A Special Father’s Day Note

June 11, 2012 § 5 Comments

We’re approaching that day on the calendar when we honour Dads. My own father has been gone for 23 years now but I still think of him. Actually, a lot lately. You see, he would have been 90 on June 2.

He was also on my mind again a few days later when someone at work asked me to describe, in a few words, someone I admire. I immediately thought of my Dad. He was a salt-of-the-earth type you would want to model yourself after.

Bob Olinger Sr. was that go-to kind of guy if you needed advice. He was generous, a hard worker who devoted his life to making a living and making sure he left something behind for his family, loyal and dependable, and just an all-round decent man.

I think most people he knew him would see a likeness in me – except that Dad managed to maintain his jet black hair right up to the end where I am getting balder by the day and the few tresses I have left are what I refer to as Arctic Blond (grey).

Looking back, I find it interesting that Dad loved to read and recite poetry. That form of writing has never really appealed to me. There is a commonality, though. I’m known for using song lyrics to articulate ideas and feelings.

I can’t hear the Living Years by Mike and the Mechanics without thinking of Dad.

I wasn’t there that morning
When my Father passed away
I didn’t get to tell him
All the things I had to say

I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I’m sure I heard his echo
In my baby’s new born tears
I just wish I could have told him in the living years

Like singer Mike Rutherford, my own son, Peter, was born the same year as my father died.

What could I have told Dad if he’d been around for his 90th birthday or if I could look to the heavens and speak with him?

I’m a writer, perhaps a poet in a certain way, so a note might work best:

Dear Dad;

It’s been a while since we’ve chatted. I’m glad you’re in a comfortable place among the angels. I would rather you’d have stayed among us longer.

You were just learning how to enjoy yourself, leaving us just after attending your first NHL game. One of the great passions we shared was hockey and a love for the Montreal Canadiens. It seems the Habs have missed your cheering for them. They’ve only won the Cup once since you left.

I never told you how much I appreciated that you were always there for me, mostly by phone and letters. Somehow, we just didn’t manage to get together a lot in your later years, though I know you planned to visit when Peter was born.

I’m grateful you passed along your work ethic, though I’ve managed to become less of a workaholic than you by taking in a lot of concerts and sporting events, including seeing a Canadiens’ home game. There’s no doubt you could have been less of a workaholic – though attending your retirement dinner I know how much you savoured your employment – had you been able to enjoy a better home life.

In truth, we no doubt would have connected more in the later years had it not been for that. You’ll be delighted to know that I recently celebrated 26 years of happy marriage to Joyce and Peter is now 23.

You taught me to be passionate about much more than hockey, to care about others. I took on your political leanings and have invested a lot of spare time in volunteering.

You were non-confrontational. I’ve inherited that though you did teach me to stand up for what I believe in. You were bound by religious convictions. I am more of a spiritual person.

You enjoyed a few close friendships. Same here. You relished a good rousing debate. Me, too.

I have turned out a bit different from you. You spent much of your work life with the Department of Highways whereas my career has seen me in a progression of roles within the communications field across the country. You played it safe whereas I found myself expanding my horizons.

Of course, it helped that you left some inheritance. In the end, I would have liked to have had less flexibility in exchange for more time with you.

A couple of things I wish you hadn’t passed along are diabetes and your cataracts. On the other hand, these provide a constant reminder that as much as we can plan for the future, living in the moment is important.

I’m constantly striving for balance in all things.

Speaking of which, Dad, I have to go. I’m combining attendance at a conference with a vacation on Vancouver Island.

I think of you often.




Keep the Passion Burning

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

This favourite quote by author, humourist and lecturer Mark Twain came to mind when I read blogmate Wendy’s recent post about turning 30 and how she’s determined to go for it all.

Wendy once paid me a great compliment by acknowledging that we’re very much alike, particularly in terms of our outlook, though I’m nearly 22 years older.

She will live a dynamic life and flourish at whatever she sets out to do. But then Wendy’s no slouch now, whether it’s the enthusiasm for her job at Yelp Calgary, her passion for ultimate Frisbee or the emotion her writing exudes.

I can predict this with certainty because the one advantage I have over my younger friend is experience.

I’ve seen how attitude drives altitude in life and I thrive on being connected with driven, ambitious people.

Now it’s true that I’m not a millionaire yet. While a paid off mortgage would definitely be great, I’m rich in many other intangible and important ways.

For example, I take great comfort in knowing the phrase “I’m bored” has never crossed my lips and never will.

It’s also exciting to realize I’ve yet to reach my own potential, Far from it, though I have no regrets. In fact, I know I’ve mentored and inspired others to reach greater heights. That is a powerful feeling.

There is always something more to accomplish, whether in relationships, hobbies, careers or self-improvement, in general.

The key is to continually stoke the fires of passion in all aspects of life – whether that’s examining new employment prospects, taking on volunteer opportunities or finding activities that broaden your friend and interest bases.

I draw energy from people like Wendy who strive to live life to the fullest. That’s easier said than done at times. On the other hand, have you ever noticed how much life is sucked out of you by people who are constantly negative or miserable?

Any sustainable life success is bound to occur by surrounding yourself by like-minded people.

Sometimes you can’t control these factors, particularly in the workplace. It’s certainly a rush when you provide someone with an opportunity to work on a project and they react with excitement.

As legendary football coach Lou Holtz once said, “Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

I recently received a random jolt of inspiration when I spoke to Vanessa Besharah, a summer student at the Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association office, for the first time.

She’d turned down a previously held job to take on this one because of her passion for it.

Her words resonated with me. Not too many others speak about their employment in that way.

I’ll share some other comments. They were a breath of fresh air.

“My outlook in life is that people need to stop, breathe and realize there are so many things in the world that are more important than their career and money,” she says.

Vanessa completed her business studies at Grande Prairie Regional College this spring. She believes a job should be taken because it provides happiness and enjoyment.

“To me, family and my relationship are more important than work and I would drop anything to help them because they’re the ones that are going to be there when you need them.”

Finding balance is quite simple, but it takes effort, she says.

“A lot of people stay in their comfort zone and do not take chances,” she says. “There are so many places to see in this world; people just have to jump in their car and start to drive. We need to get away from work and try to find that balance in life. On a day off, just jump in your car and explore. I was surprised how many people have not even been to many places that are only two hours away and they’ve lived in Grande Prairie their whole life.

“What inspires me so much is when you realize that it’s the small things in life you do for other people that makes them so happy and thankful.”

Vanessa leads a running group in Grande Prairie and helped members reach their goal of achieving a 10 km distance.

“I never knew it meant a lot to people, just the small things and time spent helping people. So next time just say ‘hi’ to someone or lend a helping hand or just hear someone out. It means a lot to people in ways you will never know.”

Vanessa plans to take some time to travel this fall and discover more about herself before pursuing Alberta Fitness Leadership Certification Association training.

“This will allow me to teach fitness and get paid for what I enjoy doing.”

She also plans to take human resources courses online.

“My life isn’t mapped out but I have come to term with that. I think that it’s fine not knowing what’s going to happen so you are more likely to take chances and experience what life throws at you.”

I’m certain Vanessa will go as far as her ambition takes her.

Music is often a topic when Wendy and I speak, so I can’t think of a better way to end this blog than with lyrics from Fleetwood Mac’s song Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow:

 Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow

Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here
It’ll be, better than before
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone

Don’t you look back, don’t you look back.

Where Am I?

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