Monday, January 23, 2012

January's chill

The weather prognosticators kept saying that we were going to have a very very cold winter, yet as the days sailed by we continued to experience extraordinarily warm conditions, unheard of for January in Wood Buffalo.  Heather and the boys made great progress on their growing snow fort as conditions were absolutely perfect.  Then the bottom fell.

In what seemed like an instant we went from freezing rain to welcoming an arctic cold front which make things feel like -47 at one point last week.  The sheen of ice that resulted from the pelting showers has become hard as rock and just as slippery at the entrance to the snow palace.  And just as quickly as it came, the deep freeze has retreated leaving us a thermometer that starts its day around -10C.

I feel so Canadian beginning a note to family and friends talking about the weather.  What is it that they say?  If it wasn't for the weather, 95 percent of conversations would never get started.

I've begun to get up earlier in the morning.  As Dylan and Ben get older, they need more bathroom time to get ready for their day.  I've been finding myself shut out and running later and later for work.  So now, during the week, I get up at 5:30 am.  It's no skin off my nose as my body begins to emerge from its deepest sleep well before that as I wake up and check the clock every 5 minutes or so.

This is my time to get caught up on emails, Facebook and Twitter.  I read the local paper which now gets delivered (digitally) in the middle of the night.  I do some writing and enjoy the solitary hour before Ben pops into my study for his morning hug.

As part of what will become a yearly physical, I went through a battery of tests.  Everything was 100 percent except for the ECG reading which indicated an irregularity.  A stress test followed along with another ECG to confirm the results.  Dr. Khinda says I have something called WPW (Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome), or a racing heart anomaly.  The good news is that the echocardiogram test indicated (at least according to the technician) that my heart is in perfect structural shape.  It was a weight off my mind to hear that news.  Next will be a follow-up appointment to hopefully find out that we're going to do sweet tweet about the WPW and carry on as normal.

We have some history of heart issues on my mom's side of the family, so I'm being extra cautious.  And despite the discomfort of some of the tests and procedures, especially the one that came with the snapping of the latex glove, I feel good about doing the due diligence.

As I get older, so too does Son #1.  Dylan is absolutely a teenager now, though he won't turn 13 for a few more weeks.  He's taller and hairier, his voice has dropped as has his energy at certain times of the day.  Gone are the days of showering a couple times a week, replaced by mandatory daily soaks.

It's been great to see Dylan grow into a reading machine.  He conquered yet another Harry Potter novel over the weekend and is now on to the second to last in the series.  And right out of the blue, he seems to have an expanding social circle.  He was at a friend's place on Friday and a different friend was over at the house on Sunday.  Things are changing so fast I can't keep up!

We are anxiously awaiting our Mexican trip, now a week and a half away.  We will travel together starting on February 5th to Melaque, just north of Manzanillo and south of Puerto Vallarta, and for a week the boys and I will hang out on the beach as Heather teaches yoga.  She'll stay on an extra week as the boys return to Canada on our own. We are looking forward to this authentic Mexican adventure as Melaque is a relatively small town.

I was supposed to be traveling down to the states this week, but those plans were tossed aside because of an important Council meeting and a late week visit by the premier and a bunch of ministers.  I'm happy to have stayed home, as there is more than enough travel coming up in the next while.

The painting bug that hit over Christmas has continued into the New Year with mixed results.  I quite like the one I did of boxer Mike Tyson.  In fact, Lyle Romaniuk from back home was clammering to buy it as he is a big fan.

I did one the other day that is rather interesting.  Though it resembles the late aviator and billionaire Howard Hughes, it is supposed to be Johnny Depp.

I'm so happy to report that Dad is doing pretty well, now into his second week of taking chemo pills.  That he has both the energy and the spirit to get up and out of the house on a daily basis, I am grateful.  The visit to the oncologist provided no surprises about the road ahead and a menu of options for slowing down the spread of the cancer.  Your prayers, your positive thoughts, and all your communication is making a difference.

We hope you are enjoying a good start to 2012.  We'll touch base in a couple of weeks with lots of pictures from our trip down south.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Welcome to 2012

The January sun sits so low in the sky, taunting us from a distance, spreading its rays south to north, creating dramatic shadows and striking pictures.

On cloudy days, things can be rather muted, monochromatic.  But on sunny days, like this cold and crisp New Year's Sunday, things can be wondrous.  These four magpies gathered on Norm and Sheila's little tree next door, chatting amiably in the sunshine.

"I love winter," I said as we walked home across the frozen river after taking in some of The Craze activities on MacDonald Island yesterday.

"I love seasons," said Heather.

As often is the case, she is absolutely right.  We have the good fortune to live in a land of seasons, all of which have their own personality, colours, sounds and smells.

We have enjoyed a great holiday, a much-needed period of rest and consolidation.  I use the latter word as I spent time consolidating my wardrobe, much of which no longer fits, and gathering my various paintings and drawings as I went through a minor creative resurgence between Christmas and New Year.

Heather was at the computer for hours and hours, consolidating her business affairs, enjoying categorizing expenses and income, arriving at a more comprehensive understanding of just how outstanding the Ananda Center for Balance is doing; it's a going concern in our community.


It's Monday now.  I ended up getting pleasantly distracted by a drive out to Fort McKay to pick up Dylan who sent most of his Christmas vacation time with his mom.  It has been quite awhile since I made the trek out there and I thought, with time on my hands, why not?

Syncrude at sunset, just south of Fort McKay
Dylan seems older, even after just a few days away.  He's at that age that we're all familiar with, when the boy's body begins to turn into that of a young man.  It's easy to tell that he's going to be the tall one in the family; he's almost taller than Heather already.

I also noticed that his voice has begun to get lower, as it does to most boys when they dive head first into teenagedom.  He doesn't hear it, but I'm pretty convinced that he's a different human being than he was a year ago.  It's nice to have him home.  After lots of late nights and a little sleeping in, it is time to get back into routine because school starts tomorrow.

Ben and Heather have been working on a snow fort the past few days.  They made great progress as I made the two hour round trip to pick up Dylan yesterday.  While I have a big pile of snow in the traditional spot - in the middle of the front lawn - they've been working in a non-traditional location at the end of the driveway.  This is a spot that always ends up with a gargantuan pile as a matter of course.  I haven't tested it out yet, but apparently the snow cave is big enough to fit an adult and a couple of kids.

The winter, so far, has been abnormally warm, with only a handful of days that I could say with certainty were cold.  That said, a representative from AccuWeather says that a long a bitterly cold winter lies before us, encouraging news to inspire dreams about the various places we will be traveling to in 2012.

Power and Light entertainment district, Kansas City
In late January, I will be going with a large entourage on a brief junket to Columbus, Ohio and Kansas City, Missouri.  We'll be touring a number of different arenas, stadiums and entertainment districts and meeting with the architects who will be designing some of the key new elements in our redeveloped downtown.

Melaque, Mexico
In early February, all four of us will venture down to Melaque, Mexico (south of Puerta Vallarta) where Heather will be busy expanding her yoga practice during the day and hanging out with us in a hotel along the beach in the late afternoons and evenings.  The boys and I will return home after a week as Heather will have an additional few days of study before coming home.

I'm excited about getting a more authentic Mexican experience this third time traveling down there.  Last year we learned all about all-inclusive resorts and being pampered top to bottom.  This hotel, located on the beach in this small community of 12,000, looks like it will be a great home base for our adventures and respite from the frozen north.

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
As the winter begins to soften its grip in the early part of March, I will be going to my annual marketing and public relations conference being hosted this year in San Francisco.  Nice!  Renee (our Marketing Manager at Keyano College) and I will be making a presentation on social media to colleagues from across North America.  I'm a little nervous about it to be completely honest, but they say that's not necessarily bad.

Finally, and most importantly, we will head home to visit Mom and Dad, likely on the Easter weekend.  In order for that to work, a number of stars will need to align, as I'll be in the middle of rehearsals for The Farnsworth Invention.  I was excited to be offered the part of David Sarnoff and the opportunity to be in my first mainstage show since Beauty and the Beast in 2006 when much of the family gathered in Fort McMurray.

Completely unconnected, but a delightful coincidence, Ben is featured on the poster for the show.  If the Easter trip doesn't materialize, we will look for the next available opportunity to spend some quality time in Kamsack.  It'll be nice making the long drive as far removed from winter as is possible.

As I mentioned earlier, I unexpectedly began painting again over the holidays, producing four very different portraits.

Christopher Hitchens

Steve Jobs

Wilfred Grandjamb

Leonard Cohen
This "rediscovery" prompted me to begin the process of gathering an online archive of my various drawing and paintings located here at our house and in some of your homes scattered across the country.
If you happen to have one of my works on your wall, I would be forever grateful if you could snap a picture and send me a digital copy (  The archive of paintings and drawings is slowly growing here.

On a final note, I visualize two things for 2012.  First, a sense of peace, balance and happiness for you.  Second, healing and health for my dad.

Happy New Year!