Sunday, October 9, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Heather and Ben have a bet going as to when the first snowfall will happen in Fort McMurray.  It appears that they both have lost as the ground is white this morning, several weeks before either of their guesses.

The Farmer's Almanac did say we were in for a doozy of a winter, colder than normal.  It makes sense; this year has been anything but normal.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with Corinne, Chris and Jonathan - our first family Thanksgiving gathering in Fort McMurray - we will be feeling a lot of gratitude.  Both of our homes were completely spared in the devastating wildfire that happened in May, and our neighbourhoods are unscathed.  Of course, that is not the same for a lot of people we know who lived in areas that were decimated.

Five months after the fire hit, homes are already starting to pop back up; some may be occupied by year's end.  For those that didn't get their foundations in before October, they will be into construction mode starting next May.  There will be a major building boom in 2017, unlike anything we've seen before.

I haven't stopped much since May 3rd.  As soon as the flames were at my back I was doing my communication work.  When we settled in Calgary during evacuation, I returned to painting after a few days of thinking I might never paint again.  The communication work and the painting continued in earnest through the evacuation, re-entry, summer and autumn.  I'm grateful that I've had lots to do.

There is so much gratitude to express for the kindnesses that we offered during our time of displacement.  Most importantly, Mike and Kathryn opened up their home and made us feel welcome.  You can imagine how your family routine would get upended if another family showed up out of the blue to stay for a month.  Mike, Kathryn, Julie and Simon were very patient with the discombobulation we caused and supported us through a very difficult time.  We will never forget their kindness.

Many of you helped in other ways.  Messages of concern, phone calls, donations to the United Way and Red Cross, and social media posts sustained us through that period of uncertainty.

Life for us has returned to normal.  We are all embracing routine in a way that is very different than before.  There is a new appreciation our home life, as we - and thousands of others - came so close to losing it.

Heather has stayed very active with teaching, doing cranial sacral work, and learning  She has had the opportunity to fly off to several different places to expand her knowledge.  Her next adventure will be a retreat that she is hosting in beautiful Sedona in February. You can find out more by clicking here. We spent a week in Sedona as a family a few years ago and absolutely loved it.

Dylan is in grade 12 -- eek!  How did that happen? -- and continuing to explore his love of theatre, performance and creation.  Right now, he's working on a professional touring show called Holmes and Watson Save the Empire happening at Keyano Theatre.  He's operating the follow spot.  In the New Year, he is hoping to direct his first one act play.

Ben is in grade 8 at Composite High School.  He made the big switch from Dr. Clark Elementary seamlessly.  Like Dylan, Ben is interested in performance and personal expression.  He is a very self-directed soul and will spend hours and days building virtual architectural creations on the computer, playing guitar or making films.  You can check out his videos by subscribing to his Youtube channel: The EpicEnder Team.

I would never have guessed, in a million years, that I would be doing what I am doing at the age of 49.  The United Way part of my life makes sense, building on almost three decades of communication work.  But the painting part of my life has been a complete and delightful surprise.  A total of 400 paintings have been created and scattered across North America since I began this crazy ride in June of 2014.  About 60 of those piece will be featured in my first solo exhibition that will run from November 10 to January 28 at the MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery.

The painting has branched into a number of different opportunities.  I've done between 15 - 20 live painting demonstrations at large events in Fort McMurray, Edmonton and Calgary.  Several hundred people have participated in my portrait painting workshops held in a variety of locations.  I was even able to field test a powerful team-building painting workshop at Mindcamp this summer.  I have three of those coming up in the next month.

Interest in my work is insane; there is no other word for it.  I get multiple enquiries every day and from farther and farther afield.  One commission in the pile is from a fan in Germany.  In early 2017, I will travel to Calgary to paint Gordie Howe and his two sons at a big fundraiser.  The two sons will be there to sign the finished work to increase its value and benefit to the charity. I feel a deep sense of wonder about what has happened and what lies ahead.  I've fallen into something that is deeply fulfilling on so many levels.

We have survived one of Canada's great natural disasters.  We have a warm home and the love of family.  We have financial security and an abundance of opportunities.  We are in the position to give back to our community and help others.  There is so much to be thankful for this year.  Heather and I will also celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary in a couple of days (October 12th).  It seems like yesterday that we said "I do" on that crisp and sunny autumn afternoon at Candle Lake.

On behalf of Heather, Dylan and Ben, our love to you and yours.  Happy Thanksgiving.

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