#BixbyFifty #Day09 – Sometimes Gratitude is Difficult

This is going to be a cathartic entry. I am not sure how to begin to write today. So many emotions, so much pain, so much anger.

On the drive home from Calgary, I made that decision that I was going to make an entry in the blog about the events of last week. I have no idea what I am about to say. This entry is completely free-flowing and as words form in my mind, I will type them.

I am angry right now. Part of the grief cycle. I have been angry for a many days now.

On Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 at 6:33am, I woke up and answered the phone. It was our daughter Teri; she was distraught. I quickly woke up Kathy and Teri informed us that there was a mass homicide at her residence early that morning. She is at the police station and she is physically safe. Emotionally, she is a wreck as she informs us that five people were stabbed to death at a small quiet house party. She has four roommates and most of them are going to university. This was a small gathering to celebrate the end of the school year. At this point we are stunned and grasping to understand what Teri just told us. She went to bed at 11pm that night. Around 1:30am she phoned 911 saying that it sounded like trouble and they should send someone over to break up the party. Little did she know the horror of what occurred. I will not write anymore about the horror of her discovery.

I have no details of what happened, and even if I did, I would not share them. I am not equipped to understand why someone would do something like this. This is all beyond my scope to understand.

We told Teri that we would be coming to Calgary right away. Our little girl sounded so fragile and broken on the phone, our hearts were breaking. We got in touch with Krystal and she immediately made the decision to drive to Calgary with me, we booked Kathy a flight for early evening.

It was a long seven hour drive. A drive that was filled with questions and emotions. Teri was so close to being one of the victims. My eyes tear up again just writing that. For all of the emotions I feel, Teri must be completely overwhelmed. I look at her and want to erase the memories and visions from her mind. I want to give her peace, but I can’t. I am helpless as I look at her distant stare as she grapples with the horror of what she has experienced. No-one should have to go through something like that, no-one.

The four of us stayed at a hotel in Calgary and started the process of picking ourselves up from the shock and severity of this event. We bonded as a family, we cried a lot, we had periods of extended silence as we privately reflected or chewed on the bile of the emotions brewing inside. We met with Victim Services and they offered help for all of us as we work through our process of dealing with this. We managed to get a moving company on Easter weekend that could go into the house and get all of Teri’s things.

One of the deceased was a roommate of Teri’s; Jordan Segura. We attended a visitation for Jordan and his funeral. So tragic, such a senseless loss. All five victims were young, full of dreams and hopes. All taken much too soon. I cannot even comprehend the depth of the grief for those families.

I really do not have much more to say. I am pissed off. I am grief stricken. I am numb. I am all of those things at various points through the day. At various points through the day, I just tear up and let a wave of emotion wash over me. I feel other things too. I feel like I do not even have a right to feel these things, that my rights to these feelings are nothing compared to the feelings of the families who have lost a son or daughter. I know it is silly, but I think that my feelings should be subordinate to theirs. I also feel inadequate. It is a parent’s job to protect their children and for whatever reason I feel like I have failed in that role. I also know that it is silly to think I can protect the girls now that they are adults, but you never really set down the mantle of being a parent. Their pain is my pain, and I can only imagine it is more vivid for Kathy. I know that the intensity of my feelings will diminish over time, I just don’t know when.

Today I am grateful that Teri is alive and with us. I am grateful that she is alive, I am so absolutely grateful for that. I will try to allow that feeling to wash over me without the guilt of feeling grateful when there are five sets of parents that do not get to feel that way. I am grateful for the support that Dan has given Teri. It will be so very hard for Kathy and I to let her go back to Calgary in a few weeks. Knowing that Dan is there is a great comfort. I greatly respect Dan for the support and caring he has given Teri. Lastly, I am grateful that Krystal, Kathy, and I were able to be with Teri in the aftermath of this tragedy. The bonds of family grow stronger in times of great sorrow. I have an amazing family. I love all of them dearly, I love all of them deeply.

#BixbyFifty #Day08 – Technology

Well, this entry on the journey will label me as an “old man”. I guess I will start to embrace the mantle of curmudgeon. Only, it is not a rant. It is a moment to ponder a few things that I have seen develop. Bear with me…

I was born in 1964 in a small town in Alberta. I remember seeing TV for the first time when I was probably about 5 or 6. In the early afternoon, an episode of Sesame Street was on TV and for whatever reason, the television was turned off before I could finish watching the show. Later that day when the television was turned back on, I was greatly dismayed that sesame street did not pick up from where it left off. I thought the show was stopped when the device was turned off and would resume again when turned back on. I was sad. Back then, those were adult devices, they were for news and other boring adult things. It was my first memory of paying attention to technology.

Fast forward to 1975 when I was 11years old. We moved to Nova Scotia in 1970, but I went with dad on a trip to Alberta for a few weeks. That strikes me as odd in itself, because dad never really fancied spending time with young kids. While in Pincher Creek, I saw a Telstar video game at a store. I spent all of my money and some of dad’s to get it. It was a wonder of amazing technological ability.

Four games could be played with this wonderful device. I was the luckiest kid around. Then a few years went buy and I played around with stereos, cassette tape recorders, 8 track players, short wave radios, etc. Another amazing day in my appreciation of technology came when I was in grade 10 or 11. I got a TRS-80 Pocket Computer.

This device was simply amazing. It was a calculator on steroids. I learned how to program in basic, which is pretty easy actually, and was quite impressed with now only what the device could do, but what I could do with it. Wow. I guess this is the point in my life where I started to embrace geekdom without even knowing what that was.

Now we are going to go ahead a bit further. At this point, I am out of high school and I am attending Halifax Regional Vocational School for a 2 year program on Data Processing. The first year we used an IBM System 3 Model 10.

Back then I actually wrote programs on Herman Hollerith 80 column punched cards. Your program was a box of these cards that had to be loaded in sequence in the machine to run. There was enough memory in these computers to hold a lot of programs so they were stored and loaded from cards. 🙂

From this point, technological advances started to pick up a bit. I was around for a number of innovations. Photocopiers, Fax Machines, Laser Disk Players, Beta Format Movies, VHS Movies, Video Recording Machines, Music CDs, Personal Computer Advancements, The Computer Mouse, Television Remotes (connected with a wire), Wireless Television Remotes, The Sony Walkman, Handheld Video Game Machines, LED Watches, LCD Watches, The Sony Diskman, Dolby 5.1, MP3 Players, Digital Cameras, Digital Video Recorders, Microwave Ovens, Computer Modems, Cellular Telephones, The Internet, Scanners, Inkjet Printers, Laser Printers, Satellite TV, Handheld GPS Devices, Laser Pointers, Memory Sticks, Bluetooth, WIFI,  Wireless Speakers, Digital Picture Frames, Rear Projection TV, Flat Screen TV,  Blu-Ray Disk Players, Video Game Consoles, Smartphones…
…just to name a few.

Some of those items are some heavy hitters. Some of them became mainstream and obsolete again during my brief journey so far. I think about how many of them have been incorporated into my smartphone. It kinda blows me away. As technology advances there are those that must rush out and embrace it blindly and there are also those who pine for simpler times with less technology. I would like to think I take a path between these two extremes. All of these things are merely tools. They have an opportunity to add value to your life or add distraction, perhaps a bit of both. I am thankful for the advances I have seen in my lifetime. It is very very humbling and truly amazing.

If you had tried to explain to the 12 year old version of me, that I would be writing a blog entry on a wireless keyboard connected to a laptop computer that is connected to a worldwide network of interconnected devices… well, I would have been confused to say the least. It would have been incredulous. I am grateful for the connectedness that technology affords me. 40 years ago, it would have been quite difficult to keep in touch with friends and family around the globe. I hope that I can always appreciate technological advances and harvest the benefit from them to enrich my life experiences. Mr. Toad’s wild ride ain’t over yet…

 

#BixbyFifty #Day07 – Youthful Joy

Okay, today’s entry is on a much lighter vein than some of the previous days. I was at home minding my own business on Saturday morning when I heard a knock at the door. It was a young boy of about 12 or so. He asked: “Excuse me mister, would you have any bottles you could donate for our bottle drive? We are raising money for a school trip to Quebec.” I indicated that I might have something to donate and instructed him to meet me at the garage. We had a box of bottles and a blue bin of cans in the basement and I grabbed those and met him in the back. I instructed him to tell his father to back the truck into the driveway. He smiled and indicated he could carry what I was holding in my hands. That is when I opened the overhead garage door.

Queue the sound of an angelic choir and blissful light shining from within the garage as he gazed upon the mother lode. He ran excitedly down the driveway calling for his father. At that point a host of other kids on the bottle drive appeared and the flurry of excitement began. The truck backed into the driveway and a host of excited preteen boys started carrying and loading boxes of bottles and bags of cans. They were going to fill the truck with one stop. The number of heartfelt “thank yous” was amazing.

Now before you pick up the phone and call the crew from the show “intervention”, let me explain. I host a poker league, weekly boardgame nights, the annual BixCON gaming convention, and a number of other events. Sure, I like my beer and Kathy enjoys a glass of wine, but these empties were not all ours. Okay? We good on that? We stage recyclables for months until such a young enterprising person happens to knock on our door. It is fun to see their reaction.

Today I am thankful for the unbridled joy and enthusiasm of youth. May we as adults draw a lesson from the purity of happiness that is experienced and expressed without reserve, without hesitation.

#BixbyFifty #Day06 – Photography

Today I am feeling a bit reflective and nostalgic. I just set up a Flickr account for SaskGames. Basically, it will be for pictures I have taken of boardgames or people playing games. As the SaskGames News Bulletin progresses, it will become more important to have a central repository of stock images. If you are interested in a bunch of game related pictures, the account is:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/saskgames/

That is not the reason for today’s post though. I went through my folders of digital pictures from 2014, 2013, 2012 looking for gaming pictures. By doing that I was wading through all of my pictures of the last couple of years. Lots of memories came flooding back to me of various people, events, and travels. It was quite a pleasant task. We have so many digital pictures… I can hardly venture a guess as to how many. Perhaps 20,000 or so. Thankfully they are in folders by year, month, and event so they are “largely” organized.

I feel like it is a blessing to have these in digital format. We mostly use our TV as a large picture frame and have the xBox 360 stream pictures to it in a slide show. It allows us to enjoy our pictures on a regular basis. Going through the folders looking for specific images has sparked another project for me. I think I will go through all of our digital pictures and clean up some of the organization and folders. It is a task I am really looking forward to as it will be a very rewarding stroll through the strata of the last 14 years. Yep, 14 years of digital pictures. I starting using a digital camera in 2000. Aside from that, we have had a very large portion of our older photographs scanned and they will need to be organized into folders. This task will take a long time to complete as it is fairly large in scope. I have no problem with that. I can savour this project and pick away at it in small chunks. That will allow me to have bite size chunks of nostalgia.

I am grateful for these pictures. These captured moments in time and space. I look forward to visiting and reliving various canoe trips, backpacking excursions, family visits, outings with friends, backyard gatherings, poker games, boardgame events, travel, snowshoeing expeditions, and many other zany things we have ventured to try over the years. These pictures will be yet another reminder of a number of other blessings in my life.

DSC_4023I am truly thankful for the photographs and how they are a catalyst for a flood of wonderful memories.

 

#BixbyFifty #Day05 – Tolerance & Middle Ground

I am grateful for my own views of tolerance and inclusion. I am thankful that my world view is one of peaceful cohabitation. Today’s entry in the gratitude journey is going to wade into the murky waters of beliefs and extremes. Careful, you may not like what you read.

Gratitude-05POLITICS
Are you right? Are you left? In the end, are you so stuck to an ideology that it blinds you or clouds your judgement? These are provocative questions. Am I trying to incite a conflict? Heavens no. I have people in my life that span the whole spectrum of political beliefs. The far right hard line conservative to the leftist leaning hippie. (Note, I am not placing a value judgement on those labels). For me, the whole thing gets frustrating when someone buys into the entirety of one side or the other. These are the people that discount any idea or initiative if it happens to be endorsed by the opposite ideology. Wow. Really? Does that mean what is good in our society is a Venn diagram where the two circles have NO OVERLAP at all. To me that is ludicrous. This deep entrenchment in either the right or the left precludes a phenomenal amount of unexplored middle ground. It is sometimes painful for me to engage in conversation with either extreme due to all of the blanket judgements that have to be overcome before you can even have a meaningful discourse on the subject. My own political beliefs have spent time exploring the far right and the left. There are some great ideas on both sides of the polarized spectrum, trouble is that they will have a hard time gaining traction by the other side. Many times the best course of action is held hostage to maintaining a hard line stance on an ideology where compromise or movement would be construed as weakness or a failing of their cause.

RELIGION
This is another touchy subject. I want to make this perfectly clear. I respect everyone’s right to choose and follow and practice their beliefs. That is important. I also include atheists and agnostics. There is room for all views and all beliefs. I do not think I need to say this, but I will anyways. I do not include people who engage in destructive or extreme practices in the “name of” their belief system. They are just fanatics trying to rationalize their own despicable behaviour by hitching to a cause.

My spiritual beliefs are very unique. I never feel the need to broadcast them to the world as they are personal to me. However, if you are truly curious, feel free to ask me. I am not opposed to discussing my beliefs. Here is the rub though… most people only want to know what you believe so they can construct arguments to dismantle your beliefs. They want to do this to “convert” you to their beliefs. That is where I lose respect for people quite quickly. I think I am okay, I do not need to be “fixed”.

“I have most respect for the person who is so confident with what they believe that they do not feel a need to convert others. They have a path of private conviction that allows them to interact with the world more respectfully.”

Over the years I have met religious zealots and over-zealous atheists alike. I do not need to be converted. I do not need to be educated. If I am curious, I will ask. Mine is a path of tolerance. In all sincerity, I am more interested in the conduct of the person I am interacting with, not their beliefs. In the last few years, I have to say that the most annoying are the atheists who are passionately trying to dismantle or refute the belief systems of others. I am an advocate of science and the scientific method, I am all for the progression of our collective understanding of the universe, but I do not understand the need to dismantle someone’s belief system to progress. And some of the arguments about the harm of religion are getting old. Yes, we all understand their were very bad things done by people of various institutions. The same could be said of any demographic or organization though. Religious organizations do not hold a monopoly in this regard. Just for the record and by way of disclosure, I never attended church growing up and I do not attend church now. That does not mean I cannot see the value in it. On another note, I am the event chair person for an annual charity that feeds those in need. They happen to be a faith based charity. I have had a few people take issue with supporting a Christian charity. Really? They are feeding those in need. I judge the organization based on what it DOES not by what it BELIEVES. They are doing good in the community and that is the yardstick by which I measure things.

In the name of tolerance, let us quietly, with grace and confidence, walk a path of our own beliefs while allowing others to do the same. Each person should feel free to own and practice their beliefs without the fear of persecution.

PHILOSOPHY
This is a bit more esoteric for me, but is closely linked to the other two sections I wrote above. Live and let live. Be who you are and allow others the same courtesy. I cherish the variety of views, knowledge, beliefs, ideas, cultures, and values of others. They all provide opportunities to learn and grow. My views are largely an amalgamation of the bits I have borrowed from the world around me, ergo, the more tolerant and open I am to that world, the more I can continue to shape and mold myself.

 

My gratitude today goes to all of the people I have connected with over the years, you have all helped shape me. Tolerance leads to understanding, learning, and growth.

#BixbyFifty #Day04 – Planning Events

I cannot help myself. I think it is an addiction. I love to plan events, and apparently I am fairly good at it. Where does this fit in with a journey of gratitude though? Let me tells ya…

Bringing people together is a joyous thing. Events are quite often a catalyst for new friendships and lasting memories.  If a gathering can create a legacy of friendship, then it is indeed a worthy pursuit. It is very rewarding to have a hand in that.

I host a couple of leagues at home. The BSOP (Bixby Series of Poker) and the BFD (Bixby’s Formula De League). The BSOP is an eight game series of Texas Hold’em Poker Games and the BFD is a 6 game series for a racing simulation boardgame. They are both replete with camaraderie, laughter and trash-talk. They are full of friends.

Additionally we host a number of gatherings in our backyard. The firepit is a magical thing. Everyone loves a fire. It is a center point for a host of other gatherings. Lobster boils, dart games, werewolf games, meals, or simple gatherings to sit and enjoy friends and while away the evening.

Then there are the host of boardgame events with SaskGames and the 24 Hours to Play with Your Food charity event. The list goes on…

There is a common theme to most of these events, they are centered around an activity. That makes sense when you consider that I am socially awkward. One of the things that surprises people about me is that I am an introvert. I am awkward when it comes to small talk or conversation. I struggle to connect to people. I enjoy talking with people, but my conversation skills are lacking when it comes to small talk. I tend to talk about abstract things, ideas, plans, and concepts. I also like to talk with people about matters of the heart. Deeper things such as what motivates them or brings them joy, what are their fears. What are their struggles, their triumphs? I call that “big” talk. Those are things that most people are not really comfortable discussing. When you consider that I am not good at small talk and big talk is generally something that is difficult to achieve in most social interactions, what is left?

…activities.

That is why events are magical. They can accommodate a broad spectrum of people and conversational styles. Introverts and extroverts alike can come together and co-mingle in an environment where the focus is on the activity. The activity provides a context for interaction. It is the catalyst that allows people to get to know each other in steps and on their own terms.

I watch very little TV, I do not watch many movies, I do not follow sports, I am not an armchair meteorologist. That leaves out a whole lot of conversational fodder. I can, however, plan an event where we come together to engage in some eccentric activity. Hopefully, in that space we establish some common bonds for friendship and maybe pave the way for some “big” talk. I am thankful for the opportunity this give me to get to know some very interesting people, some of whom I am honoured to have as friends.

#BixbyFifty #Day03 – The Wonderful Lady Lew

I owe so much gratitude to Kathy that it is really hard to know where to begin. Kathy and I have been together for a long time. We have shared a journey that has had many twists, turns, and speed bumps. We even spent a couple of years apart in the middle of our journey. We needed some time to grow and mature and needed a spell apart. Even when we were separated, in essences, we were together.

When we first met, the thing that struck me most poignantly about Kathy was her own growth path. She was doing some self-work as part of a personal rebirth. I knew that I was on the brink of such an effort myself and was very much intrigued with what she was doing. Being self aware is being self empowered. That is why I am committed to life long learning. We can always learn a bit more about ourselves and in doing so self actualize. I met Kathy at a very important point in my life and she helped me kick start my own efforts in that area.

Since those early days, we have both made a growth commitment, as individuals and as a couple. There are times when one of us falters and the other is there to offer support, insight, and encouragement. There are times when one of us needs to be carried for a spell by the other. Those are powerful times as they allow us to recognize and celebrate both strength and vulnerability.

Speaking more specifically about Kathy, she is a rock. She has physical, emotional, and spiritual strength. She is a strong role model. She is an empowered woman. She is successful in her career, she is active in sports, she has raced mountain bikes, hunted, hiked, camped, trekked, and embarked on epic canoe trips in Canada’s North. She is comfortable sipping a fine wine or drinking the hardiest of imperial stouts. She is a force of destruction on the paintball field. Her laughter fills a room and her tears tug at the heart. She is a formidable foe at the boardgame table. She is radiantly beautiful in a dress or in a set of camouflage fatigues. Her exploits at the poker table are legendary, (being a three time season champion). …but mostly, she is just an awesome human being.

I am very lucky to have her as my partner and equal in our relationship. She has and continues to enrich my life in a multitude of ways. I draw strength and inspiration from her every day. I am very glad she is coming home today from New Brunswick. I miss her.

I love you Kathy.

Kathy - North Dakota Badlands

Kathy – North Dakota Badlands

#BixbyFifty #Day02 – Simplicity

There is a book by Edward de Bono that is worth a read. It is called Simplicity. The book is filled with small tidbits about the elegance of Simplicity. Simplicity in life brings richness and fulfillment, at least it does for me. To further explore that thought, I would like to explain that my needs are quite simple. With simple needs, it is much easier to be content.

I enjoy spending time with family and friends. I enjoy an evening of boardgames. I enjoy a pint of good beer. I enjoy a peaceful walk or hike in nature. These are all relatively simple things. They are not terribly expensive, they do not require much other than a desire to pursue and enjoy them.

One of the things I came to realize with my previous gratitude journey, is that the more I reflect on things that I am grateful for, the simpler my needs become. I do not yearn for unobtainable items to bring joy to my life; they are already in my life. That may sound cliche or like it came out of a hallmark card, but it is so deeply true for me.

Simplicity is another reason I left the professional world of Information Technology years ago. Too much of the industry values complexity and cumbersome bloated projects over the elegance of simplicity. The value proposition is backwards.

This even applies to possessions. They say the things we own end up owning us; I believe it. Earlier this year when we got rid of 1200 music CD’s it felt as if the weight of those CD’s was lifted from our shoulders. Our garage has much less clutter with some of the purging efforts in the last few years. Simple is good.

The richness of joy deepens with every step I take towards a simpler existence. Today, I am grateful for a journey that heightens gratitude and pursues simplicity, they are inexorably linked.

#BixbyFifty #Day01 – Importance of Role Models

The first leg of this gratitude journey needs to go to my brother Charlie. Actually, he is here now, visiting from Alberta. He called me up late last week and wondered what I was doing to commemorate my fiftieth birthday and that if I had no plans he would like to come for a visit.

Charlie has always been and continues to be a positive force in our family. During times of great family turmoil when I was younger, his was the voice of calm and reason. He has always shown a mastery of reason over emotion that has made him a rock of stability and consistency over the years. I drew a lot of strength from that when I was younger and today, I continue to be inspired by the conversations we have.

Charlie has worked hard over the years to bring siblings together in a way that honours and celebrates our unique differences. I give him credit for the cohesive love that ties us together as siblings in our adult years.

Many people perceive role models as something a child needs. Personally, I think our lives are a continuous learning journey and it is good to have role models for every stage of our life. As long as we are growing and learning, we are not dying. (At least that is how I view things). I want to give credit to a consistent and solid role model in my life over the years. Even now as we get together, our conversations explore ideas and values and always have a provocative quality that is quite uplifting. Today, I give thanks for my brother Charlie. I am so glad you thought to come to Regina to help usher in the spring. Now if you excuse me, I think we will go out and enjoy some of the nice weather we are having.

Choose your role models wisely.

Choose your role models wisely.

#BixbyFifty #Day00 – Starting Another Gratitude Journey

On March 7, 2011, I embarked on a journey of gratitude. It was transformational.

The idea behind my previous gratitude journey was to truly change my view of the world and in turn change my attitudes about the world. I do not think that I am am overly negative person, but I wanted to focus on the goodness around me. I ended up making 100 entries in that journey, (on this blog as a matter of fact). The first entry of that journey is located here: http://blogs.bixby.ca/?p=142

There are two factors that are prompting me to undergo this exercise:

Firstly, I am turning 50 years old in a few days. Birthdays and milestone birthdays have never really held any significance for me, but I have been asked so many times: “What are you doing to commemorate your fiftieth birthday?” that I felt I should do something. This journey of gratitude is what I am doing. 

Secondly, I see that hastag #100HappyDays cropping up on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. It reminds me of how rich my gratitude exercise was a few years ago.

Gratitude

The start of another great journey.

I would like to explain a couple of things at this point. Mostly, because I have asked my immediate family to join me in this journey. Kathy, Krystal, & Teri have all agree to take a #BixbyFifty journey as well. That makes me very happy. 🙂

Why the Hashtag #BixbyFifty?
Well, it is unique. It will not get lost in the sea of social media. I did not create the hashtag out of vanity, I want it to stand out. I also want people to be curious and ask any of us on the journey what it means. When we explain to others what this means, it deepens the meaning for ourselves. Also, the idea of this is to be a bit more reflective than the current 100 days of happiness social media movement. I few sentences or a few paragraphs for each entry. I want to really engage in a deeper dive for this.

How often do you post and where?
The idea is to make a daily posting on Facebook. However, we all know that there will be days when we simply do not have time. With that in mind, each post will have a numeric hashtag of #Day1, #Day2, etc. In that manner, we will all make fifty postings on this journey. It may take us fifty days or one hundred days, no matter. A journey of gratitude will happen as it should. These postings will show up on Facebook. Actually, mine will be on this blog, but will get propagated to Facebook through my blog. I like writing on a public platform as it make my words more real. I feel like I have to be more accountable for what I say. That is a good thing, after all, this is not a superficial journey.

What if I am just not feeling grateful for anything, there are days I am in a dark mood?
This is even more reason to do the journey. It is by engaging in mindful reflection during dark periods where we gain insights. Dark moods are not bad, but it is important that we understand and own our emotions. This can be very empowering.

Can anyone engage in this journey?
Sure. The more the merrier. Attitudes of gratitude are contagious and help make our world a better place. 🙂