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#BixbyFifty #Day23 – Time to Lace Up

Lace Up.

That is a phrase that I picture boxers using when they don their gloves, runners using when they put on their running shoes, athletes of various sports would understand this.

It is my time to Lace Up.

You see, writing has been very difficult for me this past seven months. I have been in a fog and in a funk when it comes to writing. It can be a struggle to wrap words and sentences around a though or feeling. In some ways, I have become inarticulate in written form. Time for me to take pen in hand and lace up. (Other than I do not need shoes for this and I am typing instead of writing). But I digress…

I am honoured and humbled that my daughters have not dropped the mantle on the #BixbyFifty challenge that was issued last April. A friend of mine, Murray, continues to make gratitude postings with that hashtag as well. It is like I passed the ball then went and sat on the bench. Time to Lace Up.

Truth is that I am very grateful for what I have in life, the people in my life, and who I am. This post is merely to re-open a door that I have had closed too long. It is my call to write about gratitude on a regular basis. Make gratitude a mindful purposeful act in my life.

No other words of wisdom to impart, I hope that they come unbidden to me in the days ahead…

 

#BixbyFifty #Day22 – I’m Sick, What of It?

Life is a bit of a dull roar these days. Lots of changes going on in various areas of my life. Nothing big and nothing bad, just lots of things that require my focus and attention. Some projects around the house, getting my consulting business going, some travel, summer plans, fundraising, some conflict management, the whole SaskGames suite of initiatives, etc. These are all positive things, it is that I find I do not have much capacity left over for zen-like ponderings. My mind seems to crave some downtime for philosophical musings and reflection. I am sure that I will hit stride again soon, this is just a point and time I happen to be at now. It is generally when life is busy that I get a tad rundown, when I get rundown, sickness pays me a visit.

Every once in awhile, sickness comes to call. It paid me a visit on Monday night and it is kicking my ass. I have a nasty head / throat cold that is slowly making its way to my chest. I seem to be quite functional through the day, but it gets much worse at bed time and it is the absolute worst in the early morning. This morning my ears were aching and throbbing and it was coupled with sharp pain in my throat and head. Now why of why would I post this on a gratitude blog? That is easy for me to answer…

I am a relatively healthy person. I have all my limbs, All of my organs function, I do not suffer from any chronic or debilitating diseases. Periodic sickness is a great reminder that we have so much to be thankful for. This cold, although unpleasant, brings to mind how fortunate I truly am. There are many people who suffer with serious chronic ailments. I want to view this temporary pain and discomfort in that light. It will soon pass and I will feel better again. Hopefully, this gratitude will temper my whining so Kathy does not suffer as well. 🙂

#BixbyFifty #Day21 – Kathy’s Folks

Today I would like to get back into my gratitude journey by giving thanks to Huxley & Phyllis. Kathy’s folks live in New Brunswick, so we do not get to see them as often as we would like to. Every time we do see them though, there are plenty of laughs and fond memories are made. We were lucky enough to spend a week and a half with them in NB recently. Lots of laughs, a few beers, and team rye even had a brief reunion playing a few games of Sequence. Apparently though, team rye just could not hold their own against the force of the ladies. Next time!!

I truly enjoy my time spent with Kathy’s family. I only wish we could get together more frequently. So, today, on day 21 of my gratitude journey, I want to take this time to hoist a glass and give thanks to two incredible people. They have welcomed me into the family warmly, openly, and fully. I am honoured to be part of the family. Looking forward to our next get together.

#BixbyFifty #Day20 – Acceptance

It has been awhile since I posted. I seem to have lost some momentum with this gratitude journey. I will let it happen when and how it needs to. I cannot make this a “forced” To Do item on a list of To Do items. If I made writing obligatory, it would be a betrayal to the values of my personal gratitude journey. A very important ingredient of gratitude is acceptance. I accept that I will walk this journey at a pace that is write right for me.

So, today, without forethought of what the topic would be, I have accidentally arrived at acceptance. So be it. I suspect my personal experience is similar to many others. Acceptance comes easy when you apply it externally, but not so easy when you apply it internally. We all tend to be self critical. Considering the amount of time we spend with ourselves, all of it, that is quite tragic. Acceptance wears many faces and I would like to delve into what that means to me.

I am grateful that I am accepting of diversity. I judge people solely on how they treat the world around them, including how they treat me. Their skin color, their gender, their race, their culture, their age, their physical ability, their sexual orientation, their socioeconomic status… are all completely irrelevant. Demographic labels should be limited to statistical analysis and not for ingraining practices grounded in bigotry, judgement, or fear mongering. When we can get by the labels we place on people, we start to see the people.

Another form of acceptance that is important to me centers around deciding what I will and will not accept into my life. I have not always had healthy boundaries. Without boundaries, we may allow others to treat us with disrespect. Without boundaries, we may experience an abuse of trust that leads to dysfunctional relationships with those around us. Patterned behaviours from our youth tend to doggedly follow us into adulthood. One of my greatest challenges is around forming boundaries, adhering to them, and accepting that its is not only my right, but my duty to myself to do so. When we allow abuse in our life, in whatever form it takes, we essentially are devaluing ourselves. When we do that, we can hardly be accepting of who we are. We are letting the world tell us who we are. I guess what I am trying to say, is that in order to be accepting of myself and my own foibles, I had to adjust the signal to noise ratio of my environment. In many cases that has involved disconnecting from the toxic behaviours of people in my life, and in some cases, disconnecting from the person altogether. My gratitude in this regard is that I know that I have the intestinal fortitude to make tough decisions with regards to my own boundaries. I have the capability of saying no, and that is quite empowering. I have made many tough decisions through the years, and those decisions have give me the foundation of self acceptance, self respect, and the knowledge that no matter what life offers, I am capable of steering my ship through the storm. Thinking about it, self-acceptance is a foundation block for self respect and self confidence.

“You have peace,” the old woman said, “when you make it with yourself.”
-Mitch Albom

#BixbyFifty #Day19 – SaskGames

SaskGames

In August of 2010, I took over the domain SaskGames and started on a journey to make a website that would bring together a community of boardgame enthusiasts in Saskatchewan. My baby is almost four years old, and it has grown in ways I could not have imagined.

The basic premise for the site was spawned from a private site that I started a number of years ago. I set up the website that hosts this blog back in December of 2007. Basically, www.bixby.ca is used for two things; this blog, and a discussion forum site that we use to plan events for family & friends. The planning area of the site was so successful in the early days that I was prompted to create a public version of the model for organizing board game events and groups. Thus, the inspiration for SaskGames.

I met a lot of resistance in the early days of SaskGames as the hobby is quite fragmented. There exists certain loyalties to specific stores, specific clubs, or specific styles of games. The idea of getting everyone to play well in the same sandbox was met with significant skepticism. I am not one to be daunted by a challenge, so I forged ahead anyways. I just felt that the existing communities had stagnated or become insular. Based on boardgame sales and indicators from other areas, it was obvious that the existing communities and clubs were not reaching a large segment of people interested in the hobby.

One of the main ideas behind SaskGames was to create an umbrella organization that sits on top of all of the clubs, stores, leagues, and groups. If we could get everyone in the hobby to come to the same site to get information about events and the hobby in general, we felt that all of the clubs would experience interest and growth. It would be a means to let people in one group see what folks in another group were up to. Perhaps then, some people would venture outside of their insular groups. That has proven to be quite successful.

Growth was slow and steady for the first couple of years, but the real explosion started when we created a weekly public game night as an outreach for the hobby; ChewsDay Challenge. The vision of that weekly event was simple: “Be friendly – Be welcoming – Be approachable.” It can be very daunting and intimidating for people outside of a group to know how to go about getting involved with a group that is already established. Some simple steps in this event addressed those things well. First of all, every week there is an appointed ambassador whose job it is to welcome people and get them involved. This hobby attracts a fair share of introverts, so removing that first barrier was very important. Secondly, everyone at the event must wear a name badge with both their first and last name. Social events are even more social when you give everyone a name.  Additionally, every week, we get everyone to pause their game playing for some brief announcements. These announcements are a way to let attendees know about developments in the hobby and the community as well as info about the the event itself. It also establishes a means of communication and is another step in keeping the event friendly and personal. When we started, we were expecting about 12 attendees with the thoughts that we could grow the attendance up to about 20-25. We are now averaging about 50 people each week and there is a pretty even split between male and female attendance. Quite amazing.

With the success of the weekly event, I was curious if there would be interest in a 24 hour boardgame event where attendees raised money for a charity. We partnered with Souls Harbour Rescue Mission as they are working to provide food and shelter for the homeless. Our event was called “24 Hours to Play with Your Food”. Again, we figured we may get 25 people interested and if we were lucky, we could raise maybe $5000. Imagine our surprise when we had 81 registrants and raised $14,000 for the charity. We were all blown away by the support and involvement for this event.

The success of these two events prompted a local boardgame store, ComicReaders, to host an all day boardgame event last January. The basic premise is that it would have the same philosophy of ChewsDay Challenge, but be much bigger. The first event drew in 160 people. Again, everyone’s expectations were greatly exceeded. The Prairie Game eXpo will now be held three times a year: January, June, & September.

In January of 2014, we launched a SaskGames News Bulletin. This is a newsletter in PDF format that gets emailed to about 600 people. We figured this would be a 6-8 page production, but the support for content and articles has been fantastic and we are over 20 pages each month. Again, we were unprepared for how well this was going to be supported and received.

The website now has over 650 members and is averaging well over 100,000 page views each month. The growth has been so strong we have established a leadership team around all of these initiatives. What once started as a humble project of mine has turned into a host of initiatives with many people at the helm. Sure, there are still a few dissidents and malcontents on the sidelines, but their voice is but a murmur now that we have a very strong community built around the various niche pockets of the hobby. It is very heartwarming and gratifying to see the vision of a few years ago bear fruit today.

Today, I am grateful that my efforts have not been in vain. I am humbled by the outpouring of support for the whole suite of SaskGames initiatives. I will even venture to admit feeling a bit of pride, although I must safeguard to maintain proper humility and perspective. I am thankful that these things have increased my circle of friends as I have met some incredible people through these events. A strong community has formed, but that is the subject of another blog entry in the days ahead.

“Life is Short; Play Games!”

#BixbyFifty #Day18 – Travel

Travel is an odd beast for me. I remember when I was a young lad, I dreamed of far off lands and all sorts of places I would go to when I was an adult. This was not merely around North America; my scope was truly global in nature. I have been very fortunate to travel to a number of places. I feel quite blessed. It is strange though, that at this point in my life, my desire to travel is much much less than it used to be. A number of factors I guess. I think I will explore these thoughts a bit on the blog today.

First of all, I am going to take a brief inventory of some of my travel to help me gain context.

  • I have lived in four of the ten Canadian provinces. (Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Saskatchewan).
  • I have traveled to nine of the ten Canadian provinces. I really must visit Newfoundland to make it ten.
  • I have been to many of the states in the USA, (I guesstimate that I have been to about 40 of the states).
  • In addition to Canada and the USA, I have been to Mexico, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, England (& Scotland), Germany, Italy, Belgium, & Austria.

Thinking about that, it really seems like a lot of travel. When I consider some of my boyhood dreams of seeing… the great Pyramids, the Great Wall of China, the Australian outback, the Roman Colosseum, Taj Mahal, Moscow, Greek Islands, Spain, France, Casablanca, Dublin, and on and on and on…
…it would seem that my travel has a lot of ground to cover yet.

Truth is, my desire to see many of these things has greatly diminished. I think there are a few good reasons for this. Firstly, I really enjoy being at home. We entertain a lot and being enriched by friends is certainly a big factor in enjoying the simplicity of being home. Additionally, there are many truly wondrous things to discover in our part of the world. A days drive can have me in the Rocky Mountains, at Yellowstone Park, a host of Canadian National Parks, up North in the lake country of the Canadian Shield, the badlands, the Black Mountains, and many other places. Add another day of driving and the reach is extended to many more wonderful places. There is an incredible amount of exploring to do without having to travel to far.

Additionally, the inter connectivity of people on a global scale has taken some of the mystique out of travel. The internet means I can Google information and images about places afar any time I want. Add in the connection to people in far off places via social media tools and it is easy to learn about cultures and places without the need to travel there. It is not a substitute for travel, but it does satiate some of the appetite and curiosity for travel.

One other thing that affects my desire to hop on a plane is that fact that I love road trips. I find that my desire to travel is starting to increase for road trips and decrease for air travel. It is the journey as mush as it is the destination. There is so much more to see and experience in a road trip.

I am not done traveling. There is still a lot of the UK & Europe that I wish to explore. Those trips will happen when the time is right. In the meantime, I am very grateful for the opportunity I have had to travel and explore to date. Travel has not only broadened my horizons, it has exposed me to various cultures and viewpoints for which I am eternally thankful. Also, traveling has given me a deeper appreciation for home. It is always great to go wandering, but it is even better to come home. So many things to count as blessings.

“Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.”
― Gustave Flaubert

#BixbyFifty #Day17 – Mom

Mother’s Day has come and gone once again. Anyone who has followed my writing from the early days, knows that I have written a few times about mom. Here are a couple of the more focused entries.

Previous gratitude journey (Day 51)
The hardest thing I have ever had to write

Well, today I am writing about mom again. Last week, (Monday I believe), Mom’s headstone was installed on her grave. I would like to thank Brandi Myles-Hutchison for going to the cemetery and taking the following picture.

This is another milestone for me. Mom passed away in December of 2011 and I just got this looked after. I feel bad for not dealing with this sooner. Truth is, it was just another difficult step in the process of saying goodbye. Like I mentioned in a previous entry, I can now look back at all of the fond memories without that deep sting of loss.

Today, I am thankful for a few things. Firstly, I am grateful that the mom’s gravesite is now marked with a headstone. It really took awhile to decide on a design and style. Everything felt so inadequate, but in the end, it was just my own feelings getting in the way of making a decision. Secondly, I am very grateful for Brandi. Brandi is my niece who lives in Pincher Creek, (daughter of Phil & Roberta). She has a very strong sense of family and has a large loving heart. Knowing she was there to inspect the headstone and take pictures was really important to me. Finally, I wish to give thanks and acknowledgement to my own process and grief cycle. This took a bit of time to get looked after and I am okay with that. I am not going to beat myself up over trivial things. It is symbolic that this occurred so close to Mother’s Day. This past weekend was spent outside working in our yard, something Mom dearly enjoyed. I also toasted her memory with a can of Alexander Keith’s. It is a small gesture and a silly ritual, but that simple can of beer brought back many fond memories of the adventures I shared with mom.

Thanks mom.

#BixbyFifty #Day16 – Nostalgia

It is Thursday. This morning as I drank my coffee I saw a few TBT postings on Facebook. For those not in the know, TBT means Throw Back Thursday. Generally, it is an opportunity to share an old photo on social media of some point in time captured years ago. Personally, I think TBT is a fun look back at those yesteryear moments. I have never made any TBT postings myself, which is odd, considering the large volume of photographs I have in digital format. Pondering this over coffee this morning made me look at my own relationship with nostalgia.

I used to be extremely nostalgic. I made a point to attend every high school reunion, I would hold family keepsakes very dear, and I kept memories of bygone days in a state of reverence. I used to.

What happened?

Well, I think we all have our own journey of self exploration to walk. We all have the same amount of focus to spend any way we like, that can be Past, Present, or Future. Looking back at my own modus operandi over the years, I see that my own focus has shifted and changed. Allow me to get abstract for a moment.

1980-1982: 10% Past  /  35% Present  /  55% Future
1983-1986: 30% Past  /  20% Present  /  50% Future
1987-2011: 40% Past  /  20% Present  /  30% Future
2012-2014: 15% Past  /  50% Present  /  35% Future

1980-1982: When I was a teenager, my focus was much more immediate; instant gratification. I never had much of a fascination with the past, and I was not very nostalgic. I was quite a bit of a dreamer, so my thoughts were full of future plans and ideas. The future was my prevalent focus.

1983-1986: My late teens and early twenties saw a growth of focus on the past, but realistically, I was still mostly preoccupied with future plans and dreams.

1987-2011: I spent many years of my young adult life into my forties being a somewhat nostalgic person. Being analytical, I was looking at my past and thinking about what it meant. I held memories very close, a way to go back perhaps. I never missed a high school reunion, I connected with scores of people on social media. I viewed the past as something to hold in high regard, cherished memories and relationships.

2011-2014: Mom passed away late 2011. Mom and I were very close. She was a close friend as well as my mother. Her passing hit me pretty hard for a variety of reasons. For a full year and a half after mom passed away, I would have daily thoughts and memories, and quite often they would be accompanied by a pang of loss or sorrow. For me, that was quite an extended grieving period. I still think of mom often, but the sting of sorrow has been replaced by warm memories and thoughts of great times shared. I think a by-product of this period of grieving was me letting go of nostalgia. We can’t go back. We can hold memories dear, but we can never go back. Sounds simple, but it is a subtle realization for me that I do not need to try and hold the entirety of my past to cherish portions of it. I did not go to my largest high school reunion; the 30th. I just never felt the need. Around 2011, I disconnected from a bunch of people on Facebook. I felt like I was clinging to relationships, memories, and linkages to the past that were stagnant. They were caught in a particular moment in time with little opportunity to move forward. (Or maybe that was me). In any case, I withdrew from a number of connections and a number of things. I realize now that I started to abandon those things in the early 2000’s, but it was mom’s sickness and passing that crystallized the shift for me. Dear ma, you crafty wise gal, you are still giving me life lessons. My focus these days is much more in the present. At least that is what I like to think. I still value friendships old and new, but I am less likely to maintain connections with people if we cannot grow our friendship into modern days. By that, I mean I cherish adding new memories that accompany my old ones. I will happily sit down and have a beer to reminisce, but it would be even better if we could do something new. You know, maybe we can create additional opportunities to reminisce in the days ahead.

So, here we are on a Thursday. And to honour TBT I will share a picture.

I am thankful for my past. I am grateful for the friendships I have had, and still do. I am thankful for the many fond memories of silly adventures, travels, gatherings, gaffes. Mostly, today I am thankful that I can be more present these days than I have ever been. Moments today are now more precious. I believe that I am learning to appreciate my past within the better context of the present.

“T’is better to appreciate today today, than to lament yesterday tomorrow.”

#BixbyFifty #Day15 – Beer

What can I say? Plain and simple, I like beer. Who am I kidding? I LOVE beer.

Truth be told, I need to lighten up these postings a bit. I have been a bit morose of late and well, that will not do. My true love affair with barley beverages started about 15 years ago. I had a friend introduce me to good beer. Three beverages come to mind from that period of transition.

Guinness.
Moose Drool from Big Sky Brewing.
Rob Nelson’s homemade Honey Porter.

I joined the DARK SIDE!

Since that time, I have explored many styles, brands and flavours. There are so many flavours to explore and I am still training my palate to find some of the subtle nuances.

I have long left behind the world of mass produced domestic swill. I am very thankful to have broken out of the mold of standard beers. (Yes, I know, Guinness is considered mass produced swill by some people. Those folks are merely being beer snobs.) Along my journey, I have discovered some very innovative and tasty beverages. I will give you a snippet from my highlight reel:

First of all, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the beer from a small micro-brewery in Penticton, BC: Cannery Brewing.
Their beers are very high quality and rank tops in our house. Of particular note are three beers: Blackberry Porter, Naramata Nut Brown Ale, and Maple Stout. All of these are simply majestic.

Another beer of high distinction, is the Schlenkera rauchbier from Germany. Simply put, this is beef jerky in a bottle. It pairs well with anything from the BBQ. Warning, this is not for the faint of heart.

A brewery that is so awesome, we planned an entire vacation around visiting their location in Newport Oregon, is Rogue Ales. These folks have so much fun, it should not be legal. They make some fantastic beers too. Some of the most bizarre and interesting beers I have tried come from Rogue.

The Summa Cum Laude of beer was a serendipitous find for me. It is called Routes des Epices and is made by Dieu Du Ciel in Montreal. Simply amazing. A Rye Peppercorn beer. It is a beer to be savoured and enjoyed.

There are so many other beers I could name or ramble on and on about. I have tried Belgium beers in Belgium, English beers in England, German beers in Germany. I really have enjoyed them all.

Today I give thanks to the beverages of hops and barley. I have had my eyes and taste buds opened up to the incredible variety and quality of beer. To my mentors: thank you. To the craft micro-breweries: thank you. To those of you who have joined me on various parts of this exploration: Cheers, and thank you.

I am Bixby on Untappd if you use that app and would like to connect.

Cheers,
Matt

 

 

#BixbyFifty #Day14 – Falling off a Horse

Hello blog. Remember me. That’s right, I am the fellow that was embarking on a journey of daily gratitude. Well, I left the trail for awhile, and I am trying to find my way back.

Today’s entry is about Odds & Sods. Nothing in general, just the daily buzz of routine life and being busy. I do not like being busy. I would much rather be efficient. For more on that visit my blog entry of June 16, 2009 I’m Busy (The New Badge of Honour)

I have truly been out of sorts lately. Even though the events of April 15th are getting more distant, I think they are exerting subtle impacts on me and my thinking. Today, I will explore that.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I tend to have a lot going on. I like to be at the heart of a number of initiatives and projects at any one time. I think that I take on a lot and manage the burden quite well. Being an analytical person sometimes has its advantages. I run the SaskGames website and set of initiatives, I am putting structure and events in motion of our annual flagship fundraiser this fall, I am getting my consulting business up & running and fully operational. I am juggling some business and family travel, I am continuing my education and exploration of collaboration tools and community building, and I manage to carve off a reasonable amount of time for the hobbies I enjoy.  Sounds good so far.

Well, lately, these things are not coming as easily to me. They are much more of a challenge and I think I know why. My thinking is scattered. My thoughts are jumbled and my mind is not the typical efficient engine churning out ideas and organizational structures. As much as the heart needs to process, grieve and heal, I guess my thinking machine needs to as well. I am certain with the passage of time, I will hit stride again, but in the meantime, I feel more busy than I do productive. As the blog posting I linked to above illustrates, I do not value being busy.

Today, I will let my gratitude fall on my current state. In zen fashion, I will accept that this is where I happen to be now. At this moment in time & space, I accept that I am a bit disjointed. It is obviously where and who I need to be. It is silly to say that I am not myself right now; really, who in the hell else would I be? I am always myself. Sometimes that means being in a slightly different state of mind. Better to accept that and be thankful for the awareness that I, like the tides, have an ebb and flow of constant change.

Namaste,
Matt