December 12, 2016

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


But here’s the real deal: 

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

And you are at its mercy.

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

These are the first people to be humbled.

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

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

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

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

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

But the rest of us suffer.

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

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

November 14, 2016

Quality over quantity.


A few days ago, I received an award from Canoe Kayak BC for being the top para canoe/kayak athlete in the province for 2016. It feels pretty good. Really good, actually. 


The plaque says: "success is not limited by one's abilities."
As mentioned before on this blog, I’m not much one to receive accolades. I do what I do because I love to participate. I do not do it for reward. This is generally true of any pursuit of happiness in my life. And, in the specific case of para canoe/kayak, I do it to try and bring some awareness to what is a relatively new discipline. When an award becomes a bi-product of my involvement and engagement with a particular activity, that’s awesome.

I digress. So, the other night after winning my award I posted a picture of me with the plaque I won. I got great response from it—more than I expected I would, actually. Thanks for that, gentle readers!

I also got some side comments, as I have before about this discipline within this sport, and it’s high time I get something off my chest. It shouldn’t bug me, because as I said, I do what I do because I love doing it, and that’s enough. But I’m only human, and if I hear enough of one thing, it’s sure to bug the ever-lovin’ crap out of me.

The comments come out in different ways, but always carry the same meaning: you’re being rewarded because there’s no one to compete against.

Let’s educate the masses, shall we?

I got my name on something!! 
High performance sport is, in general, a lonely world. Whereas you can find a decent chunk of the population participating in sport generally, only a small percentage of those folks are engaged at a high level (by high level/ high performance, I mean ‘requiring highly-specialized coaching, facilities, athlete services and direct financial support’, such as amateur national-level or Olympics-bound competitors, for example). Thus, the percentage of people in all of Canada engaged in high performance sport, as a percentage of the population, is small (thank you, captain obvious).

NOW, for perspective on the para sport world: in Canada, an estimated 3.8 million adult Canadians (This study relates 'adult' as age 15 or older) reported being limited in their daily activities due to a disability in 2012. This represents 13.7% of the adult population. (source, stats Canada)

Here’s the math. If that 13.7 per cent chunk of Canada’s population is 100 per cent of the nation’s population living with a disability, and only a small per cent of THAT chunk of the population engaging in high-performance sport, you’re looking at a VERY small pool of disabled people either willing or even able to come out and participate. It is a minuscule fraction of the population. Based on all that, I don’t disagree with people who recognize that when I race para canoe/kayak,  I race fewer people. it's just a statistical reality that this will be the case, and you cannot get blood from a teeny, tiny stone.

Do I like it that way? Of course I would prefer it if there were throngs of competitors. And, as you move up the food chain, there are more and more people to race against. National and international pools are respectively larger. But locally/provincially, no, there aren’t many people to compete against. It varies from province to province and sport to sport, but overall, competitor numbers are fewer in para-sport compared to able-bodied sport.

Back to the question of ‘yeah, but do you have anyone to compete against?’ Part of my answer to this is all that stuff as stated above, and of course I would prefer a deep pool of competitors.

But here's the thrust of it:  I don’t require a deep pool of competitors to push MYSELF as hard as I can. Sure, we all like drinking the sweet champagne of victory from the skulls of defeated foes, but it's really not a driving factor for me.  

There are time standards to measure performance, whether there are one, two, three, 18 or 27 people on the race card. No one is handing me cheques if I come first, if I don’t make a certain time standard to go with it. If I go to national team trials (as I have) and if there’s only a few people vying for a team spot (as has been the case), and if I win the race (as has happened) BUT I don’t make a time standard (as has also happened), guess what? I’m not representing Canada. It’s not as though someone says ‘You won! Go represent us!’ You still have to measure up, as is only right.

And in the last year, I. Measured. Up. And for that, my provincial sport organization recognized me. 

The next time someone wants to ask ‘yeah, congrats, but who are you competing against’, I may smirk at you because I have nothing clever or concise to say in the moment, but know that my answer is this:
Congratulate me for why I am competing, not for whom I am doing so against.  
Congratulate me for being representative of others who currently face too many barriers to sport.
Congratulate me for bringing awareness, and hopefully encouraging others to try it out. 

Most of all, when it comes down to me and my paddling: ask yourself, is this a question I would ask of an able-bodied athlete? Then, do as you would for said able bodied athlete: congratulate me for the length of the course, not the width of the lake on which I race.

November 1, 2016

Halloween 2016 is in the bag

A firefighter and a zebra. Respectable, if I do say so myself. 
Halloween has come and gone, and predictably, many posts on my Facebook page are from parents, resigning themselves with an eyeroll to the days of sugar highs and lows that now await them.

Not so in our house.

We adopted a practice from some friends a few years back that has worked out well for us.
For the last few years, the ‘Halloween fairy’ has been coming to the house, to exchange candy for some sort of toy or art supply. This year, the kids are old enough to have us just tell them that we’d be exchanging their candy for some sort of pens-and-colouring-book set. And they’re cool with it.

The concept, for anyone who wants to try it next year, is simple. 
  • The kids get to go trick-or-treating to their heart’s content. 
  • Come back with as much as you can carry. Dump it all on the table, with no separation of ‘whose is whose’. 
  • Sort out the razor blades, syringes and fentanyl pills, and then let the kids gorge. In our experience, it only takes 15 minutes of straight candy eating before the kids are tired of it. 
  • As they eat, they get to choose a handful of treats to stash away—we say 10 pieces. 
  • And then, the rest goes into the candy bowl to be handed back out to other trick-or-treaters who come to our door.
  • In exchange, the kids get (Insert material object here).


The sugar high from all that gorging is basically offset by the exhaustion of a late night running around the neighbourhood (bedtime was no problem!), and from there, the kids can choose a treat for their dessert each night until the candy is gone.

The usual Trick-or-treating mayhem
Now, I get it. It was fun to have all that candy as a kid. But the stash in a house with siblings was a difficult asset to protect, for one thing (JAMIE, I am looking at YOU… thieving older brother), and really, eating mini chocolate bars by the time Christmas rolled around was pointless, since the fresh Christmas goodies were on their way into rotation.

What do you think? Are we terrible parents for using this system on our kids? Or are we the BEST MOST AMAZING PARENTS EVER?!*

We've figured out how to cut down on the candy.
Now if we could just get our son to stop doing the 'Dab' dance move. 
Give it a try next year, and see how it works out for you!

And, for a lil’ video of the Halloween experience at our house, have a looky-loo. All the fun, with 95 per cent less candy! https://youtu.be/5CO7SlvmzC0 

Ooh, also, I had a haunted house for work, a couple days before halloween. If you're still feeling spooky, that video is here: https://youtu.be/mfd2SrMARBc 

ps - lots of video on my youtube channel since my last post. head over to my channel for various and sundry items! 


*does not denote personal bias. That’s all in your head. 

October 7, 2016

Oh thank heaven for age 37!


A birthday post a few days late, and/or a Thanksgiving post, a few days early.
  
Back on my birthday, I said on my Facebook page that I may be closer to 40 now than I am to 30, but that’s just fine with me. In many ways, I feel like I’ve just had my best year ever. Here's a few reasons why:

  1. The kids are growing and becoming real human beings with every passing day (the boy loves math… I can’t figure that one out, but I’ll just go with it), and the interactions just get more interesting every day.
  2. Paddling, need I say it, was a major highlight in the past year. Training was fun, racing was even better. And, as a real “adult”, I’m involved with the sport on much deeper levels. I’m an athlete representative to the board for our provincial sport organization, and I’m an athlete representative on the Cane Kayak Canada’s Paracanoe committee, newly formed in this past year (think of it like the old Hair Club for Men ads… not only am I a client…). After 26 years of paddling, It’s great to have some expertise and experience to be to give to the sport beyond being able to line up properly on the starting gates.  
  3. I’m married to a business owner. That seems like something a legitimate 37-year-old can say. Kate’s non-profit therapy clinic for kids with complex special needs has been up and running for a while now, and they are expanding into a larger space right now to meet client demand. How cool is that?
  4. And the work? Oh, the work is so good! I’m now a year into my move over to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and it’s been such a pleasure. We recently had a fundraising weekend in the Sunny Okanagan—AKA Wine Country—and I was on my own for this one. Kate couldn’t come along due to forementioned office move. But as you’ll see from the video I’ve linked here, I had a fun weekend of it (this video is all the stuff I did outside of the work duties, FYI).
  5. Finally, the thing I like about getting older is wanting for not in the ‘material things’ category. Do you know what I asked for, for my birthday this year? A metal milk steamer jug for my coffee machine. That’s it. Steamed milk, made in a good metal container, is all I need.



So in summary, life is good. Very good. If this is what getting closer to 40 looks like, I say let’s have more of it. There is much to give thanks for! Speaking of which, enjoy your thanksgiving! 

BIRTHDAY PIE!! Apple, homemade. Delicious. (Pro-tip: do not put beeswax candles into a hot pie fresh from the oven. You end up with just wicks, and a slightly waxy interior to your pie). 

September 20, 2016

Top 8 things I hate about 'back to class’: elementary school edition

Alright, so we’re a few weeks back into the school year here, and I’ve caught my breath long enough to think about all the things I hate about sending the kids back to school


                                                                                                                                                                        

1. People who act like the "fresh start" of the school year... is any different than summer.

As far as I can tell, the summer is exactly like the school year. It's the same lunch-making-what-the-fuck-do-we-feed-you-tomorrow bullshit, the same mad morning rush to get the kids ready for their next day camp, the same routine of kids waking up earlier than necessary, the same walking the dog in the dark of the early morning before work, the same kid pick-up schedules at the end of day… the only difference was forking over thousands of dollars in summer camp fees.

to boot, around here at least, the weather was 85 per cent spring-like, too, so not only did the daily schedule look the same, the daily weather felt the same as the school year.

2. Feigning enthusiasm for the start of the school year.

This is just me, and it’s a good starting point for understanding the colour of the rest of this blog entry. I didn’t love going back to school as a kid at the end of the summer. I generally hated school from day one until grade 12 graduation. From having to “learn stuff” to being bullied, to having some terrible, terrible teachers along the way, I really didn’t dig on school. I get that I needed education, so I persevered, but… oh, those back to school blues… *smile for the kids, Stu, tell them how awesome it will be!* Genuinely, I don't feel excitiement for the start of the school year. I feel anxiety. 
2.       

3. Gradual Entry

“Back in my day”, we used to rock up to the school a week before it started, read the list of who’s class we were going to be in, and who our classmates were going to be, and THAT. WAS. IT. Day one, aaaaand go.

Nowadays, we have to get the goddamn Harry Potter sorting hat out, and it takes at least a week before kids are actually settled into their classroom routines. I get that the social-emotional learning environment means teachers and staff actually take the time to consider the balance of personalities and independent learning needs, and that is AWESOME. I retain the right to be grumpy about the process.

I admit, this year, I didn’t do any of the gradual entry days. It was my wife’s turn this year. I did it last year. God willing, next year neither of us will have to partake in this madness and the kids will essentially get straight to full days of class.

3.      
GOOD ENOUGH. 

4. The "first day of grade XYZ” pictures at the front door.

You know what? You parents that had your shit together enough to even DO this? I love you all and respect you, but… just, f*ck you. That is all.

     

5. A professional development day within the first 2-4 weeks of school. 

Love and respect teachers for all they do, and the extra hours they work, blah blah blah. A DAY WITHOUT KIDS, WHEN SCHOOL JUST STARTED?! Are you KIDDING ME? Did you read #3?! For all the parents that manipulated their working schedules to deal with the first two weeks of school, and now have to do it again, this pro-D day is Just MEAN!

6. The “Art” 

Oh god, the artwork. Parents, I know you feel me on this. Piles and piles of it, at the end of each day, on the countertops. Schoolbags get dragged in the door, and all of a sudden, it’s a spontaneous vomiting of scribbly crumpled papers, all over the place. There are the gems within there, of course, and those are worth weeding out for the memory books, as well as other valuable items such as field trip forms, class photo day notices, teachers’ letters, etc… which leads me to…


7. Paperwork

Holy mother of permission slips, batman. WHY SO MANY THINGS TO SIGN? The worst has to be our after-school care arrangement for our kids. Some elements were required not just in duplicate, or triplicate, but the exact same information had to be printed out EIGHT FUCKING TIMES. What? What? I can’t even. Here, take our money and all these dead trees you made us fill out. The irony is, we do the paperwork for the safety of the children and the total indemnification of the program from any legal harm (Jimmy broke his arm falling off the monkey bars? Yo fault. Emma got into a pencil crayon shiv fight with Sofia? Not our problem!), and THEN, the program feeds our kids chocolate frosted sugar bombs for their afternoon snacks… Jimmy’s arm is broken AND he developed diabetes? Still not our fault! Wait, is this still about paperwork? Whatever.
7.      

8. Two weeks of spring break

OK, this is actually super awesome for the kids. I’m just 100 per cent bitter that I didn’t get this when I was in school.

------------------

So that’s enough piss and vinegar for one posting. Just had to get all that off my chest! At the heart of it, obviously, nothing is more important to me than seeing my kids get a great education, and we will jump through whatever hoops we have to, to make sure our kids earn their smarts, forge some great friendships and hopefully don’t get beat up along the way.

If you need me, I’ll be in the kitchen cutting sandwiches into little flower shapes and carving smiley faces into fruit slices. NOT. 

September 6, 2016

This little piece of metal

It's small enough to sink into the palm of my prosthetic-clad hand. Large enough to fill me with great satisfaction.


What you see here is a single medal from the Canadian Canoe Association sprint national championships, a competition held annually near the end of August.

For some paddlers, their collection of these little medallions boggles the mind. They count them, literally, in the dozens.

For me, this is the only one I have.

In 26 years of paddling—hell, in a lifetime of multiple sports—I’ve never held a top award in my hands outside of my own province. This week, that all changed, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ll even go ahead and say this: I am proud.

I won this at the ‘CCA’s’ on Lake Banook, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.  Lake Banook may be insignificant as a geographic detail perhaps, but it’s significant to me in personal history. I first raced here 20 years ago, my very first time at a CCA sprint national championship, as a wide-eyed, vaguely out of control, in-it-for-the-fun 16 year-old.

I raced at a couple of successive CCAs after that, finding my way into various finals in singles and team races.

But I never found my way on to the podium.

In 1999, the sport changed for me—life changed—completely, when I had an industrial accident that left me without most of the fingers on my left hand.

Did you know it’s hard to hold on to a kayak paddle without fingers?

But, I was determined to try—you can never run out of try—and so, by 2001, following rehab, etc.  I was back at it with a pathetically ill-fitting, rudimentary prosthetic, racing against able-bodied paddlers with a sore hand and a technique that was forever changed. 

There was no para circuit back then. By 2004, I started to fade away from the sport for a while, frustrated by the change in my ability and feeling unsupported by the sport—I even had competitors tell me they didn’t think I should be able to participate, perceiving my use of a prosthetic as some sort of advantage.

School, marriage, work, kids… these things were paid more due than my love of being in boat. I hadn’t run out of ‘try’, but it was a fine time to shift my focus. Today I have a family, a house, a job, all of which I love and am blessed to have, and owe much to that break I took.

Eventually, I started to hear that there was in fact a para circuit, and that I would likely qualify, on assessment in a particular class. That was late in 2012. Little did I know that the para class had actually been gaining steam for a few years at that point. I made a slow re-entry to the sport. Inquiries before action. Tons of them. Looking into rules, and classifications, and equipment, and qualifications processes, and potential time commitments, and ultimately, discussions with family about what it could all mean.

Finally, though, the clincher: the para class was going to be debuting in Rio at the 2016 Paralympics. Time for action.

With my family’s blessing, I jumped back in. I was full of try again. I bought the appropriate Para class boat—the first flatwater sprint boat I have ever called my own, this in itself a dream fulfilled since I first sat in a boat as a kid in Kamloops. I started training again. Even went to my first Florida training camp (after 20 years of hearing people talk about the camps down there, what with all the dolphins and manatees and warm waters, it was my turn!).

Then, a little roadblock: The International Canoe Federation reconsidered the classifications for para kayak. My amputation no longer qualified to shoot for international competition…never mind that a dude can barely hold on to a paddle without a prosthetic. In the wake of the classifications change, numerous paddlers around the globe were declassified. Disappointing, to be sure, what with the Rio Paralympics a goal for many people at that point.

I wasn’t going to run out of try this time.

I jumped right into the V-1 class outrigger (or Va'a, if you prefer) sanctioned alongside the para kayaks as a para sprint discipline, though not to be included in Rio. It is totally new to me in the last year and a half, but I love it. I’m still classified internationally, and I’ve kept training at it. I basically reduced my sights to the CCAs for 2015.

But I didn’t get to nationals in 2015.Never mind why. It was work related and that’s how life goes.

Never run out of try.

I set sights on 2016, and here I am today.

I have a picture in my mind of me as a rake-thin 10 year-old, trying a sprint kayak for the first time.

I have this ACTUAL picture of me as a (still) rake thin 12 year-old (now with a mullet) and now totally into this sport.
I picture my progress as a kid through provincial championships, BC Games, Western Canadian Championships, and Canada Games and past CCAs, all full of their own successes and disappointments.
I have a picture of all those other sports I was doing at the same time, with paddling always seeming to come out at the top of list of interests.
And I picture the 23 year-old amputee ready to step back for a while.
And I see my adult life, mixing marriage and kids and work with this life-long love affair with the water, and the paddle and the boat.

Here's the real point of all this: Until today, paddling has never come with any particular accolades, but the love was always there. Paddling has always been one of my churches.

Today, I look down again at this little piece of metal pressed to my palm. And I think about the last 20 years since my first CCA,
Maybe love has been enough to motivate me.
Maybe, maybe I KNEW that I would one day have a moment like this and that kept me coming back. With or without fingers.
With or without years of delay. Always knowing I loved this sport and wanting to keep trying for… something.
I am glad, today, that I have a family who puts up with this little obsession, employers who are flexible with my vacation days, and above all, despite delays and times on the sidelines, that I made it to today… I never ran out of try.
How did I know I would get here?
Did I know?
I don’t know.
But I must have known.
Because I wrote this entire post last February.
Not knowing, but believing, a day like this might finally be coming.

I am excited for the future of para paddling in Canada. There's building to be done, but I'm going to work hard to make sure others might be able to find a passion for this sport like the one I have had for all this time.
Alright, that’s enough chatter. If you need me, I’ll be on the water.
#WEPADDLE

August 3, 2016

Summer so far...

If you're from Vancouver--or much of British Columbia, really--you probably feel as I do: that the summer break is technically half over, but the good weather has barely just kicked in. 

Best make the most of it! 

As I write this, Kate and the kids are in Quebec, where I just came from. I made a whirlwind August Long Weekend tour of visiting with friends in Ottawa, where we basically spent an entire day next to their pool... and we filmed this genre-defining 60 second piece of ART. 

OK, my friend Sean and I made this while the kids laughed and our wives rolled their eyes. It's still art. 

Then we rolled on to Quebec, where Kate's family has a compound of houses along scenic Lake Ann; it boils down to about 40 people of all ages, running around, swimming and eating. It's so amazing for our kids to connect with their cousins, forging new friendships and living free-range, doing things like catching frogs!

It feels like a small failure that it's taken this long into their childhood to get the kids doing something as simple as catching a frog, but oh well, it's done now! 

And best of all, the weather was nice and toasty, like summer should be. Feet up, drink in hand, warm breezes, and great connections with friends and family. It may have only been a weekend for me, but it was regenerative. 


That's it for now! Enjoy the videos. What are all y'all doing with your summers? Comment below or on the YouTube videos! 






















July 14, 2016

Such 'Rappellant' behaviour

I did it.
I came, I saw. I rose to the occasion, then dropped down the side of that occasion. 


*AND Exhaaaale.*
Yes. That's me. Look up... look waaaayyy up. 

I have mentioned a few times in the past while how I don't like man-made heights (unless it's an amusement park ride, in which case, giddyup).

I have also mentioned how I decided that, as an employee of Make-A-Wish BC & Yukon, I would put my money where my mouth is this year, and fundraise to participate in the Rope For Hope urban rappelling challenge.

I raised my minimum, and on July 8th, I did "it."

I'll let the video speak for itself, but the fact is, amid moments requiring deep breaths, or realizing how intense I was actually feeling about the whole thing, I was doing it and it was actually pretty fun. The video is pretty "Vlog style", so some of the sound and editing is choppy, but it moves along nicely!
Almost back to sweet, sweet terra firma! 

Aaanyway, after a whole day of working the event for Make-A-Wish, it was my turn to tackle the challenge myself. By the time I'd watched so many others go through the safety briefings and tests, and seen the joys and fears on the faces of the other participants, I was actually very ready to go. turns out I have more mental fortitude than I thought :P

As I mention half way down the 400 ft. wall in this video, thanks to everyone who helped me do it, both mentally and financially. There were as many donations of advice on how to conquer this fear as there were contributions to my fundraising goal--and it all helped!

Once again, the video link. Enjoy. I know I did, as much to my own surprise as that was.


I am history's greatest champion!! 

May 31, 2016

Me Tarzan. You bad parent?

OK, enough of the judgy parent bullsh*t a la Gorilla mom at the Cincinnati Ohio Zoo this week.

Did she do wrong? Oh hells yeah, for sure. I mean, it’s a zoo. Keep an eye on your kids.

But is she always that bad? I very much doubt it. Epic… EPIC fail on her part this time around, no doubt…

Listen, we’ve all, as parents, done some dumb, inattentive sh*t, so let they who are without sin cast the first stone, mmmkay?

Hell, let’s turn it into a fun drinking game, shall we?

in the style of ‘never have I ever...’ (if you have, then do a shot. Your choice of liquor. I’ll choose Scotch. Keep it sophisticated).

Never have I ever…

…dropped my child when they were a baby
…found my learning-to-crawl toddler halfway up a set of stairs I didn’t know they were on
…caught my kid drinking from the dog water bowl
…slammed my child’s hand in a car door
…been separated from my child on a crowded train
…been in the sole care of my child when they severed part of their finger while “playing” with an exercise bike…

OKAAAY, that’s enough sharing. I, for sure, am pretty buzzed by now.

Fact is, we all suck as parents at times. 

Go on, say it. It’s liberating. 

Luckily for most of us, our sucky parenting moments have not taken place in very public places that lead to consequences so drastic that one of our endangered hominidae cousins had to be snipered in order to save our children.

I’ll set aside the jokes now. I believe that Gorilla mom probably loves her little one just the same as you do yours—I know that my love for my kids is unconditional—and I believe that she probably is a good parent 99.9 per cent of the time, same as you and me.

There’s nothing good about this story. Parent not paying attention. Kid doing something it shouldn’t. Zoo, giving a paying public a view of one of its wildest creatures so clear that it’s barriers are now negotiable by a four-year old. A precious creature of the earth, dead.

Nothing will change this situation now. Go back to hating something where your energy can be a force for good. Like the Trump campaign.

Until next time, watch your kids, and enjoy your scotch >hic<

May 11, 2016

Being vaguely vegan



We recently decided to give up eating meat at home. And milk, eggs and cheese, too.

“What, are you going to hire a personal chef now?” replied a friend, in a tone of near-disgust when we mentioned this to them.

“It’s not that hard to cook healthy vegan meals”, was our reply. And then we laid out some of the reasons we are trying this, environmental sustainability chiefly among our motivations.

More retorts from the friend about our misguided thinking.

You know what? Fine. 

We're doing this at home, just for us, and we’re not asking others to do it too. If you come over for a barbecue, you’re still likely to get meat as we have a freezer with a backlog of the stuff.

That knee-jerk reaction of almost-horror or distaste seems to be common. It’s almost comical, to watch people avert their eyes or grasp at something to say in response to our attempts at going vegan. Sometimes it comes out vaguely insulting (see above) and sometimes the responses feign support: “good for…you guys?”

Look, the reasons really are our own, and we’re not trying to convert you to some new meat-free religion…unless that’s what you want… JOIN US! Mwhahahahaaaaaa!

#JokingNotJoking...? 
We first turned our minds to the idea when we saw some facts about environmental impact of eating meat. Some of it we already knew, but we looked deeper. It’s remarkable. Fact is, animal agriculture is responsible for 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation sources put together, globally (13 per cent) FYI, that’s a stat from the United Nations, not just your hemp clothes-wearing uncle with the acre of weed growing in his backyard.

Funnily enough, the reports on animal agriculture practically make energy production look like the new environmentalism (OK not quite true), from land destruction to water usage to off-gassing, etc. the list goes on. but the fact that we focus so much hate on the energy industry and so little on animal agriculture is strange. 

Enough of the stats . Suffice it to say, these are several of our motivations for trying this veganism thing.

So far, our experiment at home has been fun. It’s really switched up our cooking routine, which frankly was growing repetitive and stale. It’s made MY guts feel better for sure. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say that dairy never agreed with me anyway.

The kids have entered into this thing a little more trepidatiously, and fair enough. This is being forced upon them a little bit.  But it's pretty funny to watch. There are regular stink-eye sessions at the dinner table a la Calvin and Hobbes.
‘What IS this?”
“Cheesy stuff!... made from cashews… and... nine other ingredients… try it, you’ll like it!”
Little does our son realize it, but his gravy was recently made from his number one food nemesis: The hated mushroom. And he loved it. Sucker.



On the whole, things are going well. We’ll continue on with a pilot phase for a while, but so far, all signs point to being satisfied, full, healthy, etc. No, I am not wasting away from calcium deficiency. Yes, I get enough iron. Protein? If anything, I need less.

But we really don’t want you to worry. If you’re coming over for a BBQ, we’ll still have something for the grill. If you’re at a restaurant with us, we aren’t going to be those obnoxious people picking apart the menu and complaining that there’s nothing for a vegan to eat. In fact, It’s likely I’ll still eat a proper burger, and the kids will have their pepperoni pizza and mac ‘n’ cheese.

In the end, we will live our lives, you can live yours, and I hope we can still be friends that can look each other in the eye.

May 2, 2016

Travel tales: Assorted Injuries + the longest day


The Chase family recently had an incredible vacation. Five days in Florida, exploring the mammoth campuses of the Disney World parks. Then, it was down to the British Virgin Islands for another five full days aboard our own catamaran, island hopping at our leisure. 12 of us altogether on this whole adventure. Kids age 2-9, and we all got along!

It was all amazing, as outlined in the videos below! 

But seriously. Let’s be real. No one wants to hear about the picture perfect. They want disaster scenarios. So, here’s as close as we got:
  • One finger crushing injury in a hotel door. Six stitches for my son on that front. Hallelujah for good extended health, ‘cause who wants to have to pay for the US medical system?!*
  • One MCL injury, adding yet another knee damage story to my sister’s life-long list of leg traumas.**
  • One five year-old who melted down so hard it required complete extraction from a Disney park and a return to the hotel for a day, to settle their overloaded sensory system.***


And here: some specifics about one epic day of travel in the middle of it all, with one small piece of luggage that caused big headaches. Read this from the perspective of ‘here’s how to barely make a flight’ despite best intentions.

1          1. When it’s four a.m. and an airline employee tells you a piece of your luggage can be gate-checked (a paddle in a case, in this situation), don’t believe them. Give them your money and check it.

2.   When you’ve been through a 90-minute security line-up and your flight leaves in 20 minutes and ONLY THEN does a TSA agent says you can’t take that paddle on the plane, and you’ll have to go back to the airline counter, don’t argue. It wastes precious seconds. Just nod, accept that you might miss your flight (pro-tip, being nice to the TSA means they might help you through the line when you come back), say goodbye to your family, and run like hell back to the airline counter.
Two years in a row, this same
paddle bag, via the same airport,
has caused me grief. Cursed?  

3.   To try and save your ass, tell the airline counter staff they have an impossible question to figure out in the next 30 seconds:
a.       My paddle needs to be checked. If I, as a passenger MUST travel with my luggage, as per FAA rules, and they choose to put my paddle on the next flight in three hours, then so be it. BUT:
b.       My main luggage is ALREADY under the plane departing in (checks watch) 17 minutes.
c.       I have a connecting flight at the airport, so if I miss THIS flight, I probably miss that one, too. SO, do you as airline staff:
                                                    i. Delay the early morning flight long enough to take my luggage off, missed connections be damned, or
                                                                             ii. Delay the early morning flight long enough to check my fu**ing paddle, and let me run for the plane?
  
     4. When option ii. is accepted, run like Hell again, back to the security zone. Get quick access courtesy of kind TSA agent who had my description and was expecting me.

      5. Sweet talk a few passengers in front of you at this point, to whip through the body scanner. Run like hell again. 
    
      6. Thank Jesus Allah Buddha that the shuttle train from one terminal to the other is arriving just as you run up to the platform.

           7. Run like Hell some more to get to your gate once you get off the train.

      8. Smile sweetly and say thank you to the gate agents when you slide up to the gate at 6:11 a.m. for your 6:11 a.m. departure time.

      9.  Acknowledge your family’s delight and relief to see you stepping on to the same plane as them!

I’ll spare the rest of the details of the day, but:

1. All that rush was for nothing as our next connecting flight was delayed by several hours, much to the delight of the parents in the group who now had to entertain a buncha kids in a boring airport terminal for the interim.  

2. The paddle DID NOT make it to that connecting airport as or where expected, thus forcing yet further arrangements to ensure the paddle was found, and delivered to the next plane.

3. All the waiting around was for a 24-minute flight.

4. Even at the final destination, the paddle didn’t show. A lost baggage claim was filled in at this point, and we said goodbye to airports**** as we headed for our final destination, Tortola, BVI. Flip flops on, feet up, sand, sun, snorkeling, family time. Ahhhhhhhhh.

--------------------------------------------------------
*The wrapped up finger turned into an all-access golden ticket for my son and anyone associated with him when he went back to Disney later in the same day.
** The knee issue remains as-yet unresolved, as Universal Health Care doesn’t always move at any sort of speedy pace.
***The five-year-olds’ day at the hotel did her introverted soul a world of good. Smooth sailing for remaining days at Disney.

****Paddle was found, I was reunited with it at said airport one week later. 
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
The Disney Vid!! 

The BVI Vid! 




April 14, 2016

The only way out is down

I have either lost my mind, or my phobic fear of heights.

If you’re laying bets, I’ll give you a hint: it’s the former.

I have signed up to rappel from the roof of the Hyatt Regency Vancouver on July 8th. If you know me, you know that this isn’t actually my idea of fun. I have VERY few pictures of me in high places. I can offer you a photo of 18 year-old me, standing on the glass floor of Canada’s CN tower, looking terrified / mildly ill, and I have a smattering of photos from behind the windows of tall office towers in and around Vancouver.

In the case of the CN Tower, Kate basically forced me to be there (she will contest this, but it is true).

In the case of the office towers in Vancouver, it’s always been work-related. I wouldn't go to these places 'just because'.

A view from in flight. Planes are safe,
tall buildings are not. Makes sense, right? 
Man-made heights… I just… don’t… like them. The Lion’s Gate bridge in Vancouver terrifies me, though I have used that crossing enough to learn how to control myself. Don't ask me to explain any of it. I love flying, I love rollercoasters...but I hate chairlifts. It's a phobia. The whole point is that it's irrational. 

None the less, the phobia exists. So why… WHY… have I signed up to go OUTSIDE on the roof of a 36-storey building, and go OFF the side of it? Let me pause to wipe the sweat from my brow and check my pulse before I tell you.

*whew*

I’m doing it for the kids, okay? My job at Make-A-Wish BC & Yukon is immensely satisfying. I love everything about it. And, in the course of my work, I have decided to prove my love and commitment by participating in our own fundraiser, the Rope for Hope rappel challenge in support of Make-A-Wish.

I was given various ‘outs’ by my colleagues.
“You know you don’t HAVE to do this, right?” 

Fears be damned. 

In the comparison to kids age 3-17 fighting life-threatening medical conditions, I have zero to be afraid of, nothing to fight against other than my own phobia, and a guaranteed result of arriving safely on sweet, sweet terra firma just a few minutes after I start my journey.

So I can do this. I will do this. I AM doing this.

Probably the ultimate kick in the pants here is that my mother-in-law—30 years my senior—is joining me for a rappel of her own, and is excited beyond belief. She would BASE jump this thing if they let her.  How is it gonna look if I can’t stack up against my own mother-in-law? Major pride on the line now.

Each rappeller is required to raise $1,500 for Make-A-Wish. The BRIGHT side is, if you DON’T get me to my goal, I won’t be able to rappel.  Oh darrrrrn, wouldn’t that be just terrible if I had to stay on the ground?! So maybe this is my way out! If I only raise, like $1499, I won’t be able to go!

*Gulp* 
SO whatever you do, DON’T get me to my goal! I won’t have to live my fear! Yay! However, if you’re just sadistic enough to want to see me tortured through 36 storeys of my own personal hell, by all means, click this link

As an added bonus to all you sickos donating to make me do this, I’ll see about wearing a GoPro or something, so that I can record every terrifying second, and I’ll cut a video to show you what it’s like when I wet myself 600 feet off the ground.

Thank you for spreading Hope, Strength and Joy… in the lives of children in BC and the Yukon living with life-threatening medical conditions, that is. For me, this is torture.  
If YOU think this sounds like fun and want to join in, there are still spaces available! Check out www.ropeforhope.ca to sign up.