Monday, September 29, 2008


Thanks to a newly-implemented allowance-and-bonus-allowance structure implemented at our house, I was able to show up at our local pub last night and truthfully say, " ... and I left the kids at home tonight, polishing the furniture."

Beat that, Barbara Coloroso.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Most Difficult Achievements

You might think it's bragging, but here are the four biggest achievements that I've managed to do (in order of difficulty/impact on my life):
  • becoming a father
  • deciding to end my marriage
  • quitting swimming as a teenager
  • making my first million dollars

Leave me a comment with yours (anonymously, please).

Way Past 25

This weekend included a trip to Edmonton to attend my high school's 50th anniversary and *my* 25th reunion. It was a disappointing turnout, as only four of us from the 1983 graduating class showed up to the banquet.

I'm not sure if people didn't make the effort to come to the reunion, or whether they actually chose NOT to go. There are many reasons to stay away from a high school reunion. Very few of us came out of high school with plans to get divorced. Very few planned to get stuck in dead-end, uninteresting or unfulfilling jobs. Very few expected to have problem children, or burdensome parents or other relatives, either. None of us planned to have debilitating accidents, or irreparably damage our knees, or have our hair thin and fall out, or get pudgy and wrinkly and grey and generally look, well, like our parents.

But almost all of us had some of these things happen.

Yes, some of us have done well and some have had great successes, but most of us (as Will Rogers so eloquently put it) have to remain on the sidelines and wave as the parade goes by. I never would have suspected that so few people would choose not to turn up for a chance to say hello to old friends.

I'm very proud that one of the groups that I was involved in at school - the Outdoor Recreation Club, or ORCs - planned our own little party, independent of the $85/plate stand-up-and-eat-finger-food school-organized banquet. The ORCs (at least a core group of them) have kept in touch over the years and have watched each other get married, raise kids, have successes and failures and gracefully and not-so-gracefully grow older in big, four-year-apart steps. For the most part, personalities have unfolded as I expected they would. The shy ones of our group have stayed close to home, fallen into mediocre jobs, go on to live their parents' lives and done predictable things. Others have traveled, tasted and experienced things no one could have predicted and had amazing adventures. Some of the amazing feats my little group of a dozen friends have accomplished are:
  • climbed the second-highest mountain in the world
  • worked on five continents
  • sailed across the Atlantic
  • gone to live above the arctic circle and other non-English-speaking places
  • had a copyrighted work published
  • taken a year off work to travel (a few of them have done this)
  • learned to ski jump
  • learned to skydive (again, a few have done this)
  • divorced and remarried - sometimes in different continents, sometimes in different languages
  • become doctors, engineers, teachers, social workers
  • ran for public office
  • had (collectively) eleven kids

... and those are just some of the things that I know of. I know that we've all had some disappointments, but I think (as a group) we have much to be proud of. We've all turned out to be nice people and we have all remained good friends. Getting back together for an afternoon, we all were able to see in each other the things that made us friends all that time ago.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


We have some new, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed Customer Service Reps in the office this week. They are getting trained up as part of a re-org operation that is going on at work. Part of being around is learning about the company; but what is there to know about the company? Well, the company is Seattle-based, we have offices all over the world, we're trying hard to be number one in the industry, we've been around for twenty years, we're owned by Bill Gates and the head-honcho, inspirational guy is named Gary.

Oh yeah, the Calgary office used to be a company called Veer.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Big Hike

can YOU see the trail?
I've always wanted to climb a mountain. Today, I had a chance to do it as a day hike. Some might call it cheating, walking up a trail to a mountain peak. As long as you've done it under your own power and get to stand at a place where the earth does nothing but slope downwards all around you, I say it counts as a summit.

Ha Ling Peak is a tough 'moderate' level hike - you are essentially walking up a 1:6 grade for two hours. The view at the top is spectacular and well worth the complaining from your calves and gluteal muscles. Kate and I started off late (around 4 pm) due to some family commitments, but we arrived at the trailhead well-prepared. We had proper clothes, footwear, a first aid kit, trail food, water and all the essentials. We huffed and puffed up the trail and met many people (some with dogs) coming down.

The last 20 minutes of the climb was above the treeline, along the scree (loose pebbles) on a severe slope. We were trying to be careful not to step on any of the little bits of fragile alpine grass while we worked to keep our footing and not tumble/slide down the incline. The trail was almost impossible to discern on the bare rocks and we strayed from it more than once as we picked our way up.

Our stay at the top was brief but pleasant. We caught the last bit of warm sun (no thanks to the cloud that moved in) for a few photos, an amazing view and a visit from a fearless chipmunk (Kate's first chipmunk spotting ever). The hike down was as hard on the quads as the hike up was on the calves. The fact that it was prime prowling time for the animals had us keeping a good pace, with visions of mountain lions and bears watching us stroll past. We made it to the van just as twilight was setting in.

Life has been comically busy this past year. As the burningly-critical issues have been dealt with, it has allowed the merely critical and even some minor issues to rise to the surface. Included with those is my need to spend time being active in a natural setting - specifically in the mountains (which are less than an hour's drive from my front porch).

Banana and McMonk both declined our invitation to come on the hike and I'm OK with that. Yes, I'm disappointed that they don't share my infatuation with the Rockies but I have to remember that I developed my love for hostelling/hiking/skiing independently from my parents. I won't ever drag my girls to the mountains against their will, but there will always be a seat in the van for them if they decide to come along. I know the good times we have shared on prior trips is a seed that may take time to germinate.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Work Changes

Looks like Veer is all done with me. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Film at eleven.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Visitors for Tea

This morning, I got out of bed, looked out the window and noticed that there were some bikes and two tents set up in the green space behind the house. My curiosity was piqued. Obviously, some cyclists were on a long journey and gotten as far as the green space (in the middle of the city) and had set up camp and bedded down for the night. Where were they from? Where were they going? What adventures had they had so far?

When I noticed that they were stirring, I went out to talk to them. Having done some cycle touring myself, I knew that they would appreciate a hot cup of something before they set off for the next leg of their trip. I wandered out to their camp and met a 50-ish lady at her tent. Vel (as she introduced herself) seemed a bit disheveled (as you normally are after a few nights living in a tent) but quite nice and friendly. I extended an invitation to her and whoever she was with into the house (via the back gate) for some tea.

When she came in, she was accompanied by another woman of similar vintage. After introductions and as tea was poured, a different story unfolded. Mary (Vel's friend) had decided to take up residence in the tent after a rent increase (doubling from $1,200 to $2,400 a month) had forced her out of her apartment. Her employer, upon learning that she had now given up her permanent residence, had laid her off. She now had no job, very little chance of acquiring gainful employment.

Suddenly, the situation I was in just turned on its head. Instead of having some well-heeled cycle tourists in for a spot of morning tea, I now had two homeless women of unknown metal state, sitting in my very private kitchen with full access to my house and everything in it. You could have almost heard the gears madly trying to change directions in my head. How was I going to deal with these two? How could I politely tone down my obvious affluence and not offer or obligate myself, without seeming haughty or uncaring? How could I end this awkward (for me) situation and send these two polite ladies on their way?

I managed to wind down the conversation, wish them a pleasant day and not offer out more than I was willing to give. They packed up and were on their way, but they did leave something behind for me - food for thought.
  • How could I have felt so differently towards them once I knew their situation? They hadn't changed at all - just my perception.
  • how hard would it be for someone I love to end up in a similar situation? After all, having your rent double would hit most people hard, especially those without a lot of savings.
  • Mary seemed to be nice enough person. She claimed to need just a spot to pitch her tent for a few weeks. How could I consider myself a charitable person when here I was with a spare room downstairs, and a person with such an obvious need in front of me? (personal safety for myself, Kate and my girls was the answer after just a wee bit of thought)

All in all, it was a very enlightening and thought-provoking morning.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Not Busy Enough


Summer school break is finished. Two trips to Australia are complete. Old house nearly renovated, flooded, then cleaned up. New house purchased, settled, furnished, occupied. French exchange student entertained, nearly killed, summarily saved, then packed back on a plane to the Loire Valley.

You'd think that it would be time to relax and start stacking firewood in preparation for winter, wouldn't you?

Nope. I'm encouraging my parents to move to a new home, closer to our new digs. This will require packing, moving, fixing up the new place, etc.

I'm a glutton for punishment.