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Saturday, January 21, 2017

More

Read more.  Write more.  Golf more.


Last January, I promised myself I would complete that trifecta of soul management during the year.  The first I completed - the other two I did not have much luck with.

It turns out that reading more can be done by expanding your reading list to the point where you need an extra hour a day just to skim the headlines - the world is a busy place.  In today's world, generating a select news-feed is relatively easy.  The hard part is filtering the hundreds of headlines down to the few that actually matter.  It helps to follow a few key influencers like Bill Marriott, Richard Branson, and Bill Gates. There are also a great number of garbage, fluff, duplicate posts that can be ignored - I am amazed at what passed for journalism in 2016.

Catching up on news headlines to stay current is only one part though.  Sadly, most news is written for a grade 10 reading level at best and I find myself sometimes struggling to get past poor grammar and horrible sentence structure.  Exercising the brain requires a well written novel or technical journal.  Thankfully, there seems to be an endless supply available still.

I have a stack of books and other publications on my desk now that represent my "to read" pile so to keep myself honest, I'll review them here after I have completed them.  The stack already includes interesting titles like The First 90 Days and An Astronaut's Guide to Life.

Writing is more complicated.  With all that reading, it is hard to write anything in an unbiased manner.  Two novels in various states of creation, random short story projects, and a couple of blogging commitments have spread my efforts thin.  Must F O C U S ....

The funny thing about writing is that the more you do it, the easier it is.  Like 10,000 monkeys, if I type enough words, eventually something useful will fall out of it all.  The magic is in the editing.

Golf was a complete write off.  Who has time?  I will really need to make an effort to get out and walk 9 holes at least once a month this season.  If I recall correctly, the last time I did that it was quite relaxing.  I am not a scorekeeper and that annoys some people I have golfed with in the past.  All those numbers just get in the way of a great walk on a nice day.

So how does your reading list look? Is there an interesting book waiting on the bookshelf just dying to be read?

When was the last time you wrote anything more complex than a shopping list?  Start small - write a thank you letter to someone who deserves one.  Or jot down a few paragraphs that describe your day.  Before you know it, there is a full journal in your hands and you are searching for a new Moleskine to crack open.

See you on the golf course.










Saturday, January 7, 2017

Time for a refresh

The first week of January has always been a "reset" time for me.  While it can be argued that January 1st is just an arbitrary date on the timeline and should not be considered some magic time to cast personal resolutions for change, the changing of the calendar is a great excuse to pause, take stock and reset.

I always take some time in the first week of January to assess where I am, where I need to be, and what it will take to get there.  Maybe I should do that more often.  Maybe that will be something I do this year.  It reminds me of the Vorlon five questions from the amazing series Babylon 5 from the late 1990's.  

Who are you? Really, who ARE you?  Beyond your name and address, past your occupations and title, what are the things that make you, you?  

Where are you going? Not physically, but metaphorically - where are you heading to in your life and career?  What are the decisions and actions active in your life now leading you to?

Where have you been? Contemplate the situations and experiences that have compounded to make you the person you are today.

Who do you follow? The people you admire, emulate, aspire to be can say much about you. 

Whom do you lead? Even if you don't consider yourself a "leader", there may be people who look up to you, admire you, and try to emulate you.  Be aware of of your actions and be aware of those who may see you as a leader even if you don't.

I kick off 2017 with a revamp of my websites, new social presence and a renewed effort to create awesomeness.  I'll be doing my best to divide my blog efforts to separate technology posts from the political rants as well.   I plan to focus a whole lot more on helping kids adopt technology which is something I did a great deal of in the past, but have been quite lax in recent years.

Whether you make New Years resolutions or not, take the time this week to assess where you are in life and where you want to be.  If you don't like what you see, make an effort to change it.

Be awesome, change the world.











Wednesday, December 21, 2016

'Twas the night before

I could write yet another variation on Clement Clarke Moore's famous poem and struggle yet again to find a rhyme for "Vixen", but I won't do that.  I could just post a nice classic picture of the Jolly old man with his Caribou friends and a sleigh full of toys. I won't do that either.

At this time of year, most of us are enjoying the hustle and bustle of the busy holiday season, picking out just the right presents and decorations or immersing ourselves in holiday baking.  We rush from place to place searching for just the right thing, shop till we drop and gorge ourselves on turkey and sweets.  At least most of us do.

For many people, this is a season of despair.  It is a season of reminders that they have less than others or will soon be in that position.  It is a season filled with memories of lost loved ones, hospital stays, and empty chairs at the dinner table.  For many people, this is the most depressing time of the year.  The thing is that in many cases, those people hide their crippling despair very well.

So this year, I won't decorate my website with snowflakes and write a catchy Christmas poem.  I won't overtly push my Christmas joy on people who don't necessarily want it.  That will be difficult because it really is my favourite time of year.   I will however continue to support my local food bank and shelter with more than usual cash donations so they can multiply that into useful food, shelter, blankets, and clothing for those who need it.  It is cold out there and there are more unemployed friends and neighbors than any previous year I can remember.  People who were "fine" last year may be struggling to put food on the table this year.

One thing I can do as a writer, as a story teller, is to raise awareness and maybe remind people that the joyous season is not so for many.  This season, perhaps the best present you can offer is a shoulder to lean on, an attentive ear to listen, a warm blanket and a friendly smile.  Sometimes the people who seem happiest on the outside are disintegrating inside. At this time of year more than others, there is a greater divide and more tension for those who are struggling financially and emotionally.

That grocery store clerk who just rang through your $40 turkey, probably cannot afford one themselves and likely has to work through the holidays to pay the rent.  That neighbor who puts the tree up at the last minute is grieving the loss of a family member.  The college student you see at the bus stop every morning has lost hope of having any productive future.  For those people Christmas time just sucks.

So my gift to all my friends and family this season is an ear, a shoulder, a hug and a warm blanket.  If I reach out to you in some random way and ask how you are doing, it is because I really want to know and I really want to help, to listen, and to get you through it.   If I can take the time to donate to the food bank, I can take the time to hold your hand.  You are important and you are not alone.

May the peace of the season find your heart and warm it.











Thursday, November 10, 2016

Remember

November 10th, 2016
Photo by Eric Hill

I awoke this morning to a different world. It is a world I thought we had left behind decades ago, but apparently it was just buried under the facade of political correctness and affirmative action.  The US presidential election of 2016 did one thing very effectively;It shook America with a huge dose of reality.  The effects however, have far reaching aftershocks touching every part of the planet.  On the night of the election, when it was almost fully counted, the New Zealand dollar crashed and it is still trying to recover.  New Zealand.  The other side of the planet.

I could rant for an hour on my personal feelings but there is really no point.  The majority of the seats were elected Republican in alignment with the new president giving them the mandate to govern.  That is how democracy works.  You cannot believe in the process selectively.  The people have spoken (~ 50% of them anyway) and a new government is about to take power.

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in the US.  It is a day we pause to reflect on the sacrifices made by our soldiers to defeat tyranny and oppression and to ensure that those who want democracy have the ability to pursue it.   We thank them for taking up arms against those who threaten democracy.  We remember that they gave their lives to protect our rights and freedoms. We remember that whether it was 1918 or 1945 or one of the many other conflicts this century that threaten the spread of democracy, young men and women have put themselves in harms way to ensure that YOU have the right to exist and express your voice without fear of persecution. 

This Remembrance day it is all that much more important for us to remember their sacrifice.  Remember that democracy is not about what is convenient for you but what is fair to ALL citizens. Remember that brave men and women gave their lives so that you could peacefully protest without fear of retribution. That your voices could be heard and that you matter.  Remember that all opinions are valid, even the ones you don't like and remember that NO ONE in a democracy is more important than any one else.

The events of recent days have left North America in shock and regardless of whose camp you were pulling for, there are extreme emotions everywhere.  Let us all take a long moment to remember that many thousands of men and women throughout history have given their lives to ensure that you have the right to cast that vote, to protest, to write that blog and to be who you need to be in a free society of equals.

On "The Eleventh" please take an extra moment to breathe and Remember.



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Omran's Ghost

Ghosts haunt me from the past this week.

I was brought to tears late last week reading first a post about a 4 year old girl who had endured such thorough verbal abuse that she actually thought her name was "Idiot".   Then shortly after, I made the mistake of watching the video report from Syria of the now famous young "Omran" sitting in the back on an ambulance trying to wipe blood from his face and his hands. That's when the the ghosts crept in.

I am sure there are still a few people out there who remember 1989, the wall, the communist block and the aftermath when it all came down. God help us if we ever forget.

My wife and I were in Romania shortly after the Communist rule of Nicolae CeauČ™escu came to a violent, bloody end. By mid 1990 the world was well aware of the corruption in the Romanian government under CeauČ™escu's rule and the thousands of orphaned children in institutions there.   We traveled there hoping to do something - anything - to change the situation for at least a few of those children.  We left jobs in limbo, barely had time to collect passports and other papers before catching a last minute flight to Bucharest and only caught our breaths for a moment of clarity somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. We had no clue what we were doing, but someone had to do something.  After we arrived, we found that were not the only lunatics who needed to get on a plane to save children.  We met many couples from all over the world who were equally lost and determined at the same time.  I am sure there is a novel worth writing there, but not today.

And we met the children. Hundreds of them. In Bucharest and Braila, in Alexandria and Constanza and Brasov. There were newborns and toddlers and pre-teens in every city, and they out numbered their care givers 300 to 1.   Occasionally we would meet an actual doctor, but for the most part facilities were staffed by two or three nurses or volunteers.  In Bucharest we spent some time with a special group of 3 to 5 year olds who managed to capture our hearts and memories. Children who had no awareness of the politics or the men who placed them there, were singing us happy songs and making their best impression in hope we would take them home, away from that place.

Men and politics and war and economics.... and the lives of children.

Twenty Six years later I can still see them when I close my eyes. I can smell the rooms, hear the cries, feel the sadness knowing we could not bring them all home and keep them safe.  I  often wonder how they are today. I wonder and hope that they survived and flourished. I also know that for most of them it is unlikely.  Those children may never know the names of the  men who's politics and greed for power put their tiny human lives at risk.  If they lived, they would be adults today in their mid to late twenties.  Dozens of couples flew to their aide and like us brought medicines and food and supplies, but we know it was not enough.   There were just so many of them. So many.

There were the twins in Orphanage number 1 who danced for us and there was the 5 year old in Bucharest hospital who sang "Good Morning Romania" at the top of her lungs every morning in spite of a crippling injury to her legs. There was the toddler in Braila who's parents simply could not afford to keep her and the baby who spent most of his time rocking and bouncing his head against the wall of his crib to fill the void created by lack of contact.  So many children needlessly abandoned by a system driven by powerful men and their politics.

The echoes of their voices, their memory ghosts haunt me today more than normal as I think of the children of Syria. I can't get the image of Omran trying to wipe the blood from his face and hands out of my mind.  More senseless politics and violence.
More damaged children.
More ghosts.



Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Our mother left this world over two decades ago, but during her life she profoundly affected the lives of many, many people.  I consider myself extremely blessed to be her son.

She taught me to be colour blind.  Skin colour was never part of a conversation in our house that I ever remember.  Looking back now I realize our closest friends ranged through a rainbow of skin tones and it was completely irrelevant.  Watching her, it was clear to me that a person's character was more important than where they were born or the language they spoke.

She taught me to never stop learning.  Our house was always filled with books of every kind.  Her bookshelf introduced me to the magical words of Farley Mowat, Ogden Nash, Pierre Berton, Robert Heinlein, Arthur C Clarke and Isaac Asimov to name only a few. In her forties, she took the initiative to go back to school to pursue a degree - which she completed with honors.  Nothing was ever off-limits and no knowledge was ever bad.

She taught me to love unconditionally.  You know how in many communities there is that one woman that every kid calls "Mom"?  There was that one house you could go to when you were too scared to go anywhere else?  That was my mom.  Our doors were never locked and she always had time for everyone - particularly youth.  That inevitably led her to youth ministry and the hundreds of young adult lives she guided.  She never placed judgement, never criticized, never blamed. She was one of the best listeners I have ever had the privilege of knowing.

She taught me to respect all living things.  I grew up engulfed in the stories and the history of the Inuit, Haida, Salish and Maori cultures. The first children's story I remember was how Kiwi sacrificed his wings to save the forest floor.  I learned about Raven and Whale and how all the animals have a heart and sole. I was taught to care for and protect the world around me.

She taught me faith.  "All will be well" is written on her grave marker.  That may sound ironic but it is one of the most important lessons I ever learned from her.  She moved forward through difficult times on the raw belief that it all works out in the end.  Raw faith.

My experience with her shaped my understanding of the word "Mother".  It means strength, protection, knowledge, and faith. It does not require the act of childbirth or any genetic connection at all.  A Mother is caring and loving and enduring.

I hope you are blessed to have someone in your life you can call Mother.

Happy Mother's Day.





Friday, December 11, 2015

December


I awoke early and looked up to see
returning from some eastern sea
the Goddess of Love and her escort low
the morning sky a heavenly glow
December morning

Paints and glue and a particular decal
put together for someone special
A paper heart to hang on the tree
loving reminder of you and me
December afternoon

Discussions poetic and pondering
Hark the herald angels sing
Holly boughs, smell of pine
lingering hint of mulled wine
December evening

Sugar plum stories of a man in red
ballerina figurines dance in your head
candy-cane dreams of cinnamon and spice
hopes that tomorrow will bring snow and ice
December bedtime

Thinking of family and friends
joy that never ends
peace, love, and happiness too
Merry Christmas to all of you
December