Sunday, June 24, 2012

June's bliss

I was fishing at the Clearwater yesterday afternoon when a trio of young ladies came floating in on their  inflatables.  As they got closer I realized that it was Misty, Jenn and Amanda - three fellow Farnsworth cast members.  They got out of the water and began trying to figure out their next move, as their vehicle was in a different location up river.  I wandered over to say hello and to offer assistance.    They didn't need my help as it turned out, but something Amanda said really stuck with me.

"There is nowhere else on earth I'd rather be right now," she said, reflecting on an idyllic day.

I felt the same way, sitting on the shore of this heritage river on an amazing afternoon, 25 degrees, slight breeze blowing, not a mosquito or gnat in sight.  It was an absolutely perfect day, providing an outdoor leisure setting that is the stuff of exotic tourism ads.

Ben and I are on our own, with Heather at a 4-day workshop in Calgary and Dylan spending time with his mom in Fort McKay.  For Ben and I, it's been a time of re-connecting after a rather elongated stretch of long work days and too many commitments.

He was thrilled to finally get his birthday present on Friday - an electric guitar and amp kit.  He is going through a strong music phase at the moment, spending hours at the keyboard or entertaining with his harmonica.  We hope that the addition of this instrument will inspire him to seek lessons, and take his love of music to a new level.

Meanwhile, Dylan discovered a gift of his own making recently.  He went to the year-end dance at his school a week ago.  Heather bought him a fresh white dress shirt and I slipped on one of my ties.

"Are you going to dance?" I asked as I dropped him off at the front door.

"No, but I'm still going to have fun," he said.

Three hours later I picked him up and found out that his night of "not dancing" didn't quite go as planned.

Mr. Gray, his home room teacher, shared with me that at one point Dylan was flat out on the floor of the classroom.

"Exhausted," said Mr. Gray.  "He really needed to catch his breath."

"How was your night?" I asked as Dylan got in the car.

"Incredible," he said.  "I danced all night long."

The smile on his face was worth a million bucks.

I had been asked by my friend Rick, a pastor at the Gospel Assembly Church, if I would be willing to drop in for five minutes to say a few words to a group of 25 high school graduates during a celebration they were organizing in their honour as part of their youth ministry.  As it wouldn't be a huge commitment of time, I said "sure" and began scrawling down a few notes on the evening's theme which was "Success".  The five minutes he first requested quickly faded into the sunset as he asked if I would stretch my piece out to 15 minutes - he really liked the direction I was heading after reading my notes.

My speech, which you can read in its entirety here, boiled down to three ideas that have contributed to my success: 1) Any job worth doing is worth doing well, 2) Embrace failure, and 3) Listen to the wind.  It seemed to go over well and Ben was able to recall two out of the three ideas 24 hours later, which meant that he was listening.

"What did you mean when you said that any job worth doing, is worth doing well?" he asked out of the blue from the back seat as we were driving yesterday.

I tried to explain that no matter the task, you could choose to give it 100% effort or a lackluster one, both are going to take time and energy, so you may as well do the best job you possibly can.  Unfortunately, I don't have a specific memory of how and when I made this mental switch, but for some reason painting the chimney comes into my head - a task that dad had given me in the summer of 1982 or 83.

Technology is amazing.  We have been able to stay in touch with Heather quite effectively using something called Facetime, where she talks into her iPad and we talk into my iPhone.  We have been married almost 10 years and have never been overly fond of communicating by phone, choosing that method only when we absolutely had to.  But this Facetime experience is quite lovely, personal and cost-effective when we're on a WiFi network - not sure what the fees would be like if we were using 3G?

Technology has also fundamentally changed how we engage with music, movies, books and television.  We still maintain basic cable service, but with each passing day I wonder why, as we no longer use it.  Claude and Tiffany kindly gave us AppleTV as a thank you gift when they stayed with us this spring.  From watching YouTube videos to accessing our music library thanks to iCloud to watching Netflix, it has supplanted regular TV in a way I never would have thought possible.  We could be watching a TV show or movie on Netflix, get tired in the middle, shut if off, go to bed, and return to that exact same spot the next day  with one click.  And of course, all of the offerings are commercial free.  The fact that the cost is a mere $8 per month is mind-boggling.

I'm a little sore sitting here typing this morning.  There is a stiffness in my neck and shoulders, and a large red splotch on my diaphragm, both remnants of my first road hockey experience in 30 years.

I had been asked to play in the Celebrity Game of HNIC's Play On! 4 on 4 street hockey tournament. Ben and I walked over to the site, stretched down the entire length of the road leading into MacDonald Island - 10 rinks set off by fencing, bright and colourful advertising, and 74 teams at the ready to compete.

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect.  Was this Celebrity Game going to be a faux-effort or was it going to be the real deal.  All I knew is that I had been "drafted" by Bobbi-Jo Slusar, a female hockey phenom hailing from Swift Current, and that we would be facing Team Hayley Wickenheiser, led by another Saskatchewan product and arguably, one of the most lauded female hockey players in the world.

From the moment the orange street hockey ball was dropped to the closing whistle 30 minutes later, it became abundantly clear that both sides were going for gold.  All I can say is thank goodness we had enough guys and ladies for three full shifts because after just a few minutes, many of us needed to tap out.

Mike Allen, our newly elected MLA and former Council colleague said to me in between shifts "didn't anyone tell them we're the arts guys?"  I thought that was a sage question, as I was doubled over trying to catch my breath.

I didn't score any goals, but I gave it a 100% effort and managed to pop off three or four legitimate shots on goal in one shift, making the goalie earn his keep.  Our team lost, but we were still awesome!

As we stare into the face of summer, we are gearing up to return to Saskatchewan for a few weeks.  We'll swing through the province, spending time with family in Kamsack, before darting into Manitoba to visit Heather's grandparents in Winnipeg.  We'll come back through Kamsack on the way to the Meadow Lake area where we'll meet up with the Wagner side of the family for our annual summer camping reunion.

Dylan is going to enjoy his first substantial taste of independence in August, attending the Take Action Academy at a camp in the foothills near Calgary.  Organized by the Me to We organization, the camp
participants come from across the globe, and spend their academy week learning leadership skills, exploring pressing global issues, volunteering in the local community and taking their place within a worldwide social movement of globally-conscious young people. They also build incredible friendships to last a lifetime. (taken directly from the website)

While Dylan explores his leadership capacity and makes new friends, Heather and Ben are going to do some camping and mountain climbing.  I think they are both excited to get in the great outdoors and spend quality time together.

I'll be sticking close to home, attending interPLAY and tackling the upstairs bathroom.  My plan is to strip out the cabinets, give it a good painting, and install tile baseboards.  My chance to "camp" will come at the end of the summer, as I travel to near Orillia, Ontario to attend Mindcamp, a four-day micro-university for personal, professional, and organizational creativity — a feast of 90-minute and half-day concurrent sessions presented by the best creativity leaders in North America and world-wide. (from the website)

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since I last connected through the Wood Buffalo Update.  The daily goings on are often captured on my other blog, now with a new address (  A couple of postings that you might find interesting include 500 - my 500th article in 2.5 years, 45 - reflections on growing older, and In Praise of Stillness - thoughts about the role that quiet reflection plays in my life.

Have a great week and a terrific summer!

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