October 16, 2014 § 1 Comment
Remembrance Day hasn’t meant as much to me in past years as it does today. I would pay my respects at a local ceremony, wear my red poppy on my collar, observe my moment of silence for those who’ve given their lives to give me mine… I knew in my head that it was a significant day, but my only connection to why came from textbooks in school, articles I read in newspapers or magazines or stories told through TV shows or movies. It’s difficult to grasp the heart of why we remember when it wasn’t something I had experienced first hand.
This morning, my first read was from Peter Mansbridge on why he remembers on November 11th. I thought about the many sites I’ve visited during my travels this year that have caused me pause.
In May, I spent two weeks in Malaga, Spain. One day, I took a walk out along the beach and followed the path on past the city limits and along the coast. After walking about an hour I looked up to see a sign that read “Paseo de los Canadienses.” It’s a promenade in tribute to the humanitarian aid Canadian Dr Norman Bethune provided during the Spanish Civil War in 1937.
In September, I found myself in Germany. A walking tour through Hamburg brought us to what had once been an impressive cathedral, now left in ruins after it had been hit by a bomb. We also visited a chocolate factory that was once the location where the gas for the gas chambers in the Nazi camps was made.
A week later, through the vivid storytelling of my tour guide Kate with Fat City Bike Tours, I visited the Berlin Wall and the Cold War era of Berlin.
The tour took us through the division of Germany and Berlin after WWII, the tensions between East and West that lead to the creation of the Berlin Wall in 1961, many of the stories of families separated and its unforeseen fall in 1989.
The Cold War is said to have ended in 1991. I never realized how close I came to growing up in a world entangled in another World War.
We also visited the Sachsenhausen Memorial and Museum, a concentration camp a short train ride outside of Berlin. It was a heavy day, retracing the footsteps of WWII prisoners, standing within feet of a gas chamber used in the last 80 years for mass murder.
In early October, I walked across a pontoon bridge in Antwerp with thousands of other Antwerpians. It was the 100th anniversary commemorating a pontoon bridge that was built that same weekend in 1914 to help the Belgian King and many of the city’s inhabitants escape invasion by the Germans in WWI. More than 1.5 million people fled the city–many thousands via that bridge, waiting in a lineup a lot longer than the one I was in to cross the 370 metre temporary flotation.
I imagined having to leave many of my belongings behind, not having the weeks to go through them that I had as I prepared to pack up my house and put what I wanted to keep in a storage unit.
Also in Antwerp, around the back of The Steen Castle, the oldest standing building in the city, I came upon a plaque commemorating the role Canadian troops played in the liberation of the city during WWII.
The plaque reads:
On 16 September 1944, 550 soldiers of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI), 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Denis Whitaker, DSO, advanced into Antwerp to prevent the enemy from destroying the port facilities. For the next three weeks the RHLI, supported by the Belgian Resistance under the command of Colonel Eugene Colson, fought a number of actions to secure the harbour’s vital equipment. Accompanied by the Resistance, the Canadians then began the advance to Woensdrecht and Zuid-Beveland (The Netherlands) as part of the overall offensive to free the approaches to Antwerp.
On 28 November 1944, a Canadian supply ship became the first vessel to steam up the river Scheldt into Antwerp harbour, bringing the essential materials that contributed significantly to the Allied victory. Of the almost 13,000 allied casualties in this campaign, 6,500 were Canadian.
4 September 1944-4 September 2004
When you turn a corner and find a tribute to one or many Canadians who’ve given their lives to impact that part of the world for the better; when you sit in a centuries-old cathedral that is nothing now but shattered walls and rubble and still wears the black marks from an exploded bomb; when you walk in the footsteps of people who only 100 years ago were fleeing a city under fire; when you encounter a wall that came down in your lifetime but you were too young to understand what was happening and what it meant at the time; or when you read the more recent headlines about the targeted attacks on Canadian Parliament and military, the reason why we remember becomes crystal clear.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the country in which I live, for every person who has stood up to protect the rights and freedoms that support the life I’m fortunate to lead and for the past and present roles Canadians play in protecting those rights and freedoms beyond our borders.
September 15, 2014 § 3 Comments
Some of my older friends and family are in the throes of determining how their futures should unfold. Often, they have been busy caring for others – children, spouses and elderly parents – and have never really carved out their own niche.
A few younger friends are also busy charting their own courses, trying to weigh all the possibilities and capitalize on opportunities. One young marketing and communications professional has a small business sideline. Another is employed in the restaurant sector contemplating how to parlay her post-secondary education into a relevant career. A third is exploring human resources related prospects in between positions.
I noted that while decades separate the people involved in these conversations, one thing is common – bucket lists include some similar themes: world travel, seeing favourite entertainers live and even pursuing new hobbies or interests.
This got me thinking of my own bucket list and I determined that in order to qualify, entries must be achievable – without intervention of circumstances such as lottery wins or acts of God – thankfully I don’t cheer for the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For brevity, I have narrowed my list to 10 and there are some commonalities with friends, young and old. These are in no particular order:
- Bruce Springsteen is a favourite performer and I’ve seen him do a solo acoustic show but now I want to see him play with the E Street Band.
- Like my friends, global travel is on my list, but I will be specific: I want to travel to Belgium and Luxembourg – my grandmother and grandfather on my dad’s side were from those respective countries. I have no links there, but would love to see where the Olinger legacy began.
- I also want to travel to every region of Canada. I have yet to visit Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, and the Yukon so I have a great start.
- Now that I have begun going to the gym, I want to get rid of the pot belly.
- Eliminating my dependence on diabetes medication and pills for related afflictions, for that matter.
- To ride in a hot air balloon.
- For blogmate Wendy and I to complete a book(s) from the content of these blogs.
- My short story on my dearly departed furkid Jasper will be published as a book.
- Retirement to Vancouver Island. Joyce and I have travelled there four of the last five years and a few times earlier. It appeals greatly to both of us as a place that has it all.
- Finding another #furkid for our home. This is not just a matter of getting another dog. Both of our previous pooches and their personalities have been an integral part of our family life.
Now, of course, achieving any goal means setting realistic action steps.
In his Book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey referenced the second of these as: Thinking with the End in Mind.
Completing a book, for example, takes investments of time, money and courage – we need to be certain others will be as excited about our writing as we are. Similarly with Jasper tale, I have to take the necessary publishing steps, most importantly, completing the task of converting the short story into book form.
Committing to bring another dog into the home, likely a puppy, takes a lot of time and energy since we truly believe pets are part of the family.
Taking on diabetes with a plan of eliminating medications means a daily commitment to exercise, managing diet and controlling stress (the heredity factor is already there). Admittedly, the necessary dedication has not been there.
I must admit that health-related items really shouldn’t be on a bucket list. They should be musts to pursue. However, having them there helps to set priorities.
So, the question I have to ask myself or anyone else, what are you willing to do to cross items off your list?
Since most of us have multiple things we want to achieve, maybe we should view our bucket lists as an action plans.
September 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
It’s Labour Day and I just achieved an epic feat of following an incredibly long line of traffic through dark, foggy, rainy mountain roads. I was in Vancouver finishing off a road trip through BC. I had planned to stay until mid-week. But there’s something about the Labour Day long weekend that sets my wheels in motion, it’s the marker to the end of summer and feels like the right time to dive into new ideas–after a summer of fun and dreaming, there’s now just so much to DO.
That transition from thought to action is an important step for me. I don’t come by it naturally.
I spent a few days with my aunt and uncle on their boat on Vancouver Island this last week. They were teaching me about the tides and the waves and sailing their 45 ft sailboat across various types of waters. They talked about how much planning and work goes into manoeuvring their dream home through peaks and troughs of various wave cycles. They’ve got to watch the height of the water to ensure there’s enough for the 7 ft of the hull to pass safely over any rocks or other objects in the water.
All of that work and care they take to plan their journey through the depths, that’s the kind of strategy I take with moving myself from thought to action. If I left my mind to its own devices it would quite happily float up there in the clouds dreams are made of, bouncing from rosy dream to rosy dream.
Thankfully there are days like Labour Day. Ones that remind me to pause for a moment, come back down to earth and do some work in this realm.
And so, this day marks for me the first day of transition. The one where I rally my energy and my focus, carefully align my stubborn nature with my dreams and set sail towards creating what’s been simmering on my back burner for the last few months.
What am I up to? Well, a few things, but my main focus will be on exploring some pieces of history closer to home (think Prohibition and Canada’s role in smuggling alcohol across the border) tied in with a 4 week bar tending course I’ll be taking in Amsterdam in October mixed with my talent and love of the online social sphere. You can only begin to imagine what will come out of that, right? Me too! But I’m jumping in feet first!
I’m so very excited for the “doing” half of this year!
On that note… what do you know about Canadian locations where alcohol smuggling may have taken place? I’m going to need all the help I can get on this one!
October 10, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s a balmy Thanksgiving Saturday in Goderich, Ontario. I’m on holidays. We’ve just finished picking wild apples near my brother-in-law Jim’s house. Many family members would be gathering for dinner the next day. Life couldn’t be much better.
Yet my eyes were welling up with tears.
Joyce and I’d just toured the renowned town square where the majority of the damage occurred during the Aug. 21 tornado, which miraculously left only one human casualty. We were in the community to attend the Out of the Storm concert, an event to raise funds to support rebuilding efforts.
It will take years for the town to return to its full former splendour. I’ve always thought of it as a most charming place. Goderich was long ago dubbed the Prettiest Town in Canada by Queen Victoria.
It took just seconds to wreak havoc in this community of 8,000 residents on the shore of Lake Huron, leaving many businesses out of commission for an indefinite time and leaving numerous century-old buildings in ruins.
Lots of grand old trees were uprooted and had to be removed.
Only 45-minutes’ drive away in Ripley, my mother-in-law reported seeing only a few rain drops and a dark cloud.
Elsewhere in the path of the tornado, homes were severely damaged or destroyed.
This was the second tragedy I’ve had close contact with this year. In mid-May, a wildfire destroyed about one-third of the Town of Slave Lake, Alberta, and threatened other nearby communities, prompting response by the Grande Prairie Regional Emergency Partnership, of which I am a member.
My demeanour picked up as the music began. Rock and roll and blues are my two favourite genres of music so while the circumstances for the concert were unfortunate I was glad to be there to support the cause.
I also couldn’t help feeling uplifted when I saw the spirit of the volunteers and the T-shirts being sold as part of fundraising efforts.
One read: FU F3, representing the resolve of residents to reconstruct in the face of Mother Nature’s devastating winds.
Another proclaimed: Twisted … Not Broken.
The concert drew thousands of locals and visitors and featured 12 hours of music with scheduled acts including the Downchild Blues Band, the Arkells, Matthew Good, Salads with Choclair, Serena Ryder and Texas Flood. The Province of Ontario is matching funds raised on a two for one basis.
There were numerous vendors, a silent auction and a children’s area.
Organizers did an incredible job in pulling the concert together in such a short time. An event of this kind would normally take months to stage.
On this Thanksgiving weekend, I couldn’t help but feel fortunate to have never faced tragedy such as what occurred in Goderich or Slave Lake first hand. I’m amazed at how the human spirit can respond in the face of adversity.
It’s inspiring how people in these two communities are picking up the pieces – literally.
During a video tribute at the concert, Mayor Delbert Shewfelt proclaimed: “We will rebuild. We will be stronger than ever.”
There is no doubt Goderich, Slave Lake and other communities struck by catastrophes will be like phoenixes rising because of the determination of people to overcome their circumstances.
One of the songs during the Downchild Blues’ set was, I’ve Got Everything I need (Almost).
With the drive behind the people of Goderich and Slave Lake, all they need is time.
November 3, 2010 § 4 Comments
In January 2009, Bruce Springsteen released an uplifting song called Working on a Dream. I thought of it recently as I reached another milestone on my own wish list – to travel to every part of Canada.
I am getting there but there is much more to see and do in this vast land. After all, it is the second largest country in the world. There is no shortage of diversity from sea to sea to sea!
You could fit the United Kingdom into Canada almost 40 times! There are more than 100 languages spoken here.
I’ve travelled to six provinces, and lived in three, but have not ventured east of Quebec. I had yet to find my way north of the 60th parallel until just recently.
Thanks to having the opportunity to attend Prospects North, a business and trade conference, on behalf of the City of Grande Prairie, I travelled to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories in mid October. It was a wonderful experience though there was precious little time to explore as much as Brian Glavin, our Economic Development Officer, and I would’ve liked .
Still, Yellowknife reminded me in ways of Grande Prairie in that it has the bustle associated with a regional service centre and seems larger than it really is. Did you know that Yellowknife, with a population of 20,000, is the only city in the Northwest Territories?
I also couldn’t help but think of Northern Ontario and its rocky terrain and lakes.
Yellowknife is known as the Diamond Capital of North America.
I was taken by the warmth and friendliness of the locals and the sense of contentment people had living there and in other northern communities.
As with Grande Prairie, many residents hadn’t intended on staying long upon arrival in Yellowknife or Whitehorse, Yukon, but have become attached to these places.
Actually, 2010 has been a year of rediscovering old favourites and exploring new destinations.
It all started in April when I attended the Alberta Municipal Communicators’ Group meeting in High River, where I had never visited. It is located just south of Calgary.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Joe Clark hails from the town of 11,000. W.O. Mitchell, author of Who Has Seen the Wind? and other renowned Canadian literary gems also called the town home.
Joyce accompanied me on the trip and we enjoyed wonderful hospitality, including a recommendation we stay an extra day and hang out for the evening at Carlson’s on McLeod, a well-known local watering hole and entertainment spot.
That was well worth it.
We got to hear Bruce Innes of Original Caste fame play a variety of folk, blues and jazz tunes with support from local guitarist Julian Kerr. The Original Caste is known for two hits – One Tin Soldier and Mr. Monday.
The next day, it was off to Canmore to visit my brother, Bob, and family.
I’m always up for a suggestion for the road less travelled. Several people recommended we take the back roads through some lovely, breathtaking, rolling terrain.
So, off we went through Black Diamond, Bragg Creek and other small towns and villages surrounded by wide open spaces. I can see why artisans of all types are inspired and thrive in places like this.
Joyce had not been to Canmore in many years and it was an opportunity for us to enjoy the mountains on the way home via the Icefield Parkway, Jasper and Grande Cache.
In June, I attended the Canadian Public Relations Society Conference in Regina. I had never stopped in Saskatchewan’s capital on my way back and forth across the country.
On my way to the hotel on the day the event started, I couldn’t help but notice the legendary crazy Roughrider fans getting all whooped up. It was an exhibition game that afternoon. I can only imagine what it would be like during the regular season.
During the conference, I enjoyed a visit to the RCMP headquarters and was also pleased to see how the former train station had been transformed into the casino.
In August, we had a chance to visit Richmond, B.C., where I attended college. Seattle, Washington was new to me and Parksville, B.C., which is one of our favourite vacation destinations of all time.
Not far away is Englishman River Falls ↼a fabulous provincial campground where we stayed several days on our last trip to Vancouver Island, 23 years ago. This was far too long an absence, particularly, for people who had once talked about retiring to Vancouver Island.
We delighted in taking photos along the river and the many other spots for photo ops within the park ⇀only this time, they were all digital images, on Joyce’s camera and my Blackberry.
Next June, the Canadian Public Relations Society Conference is in Saint John, New Brunswick.
That will be my first foray into the East Coast.
My brother-in-law, Dave, has taught at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton for many years and yet we never made it there while living in Ontario for 20 years. We will make it there faster by living in Alberta!
We plan to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary while there.
When I reflect on these travels, I can’t help be struck by how different people view the country. Many will wonder how others would find themselves staying in places like Yellowknife, Whitehorse, Grande Prairie and other communities away from the bright lights and action.
The fact is, though, home is where you hang your hat. What attracts residents of Yellowknife may not appeal to those in Edmonton. Some will be content in Alberta’s capital city but not in Toronto.
I am eager to continue exploring my homeland. It really does have something for everyone. Should you be looking in from another country, come see what I mean.
If you are in Canada, join me in celebrating what we have!
August 24, 2010 § 3 Comments
So, I turn 50 on Saturday. Yes, a half-century old. The Big Five-Oh.
While this blog focuses on motivation and inspiration, you won’t find me using phrases like, “you are only as old as you feel” or “age is only a number.”
In fact, I’ve never had any strong feelings about reaching any significant age. This year is no different.
However, a colleague gave me pause for thought the other day. She remarked, “We are getting older, David.”
There is no doubt we are. But any reflection I do on the subject revolves around realizing that I continue to grow as a person and as a professional. I learn about myself and the world around me every day.
I aspire to the phrase that when you stop learning, you stop living.
Certainly the signs of advancing age are there – less hair and what I have left has streaks of what I refer to as “Arctic blond” otherwise known as grey.
I can’t do some of the physical things I used to do as well or with as much stamina – the onset of Type 2 diabetes has had a noticeable effect on my eyesight and is likely responsible for the degenerative discs in my neck.
And because I take medicine for diabetes, I don’t drink alcohol. So, if I want to party hardy, I won’t do it by consuming booze.
However, I am content that virtually all the things I have ever really liked to do, I can still enjoy wholeheartedly.
I remain an avid sports fan. I still like to crank up the tunes – and I have yet to reach the stage where I need to. Live theatre is a great interest and being in the great outdoors is an enjoyable daily occurrence with my wife and Jasper, our dog. I still relish hiking and tent camping.
I continue to maintain the motto: Never grow up. Just age gracefully.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of fostering great friendships.
I’ll be marking The Big Day with Joyce by visiting some of them – the family I celebrated with while boarding at their home 30 years ago when I was attending college in Richmond, B.C.
Friendships can also occur with anyone of any age and background. It’s really a matter of connecting with people who are meaningful and enhance your life. It’s not just who you connect with but how.
For example, my blog mate, Wendy, has become a close friend since we met at a conference in May 2009. Soon after, we realized we had much in common and decided to create this blog to develop content for inspirational and motivational book(s) and collaborate on other projects.
Wendy is 28 and I am old enough to be her parent yet we can readily finish each other’s sentences and routinely one of us says something that sparks ideas for the other. We often enjoy long conversations via Skype between Grande Prairie and Calgary.
She has remarked that I am her 20 years from now.
It would be a great loss if either one of us had put up barriers to this connection.
I’ve been inspired by other younger people lately.
The City of Grande Prairie’s Economic Development Officer, Brian Glavin, just turned 25. He has the wisdom and poise of someone much older. This makes him a joy to work with and talk to on any subject.
Brian is bound to be a leader in our organization for many years to come and will have a great impact on his community or in any venture he takes on.
Then there’s Mary Leong who I had the occasion to speak with a few times this summer through her internship in Grande Prairie helping youth seek employment.
Mary, who grew up in Singapore and has been in Canada just five years, will go as far as her ambition takes her. I was immediately taken by her enthusiasm and wide array of interests.
She’s studying political science and psychology at the University of British Columbia. Her future will see her doing either research on how technology shapes cognition and its subsequent effects on political behaviour or something in foreign relations. Perhaps she will be an ambassador or a diplomat. Who knows, maybe she will be Prime Minister.
Mary has already accomplished much in her short life. I look forward to keeping tabs of what are sure to be many success stories authored by her in the future.
At the other end of the spectrum is my mother-in-law, Mary Black, who turned 87 in April. Visits with her bless you with her peacefulness and sense of simplicity. Plus, there is probably not a kinder, gentler, classier person in the world.
So, what is in an age? It’s up to you!
July 6, 2010 § 1 Comment
My wife and I were visiting my Mother-in-Law and other family in Ripley, Ontario last week when I heard a thought-provoking statement that jolted me out of my seat.
They were busy sorting through some genealogical documents when Joyce’s mother came across a photo of her late brother. Gordon Berry McGuire died 66 years ago this month in World War II.
She paused and remarked, “We never learn, do we?”
Indeed, it seems the world has not progressed a lot from what one would have hoped could have ended global conflicts.
There’s been virtually ongoing unrest around the world in the interim. This has ranged from religious-based upheaval in Northern Ireland to larger scale fighting involving several nations such as the Gulf War.
Gunner McGuire, a member of the Royal Canadian Artillery, died in action on July 11, 1944 and is buried in the Canadian War Cemetery in Beny-Sur-Mer, France. He was 25.
Mickey, as he was known to his troop mates, inadvertently picked up an activated grenade, left behind by the retreating Germans. Sounds very similar to the roadside bomb casualties we hear from the ongoing Afghan war.
At times like this, I hear the words of John Forgerty’s song Deja Vu (All Over Again), produced in 2004, comparing the Iraq War with Viet Nam, chiming through my ears.
Joyce’s Uncle Gordon is laid to rest in a graveyard with more than 2,000 other fallen soldiers from Canada and other Allied countries.
He is among about 200 men who perished in World War II from Huron County alone.
In June, Canada passed the 150-mark in losses in the Afghan War. We are supposed to be withdrawing in 2011, although I suspect our military involvement will continue beyond next year. Our pullout can’t come soon enough for me.
Our role in rebuilding the war-stricken country gets lost on what seems to be almost daily news that more of our soldiers have been killed.
The most heart-wrenching stories are those where we hear the soldier is just days away from returning home from a tour of duty. They are a husband, wife, son, daughter, mother, father, or brother or sister.
For a country with a relatively small population, Canada has a glorious war history, particularly for courage in specific significant battles and for our significant participation in freeing Paris and Holland in World War II. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy.
The Dutch remember Canada fondly to this day for our soldiers’ role in returning their country to them.
In the Second World War, Canada joined forces with the Allies to defeat the Nazis. We would also take engage in the Korean War. Canada participated in the first Gulf War but declined to in the second.
Since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, there is reason to suggest the Nazis and the Axis Allied countries might have attempted some kind of global domination if they’d been successful in their advances.
It’s always difficult to determine how and when Canada should be involved in conflict on the world basis since only once has our own country ever been under attack.
In the War of 1812-1814, combined forces of British and colonial Canadian residents and Native Canadians defeated intruding Americans.
Now, Canada is viewed as a world leader 143 years after confederation.
I am not here to point fingers as to who is right or wrong in disputes in other lands. Factions in those nations believe in the rightness of their respective positions.
Their arguments don’t make sense to me – but then I was brought up to value life, my own and the lives of other people. I can feature risking my life to save a loved one. It would never occur to me to list Suicide Bomber on my business card.
It still galls me when Canada enters these frays and loses lives when they are not defending our borders. I support our troops and understand that Canada is a world leader. But there is also no guaranteed end to our involvement in Afghanistan and I would not like being the one telling a family they have lost a loved one.
While our government makes decisions on what battles to engage in on the world stage, would it be right for another country to attack us because it disputed something we are doing?
What is the impact of deciding not to enter certain conflicts? We came out looking good by not joining in the Second Gulf War. Some question what the difference is between the war in Iraq and that in Afghanistan.
I am more concerned with the bigger picture – the prospect of a larger threat.
That is because Mary Black is correct. The world never seems to learn.
John Fogerty had it right, too – Deja Vu (All Over Again).