Dad

Everyone says I look like him and as I get older I see it more. It’s hard not to take it as a compliment because the man was a handsome devil. He came of age during the height of Elvis and it is hard not to notice a resemblance between the younger version of my Dad and The King.

Mom (looking freaked out no doubt because that is me on the way – their first child) with my Dad looking cool as anything on the right rocking a mid-60’s Elvis pompadour.

I don’t see myself in photos of my Dad when he was younger. From a time when he exuded a cooler than cool vibe that was more James Dean cool than Elvis.

Or an impish boy.

I don’t see me in these photos. It’s not until he gets older that I begin to see me in my Dad. And even then I struggle to see our resemblance reflected back to me in photos of him. But that is likely my own perception messing with what I see in those photos. I am not seeing me in those photos. I just see my Dad, not me.

The trait of my Dad’s that I think is the strongest in me isn’t visible in the mirror, but is the sound I make when I clear my throat. It’s really odd, I know, but Dad used to do this kind of half cough to clear his throat that had this unique sound. The first half of the clearing sound was at a lower pitch than the second half giving it a distinctive sound. A sound that I unconsciously mimic when I clear my throat.

It is a totally subconscious thing, too, so it sneaks up on me out of the blue. I can be working in the garden and clear my throat – and suddenly I hear my Dad clear as a bell. One minute I am not thinking of him, the next it is as if he has inhabited my body for a split second the feeling of his presence is so strong.

I saw him Sunday. I went to his care home to visit. I brought some TimBits. I liked to bring him treats as he has always had a sweet tooth. We sat at the table in the common room, open box of uneaten TimBits on the table between us. I thought it was odd. Despite the Alzheimers taking his memory of who I am away a long time ago, he always seemed to remember how good those little donut treats tasted and would never hesitate to gobble them down.

As we sat there and I looked at my Dad hunched forward in his wheelchair I thought I could detect sobbing. It wasn’t unusual for him to get emotional when I was visiting, but this time the sobbing seemed different. More strained.

He looked uncomfortable in his wheelchair, half slumping half sliding forward. So I went behind him, wrapped my arms around his chest under his arms and gently lifted him up so he was sitting in an upright position. I heard him say “Thank you”, the first coherent and understandable words I have heard him say in months.

I wheeled him back to his room where I pulled out his small box of Christmas decorations and began decorating his room. He loved Christmas. No, he really loved Christmas. Our house was renowned in our small town for the elaborate Christmas displays he would set up each year that often spilled over into the neighbour’s yards. It was easily his favourite time of the year. So I tuned his radio to the station playing all Christmas music and set up a small tree for him with some decorations around the room.

After I finished I wheeled him back out to the common room, chatted with his caregiver for a few moments and then said goodbye to Dad, who had fallen asleep in the wheelchair back in front of the uneaten box of TimBits at the table. I told the caregiver that if anyone wanted one they could help themself because Dad didn’t seem to have much of an appetite for them today. And then I left.

Wednesday afternoon I had just dropped my son off at school when my phone rang. It was Dad’s care home. Dad went down for a morning nap and passed away peacefully in his sleep.

I sat in the car in the parking lot of the high school and tried to cry. But for some reason, I couldn’t. Maybe inside I was happy that my Dad, my strong Dad who loved nothing more than being outside at his cabin, fishing on Chitek Lake, or puttering on a million projects in the garage, and who had had these things so cruelly taken from him in the past few years as Alzheimer’s made his world smaller and smaller, was finally free. I rationalized my inability to cry at that moment because I have had many small moments of grieving in the past 4 years since his diagnosis, watching him slowly slip away bit by bit.

So I just sat there as the minutes clicked by, unable to cry. I called my sister and told her. Then my brother. We all agreed to meet at his care home in a few minutes.

After calling them I sat in the car in the high school parking lot for a minute more just gathering my thoughts, preparing for the hard work ahead. I pushed the button to start the car, went to put it in gear to start driving. I cleared my throat. And started to cry.

 

Happiness is a warm hearth

Dog laying in front of a fireplace with fire burning in the fireplace hearth.
 

A cardboard Christmas memory

A young boy sitting in front of a red  cardboard fireplace and chimney. The fireplace and chimney have Christmas stockings hung from it and images of Santa Claus on the chimney. Across the hearth are the words Merry Christmas.

I was going through some old photos for an upcoming work event and came across this little portrait from the mid 70’s.

When I was a kid, we had a cardboard fireplace for Christmas. Which we all thought was the funniest thing because my dad was a mason who built many fireplaces for other homes. Yet we did not have one of our own.

What’s the saying about the cobblers kids?

Anyway, Dad rectified the situation a few years after this photo was taken and built a massive limestone beauty of a fireplace in our basement family room.

I loved the limestone because, if you know where to look, you could spot the imprints of some prehistoric sea creatures trapped in the stone eons ago.

 

Goodbye Mr Popcorn Popper

Today we say goodbye to this amazing appliance, received as a wedding gift…

at my first wedding…

in 1992.

It has been used virtually everyday since getting it. It continued to pop great corn right up to the end. When they say, “they don’t make ’em like they used to” I am 100% certain they were referring to this amazing little appliance.

Off to that great corn field in the sky.

30 years is a good run.

 

New kit day

Always a fun day for soccer players when the new kits arrive. This year our local football club was affected by the same global supply chain issues that have hit every sector of our economy. Yay capitalism!

Our kits finally arrived this week, 5 weeks after the season began. Well, most of them did. You’ll notice that there are some shirts missing. Which is a tomorrow problem.

 

Only Broken Horses Know To Run

I have worn the jester’s bells and I have banished with the fools
I have worshiped at the altar of the puppet master’s rules
I have held my tongue too many scenes before the final act
With my children in the cheap seats and a zipper on my back
Thanks to you
No thanks to you

I recognized the name but knew none of her music before seeing her this weekend on SNL. This was my introduction to Brandi Carlile and it was a stunning introduction. This is first-rate songwriting and a kick-ass performance.

 

First win of the season

I didn’t curl last season (cause COVID) and really missed it. I’m terrible, but play with a great group of guys who don’t mind carrying someone who shoots with the precision of an Imperial storm trooper. But I do try to make up for it with some solid and energetic sweeping. It took until game 4 to chalk up win #1 on the season.

 

10 years ago

I officially received my Master of Arts, Learning and Technology degree from Royal Roads University. This was a very happy day. My academic history had until this point been exemplified by a “start strong, never finish” (which is why I never went on to a PhD as I am convinced I would end up with an ABD designation). So to see this one through to completion was a satisfying moment. And let’s face it, my family is pretty damn adorable in this pic.

 

Making lineups

First Cup game for the boys today and I’m at the coaching helm as regular coach is away this week. Feeling a bit nervous as this is a single elimination competition and I’d like us to stick around for a few rounds.

Update: great day for the boys. 3-0 win!

 

Ye old pumpkin patch family photo

18th edition. I may have to put them all together into a montage soon.

 

Playoffs are coming

Pacific and Calgary in an old school “we’re getting ready for playoffs” hockey style tussle.

First place in the CPL is on the line tonight and these two teams have developed a fierce rivalry this season as both are legitimate title contenders with 4 games left in the CPL season. Tonight’s match may well be a preview of the CPL championship final

 

Blame the virtual conference

I am at a conference this week. It’s fully virtual, but I am noticing one definite similarity between attending this one virtually vs attending it in person. No movement during the day. I need to do a better job today of intentionally moving away from the ‘puter and move my body.

 

Off to make cider

We harvested a bumper crop of apples this year and I am off on a short road trip to Duncan to transform some of the excess into hard cider. This is about 150lbs of apples, which should make 25+ litres of cider.

 

Butter baste

My son has perfected butter basting steaks. Kid has been seriously thinking a career in food might be his future. Based on the goodness he has been dishing up (thanks largely to the TikTok cooking hole he has fallen in to) I think his future is bright.

 

Fall run

Check out my activity on Strava: https://strava.app.link/c0z2hi6gpkb

 

Fall

Garden with trees coloured red and orange fall colour. There is a gravel path and a red chair in the garden
Fall colours

The front yard ablaze in color. I’m not a fan of fall and the cold, rainy weather settling in. But the colors are sure pretty.

 

Dear lord, algorithms are ruining music, too

From the Pitchfork review of the new album from Greta Van Fleet…

“They are a new kind of vampiric band who’s there to catch the runoff of original classic rock using streaming services’ data-driven business model. Greta Van Fleet exist to be swallowed into the algorithm’s churn and rack up plays, of which they already have hundreds of millions.”

The penny never really dropped until I read that just how big the incentive is these days for a band to closely mimic a major act. I mean, there have always been copycats, but these days with recommendation engines driving so many automated streaming music systems like Spotify, the closer you come to sounding like a major classic act, the better the chances the algorithms will find you and add you into a recommended mix on those services. Don’t be original, you will never be heard. Sound like these big huge acts of old, and the good old magic Spotify algorithm will do its part to make sure you get discovered.

If you are not familiar with Led Greta…

 

 

Testing Webmention to EdTechFactotum site

I am playing around with some Indieweb plugins, so this is just a test post to see if, by adding a link to a post on my EdTechFacotum site appears in the comments as a webmention. How much of this post gets pulled back? Or maybe I am thinking of webmention too much like a trackback/pingback. Maybe it works a bit differently? Well, let’s hit the publish button and see what happens.

If you are playing along at home and this works like I think it is supposed to work, you should see this blog post appear as a comment on this post at the EdTechFactotum site.

 

Europe bound

Well to say I am excited would be an understatement. An opportunity arose through my work to attend a conference in England and I was able to convince my family to come along for the ride.

It is a quick trip. 2 1/2 days in London, 3 in Manchester and 3 in Paris. First time for all of us in England and France.

It took a bit of convincing for my daughter, who will be in her second week of high school at the time. There has been some stress about going to high school, mostly around social stuff. She’s a strong student so I have no doubt that she’ll be able to catch up on a week of missed school. And a trip to France for a kid who is heading into her 9th year of French immersion will be a learning experience all on its own. She’ll be the one who this anglophone will be relying on in Paris.

In the end, it was her friends who convinced her that Europe was the better option than high school. She has good friends who understand the bigger picture. Not always easy to find with high school girls. I can’t wait for her to see the Eiffel Tower, something she has dreamed of since she was wee. To cross something off your bucket list at 14 is a special thing.

The day we arrive in London is the day that England plays Spain at Wembley stadium. I’m a soccer nut, and we somehow managed to snag tickets to the inaugural UEFA Nations League game. We’ll be exhausted having just done an overnight flight from the west coast of Canada and arriving in London that morning. But it will be worth it.  So worth it to attend a European soccer game with my son, who is almost as big of a fan as I am. Almost.

Truth told, I’m a bit of a nervous mess about the whole thing. My son’s allergies (peanuts and tree nuts) weigh on our mind whenever we travel. We have our foods and routines that we know are safe. But traveling to other countries – especially a country where we don’t know the language – is still a stress inducing affair. We do our research as best we can, but we don’t have the flexibility to just pop in anywhere whenever we get hungry, or grab any old snack food when we feel the hangry’s coming on. So, that is a complication. But one that is fairly easy to manage.

I worry about things I cannot control. I live a privileged life in the safety of a small city on the west coast of Canada. My kids and I know nothing but safety at the most basic level. Foreign to us are the threat that someone could drive a car into a crowd at any given moment.  But threats like that are real, watching the news a week ago of a car driving into a crowd just a few blocks from where we will be staying in London.

I fret over how much to share with my kids. Do I tell them that our government says that travellers in the UK and France should “exercise a high degree of caution travelling in both countries? I don’t even know how to prepare for that. What does “exercise a high degree of caution” even mean to a family that has known nothing but safety and security? Do I tell my son that we need to be even more vigilant when attending high-profile sporting events? Of all the places I have wanted to travel in the world, I never thought I would feel anxious about travelling to England and France.

It’s likely the Dad in me, worrying more than necessary about remote things. Because, despite the warnings, these do remain extremely remote possibilities. And while I do fret, I also struggle to contain my enthusiasm and excitement at the opportunity. Honestly, I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve. We Gen X’ers are not supposed to get enthused quite this much.

Sometimes my small northern Alberta roots really show through. I’m still just a smalltown boy with big city dreams at heart. I always said I wanted my kids to have a different life than I did growing up. This is exactly what I meant. I don’t want London or Paris to be some mythical place in their imagination that they only hear about/dream about like I did as a kid. I want them to have opportunities I never had as a kid. To experience life. And have the opportunity to cross things off their bucket list at 14 that it has taken me 51 years to do.

 

2017 the good

Trying to put the suckitude of 2017 behind me and compile a list of things that made me happy in 2017.

Watching/listening my kids doing things they love brought me a lot of joy this year.

This year, my daughter stepped waaaaaay out of her comfort zone and played organized basketball for the first time.

She continues to dance (ballet and Jazz), play music (piano and, this year, flute in her school band), and take photos. Two of my faves from her.

 

 

And bake. Oh man, can she bake.

My son loves soccer and excels at it. I love watching him play.

He showed his determination and grit this year mastering some pretty killer freestyle bike moves.

He also spent a lot of time at the skatepark perfecting tail whips, and on the trampoline prepping for his future parkour career. The things he can get his body to do never cease to amaze me. He also picked up illustration in a big way this year and has been churning out some fabulous pieces.

In August, I rode in my first cycling event. 45k in the annual Tour de Victoria.

Visited Toronto for a couple of events this year and loved spending time in the city. Been close to 20 years since I was last in TO and that was an overnight trip. This time I felt like I got a chance to see a bit of the city, caught a Jays game with friends during the CC Global Summit, and spent a day wandering like a tourist. I got to hang out at the CBC and down by the Henry Moore.

My son and I rode Test of Humanity, a great cross country bike trail in Summerland BC.

I bought a rowing machine.

I saw Chicago with my daughter.

Took in CrankWorx at Whistler where my son met some of his mountain bike heroes.

 

Running into Martyn & Blake from @globalmountainbikenetwork capped a great day at #crankworx 🚴🤘 #onehappykid #meetingyourheroes

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Reno’d the upstairs bedrooms. Ripped out a whack of gross old carpet and repainted three rooms. A task that we have wanted to tackle for a long time.

Discovered a bunch of tasty new local beers, including 2 of my new faves Phillips Short Wave and Driftwoods Raised by Wolves. Also got gifted a nice Arizona IPA from Alan appropriately named Road Rash .

Rediscovered my turntable.

Came back from my brother-in-laws Okanogan farm with boxes of fresh cherries.

Built a grind box with my son.

 

One grind box complete

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Became friends with both my kids on social media for the first time & witness how deftly they are maneuvering their way through their connected social world. One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how they continually use these platforms as learning tools to find and follow their passions, from cooking and baking, to illustration and biking.

Witnessed one of the best Gold Cups that Canada has had in a decade, and the emergence of an exciting young Canadian soccer talent in Alphonso Davies.

Also watched the Whitecaps do their deepest playoff run in their short MLS history.

They take soccer security seriously in Houston

And saw Canada mount a joint World Cup bid with the US and Mexico. Crazy to imagine that there may be a World Cup game in my neck of the woods in my lifetime.

The Oilers playoff run in the spring gave me hope for the hockey future. Of course, that has been dashed this fall…but hey! Still the best Oilers team in many many years.

Improved the backyard chillaxing space with the purchase of an outdoor firepit & a new BBQ.

Refurbished a BMX bike with my son.

Bought a new XC mountain bike. 29-er that has me floating over the west coast roots.

Made music with many friends.

Hung out with my Dad.

Started curling.

Celebrated 14 wonderful years walking down the path with my wife.

2017 wasn’t nearly as sucky as I thought.