Sunday, April 25, 2010

Exhaustion

Just thought to post this in case anyone was checking in (if so, thank you!).  I have a lot to blog about regarding the last week, however I have been so exhausted that I just couldn't spare the time I needed for sleep and homework to get in on it.  Same old story...life gets in the way.
Well, as I draw new inspiration from my own posts and endeavour to continue growing as a writer again I will be back very soon (likely tomorrow)...so stay tuned.
Just to tease you...I am now officially a TESOL Certified ESL Teacher.  The journey to get here has been filled with some ups and downs, and I'm not sure yet where it's going to take me...but I'm opening myself up to possibilities.  There are various considerations that are incredibly important to deal with and it is my priority to focus on those first...but that will take time.  I will share with you what I can...again...tomorrow.
Goodnight!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Conference (Day Three)

A light mist of rain was falling as I arrived at the Delta for the final day of the conference...just in time for the Evaluation Contest.  Unfortunatly, I was again running a tad late, so did not get a chance to watch the Target Speaker but I did get to see most of the evaluations themselves.
I was very impressed once again with the calibre of each and every contestant.  Each had their own method to provide a nicely balanced evaluation and I learned quite a bit from each one.  Of course, only three could walk away the winners, and those were:

1st place... Harry Ansara
2nd place... Katherine McLean
3rd place... Julie Boyer

Wonderful job all.

Brunch was again provided and then we reached the pinnacle of the convention.  Mark Hunter took the stage and completely blew me away with each of the speeches he gave (yes, he did more than one) along with an amazing gift of information to each and everyone in attendance on how he worked towards being the 2009 World Champion of speaking.  Mark had a wonderfully relaxed and pleasant personality, and took the time to chat with anyone who took the time to approach him.  This is the kind of individual you want representing the organization as a Champion, and I am honoured to have met him.

Suddenly, that was it.  Shortly afterwards, the conference was officially wrapped.  I took the time to walk around to see if there was anybody else that I should speak to.  In particular, I discussed some Web 2.0 and podcasting ideas with the new District Public Relations Officer Katie Chida.  Plenty of fun stuff to do ahead.

So, looking back, what did I take away from the conference.  For me personally, number one was a lot of ideas and inspiration.  But in addition to this it was wonderful to meet so many other people from so many different backgrounds that share two common elements - a love of speaking and a desire to help other people achieve their goals.  I'm in good company.

The Fall Conference will be held in November.  As long as I am physically able to (geographically that is) I would not hesitate on going, and I recommend to each and every Toastmaster in District 86 that if you have been sitting on the fence about investing in these conferences, get off it and buy your tickets.  It's well worth it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Conference (Day Two)

*** Note...my wife heckled me a bit for writing a fairly dry entry yesterday...my apologies for that. I had little time to write it so just went for the quick facts.  I will endeavour to do better this time around...but be prepared, it'll be a long one.

Now on with the story. ***

As to my presence at the conference itself, Saturday did not start well.  As I mentioned previously, to save some coin I stayed at my friends down the road from the convention.  Well, being nice people that they are, after a late night of chatting away they let me sleep in.  Problem was, I didn't WANT to sleep in...I wanted to get there as early as possible so that I could grab a coffee, maybe do some writing and hopefully chat with some of the other possible early risers.
As soon as I realized what time it was (already 7:40am, only 20 minutes before opening ceremonies), I made a mad scramble to get myself showered and ready to head out the door.  But then I realized I was starving, so stopped to grab myself some breakfast.  This turns out to have been a mistake.  I missed seeing such events as the Parade of Banners, the general introductions of the district executive and especially missed seeing Hazel McCallion, the Mayor of the City of Mississauga give a speech.  I was fortunate enough to catch most of the morning's Keynote Speech by Brian Brennan from the Towns of York club in Aurora so all wasn't a total loss.
Once that meeting was adjourned, it was the time  for workshops and some dilemnas to face.  Each block of time was shared by four workshops, so you had to pick and choose each time.  For myself, the first workshop I chose was by a gentleman named William Cassels who discussed how to Write unique speeches using music as a guide.  His was a truly inspirational story where he discussed how his major setback to providing good speeches was a dibilitating stutter he suffered from.  Through practice he discovered that if he wrote his speeches to music; concentrating on such things as the timing of the melody to the length of his lines of dialigue it provided him with a great ability to deliver his speeches in an impactful manner.  He gave many examples of the classical musical he used for his speeches, followed by using the same piece of music as he spoke.  In addition to this, he showed how as a fan of ballroom dancing he would use the same music to control how he used the stage with his movement and gestures.  To me it was a fantastic idea that I am thinking of trying for one of my future speeches.
My next workshop choice was by a younger lady named Erin Lau, who provided a great session on Leadership called Flexing Your Creativity.  It was very much a think outside of the box concept; how to see the world in a new way.  For her youth, she held the room extremely well and had us all go through exercises including using 2 pipe-cleaners to make something in one minute.  I formed mine into the shape of a mouse and when my immediate neighbour noticed this he took delight in my little bit of artwork and Kept It!  Not that I was too worried about it...I'm sure it would have ended up in garbage if I brought it home, but I never figured out why he did that.  Oh well, at least I inspired somebody with my little creature design.  Worst case scenario I know where his club is....I could also go pester him about it..{grin}.
Following lunch, I was talked into taking Judy Suke's seminar on From Free To Fees and I'm so glad I did.  Judy is a fantastic comedic speaker who has been speaking for corporate groups for several years now.  She gave plenty amount of information on how to properly market yourself as a professional speaker as well as tips on what kind of material is in high demand.  Plenty food for thought there....feft me quite psyched to get working on my own material as soon as possible (after I've finished blogging, of course).
Next, it was time for the District 86 speech competition.  These speakers are those that have won at their club level, their area level and their division levels...so I knew we were in for a treat.  Doubly exciting though is that a member of my own club, Annette Lavigne was one of the eight contestants.
All I can say following the contest was WOW.  I would not have wanted to be one of the judges, because all of these speeches were truly fantastic.  I had thought about discussing them here, but for the sake of timing I'll just cut to the chase.  The winners were:

3rd place...Annette Lavigne 
2nd place...Frederique Herei
1st place...Gregory C.N. Smith

So now in August, Gregory will have the opportunity to compete at the International level in California.  I wish him well, and will be watching the results from afar.

They had the business meeting next...but I honestly skived off from most of it to do some writing.  I did catch some of the elections though and got to know a few of the people who will be representing us as executive members.  Suzette Leeming, who has been my clubs Area Governer is now moving upwards, taking on the role of Division M governer.  I truly wish her all the best with that role.

To end the day, it was time for the District Governer's Ball.  It began with a spectacular dinner finished off with one of the best pieces of chocolate cake I've ever had.  We had a dynamic range of conversations at our table, ranging from my background in theatre to a spirited discussion of Ayn Rand, where Suzette and I kind of tag-teamed our individual knowledge of her works for the rest of our captive audience.

But then sadly, I realized that it was getting close to 10:30, and that I had once again broken my promise to Joe and Chi for when I'd get to their place.  So, just as the first dancers took to the floor in their finest duds, I bid adieu to many of my new friends and the conference for the night.  I did feel bad about doing so, part of me wanted to stay.  Lessons learned...but I'll discuss that in part three.

Look forward to my information on that and much much more coming soon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Conference (Day One)

I have had the honour of attending my first Toastmasters convention for the District 86 area in Missisauga and what a joy it's been, Meeting and socializing with so much talent has been an incredible inspiration and it leads me to work in a more productive manner.


I arrived Friday evening at the Delta Meadowvale just as the First Timer's meeting was about to start. Now, for those of you who are not members of Toastmasters, this particular meeting is just what it sounds like - for people who are attending their first conference. I have no issues speaking these days, however I am occasionally still a tad shy on meeting new people unless there is a specific purpose behind it. So this meeting is perfect for people such as myself; it provides the opportunity to break the ice. As a matter of fact, they FORCE you to meet new people...they provided us with a little book and we had to go around and swap information such as our biggest similarities and differences.

I found myself in my element, talking about my best topic...ME, and people seemed to be very interested in my theatrical background. Seems like people with my kind of background are in high demand (filing that fact away with big bold stickers on it for future reference) as I have already have what many of the people there don't already have - confidence on the stage.

Then we were honoured to meet with the conferences Keynote Speaker Mark Hunter (2009 World Champion Speaker) who gave us a very rousing speech about his origins as a speaker in Australia. We were introduced to many current and past members of the executive council and were given a good pep talk as to why our contributions to the organization in general was a needed and cherished thing.

Following this meeting the Mardi Gras themed official meet and greet started, and I regretted instantly that I did no go with my first instinct to wear my Hawaiian shirt and beads to the convention. The organizers dressed up in their finest wigs (that's a joke folks, they were clown wigs) and the most outrageous feathered masks I've seen this side of a pantomime. No, I went with a more modest jeans and nice shirt ensemble. However I soon realized I was on par with a good majority of the attendies (at least a couple hundred) so felt a little less guilty for not playing along. It was a good time in general. They had us play a game where we each received one coin and if we had somebody else introduce themselves to us we had to give it up. Of course, the opposite is also true so you have the opportunity to make a good amount of coin yourself (sadly plastic). I lost mine within seconds, and everybody I introduced myself to had already lost their coins. Never did find out who was hoarding them all. I hung around with my groups area governer Suzette, and another member from my club Kathleen but also had the chance to meet a lot of great people there from all walks of life.

Then we had a magician come on stage to entertain us. The Great Gerard did a fairly good yet short performance of slight of hand involving plenty of audience participation. Following this we were introduced to a stage hypnotist, Paul Anthony, who gave a commanding performance. One of the exercises he had us do was interlock our hands, place our index fingers together in a point and raise them above our heads...and keep them there. I ended up on stage with about three dozen other suckers people and was in agony by the time he allowed us to release them. This is likely one of the reasons I was not able to completely find myself in a relaxed state for hypnosis...my shoulders were killing me. Soon enough, it was obvious to him that myself and a couple dozen others weren't good hypnotic material so he let us go back to our seats...but another eight remained in what appeared to be sleep or at least a very dormant state. He had some fun with them, and apparently the rest of the show went well. I had to run out before the show ended though as I had promised my friends Joe and Chi that I would be at their place to crash for the night just after 9, and it was already 10pm (oops!). Definately looking forward to tomorrows session (workshops and speech competition, yay!), and will write about that in a separate post.

Cheers!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Conversion

I've had a habit in the past of taking on certain projects and never quite getting them completed.  Usually this has been due to poor time scheduling on my part...I've had a somewhat unrealistic vision of how much time I have available.
Well, as I'm not currently inundated with work, I've been slowly getting a lot of old projects off of my plate...and I decided very recently to tackle one of the most complicated ones.
About five years ago, my grandfather handed me a box of old 8mm and Super-8mm films, ranging from the 1950's to the 1970's with the idea that I would convert them to DVD.  Well, I started off the idea with gusto...sourcing out a projector and everything and was ready to start.  Then life got in the way as it tends to do.  Kids, Job, etc;  I put the project on hold.  The projector went back to its owner and the box was put away and somewhat forgotten other than for taking up some space in my office closet. 
Well, it was time to get rid of it.  Sure, I could have easily just taken all these reels to a company that specializes in film conversion (and Melanie was initally pretty set on me doing just that), but that didn't seem right.  The way I feel about it is that it was my project...I committed to it, I needed to complete it....and in doing so I would feel much better about my future committments.
So, I drove down with the kids to the Bathurst and St.Clair area in Toronto, and picked this projector up.  I get it home, and prepare to practice running films through it, only to find we had no take-up (empty) reels to feed the film to.  I knew we HAD some before...but it's possible they've long since been boxed away/thrown out and I needed to find more.
Melanie was the one to pick up the phone and found a source in Newmarket...so I popped by and picked up an old Bell & Howell Take-up reel from a film conversion specialist for $10.  Unfortunately, it was not compatible with this projector.  So, I returned it and began looking for another one.
Today, luck happened.  The same guy called me up and said he had found an old plastic one that he didn't need, and would give it to me for free.  Back I go to Newmarket, and this evening I decided to give it a first test spin.
To be honest with you, I really didn't know if this was going to work with my DV Camera.  It's a mid-level camera...a JVC D-750U, and it was very possible that it would not be compatible with recording film.  Film to DVD conversion is a tricky thing due to the frame rate of the projection.  What may look good to our eyes often comes across as a jumble of flickers to the camera.
Sure enough, my first test run looked like hell.  But then I played around with the shutter-speed in the manual settings of the camera and found that setting it at 1/60 shutter fixed a lot of the issues.  It won't likely look perfect, but at least the footage will remain intact.
I now need to set up a system to handle perspective.  It's no good running a projector at one angle while having the camera at a different one because the framing will look strange.  So, I will play around with that after this weekend (I'm away at a Toastmasters Convention) and will hopefully get all these films completed next week.  I'll post some sample footage when I'm done.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Nickname

So my old friend Adam has asked where the name of the blog comes from.  Well, to be honest it happened rather suddenly, though a couple years after I registered the domain name.  It just took a friend of mine to bring the pieces together for me.
Almost a decade ago, I began experimenting with digital artistry and was so proud of what I was producing that I began going to art shows and tried selling my work...marketing myself as a serious artist.  Since Acting was my first love I was inspired to use that in the domain name alongside my newly acquired skill - I had no other motive at the time.  So, http://www.actingart.com/ was born.
Well, though I still dabble in art from time to time I stopped marketing myself as that kind of artist a few years ago.  As a matter of fact I at one point in the blogosphere mentioned that I didn't consider myself an artist, and my friend Diane popped up and drove a gamechanging comment home to me.  She said that I was too an artist...and it was Acting that was my Art.
After only a couple days, I was inspired to begin using the nickname the Acting Artist, totally loving the fact that the nickname has two completely different meanings.  One is the person who Acts for Artistry, the other who Pretends to be an Artist.  I'm leaving the choice of which they feel I am in the hands of my audience.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Circular

I've been reading back into my older posts both here on blogger and on my old blurty account and see plenty of areas where I discussed my life and beliefs.  Well, as I get a little older, plenty of my perspectives have changed.  To show a sample of where I'm at now, I just thought to post an edited version of my Toastmasters Icebreaker speech that I gave many months ago.  It's not my best writing  and doesn't go into a lot of detail, but remember this had to be a seven minute speech.
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Everybody has a different method to describe not only their own life, but of living itself. Some see life as a great quest to find fulfillment, whether that be spiritual, financial or intellectual. Others find life to be a big party…do as much as you can as fast as possible, and hope you don’t get caught. Some people travel the world in search of new adventures. Others never go further than the limits of their own towns. My own life I see as a Path of Adventure….I’ve had some wonderful experiences and some major setbacks. With each new event that occurs, my perspective in life has changed, not only to reconsider where I’m going, but to see in new light where I’ve been. I wish to share a few of these events with you…especially to show an interestingly circular route I took to get to be where I am today.


As a child, I didn’t really fit in with my peers. I was extremely emotional, and as I was easily provoked I was a target for bullies. But beyond that, I found that I didn’t like the regular classroom routine. My preference was in reading, which I gained a voracious appetite for. This of course, was just another area for the kids to identify where I was different than they were, as I didn’t follow the stereotype rules they thought I should follow. I remember being teased for reading the sequel to Mary Poppins, as that was such a “girl” book to read…it didn’t matter to me though. Reading was a sanctuary to me.

School’s at the time weren’t setup to accept this way of thinking. Bullying was a standard practice that was largely accepted by school administration…so going to school in Kleinburg I often snook off school property during recess to visit the library. It was a safe zone. I didn’t get in trouble as much as you’d think for this…I think the yard supervisors looked the other way as often as they could.

Eventually I used up my “Get out of jail free cards”. But then something else interesting happened. I was provided an opportunity to become a “tester” for the school computers. Other than for a video games system and a cousin’s Atari, I had no experience with one…but I took to it immediately. Soon it became a second obsession along. Now, this had a good and a bad side to it. One, it improved my grades…I had terrible handwriting and the teachers could stop guessing whether an assignment came from me or their family doctor. However I was now teased for being a computer geek, so there was to be no climbing any social ladders at this time.

As I matured and reached highschool age, my reading material changed with it. I was now reading some more advanced stuff, much of which had major philosophical or psychological tones. New concepts appeared on the horizon, and I wanted to find new ways to fit in…though couldn’t grasp the methods to do so.

What did I do? I dropped computers and found a new sanctuary in Theatre. Here was a new class of people who showed a different respect than I had ever seen. I had to work to earn it, but for once in my school life, I actually was rewarded for my efforts, and found a level of acceptance I had rarely seen. I was praised for my work, and actual considered auditioning for the National School of Canada. But I had a few setbacks that changed my direction. The largest was a discussion with a respected director at the Terragon Theatre in Toronto. I was doing a workshop there and she told us that to go into theatre for a living you have to take an “Oath of Poverty”. I was 17, with delusions of grandeur…that didn’t sound fun to me.

I took Radio and Television Broadcasting instead, but left before my first year was through due to conflicts with the curriculum. But the time wasn’t wasted. I gained two major focuses - More of my time was spent on a renewed and refocused interest in computers. The other, inspired by a friend and classmate of mine was poetry.  I ended up running a BBS (Bulletin Board System) in Scarborough called Counterparts which specialized in Poetry and while working for Canada's Wonderland as a roller-coaster operator would find myself writing new stanzas while waiting for each coaster to re-enter the station. 

My time as a BBS Operator ended up being the main reason why I ended up working for a computer store.  While in Scarborough, it was where I spent all of my energy...I would often work opening to close shifts, and absorbed everything I could.  I mastered graphic design, PC Administration and many software applications during my stint there.  But then I ended up moving up to Newmarket to work at the store there, and found myself re-united with my old community theatre group.  This I threw my entire energy into....in many ways detrimental to my job. I ended up losing that job because my heart just wasn't into it anymore. 

I continued to do work elsewhere, consulting with a different store for awhile, then doing some work for an employment agency...but it didn't feel like I was going anywhere...there was no challenge  Then the next big change happened.  My theatre connections ended up providing me a big break back into the computer world.

I good friend and fellow actor referred me to his boss who was looking for an entry-level analyst.  I landed that gig, and within a couple years had found myself mastering programming techniques.  But something was still stagnating...and I thought at the time that it was my locale.  I regretted not exploring more opportunities earlier, so I began looking for opportunities to work afar, like Bermuda and Boston. Since they weren’t panning out I jumped at a chance to work in Cambridge.  Sure it wasn't THAT far away, but it was something new.

That ended up not working out.  I didn’t find a good fit with the contract in Cambridge...and due to Nortel doing a big tank there were no other good jobs in that area to jump to.  So, after less than a year I found a new job back in Newmarket, and looked to move back. Friends set me up to share a townhouse in Aurora with a mutual friend. That friend would eventually become my girlfriend, and after 3 years, my wife.

This path I’m on has not been an easy one all the time…but what makes it a worthy journey is to see how I not only persevered but am growing as a person, a husband, a father each time one of these circular events happen.  I want to be able to make a worthwhile impact in this life on my own terms without having to sacrifice an adventurous spirit.

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Funny enough...the circular thing keeps happening with me.  Arts to Tech and back again.  Teaching ESL after a long stint as a programmer would certainly fit that pattern.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Endeavor

I attended an information session for Global TESOL on a Monday evening in late March, equipped with a lot of questions.  As I stated before, Melanie was accepting enough that I should at least find out more information before we ignored the opportunity.
The facilitator and instructor, Jim, was a very pleasant gentleman who really put myself and the other twenty or so attendies of the meeting at ease.  I was preparing myself for a hard-sell situation that normally occurs in these kinds of meetings, but really didn't get that vibe.  Jim laid out all the facts for us.  Global TESOL has been around since 1994, is classified by the government of Canada as an official school, and will assist all graduates with placements in the country of their choice - no matter what interval of time they wait before they are ready to make the big jump...whether that be a week or a couple years after graduation.  Most important fact told...there are jobs out there - and lots of them...it just really depends on what you consider a rewarding destination (Money vs Adventure).
When I asked the question about my family again (since I had not spoken to Jim at the convention), I noticed that everybody in the session swivelled to look at me.  Either they too had wondered if the chance to take a family along was a possibility, or they just thought I was crazy to even think of it.  Jim asked then if my wife would be interested in taking the course too.  (Immediate upsell bells went off of course...though he seemed to sense this).  He then explained something that made total sense.  It is normally the employers responsibility to pay for your accomadations, so for them to get more than one person into the same place is actually a cost savings.  Sure they'd need to acquire a larger place for a family, but the cost would still be less than 2x an apartment, right?  Also, this would assist us with the possible (yet almost guaranteed) issue of homesickness.  If you have your family with you, you have a better chance of dealing with it.
The session went fantastic, and I only had to ask one more of my questions....the answers to the rest were pretty much either presented upfront or asked by somebody else there.
They are not promising the world.  I'd be worried if they did.  They however, have provided the information that everything is NEGOTIABLE.  You want something really bad...you just ask.  They will help you get through it.
So, I went home with all this buzzing in my head, and was honestly quite excited about it when I got home.  I spoke to Melanie about it, and though she was immediately hesitant about the idea of travelling to places like China (she's more of a Costa Rica kind of girl) allowed me to continue talking.
We read through everything...did some research online.  Found no mention of scams by the school or through the TESOL organization in general.
So...I registered to take the class this month...and here's the kicker.  So has Melanie.  She is not really convinced herself about teaching, though I think she's selling herself short there.  I'm sure many of the friends who confide in her would consider her a great teacher.  And she sure is an authoritarian (guaranteed I'll get a slap for that..see?).
So, I guess the big question is...why would we do this?  Where does the idea come around to pack up my family and go to a strange place?
Several factors enter into this.  For me, it started with our trip to Germany three years ago.  It was the first time I had ever thought about living somewhere else than Canada.  Then Hawaii happened.  Not only did Hawaii provide me with new perspective to how I lived my life (guess I should write about that...though I've spoken about it at Toastmasters a lot..promise a new blog on that within a week), but I was dead serious when I said I would stay there indefinately if I could.  My spirit of adventure soars when I'm abroad or taking long road trips.  But I couldn't do it without Melanie and the boys, so it's always been my hope that it would be endorsed.
Another big factor is that we are fortunate to not be crazy in debt.  In fact, other than for our mortgage...we have no real debt at all.  Our house is designed to be a rental unit, so between our current tenant downstairs and leasing out the upper half, we would maintain our current financial condition.  That is such a liberating feeling.
Well, before I start packing, I need to complete step one...the course, so don't start sending us bon voyage notes yet.  It starts in a couple weeks, and I am truly looking forward to it.  Melanie is taking 1/2 of it online due to work obligations, so we will be going over the coursework together.
I'll likely expand upon some of my thoughts over the next while.  I need to get working on my next speech, which has a direct tie-in....I'll let you know what that is soon.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Adaptation

For the first time in almost ten years, I've been forced to deal with employment issues...and a bit of an existential crisis. I have recently left RBC, and have found to my initial dismay that the career specialization I have fostered for years now is not in huge demand right now. Technology I have yet to master has begun to replace it, and I am faced with the choice of focusing my energies on upgrading those specific skills, or looking to do something completely different. 
Interesting enough, I have already been on a path to do something different. For years, I focused an equal if not more amount of my time to theatre, improvisation and writing as I did to programming. More recently, I migrated these skills into public speaking through Toastmasters...and I found something I truly loved to do. I formulated a plan...I wanted to be a professional public speaker in five years time.
The reason for the duration was simple...I didn't yet know exactly WHAT my niche market would be. I'm a fairly good speaker and I come up with material fairly easily, but I'm a bit of a procrastinator when it comes to business marketing so I figured I would take the time to work on that slowly while I continued as a programmer.
An option I had never thought of came out of the blue, and I decided to jump at it. For a long time now, I have been told by many people that they thought I would make a good teacher. So, during a visit to an employment fair in Toronto I came across a booth for a company called Global TESOL. They train people to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) for the local and the International market. Well, I was initially looking for career trends, not training so I moved on.
Following a lunch with some of my former colleagues, I returned to the fair and once again found myself outside of that same booth.
I listened patiently while another prospective student was asking questions and was interested in what I heard, so I myself asked them a few questions. Mainly, is this only for the bachelors of the world, or can those with families do it too. The answer was interestingly in the positive. So, I took their information and decided to chat with my dear wife about it, figuring she would just tell me to toss it into the bin labeled "Too Good To Be True".
Melanie surprised me that night. She looked over the literature with me, and told me to go ahead and meet with them about it. So, I did...and that meeting may have just been the catalyst to drive myself and my family into a whole new adventure.

More on this tomorrow.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Play

I'm alone with the boys until next Thursday while Melanie helps her sister out in Minnesota.  This can be a bit daunting...however I think I've held up ok.  At the least the house isn't completely trashed, so that's a good sign.
This evening, while I was enjoying a quick bite, Nathaniel invites me to join him and his brother in their room.  I finished up the last few Nachos and went to investigate what was up.
Nathaniel stated that he wanted to talk to me.  I think for most parents to hear their child say this could instill a moment of fear...but he's four years old, what would he have to say?
I sit down on his bed, and in a moment he turns into a complete facilitator.  He wants us to play some guessing games...each taking turns making animal sounds and guessing what they are.  Well, I thought he was just awesome for how he approached it, so I joined him in his game.

Sounds easy, right?
Well, for me it's not so easy.  For all the years of experience I have in theatre, and the ability to work with kids, I have a mental block for finding enjoyment in simple playtime.  I've not been that great at getting down on the floor with my own kids and just let my imagination go wild.  Some guilt has been shed for this on my part...I just have difficulty sometimes getting into that Play mode.
As a child, I was vividly imaginative.  I never seemed able to get bored...and my sense of play was intense.  I could create entire worlds in my bedroom and keep myself occupied for hours on end.  Didn't matter if it was Hot Wheels, Legos, even Lightbright...I could make the most of any toy.
As my parents marriage dissolved around me at the end of my first decade, I desperately began to cling to the idea that I could understand everything that was happening.  I thinks I held onto this belief too much; that I forced myself into a version of adulthood that was far too soon for my own good.  I preferred the company of computers and records to most people...and toys became a thing of the past.
As I semi-pulled myself out of that shell through my forays into theatre, I still didn't really know how to play anymore...how to just throw myself into that world that I used to know.  I didn't even see a benefit to doing so.
Who knew that it would be my own son who would provide me with such a simple lesson.  That simple play can be a massive stress reliever.  That hearing the hiccuping giggle of your four year can make you feel so wonderful inside...especially knowing you were the one making him laugh.
I am truly blessed to have such a smart kid.

Monday, March 01, 2010

OK, I think I might just be a bit of a hypocrite...but only a bit.
During a recent table-topics speech at a Toastmasters club I was guesting at I was asked to discuss whether or not I would be upset if the Canadian Men's Hockey team at the Vancouver Olympics did not win the Gold Medal. In the two minute impromptu speech I responded with, I stated that I would not be upset. To me, as long as the team performed with dignity and sportsmanship should have been enough.
There were two specific factors to my thought pattern within that speech. One is that I'm not really a hockey guy. It just was never the sport that echoed with me on the spiritual level that it does for so many of my peers. The second factor, and perhaps even more so important was that I was honestly tired of people, including many aspects of the media, of attacking our athletes for the smallest issues. So much pressure and focus was being driven at them to aim for the gold and that alone. No other choice seemed to be good enough.
Really, to me the Olympics was about bringing all the nations together in a friendly competition. Though I won't pretend for a moment that this is everybody's initial view of the event I think they should at least take the concept into consideration. Canada as a nation prides itself on tolerance and diversity; being the "Peacekeepers", but there were times when I felt shame that we were taking an almost militant stand against our own athletes. "Succeed or we'll feel shame for you". I really hated that.
These athletes and their families have stories of sacrifice that would shock and awe so many people. People are not born Olympians...they are built through a tremendous amount of time and practice. I respect that, and I wish people would do more of the same.
So, how am I a hypocrite? Well, on Sunday afternoon I will admit that I sat with the rest of the family during my own birthday celebration to watch the gold medal game. When USA drove in their last minute tie-breaker goal in the dying seconds of the third period I could feel my heart sink. I truly understood better than ever the passion for the game that is held. I had been caught up in the passion, and hell yeah I would have been upset if we had lost.
The tension in the air during overtime was an almost electric feel as the hearts of everybody beat as one for their hockey team to succeed. Now, as we all now know...we did succeed. Canada got their gold medal in hockey...one of fourteen gold medals as a matter of fact. Pride in our game continued unabated, much celebrating around the country began to partake and I could have easily pretended to show indifference.
I can't though. I DO have that much more pride for them having one the gold. But at the same time, I have no disrepect for any of the other teams who came out here and gave it their best. They, like every other athlete in the eighty-six events that took place are worthy of our respect.