Monday, November 14, 2016

IT'S A BIG WEEKEND!


            I am ever so thankful that I have Remembrance Day and the Dale Blackstock Memorial Hockey Tournament to write about this week so I don’t even have to mention the absolute craziness that is the 2016 American Presidential Election. By the time you read this column the freak show will finally be over and it’s about bloody time.

I don’t know about you but I have saturated my limit of Clinton vs. Trump. I have tried really, really hard not to get sucked into their vortex of hate but it’s impossible. Just like the proverbial train wreck you cannot look away.

            Americans make it sound like it’s a difficult choice but I’m thinking if Trump gets in I’m going to have to convert my concrete cistern into a bomb shelter. Just sayin’.

The very reason that megalomaniac’s like Trump are even allowed to incite hatred and spout their bigotry and ignorance freely is because of the sacrifices of those who served and died to provide his freedom.

Americans honour their fallen on Memorial Day; the last Monday of May. This Friday, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month Canadians will gather in “remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace". One cannot overstate how important this date is to our country. As the years roll past I hope this date’s importance never fades. Lest we forget.

Speaking of years rolling past I am having a hard time believing that this will be the 30th Dale Blackstock Memorial Hockey tournament. Thirty of them! Wow! I was a member of the Kipling Royals Senior Hockey Club’s executive when we first sponsored this tournament in November of 1987. We were trying to raise $1000.00 for the team’s contribution to the new dressing rooms. We made that and a lot, lot more!

Dale had been a Kipling Royal and a real good friend to many of us on that Executive Board and when Dale succumbed to cancer at the much too young age of 30 we wanted to honour his memory by naming the tournament after him and the rest… as they say…is history.

Over the years many hands were involved in the operation of this tournament and the Blackstock family, led by Linus, put in countless hours to make the event as successful as it has been. It has become a homecoming of sorts for many of the participants and the fond memories of tournaments past are shared and added to annually.

There comes a time, however, when things change. Linus recently mentioned that the tournament has lived as long as Dale had and he thinks it’s time for the family to take a step back from their organizational role. After all, their parents, Melvin and Della are gone now and the spreading family is making the commitment to the event harder with each passing year.

The trophy will always have Dale’s name on it and the family would be more than pleased if the tournament continued on while raising much needed capital for the facility. It just won’t be them leading the charge anymore. My hope is that the Rink Management Committee will continue the tradition.

There are an awful lot of memories, (as well as some lost moments), from those thirty tournaments. Boy, was there a lot of fun provided over the years. I would like to thank Diane, Linus and the entire Blackstock family for their time, effort and commitment to what turned out to be an historical event for the Kipling Arena and the Town of Kipling. Thank you, thank you.

“From Humble Beginnings Come Great Things.”

Monday, November 7, 2016

I NEED SUN!


 

            I try my best to not push time forward. You know what I mean? Like doing the “can hardly waits” as in “I can hardly wait for the baby to crawl, or I can hardly wait until Christmas is here or for school to be out or for the winter vacation to be here”; that kind of thing.

As a general rule time flies by too fast anyway and the baby will be crawling before you know it and in no time at all you’re going “how did he/she grow up so darn fast??” However, this time around I cannot help myself from thinking that I can hardly wait until this gloomy October is done! Man, what a miserable month that was, wasn’t it? And, like some people I know around here, I don’t even have eight or nine hundred acres of crop still in the field. Yuck! Talk about gloom ‘n doom.

According to the statistical weather data we received precipitation on 16 of the 31 days in October and I think the other 15 days were all mostly cloudy. Or so it seemed. I was looking into the statistical data to see how many sunshine hours we normally would get in October and my source claims that we average around 171 hours in the month or, percentage wise, it’s 51% of the daylight time. Not 2016’s version, though. Oh no, it was more like 171 minutes, I’d say.

I have heard more than a few people mention how miserable and cranky everyone seems to be lately and I am convinced that it is mostly due to the overall lack of sunshine in the past few weeks. It really is. I’m thinking that humans really need sunshine to operate properly. Or “happily” at any rate.

In fact, I did a little research on the subject and I found that there are several reasons why the lack of sunshine can be detrimental to a human’s well being, both mentally and physically.

If you’re not careful, a lack of sunlight can actually lead to a form of clinical depression. The less sunlight we see in the winter months, the more likely we are to develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Symptoms of SAD can be extreme: mood swings, anxiety, sleep problems, or even suicidal thoughts. I’m thinking that some people are just experiencing an earlier version of SAD because of the recent lack o’ sunshine.

90% of humans’ Vitamin D comes from direct sunlight but everyone knows that unprotected overexposure to the sun’s rays may increase the chances of developing skin cancer. Then again, on the flip side of that is that a Vitamin D deficiency may be just as dangerous to humans. Vitamin D deficiencies may lead to the development of prostate and breast cancer, memory loss, and an increased risk for developing dementia and schizophrenia.

Also, for your information, and I’m not making a personal statement here or anything,  just reporting the facts, people, and the facts say that women are 200% more likely to develop SAD than men. Hmmmm….I’m not saying who’s crankier than who but…you know…statistics and all that.

I realize that you’d have to miss a bit more than the “normal” amount of sunshine in one month to create any ill effects on your system, but still, this past forty days or so have been pretty darn depressing and it’s starting to show. I’m hoping that in the next month we can make up for the sunlight we lost in October or this coming winter is going to be really, really SAD.

“A cloudy day or a little sunshine have as great an influence on many constitutions as the most recent blessings or misfortunes.”- Joseph Addison (1672-1719).

Friday, October 28, 2016

HALLOWEEN MEMORIES


 
           Here we are closing in on another All Hallows Eve and we might not even need a snowplow to go door to door this year. Sorry about that. I hope I haven’t jinxed it. Time will tell, I suppose.

            I’m fast approaching my sixth decade on the planet so I’ve accumulated a fair number of Halloween memories over the years. There have been years when you’d swear you were trick or treating in Antarctica and then there was that one year…

            Thinking back, I believe there were probably eight or nine years when you are at the age to trick or treat. That’s it! Nine years, if that. Somewhere around six to fourteen years-old, unless you were one of the short ones, and then you could probably stretch it out for another year or two. I gave it up at fourteen, I think, as I found it easier to snitch the treats from my little sister’s bag or the stash in the pantry.

            My first time Trick or Treating was in Lethbridge when I was about six-years-old and we went door to door calling “Halloween Apples” instead of “Trick or Treat”. That was back in a time when you could trust, and welcomed, fruit and home made food treats from the homes. The apples were usually pretty beaten up by the time we dragged them home but Mom could always whip up some Apple Brown Betty with them.

            I wasn’t much of a trickster, though. A little window soaping or egging or something like that, nothing too serious. I just wasn’t that comfortable with the destruction of public property for fun. Just didn’t work for me. Others, mind you, couldn’t get enough of it.

            Back in my high school days, in the early 70’s, Kipling’s Volunteer Fire Department members used to assist in policing the streets on Halloween in an effort to curb the vandalism. Thankfully, you just don’t see the kinds of things that kids used to do in the name of Halloween anymore. Stuff was moved everywhere. Farm implements, lumber, vehicles, hay bales, there was some outhouse tipping going on, of course, maybe a few farm critters were freed for the evening…that kind of thing. There was usually a lot of clean up that’s for sure. I don’t know how long the Fire Department kept up the practice but the real bad stuff soon fizzled out in the late 70’s or early 80’s I think.

            Then there was my best bad choice of Halloween costume. I wasn’t dressing up for Trick or Treating I was dressing up for my first school Halloween Dance. I was in Grade 7, my first year at Lindale School in Moose Jaw and it was the first school dance of the year, and my life, and it was going to be a Halloween dress-up dance.

            Now, here’s where things get foggy. Someone or two or three thought it would be a great idea to dress me up as a girl for the dance. I know!  I have five older sisters and three of them were still living at home at the time and I think it was their grand idea. Well, I know it was. I don’t think the decision was ever in my control.

Oh, but did they have fun on me with their hair pieces and bobby pins and brassieres and nylons and mini skirt and heels and make-up and all. I guess I made a pretty cute girl for a twelve-year-old boy! Not a great choice if you were going to try to catch the eye of Rosemarie Drackett at the school dance or explain to the chaperone why you were in the Boys Washroom! I think I was a ghost every year after that.

Here’s to creating your own Halloween memories. Have a Happy Halloween Everyone!

 

“We used to go around tipping outhouses over, or turning corn shocks on Halloween. Anything to be mean”.-Loretta Lynn (1932-).

TECHNOLOGY AND PATIENCE!


            Do you want to hear something ironic? The theme that I had running through my head for this week’s column was patience and technology, and, wouldn’t you know it, my technology just exhausted my patience. Weird how that works sometimes, eh?

            You see, I was all geared up to get writing this column so I could get back to the TV for the baseball playoffs and such so I fired up the old desktop and it took longer for the darn beast to come alive than it usually takes me to write the whole column!

Did you hear a foot tapping incessantly? That was me. “Oh my goodness…this is taking foorrreeevvverrrrrr! Why isn’t instantaneous instantaneous? Hmmm? What is taking sooooooo long?”

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? We’ve done it to ourselves, haven’t we? The technological advances have spoiled us into thinking that everything is going to be done immediately. We don’t have patience for anything anymore because we want what we want and we want it NOW!

            I have come to the conclusion that the single most valuable human attribute one must have to eliminate the most stress in one’s life is patience. My source defines the word “patience” as:the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.” Is that even possible? I don’t think so. At least for me it isn’t.

            I have found that nothing will get the dander up and try the patience more than technology and the reason for that is because we are too impatient to teach our selves the right way to do things because we don’t have the time, or something, so we go ahead and try to learn on the fly, because, you know, it cant’ be that hard now can it, so we learn as we go and we have to do most of it all over again and so we get angry because it was supposed to be so simple and usually the only thing simple is the operator and on and on and on it goes. It’s just a vicious circle.

            Funny, or odd as it were, how the word “suffering” is used in the definition of patience. “Suffering” was exactly what I was doing while I was programming a new piece of technology that was supposed to be a “1-2-3 ENJOY” type of setup. HA! The “1-2-3” setup was four hours long! And it’s still not done! That would test the most patient person’s patience, don’t you think?

            Oh yes, by the way, just for your information…if you come across someone who is showing the signs of total impatient meltdown, like a husband or father or someone like that… whatever you do…don’t tell them to calm down. Tsk, tsk, tsk…fuel on the fire people…fuel on the fire. You might want to just back away or maybe leave the house for a little while. Just saying.

             Technology has improved our way of life in so many ways, in its very exasperating way, making it is a necessary evil and I just hope that I can find enough patience to learn how to use it.

            “Patience is not the ability to wait but how you act while you’re waiting.”- Joyce Meyer (1943-).

Friday, October 14, 2016

THAT'LL STRESS YOU OUT!


          During this past Thanksgiving weekend many of our family members gathered at our house for the annual celebration. We had a great time feasting and visiting and the event went by all too quickly as usual. We did manage to cover a lot of our favourite activities as we shared an abundance of the holiday’s standard treats.

Led by our seven-year-old Grandson, Treyton, who reminded us to share what we were all thankful for by saying he was really thankful for the baby his mom was carrying who would become a little brother or sister to him and his sister Ava. That little gem got the ball rolling as everyone else also shared something they had to be thankful for.

            During the weekend the conversation naturally came around to news items and current events. Hurricane Matthew, Dumbass Trump, the sudden stop to the fall harvest, Brad and Angelina splitting, all sorts of bad news out there dragging us down it is not difficult to find something to be thankful for.

            Our daughter told us that she had stopped listening to the news because it was too distressing. She said it just agitated her so much that she had to stop. Being a working mother of two and having one on the way she has enough balls in the air at any given time that she cannot possibly take on any more stress because the world is going crazy like the news and social media lead us to believe it is.

            Our daughter was on to something, though. I did some reading on the subject of tuning out and during my research I found an article describing the effects of negative or pessimistic headlines and there was some very interesting information in there. In fact, one study showed that, “viewing tragedy in the media has proven to be capable of creating PostTraumaticStressDisorder.”

            Here’s an excerpt from an article I found on the subject: “After the Boston Marathon bombing in April 2013, the University of California, Irvine published a study that assessed the level of stress symptoms affecting people who watched it on television, social media, in print and on the radio. They found that ‘Acute stress symptoms increased with each additional hour of bombing-related media exposure.’ As a result, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Center for PTSD concluded there is a link between watching the news of traumatic events and stress symptoms.”

            So she’s right-cut out the news coverage and you’ll lessen your stress level. I prefer to stay somewhat engaged but not overwhelmed but that’s a fine line, too, especially on the internet where one article leads you to another article which leads you to another article.

            Thankfully we are merely observers of many of the scarier events going on in the world around us and we remain somewhat insulated and isolated from a lot of the world’s woes back here in our little neck of the woods. Humans are hard-wired to be empathetic, though, so no matter how isolated we feel we cannot help ourselves from being affected by other people’s strife. It’s humanity.

            If you’re looking to lower the stress in your life, (and, really, who isn’t?), then simply lower or remove the negative current events you expose yourself to and it would be a good start.

“The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”-William James (1842-1910).

 

Friday, September 30, 2016

LET'S WAIT A BIT ON THE WINTER WEATHER PREDICTIONS...SHALL WE.


            It was only a short two weeks ago when Deb and I flew into Calgary on our way out to Emily’s graduation ceremony from the Centre for Arts and Technology in Kelowna, BC. As the plane circled over the Stampede City I commented on how many trees had already turned colour compared to the mostly green trees we had flown away from in Kipling and area. By the time we arrived back in Regina, just over a week later, we couldn’t believe how quickly the leaves changed colour here in the short time that we were gone. Just like clockwork…autumn began on September 22nd… then, bing-bang-boom…fall is here! It went from summer to instant autumn in a matter of minutes. Or so it seems.

            We’re barely into fall and the Winter Weather Prognosticators are out there already spreading their long-term predictions as to the severity of the 2016-17 winter season. Apparently our prairie winters are measured in severity. Hmmm. Seems there was no doubt that the winter weather was going to be severe it’s just a matter of degree determination then, I guess. Severe is the best that we can hope for? That’s where we start? Severe then everything after that is more severe to severest? Yikes!

            Winter is winter and I will admit that I’m not its biggest fan but sometimes when I’m out there snowshoeing around the golf course in the middle of winter and it’s about

-10C with no wind and the sun shining brighter than bright I would not call that kind of Canadian winter weather “severe”. Just sayin’.

            Anyway, the good Old Farmer’s Almanac says we’re in for a doozy of a winter this time around. Here’s what they say, “Winter will be colder than normal, with the coldest periods in early and mid-December and early and mid-January, from late January into early February, and in mid-and late February.” Re-read that please. That’s straight from their pages! Really? So, I guess what they’re trying to say is it’s going to be freakin’ cold from the beginning of December until the end of February or as we locals refer to it…WIN TER!

On the other hand, Environment Canada, like all government agencies, makes things trickier. They throw different language at us like, “probabilistic” and “deterministic” and phrases like “climatology of temperature and precipitation” and “verification of previous forecasts” so only meteorologists, or the like, can understand what the deuce they’re talking about.

Go onto the Environment Canada website and try to look up “long-term forecasts” and you go from link to link to link with some degree of success but you end up looking at so much gobbledygook with charts and graphs and whatnot you don’t have a clue what they’re going on about. That’s because I don’t think they do, either. It’ll all a ruse to distract you so you forget why you went to site in the first place. My best guess from the stuff that I looked at was that it might be warmer than normal until the end of November and then it’s a crapshoot after that. Something along those lines, anyway, have a look for yourself to see if you can make any sense out of it all.

But isn’t it a little bit early to be worrying about winter? Hm? In the end, it doesn’t really matter what they say might happen, does it? We’ll get what we get and we should do like all good Canadians do and that’s hope for the best and prepare for the worst and remember…there is no bad weather…only bad clothing.

“I figure lots of predictions is best. People will forget the ones I get wrong and marvel over the rest.” Alan Cox (1968-).

Sunday, September 25, 2016

WORDS TO LIVE BY.

            When our firstborn child, Meghan, graduated high school her graduating class asked Deb and I to present the Parent’s Address to the grads. We worded our speech around the classic Robert Fulghum poem “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten”. This past weekend our youngest child, Emily, graduated from Kelowna’s Centre for Arts and Technology’s Event & Promotions Management Program and one of her instructors gave an address to the graduates which delivered a similar theme and tone.
            I won’t recite the complete Fulghum poem but the gist of the message can be described in the opening lines “All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandpile at primary school.”
            In the poem the writer states the things that he learned such as- “share everything, play fair, don’t hit people, put things back where you found them, clean up your own mess, say you’re sorry if you hurt someone, don’t take things that aren’t yours and wash your hands before you eat” are rules every person should strive to live by. In the poem Fulghum writes that “Everything you need to know about life is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation and ecology and politics and equality and sane living.” In other words, the world would be a far better and more peaceful place if everyone were to adhere to these basic human principles throughout their entire lifetime.
            The instructor’s address from Emily’s grad exercises quoted more wise words from another wise man but this time it was a fictional character not the writer whose words were quoted when the words of the great wizard from J.R.R. Tolkein’s novels “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings”, Gandalf the Grey, stated, “I found it is the small, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay.”
            The instructor followed Gandalf’s wise words with more of his own by telling the graduates that it is his “deepest belief that all of us were put on this earth to do something greater than simply take care of ourselves.” And he feels that, “there is a lot of evidence that things get pretty bleak when we disregard others.” Listen to any 24 hour news station and we can see how our mixed up world got so mixed up. Greed and intolerance and envy and selfishness have pushed mankind to the scary place we find ourselves in today.
            With so many on the planet pushing their own agendas we find ourselves in a world threatened by Radical Fundamentalism, an exploding world population, Global Warming, continuous economic uncertainty, a nuclear North Korea and Donald bloody Trump. What can ordinary folk like us to do at times like these?
            It may seem completely unrealistic and naive but the only way out of this mess is through each and every human act of kindness. One good deed at a time and pay it forward. Or as Emily’s instructor stated, “Smile. Say thanks. Compliment someone. Donate blood. Teach something. Be gentle with your words. Save water. Shop local. Recycle. Buy someone else’s coffee. Vote. Laugh at yourself. Be grateful. Be gracious. Offer a hug. Turn off the lights. Give stuff away. Practice patience. Listen fully. Share fully. And choose to be peaceful.” In other words, or to quote another famous human, Ghandi, who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Everyone can have an impact on their world and every small deed will affect change. The world will only truly change when we do.


“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” –John Lennon (1940-1980). 

Monday, September 5, 2016

REMEMBERING "THE BIGGEST HOUSE WARMING IN SASKATCHEWAN, EVER!"

            As summer winds down and we enter the Labour Day Long Weekend I am reminded of that wild summer of a decade ago when the world was invited to Saskatchewan’s Biggest House Warming Party to celebrate the final stage in Kyle MacDonald’s fourteen trades from one red paperclip on his desk at home to a house in Kipling. Can you believe ten whole years have passed since that eventful summer? Ten years? Neither can I.
            That particular weekend was going to be a big weekend for our family anyway as Deb and I would be celebrating our Silver Anniversary on September 5th and my Mom was celebrating her 85th birthday on August 30th so we had our own party planned for that Labour Day Long Weekend long before Kyle had traded a role in an upcoming Corbin Bersen movie for the house at 503 Main St. in Kipling.
By the time the whole “One Red Paperclip” phenomenon had gathered its full momentum, as well as the attention of the entire world, we were torn between switching our party to another weekend or stay the course and go with our initial plans and celebrate our 25th Wedding Anniversary and Mom’s birthday with everyone else coming to Kipling for the Housewarming Party. We stuck to our plans and as it turned out it was the best decision we could have made.
            Our invited guests arrived with the hundreds and hundreds of others who were coming to town for the weekend and the excitement in the air was palpable. It was an electric atmosphere to say the least. Magical was a word that was often repeated in the days to follow.
            On Saturday we hosted Mom’s 85th Birthday Tea in the Legion followed by our 25th Anniversary celebration and then many of us moved over to the bursting at the seams Rec Centre for the final auditions for a role in Corbin Bersen’s upcoming movie, Donna on Demand.
Turns out our boy Nolan aced his audition and blew the audience away, if I may be so bold to say, and, although the announcement wasn’t made until the following day, we were pretty convinced he would be the winner. And he was. And a number of our family members witnessed his performance making it all the more special. Those few “Saskatchewan’s Biggest House Warming Party, Ever” days were so surreal.
            The next morning, fuzzy as we were, Deb and I rode up in the SaskTel Hot Air Balloon and got a bird’s eye view of the entire town at the height of the madness. After the events of the previous night we barely needed assistance to float around.
What an amazing site…the town crawling with people, events happening everywhere, music coming from all directions amid conversation and lots and lots of laughter. Apparently, Kipling knows how to throw a big ol’ party.
That was a once-in-a-lifetime event, that’s for sure. You won’t replicate that. Ten years past and there are still people stopping by the Paperclip Cottage and getting their photos taken with the Big Red Paperclip at Bell Park. It’s been quite a ride.
Now Deb and I will be quietly celebrating our 35th Anniversary as nobody has bothered throwing a massive town-wide party this time around. But that’s okay, too, we’re a decade older and almost a little wiser. We’ll still celebrate our anniversary and summer’s last gasp knowing we could still party like it was 2006 but safe in the knowledge that we really don’t have to.  Happy Labour Day!

“Nobody looks back on their lives and remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep,”-Author Unknown.

Monday, August 29, 2016

"IF YOU TELL THE TRUTH YOU DON'T HAVE TO REMEMBER ANYTHING!"


            I have always been a fan of Olympic sports and I have great admiration for the dedication, perseverance and the sacrifice that Olympic caliber athletes have to make in order to get to that level of competition. I have watched a fair amount of television coverage of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games over the last two weeks and there were some amazing athletic performances from so many athletes. Particularly our Canadian athletes as Canada tied its best ever medal haul. Thank you Canadian Olympians.
            Unfortunately, the athletes’ performances seem like secondary news to the media covering the games what with all of the standard Olympic sized scandals happening on a daily basis. Right off the bat there was a big scandal as a top ranking Irish IOC member was arrested in a ticket scalping scheme and if the Olympics are on there HAS to be a doping scandal or twelve and Rio was no exception.
Again, it isn’t an Olympic games if a judge or two hasn’t thrown his integrity away for a few bucks or blatantly cheated for his/her own country. I am not being cynical here as the evidence of cheating is overwhelming when it comes to international sports competition. It always happens.
            There will forever be a debate over the excesses of The Games. Zillion dollar facilities being put up while nearby residents are living in squalor. Athletes raking in millions upon millions of dollars in incentives and endorsements because they can run fast or jump high while the construction workers building the stadiums and fields are working for peanuts. I am sure these injustices have been debated at every Olympic Games for decades.  
Then there were the American swimmers who were partying hardy and made up a story of being held up by gunpoint only to have the whole story blow up in their faces once the truth came out. And the truth always comes out which reminds me of one of my favourite Mark Twain quotes, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” Hmmm….remember that.
It also reminds me of something my Dad drilled into me while I was growing up and that is that lying about the deed is usually worse than the deed itself. Own up to your stupidity, take it like a man and admit you were wrong. Lying will only exacerbate the situation and prolong the misery.
            I don’t have enough room for all of the details but the story goes something like this: there were four American swimmers who were out partying and went to a convenience store to use the bathroom and upon finding the bathroom door locked they proceeded to kick it down. The convenient store attendant called Security and the swimmers were confronted about their actions. One of the swimmers claimed that they were held up at gunpoint with a gun being held to his forehead. He has since apologized for his “exaggerated” version of the story and he is paying a dear price for his “immature behaviour”, or lying as it were, as he has lost all of his major endorsements and is looking at further discipline from the United States Olympic Committee. Truth or consequences, man. 
            I still have great admiration for the hundreds of athletes who cleanly participated in The Games to the best of their abilities while sacrificing so much. My feeling is that the few that bring the integrity level down should not be given the biggest spotlight but that’s not how our world works, is it?   


“A lie can travel halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”-Mark Twain.

Monday, August 22, 2016

LOTS OF BEAUTIFUL SPOTS!

            There were some advantages and some disadvantages to being a PK (Preacher’s Kid) following Dad and Mom around moving from one community to another and from one province to another every few years. Finding new friends and fitting into new schools presented challenges but on the flip side we got to see a lot of different geographical areas within the two provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan.
            There are 778 kms or 484 miles between Lethbridge Alberta, where the family started and Kipling, Saskatchewan, where I ended up. That’s a lot of area to cover with a lot of diverse topography in between. Even though the entire area is within the Western Canadian Prairie region the rivers, lakes, hills and plains give very distinct characteristics to the individual communities and the land that surrounds them.
I may have mentioned in a previous column or two that Mom and Dad loved to picnic and their kids loved to swim and play at the beach so we found our way to a lot of different watering holes over the years. From Indian Battle Park and Henderson Lake around Lethbridge to Shamrock Regional Park near Gravelbourg to Bisant Regional Park and Buffalo Pound Provincial Park near Marquis and Kenosee Lake near Kipling. Each spot was unique and beautiful in its own way.
This past weekend 50 members of Rose and Lowell Hubbard’s family gathered at one of those unique and beautiful places, Wakamow Valley in Moose Jaw, for our annual family get-together. It’s a jewel of a place along the Moose Jaw River ideally suited for that type of family gathering. There are a lot of fine facilities and recreational activities to be enjoyed within Kiwanis River Park at Wakamow Valley. You should check it out sometime.
I am fairly well acquainted with Moose Jaw, having lived only twenty miles north of the city for five years in the 60’s, I spent a year there in the 70’s while I attended STI and I have two siblings who settled in Moose Jaw so we still see the city quite often during our family visitations. I like all of the history of Moose Jaw and the city is very unique in so many ways and I’d have to say that it is one of my favourite places on the planet.
Like most cities and towns around it’s “street repair and construction time” so the access to the park was diverted through an area of the city that I didn’t even know existed. It was a rough ride over patchy streets and broken pavement, over the train tracks, through an old neighbourhood, along a bit of a gravelly road and then…boom…you drop down into this lush park. You’d be surprised at how many places there are like that in this province.
Travelling about with Mom and Dad and now traveling on our own we have been quite fortunate to have seen so many of these nice little spots. I’m going to keep on looking because I am sure that as many as I have been to there are probably twice as many that I haven’t.

“When you leave a beautiful place, you carry it with you wherever you go.”-Alexandra Stoddard-(1941-).

Thursday, August 11, 2016

KENOSSEE LAKE MEMORIES


 

            Soon after our family moved to Kipling in July of 1970 we found our way to Kenosee Lake at Moose Mountain Provincial Park. Dad and Mom loved nothing better than packing up the family and spending a Saturday or Sunday picnicking and playing in the park. We’d load up the old Hibatchi barbeque, the charcoal briquettes and a cooler full of food and beverages and off we’d go to join the thousands of other like-minded people at the resort.

            I remember the first time we crested the big hill by the golf course and took our first glimpses of the massive parking lot filled with cars. Wow! There wasn’t a lot of pavement showing in that huge parking area, I can tell you that much. It was wall to wall vehicles. Back then it seemed like every family had a minimum of seven children and everybody went to the beach. I haven’t done any real data tracking or anything but I seem to recall hearing that on the July 1st weekend during the 1960’s and ‘70’s Kenossee Lake had the third highest population in the province after Regina and Saskatoon. No wonder there was little room for vehicle or people parking.

            I also remember the big slide that was in the lake at the main beach. Chances were pretty high that it would be a long wait for your turn to go down that slide and on the really, really hot days the metal slide would heat up so much between riders that it felt like you were burning your exposed skin off all the way down. That was if you could get going at all. Youch.

I am at or nearing the “uphill both ways” age and I have started my share of conversations with “remember when”…but remember when those summer days were so hot the pavement was melting? It was! Really! I know that it probably does that now, too, but I just don’t go barefoot on pavement as much as I used to so I don’t really notice it as much now.

You know, it just didn’t seem like a successful trip to the lake if you didn’t come home with some tar burnt into the bottoms of your feet. Ditto the hot sand on the beach! Yowza! Remember digging your feet deep into the sand until you found the cool stuff? Ahhhh, relief.

            I’ve got another “remember when” moment for you…remember when there were so many frogs everywhere down there that the vehicle traffic on the highway sounded like they were driving on rain-wet pavement? True story. It was like an actual version of a Twilight Zone episode. Yuck!

            A lot has changed in the past four-plus decades since I first visited Kenossee Lake and it remains one of the most beautiful places in the province. They may not get the huge numbers that they did back in the old heyday but the amenities are just as good, or better, and there are still a lot of familiar faces. Older faces, mind you, but still the same people you swam with, played football at the beach on Sunday afternoons with, went to Grandison Hall’s dances with, sang around the campfire with or got tossed out of Kenossee Garden’s when Jones and Leipert thought that you had had enough. Oh, right, that was someone else’s memory not mine. Whoops.

            I don’t get down there as often as I used to but when I do go the old memories flood back and I’m taken right back to the old happy times. Such a beautiful prairie oasis. Good old Kenossee…gotta love it!

“The sand may brush off, The salt may wash away, The tans may fade. But the memories will last forever.”-beachblissliving.com. 

Friday, August 5, 2016

DID YOU FORGET EVERYTHING THE DRIVER TRAINER TAUGHT YOU??


            As of today we are officially halfway through summer/vacation/road construction season. Have you been travelling Saskatchewan’s highways and byways this summer, too? Isn’t that something? Mind you, there are only so many days in a year that are conducive to new highway construction and road repair so it’s a case of short-term pain for long-term gain. We have to put up with the delays if we want to drive on better roads, don’t you think?

            We recently travelled to Macklin, SK, with our Eden Valley Senators baseball team for the annual Saskatchewan Baseball Association’s “Geezerball” Master’s Twilighter Tournament. If you don’t know where Macklin, Saskatchewan is, I can tell you that it is approximately 1330 kilometers, or about 7 hours of one-way continuous travelling time, northwest of Kipling, right on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border 250 klicks west of Saskatoon. It’s a bit of a drive but we did see our share of beautiful Saskatchewan landscapes with the brilliantly coloured fields of yellows, blues and greens of canola, flax and cereal crops oftentimes while sitting in a queue of traffic waiting for the flag-person to flip the sign from “stop” to “slow”.

            While travelling, our truck runs on regular and I run on Dark Roast so one has to be ever so careful when it comes to mapping out our pit stops, if you know what I mean. I can’t be stuck in traffic too long with my intake of liquids. To accommodate these frequent stops and to find the route least-likely to interrupt the drive I Googled a construction map of Saskatchewan and on the map every construction zone is marked by an orange pylon. The entire map appeared orange! Take your pick. It’s going to be painful anyway you go.

            But, you know, it is what it is and road construction is a part of travel but there are still road ethics to be followed. We’re all in this together, aren’t we? If we are all a little patient and cooperate with one another we will all get where we are going eventually. But noooooooo. There are always those one or two drivers who are completely selfish and think that road rules never apply to their “don’t you know who I am?” attitudes. “I am so much more important than you! “Zipper merging” is not even in my vocabulary! Why should I wait for you peons? Outta my way!”  

Then the faceless jerk flies down the suicide lane thinking all sixty-eight of the cars in the lineup must be out of gas, or something, or are just sitting there taking in the scenery and as I see him blowing by the passenger door of our truck I’m thinking…don’t let him in, don’t let him in, don’t let him in…but somebody always does and like the proverbial spoiled child the !*$%#@# gets his way and does not learn anything from his bad behaviour and poor judgment.

             I am far from a perfect driver but I’ll compare my 40+years of driving stats with anyone’s, and, having said that, I cannot believe how many dangerous and stupid drivers there are out on our roads. Did they forget everything they were taught in Driver’s Ed?

You know what? In many areas of life one needs to perform continuing education. Whether you are a teacher or doctor or fitness trainer or whatever there are courses one takes yearly to keep you engaged and reinforce lessons learned. I would propose to SGI that there be a mandatory bi-annual driver’s refresher clinic to review proper driving practices and to enhance one’s driving skills. They don’t even need to retest everyone just put them through the paces so they don’t forget everything they learned moments after the driver tester handed them their first driver’s license.

So if you are going to be out travelling the Saskatchewan roads sometime in the remainder of the summer please be careful on our highways and be kind to your fellow travelers because all they want is to reach their destination safely and in a timely manner as well. Don’t we all?

The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status, or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.” -Dave Barry, (1947-).

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

IT'S SASKATOON BERRY TIME!


            To some, this is a pretty exciting time of the year. They’ve waited and waited and waited and they have scouted out all of the good spots and now it’s time to gather up the pails, the bug spray, the picnic baskets, the iced tea, (or beverage of choice), and head for the bushes…the Saskatoon bushes, that is.
Yup, it’s berry picking time again and I’m so excited for all you berry pickers. Be careful and have fun out there. You know, I’d sure like to join you but I’ve got this sore toe. You go ahead…knock yourselves out.
Like so many things it really depends on how you were raised, I suppose. Take my wife for instance. Her family made berry picking a whole day family outing. Not just one small family, either, many family members would gather and travel to the best berry bushes they knew of and they would pick and play and picnic and have loads of fun. They would even make picking through the full pails of berries and washing them up after they got home loads of fun, if you can imagine.
Mind you, Debbie and her siblings sometimes accompanied their grandmothers in to the pastures and surrounding fields of the family farm picking various wild fruits and flowers and making it a great bonding and learning experience. An enjoyable experience, if you will.
My recollections of the berry picking experience were a little different. My Mom packed a lunch and cool beverages and she tried to make it fun for everyone, too, but ten-year-old wired up boys are not the best people to take to the berry patch. I was bored to near-death in about three-and-a-half minutes and I was more than happy to share that information with anyone…a lot. The constant bizzzz, bizzzz, bizzzz, of the mosquitoes, horseflies and black flies combined with the oppressive heat and the clock moving backwards only reinforced in me that berry picking is barely this side of torture. You know what my behaviour got me, though, don’t you? That’s right. It got me the first available ticket to every berry picking tour we ever went on again. Snivel and whine all you want but you’re coming along!!
Now, with today’s U-Pick-Em orchard farms the all-day picnic-type events are fewer and far between. In fact, for a miniscule fee the U-Pick-Ems will even pick ‘em for you so all of that tortuous labour has been removed. How nice is that? Delicious berries without the purple fingers or the odd worm in your mouth or the boredom or the mosquito bites or the sunstroke…
If you’re interested, I know that Tom and Maxine Sugden have a U-Pick ‘Em farm right on the western outskirts of Kipling and Drew and Pat Balfour also have an orchard off of the 711 grid near #9 highway. To name a couple.
No matter how the little purple berries end up in your fridge, freezer or pie they are just about the tastiest wild berry there is, don’t you think? The plant we call the Saskatoon is an Amelanchier alnifolia, and it’s native to North America from Alaska across most of western Canada and in the western and north-central United States.
There are so many things to like about a Saskatchewan July but the unique tastes provided us through the various products produced from somebody’s Saskatoon berry picking labour are a welcome reminder of so many summers past.
“I like to do things quickly because I’m easily bored.” Karl Lagerfeld (1933-).

WHERE DID THE TIME GO?


            In this weekly column I quite often lament the swiftness of the passage of time. In fact, I’m sure that I have even described science’s interpretation of how time actually slows down and speeds up and why it really seems to speed up as we age. It’s all in the perception, I believe, but regardless the reasoning…time flies! All too quickly.

            For example I cannot believe that it was already twelve months ago when we were sitting on a beach in Peachland, BC on Canada Day, 2015, watching an unbelievable fireworks display over Okanagan Lake. Where the heck did that year go?

            It is truly unfathomable, as well, that we are approaching the 4th anniversary of the untimely passing of Bobby Vargo. Four years already? Wow. The family has just wrapped up the fourth edition of the Bobby Vargo Memorial Slo-Pitch Tournament and what a success it was. Combining all of the things that Bobby loved into one event is a great way to honour his too-short lived life. He loved family, he loved friends, he loved sports and he loved community and this event brings them all together. And on top of that the tournament’s events helped many community organizations raise some much needed funds for their groups. Over $16,000.00 in total, I’m told! What a great legacy. Congratulations Vargo family.

            Again, overstating the obvious, but it was a decade ago that Kyle MacDonald made the last of his fourteen trades from One Red Paperclip to a house in Kipling! Ten years! How come it seems such a short time ago?

            Mind you, the whole summer of 2006 was full of excitement around Kipling. Among other events, that was the year that Pat Beaujot discovered the pedophile harbouring two young males in an abandoned yard near Pat’s home and it was also the summer that the Kipling Industries building north of town completely burnt down and then the momentum of the “One Red Paperclip” phenomenon led to that summer’s wrap-up with “Saskatchewan’s Biggest House Warming Party” on the Labour Day Weekend in Kipling, which led to the auditions for a part in a Corbin Bernsen movie, which our son Nolan won, by the way. What a summer to remember!

            Can you imagine that it really is forty-six years ago that Dad and Mom and their three youngest children moved to Kipling? I guess it is. What a pivotal moment in my life that turned out to be. I was thirteen years old at the time and I didn’t want to move here at all. We had lived in three other communities prior to that and I was sick of moving and finding new friends and fitting into new schools and everything.

You know what, though, it didn’t take long…mere weeks, in fact, before I had made some new friends and by the end of that first year in Kipling I was entrenched. I was home. This was it.

The friendships that I made in those first weeks in Kipling were to form a tight-knit circle of friends that remain very close to this day. Life, geography and other factors have made the visitations fewer and fewer but when we do get together the years fall away and we are transported right back to the good old days of fun, fun, fun.

The core peer group started with six friends and we expanded and contracted that number over the years but the six of us were always linked as one. One of the core members of that circle was Brian Gallagher. Brian is the first one of the six of us to have passed on after his recent battle with cancer. Another fine example of “the good die young”. This one stings. Bad.

We can lament the too-fast passing of time. We can complain that life is too short and there is never enough time to enjoy all the things we want to enjoy. If there are any positives that can be taken from losing friends and family members like Bobby and Brian it is that we have to make the time to do the important things in life. We have to make the time. I know that we pledge these things every time we lose a close personal friend or family member but we must. We must follow through because before you no it…time has slipped away.

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”- William Penn (1644-1718).

Monday, June 27, 2016

SUMMER IS HERE!

          I see by the calendar that we have arrived at the Summer Solstice making today the longest day of the year. Or, more accurately, the day which has the longest period of daylight in the year. However you want to label it …hurray, hurray, hurray…summer is on the way!! It is the most glorious time of the year and here’s hoping that it’s going to be a long, long beautiful summer.

          Do you know what else today is? It’s also a Strawberry Full Moon, that’s what it is. What is a "Strawberry Full Moon", you ask? According to the "Old Farmer’s Almanac" they call it a Strawberry Full Moon because Algonquin tribes saw it as a signal to start gathering ripe fruit.

          Seeing as how you are going to be reading this long after the event I hope you had a chance to catch the Strawberry Full Moon on the same day as the Summer Solstice because it is a rare event indeed. In fact having a full moon on the same day as the Summer Solstice hasn’t happened in Western Canada since 1986 but those in Atlantic Canada haven’t seen a summer solstice full moon since 1967 and still others in North America since 1948!

          The Strawberry Moon/Summer Solstice will be broadcast on You Tube so if you missed it live or it was cloudy in your area restricting your view, or something, bring it up and have a look. As mentioned, these celestial events are very rare so it is a pretty neat way of welcoming the summer.

Today may be the "real" first day of summer but it is usually the day after the last day of school which signifies the "unofficial" start to summer. Way back when, during my school days, the town became nearly deserted after the last day of school as many folks packed up and took off on vacations or went to the cabin at the lake. They still do, I am sure, but now the town is not nearly deserted at all. With the many varied recreation facilities and activities to be had right here in town one needn’t travel to have access to relaxation and recreation. It’s always nice to get away but if one cannot or does not want to travel there’s lots to do right here.

          Kicking off the summer events will be the 4th Annual Bobby Vargo Memorial Slo-Pitch Tournament on the Canada Day Long Weekend of July 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Glen and Lynn Vargo, their children, Ashely Couette and Austin, as well as many other family members and friends, have organized and ran this tournament every year since their son and brother Bobby’s untimely passing in 2012.

          The Bobby Vargo Memorial Slo-Pitch Tournament is a great family event that provides a fun-filled weekend while contributing much needed funds to the community’s recreation facilities. After moving the event around in the calendar year a couple of times the tournament has now secured a home around the Canada Day holiday. What a great way to combine memorializing a life too short-lived, celebrate the birthday of the greatest country in the world while raising funds for a most worthy cause. It’s a full weekend of activities, too, including a pancake breakfast, a Dunk Tank, a Kid’s Bouncy House, Kid Care Jail & Bail, a Canada Day Cabaret and so much more. Check out the Bobby Vargo Memorial Slo-Pitch Tournament Facebook page for details or look for posters and ads.

          Whatever your plans for this upcoming summer, may you all have a safe and happy summer season. I will be making a wish for all of us, on this Strawberry Full Moon/Summer Solstice Day, for the greatest summer ever!

"To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." –Thomas Campbell (1777-1844).

Sunday, June 12, 2016

MORE POSTS

It is the 12th of June and I am finally getting some new posts loaded up on this blog. Or filing cabinet, as it were. The last post was from April so here are some new posts. Enjoy.

ALL ABOUT NOTHING.

            The other day I was reading a news article about the Pakistani polygamist who has already fathered 35 children and he wants to add wife number four to his first three wives so he can ultimately father 100 children! ONE HUNDRED CHILDREN!! This information had me pretty revved up as a tie-in to a Father’s Day themed column for the paper…and then I looked at the calendar and I saw that Father’s Day isn’t this coming weekend it’s next weekend, the 19th! What the deuce? In my haste to jump all over the selfish, irresponsible motives of this man I must have lost my head for a minute or two there.
            The thing is, these column themes don’t just drop out of the sky or anything. Well, sort of, if you know what I mean, but not normally in the literal sense, although I won’t rule out that ever happening. I actually have to think and stuff to come up with some kind of an idea of what to write about every week and, I’m not sure how it is with other writers, but once I hit on a topic…That’s it! Eureka! I have a theme! My mind is now closed! I don’t even keep another theme on deck, let alone in the hole, so when I’m out of subjects…yikes…it’s scramble, scramble, scramble.
            Oh, by the way, I must say that, again, I am unsure of how other writers conduct their business but I am a last minute kind of guy. “When’s it due? Tomorrow, eh? Hmmm…I better get to work on that I guess.”
            So out with the Father’s Day topic, for this week anyway, and on to what? Hmmmm? I don’t know… how about…nothing. Because that’s what I’ve got…nothing…and all the experts tell you to write about what you know and I know nothing. If I know anything…it’s nothing.
            “See that over there? You know what that is? It’s nothing?”
            “C’mere, guess what’s in my hand…you’re right…nothing.”
            “Mumble, mumble, grumble, grumble…”
“What’s that Dear? What’d you say?”
“Nothing, honey.”
            You know how it is when you reach into your pocket for the stuff you know is in there and then you inside-out your pocket and what do you find?? NOTHING! So nothing is really something even if you call it nothing. It has to be something. So when I choose to write about nothing I am really writing about something then, aren’t I?
            I recall the time that the nose, throat and ear doctor sent me for an MRI on my head to see why my hearing was deteriorating in a weird, weird way and…guess what they found…you guessed it…NOTHING. Now my pockets AND my head have a whole lot of nothing.
            You don’t’ have to rely on me alone to fill you in on nothing. It seems like philosophers have been discussing nothing since the 5th Century BC. Good ol’ Parmenides was one of the earliest western philosophers to consider nothing as a concept. And you thought I knew nothing.
            If you really want definitive proof that nothing is something then you can Wikipedia it and read the 2700, or so, words on the subject. Nothing can take up an awful lot of your time, too, I’m finding out.
            Well, that’s all I’ve got for this week. I hope you got something out of nothing. I was so happy to do it for you, and besides… you know…it was nothing.

“Anything can happen in life, especially nothing,”-Michel Houellebecq (1956- ).

AN EXPERT IS...

Recently I found myself repeating a saying that I had often heard and used back in my lumber yard/building construction days… “An Expert is somebody who is more than 50 miles from home”. Generally speaking, people seldom give credit where credit is due; particularly when it comes to locals. Whether you’re good with a calculator, pencil and eraser, a hammer and nails or car selling or piano teaching it seems being a home-towner can sometimes have its disadvantages. Somebody somewhere has to be better.
What prompted me to share this information with you this week were a few small comments from a national radio host. I really like listening to this radio host, by the way, but his show comes from the East Coast and he has a discernable “eastern” slant to his points of view, if you know what I mean?
Anyway, he was talking about a young man from Bienfait, Saskatchewan, Andy Shauf, who is an amazing singer/songwriter/musician coming into his own on the national and international music scene. It seems our radio host is quite flabbergasted that such a talent could come out of the wheat fields of good old Sask-at-chee-wan. It would appear that in between Andy watching his dog run away for three days or freezing his tongue to a metal pipe somewhere in the playground, (because, let’s face it, what else is there for a kid to do in a small prairie town?), young Andy taught himself how to play a number of musical instruments, was playing in a band by 14, recording music by 16 and released three independent music albums before he was twenty-years-old. Not bad for a young flatlander.
Now, Tom, the host’s name, made some stereotypical references to small town life in Saskatchewan in his intro into Andy’s latest song and he just happened to catch a too-sensitive native of the province listening in while the host was just trying to be a little bit funny. Isn’t it funny how a funny man didn’t find anything funny in the host’s funny comments? I guess my feathers were rankled more by how he said what he said than what he actually said. Make sense? Hope so.
Had I been listening to a country music station the host could very well have been speaking about Alex Runions, winner of Saskatchewan Country Music Awards Entertainer of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year. That’s not too shabby for a flatlander, either. Ditto, Jordan Toppings, award winning SCMA All Star Band guitarist. Please accept my too-late public congratulations.
I don’t know too much about Andy Shauf’s upbringing but I doubt that it was very different to Alex or Jordan’s Kipling upbringing. Playing school and community sports, science fairs, school band, drama, (in and out of school), field trips, goofing off and hanging with friends at the local hot spots…being kids, in other words.
There is little argument that there can be some advantages to living in larger centres with more resources closer to one’s disposal but narrow-minded thinking takes those advantages to levels that are not as relevant as they once were. Experts come in all sizes, shapes and colours and they come from the biggest of cities and the tiniest of towns.


 “An expert is somebody who is more than 50 miles from home, has no responsibility for implementing the advice he gives, and shows slides.”- Edwin Meese (1931- ) American Attorney General (1985-1989).

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IT'S A LITTLE TOO MUCH DON'T YOU THINK?

            Last week our youngest grandchildren, Treyton ( just turned 7), and Ava (4), came over from Wolseley with their parents on a road trip to Kipling for soccer. This was great news for us grandparents, as we didn’t have to travel to watch them play, but at the same time I was wondering why six-year-olds and four year-olds are going on organized soccer road trips?  On a weeknight, no less. Six and four-year-olds.
Both age-groups games started at 7:00 pm and factoring in the length of the game, the snack stop afterwards, a little bit of visiting with Grandma and Grandpa plus the drive back home, the kids wouldn’t be snuggled into their beds until well beyond 9 o’clock, long after their regular bedtime.
            Now, before I get pushing my humble opinion on you regarding children and sport I am going to tell you that I spent a great deal of my life involved in organized sports. I loved organized sports. I have played, officiated, coached, managed and organized many different minor and amateur sports of all different types at all kinds of levels both for me and my peers and for my children and their peers and I loved it and I’d do it all over again if I could.
I love to compete and when I was a youngster I was the poorest sport on the planet. I hated losing. Of course I was tied for that honour with a few million others and  I am still embarrassed by some of my antics on the playing field at that young age. That’s something I would go back and change, if I could. That said, I also had an awful lot of fun playing those games.
Now, back to the Grandchildren’s soccer…here’s the thing…there are enough children in both of our grandchildren’s age groups in Wolseley to form two teams in each age category. Why the road trips? Why not play each other at home for skill improvement for a few weeks and then take them on one or two Saturday road trips a season for a treat. Sound fair?
             I happened to read a statistic the other day that stated that 70% of children leave organized sports by the age of 13. Seventy per cent! By then they are “burnt out”, if you can imagine. Too many parents are living vicariously through their children setting unattainable goals for them and pushing, pushing, pushing. The kids only want to have fun but too many of the people in charge care only about the final score. In fact, when polled, a majority of children said they would rather play on a losing team and play more than sit on the bench of a winning team.
            If they only emphasize the games then where is the skill development? Take swimming for instance…you get instruction for twenty minutes during Swimming Lessons and then you really learn how to swim during the public swimming times where you practice what you’ve been taught. Ditto baseball, hockey, football, soccer...Learn the basics and then try, try and try again. What will you learn while you’re sitting on a blanket or a bench on the sidelines.
When was the last time anyone saw a pickup road hockey game going on? Or a football or soccer game in the big, new, beautiful field we have in the old little school yard? That’s where skill development is at its highest. Every activity is the same whether it’s sports or driving or dancing or reading and writing…learn the moves and then practice, practice, practice.  
            I am very pleased that our daughter and our son-in-law are giving their children the opportunity to enjoy sports and music and dance and experience how much fun there can be in so many of  life’s activities. I am also confident that they will know when too much is too much.
            The psychological and social benefits of sport are numerous and well known. Sports and recreation provide children with so many life skills including, but not limited to, greater confidence,  self-esteem and work ethic, stronger peer relationships, teamwork, greater family interactions, less troublemaking and the list goes on. And if they become a pro or an Olympian, or something, all the better, but no four-year-old is being scouted by the pros…as far as I know.
            Competition is valuable in life development, too, in so many ways but can’t we let kids be kids? They will have a whole lifetime past their teenage years of cutthroat competition in sports and in life in general. It will be upon them sooner than anyone can think so let’s just let them play, okay?

            “Sports do not build character. They reveal it.” John Wooden, (1910-2010), Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach.

NO MORE PLUMBING FOR YOU!

            The Victoria Day May Long Weekend is upon us once again officially kicking off summer. I don’t want to jinx it, but as of now the weather forecast isn’t calling for snow but, you know, it’s still a week away, as of this writing, and in Saskatchewan anything can happen. Weather wise that is.
            True to form, though, I had been putting off our bathroom renovation all winter long thinking that it would only take a couple of days to get it done and then the indoor projects would be caught up, for now, and then we could proceed to the outdoor stuff around May Long. HA! Even this old seasoned home improvement veteran should have known better. A couple of days? What was I thinking?   
            We were going to install a new tub surround, a few new mouldings, a new set of taps and antique the oak vanity and linen cabinets. It’s the smallest room in the house for crying out loud so how long can it take? Easy, peasy, eh? Apparently not!
However, we keep forgetting that there really isn’t an “Easy Button”, being slow learners and all, plus we just happen to be our own worst enemies. Our philosophy is-why pay someone to do this stuff when we are perfectly capable of doing it all ourselves?
Now, I do have to qualify a couple of details here, though. You see, to me, demolition is a piece of cake and I’m pretty handy with a saw and a hammer, I don’t really mind painting, I’m a whiz with a caulking gun and I’ll take on some light electrical stuff but when it comes to plumbing I’ve got two words…LINUS…HELP!
Remember that “slow learner” stuff from a few lines ago? I keep forgetting that I can’t do plumbing but I keep trying. That is until a few projects ago when I had to, once again, call on my ol’ buddy Linus Blackstock of LB Plumbing and Heating to rescue me from some dumbass project that I wrongly thought I could handle myself. I must tell you also that there is a bit of a history behind this sort of thing as I have had to call on him more than a few times for some evening and weekend emergencies until finally a while ago he stated to me, ala the “Soup Nazi” from Seinfeld…“No plumbing for you!” This time I called him in before the water even had a chance to spray anywhere. 
The other work wasn’t extremely hard or particularly physically taxing, or anything like that, but it was so damn tedious and time consuming. O-M-G, it dragged on forever.
We had Googled and Googled and You Tubed and You Tubed and read and read about the antiquing process and the different techniques people use…and then we threw all that information out the window and did whatever the heck we wanted to do. But it turned out great, too. It just took a little longer than a couple of days.
Generally I do the rough stuff and the carpentry…not the plumbing…and Deb’s the master artist with the paint brushes and the antiquing glaze. But because the cupboards were all natural oak we had to prime and top coat it a few times and then glaze over top so it seemed that we painted and painted and painted and painted and painted…okay, you get the picture.
It’s all history now. The job is complete and I’d like to thank Mother Nature for providing some cool, rainy weather to accompany our indoor project and now we’re eager to get outdoors and tend to the yard.
There’s lots of time for that, though. It is only the Victoria Day Long Weekend after all. We’ve got the whole summer to work on that kind of stuff. We’ve got to make time for golf, relaxation, food and refreshments and visiting with friends and family. That’s what this long weekend will be about. I think we’ve earned a couple of days off. What’s a couple of days?

“Happiness is a three-day weekend!” Charles M. Shulz (1922-2000).

MY RECOLLECTIONS OF FORT MAC

The last and only time I had the opportunity to visit Fort MacMurray was in the summer of 1969. My then brother-in-law was working as an electrician for Suncor and Dad, Mom and their three youngest children made the long nasty trek for a week-long visit with my sister and her husband. At that time the community was relatively small and isolated and it was just about to explode with development.
            That was nearly fifty years ago so things have changed dramatically in the Fort MacMurray region since then. I don’t remember too many exact details but I do remember that the road to Fort MacMurray wasn't even paved and one had to have a most reliable vehicle with extra gas on hand as the road was rough and there was only one gas bowser between the last town and Fort MacMurray.
            I remember the beauty of the area with the Athabasca River flowing through the town and the Boreal forest surrounding it. There wasn’t even a cement swimming pool in the community as the natural waterways along the town site provided plenty of aquatic opportunities with a massive swimming hole being the centre of the summer recreation facilities. Many of the residential areas had yet to receive paved streets or curbs and gutters. That was to come.
            The population had gone from 926 residents in 1951 to 6847 in 1971 to 31,000 by 1981 reaching 62,000 by 2011. Oil exploration in the area had started early in the 20th Century and by 1921 there was serious interest in developing a process to remove the oil from the oil sands. The first extraction processes were very slow but by the start of World War II the output had grown to 1100 barrels of oil per day. In 1967, the Great Canadian Oil Sands (now Suncor) plant opened which really kicked off Fort MacMurray’s growth. There were only 2000 residents in 1967 and the population more than tripled before the end of the 1960’s decade.
            On May 1st, only a week ago as of this writing, a wildfire started southwest of Fort MacMurray and within a few days 88,000 people had been evacuated and 1600 homes and buildings had been destroyed.                 The devastation was so rapid and fierce many residents escaped with only the clothes on their backs. Considering the massive size of the evacuation and the apocalyptic conditions that residents had to escape through, there were very few casualties.
On the other hand, the worst disasters seem to bring out the best in humans. As of Friday May 6th the Red Cross had collected over 30 million dollars in donations for the relief effort. Clothing, water, food, medications, bedding and many, many other items have been donated as well. The collection center in Edmonton was so overwhelmed with donations that they had to source more storage. If you’d like to donate go to redcross.ca.
There are heartwarming stories and heartbreaking stories. There are stories of survival, sacrifice and inspiration. I viewed an aerial video of the devastation which shows some residential areas completely wiped out while others remained untouched reminding us all how fickle natural disasters can be and leaving many evacuees to ask, “why me” or “why not me” in some cases.
There are some iconic photos from the area already like the woman riding her horse while leading two of her other horses to safety down a major City Street through the smoke and sparks. There are hundreds of pictures from cars driving through the only escape route through thick smoke with the flames from the fire seemingly about to melt the sides of the vehicles as they drove down Hwy #63 scared that they might not get through. Words like surreal, incredible, horrible, frightening, awestruck and sickening were heard from evacuees once they reached safety.         
Once again humanity is humbled by nature. The devastation will be felt for decades. It is a terrible reminder that life can turn on a dime and with very little warning lives are permanently changed. It is also another reminder to appreciate every single day because one never knows when one’s life can be turned upside down in a matter of minutes.

   “While natural disasters capture headlines and national attention short-term, the work of recovery and rebuilding is long-term”.-Sylvia Matthews Burwell. (1965-).

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