Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day 2012

First of all, a very happy Mother's Day to all of you that brought us into the world.  If the bright sun pouring into my study is any indication of what this day has in store, you are going to enjoy a warmth of wishes and a level of brightness and joy that you richly deserve.

The past month, since I last wrote on April 14th, has been a cacophony of milestones, moments and memories - some good, some not-so-good.

As we motored through production week for The Farnsworth Invention, none of us could have guessed that an errant driver attempting to pass going up a hill on a solid double line would throw many of us into an emotional stupor and a community and region into an uproar.

It was Friday, April 27th, when one truck, trying to pass a large vehicle, slammed into an unsuspecting truck coming the other way.  By mid-afternoon, the initial death toll of 6 had to be raised to 7, as a teenage girl who had been pulled from the burning carnage had succumbed to her injuries.  Friday, April 27th was also opening night for the show and we had to deal with the cognitive dissonance of having to perform in the midst of an overwhelming pall of grief that had fallen on our community.
But as all shows must do - they go on, and we proceeded to bask in the welcoming energy of a good opening night house.  I especially enjoyed the post-show reception and getting to meet many of the parents of the young adults in the show.  The majority of the cast are of the age that I was back in 1986 when we did A Man For All Seasons at STM in Saskatoon.  Watching their infectious energy, exuberance, and proclivity for partying put me in mind of my younger self.

The following day, my TEDx video was finally released to the public.  It is edging toward 600 views a couple of weeks later, which makes me happy.  I hope you take a few minutes to listen to the stories. Some will make you laugh, one might make you cry.  All of it turned out better than I thought it possibly could. One local media person suggested that next year, instead of talking about "My Social Media Timeline" I should focus on "Social Media Pitfalls".  I have plenty of examples of those, including many that reared their ugly heads last weekend.

Into the second week of performances of The Farnsworth Invention (we did 7 shows in total over two weekends), I was focusing much of my energy on preparing for release of information to our Keyano staff about changes that were coming with the new budget.  By Friday, our Human Resources staff and senior leadership were doing their best to serve layoff notices to 20 members of our faculty and staff.  It was a dark day - a day that was being experienced at colleges throughout the province as fiscal realities required cutbacks.

Unfortunately, elements of how the day unfolded began appearing on Facebook and Twitter and spread like wildfire.  One staff person being escorted to their vehicle by security became everyone being escorted out by security.  Changes in the visual and performing arts faculty became an utter and complete abandonment of the arts. We began fielding calls from major news outlets: Edmonton Journal, CBC, National Post and the Globe and Mail.

To set the record straight - about a lot of things - I spent the day after the layoffs drafting two communication pieces.  One was an open letter to the editor that I posted on the college website in the institutional voice; the other was a blog post - The Future of the ARTS at Keyano - that I wrote in my personal voice.  Both spiraled through the social media universe within minutes of being posted.

Some understood and accepted the information that I was passing along.  Others were earnestly resolute in their opinion that it was nothing but spin, perspective full of half-truths and corporate conjecture.  I stuck to my guns and weathered the storm that followed.

A week that began in dark clouds ended seven short days later in bright sunshine as the college hosted Wayne Gretzky for our first annual One on One Banquet.  Described by one person as "the best event they have ever attended - bar none", the fundraiser for our athletics endowment raised an incredible $210,000 in one night.  Amazing.

The next day we celebrated a dazzling Convocation as over a thousand people saluted the Class of 2012. I was tasked with introducing over 150 grads (out of 750) who were able to attend the commencement.  Ethically diverse, I managed to say all the names correctly except for one.  The days of having "Bobby Smiths" and "Trudy Campbells" are long over in our community.

In the midst of all this activity, we enjoyed having the Giroux family stay with us - for almost six weeks.  Getting a daily dose of baby Madeleine was wonderful, for all of us.  They've been gone only two weeks, but we already miss them terribly.

Neil and Susan spent several days with us last week, enjoying some quality time with Dylan and Ben, and getting out in the yard with Heather preparing the garden and flower beds ready for another season.  With an extraordinarily beautiful Mother's Day Sunday, Heather was able to devote much of the afternoon to doing her planting magic.  Dylan hung out reading the second book in The Hunger Games trilogy while Ben and I went to the river for some fishing, then to MacDonald Island for some rock climbing.

As the world continues to turn, life is full of many blessings, and we remain happy, healthy and excited for the warm months ahead.

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