link to pictures from our two weeks in paradise. Enjoy!

1.True – Dec. 16, 1999, I lost my digits and my seat on a plane to Maui. D’oh.
2.True – a young friend of the family landed in BC Children’s hospital with a staph infection in his leg, which he contracted just days before his family was to travel to Hawaii.
3. False – totally made up.
4. T rue– all true, but rest assured, we had a fine officiate and a good family friend at that. These things work out as they should in the end 
5. False-totally made up.
6. True-happened to my brother, but he was determined to travel and he did!
7. T rue - ...and when he and the family were camping on what they thought was a quiet spot in their camper van, the police put an end to their silent night.
8. True... and False -- trick question...the event did take place, but I didn’t know anyone on the flight!
9. True – the incident made headlines all over North America.
10. T rue– As alluded to in the first paragraph of this entry. As far as anyone can tell, the Lyme disease was caused from a tick bite, but no one is sure. As for the ankle, it turned all sorts of pretty colours, needed lots of ice, and gave her a nice limp, but all’s well that ends well ;)

There’s a nice picture of the rolled ankle in the following photo album, along with lots of other purdy pics of our trip!

So there you have it! thanks for playing the home game! Until next time then!

October 26, 2009

Hawaii Five-OH!

In short order, I and the fam are Hawaii bound! Would you believe this trip has been 10 years—less about 7 weeks—in the making?

I was first scheduled to fly to Hawaii for Christmas 1999 with Kate. Instead, I spent two weeks in the hospital after amputating my fingers in a saw mill. Boo hiss.

Ever since then, as far as I can tell, there’s been a bit of a hex on Hawaii in our circles which for quite a while scared me into not wanting to get on any plane that goes there.

But here I am, a decade older and ready to go! In celebration of getting past this mental barrier, and without further adieu... StuLand’s ‘Legend or Luau’ quiz and first-ever prize giveaway for this blog!

The following is a collection of Hawaii-related calamities which may have occurred in the last ten years, adding to my fear of travelling to that place in the sun to which I now dare venture, or perhaps I just made ‘em up... you decide!

Here are the rules:
1) Leave a response, either on the blog or through to my email, and respond in this fashion...
1. Legend (false)
2. Luau (true)

...and so on. So, just type the question number, along with ‘legend’ or ‘luau’, and that’s it!
2) The person with the most right answers will be sent a tasty treat in the mail, purchased in Hawaii! (no, not Maui-Wowee... we are neither travelling to Maui, nor turning ourselves into drug mules). Actual type of treat TBA! Something macadamia-ey perhaps?
3) Multiple correct entries will result in all the correct entries going into a hat for a random draw to win the loot.
4) Sorry, IMMEDIATE family members not eligible... you know too much...:)
5) Deadline for entry is...oh, I don't know. two weeks today. Nov. 10, 2009. At noon. any entries after that time won't be considered.

I’ll announce the winner on a blog post afterwards, and I’ll ask you to send me your mailing address!
Okay, here we go. First one is easy!

Legend or Luau:
1. Stuart did not travel to Hawaii as a 20 year-old because he cut off his fingers days before departure, and landed in the hospital...

2. A family friend planned to travel to Hawaii. Days before departure, one of the family members got a severe infection and they too landed in the hospital, unable to travel...

Another family friend DID eventually get to Hawaii, but they missed their initial flight booking. They were arrested in front of their kids at the airport upon suspicion of being wanted on an outstanding warrant...

4. One of the officiates that Kate and I were considering to have us married back in 2005 was originally okay with the dates of our ceremony, but his partner sprung a surprise trip to Hawaii on him as a gift during the same dates. So, he went to Hawaii... and got gravely ill while there...

5. I had a friend who was travelling to Hawaii for a winter vacation a couple years ago (same town we are going to now, incidentally!). They had saved for a while to travel; no vacations for a few years before this trip. Travel went fine, no snags... until they got to the hotel they were booked into...which had been completely demolished for redevelopment, a fact of which they were never informed by the travel agent...

6. A family member booked a trip to Hawaii a few years ago. They slipped a disc in their back a short time later, and required surgery to correct it...

7. The same family member did get to Hawaii, despite. Whilst camping in a touring van, they were rudely awakened one night to the glare of a police spotlight, police cars, and an officer on a loudspeaker. They had been singled out as drug runners / dealers...

8. In April of this year, a former classmate of mine was en route to Sydney, Australia. They, along with eight other passengers and two flight attendants on the Air Canada flight were injured when sudden turbulence struck...and the plane was forced to make an emergency landing in...Hawaii...

9. Hawaiian locals are not immune. In 2003, a 12 year old was surfing a kilometre off shore when she had her arm bitten off by a shark. She still surfs. Her arm was never found...

10. One member of our party for this long awaited trip has already fallen victim to the Hawaiian Hex. While not contagious and still able to travel, one of us travelling has contracted, of all strange things, lime disease...

11. A friend’s trip to Maui came to a disturbing conclusion when, on their last night there and out on the town, they got into a fist fight with David Hasslehoff after the actor started heckling him at one of the local night clubs. Okay, this one is a joke... It would be of course true, though, as you may not be able to Hassle the Hoff, but the Hoff can Hassle you...

Thus concludes my little quiz! Remember, Nov. 10th, 12 noon is the dealine! Good luck!

October 16, 2009

Knowing Monique

You don’t need to know Monique to know Monique’s type, and to feel you know her well.

Heck, in all honesty, the only place I can say I know her from is the office. Well, that and unfortunately, bedside in a hospital room.

Our office lost a colleague to cancer this week. More than that though, we lost a friend.

When I first started my job in February of 2007, I was taken around and introduced to all the staff. I didn’t meet Monique that day. Nor the next, nor the one after that. When I started here, Monique was already off work, battling with breast cancer. So no, I didn’t get to meet Monique right away.

But I sure heard about her.

The Legal Office Manager here, Monique was clearly a friendly force to be reckoned with. Everyone talked about her, people took time to visit her after work and on weekends. People spoke of her calm nature, her soft-spoken demeanour and light-hearted way.

Finally, after months of my working here, she was able to return to work and by the time she came through my office door to introduce herself to me, I felt like I knew her.

I think, even if I hadn’t heard everyone’s stories about her, my first impression would still have been to say that she was a friend. And so it went from there. Monique was back. Happy, productive, with the aura of victory over the ugliness of cancer.

As I got to know her, personally this time, she came to learn about my mother’s battle with breast cancer, which was happening at the same time as hers. She also came to learn about my father’s passing from cancer a few Spring seasons ago. She lost her own father a year ago. As was Monique’s way, she did not dwell on her own trials and tribulations, but was always asking about others.
“How is your mom doing, Stuart?,” or “Any more follow-up appointments?” and “ So glad to hear she’s doing well.”

How could this woman care so much about other people’s woes when she had so much on her own plate? That was just who Monique was.

Well, Monique’s presence in the office didn’t last long. The cancer came back. Monique, forever faithful and optimistic was ready for the fight. With prayers and positive thinking, she was going to beat her cancer.

I saw her for the last time, on my birthday, when I went to visit her in the palliative care unit of Burnaby Hospital. Nauseous, thinned, tired and weakened by months of treatments and an unrelenting cancer, she was still impossibly optimistic.

I was able to visit with Monique one-on-one for a little while. No mean feat, considering the steady stream of colleagues and other friends in to visit her, and the presence of her seven siblings who had arrived in town to see her through her final stretch.

“How is your mom doing Stuart?” Even then, more concerned for others than herself. Monique spoke of her faith, of going to meet The Father, and of seeing her father again, whom she couldn’t wait to see again, just knowing he would be waiting for her.
“God has decided I don’t need this body anymore,” she said, and after a quick pause, “and at this point I agree with Him,” she said with a little bit of cheek in her voice.

We had our little visit--for a few minutes anyway--in the lounge of the care unit. She asked about my family, how my son was developing. We only had a few minutes to chat before she said she was tired and wanted to go lie down. I wheeled her in to her room and she lay down. I didn’t stay long after that, just enough time to say goodbye. When I say goodbye to someone in this situation, like I have in the past to others I prefer to say thanks rather than goodbye, so that's what i did.

“Thank you? For what?” she asked quizzically. My response was quick and to the point.
“Just for being you; for your life. We love you. You’re an inspiration, and I—and everyone—is better for knowing you.”

I followed that up by saying I was pretty sure it was the first time I’ve told a co-worker I loved them, but then, all of her colleagues have said it, and we all mean it.

She laughed a little then, as if she didn’t believe it I think.
“Take care, Monique,” I said on the way out the door.
“You too,” she replied. “Glad your mum is doing well,” she said again.

Her last facebook status, updated by one of her siblings, simply says “Today is the day I got my wings.”

You earned them Monique, no question. Thank you. We’ll miss you, friend.

October 2, 2009

What Lies Beyond 30?!

Last night, I said goodbye to the final day of my twenties in fine style, and as a result I ushered in a new era of thirtyness this morning feeling every bit my age. I have no one to blame but myself. My whole body aches—my knees especially from all that jumping around-- I’m tired, I have a headache...

Yeah, it was a late one last night. Got right into it with the boys. Got served a few, killed a few, blocked a few.

Blocked a few?

No, I wasn’t drinking away my twenties last night, I was on the volleyball court.

30 years old is going around like a flu bug in my circles; my peer group are all just “of that age” now. As one with a birthday somewhat late in the year, I’ve had the chance to sit back and observe as others cross this threshold before me. To the people who have been a bit freaked out about it, I have to ask:


People say they lament the loss of their 20’s.


Do you want to go back to massive student debts and eating kraft dinner three nights a week? Do you want to go back to moving from basement suite to basement suite? Are you so attached to your ‘Bar Star’ status?

And then there are people like Matthew McConaughey’s character in ‘Dazed and Confused’, who said "...the great thing about high school girls is that I keep getting older, but they just stay the same age..." CREEPY, yes, and I also think reflective of someone who might be afraid of the future or doesn’t feel like they’ve accomplished enough of what they wanted to and is running out of time. Thus, they’d prefer to stay in the past.

I feel nothing of those things, and I’m totally looking forward to the next thirty years. Seriously, what’s to be worried about? God willing, this is not my mid-life point, so crisis averted there. God willing, I have only advancement ahead of me in terms of career. God willing, I’ll get to see my happy little family grow and develop. I presume there’s going to be more time for seeing the world, reading good books, seeing good movies, going to good parties and concerts, eating good food and spending time with good people. And, God willing, good health will stay with me through it all.

So if that’s all true, then this really isn’t a time for worry, or need of pause, or morose self-evaluation.

So, simply, happy birthday to me. Today is a good day, and I am glad to be in it. Yesterday was a good day and so too, I expect, tomorrow will be as well. And hey, why fight it? After all:

There is no cure for birth and death, save to enjoy the interval.
– George Santayana

Ps-if you want to buy me a beer at some point because you think the occasion requires more celebration, I won’t object to that ;) For now, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m gonna go ice my knees.

August 25, 2009

Summer Recap!

Okay, I hate to vocalize this when the sun is still shining and we’ve not yet hit the Labour Day long weekend...but... summer is coming to a close. Insert deep, heartfelt >sigh< here.

There’s hardly been a free weekend since June around our house. So on the one hand, the end of the summer stretch means not only leaves starting to turn (heads up people, it’s already happening!), it also means the return a slower pace for us, which is perhaps not necessarily a bad thing. Particularly for Sacha, I think, who is proving himself to be a happy homebody type of guy.

This summer may have been busy, but it was good-busy. Our garden has seen a bumper crop this year, for which we are ever thankful. Dad would be impressed with our carrots, no doubt about it. Aside from harvesting food and enjoying the bounty, we’ve been able to go to a few weddings as well. One wedding was enjoyed in a scenic vineyard in Duncan on Vancouver Island, and the most recent wedding-- which was for my very best friend Doug—was on the shore of Kalamalka Lake in Vernon. Both weddings were amazing settings and memorable occasions.

But as for Doug... Doug and I have known each other for—give or take—27, 28 years? We were first paired in a babysitting co-oop that our parents belonged to when we wuz juss knee-high to grasshoppers. Translation: babies.

To be able to stand up as his best man and watch him get married was nothing short of a life moment for me, and to be able to stand in front of a room full of friends and family to toast to his life and enduring friendship was a wonderful privilege.

I’m secretly hoping that he and his wife, Laura, will end up with at least one kid that turns out to be a similar age gap to that of Doug and I, and maybe, just maybe, we can watch our own friendship be re-done in the next generation.

Another exciting event for this summer came just last weekend when Kate’s side of the family took possession of a new lil’ lakeside vacation spot in Whistler. As the pictures can attest to, it’s a very nice place and Kate and I feel so lucky and absolutely spoiled rotten to be able to be in on it.

There’s a very good chance that we’ll be spending a ton of time here!

Backpedalling, this house is actually the second lakeside house we got to stay in this summer, as there was another trip to the Okanagan at the tail end of July where the family met up at a friend’s house on Skaha lake for some “summer” fun.

I say “summer”, because for the few days I got to spend there, it was probably 70 per cent thunderstorms, clouds, and / or rain in stark contrast to the 36 degrees and sunshine that the rest of the family enjoyed before I got my days off work and joined them. Don't get me wrong, good times were had, but it all seemed terribly unfair given the fact that for week after week, B.C. was bathed in delicious summer heat, which I generally viewed out my office window, rather than experienced out and about in the world. It taunted me as I x'ed days off my calendar looking forward to the few days of summer sun I was going to enjoy in the Okanagan. Oh well, All the rain was good for the forest fire situation in B.C. As most are aware, this summer has been the most expensive season on record for fighting fires around here, as God bascially chose to turn the entire province into his personal marshmallow roasting pit.

Anyway, fast forwarding back to the present (you still with me?) and here we are, the last week of August. I'll be working out of Kamloops from Thursday to Tuesday, and maybe after that, it'll be time to chill out a bit! Sacha is glad to be done with all the running around. It may just give him time to work on... running around, ironically enough. He’s not figured out his land legs quite yet, but he’s almost there. I kinda get the feeling that once he figures out how to walk, any perceived “fall season downtime” will disappear quickly!

until next time then!

July 22, 2009

Stu goes to Yoga, and other tales of personal fitness...

Let’s face facts: I’m two things, concretely. Frugal, and pushing 30. These two things may not seem connected, but I’ll get there. Some months ago after using up a month’s free pass at the Steve Nash Sports Club in downtown Vancouver which was given to me, I decided I was so in love with the place that I had to buy a membership. Enter: frugality. At more than a $100 / month for membership, however, this was not a bullet I was willing to bite. But, I’d been tired of my old gym membership at a local ‘Fitness World’ for ages. And after the multi-floored, fabulously equipped, sauna and steam roomed opulence of the Steve Nash club, I could not go back to my regular gym. I just couldn’t. But I couldn’t bring myself to pay that money, either. So began an internal dialogue and debate that ran on for a few weeks.
“You’re almost 30, Stu. Your knees are a mess and you know it. You gotta keep up the leg strength to keep those knees in functional order. You’re not even at the trey-decade mark and already you can’t jog anymore!”
“Yeah, but, $100 a month at a minimum? You gotta be kidding me”
“You wanna go back to the fitness world? With their one bench press station, one rowing machine, just to name a few...”
“Yeah but...”
“Yeahbutnothing. The overcrowding, the complete lack of machines to or weights to work your legs? You NEED Steve and his club, Stu. You NEED it...”
“Oh, well if it’s a need, then maybe...”
“C’mooooon, think about it. The two levels of premium equipment, the complimentary towel service, electronic lockers and toiletries, AND all the fitness, spin and yoga classes are included in the price! If you use those service as well , this membership practically pays YOU!”
“Hmmm... Yoga, hey? Namaste...”
“That’s the spirit!”
“But a hundred dollars a month?”
“THAT’s IT! I quit! You do what you want, but I’m outta here!”
And so, with that, I knew that I had to find a way to pay less. And, I’m happy to say that where there’s a tight wad, there’s a way. I got a membership at the club for $60 bucks a month, which on the surface still seems a bit steep for a gym, but hey, as my brain told me, if you actually attend some of the classes, it totally makes it cheaper than having a gym membership, having to pay extra to attend fitness classes, and having to go to a yoga studio somewhere else anyway.
And so, I drank the punch, and as of last night, I attended my first ever yoga class. I arrived ten minutes early; there was another class in the studio before my sessions for beginners. Looking through the glass into the calm, exotic space on the other side, it looked like a cross between a very concentrated workout and nap time. Me like.
Soon enough it was my turn, along with eight others looking to get their downward dogs on as well. Over the next hour, my body reminded me that I’m almost 30 at least a dozen times as I tried to gumbify myself into Ardha-matsyendra-asana-like pretzels, or maintain my cool through an Utkatasana stance.
But seriously folks, after the hour, I was hooked. I want some more. From controlled breathing through each new pose, to the dark stained bamboo floors and space awash in soft light, I was right into this stuff. Can’t wait until I can do it again!
“See, what did I tell you. The membership is totally worth it, right?”
Yeah yeah yeah, you’re the best, I’m the worst.”
“Dude, you just came from a yoga class. Don’t think like that.”
“Oh right. I mean ‘Namaste, Namaskar’”.
“That’s better. Now hit the showers. And maybe the steam room, too. Hey, how are those knees, by the way?”
“don’t harsh my mellow, brain.”
“oh. Okay. Well, we’ll keep working on that. Don’t worry, you’re not 30 for another three months.”

June 22, 2009

Happy Birthday Sacha James!

Dear Sacha,

Today, you turn one year old! In short, I am in awe of the 12 months that has just gone by...but there is more to say than just that!

I can count on one hand the number of times your mum and I have been out of the house, at the same time, without you in the last 12 months. I can count on just over one hand how many nights I have slept away from you, on business or whatever. Unfortunately, I cannot include those same nights as counting the number of times I’ve slept through the night in the last year, as I’m so conditioned to wake up at random intervals expecting to hear you crying out in the dark. And then there's your mum who noted just the other day that she's not slept away from you for even one night in a whole year. That's something she can't say about anybody else in her whole life.

I can’t begin to count the number of diaper changes, crying fits, ear splitting screams, lost hours of sleep and free time, and loads of laundry that have flashed before my eyes in the last 365 days.


This doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement of parenthood, nor of your existence.
Contrary to all the negative images just noted, immeasurable is the joy in my life that you alone have brought me. Life was great before you, make no mistake, but it’s definitely been taken to a whole ‘nother level.

What is so remarkable about the last year is that with each passing week and month, you produce another surprise for us, another marker or milestone that seems to us a miracle, but the likes of which you will never be able to recall. Opening your eyes and seeing the world, your first smiles, the first hints of an ability for interaction, and the first gurgles of language, and laughter, eating solid foods, and then sitting up on your own, and the flapping of your arms and legs in excitement, and the appearance of perfect little teeth, and crawling, and waving, and clapping, and so much more.

When you first arrived, when all I could do to help you was change you, pick you up and put you down, you felt like a bit of a house pet to me, as I then liked to say. But you’re my Pinocchio, and to be sure… you are a real boy now and I thrill at being able to watch you grow.

Also at the front of my mind in past weeks is how incredibly fast this year has gone! How can it be, that despite being awake (I say jokingly) for 50 per cent more hours every day, thanks to your sleep patterns, that life could still seem to fly by? Shouldn’t longer days make for slower days? Well, it is not the case, and the first year of your life is already in the books.

Happy birthday my little buddy. We are so fortunate that on your first birthday, we feel like the ones with all the gifts.


Your mum and dad

Not sure about this whole birthday cake thing...

No wait! I like it!

May 15, 2009

Walk a mile in my shoes

I don’t have a fetish, and I’m no measure of fashionista. But it has come time to say goodbye to a pair of shoes with which I have had a tormented love-hate relationship as I have had with no other piece of footwear.

My eccos: fine, Danish-crafted Italian-toe style shoes. Black, shiny, and sexy like a sports car. They belong on display as much as on your feet. The kind of shoe that you almost think you ought to wear shorter pants just to show off, or at the very least, put a little strut in your step. Beauties. Real beauties. I’ll not go into specifics about cost, but the price point was pretty high…

But this is no love letter. No, these shoes are going out with a bang. The reason? well, lets just say the shoes have let me down more than once.

Strike one was against the shoes and the retail outlet, to whom I took the shoes about a repair where the toe had opened up. I was quickly turned out the door with a business card for a cobbler. I went to the store in search of a refund, or free repairs, and I walked out with a business card.

Strike two was the email: I sent a curmudgeonly letter of complaint to which I received a dismissively stock answer. Strike three has now come, and I'll get to that. But first, a little more history of these fine shoes...

...They made their way into my wardrobe in December of 2005, after much searching for a great looking pair of men’s size 15 dress shoes to go with my suit on my wedding day. Because as much as I might be okay with standing at the altar barefoot, no one else seemed to be. I digress... so anyway, one’s wedding only comes around once (ideally), and if the day wasn't reason enough, I would still be needing a good pair of shoes once the student life turned into the working life. Well, the wedding came and went as they tend to do, my feet looked fabulous, and then I went back to school for many more months before hitting the job circuit. During this time, the shoes lay in wait.

Imagine my dismay when I found out how the beauty of the shoes was merely skin deep. By the next December after some limited use, they were totally falling apart at the toe. By then, I’d treated them well, and only worn them on a less-than-regular basis for six months. Enter the process of complaints noted previously. With no answer to my liking, I weighed my options and begrudgingly had the shoes resoled at a cost. I should note that in the email stock answer, the company did say that I had the option to return the shoes to them via mail, and they'd "consider" repairs on a case by case basis, so lon as it was still within the year of purchase... which it wasn't, sadly. I figured that once I'd couriered the shoes at my own expense, with no guarantee that they'd accept my claim, I may as well go ahead and get the re-sole done.

I sat on the issue for a long time, but eventually I took the shoes to a repair store, the same one recommended to me by the retail outlet.

“Thing about ecco shoes is,” said the cobbler in a reflective tone, “we see ‘em all the time. They make good leather uppers, but the sole is useless.”

This was information that could’ve been useful a lot of money ago. by now, it was the Fall of 2007.

Fast forward to 2009, four wedding receptions later, a few funerals, a smattering of black tie and dressy receptions and dinners, at least thrice weekly wear for work days… and the shoes have fallen apart again, the soles tattering even worse than before, and this time, my foot has worn through the leather upper and the inner sole as well. The sexy black sports car has crashed into the telephone pole, and his time, I'm not prying it off. It’s time to swear off this relationship for good. I guess I'd have a hard time blaming the soles on ecco again since the shoes were cobbled, but the wearing through the quality leather upper? Strike three.

Now, in short but sweet style, let’s compare these write-offs to my Doc Martens.
I bought ‘em in 2001. Daily wear right off the bat for new job out of round one of college… fast forward through eight years of more weddings, more daily work wear, formal affairs, Sunday church services, etc: I’ve replaced the laces twice, and granted, they were shelved a little bit while the eccos were in service, but that aside, other than a few creases in the leather at the bend of my toes, these babies are in near showroom condition. Purchase price: $120.00. At a cost of $13.00/year and still going strong, they may be less stylish than the ecco shoes, but the good doctor has the last laugh, I think. I mean, I thought the Danish were great shoe makers? I’ll stick to your pastry and Tuborg beer from now on, thanks. At least gut rot is a problem I can fix myself.

Maybe ecco will pay attention to my use of social media to complain about their shoes. I cc'ed them on an email notifying my regular readers of a new blog post, and I've provided a link to this rant on my facebook page. If anyone at ecco has any thing more-than-stock-answer to say to me, you know how to get a hold of me. cheers :)

The offending ecco shoes:

The old faithful Docs:

April 14, 2009

Two Years and Counting...

Dear Dad,

Two years ago on this day, I went to bed at 6:00 in the morning after we as a family let you go in the dark of the middle of the night, April 14th 2007. Driving home that early morning, the sun rose into a clear blue sky and the colours of dawn didn’t well reflect the sadness we all felt that day.

This morning, rather than going to bed at six, I got up.

I was awakened today by several things. For one, the sounds of your grandson, happily gurgling away as he lay between Kate and I. For another, Nellie, chomping at the bit to get outside for her morning walk. And last but not least, a dawn no less picturesque than the one 24 months ago, streaming its light through the blinds we forgot to close before bed.

The dog, the baby, and I all went outside together to greet the morning. Sacha in his stroller gurgling happily as we rumbled along, Nellie off her leash, nose hovering just over the grass in search of dew-covered treats as we made our way over to the park.

Sacha doesn’t normally rise in time to come on the morning walks, but I was glad for his presence today. Perhaps he knew I would be thinking of you as I walked today, and wanted to share in that communion?

We know you’re out there watching it all go on, dad, but I just have to say out loud how great it would be for you to see what your family has become since you left. Your first Granddaughter, Aria, was so little then when you were able to hold her. And now, she’s a bright, healthy bubbling two year old. Then came Sacha James last June, and soon after came little Gabby.

Life goes on without you, dad, and though we all suffer a bit at the memory of you, we’re happy, all of us. Jamie, Kari and I, and mum, and all the rest. As I threw balls for Nellie at the park today—another dog owner on the field with me, oblivious to the true nature of my thoughts as we chatted—and as the sun rose over my sweeping viewpoint, light reflecting off the glass towers of downtown Vancouver and the snow on the north shore mountains taking on a pink and crimson glow, and Sacha, my happy, healthy little son who giggled as he watched the dogs run around, the little boy who you’ll never get to hold… well… All of it in the same breath, it’s the joy and tragedy of it all, isn’t it dad? Life goes on without you. You will not be here again tomorrow, and yet, the sun will come up again at about the same time, hopefully just as brilliantly as it did today.

Long story short, dad: we miss you. I miss you. But I’m okay. We are okay. I’ve lost friends and family before, we all have, and everybody does. In any of those circumstances but especially in this one, it is hard to put my finger on it and say definitively “this is okay, we are okay”, but at the same time, it is okay, and we are okay. I guess that’s what I want to say to you today dad, ultimately. We love you, we miss you, and we will be okay, if we are not already.
And so, I will wake up tomorrow with the sun—two years plus a day by then—and I’ll run the dog, and Sacha may or may not decide to be awake and come with us, and after that I will go to work and join the world and be the person you helped me to be.

Really, today is no different than any other day, as I think of you often and in different ways.

But today, in particular, I just wanted to take pause, to stop, and say that I love you, and I miss you.



January 29, 2009

What the heck is a 'meme' anyway?!

One of the things I love about facebook is that there aren't many real ways to let forwards clog up my account, unless I choose to accept some useless application request that has people sending me things.

Sadly, someone utilized the power of the 'notes' section to create a home for unsolicited forwarding, and as such the 'meme' has begun tearing through the facebook world.

I confess I am not immune, but the hear this:

A)the post below represents the first and last facebook-borne forward that I will partake in, and
B)in my head at least, removing it from facebook to post it in my blog deconstructs the forward, and denies it the opportunity to actually be a forward, since I've removed it from the context of it's normal environment, and I'm not asking anyone else to do it after there.

That precursor aside, the 'forward' in question asks you to list 25 things about you that people likely do not or may not know. I've been chipping away at this for a while, and frankly, I hope you enjoy, because I'm tired of psychoanalyzing myself. Perhaps I should have left this on facebook; I wouldn't have treated it with such depth :)

So, without further adieu, 25 things you likely didn't know - or care to know - about Stuart Alexander Chase...

1. Despite a passionate dislike of mathematics and numbers in general, I run the office lotto pool (with an iron fist, no less), and I can recite Pi to the 12th digit, even though I’m not smart enough to remember what the Hell Pi even is: 3.141592653589. See, I did that without hesitation. I won’t look it up, but I know it’s right.

2. I cannot stand the thought of someone using my toothbrush and if I know my brush has breached someone else’s oral cavity, I will not brush my teeth until a new brush has been acquired.

3. Perhaps along the same lines, the thought of eating food off of my baby’s spoon after it’s been in his mouth grosses me out. Despite this, I will happily and unabashedly ask others for their leftovers.

4. In keeping with the baby theme, I can’t stand to hear Sacha cry. Not because it breaks my heart that he is sad about something, but literally because I cannot stand his crying. It hurts my huge ears, and I wear construction headphones around him when he is bawling ad nauseam. Hey, it sounds ridiculous, but it works. Don't judge me--I love my baby, damn you.

5. I'm pretty sure I will write a book someday. It may be a children’s book, it may be a full-length novel, but I will have something published in my name and I won’t even care if no one ever reads it. I just need to get it out of my system. In part it will be dedicated to my high school writing teacher who made me promise that it will be dedicated to her. For the moment, I get to write for a living anyway, and I couldn’t ask for more.

6. I lost my fingers on my left hand in a sawmill accident in 1999. Despite having a moment most every day since then where I end up wishing I had them back again, if I had the chance, I would never, ever go back in time to call in sick that day or warn myself about it.

7. Unless I am skiing on it, I hate… HATE snow. If I could somehow convince everyone I love to move with me, I would probably go to Mexico, and only come back to Canada between the months of May and August.

8. I have a ridiculously good musical memory. To wit, I sing primarily in front of the radio when it is on, despite being told by many that I have an exceptional singing voice that should be used elsewhere.

9. I miss my dad every day, and his loss makes me wonder if I will die young.

10. I swear I will never move back to Kamloops, B.C. where I grew up, citing the usual ‘that town was way too small by the time I was 16 years old’ reasons. I need a city; I love living in Vancouver, and I love working downtown among the hustle and bustle even more than that. Despite this, I could not have imagined growing up anywhere else, and I remain an avid fan of country music. Go figure.

11. The only volleyball tournament I have EVER won was in grade 12, and I was named tournament MVP. I’ve never won a recreational league championship, a college tournament, or a competitive league championship before that, or since.

12. I opted not to play basketball in grade 12 so that I could dedicate more training to my kayaking for which I went to the Canada games in ’97. The Canada games were bar none, across the board, the worst sporting experience of my life. I have always regretted having quit basketball, even though I probably would have
only made the B team. In the grand scheme of life, this may seem insignificant,but at least I wouldn’t have wasted my time training for paddling quite as much that year, only to be permanently scarred by a kayaking competition.

13. When my best friend Doug and I stopped competing together as sprint race kayaking team boat duo, we split a (roughly) 20 lb. ball of used duct tape—which we had been adding used duct tape to over the course of five years—in half (it's a long story). It took two hack saws to get through. To this day, we both still have our respective halves of the ball.

14. I'm a pack rat, but I'm also a neat freak. It's a tough existence. Luckily, Kate is more...judicious...about what things are kept and what is disposed of, and I'd like to think I've learned a thing or two from her.

15. I have had the opportunity to do a bit of global travel both as a solo backpacker, and with a significant other. Both were wonderful experiences, but given the option to travel the world alone vs. with a best friend or even my wife, I would choose the former.

16. I have been the subject of debate for an entire question period in the parliament of British Columbia…and not in a good way.

17. I do almost no reading for leisure, despite having a desire to write a book someday. I consume news like it's going out of style, I read work-related documents, but novels? one a year, if you're lucky.

18. I believe in One Destination, but I believe that many paths can get you there.

19. Most people that don’t exercise or go to the gym end up gaining weight. I am the opposite. I shed pounds when I sit around on my ass. I have only ever successfully managed to gain weight as part of a conscientiously applied gym program.

20. I love public speaking, and I usually get good reviews when I do so. The only time I have been nervous about it was giving a toast as best man at my brother’s wedding, and I’ve always kinda felt like a I blew it.

21. I was bullied in elementary school (tall, skinny, big ears, braces, glasses, slow-witted… can’t imagine why I got picked on…), and as a result I suspect that as a parent, I will have a really hard time being tolerant of anyone I catch pushing my kid around.

22. I believe that global warming is real, and I actively harass friends and colleagues that drive to and from work and school for no good reason, and who can’t be bothered to recycle.

23. The nearly-30 year old me wonders what the 40-year old me will remember or care about what the 20-year old me was like, like the nearly 30-year-old me right now does on occasion.

24. Right now, life is just like I like it, though we’d all like a little more sleep around our house... oh, and I wish I still wrote poetry.

25. Right now, I'm feeling a lot of shame for having been sucked into this forwarding business, and I'm glad it's over and done with.

January 7, 2009

A Midwinter's Tale

Christmas 2008 will be remembered as the first cross-country white Christmas in Canada since 1973, which is pretty cool. Well guess what? Christmas has come and gone, which is great, because I don’t have to be cheerful about the snow any more. When it comes to the white stuff, unless I’m skiing on it, I’m a total Grinch.

As far as living in Vancouver with snow goes, it’s your basic pain in the backside. Given Vancouver’s relatively mild climate, snow isn’t falling as real snow around here anymore like it was at Christmas. It’s falling as Teflon coating. It would be nice if the vast majority of drivers had sense enough to put snow tires on early in the season, regardless of the forecast. But, they haven't and guess what people, the plows aren’t coming, so suck it up and get some decent tires and a shovel while you're at it, pLeASE!

I’m pretty sure I spend more on coffee in a year than Vancouver does on snow removal, which is no big deal, usually. Generally speaking snow doesn’t much come ‘round these here parts, which is one of the major reasons that I love Vancouver. This year’s snow fall has been an anomaly not seen for decades. Usually, we get three inches of snow at most, and within 72 hours, it’s gone. But this year, it’s just kept coming. A metre of snow later and a few rainfalls, and we’re all pretty sick of it.

With these curmudgeony thoughts in mind, sumitted for your approval, A Midwinter’s Tale:

Kate and I drive home from dinner at her mum’s house the other night. It’s 7:30 pm, and the snow is falling fast. We loop downtown to drop off a friend who joined us for dinner. All is well. Then, we begin our ascent back up to our house on the hill in the ‘burbs.

And it begins.

First, we see Knight Street traffic has started coming to a standstill. A heads-up play, and we’re able to divert over to Commercial Drive before we hit the snarl. As we head up Commercial, it happens again. In the few blocks that Commercial Drive turns into Victoria Drive, this rapidly evolving SnowMaggedon has taken hold, and is giving way to CarMaggedon. The base of the hill is a graveyard, articulated buses strewn all over the place, bent awkwardly in the middle as they try to scramble away from the curbs, only to get stuck. A semi truck can’t get any traction in the snow; he too has abandoned hope. Smaller vehicles without snow tires try to get up the hill, but any wavering in momentum, and they are done for. We do a little dodging and weaving, a little side street action (which, ironically, are more passable than the main roads at this point despite having never been plowed in the last three weeks of snow), a little waiting behind more snarled traffic, and at last, we make it home.

I decide that before I go inside for the night, I will do some shovelling of our walkways so that come morning, I’ll have half the load to move.

Alas, my efforts are thwarted. You see, while Kate and I were out for the afternoon, some ill-mannered, ill-prepared individual has let themselves onto our property, onto our porch, and stolen our snow shovel. Our beautiful metal-edged, wide bucket snow shovel.

Of all the low down, dirty rotten…

My snow shovel? Really? I am forced to chip away at the snow and ice with our narrow flat-head garden spade. If being irate melted snow, my property would’ve been tropical right about then.

Any vestiges of Christmas spirit have officially been sucked out of me. Next morning, I leer out my windows at the neighbours dealing with their own sidewalks and parking spots. Is that my shovel? Is that my shovel? No one is above suspicion.

On Monday, resentment still courses through me. Nellie and I go out for a walk, Sacha strapped in a pack to my back. A low-riding souped-up Honda civic with a grumbly muffler and all-season tires has beached itself trying to turn a corner at an intersection. Three of its four wheels are off the ground, its belly resting on the middle-of-the-road rise of snow. CarMaggedon continues. “that’ll learn ya,” I grumble to myself, thinking/hoping that maybe this is a Karmic return for stealing my snow shovel. Is it? No one is above suspicion.

But then, Nellie, Sacha and I cut through a playground. There, at the base of a slide, a discovery. All the while that Mother Nature has been busy kicking ass all over the place, she’s still had time to fold her laundry. Beautiful.

We walk past a school yard. There is an army of snowmen in the fields, slushily advancing from behind a number of snow forts, seemingly set to wage wintery war with the school kids happily frolicking in amongst them.

And, as we move on down the road to another park, Nellie gets lost in the joy of bounding through snow drifts, diving after snow balls; a headless black smudge on a white landscape as she digs down for her prize.

Sacha is off of my back now and smiling happily as he sits propped up in the snow, watching while I launch snowballs for Nellie.

I pause. The air is crisp, silent. Then, somewhere off in the distance, a car engine roars and wheels spin.

If I encounter that car on my way home, maybe--just maybe--I may help push it out, and on its way.