Saturday, April 14, 2012

TEDx, Easter and Farnsworth

Looking back on the blur of the past month, it's hard to believe that we've fit so much into 30 days.  As the rain turns into snow - winter asserting itself one more time - we are heading into another full day of rehearsal for The Farnsworth Invention, a play that we open less than two weeks from today.

That's Ben in the poster watching TV

"I appreciate the forbearance of my family and my council colleagues, as I've been less visible in recent weeks," I said in an interview about the show yesterday.  The interviewer (Kiran) laughed, as me and invisibility are mutually exclusive concepts.

While we were in the early stages of rehearsals, learning lines and figuring out blocking, I was mentally preparing for my TEDxFortMcMurray presentation.  For those who don't know what TED talks are all about, here is a brief description from the TED website:

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences -- the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer -- TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize.

TEDx events are locally produced iterations of the same, using similar rules, format and branding.  It was one of our Leadership Wood Buffalo case study groups that took on the organization of the event that occurred on March 30th featuring 11 local presenters.

You can read about that incredible experience in greater detail here if you like.  Two weeks later, we're all anxiously waiting for the release of the videos that we'll be able to share far and wide thanks to YouTube.

For the presenters, it was an opportunity to stretch ourselves, try something truly frightening, and give "the talk of our life".  I remember sitting behind the stage, just minutes to go before it would be my turn, a complete bundle of nerves.  Then I saw a couple of supportive comments on Facebook from Isaac, Malisa and Heather, which served to bolster me up and propel me into what truly was an amazing experience.

With a few days grace from rehearsals, we were able to dart back to Kamsack for Easter.  The trip home was remarkable in a couple of ways.  First of all, it was the first time we attempted the 1,225 kilometre adventure in one day.  Secondly, we ran through that fierce spring blizzard that pummeled much of the central region of the province last weekend.  Driven by a 70 km/hr north wind, the whiteout conditions tested our mettle from Humboldt to Wadena, as the highway was covered with a good six inches of slush, the centre line nowhere to be seen.  We passed more than several cars doing the dance with the ditch, waiting for the tow truck to come along, but we pushed through with the knowledge that it was warm and raining in Kamsack and that eventually conditions had to improve.

In the end, I'm so glad we persevered and made it to our destination.  The storm intensified and I'm not sure if we would have been any further ahead waiting to finish the last leg the following day.

"I always forget how comfortable and relaxing it is here," said Heather several times during our 48-hours in the home of my youth.  She hit the nail on the head; being home is such a blessing.

We played card games, ate lots of great food, and truly enjoyed each others' company.  For Easter Sunday dinner we were 19-strong in the dining room, spilling out into the hallway.

We were joined by Doug and Greg's families, as well as Keith. Sadly, I didn't get a photo of this impressive group, but I did catch some of us in a parting shot the next morning, just before we left for the long trip back to Fort McMurray.

For the record and without exaggeration or hyperbole, Dad is looking remarkably well.  He has put on some weight and has completely returned to most of his regular activities - snooker in the morning, running errands through the day, watching his coveted baseball games on TV, and playing as many card games as he can.  Outside of the rigorous attention to his pill regimen, you'd never know he has cancer.

I have to admit that it's hard writing the c-word; I mulled over that sentence for a few minutes.  He is so well right now.  It's easy to forget or ignore what is happening in his liver and lymph nodes.  I guess the hope that we all have is that the chemo treatments bring the spread of the cancer cells to a grinding crawl, giving Dad many more years of waxing eloquent about the escalating price of gas, playing cribbage and washing our vehicles when we come for visits.

This weekend brings an end to spring break for the boys; they return to school on Monday morning.  After returning from Kamsack, Dylan went out to Fort McKay and Ben began going through a "mining" phase, digging holes with his buddy Spencer looking for precious minerals.  There were a couple of days there, when the weather was nicer, that he practically spent the entire afternoon outside.  In these days of websites and video games, that is unfortunately rare.

Heather jumped right back into business mode when we got back on Tuesday.  Part of her focus right now is getting ready for the Spring Trade Show, which is two weekends down the road.  She has been gathering a vast array of yoga props, clothing and jewelry to sell during this 3-day event that is likely to attract over 15,000 potential customers.

Soon the ice on the river will break, I'll be back fishing, and summer will be just a hop, skip and a jump away.  We plan to have a more extended visit in Kamsack in the latter part of July followed by a few days with the Wagner side of the family in the Meadow Lake area.  In August, Dylan will be attending TAKE ACTION ACADEMY at Camp Kiwanis in the Bragg Creek area near Calgary.  The program "offers a head start to ending apathy, encouraging global citizenship and solidarity amongst young people."  He is a natural leader and social animal; he is going to have a tremendous time during this 7-day experience.

Happy weekend and happy spring!

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