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!"