December 12, 2011

The StuLand 2011 Year in Review / Merry Christmas

What do rats, compost piles and kidney disease, sibling rivalries, skunks, preschools, cancer, newborns and houses, all have to do with each other? Just another year in the Chase household, that’s all.

First, the rats and/or mice. This has been one of the few constants in our last year. No, we do not live in an unkempt cesspool. But we do live in a century house, and it comes with holes. Which rodents find their way into. And it drives us crazy. Doesn’t seem to matter what we do, they always find another way in. perhaps we can blame previous generations of ownership, I don’t know. Our house turned 100 this years. A century’s worth of owners means a century’s worth of home renos, the result of most of them seeming to be the burying of wonderful character, and perhaps the construction of an underground network of rodent tunnels built in the meantime as well? Who knows. If you have any iron clad tips for keeping rodents out, let me know. As for the house and state of the character on it's birthday: Glimmers of its old self are there. Exhibit A, the front entrance stairwell and upper landing, currently dressed for the holidays. After having it sanded down and re varnished a couple years back, the original honey coloured wood today shines through. The most unique characteristic of this is the wear pattern of countless footfalls resulting in weathered wood with blackened streaks, laying a path that has been trod for one hundred years. We plan to restore the banister down to the wood at some point, too, maybe in the coming year as part of a larger renovation that would bring a dramatic change to the house. We spent much of 2011 envisioning such a renovation, perhaps in 2012 we’ll get it done. For the time being, this railing is painted a crisp white. This approach has proven quite flawed, particularly in the last year, as the railing is the perfect height for gnawing on. Not by the adults or the dog or house mice, though. Rather, our kids, as they descend the stair case, stopping every once in a while to sample the paint (thankfully lead free). I wonder if previous owners faced such issues!

As for other rodents, many of you know about our adventures with pepe. Happy to report that after our summer cleanout, he never returned. We’ve had to shoo racoons and a cat off the roof,since then though. I have grown weary of urban wildlife this past year.

Alas, our own dog is adding herself to the urban wildlife scene, recently taking to navigating her way through our fencing and bushes to roam the neighbourhood. We thought she was trotting up the street to feast on the refuse from the Chinese grocer at the end of the block, but we’ve recently landed on the fact that she appears to be snacking without reserve on a neighbour’s uncovered compost pile. The stench on her breath is one thing, but we also, in the past year, have found our dog to be in rather ill health; it appears she may have a degeneterative kidney disease, so here we are trying to buy her time and keep her healthy with pills and blood tests and controlled diets, and she’s treating the neighbour’s yard like a personal all you can eat buffet.

As for the other kids in the house, the human ones, Sacha and Heidi have had a great year. Both continue to flourish and Heidi shows little sign of the fact that she was such an early arrival in 2010. It has been interesting to watch the dynamic of a 3.5 year old boy, of whom we are teaching rules, responsibility and order to, and his 1.5 year-old sister, to whom few of those things can concretely apply quite yet, though they are coming along nicely.
I am sure Sacha sees Heidi getting away with murder and it drives him crazy, which may lead to the occasional hair pull, head butt or bite, but on the whole, the pair get along swimmingly and use their words to sort out their differences. One arena of Sacha’s life where we were unable to sort out the differences was that of preschool. His was shut down mere weeks after opening due to near complete mismanagement, some of the results of which were quite frightening to behold. So, we have been trying to find alternatives to keep Sacha engaged with a peer group, and learning ‘schooly’ types of things. We look forward to 2012 being a more consistent year in that respect.

Speaking of biting--and also frightening to behold--I didn’t report it on this blog back in June, but I did suffer a substantial gash in my forehead this year, thanks to Sacha leaping off a pool ledge without prior warning. His lil’ chompers caught me at the hairline. His teeth were left in tact, but I needed a trip to the ER. Long story short, the human mouth is a filthy thing. I landed in St. Paul’s hospital with a massive cranium thanks to infection and swelling (any Goonies fans out there? Sloth?), aka Cellulitis. I’ll leave it to you, dear reader to look up the term and find out what it can lead to if not treated properly, but suffice it to say, after a week off work, IV’s, antibiotics and a miserable headache, I’ll be holding this one against Sacha for the rest of his life. The scar has healed well, thank you for asking :)

Last but not least, you may notice on the list above that the words ‘cancer’ and ‘newborns’ appear side by side. This is more than just mere coincidence. Fact of the matter is, the two things seem to coincide in our lives quite regularly. My dad was dealing with his colon cancer when his first grandchild rolled around, my son was born while mum battled breast cancer, and this year my sister has just delivered her first child, a daughter, on December 13th--mere weeks after mum underwent lifesaving surgery to remove a brain tumour, and mere days before she started some aggressive radiation therapy to try to deal with tumours that remain in her head. We are overjoyed that my sister has brought her baby into the world, and we know that soon, mum will be able to meet her newest grandchild face to face. All were to be together in the UK at my sister’s house for Christmas this year, but due to the emergent situation with mum, it just can’t be.

So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Especially the last part? Well, if you want to use a ‘Reason for the Season’ analogy, Jesus wasn’t born at the Ritz, was he? Mary barely made it to the stable. Best laid plans / Life is just like that/etc. There’s been bad in the last 12 months, like when my wife had her head, neck and torso shoved into the dark rafters as she tried to drag a stinky dead rat out from in the insulation. There’s been bad, like when I held mum’s hand before she went in for brain surgery. There’s been bad, like knowing my sister had a really, really tough pregnancy. But a lot of good has happened too. When the dead rats are gone the house smells good again, mum is still here to meet her new grandchild, and that newborn baby is crying in it’s parent's arms. The roof is still over our heads, we are steadily employed in a poor economy, our kids are healthy and growing, we get to travel here and there and enjoy our families, and the food is on the table whenever we needed it.

Some days we miss the good, but it’s always there.

from my family to yours, we hope that wherever you are and whoever you are with this Christmas and New Year, you have the time to reflect on your last 12 months, to realize all that you have, and to look forward to an exciting and prosperous 2012.

As one of our family members likes to say on such occasions: May the best of your past year be the worst of the year to come.

Happy Holidays,

November 9, 2011

'Bees in my Bonnet' or 'Occupy Christmas'

I'll keep this short and sweet--and yes, I look fabulous in a Bonnet, for the record...

First, let’s talk Christmas. News flash: it’s not here yet. Universe, please stop sending me flyers. Give me a few more minutes to get past Hallowe’en, and for dang sure give me a moment to pause and reflect and give thanks on Remembrance Day before Santa starts putting his nose all up in my bizness.

Charities, stop sending me address labels, calendars, Christmas cards, envelope seal stickers and the like. You’re still welcome to send me pictures of sick and malnourished children with puppy dog eyes and pictures of sick and malnourished puppies with sad infant eyes, but please, stop wasting your money on goodies and gimmies. Yes, I have donated to a number of you. No, I didn’t expect any percentage of my donation would come back to me in the form of a gift bag and ballpoint pen. Please give my money to those kids with puppy dog eyes. I’ll buy a calendar from you if I feel like it.

Next, let’s talk Occupy. If you don’t know what that is, then I can only presume you live in a cave on Mars under a rock with your fingers in your ears and your eyes squeezed shut. I support the right to demonstrate, to exercise free speech and make your opinions known. What I don’t appreciate, however, is talking a lunch hour walk through my local Occupy site and being given the third degree on “what corporation do I work for?” and “what am I doing here?” questions from belligerent protesters who seem to think that they now own the city-owned, public-use land on which they are encamped. Yes, that happened yesterday. Colour me unimpressed. You want people to take you seriously? Stop talking to me like that and, absolutely and unequivocally, stop biting police. Stick to your key messages, work with authorities to make your valid right to protest go smoothly, and “stick it to the man” for as long as you like. I won’t get into the irony about the way-more-than-half-a-million-dollars that has been spent on the local protest, at the expense of the 99 per cent whom you are trying to represent. As a last comment on this, I hope cooler heads prevail if a Court injunction ordering your removal gets approved and another riot doesn’t get sparked.

Did I mention back in June how stupid I thought the Stanley Cup riot was? Bah.

Alright, that’s enough griping for now! I’ll be cheery once the Christmas spirit sets in. Not to worry—just have to get past November 11th first, Lest We Forget.

September 26, 2011

'Free of the children', or 'Ottawa, I hardly knew ye'

Disclaimer: I love my children. At the end of a hard work day, coming home to them erases the blahs. The funny, adorable things the kids think to say or do for no apparent reason at any given moment is a reminder that there is innocence and discovery and joy in the world. Nothing is quite so satisfying as tussling my sons hair or giving my daughter a peck on the cheek.

That being said: By God it’s good to ditch the little ankle biters for a weekend away.

Kate and I had the chance to do just that this past weekend. Not a normal occurrence for us, by any stretch. In fact, since Heidi was born 17 months ago, this is only the 2nd time we’ve both left the kids at once, and the first time we’ve A) left them for more than one night and B) been so far away from them, as we flew half way across the country to the nation’s capital, Ottawa.

It’s hard to say what I liked best about the weekend. Was it the plane ride there, where we scored three seats to ourselves in the emergency exit row where we promptly plugged in our headphones, stretched out and watched movies for the next four hours? (You can’t do THAT with a one and a three-year-old, I assure you!) Was it the fact we only needed ONE suitcase between us, suits and all? (You can’t do THAT with a one and a three-year-old, I assure you!). Or, was it the fact that even though we arrived after midnight we still sat in our friend’s kitchen enjoying wine and cheese until 2:30 am before retiring to an uninterrupted night of sleep, and we didn’t get up until 11 am? (You can’t do THAT with a…okay, okay. You get the picture). Perhaps my favourite part was doing a walkabout in a very walkable city, rich in political history, interesting architecture and greenery of the valley.

We managed to see the canal, the locks, the river, Parliament Hill, the war memorial / tomb of the unknown soldier, the Byway market (re market: see random images of crowded sidewalk and painted pumpkins)... and the inside of Rideau Centre shopping mall. That last one isn't all that inspiring.

Perhaps it was the main event, the reason for our trip: Kate had been invited to give a toast at ‘The Sailing Dinner’, an annual event where Canada’s newest Rhodes Scholar recipients are given a warm reception by alumni of the same scholarship (ie, Kate), before being sent off into the great unknown. Though I was merely a hanger-on at such an event—Kate’s eye candy for the evening, if you will—it was an exciting evening for me.

I’m not one to be too shy about mixing freely in a room full of people, and it was a great opportunity to be mixing freely in a room jam packed with a diverse bunch of politicians, social activists, lawyers, scientists, doctors and other worldly do-gooders from current and past generations, many of them having made major marks on the the planet. So the main event was good, but maybe it was being able to go out to a club with my wife afterward and act like we didn’t have kids, socializing into the wee hours of a warm Ottawa night. Ooh, speaking of which, maybe it was the weather I liked the most—25 degrees and humid? Yes please! Back home the tomatoes I planted in May are still green, for crying out loud. So to have summer weather at the end of September? Amazing. Or maybe I liked the relaxed, brunchy get together with friends the next morning before heading for the airport to fly home again (we were actually only in Ottawa for 36 hours).

Or, maybe it was the plane ride home again, where we were once more treated to a plane with extra seats and uninterrupted movie viewing (Kate opted for a novel this time. Ever the Rhodes scholar). Actually, no, it wasn’t the ride home that was my favourite. The woman in the window seat was on a steady diet of wine, red and white. She got a little odder as the flight went on which was bad enough but my thoughts turned to ‘What if we crash? Surely she’ll be the first to ignite, thanks to her elevated blood alcohol level and I’ll be consumed into her drunken ball of flames, with no chance of survival regardless of how marginal the odds of living were already going to be… but I digress…).

Maybe my favourite part of the short but sweet weekend was actually when we got off the train back in Vancouver, where Sacha came running over in his clunky shiny blue rain boots to meet us and deliver hugs on the fly, soon to be followed by his gurgly little sister. Yes, I had cocktails with the interim leader of the Federal Liberal party. Yes, I had dinner with the head of Mount Sinai Geriatrics, international relations specialists, human rights advocates, drivers of change of important social policy, a leader in behavioural intervention for children with autism (ahem, Kate) and maybe future world leaders (In a room like that, who knows, right?) and countless other high achievers, all of it in the opulent and historical surroundings of Ottawa’s Chateaux Laurier. But maybe, just maybe, my favourite part of the weekend was once we got home, as I watched my one-year-old tip tomato-saucey macaroni noodles into her mouth off a plastic yellow IKEA dinner plate, grinning at the realization that she’d just figured out a new way to feed herself.

Rubbing elbows with future world leaders, indeed.

July 24, 2011

What lies beneath....

Gentle readers, you may recall an installment in the not-too-distant past concerning a resident skunk who decided that the underside of our porch was its new home. This past weekend (knowing full well there was no creature of the night living there), we decided it was time to make the leap, get under there ourselves. As much as we want to make the space inhospitable to any more urban pestage, we also thought we'd take the time remove 100 years worth of junk that has been piling up for literally 100 years, as our house turns a century old this year.

The list of fodder that came out from under there is near endless. Crawling into the space in the first place seemed horrifying enough. I couldn't decide if the dark, dank, musty pit felt more like the setting for the scene in 'The Grudge' where the ghoul girl eats the face off of another girl after jumping out at her from the dark of an attic, or more like the basement in the final scene of The Blair Witch Project. Either way, my love of the horror genre had me envisioning all sorts of uses for this space. As I unburied an ages-old, thin, rotting child's size mattress, and unearthed pieces of a tiny bed frame, I imagined this pit being used to punish a Victorian-aged youth, locking them in the dark for their failure to sweep the kitchen floors... or... something.

Otherwise, I found ( in no particular order, and as some of the photos will point to):
- pop bottles and beer bottles of all sorts from the last several decades, including
some Expo '86 branded Coke and Labatt's bottles
- A Kamloops connection has been found in this house! Several 'Cooper's pop' bottles... I had no idea they used to bottle their own Soda.
- A mummified rat

- the bottom of an old wooden barrel
- Garden hose
- forementioned bed frame and rotten mattress
- an endless supply of construction end pieces from when this house was first being built in 1910/11
- plastic club head from child's golf club
- skunk poo, skunk poo, and more skunk poo
- old, fallen down insulation, more recently used as nesting sites for some nature of foul rodent.
- three of four short table legs.
- sledge hammer head. Just the head.
- a trailer hitch--portion of bumper still attached.
- various chunks of linoleum from previous owners' floor jobs...

...and that's kinda how it went. It had to figure that all of this miserable extraction in full coveralls, bandana and particle mask work was happening on the warmest day of our year thus far. But it's all gonna be worth it. our final step is to re-insulate, brighten it up under there a bit, throw down some crushed gravel.

All in all, it was a relatively interesting anthropological dig under the house. Especially where the pop and beer bottles were concerned, I couldn't help but think this is the sort of gold mine my dad would've had polished and on display before anyone else in the house would be able to blink an eye. We'll save a couple for ya, dad!

So, enjoy the random assortment of photos. There'll be some finished product shots in the near future.

OH, and to Pepe the skunk and all your friends? we bid you a fine adieu.

June 8, 2011

Summer Time!

Okay, so technically the season doesn’t begin until June 21st, but surely the first camping trip of the year must’ve signalled the start of summer.

To that end, the Chases and friends trekked south of the border for some Roughing It.

And by Roughing It I mean full-tilt car camping.

Laden down with queen sized air mattress, six man tent tall enough for me to stand in or lie in (with headroom to spare either way), chairs, Coleman double burner stove, clothes enough to last us through Summer (and Winter) and a cooler full of food enough for an army, we set up camp on Orcas Island in the San Juans.

Suggesting this is South of the Border is somewhat of a misnomer, as by the time you’ve driven down to the States, gotten on a ferry and made port, you’re actually further North than Victoria, B.C. if only by a hair.

I'm going to let the pictures do most of the talking. Long story short, we had a campsite next to a mountain lake, where the sun filtered down through old growth cedars. Picture perfect.
The kids—six of them in our party, aged ‘almost’ three and less--had a grand time as did the parents. There was hiking, the kids did biking, the parents threw themselves in various bodies of still-frigid water (including me, thank you very much… I may or may not have developed a rep as somewhat of a chicken of the sea), deer sightings,
fun with the camera in the dark (see below images for results!)lunches on the beach, and an outing to the top of Mt. Constitution, the island's highest point and in fact the highest point in all the San Juan islands, which provided spectacular views of the Sound and surroundings. Of note at the summit, A stone observation tower patterned after a medieval watch tower stands watch over all, an architectural anomaly for these here parts, to be sure!

To end off the text before more pictures, some highlights/lowlights!

Highlight: sunshine and warm temps for all three days, calm evenings listening to frogs croak in the shallows of the lake edge.

Highlight: CAMPFIRES!

Highlight: watching Heidi crawl around freely discovering a bit of nature, eating as much dirt as possible.

Lowlight: convincing Heidi that dirt is not for eating

Highlight: Kayaking around Mountain Lake on a sunny afternoon, watching the two-year olds bomb around on their run-bikes without fear…way less fear than their parents had at times, anyway!

Highlight: Doe! A Deer! A female deer!

Lowlight: Sacha tripping on multiple objects: grated docks, rocks, tree stumps, tree roots, tree branches, etc. Multiple new bruises and a few cuts to show for it, and plenty of screaming/howling to accompany said falls.

Highlight: jumping off the dock into frigid waters

Lowlight: Jumping off the dock into frigid waters

Highlight: time spent in nature with good friends and family! ahhhhhh. SUMMARY: Highlights way more impressive and plentiful than lowlights.

April 28, 2011

Voter Fatigue? Consider this.

The U.S. government approved armed drone patrols and--if necessary--attacks against Moammar Gadhafi's troops in Libya this week, while John McCain put out calls to give official recognition to the rebels in that country, who are most recently engaging in close-quarters battle in the streets of the Libyan city of Misrata.

French troops on Africa’s Ivory Coast managed to ferret out incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo from his presidential compound bunker In the weeks previous, where he encamped himself after refusing to accede to the internationally-recognized president Alassane Ouattara as leader of the nation. Concurrently, UN human rights investigators say they found more than 100 bodies in a mass grave that were indications of an ethnically motivated slaying.

And unless you were living in a cave on Mars, with your fingers in your ears, and your eyes squeezed shut, you should’ve noticed the massive citizen uprising and protests in Egypt this year, which led to Hozni Mubarak—the country’s ruler—being toppled after 30 years of power. It was not a task completed without violence.

Many Egyptians are now supporting Syrian protestors who are calling for President Bashar Assad to step down, a dispute that has seen much blood shed, as have all the instances of political strife noted above.

Given these few examples of people standing up for their political beliefs—and dying for them—do we as Canadians really have any reason not to go to the polls on May 2nd?

Do you have any reason to buy in to the term ‘voter fatigue’ in the face of municipal, provincial and federal elections all in the same year, when you are SO fortunate to be able to exercise such a right as voting freely?

On May 2nd, there will be no armed security force escorting voters safely to polling stations. There will be no arbitrary detentions or threats of torture when you choose to cast a vote.

I suspect it highly unlikely that Stephen Harper, Jack Layton, Michael Ignatieff, Gille Duceppe, or Elizabeth May would barricade themselves inside an arms camp at the news they have not won leadership and command their followers to start an uprising against the elected government.

People seem to think that voting is pointless these days—that all politicians are corrupt, money gets spent unwisely, that generally nothing ever changes, and we’ll just end up with another election sooner rather than later anyway. Another election? That’s music to the ears of many on this planet, consider yourselves very lucky.

So, ‘Conservative’ or ‘conservative’, NDP, Liberal, BQ or Green? I don’t care. Just raise your voice in the peaceful, democratic, fear-free way which we are so fortunate to be able to do: vote. And if after you vote you don’t like the result, feel free to raise your voice again to complain. Another bonus of our system, you can do that, too, without winding up in a mass grave. It’s all a pretty good deal.

April 13, 2011

Miss you dad / Happy Birthday Heidi

April 13

We knew this was the last 24 hours—or less—for dad. We were all gathered in the room at the Hospice where he had been transferred after a week at Royal Inland Hospital. Here at Hospice, he had a window-side bed which looked out over Kamloops. As a family, we spent time together with him in the evening. A sad time, but at the same time a relief knowing that he was beyond the pain at this point, and soon enough, he’d be beyond this world. We all stood in a circle around his bed. Mum said we should sing him a song, probably not a prayer though…not much his style. I said I’d had a Beatles song in my head all day. We sang.

Close your eyes and I’ll kiss you
Tomorrow I’ll miss you
Remember to always be true
And while I’m away
I’ll write home every day
And I’ll send all my loving
To you….

Just in case dad decided to leave in the night while we were sleeping, each of us before leaving sat close to the head of dad’s bed to share our thoughts with him, to wish him well and pay him thanks for all he was to us.

By 11:00 p.m. we had all headed out, except Mum, who was staying the night in the hospice.

The nurse said she’d call us at home if dad passed in the night, so we could gather once more, no matter the hour.

April 14

At one a.m., we were awakened from the few hours of sleep we’d had by the ringing of the phone.


At 6:30 a.m., Kate woke up and suspected that the flu I’d gotten had come her way.

By 7:30 a.m., Kate was worried this was affecting the baby, and we’d called the midwives. Given Kate’s track record thus far for early birth, the midwife presumed it was nothing, but said she’d meet us at B.C. Women’s and Children’s hospital at 9:00 a.m. to check and be sure.

By 8:30 a.m. we were out the door en route to the hospital, a little terrified that Kate—still eight weeks off of her due date—was maybe, perhaps, but hopefully not in labour.

By 9:35 a.m. the fear of uncertainty of a premature child’s birth was behind us, replaced by Heidi, our little 4 pound 13 ounce daughter.


And this, my dear little girl, is where I get in to my letter to you on the occasion of your first birthday. The event of your granddad’s passing was three years before you were born, and either by fate, fortune or folly the two instances happened to occur on the same day in the calendar.

As I said in my initial letter to you one year ago, the real significance of this is that your arrival on this day has helped the family redefine what April 14th means. I promise you, though, I’m not trying to turn you in to some sign from God that my father is up there watching us, and you were given to us on that particular day for just that purpose. That seems like too much weight for anyone to bear, and Lord knows you bore much weight in your early days. I will never stop recognizing April 14th as the day I lost my father, but I promise you I’ll not use your birth story from the same day in a way that makes you seem like a patch over a hurt, rather than the single, detached, stand-on-its-own amazing celebration of life that you are and deserve to be.

There was emotion in your birth like you would not believe, but as much as anything it was because we had to watch you in that incubator and isolette bed for weeks. It was because we could not hold you as much as we wanted and we couldn’t spend our nights with you. It was because doctors said you might be there until your supposed actual due date In June.

Let it not be said that you didn’t put all your might behind your four pounds. You were so excellent at hitting your milestones that you got to come home with us in 19 days. For a 32-weeker preemie, that’s tant amount to leaving burnt rubber on the floor of the intensive care unit as you peeled on outta there.

We held a little ceremony for you around the date of your originally assumed due date. We wrote down all the negative things we could think of about your birth that filled our heads and hearts, said them aloud and then threw them into a fire. It wasn’t only us who participated. Midwives, our doula, grandparents, aunts and uncles afar. They all sent in words even if they couldn’t join us in person, and we let those thoughts drift off entwined in the smoke from the fire.

We felt relief for ourselves, and for you. I think for the first time I really allowed myself to appreciate what a wonder you are; to see you clearly without bad memories clouding my thoughts.

I do have to apologize for our impatience in those early days, though, Heidi. Your mum and I, we wanted you to wake up, see some attention in your eyes, see you crack your first real smiles. Your state of 'newborness' went on for ages. Generally, that 'newborny' phase might go for three weeks and then babies start coming out of their sleepy little shell. But for you, it went on for months, and we really wanted to meet the 'real you'. You had enough going on though, and it wasn't fair of us to think like that.

But when you did come out of that shell, holy cow. You've come on like gangbusters. Now, you're a fantastic size. Not just for a preemie but for any baby. Enormity doesn’t begin to describe how adorable you are, though.

The way you chuckle: not an outward guffaw, but just a chuckle that shows how tickled you are—this is you. The way your face crumples completely and you wail in despair if not picked up post-haste by either your mum or I when we get home from work—this is you. The way you’ve learned to scoot across the floor, head down and cruising forward, after one of your brother’s toys, which you’ll try to rip from his hands unapologetically—this is you. That you tend to pet the dog’s fur rather than rip it out—this is you (and Nellie thanks you for it). That you not only play, but initiate, peekabo games with those around you. That you babble happily almost non-stop, though unfortunately sometimes at 4:30 in the morning—this is you. Along those lines, you’ve no idea what a light in the world you are when wake up happy every morning or after a good nap—your pleased little gurgles and coos are music to the world.

Cognitively, Heidi, “they “ say you’ll be a bit behind for a while due to your early arrival. But after 365 days of watching you not just grow, but excel and shine and turn into such a gorgeous little creature, I’ll be darned if you aren’t perfect right now. I can’t wait to watch what happens tomorrow and every day thereafter. I just know that Granddad Jim, from somewhere, like the rest of us, is just beaming at the sight of you.

Happy birthday, Heidi. Thank you for coming to us when you did, and for being who you are.

Love always,

March 7, 2011

Life is Good

Sometimes we worry. It’s human nature.

Like these days, I’m wondering about work; about how I can please all my masters, from the internal ones (AKA The Boss) as well as the external ones like the producer who needs me to lock down filming dates ASAP but I still don’t have my cast and the script is still too loose. Or there’s the printer who has fiscal year end billing cut off deadlines and we don’t have our project to them yet. Or there’s the web development company that should’ve gotten back to me by now about my website glitch, but they haven’t.

Sometimes we worry. It’s human nature. Like these days, I’m wondering about the kids, about Sacha’s foot, upon which he ‘landed funny’ jumping off a chair this past weekend which prompted a visit to the ER and now Sacha may or may not have a wee crack in a growth plate. Or, I wonder about Heidi and how now that our almost-one year old is eating all sorts of solids, are we feeding her enough? The way she knocks back her meals and snacks, you’d think not!

Sometimes we worry. It’s human nature. Like these days, I’m wondering about house stuff. Like that DAMN skunk living under our porch and why we can’t get rid of it no matter what we try, and will it spray our dog again and if we should just kill it somehow and be done with it, or will I actually feel bad about killing off a creature of that size? But if I don’t kill it and we successfully get it to leave, then it will just become someone else’s problem. As for the porch it’s living under, I wonder if it’ll make it another year without caving in on us. Our house is 100 years old in 2011, and beautiful as it is, it shows its age here and here.

And I wonder and I wonder and I worry and I wonder.

And then I open the freezer. And there, tucked in to the right corner of the bottom shelf, is a half-full Ziploc bag of homemade snack mix. It’s been there since we moved in. Chex, cheesy bites, cherios, etc. And before it was in this freezer, it was in the freezer at my last house. And in the freezer at the place I rented before that. And before that, it was in my freezer when I lived in Edmonton.

And now you’re worrying about my mental health, and why I have an ancient bag of homemade snack mix in my freezer all that time.

It’s part of the last batch of snack mix that my friend Colin Cooper ever made, a week or so before he died in his sleep, his various health issues catching up to him when he was barely into his 20’s. March 8th is the anniversary of his passing. I keep that bag of snack mix in the freezer for…well, a lot of days only God knows why. But days like March 8th, I know why. It’s to remind me that I’m so lucky to be 31 and have all those worries on my mind.

Colin knew well enough about worry, and several years ago I noted on this blog that he survived a cancer that took his leg at the age of 13, and in his late teen years, he contracted a rare disease that I can’t even hope to pronounce that reduced his vision, hearing, robbed him of his voice and forced him to walk with a cane much of the time. But Colin rarely if ever complained about his lot in life, saying often that there was always someone worse off than he was.

2003 was a while back now, so I’m not about to crack into that bag of snack mix in my freezer. But I’m glad its there. A lot people miss you, Colin, and we’re thinking of you. On March 8th and often otherwise. Thanks for reminding me about the good life. I'm sure you'd be tickled at the thought of being memorialized in the existence of your snack mix ;)

You can donate to the Colin Cooper Award, which was established at the University of Alberta by friends and family, and is now handed out annually. you can contact the awards office by emailing or calling them at Phone: (780) 492-3221

January 18, 2011

Top 10 of 2010

Here we are, a few weeks in to the New Year. You know how it is when a new year rolls around. You get all those lists that tout the ‘best of the last year’ and all those lists that tout the ‘best of the year to come’.

Ridiculous, really, this human need to over analyze what’s gone by and what’s to come.

Naturally, I feel compelled to do one for myself.

But only the ‘looking back’ part. Predicting the best of my year to come seems like it would involve using too many neurons. Besides that, what if my ‘bests’ turn out to be ‘worsts’ or ‘mediocres?’ Totally not on.

So, my ‘top 10 of 2010’. No particular order here, so don’t get too excited about the distance between number one and number 10!

1. Decluttering the house. This was a new year’s resolution that Kate and I made last new years (resolutions, another human foible). To a fair degree it was successful. There were some hard choices in there, but ultimately it was rewarded. I thinned out my closet, for example, in a big way. I’m not really fussy about my wardrobe, Evidence for and against: I had a number of items that I kept for ten years or longer, and now that they’re gone, I’m not sure how they stuck along for so long. Items even older than that, too. A ‘San Francisco’ t-shirt from a family vacation… from when I was EIGHT. Buh-bye. A denim-y button down shirt that I used to wear with a tie… on game days in GRADE NINE… and the list goes on. Needless to say, I’ve weeded out some very outdated items and my clothes rack is lighter and happier for it.

2. Heidi. While her arrival was terrifying and fast-paced and surprising, one of the largest rewards of 2010 has been to watch that little four and a half pound sack of sugar turn into the 21 pound happy-talkative-solid-food-eating-sitting-up-on-her-own-lil’ person that she is today. While her age is still ‘adjusted’ based on her prematurity, she is a wonder of development to behold.

3. Vacation time. This is a no brainer, I suppose. Kate and the kids and I got 17 days off in a row (this includes weekends of course) to be together and go visit various and sundry grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It was a solid 14 months between vacations, and a whole lot happened in between times (see #.2) to make this break seem a great relief.

4. Olympic fever. Holy man. What an exhausting amazing unforgettable unrepeatable experience the 2010 Winter Olympic Games were. So Exciting to be immersed in the media centre as a media relations staffer, and so much fun to be able to experience some of the venues and watch competition and take in a number of the free events. By months’ end, I could’ve napped for weeks. Alas,

5. New job. The day after my last shift at the media centre, I fell into a new position as communications officer for the provincial public guardian and trustee. The timing was ‘fiscal year end’ which meant being parachuted into a frenzy of last minute project work that brought me back up to speed on layout and design tools that I hadn’t used in a while, and as a whole through the year, this position has exposed me to projects and processes that are either new to me, or are things I haven’t done other than in a classroom setting, so it’s been an amazing experience to be able to add and polish the tools into my skill set.

6. Five years of marriage. Closing out 2010, Kate and I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary. The difference in our lives in a mere half-decade is almost immeasurable, what with kids and a house and a dog and jobs etc. etc., but it’s pretty cool that the ring on my finger and the love between us has been constant all the way through.

7. Teaching my two-year-old to parrot funny sayings. I’ll keep this one brief, but let’s face it: my son doesn’t look much like me. May as well train him to act like me.

8. Kari’s wedding. A highlight of the year was the late summer party held in Kamloops to celebrate my sister’s 'nups. It was a tonne of fun to have so much family together and to see my sister get hitched to a great guy. Don’t screw it up, Matt ;) we didn't take a camera with me and at the time of making this list, the only photo from that wedding on or computer... is of me MC'ing the reception. chalk it up to shameless self promotion?

9. Health. On the one hand, I have been plagued since the Olympics with a knee injury that has kept me away from doing most of the athletic things I love: volleyball, biking and running have all been off limits since I tore some cartilage. I await surgery. That being said, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to get to the gym regularly and I feel like I’m in pretty good shape these days as a result. Here’s to continued health in 2011!

10. All the things I forgot to mention. In reality, there are more blessings that pour into a year than I can actually count. I’m a lucky guy and that doesn’t seem to change from year to year.