Wednesday, November 12, 2014


     This past year has been very busy for me and consequently, I have not posted for a very long time. A year ago, my mother began to fail in her health. She lived nearby so I was able to help out. Things progressed from bad to worse until, in July of 2014, Mom passed out of this life into the next. Since Mom's passing, I have been trying to get her estate closed. My wife and sisters have been helpful, and I appreciate the lifted load. With my many hours of work for the past several months, progress has been slow, but now that the snow has flown and the cold bitten us here in Alberta, I now have more time to catch up on all the non eat/sleep/work things.
     My mother was a complex person who loved life and its adventures.
Age 19

Age 81
She fought cancer several times and won. She had both knees replaced and had bone strength problems. Six years ago, she fell in my garden and broke her neck - while no one was around. After praying for help from God, whom she knew well, she pulled herself up on my apple tree and walked out to her car. Sitting in the front seat of the car and supporting her broken neck with one hand, she flagged down a friend and he drove her to the hospital. She wore a halo for three months. The broken neck caused her to miss our family reunion that year, but once the ordeal was over, she re-certified her license and drove her car again. Ultimately, old age took her.
     In her life, she raised six children and after loosing my father to death, spent many happy years with a fine man (who even asked me for my mother's hand in marriage). Mom loved three main things: Serving others, doing family history / genealogical research and writing her life's history. When she was young, she won a singing contest (like American Idol) and got to make her own record as a prize. She enjoyed singing all of her life and inspired me to work at creating pleasant sounds too. Mom also loved to garden and when we lived on the lighthouse, she worked very hard to get our crops to grow and not drown from all our rainfall. (180 inches a year is a bit much for most plants) When I was a boy and would ride my bike in a less than 150 foot loop around our tiny island, I would snatch a sprig or two of parsley as it stuck out the open front of the greenhouse on my way by. Even now, I like to eat parsley Au-natural - and my wife still gives me the look as I munch down on my restaurant garnish to complete my meal. "What?" I always say. "Parsley is good."
     It's been about three and a half months since Mom died and I miss her. I still miss my Dad too, but I live with the knowledge that Mom's spirit body lives on and that she has now joined my father in their next adventures together. One day, hopefully not that soon, it will be my turn to pass though the veil of death and join the billions of spirits who have gone before me, but for now, I yet live and can yet hope to make a positive difference to this world that I love.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

How Does A Pornography Addiction Begin?

For many, life in our modern world is tough - for reasons that perhaps none of our distant ancestors never anticipated. I'm speaking of the rampant problem in our world with pornography. Collins English Dictionary defines pornography as
1. "writings, pictures, films, etc, designed to stimulate sexual excitement"
2 "the production of such material"
 My well used 1980 edition of Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary says that pornography is:
1. "the depiction of erotic behaviour (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement
2. "material (as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement.
(It's interesting - and a little disturbing to note that a more modern definition, by the Oxford Dictionary, claims pornography to be only "printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.")

This week, my Aunt forwarded a post to me that addressed the question, "How Does A Pornography Addiction Begin?" The author, Rick Thomas, discusses this issue in his article, "5 Sure-Fire Ways to Motivate Your Child to Use Pornography".
Here are the high points of his article: (Link to the entire article) (The following excerpts - from here to the end of this post, are all quotes by Rick Thomas.)

"Before I get into five sure-fire ways to motivate your child to use pornography, let me establish two important points. The first is no parent wants their child to become involved in pornography. We all can agree on this.

The problem for many of us is we do not understand the insidious allurement of pornography and how our behavior, though unintentional, can help shape a child to crave something which can lead him into a lifetime of slavery.

Pornography is first and foremost about the theater of the mind, where the young male can enter into his virtual world and be king for a day or in this case, king for a few minutes as he satiates his mind with the risk-free intrigue of the cyber conquest. Porn is a secret world all of the time. Porn resides in the heart. It is lust, which feeds itself while in the darkness of a person’s mind.

This makes what we do as parents all the more important because the mind of the child is not altogether discernible. The seeds of lust can be planted in the mind of a child many years before he is old enough to act out on what has been growing inside his heart.
It can take years for all these sinful events to transpire. In most cases the allurement and enticement of the porn addict began in the theater of his mind while he was a child. This has been a consistent pattern I have seen in counseling. You will see in my five sure-fire ways to motivate your child to use pornography how any child can be in porn training without the child or the parents knowing how he was wrongly shaped.

1. Non-Romantic Marriage

 Porn Training: Only certain kinds of women are porn-worthy.
The Christian home should be a sexual home. God said sex was good and His first couple were not ashamed about their unique sexualities. It was only when sin entered their world that people became giggly about sex and sexuality. One of the biggest unintended consequences of the non-romantic marriage is how it communicates certain people are not porn-worthy.

Before your mouth completely hits the floor, let me explain.
A major characteristic of the porn-trained mind is how some people are worthy to be lusted after and others are not worthy. There is no question about what kind of woman is porn-worthy. There is not a woman in America who does not know this, which is why many of them obsess over how they look, how much they weigh, what they wear, and the horror of growing old.

Though they would not say it the way I have stated it—as being porn-worthy—many of them want to be worthy of their husband’s attention. They want to be desired. While this is not all bad, it can be deadly, especially in a marriage where she is not desired. A husband who will not romantically pursue his wife is sending a message to his children about how she is not worthy of being pursued. She does not fit the criteria. She is not attractive enough to be pursued.

2. Instant gratification

Porn Training: Cyber women are downloadable and extinguishable.
The spoiled child who is given everything he wants is a perfect candidate for porn training.

When children run the home by easily persuading their parents to give them the desires of their heart, then there is nothing to stop the child from getting into porn if the opportunity arises. And the opportunity will arise.
  • The spoiled child gets what he wants when he wants it with no regard for right or wrong.
  • The porn addict gets what he wants when he wants it with no regard for right or wrong.
Instant gratification in a child breeds instant gratification in adults. 

3. Non-Communicative Couples

Porn Training: Married couples communicate less and less, a requirement for porn enjoyment.
One of the common complaints I hear from couples in marriage counseling is the couple’s lack of communication. They hardly talk to each other. If they do talk, it’s usually about family events, mutual transactions, and marital business.

This is a perfect setup for the porn trainee because viewing porn has nothing to do with verbal communication. Porn is about visually enjoying women in order to feed the mind. Who needs to talk? The heart of porn use is privatized self-centeredness.

 The children of non-communicative parents are trained in the de-valuing of words, but it’s more than this. It’s the devaluing of the opposite sex. A man who does not talk to his wife is sending a loud message—she is not worthy of his words.

Husbands, your children need to see the value you give your wife by giving her some of your best words throughout your day. I’m not talking about words which satisfy the family schedule or the financial budget. I’m talking about words which build up, cherish, nourish, and adore your wife. Show the value you place on the woman you married. Let her be exalted in the minds of your children.

4. No Consequences for Actions

Porn Training: Teaches a false confidence through a risk-free relationship.
Along with the spoiled child mentioned above, there is a parallel parental action to giving the kid whatever he desires. This is the parent who teaches little to no consequences for his actions. A child who does not have to pay for what he has done wrong will learn how to get away with anything.
This, too, is a major characteristic of a porn addiction. It gives the addict a false confidence in a risk-free virtual environment.

Children must have a comprehensive view of love, which means they must be appropriately disciplined when they do wrong. The spoiled child who suffers little consequences in life will have a low regard for rules and authority.

Porn has no rules and low risk. It doesn’t take much to enter the porn world. It’s not like robbing a bank, which makes porn’s allurement all the more appealing. A child who knows he can get away with things is easy prey for the tentacles of pornography.

5. Critical Community in the Home

Porn Training: Criticism and anger are the most common ways we devalue others.
Is your home a critical community? If you were to assess your home, would you determine there is more encouragement, praise, affirmation, and love or is there more frustration, impatience, criticalness, and self-centeredness?

The porn world is a refuge where people go to escape the realities of their lives. It’s a risk-free haven where the addict can be in control, while satisfying his weary mind. There is no place which will affect his mind more than what goes on in his home. Even the church cannot accomplish what the home can accomplish, good or bad.

If the home is not a refuge of encouragement, your child will be tempted to find refuge in other places. Porn is one of the easiest places for him to get lost in the moment. It gives him a satisfying power which he does not experience in his real world. He can go into his momentary addiction and seize the moment with no fear whatsoever of being condemned, judged, criticized, or disappointed.

Porn training does not happen by volition. It happens by default if the parents are not attuned to the kind of home they have created. Kids are responders and they will respond to what the parent is providing them. The question now becomes, what are we exporting to our children? We’re all exporting something.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Saving Mr. Banks" - Movie Review

Finally, a movie that can stand proud among the movie classics of any era! "Saving Mr. Banks" doesn't rely on sex scenes, violence, course and foul language or scantily clad actors or actresses to capture and hold interest - you know, the typical staples of most movies made today. No indeed - and it's about time! "Saving Mr. Banks" is a different kind of modern day movie. Why? Because it relies on a great story, great directing, great photography, great background settings and superb acting. (I've never seen better acting.)

I found "Saving Mr. Banks" to be a tender portrayal of a woman who's difficult young life ultimately impacted my own life as well as the lives of everyone I know. When P.L. Travers wrote the book, “Mary Poppins”, she changed her world - and as time passed, her book changed our world. Kudos to Walt Disney for his tireless work in taking “Mary Poppins" to the big screen in 1964. And my generous thanks to Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke and the rest of the fabulous cast and crew of the 1964 movie that lead us to the rest of the story in 2014 - "Saving Mr. Banks".

I know 5 stars is considered the best a movie can be rated, but this movie leaves other 5-star movies behind. "Saving Mr. Banks"deserves more than 5 stars and I hope you all get the chance to see it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Last night, my sweetheart Diana and I attended a Christmas party put on by our church. We potlucked soups of all kinds and the cuisine was awsome. I never counted, but there must have been at least 25 different kinds of soups and stews. Considering the outside ambient temperature was hovering around -26C, it was the perfect meal!
Following the excellent meal, and renewing of friendships, we broke up into groups of our choice and Diana and I attended an arm knitting, scarf making project. The scarves were to be donated to our local Harbour House (woman's shelter) so we were excited. After we untangled the yarn we followed our instructor and created some very nice and easy scarves. This morning, I searched on line and found a great tutorial video for any who might be interested in making a scarf for themselves or someone special. (Last night I would have taken a photo or two, but my arms were both busy.) Considering I already had some knowledge of how to make one of these arm knit scarves, I still found the video insightful. The woman in the video, Audra, uses a slightly different technique than I was taught, but I found her way to be simpler and I liked it better. (Being the lazy man I am, simpler is always better for me.)
Merry Christmas to all.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Christmas Music Is In The Air

I love the music of  Christmas, especially songs about the birth of Jesus Christ. Yesterday I was asked to sing a solo in our Christmas Sunday program on December 22nd. Now I just need a song. Several times in the past I have performed "Born Is The Light Of The World" by Sally DeFord, but I'm considering a fresh number. If any of you out there are also looking for a selection of great Christmas music that is free to print and use non-commercially, then look no further than Sally DeFord's site. I've heard many of her compositions and I think they're awesome. Many of her songs have accompanying MP3 clips that allow you to listen to professional sounding renditions. Nice! And the best part about Sally's website is that "free" means no money required and no back-door-malicious-software trying to sneak onto your computer while you browse her site. In our world where an agenda of greed is nearly everywhere, it is refreshing to find an exception - especially at Christmas time!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pluggin Along Day By Day

Dear Friends,
I hope you are all HHT - you know, happy, healthy and terrific! I'm doing great myself (although I really shouldn't brag). Life has its challenges for me too and those usually include needing more sleep than I want to allow myself to get. Oh well, some things I just have to live with! (Yawn) My to-do list certainly won't run out any time soon.
As for my writing, it takes a back seat to my job. I gotta pay the bills and eat a little now and then. I expect not may of you who are reading this blog are independently wealthy or have a massive monthly allowance from a rich inheritance to support you (or have recently won the lottery), so I think you all know how it is in the trenches of life. Trying to make the best of my current situation seems to work - at least if I get past the "trying" phase.
I think my favourite thing in life is my grandchildren, except they all live far away and I don't get to play or visit with them much. We do connect on SKYPE however, and that is great. My youngest of four grandchildren will require another year or so before he can talk to me on the phone, but the time will pass and soon the day will come for him too.
About my latest novel -  which some of you may be wondering about: I have been working on it, but not recently due to 50-60+ hour work weeks for the past several months plus some rather important volunteering that I do. And then there's the grass to mow and the garden and greenhouses to tend. (By the way, I picked my first ripe tomatoes last week and the green peppers have been on for about a month. Mmmm!) I did, however, break the 50,000 word barrier in my novel and it looks like I have about double that to go to reach the end. I hope soon to get back to my keyboard to add more life to the awesome story of the Treasure of El Grado Escaso. I am quite enjoying the creative process - as often as possible. This is the first novel I have created a full outline for before I began writing the details, so when I return to the manuscript after an extended period of time, I am able to pick up where I left off pretty easily. And I like that a lot! It caters to my limited options.
On another happy note, my sweetheart and I just celebrated our 31st wedding anniversary and yes, we're still newlyweds. I am grateful to be married to such an amazing woman! I feel most blessed and smiled upon! Indeed I am a lucky man!
Well, that's about all I have for now. I often sit in the air-ride seat of my semi-truck and think of posts I might do, but by the time I get home and eat supper, my creativity has already gone to bed without me. I promise to try to post more, but you'll know if that happens. In the mean time, be safe out there and try to do some nice thing for someone every day.
God bless you all,

Monday, March 12, 2012

Long Time

It's been a while since I posted on my blog. I am alive and well and living life to the fullest. I hope that all you who stop by to visit are doing great too. For the last year and a half, my employment has been in transition and I finally decided to neglect something in an attempt to find balance in my life - so my blog got put on hold. Sometimes a guy just can't do everything!! (And in my case, it's not just sometimes!)

When I can, I've been working on my fiction novel, "The Treasure of El Grado Escaso" and it is coming along wonderfully. Here is a little snipit from the novel (copyrighted by me of course). This is the final paragraph from Chapter 8: As background, Craik Torres is definitely a bad guy and Jen is the heroine of my story. The scene takes place within a sunken ship at 155 feet below the surface of the ocean near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I hope you enjoy...

"The bloodstained, underwater weapons moved closer. Craik’s tanned head entered the darkened hold. His thick black hair waved through the suspended silt like recently mowed sea grass strewn with copious quantities of plankton. He came on steadily. Jen was frozen. Her breath was caught in her throat. The big man turned. Wide, sea foam green eyes were met by an icy glare. From three short feet away, Jen gaped at the lean, rawboned visage of Craik Torres. Any traces of mercy that the diving guide may have possessed, any immoral desires he once harbored for Jen, any loyalty he once pretended to have, were all gone, completely swept away by his latest lust for what lay scattered within the sunken hold of La Niña Perezosa. Murder flickered in his light brown eyes. Jen’s heart stopped. It was as though she had lifted the black cowl of the grim reaper and was now staring point blank into his foreboding face. For a split second, time stood still. Then, like a merciless winter storm raging across Montana, Craik lunged to snuff out Jen’s life."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Rememberance Day / Vetran's Day

Here is a great photo that reminded me of the poppies in Flanders fields and the price paid by those who fought for freedom. I hope freedom keeps on winning out. Thank you to all who push for peace, harmony, equality and kindness. It does me good to remember that a mighty waterfall is made up of individual droplets of rain that arrived on the face of the earth one at a time. Even the smallest of effort is meaningful - both for or against, so let's keep up the good work that so many others have begun, furthered and sustain!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Photography Tips - Part 1

The other afternoon I met Suzanne, a photographer at the beginning of her creative photography career. She had a tripod, a decent camera, a good eye for a photo, and a few questions - which I tried to answer. And that got me thinking... I realized that I have never posted about photographic technique. So... here are a few tips and tricks. Thanks for the inspiration Suzanne!
I'll start at the beginning with the basics and then proceed to the more complicated.


Theory: Let's begin with a question. What is still photography? My definition is this: Still photography is the process of capturing and preserving a small slice of light with the intention of having that slice be pleasing to the eye. What do you think?
I like the medium of still photography because it allows me to do what no physicist can do... stop time. A small bit of light enters the lens of my camera and I fire the shutter. If my shutter has stayed open for the right amount of time, I have a properly exposed photograph.
Let's talk for a minute about exposure. There are three components or factors to photographic exposure: 1. Shutter Speed,  2. Aperture (often called f-stop),  & 3. ISO (often called ASA).

1. Shutter Speed - Cameras can open their shutters for whole seconds and for fractions of a second. Professional camera shutter speeds range from 1/12000th of a second to 30 seconds to BULB. The BULB setting means that the shutter remains open for as long a time as the operator wants it to be open - and that can be as much as several hours or as little as 31 seconds. If you were to take a two hour photographic exposure, for example, the light levels would have to be less than you could see with your naked eye or else the photo would be over-exposed.
In order to hand hold an average camera with a standard lens (I'll talk more about lenses later) and have the shutter speed last for a short enough duration so the photo will not show camera shake, the shutter speed needs to be faster than 1/60th of a second. If you want to take a longer exposure or if you want to use a telephoto or closeup lens, then a tripod is recommended. In the absence of a tripod, leaning the camera on a ledge, a knee or a sturdy upright support might provide enough stability to get the shot.
Shutter speeds are offered in such a way that there are full jumps and then either half or 1/3 jumps in between - all for the purpose of controlling the light more precisely. Beginning at 1 second, full jumps are as follows: 1sec - 1/2sec - 1/4 - 1/8th - 1/15th - 1/30th - 1/60th - 1/125th - 1/250th - 1/500th - 1/1000th - 1/2000th of a second - etc. Each full jump in shutter speed, 1/30th up to 1\60th for example, cuts the light reaching the film plane (or digital sensor) in half. As an example, a shutter speed of 1/15th allows 8x more light to reach the film plane than does a shutter speed of 1/125th of a second.

2. Aperture - Aperture, or f-stop, is the measure of the size of the light's pathway through a lens to reach the film plane or digital sensor. Aperture is like the pupil in your eye - it gets bigger or smaller depending on the light intensity.
As a general rule, the bigger the diameter of the lens, the more light that is available to make the photograph and, as a result, the better the photo quality. The farther away the lens is from the back of the camera the bigger the lens needs to be. For this reason, tiny point and shoot cameras are thin with small lenses and SLR's are thick with big lenses. (SLR stands for single lens reflex, or cameras that show in the viewfinder the exact scene that the lens sees.)
F-stops are expressed in "f" numbers. Expensive zoom lenses may have a maximum f-stop of 2.8, while cheaper models might be limited to f4 or f5.6. These numbers may sound confusing, but the learning curve isn't all that bad. The rules are easy enough.
a. The larger the f-number, the less light the lens is able to gather.
b. The smaller the number, the more light the lens is able to gather.
c. The larger the f-stop, the more depth range of the photograph that is in focus, or in photographic lingo, the more depth of field there is.
d. The smaller the f-stop, the less depth of field.
e. There are full f-stops (f1.2 - f2 - f2.8 - f4 - f5.6 - f8 - f11 - f16 - f22 - f32) and there are half stops or even 1/3 stops, depending on the camera. The important thing to remember is that every time you change the setting by one full stop, you either double the light reaching the film plane or cut the light in half. For example, the difference in the amount of light getting into the camera at f2.8 as opposed to f8 is 8x less at f8 than it is at f2.8. Switching from f8 down to f16 means that 4x less light will reach the film plane. If you measure from f2.8 to f16, the difference in the amount of light reaching the film plane is 32x more at f2.8 than it is at f16.
a shutter speed of 1/125th and an f-stop of f-8 will still be perfectly exposed when shot at 1/60th and f11 or at 1/1000th & f-2.8. The difference in the photographs (assuming all three shots were taken in focus with the same lens and without camera shake) will be in the depth of field - the amount of front to back area in the photograph that is in focus.

3. ISO (often called ASA) - ISO is the measure of the film or digital sensor's sensitivity. Common ISO settings are 100 - 200 - 400 - 800. Each of these sensitivity numbers corresponds to one f-stop or to one full jump in shutter speed. Consequently, ASA (ISO)100 requires twice as much light to expose the digital sensor properly as ASA200 would, etc, etc. Now you may be asking the obvious, "If I can use a much faster shutter speed at ISO800 than at ISO100, then why wouldn't I just shoot all my pictures at 800"? A good question! The answer is that the higher the ISO, the more the image quality degrades. If you want a grainy look in your picture, like you might want to create in a soft, close up portrait, then by all means shoot at ISO800, 1600, 3200, 6400 or even ISO12800. Your shutter speeds will be higher, and if you are outside, your aperture will have to be a high f-number too (resulting in a lot of depth of field).

In conclusion to Part 1, manipulating ISO, Shutter Speed & F-stop allow you to create different effects of the same image that you are looking at. If you want to freeze action, for example, then use a higher ISO and a faster shutter speed (a shutter speed of 1/1000th of a second will freeze most action). If you want to take a panning shot with a kid on a speeding bicycle going past you, for example, (panning is when you swing the camera and track the object you are photographing), and as a result, streak the background but keep the object sharp, then you will want to use a slower shutter speed and a lower ISO. For pan shots, 1/15th of a second up to 1/60th usually work well, depending on how fast the object is moving. When you pan, just try to keep the part of the image you want in focus in the same place in the viewfinder as you snap the photo.

Photography is about effect, expression and creativity, so have fun. Don't be afraid to experiment - especially if you have a digital camera. If you have a happy accident, remember what you did so you can do it on purpose the next time. Just remember that shutter speed, f-stop and ISO are all related and can be combined like cream, sugar and butter to make the perfect icing for your carefully prepared masterpiece.

In Part 2, I'll talk about either composition or lenses - or perhaps both. Composition has my heart, but lens choice can make all the difference. Knowing how to use a cheap lens can make your photos very good with just a little know how. Stay tuned...
And thanks for tuning in this time.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My 29th Wedding Anniversary Remebered

It is with great fondness and joy that I recall that fine summer's day when I married Diana, the red haired girl of my dreams. Even though it’s been 29 years, the scene seems like only yesterday. Since that wonderful, life changing moment in 1982, my life has not gone according to plan, but overall, it has gone pretty well. Sure, I’ve had ups and downs both great and small, but through it all, Diana has been there – an anchor in a hurricane, a Popsicle on a hot day, a voice of reason when I was unreasonable, a sweet and delightful companion in both sickness and in health, a friend always. Yes, I'm still in love! Marrying Diana was the best thing I've ever done and I'm often amazed that as a naive 22 year old I chose so wisely. If I hadn't had God's help in the choice, my life would be not nearly so nice!

The hopeless romantic in me recalls the words of a favourite song. It's by Jud Strunk and was written and released in 1973. Sadly, Jud died nearly a year before Diana and I married but I appreciate what he left behind. The song is called “Daisy A Day”.
Daisy A Day
By Jud Strunk

He remembers the first time he met ‘er
He remembers the first thing she said
He remembers the first time he held her
And the night that she came to his bed
He remembers her sweet way of singin’
Honey has somethin’ gone wrong
He remembers the fun and the teasin’
And the reason he wrote ‘er this song

I’ll give you a daisy a day dear
I’ll give you a daisy a day
I’ll love you until the rivers run still
And the four winds we know blow away

They would walk down the street in the evenin’
And for years I would see them go by
And their love that was more than the clothes that they wore
Could be seen in the gleam of their eye
As a kid they would take me for candy
And I loved to go taggin’ along
We’d hold hands while we walked to the corner
And the old man would sing ‘er his song


Now he walks down the street in the evenin’
And he stops by the old candy store
And I somehow believe he’s believin’
He’s holdin’ ‘er hand like before
For he feels all her love walkin’ with him
And he smiles at the things she might say
Then the old man walks up to the hilltop
And gives her a daisy a day


Strunk performing “Daisy a Day” live on stage
Jud Strunk - wikipedia article

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Davis L. Bigelow's Writing Tips

Writing Tips

Over the course of many years, I have read and analyzed a lot of different writing styles. I think that if you, as a writer, are happy with the words on your paper then your words are probably good enough and your style is probably good enough too. Being overly critical can stifle creativity, and honestly, I’ve seen some rough writing that was sculpted in such a way that the roughness worked in sweet harmony to produce what I thought was a great result. I recommend that you just write and then think about your writing later. In school, not every English teacher I had liked my style, but that was an expression of their personal notion of what they thought my style should be. I have found that one style does not fit all readers. Opinions are usually free – even educated and credentialed opinions, and sometimes they are worth that price and not a penny more. If you are a creator of sentences, lines and prose, then you have the right to decide what words live or die in your original work. Rules in writing are nice, and often helpful, but they are only guidelines.

As for me, I began earnest writing in 2001. I completed grade 11 English in high school and winged it from there on. During that final semester of school, I took an English placement test and made it into the 98th percentile of all 12th grade students in the province of British Columbia, Canada. I’ve done more than OK. Since 2003, I have authored two books - one autobiography and one adventure novel, with a second adventure novel in the works. As I wrote, my style slowly changed into something I was happy with.

Here are some things that work for me:

  1. When I read, I pay attention to the writer’s style. Do I like or dislike the writing style? Could the style improve? How? Do I like the style enough to try my own version of it?
  2. When I hear awesome words, I write them down & try to use them in my writing.
  3. When I think of or hear cool names, I write them down. I think that character and place names can make or break a story.
  4. When I think of good story lines or complete plots, I write them down. Sometimes I dream good stories & sometimes I think of plots out of the blue. The important thing I do is to write my thoughts when they're fresh because if I don’t I only can remember that I had a good idea – but what was it?.
  5. Another thing I do is to consider the styles of other writers, but when I write my own stuff, I just do what feels right to me. After the words are written, then I go back and edit and hopefully improve the flow of the work.
  6. I write nearly every day, but sometimes it is just in my journal.
  7. Often, I have only five or ten minutes to work, but I write anyway. I carry my net book with me as often as is practical, but sometimes I use my I-Pod and email my files to myself.
  8. When I edit, I always read out loud to myself. Using this technique, I tend to catch 99% of grammatical errors on my first edit. I find that "grammar check" doesn't always know how to write. (I use MS Word. I find its grammar/spell check is mostly accurate, but not always.)
  9. On my second edit, I look at the flow. How long are my sentences? Are they all the same length? How long are my paragraphs? Does each paragraph convey one complete thought? Long paragraphs tend to slow the story, so I try to ensure that the paragraph and sentence lengths match my intended flow pattern.
  10. On my third edit, I look at my characters. If the story is long, I try to edit the entire manuscript all the way through - one time for each main character and look to see that their voice is consistent with their personality from the beginning to the end.
  11. On all my edits, I listen for words that don't flow smoothly together - unless I want the words to sound rough for effect. I also look for words that are used too often and find appropriate synonyms to replace them. I pay attention to the mood the work is conveying and adjust as needed. Finally, in my latest writing, I use an outline and build my stories from that framework. I never used to do this, but recently have found it quite useful – especially in light of the fact that I often write for just a few minutes at a time with major interruptions between times. I find an outline helps me get back to the story faster.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

O Canada! July 1, 2011 marks 144 years!

In my fast paced life I appreciate taking time to pause to consider my well nourished roots. I was born in Canada - quite probably the most war free country in the world, and I am grateful for the peace and safety I enjoy living here. I suppose there will always be those immature and socially dysfunctional folks who try to give a country a bad name (like the demonstrators who recently threw violent temper tantrums following the
Vancouver Canucks' loss in the last game of the Stanly Cup final with Boston), yet most of us who call Canada our home make an honest effort to be good citizens. Along with England, France and Germany (and perhaps there are more countries that should be in this list), Canada is and has been a very immigration friendly destination in the global village. It has been said that "Immigration is the sincerest form of flattery" (John Paar), and I tend to agree. Before the global economic downturn, Canada was right up there in the top two or three best counties to live in, but today, Canada stands alone at the top. We enjoy the best standard of living in the world, the most stable economy, and I think we also enjoy the lowest crime and murder rates. And at least some of our politicians are honest! Throughout the world, nearly everywhere Canadians travel, they are welcomed as friends. One can walk downtown in Toronto or Vancouver (without getting mugged) and hear a myriad of different languages - within just a few minutes. In fact, even among the people I see and speak with here in rural Alberta, at least ten different languages are represented. Canada is truly the ultimate melting pot for the whole world. Canada is where friends live with friends. Canada is an awesome place to live!

Here is our national anthem, "O Canada" (all the verses of the song).
"O Canada! our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada! Where pines and maples grow.
Great prairies spread and lordly rivers flow.
How dear to us thy broad domain,
From East to Western Sea,
Thou land of hope for all who toil!
Thou True North, strong and free!

O Canada! Beneath thy shining skies
May stalwart sons and gentle maidens rise,
To keep thee steadfast through the years
From East to Western Sea,
Our own beloved native land!
Our True North, strong and free!

Ruler supreme, who hearest humble prayer,
Hold our dominion within thy loving care;
Help us to find, O God, in thee
A lasting, rich reward,
As waiting for the Better Day,
We ever stand on guard.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. (by Stanley Weir - with slight changes)
Happy 144th birthday Canada!!!
For more info on our national anthem and Canadian heritage.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father, Lyle Dean Bigelow – The Leader of the Band

Father's Day Tribute - To My Dad

I’m grateful that I remember my Dad. Sadly, that’s more than some can say about their own fathers. On August 2nd, 1995, at the end of 69 years of life, my father passed away peacefully, leaving my mother and six children to go on with life. I was 35 years of age at the time and felt much too young to be advanced to the front line of our family’s male generation, but there I was anyway, reluctant and feeling old before my time. It’s been sixteen years since that sad summer day, and I still miss my father.

I recently visited Dad’s grave, located in Cardston, Alberta, and spent a few quiet minutes contemplating the life of a man who, thou human, gave me life and raised me the best he knew how to. When Dad was three years old, his mother died in childbirth. When he was nine, his father died in an accident. Dad’s childhood and subsequent youth were filled with turmoil and an abundance of uncertainty. My father’s early life was a bumpy ride, and Dad bore those early scars for all his life. Some of those scars made him weak and other scars made him strong and wise. Considering Dad’s rocky early years, not to mention his ongoing poor health, I’m proud that he made as much of himself as he did. I’m not sure I would have done so well. Dad sacrificed for us children. Dad tried hard to set a good example to us.
I’m grateful that he was as good a father as he was to me and my five sisters. And as the years passed, just like most fathers, he got better at being a Dad.

In July of 1957, because of his poor health, Dad took my mother and three older sisters to the lights on the rugged and remote wet, west coast of Canada and became a lighthouse keeper. Little did my parents appreciate how their move would affect their posterity. By the time I was born in 1960, my family was living on their third lighthouse, a tiny, oblong dot of land called Pointer Island. Their move to Pointer Island Light in 1958 would be my parent’s last move until Dad retired in 1984 - and by then I was grown up, moved away and married.

As I stood by my father’s grave, I shed tears of sadness and tears of joy. I smiled as I remembered the story Dad often related about his birth – how the doctor had told his mother that she shouldn’t get attached to him because he wasn’t going to live long. Dad had greatly outlived both his parents as well as the doctor’s expectations. After 69 years of dodging death, Dad now lay at rest in the family plot – and I was left to continue on his legacy... The chorus of a famous 1981 song came to mind – a song written by Dan Fogelberg, called “Leader of the Band”.

“The leader of the band is tired
and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man
I'm just the living legacy
to the leader of the band.”

More tears flowed. Dad hadn’t been perfect in life, yet he had tried – and over time, as I watched the years flow by, Dad became more and more the man he wanted to be. “I’ve seen the light... Have you?” Dad’s oft spoken words sounded again in my mind, accompanied by my memory of Dad’s easy smile, but this time I finally answered the question. “Yes Dad. I think I have finally seen the light. I think that getting life right is about making sustained efforts to improve myself over time – lots of time. I’m not sure I’m as far along as you were at my age, but I will keep on trying – I’ll keep struggling forward. And because I saw you succeed, maybe I can too. Thanks Dad! Thanks for being the leader of our band!”

 P.S. The six seagulls soaring in the beams of the light shining from the skeleton tower on Pointer Island represent me and each of my five sisters. My older sister, Sharon, drew the sketch for Dad's fittingly unique headstone.

Dan Fogelberg in Wikipedia
Dan's live, 1982 performance of "Leader of the Band" on youtube.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Product Review - Salomon Trail Running Shoes – Model: X-Trail 1

A few months ago, I dropped in to a Camper’s Village store in Edmonton (the capital of the province of Alberta) and discovered a big clearance sale in progress. Happily, I found a pair of trail runners in my size and in my price range. When does that ever happen!! The Salomon X-Trail 1 shoes fit my narrow foot perfectly, but I found that I needed a ½ size bigger than I normally wear. I liked the breathable uppers, aggressive tread, the very light weight but tough design features and quick lacing system. The colours were awesome too.

The lacing utilizes a one pull system. When tight, the lock and excess lace tucks up into an concealed, elasticized pocket in the tip of the tongue where it never comes out until called f
or. The lacing system is very well thought out and I love it. Now I should confess that I’m a hiking boot kind of guy, but since the price wasn’t too high, I decided to give the Trail Runners a try. I figured that even if they weren't all that great to hike in that they would still do well in the car, at the mall or on my treadmill.

Finally, on June 4th after a nasty cold and wet spring, I put the Salomons to their first test – the Wishbone Trail in Waterton Park. 
How did they do? The initial wilderness trail was mostly grass and dirt with the occasional brittle deadfallen stick to snap under my weight. The Trail Runners were stable and responsive and didn't transmit an excessive amount of force into the sole of my foot when I came down on pointed rocks or bumpy branches. As the 8km hike progressed however, I felt the pointy underfoot objects a little more than at first, but not too much more. We’ve had an excess of rain here in Southern Alberta and the trail was soupy in numerous places. I tried to skirt the temporary water holes, but soon decided that I should change my name to Davis Bogtrotter! So long as the water level was no more than a half inch deep, my feet remained dry, but some bogs were unavoidably deeper and soon my socks were soaked. The shoes were definitely breathable – at least everywhere except the soles! I tramped about 6km with wet feet before I saw my car again, but I got no blisters – and I liked that part! And the water seemed to leave the shoes as quickly as it came in. Near the end of the trail, I jogged a few hundred metres (they are trail runners after all). Their light weight was a welcome break from my usual hiking footwear, but I still raised my heart rate! Go figure. I did find that the Salomons allowed me to maintain a faster walking pace than my boots ever allowed me to – and I liked that very much. Greg, my hiking partner for the day, complained that even though I was 11 years his senior that he could hardly keep up with me. (It was just the shoes Greg!)

At home, I pulled out the wet insoles and thoroughly rinsed away all the dirty bog-water (with warm water in the bathtub). I set the insoles out to air dry and put my shoes in the dryer with four dry towels (to absorb water and shock). I set the dryer on the air only setting. After about an hour of banging around in the dryer, I let the Trail Runners dry for a day and then tried them on again. They fit just like they did in the store and seemed to suffer no damage whatsoever. I’m impressed! Even wet, the shoes felt good and I was pleased with their overall performance. I will definitely use my Salomons again! (Sorry Greg!)

For more info, visit Salomon USA or Salomon Canada

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Four Tests Of Life

I'm a thinker (and that's not an apology), and in this weeks post I want to drip a few more drops of ink from my overactive mind. I hope you will find my thoughts interesting - and perhaps even personally beneficial.

In considering life, its meaning and its progression from birth to death, I believe that each of us will be forced to take a stand, from time to time, on some jugular issues. I don't mean superficial stuff like the house we want to buy and live in or the clothes we wear (although those things may have great impact on us), but I am thinking deeper. I am thinking about the way we each approach and deal with life and its vicissitudes.

We all make decisions, some tough and some easy, but I believe that some of the decisions we make are like the oxygen we breath - if we are to live, we are forced to make them. For example, I walk down the street and see a fat wallet laying right in front of me on the sidewalk. Am I surprised? Yes. Am I forced to make a decision? Yes. At that moment, I have power over that wallet. It may contain a large amount of cash or some other valuable commodity. What do I do? Do I pick the wallet up? Do I steal what I find? Do I turn it in to some authority? Do I walk past the wallet and leave it behind me? No matter what else happens, I am forced to decide something. The only way I would not have to make a decision is if I had not seen the wallet - but it's too late for that now. Because I was there at that moment in time, I'm forced into making a quick decision in regard to that wallet.

Now this principle of forced decision making is probaboly not new to any of you. It seems that I live in a stream of continual confrontation with the opportunity to decide. I hear a joke, I see the cover of a magazine, I stub my toe, I get a paycheck with lots of overtime paid out, I am put in charge of someone - the stream of life never stops washing over me and I expect it never stops washing over you either. The stream just keeps flowing and I am left with only one option - to make numerous quick decisions - whether I want to make them or not.

So, you may be wondering... what are the four tests of life? Well, I will tell you what I believe they are. As I have pondered the seemingly endless stream of forced decisions, I believe that every ultimately significant decision can be categorized into one of four groups: money, power, pain and sex. I believe that the real tests of life are how we personally handle the forced decisions within those four groups - especially the forced quick decisions.

I may not be rich, but I do have enough money to live. I may only have power over ants and mice, but I still have power. I may not feel pain at this moment, but I will eventually confront physical or emotional pain. I may wish that I hadn't notice well photographed cleavage on a magazine cover in a store checkout line, but I am now forced to decide to either stare or look away. And I believe that the sum total of how I handle money, power, pain and sex will determine, yes, determine who I really am today and who I will be tomorrow. How I do in making my forced quick decisions tells me how I'm doing today. My carefully planned decisions are much easier to get right, but the real me shows true character when I make quick decisions that are forced upon me without warning. If I am to find and fix weakness in my character, I must examine the moments when I am at my worst. I find this painful, but I believe that I deserve to do better, therefore I must take a hard look and ask myself the hard questions. How am I doing with money, with power, with pain, with sex? And since I deserve to succeed in life, what can I do differently so I can succeed?

I believe that we are all created equal in importance and that we all deserve to succeed in life - but not at the expense of others. I believe that we all have challenges, but I also believe that we all have the power to choose positive responses to whatever comes our way. I believe that none of us can get it right all the time, but I believe that practice makes perfect, so hang in there and get up each time you fall. I hope I do well, and I hope you do too! To quote Andre the Giant from the movie The Princess Bride, "I hope we win!"