The Music Never Dies

August 29, 2016 § 4 Comments

I’ve written in this space previously about what music means to me. Lately, I’ve also observed how it impacts friends and other people in Canada and around the globe.

Music can get muted on a sound system and performers head to the stage and studios of the afterlife. However, it can never be snuffed out.

In his 1971 song American Pie, Don McLean is said to be drawing reference to hearing of the untimely deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson with the words … the Day the Music Died.

However, even 57 years after their deaths, people who enjoy early rock and roll music continue to play their tunes.

The power of music on a nation was evident on Saturday, Aug. 20. It will go down as a day I will always remember where I was and what I was doing.

Joyce and I were part of the 11.7 million viewers – about one-third of Canadians – who watched what is said to be the final concert of the iconic Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. It was telecast commercial free on CBC, our public broadcaster for those reading from outside our country.

Although there are talented Canadian performers who have achieved greater acclaim outside this country, I can’t think of another band the CBC would interrupt Summer Olympic coverage to present their concert live.

While the band will stop performing now with the announcement frontman Gord Downie has terminal brain cancer, the music of this venerable band will not die. If anything, a new generation of listeners will be created by the outpouring of love and appreciation for the group.

Andrew Jones, Owner of Checkered Owl, media manager for Tasman Jude, Caleb Hart and Black Indie agrees: “There is something eternal about GREAT music. Something that resonates with us for years after it was written. It’s that feeling you get when you turn on an old Ella Fitzgerald record, a Nirvana track, stream some Run-D.M.C., dust off your record where Dylan went electric and something captures our heart. The best music, the music of a band like The Tragically Hip, never dies, its honesty reverberates throughout the culture, it influences the next generation and ensures their music will be at work for a very long time.”

How important was this concert to me? Well, typically when a concert or music special that I want to watch is on TV and the Toronto Blue Jays or Montreal Canadiens are playing, I PVR it for later viewing. I’m also not one to forego a chance for a campfire with friends but I took a raincheck on an invitation.

This time, it was music that had to take precedence. I knew the concert wouldn’t be just the final appearance of The Tragically Hip. It would be a celebration of a band that told the story of Canada and Canadians over the years, References to communities and storylines from across the country are peppered through its albums.

When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned of Gord Downie’s diagnosis in May, he tweeted: “Gord Downie is a true original who has been writing Canada’s soundtrack for more than 30 years.”

Those words sum up my feeling for the band. Although I have a greater collection of music by several other artists, this band is really the one group that has always spoke the fabric of this country.

I told Jessica Allossery, a singer/songwriter friend in London, Ontario, that I was writing this blog. She was eager to share her feelings about music and the impact of the band.

“The Tragically Hip’s final show brought Canadians together as one. As we paid our respects in gratitude and awe, the band put on their bravest faces, to perform their incredible final show. What a night we will all remember! This is a band that will forever go down in history, as it united Canada with our love of music, story and soul.”

Music evolves. It heals, tells stories, cheers us or helps us understand a situation. It creates conversation.

I used the phrase, “turn the page” with a work colleague the other day and he exclaimed, “Metallica!” I reminded him the song was originally produced by Bob Seger. The workmate told me I was showing my age. I responded that I was simply showing my taste in good music.

How many songs of the Beatles have been remade over the years? Bruce Springsteen devoted a complete album to the music of folk artist Pete Seeger.

Gord Downie himself once said: “Music is the ultimate medium for expressions of love, and those expressions find a beautiful backdrop in the environment. Music is also a popular rallying point — at its central core, it’s a way for people to get in touch with the best parts of themselves and to voice the love in their hearts. And the environment is one of the great loves of our lives — when we think of the best parts of ourselves, the environment is always there, informing us, as a backdrop.”

Earlier in August, we attended the first-ever Bear Creek Music Festival in Grande Prairie. This three-day event brought musical acts from around the world and attracted thousands of music lovers from near and far.

The event was a success on several levels. First of all, we were treated to a first class event. I was introduced to acts that I’d not previously heard of and as much as fiddle music is not my favourite, I couldn’t help but tap my toes and join in on a standing ovation when a set featuring a collection of artists came to an end.

That’s the thing about music. Just like millions of Canadians were moved to join together for a televised concert, it has the power and energy to get us to do things we might not normally do.

The Beatles penned a song titled While My Guitar Gently Weeps. This final concert of The Tragically Hip had many Canadians doing just that.

Thank you, Gord and bandmates for all you have done to entertain and move us.



Giving The Gift of Music

July 27, 2015 § 1 Comment

“Just take those old records off the shelf
I’ll sit and listen to ’em by myself
Today’s music ain’t got the same soul
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll
Don’t try to take me to a disco
You’ll never even get me out on the floor
In ten minutes I’ll be late for the door
I like that old time rock ‘n’ roll …” – Bob Seger, in his hit Old Time Rock and Roll

The Detroit rocker is one of my favourite performers of all time and I’ve seen him in concert twice. In a recent visit to our son, Peter, in Kelowna, I did something better than enjoying music on my own.  I delivered some iconic records from my own collection as Peter has a fondness for playing vinyl recordings.

The Ties That Bind is a tune from Bruce Springsteen, another treasured artist. Music is one thing that connects Peter and me the most.

While our son has expanded his tastes well beyond what I encouraged him to listen to, sharing a variety of music was something I made a priority early on.

Over the years, Peter accompanied us to concerts ranging from B.B. King and George Thorogood to the Rolling Stones, Jonny Long, ZZ Top, Seger, and the Boss himself.

Fostering an appreciation of music is important. From the earliest days of mankind, it’s been considered a vital art form.

Philosopher Plato said, “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”

Just as we teach our young to talk, read and write, music is another way to express ourselves. It can reflect our moods or get a message across in ways simple words cannot. It can buoy us when we are cheerful or soothe us if we’re down.

Five years ago, I wrote a blog in this space about what music means to me:

I’ve been to a few more concerts since then, including shows by Elton John, Steve Miller and John Fogerty.

The latter performer, as part of his band Credence Clearwater Revival, has long been part of my musical history and brings back childhood memories.

I recall Proud Mary belting out of my older brother Bob’s bedroom along with Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple, Mother in Law by Herman’s Hermits and We are Very Sorry Uncle Albert by Paul and Linda McCartney.

I grew up in Dawson Creek, B.C. where the country music fare was the order of the day on CJDC.

Although not a favourite musical genre, I do appreciate that Johnny Cash, Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Sr., Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, George Jones, and Willie Nelson were giants in the industry.

My own musical tastes range from rock and roll to blues, folk and jazz and I’ve been influenced by friends and colleagues over the years.

I’m glad Peter chose to explore music well beyond what I shared with him. But it was a proud moment when he asked to have some of my records.

These included albums by Elvis Costello, the Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, and ELO.

Here’s Peter’s take on the passing of the musical torch:

When you take a look at my most recently purchased records, the influence of my parents on my musical taste is hardly evident.

Last week I picked up Run the Jewels’ second LP Run the Jewels II, and a few weeks before that, my haul from the local independent record store included The Roots’ …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, Canadian punk-rock outfit, Pup’s first self-titled full length, and Modest Mouse’s Building Nothing Out of Something.

That said, others in my collection represent a heavy influence from the music that was directly passed down to me (the guys from Gaslight Anthem might as well be Bruce Springsteen’s kids) via the stereo on the Saturday and Sunday mornings of my adolescence.

Nostalgia plays a big factor in some of the music that I like. I still think of those aforementioned Saturday and Sunday mornings whenever I hear a CCR song and a lot of the bands that I like pull influence from a genre I like to call “Dad-Rock.” But that doesn’t account for my love of Hardcore-Punk, my appreciation for Hip-Hop, my proclivity for Death Metal.

This is because the significance of what you pass on is inconsequential; it’s teaching how to like music that is focal to a shared generational appreciation for music. Sure, my dad instilled in me a love of Springsteen, Warren Zevon, and Thorogood, but it was far more crucial that he nurtured in me a penchant for the eclectic.

I have been to hundreds of concerts ranging from Pop-Rock acts like Bedouin Soundclash to Black Metal ones like Behemoth, from the Punk Rock of SNFU to the folky strumming of Dave Hause.

Some of my fondest memories are of concerts, punk shows, and festivals and I can’t say that a love for live music, no matter the genre, would have been sparked had it not been for my parents bringing me along to concerts when they could have just as easily hired a babysitter.

I look forward to the days when I can pass on a wide-ranging love of music to my future child or children as it is one of the most powerful things you can do as a parent.

While I enjoy sharing my taste in music with Peter, my own musical horizons have been broadened through him.  Some of my collection includes artists Peter recommendations such as the Black Keys, Mumford and Sons and Seasick Steve.

Peter’s desire to carry on our tradition is music to my ears.

Music Makes the Moment

May 31, 2010 § 15 Comments

It was a typical Saturday morning as I was getting ready to walk the dog.

Our weekend morning ritual begins with sitting in the hot tub listening to some tunes and guzzling some freshly-brewed java. The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun came on as I re-entered the house for breakfast before hitting the trail.

What a perfect song to begin the day! Mr. Sun smiled down on a great trek.

And who better than the Beatles to provide the background music to an uplifting day? They are arguably the most important band of all time. Their music is timeless – often imitated, never duplicated.

As I walked, I began musing about how important music is to me, either making my day when I am already happy or helping me come to terms with life when I’m down.

It’s only natural that either Wendy or I would write about music in this blog. We often use a lyric from a song or the name of a tune to describe a situation or an idea when we speak. I began an earlier blog with a lyric from Tom Cochrane’s Life is a Highway.

My wife says I use musical lines at the drop of a hat.

She’s right. Where better than stories told through the lyrics of music to find a handy comparator? Over time, every conceivable situation has been described in song.

Although I’m a good old time rock and roll fan, the blues and jazz are also favourite genres.

Different music suits varying situations.

While a pop tune from the Fab Four is perfect to spring out the door on a walk with the dog, I prefer nothing more than the gritty, cutting words of Warren Zevon in songs like Lawyers, Guns and Money while cleaning up in the kitchen. Not sure why. Perhaps getting involved in the late singer/songwriter’s ballads is a good way to forget that I’m doing a task that no one relishes.

I have seen many of my beloved performers in concert, including Bob Seger, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, the Rolling Stones, George Thorogood, Stevie Ray Vaughan, ZZ Top, Fleetwood Mac, Jeff Healey, Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman, and Colin James.

Some of my favourite lyrics have come from these artists.

When I say or do something on the irreverent side, Thorogood provides the perfect line … Bbbaad to the Bone.

Springsteen and Fleetwood Mac bring hope with Keep Your Eye on the Prize (The Boss did a remake of the Pete Seeger song on his tribute album to the folk legend) and Don’t Stop (a song from the 1977 Rumours album) respectively.

Taking care of Business from Bachman’s BTO days was a perfect anthem for my time operating a communications firm.

Other songs have even deeper meaning.

Simon and Garfunkel’s hit Bridge Over Troubled Waters is a song I think of when I’ve brought peace to a situation or helped someone in need of a friend. It was also chosen by my Grade 7 class for confirmation.

My eyes well up when I hear the Beatles Let it Be because of its gripping inspirational quality.

What could be more heartening than John Lennon’s Imagine? Ironically, this peace-preaching musician would die at the hands of a crazed gunman.

Carolyn Dawn Johnson’s Complicated song reminds me of how I’ve put up barriers at times with new people in my life.

Billy Joel’s Innocent Man was important to me when I began the relationship with my best friend and now wife.

I’ve used the Trooper song Raise a little Hell to remind people who are bemoaning their lot in life that it is up to them to take matters into their own hands:

If you don’t like

What you got

Why don’t you change it?

If your world is all screwed up

Rearrange it

Raise a little Hell …

There is no better way than music to pay tribute to someone you care about. We recently said goodbye to Frank Drodge of our Facilities Department at the City of Grande Prairie. He died far too young at age 50 on May 10. Frank was also known as the drummer and promoter of the local band Anywhere But Here.

Frank was remembered for his hard work, kindness and good cheer and I loved exchanging yarns of favourite concerts and bands.

I bid you adieu, Frank, with a favourite song title from Bob Seger.

Rock and Roll Never Forgets.

Other songs bring back happy memories.

My father couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but I can remember him often reciting a favourite song written during the First World War, There’s A Long, Long Trail – A Winding.

I remember little from my high school graduation – come on now, it was 32 years ago – but recall vividly Queen’s We Will Rock You belting out at the bush party I attended (I wonder if my Dad ever discovered that I lifted a bottle of rum from his liquor cabinet for the occasion).

Nothing is more memorable than the prank I pulled on my wife-to-be at the 1983 St. Paul Journal Christmas Party. I bet her dinner that the “next song” would be Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll.

Little did she know that the DJ was also the bus driver for the hockey team I covered for the paper, and I’d rigged the wager. Mmm, that was good Chinese food. I later reciprocated with a spaghetti dinner.

There are campfire songs to enjoy with a bunch of friends. Show tunes such as those from the Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan’s Island are fun to sing along to while making a long trip and needing to stay awake.

That was a fun memory during our overnight trip to the West Coast from Grande Prairie in 1987.

It was time to pull over for an early morning meal when we started into Raffi’s Down by the Bay!

So, music really does make the moment – sometimes it makes a sad moment happy. Other times, it helps makes sense of a situation.

At other instances, it is good just to take away the Sound of Silence.

A Parental Paradox

January 29, 2018 § 2 Comments

bob olinger 1986It’s the circle of life,” Simba.

That line from the 1994 movie The Lion King comes to mind whenever I think of how our son, Peter, was born just a few weeks after my father passed away on Jan. 28, 1989.

I thought of this Sunday, the 29th anniversary of Bob Olinger Sr.’s death (photo left). Even after all this time, I still consider how my life has been shaped by my father, either in our likeness or how I chose to be different from life lessons, intended on his part or just from observation.

The entry on my On This Day for Sunday on Facebook six years ago reads: “So, it was 23 years ago about this time of night that we received a call from my older brother that my dad had died just after watching his first NHL game (live), a match between the Calgary Flames and Chicago Blackhawks. I vowed that I would work just as hard as he did, but to enjoy life a whole lot more. I’ve been to my share of professional hockey, baseball and basketball games and a lot of concerts. I’ve worked hard and played hard. When I think of him, I am reminded of the Alice Morse Earle quote, ‘Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That is why they call it the present.’”

Now, Peter is the age I was when Dad passed away and I reflect on what impact I have made on my son. He loves sports and music as much as I do and think he’s learned more about balancing work and life through seeing me putting in longer hours, particularly in the years I operated my business. He’s also kind-hearted and peace-loving. Like his father, he enjoys a good debate and is likely to side with the underdog.

I’m proud of the person Peter become and that he’s forging his own way in the world.

For Fathers’ Day 2012, which fell just after what would have been my father’s 90th birthday, I wrote this blog, a special note to my Dad:

I was inspired to write this blog after a conversation on Twitter with another avid Blue Jays fan, Jenn Smith, who posted a photo of herself and her dad from 1978. He died suddenly four years ago on Saturday.

“It seems so long ago and, yet, like no time has passed at all. I miss him,” she wrote.

When I shared that I continue to reminisce about my Dad, she added, “It still stuns me sometimes how much of an imprint his passing has left on me.”

Steve West, a communications colleague from Winnipeg chimed in: “17 years this month for me. Always remembered, and honoured. Thoughts are with you both.”

Steve and I would go on to compare notes about our fathers and how the song The Living Years by Mike + The Mechanics brings us to tears every time we hear it as it reminds us so much of aspects in our relationships with our dads.

The song also reminds us about the importance of saying things to each other “(in) the living years” as we don’t get the chance after someone dies,” says Steve. “So powerful!

I also noted to Steve and Jenn that while our fathers made great impressions on us, other important people in our lives can have everlasting impacts.

The late Darrell Skidnuk, who passed away in April 2004, was the best man at our wedding. I always admired Darrell for his character, which never wavered, even when battling cancer or facing tough issues on the job. He was a devoted father, loving husband, and community builder.

When faced with dilemmas, I often wonder what Darrell would do, just as I used to think of turning to my father for advice. Sometimes I would go to do so after his passing and then realize he was gone.

Darrell and my Dad are just two salt-of-the-earth people I consider to be great role models.

Here’s to Jenn, Steve and all of you who’ve lost that important go-to individual(s) in your lives. May you always cherish the memories and make those people proud in return.

And here’s to you Dad for continuing to be there in spirit.





Everything In Its Time

December 4, 2017 § 1 Comment

Dandelion seeds in the morning sunlightAt the end of October, I authored a blog that had taken months to complete, and even then, the eventual inspiration came from wanting to pay tribute to a former supervisor. While it was a struggle to finish off, I wasn’t frustrated or discouraged. I knew the piece came together the way it should. It had its time and place.

I was immediately re-energized to start work on another blog that had also been in the back of my mind for some time – and this turn of events was most fitting. I wanted to express how there isn’t necessarily a right time for things to happen in life, whether it’s doing something you’re passionate about like writing, checking off a bucket list item, a career achievement, or a life decision, like when to get married.

Perhaps that spark came from highlighting my memories of Bill Scott, former editor of the Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune, who’d passed away earlier in the month.

It may have also been our mutual joy of writing that reminded me not to focus on how many blogs I write but rather on the fulfillment I get as well as the reason Wendy and I started The Muse and Views eight years ago.

Our goal is to build content from our musings and reader comments for a motivational/inspirational book(s). There’s no doubt we have more than enough writing to fill a couple of books – themes have developed on topics ranging from goal setting to meaningful people to our love of music.

Wendy and I need to meet up again soon to sort through all of our work and go from there.

It will happen in its time. The finished product may not be the traditional book we originally contemplated. It may be an online publication and some podcasts or a combination of mediums. There are no limits to the possibilities. The fact we both continue to write in this space, albeit intermittently, will give rise to more food for thought and means that goal remains very much alive.

Ultimately, we need to decide what success looks like.

American businesswoman Anne Sweeney helps to put things in perspective with this quote: “Define success on your own terms, achieve it by your own rules, and build a life you’re proud to live.”

Writing a book isn’t the only item on my bucket list (I also continue to tinker with the short story on my late dog Jasper who had a penchant for demonstrating he thought he was human). Among other things is my desire to have a flat tummy.

Though that goal is health related, it’s another thing where I have taken steps in the right direction, but admittedly haven’t made a full commitment. I work out twice a week with a personal trainer who even comes by my house to capitalize on the workout equipment in our basement.

Often I finish Thursday’s workout thinking I am going to exercise at least three times by the following Tuesday and typically it turns out to be once or none.

So, to really accomplish that bucket list item, and achieve even higher levels of fitness in the process, I need to work out at least twice more per week.

Again, I could get down on myself for not doing more, but then I ask myself if I was working out a year ago. The answer is no. Were my blood sugars higher? Yes.

So, there is always more we can do toward a goal, but I think of it as success if we continue to move towards that target, whether the steps are large or small.

As Nido Qubein, motivational speaker and president of High Point University said, “Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start.”

 I met Edmonton colleague and friend Elizabeth Severson several years ago at an economic development conference in Yellowknife. She’s documented on Facebook her challenges of staying on course with a healthy regimen.

Here’s a post from Oct. 30 that shows how progress is often an ebb and flow affair: “When I started my weight loss journey a few months ago, I weighed the heaviest I had ever been … I finally said enough is enough and started making some drastic changes to my lifestyle…less junk food, less eating out. More portion control, meal prep, healthier choices and going to the gym. The result of these changes: more energy (for the most part lol), less headaches, less body aches, and not needing as much medication around cold/flu season. I sleep better too!

“The biggest change however is that I am down 16 lbs!! And while I have another 50 lbs to go, I know I can do it! Yes, it’s tough, I have my ups and downs, over-indulge at times, but I am human am trying not to beat myself up over it. I am grateful for the supports I have in my life (my husband, my family and friends) and look forward to being the healthiest version of me.”

Since this post, Elizabeth has shared news of how she’s faring. Sometimes, there have been setbacks but then I encourage her to look at other good things that have happened in the meantime, like her husband getting partial custody of his daughter.

Our success towards goals also have to be put into perspective with what else is happening in life.

For Jackie Dawson, another Edmonton friend, getting married wasn’t something to do just because her friends were getting hitched. If that meant waiting until age 36 to say yes, so be it.

“I could have been married in my 20s, I was proposed to, but I knew I wasn’t ready. I had lots I wanted to do still and I was still trying to figure out who I was,” she says.

But I waited…then I figured it would never happen because I hadn’t met the right guy. Then when I met my fiancé I knew right away that I’d marry him.

I’m glad I waited and didn’t settle. When you know, you know. Some people are lucky enough to find that person early on but I was never 100% on seeing myself with any guy I dated for the rest of my life.”

Jackie and I are both huge sports fans, so I thought it fitting to sum up with this quote by former NBA coach John Wooden who once said, “There’s a choice in everything you do, but in the end, the choice you make, makes you.”

Let The Real You Shine Through

October 16, 2017 § 2 Comments

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

This quote by author Ralph Waldo Emerson struck a chord recently when I mentioned my last blog to friend Alysha Samec. I had written about adapting to change and growing as a professional and told her I was now considering how my personal side has evolved.

I actually began thinking about this topic in the summer when the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation reunion was held in in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. I didn’t actually attend because of my work schedule.

However, it was almost exactly 20 years since I left the OLG to start my communications business so I felt a little sentimental.

I also reminisced a lot as a result of getting reconnected with many former colleagues through Facebook at the time and thought about who I was still in contact with and what kept us connected.

In August, we travelled through the Sault on our summer vacation so I had the opportunity to visit a few friends I’d made in my newspaper, lottery and school board days and while operating my communications firm.

As I visited with these people, I considered whether my personal brand had changed over time. If so, would these connections remain just as strong?

Great friendships and business associations endure the test of time – you pick up where you left off as if time hadn’t stopped when you’ve been apart for some time.

I’ve been friends with some people in the Sault for up to 27 years. We stayed connected invariably over shared beliefs and interests.

Alysha asked me if I could define a time when I knew who I am. That’s tough to put a finger on but I think the basic David was formed in my early 20s.

On one hand, I’m much more confident than the guy who it took three weeks to ask out the lady who would become my wife. Now it would take me three seconds.

At the same time, I have always pursued what is really important to me so I had to put my shyness aside to be a news reporter.

I have always known there is something more. Even in high school, I transferred out of a class where I wasn’t being productive to the one that produced the school newspaper, which would lead to my pursuit of journalism – and that newspaper interview that would have me meeting the above-mentioned wife-to-be.

I’m proud of the professional me and happy with David, the person.

Would I do some things differently? Most assuredly so. Do I live with regrets? Never.

A quote from actress Jennifer Aniston sums up my feelings ever so powerfully: “If I could tell my younger self anything, it would be to stop trying to please everyone. You can’t please everyone. All you can do is be yourself and whoever likes you, likes you and whoever doesn’t like you, doesn’t.

“Live your life to the fullest and take chances. Don’t let bullies get to you. Be strong. Just stay true to who you are.”

The late technology legend Steve Jobs had some further great counsel: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

These thoughts on personal brand tie back to my professional life. I recently met up with Ryan Townend, CEO and owner of William Joseph Communications, headquartered in Calgary with offices in Saskatoon and Red Deer. He was doing marketing presentations in Grande Prairie where William Joseph has now expanded.

Ryan related he’d gotten contracts on a couple of occasions, in particular, because of his personal/professional brand. In one instance, he worked his butt off over a long weekend to make a presentation and his competitors didn’t respond to a quote request for several days.

I already had a strong affinity for Ryan’s style as it reflects my own work ethic and practices. This just added to my enjoyment of his business philosophy.

In another instance, Ryan received work because he’d personally responded to every person who commented on a social media campaign that went sideways. His demonstrated willingness to handle a sticky situation up front and honestly impressed a client to be.

Ryan’s outlook is simple: “We only have one life to live. Let’s make it a good one!”

All of this tells me that when you’re authentic, either personally or in business, you’ll get connected to the people you really want to be around.

As a side note … I’ve struggled getting fingers to keyboard on this blog for several weeks but wanted to complete it as a tribute to former Daily Herald-Tribune editor Bill Scott who I worked with for 3.5 years in the mid-1980s. He passed away Oct. 3 and his celebration of life was last week.

Bill authored the column Potpourri for more than 45 years. As much as he was an excellent writer and editor, Bill exemplified how you can work hard and play hard. He enjoyed inviting staff to his home and sharing his love for cooking and music. He organized car rallies for employees and always got the hockey pools going. And then, of course, he would hold court on Fridays after work at Dar’s, a popular watering hole back in the day.

Bill also walked the talk when it came to volunteering. That connected with me at the time and I’ve given back to the community in some form or another almost continuously since.

RIP Bill. You were certainly true to yourself. Journalism and Grande Prairie will never be the same.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

June 1, 2015 § 3 Comments

Desk 1I’ve been thinking about this topic for a few weeks, but the timing is best now.

Tuesday would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. He’s been gone for 26 years but a surprise reminder occurred when my older brother, Bob Jr., delivered our dad’s rolltop desk from Canmore, Alberta, recently.

The old piece of furniture has endured a tough life. When I first grew up, it remained at the old farmhouse where my father was raised in North Rolla, B.C. It was moved into Dawson Creek, thankfully, before vandals burned down all the buildings at the farm.

Once at our house, the desk, probably more than 100 years old, proved to be a landing spot for my father’s paperwork. I think I inherited my lack of filing prowess from him.

My father willed the desk to Bob and I snapped up the opportunity to take it when my brother began downsizing.

I remember always being fascinated with the desk – its many cubby holes, the deep drawers, the handiwork behind the rolltop, and the solid oak structure.

The arrival of the desk was an opportunity to connect with Bob, my sister-in-law, Louise, and their son, Logan. I hadn’t seen my nephew in a few years and memories of my dad rushed back into my head.

I’ve been without my father almost as long as I had him – I was 28 when he passed away.

The desk is a reminder of my father, beyond its physical presence. It is strong. It has character. Its dark stain makes it appear stoic. My father had an enduring quality, though he passed away much too young at age 66.

Although it needs some tender loving care, the desk is reminiscent of my dad’s relentless drive to excel as a highways foreman, a position in which he rarely missed a day’s work, even when seriously ill.

Dad might have been called a workaholic though that term wasn’t used widely in his generation.

I believe we share a lot of the same qualities – caring, compassion, generosity, a sense of fairness and justice, and a wry sense of humour. He was shy until he got to know people. I am the same, though my career choice has found me coming to grips with public speaking and schmoozing upon occasion.

He preferred talking one-on-one to people, often workmates about a project. Through practice, I have learned to be comfortable in crowds, though I like smaller groups, talking about shared interests like sports or music.

I gained my work ethic from Dad but also learned the value of playing hard, something he was just figuring out how to do when he passed away.

Ironically, he died on the way home after watching his first NHL hockey game in person. I have been to many professional sporting events live along with going to numerous concerts, another love of mine.

Dad’s idea of going on vacation was to get from points A to B as fast as possible. I enjoy compiling hordes of information and then plotting out a general plan, with room to be spontaneous.

I’m thrilled the arrival of the desk provided a new opportunity to think about my father.

Happy Birthday, Dad. We’ll take good care of your desk and continue thinking of you often.

Where Are We Meant To Be?

August 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

I was at a party recently where one of the attendees was turning 30. He told a group of us he wasn’t where he’d imagined being at that age in terms of achievements, but that he’d come to terms with it.

It was pleasing to hear this fellow had found perspective, especially since he’d just landed a new job and has a lovely girlfriend. He has lots to look forward to.

This is not an uncommon scenario. Whether it’s our own expectations or those of others, there are threshold ages at which certain achievements are supposed to have occurred. I realized long ago there is no set time for things to happen. We should avoid comparisons between generations.

I remember once sitting with a guy on his 30th birthday. He got totally wasted feeling he’d accomplished little worthwhile in his life. He’d somehow overlooked that he was a part owner of a business and had been married in the previous couple of years.

Needless to say, when I reached that age, I was waiting for the sky to fall. It didn’t. Nor did it when I reached age 50.

When I turn 53 on Aug. 28, I will be at a baseball game in Seattle while on vacation. No chance of the blues on that day, either, unless there are some musicians playing one of my favourite genres of music.

Goal-setting is a great tool toward reaching objectives but we can get so consumed with what are “supposed to do” by a certain milestone, we forget to enjoy the journey.

I told an outgoing colleague that I was writing this blog. I just had to include her reaction.

Lucy Ramirez began as a City of Grande Prairie Municipal Intern and left last week as the Education Co-ordinator in the Environmental Sustainability department. I had always found Lucy to be mature beyond her years and admire her for doing things in her own unique ways.

When I learned she’s going to pursue further education to transition to a career in planning, I was not surprised. Lucy has always been her own person.

“Age 30 is the right time for me to be returning to school,” she proclaimed in our parting chat.

Lucy will go as far as her ambition takes her, following her own cues as to the right time to do things.

Our current Municipal Intern Divine Ndemeye had some great food for thought when I told her what I am writing about.
“I wonder if the pressure or excitement, in some instances, is our own choices or if it’s purely societal expectations,” she says.

She notes where people are at by certain ages can be influenced by family, religious or cultural traditions.

“So I suspect that those emphasis put on certain ages are just ways for all of us to feel validated in society and not necessarily always to ourselves,” she added.

“We all know the questions and comments that we get asked at some point in life:

  • “When are you going to settle down?”
  • “You should think about buying a house”
  • “Your clock is ticking”

“All those are associated with a time constraint or some ‘deadline’ to be met. Individual deadlines and targets aren’t usually as expressed as the societal ones. Most people speak of external pressure to be ‘somewhere’ in their life, according to whatever age they are.”

Emilie Lepage, a friend in Quebec City going to medical school to be a doctor, says it’s true how a lot of us have a mindset that at a certain age we should be somewhere in our lives.

“For myself, I imagine being 30 and starting to feel comfortable with my work and hopefully with a man I love, starting a family. But who knows? I can’t predict my future.”

She says it’s most important to focus on happiness and being open to various experiences, including the potential to travel.

“I just don’t have any set goals in where I want to be. I want to see what life has in store for me.”

I was initially inspired to write this piece when Alina, a Canucks fan in Vancouver who follows me on Twitter, shared with me her thoughts in June about graduating from high school and what might lie ahead.

Her outlook is refreshing. I hope others look at what they are doing as worthwhile and not be totally consumed by timelines set by themselves or others.

I’m reminded of the lyrics from Garden Party, a 1972 song by Ricky Nelson: “Ya can’t please everyone so you got to please yourself.”

Check out Alina’s story:
“So I just threw my graduation cap in the air yesterday, and watched as people who I have known since my childhood leave the auditorium to every corner of the world –California, Hong Kong, Toronto, France, and even Russia.

It’s a weird feeling; it never really hit me until I was sitting in the car heading home from the night. Everyone is going down their own separate paths, with each their own aspirations and dreams without the security of a group of people who were essentially like their second family.

“What does my future have in place for me? I really don’t know. Signing up for courses at university, I did know ‘Yeah, I love science’ and that somehow I will manage to incorporate that in my life.

However, university is just another step in education, and since I was a child I was already aware that “Yeah, I’m going to go to university!” and would even answer the home phone calls with “Hi, Dr. Alina here’.

“I think I’ve come to realize that I spend a plethora of my time on textbook knowledge and not enough on true life knowledge – about what it means to challenge yourself, test yourself, do more for people who are always by your side and for people you know that need it.

“When in life am I going to need to know who Arthur Miller’s father was? I mean, it’s interesting to know about the lives of others but maybe – just maybe – I should be spending a little more time on my own?

I want to look back and tell myself that “hey, I actually did go zip lining” even though the thought of being high up in the air puts my brain at unease.

All I know about my future is that I do not want a cookie cutter life. I do not want to graduate high school, then graduate from university, then get a boring job sitting at a desk all day with ugly grey walls swallowing me up followed by getting married and having two kids as well as a dog named Rufus in a home surrounded by a white picket fence.

“It may be the American dream, but if there is one thing I know it’s that it’s definitely not my dream. You only get one chance. Why not leave a meaningful – even if small – mark on the planet?”

Alina has her eyes on being a biologist, a haematologist or a genetics researcher. She will shine at whatever she sets out to do – and whenever she does it.

Embracing Culture Enriches Community

December 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

I love my job with the City of Grande Prairie, but rarely touch on it here. That’s mainly because this blog is intended to develop content toward an inspirational/motivational book(s) and part of my work-life balance – exploring my creative side.

This time, I’ll make an exception.

Two amazing experiences this past week underline why I love promoting my community and working to make it a better place to live while on the job and as a volunteer.

First my colleague Chelsea Lewis, our Communications and Research Co-ordinator, and I met with the Grande Prairie Centre for Newcomers.

The agency wanted our input on how it can help immigrants get more involved in the community. What a joyful group to connect with – people whose native lands are as diverse as Lebanon, Bulgaria, Rwanda, Mexico, and our own homeland.

We’ve already been working with this organization as part of our Citizen Engagement Program, activateGP. Earlier this fall, we also had the delightful experience of speaking to an English-as-a-second-language combined class through the Council for Lifelong Learning where we encountered a veritable United Nations of students.

Our meeting last week with the Centre for Newcomers was truly inspiring. While we were there to help them assist their clients, a lot of the richness of the discussion was really around how connecting with the traditions from other countries will add a special flavour to our community.

This will be mutually beneficial in a city represented by at least 100 cultures.

We heard about how having celebrations involving music, food and dancing would resonate with people from other parts of the globe.

My favourite part was when the Centre’s employee from Lebanon spoke up and said, “In my homeland, you don’t need music to get us dancing, you just have to start clapping.”

The next day, it was off to the Grande Prairie Aboriginal Circle of Services. We were using this organization as a focus group as part of our research for the Citizen Engagement Program.

Although I have lived near First Nations reserves almost my entire adult life and have worked with various Aboriginal leaders, I’d never participated in a smudging ceremony. It was a first for Chelsea, too.

Smudging is the use of smoke to cleanse the mind and create a positive, peaceful mindset. Various herbs can be used. In this case, it was sage. I chose to accept the smoke so that I could truly share in the learning and reflection of the moment.

I was honoured to connect with members of the Aboriginal community in this manner. How could you not feel at home when you exchange hugs as part of the welcoming ceremonies.

I had the privilege of sitting next to Darlene Cardinal, who led the group in prayer. I learned there is even a right way to hold hands with the people next to you during this ritual.

It was also interesting participating in some of the other Aboriginal traditions during the session. One notable aspect was how a feather was passed around and held by each speaker in the circle.

This demonstrates respect for the person talking at the time.

During the meeting, we had a lot of great dialogue on how the municipality can benefit with a stronger partnership with the Aboriginal community.

Reflecting on the outcome of both sessions left me with an incredible feeling of excitement.

On one hand, I saw how Grande Prairie has much to gain by embracing the traditions of other countries. On the other, we have much to learn from the descendents of peoples who have occupied this land for thousands of years.

I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to embrace the cultural fabric of the city as part of promoting citizen engagement. Knowing what makes its people tick will help me do a better job of connecting to all people.

Maybe I’ll be an improved dancer to the music of another nation. On second thought, I’m better off sampling different cuisines!

Listening To Internal Voices?

July 23, 2012 § 2 Comments

My wife came home from a recent psychic fair to advise me the psychic told her that I’d been ignoring my internal spirit for the last 25 to 30 years. As someone who’s done a lot of self-assessment, I was intrigued by this.

In fact, I saw a strong connectedness with some other thoughts I’d had recently.

You see, I’d considered reflecting on a related topic for the Grande Prairie Public Library Writing Competition this spring in which the theme was Home. However, I chose a different tact and entered my first-ever piece of fiction. But I digress into a future topic.

This blog is an opportunity to explore both what the psychic said and my own sentiments about what the word home actually means to me.

Aside from the obvious clichés like, home is where the heart is, I’d originally thought about expressing my feeling in the writing competition about that word – a place I haven’t been yet in my life journey.

I’ve continually felt there’s always something more – knowledge and skills to gain, new accomplishments, higher personal satisfaction, deeper relationships, and more meaning in life, in general.

In my career, I’ve always recognized for myself that while you never stop learning, there can become a time where the potential to get flat outweighs the ability to grow significantly. As a result, I’ve explored several positions along a continuum in the communications world.

Away from work, there’ve always been additional volunteer opportunities, more places to travel to, new music to check out, and I could invest more time in rooting for my favourite sports teams. Co-writing this blog developed out of an interest in publishing a motivational/inspirational book(s) and I’ve entered three writing competitions.

I can also always strive to be a better husband, friend and father.

Will I ever have a sense of arriving home? I don’t know that I won’t feel driven on a personal or professional level, that there won’t be another “adventure”, as my wife’s cousin, Nancy McGuire, described it the other day in a Skype conversation.

So what about what the psychic said?

Like I mentioned earlier, I do think a lot – sometimes too much – so I’m very familiar with an inner voice.

Have I been ignoring mine, as the psychic said? If she is on to something, I would say it is more likely a case of not recognizing what the inner voice is saying.

Could it be that my continued thirst for knowledge and readiness for change are attempts to satisfy a voice I do not understand?

I mentioned this dilemma to a couple of people who know me pretty well for their thoughts.
Friend Hope Maurice said while I’m clearly not dissatisfied or lacking in contentedness, the psychic’s comments could mean that I don’t live enough in the moment as a result of constantly striving for something beyond today.

Hmmm. Interesting.

I truly do get fixated on a great hockey game and love to rock out at concerts. There’s nothing like hiking to a spectacular viewpoint.

I recognize I have yet to reach my full potential.

Although my motivation is always high, I don’t have long-range plans or specific goals to reach. Many people my age are already contemplating retirement and I continue to think that there are still many more possibilities – more to do.

Chelsea Lewis, a colleague at the City of Grande Prairie, says this contemplation I’m writing about is something she can certainly relate to – though she is just beginning her career.

She wondered: “Is this a case of “the grass must be greener on the other side” or perhaps a feeling that you deserve more than what you currently have – that you were destined to achieve something greater and won’t settle for less?”

Perhaps Hope is right, she says.

“Maybe it’s the fact that you can’t enjoy the moment enough because you are caught up in the ideal – the notion of self-realization/inner peace that hasn’t been achieved yet – that you don’t find the current moment fulfilling enough.”

Could all of these thoughts be partially right? Is it possible that I have simply not recognized what that spirit is saying? Are all these thoughts just a sign that I am still just trying to figure out everything?

Perhaps I really haven’t determined what I want to do when I grow up.

Maybe there are many competing voices in my head and it’s resulted in scrambled messages.

It could be that while I do have moments and enjoy them at the time, my mind is already conjuring up the next possibility.

What’s that you say, Spirit?

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