Archive for 30-day Writing Challenge

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 19

Discuss your first love.

I’m very susceptible to reading deep into these prompts. Are we talking about someone I loved or an activity I loved? Today, I’m going to explore the former.

Like the army says, “no names, no pack drill”.

We met, literally, this one time at band camp. There wasn’t a flute involved, but she was this blonde girl who caught my eye and that I managed to find myself in a gazebo with late in the evening along with a group of friends. One by one, the others dwindled, and then it was just the two of us, and before I could even realize, there was a kiss involved. My first kiss. It took until the age of 14 to get there, but it was monumental in my mind. We started dating immediately. It was the spring of 1993. I was in Grade 9, she in Grade 8.

I know that I was a giant ball of teenaged hormones, and honestly it’s hard to know anything about love at that age, but I really learned a lot about the feeling of love with her. As a kid who felt like he didn’t get a lot of positive attention from folks, to have someone, and especially someone I was attracted to, spend time with me willingly, and who actually seemed to like me, this was something absolutely out of this world.

Our relationship didn’t last long – three months, I think – but it was three blissful months where I realized just how intoxicating love could be. I still remember the smell of her shampoo, the shape of her hands, how she kissed, all manners of little details from 25 years ago.

Our lives orbited around music and each other for the rest of our high school days. We dated again for a brief period a couple of years later, again with the same blissed-out feeling for me. Alas, it didn’t last long again.

She and I shared a bed for a spell once, although nothing ever happened between us. We were at band camp, staying at my aunt and uncle’s place in Kelowna, in their guest house that they lovingly referred to as the Bates Motel.

We both ended up in post-secondary in Vancouver, but didn’t see a whole lot of each other. We went to separate schools. I’d joined the army by this point and was starting to forge that whole part of my life. She wound up marrying my best friend, and I attended their wedding.

She moved off to Saskatchewan, and later the Kootenays, where she’d taken up jobs teaching. Many years later, we were both in Calgary – she there with her husband while he was undergoing cancer treatment, and me being on the road and performing at the Calgary Jazz Festival. It was a night where it would have been so simple to re-create that scene under the gazebo, and even a chance for things to go further (or maybe that was just my read). We didn’t, and that was okay. But there was this one moment as we’re standing outside my hotel and “Reelin’ in the Years” was playing:

You been telling me you were a genius since you were seventeen

In all the time I’ve known you I still don’t know what you mean

The weekend at the cottage didn’t turn out like you’d planned

The things that pass for knowledge I can’t understand

Steely Dan – “Reelin’ in the Years”

There was something so incredibly poetic and/or cliché about that scene, a song from one of my favourite groups of all time playing while I was with the girl I’d first fallen in love with.

After I got posted away from BC, she’d drift into my thoughts from time to time, and get stuck in my head for awhile. Finally, once I was posted back to BC, we regained contact. For a brief moment, I had it in the back of my head that there might be a microscopic chance that we might reconnect, but alas, it wasn’t to be. Eventually, we got a chance to meet over drinks, again, while I was on the road, and it was wonderful to see her after all these years. She really hadn’t changed at all – still beautiful.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 18

Post 30 facts about yourself.

Without ado, here we go!

  1. I don’t think I can go back to riding anything other than fixies.
  2. Tattoos fascinate me. I’m nowhere near done collecting, either.
  3. I’m insecure about a lot of things.
  4. I’m disorganized, but I’m trying to fix that.
  5. I work well when my environs are in flux. I love my home and my situation, but change of location feels good. Transitory.
  6. I almost had a career in IT.
  7. I love making crazy situations come to fruition.
  8. I’m on a perpetual quest to go further. Faster. It’s like I’m secretly a trumpet player or something 😉
  9. Despite the rapid pace of life, I’ve learned that doing nothing is also a really great place to be.
  10. I like leadership. I’m getting better at leading and not doing.
  11. One of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do is to learn to let go.
  12. I’m scared to consider what it is I’ll do when I actually need to grow up and leave this job I’m in now.
  13. I like brewing. It’s a calming activity.
  14. Being outdoors keeps me grounded. Running, hiking, whatever.
  15. I dream a lot about being chased or followed, and I’m perpetually trying to get away from something – a situation or a feeling or someone.
  16. I still have nightmares about college.
  17. I love classic soul and R&B. I came really, really close to crying at the Motown Museum.
  18. I was pretty much blond up until the age of five.
  19. I’ve rediscovered reading. I was a voracious reader as a kid and there are always words going past my eyes, but reading for fun and learning has come back to the fore lately.
  20. I have a certain someone in my life who makes me weak in the knees.
  21. I don’t have a whole lot of deep dark secrets left. I’ve gotten most of them out to at least one other human (including a very, very big one today that kinda snuck out on a hike).
  22. I like sugar. It wreaks havoc on me, though.
  23. Coffee helps.
  24. The job I’m in right now is the one I feel most comfortable with out of all of the jobs I’ve held previously. I really feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.
  25. The breakdown of my marriage was unbelievably difficult. Conversely, I’ve grown in ways I couldn’t have even imagined over the last four years.
  26. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with the state of my mental health. I’m getting so much better at paying attention to what’s in my head.
  27. Come to my house and if I’m home I will feed you dinner. Try me.
  28. Hockey is how I chase the crazy away. For three 20-minute periods, all I have to focus on is not getting badly injured.
  29. I have amazing friends and family.
  30. I get so caught up in the future that I forget about the here and now. I’m working to make a change.

This prompt was a lot harder than I expected. Sure, I could’ve rattled off some figures and some facts, but none of them really seemed to resonate.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 17

Post about your zodiac sign and whether or not it fits you.

I will admit I’m not big on zodiac at all, but this could be fun.

If you read the tea leaves at face value, I fit the bill pretty close. The first website I pulled up contained the following traits:

  • Strengths: Creative, passionate, generous, warm-hearted, cheerful, humourous
  • Weaknesses: Arrogant, stubborn, self-centered, lazy, inflexible
  • Likes: Theater, taking holidays, being admired, expensive things, bright colours, fun with friends
  • Dislikes: Being ignored, facing difficult reality, not being treated like a king or queen

So at first glance, this particular assessment is fairly bang-on. Those strengths resonate in me in varying ways. I’m making a conscious effort to work more on creative work (hence why I am writing every day), and the remainder definitely apply in how I generally roll in life.

I can identify with those weaknesses (although my self-centeredness waxes and wanes as I’ve had difficulties in identifying my centre, who I am, and what I need), and Kristy would definitely agree that I can be inflexible at times. Personally, I do feel I’m lazy a lot of the time, although my productivity would say otherwise.

All those likes and dislikes ring true as well. The admiration piece is a weird one, because I worked so long and hard to just be a wallflower, but for some reason I keep on getting tagged and being seen for what it is that I do. In some ways, on the dislikes side, facing difficult reality has been a struggle, and definitely squarely on that side. I’ve had a number of times (most especially in relationships) where I’ve fought to deal with the reality that I’ve been handed. I can be pretty meek a lot of the time, but also have a tendency to quietly subvert processes in order to get to where I want to be, and I’ve had good success at engineering things to where I like.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 16

Something that you miss.

I have these occasional flashes where I really miss playing bass full-time.

My job is such that I’ve advanced up the ranks and gotten myself into a command team position. Historically, people in my position have been able to continue playing, but occasionally it comes down to not being able to keep that up. Right now, my boss is on maternity leave, therefore I’m doing her work and I’ve left my managerial responsibilities to someone else. This means that I’m primarily responsible to conduct the band, and it leaves me no opportunity (at work) to be a player.

This does, however, give rise to me pursuing work on the outside, and so far, 2019 is looking good in this regard, but it also places a challenge on my time in having to ensure that my chops are together to play at the level that’s expected of me.

I had a lengthy period there where, due to the deployment to Chile, I wasn’t applying hands to instrument on a regular basis. Once I got back from Christmas, it’s been slow and frustrating to get back into playing again, but it’s getting there. Making it a conscious, habitual thing to practice will help a lot.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 15

Bullet-point your whole day.

I’m finding great interest in each of these writing prompts. This one is particular fun because my routine is in a state of flux. Here’s what a “normal” day looks like, if the kids are staying with me.

  • 6:15 – Out of bed, do 75 burpees
  • 6:30 – Have coffee, do some writing
  • 7:00 – Breakfast; wake the kids
  • 7:30 – Get dressed, continue to harangue the ones who aren’t yet out of bed
  • 8:00 – On my bike, headed to work
  • 8:15 – Get changed into uniform
  • 8:30 – Get the sick report from the duty musician; check email, put out fires
  • 9:00 – Full Band rehearsal
  • 10:00 – Coffee break, check emails, issue instructions as needed
  • 10:30 – Full Band rehearsal
  • 11:30 – Collect emails, prepare for announcements
  • 11:40 – Unit Announcements
  • 11:55 – Lunch/Hockey/Run
  • 13:00 – Back to my desk, shuffle some email, meetings, etc
  • 15:00 – Contemplate shutting down, getting changed, back on my bike, ride home
  • 15:30 – Home, tidy up, have a quick nap
  • 16:00 – Reading, practice, score study
  • 16:45 – Grocery shopping (if needed)
  • 17:15 – Dinner preparation
  • 18:00 – Dinner
  • 18:30 – Clean up, supervise kids’ making of lunches
  • 19:00 – Evening project (reading, laundry, helping the kids)
  • 20:30 – Kids heading for bed (2/3)
  • 21:00 – 2/3 kids in bed, prep my own lunch and breakfast, more relax time
  • 22:30 – Get ready for bed

Obviously, I do have some variability with the schedule. Hockey, in season, will sometimes affect my afternoon or evening, or if it’s just me, or just Kristy and I, or if I’m staying over at her place, etc, etc, etc. Planning has become essential for me in order to make sure that I’m getting things accomplished on my list.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 14

Post your favourite movies that you never get tired of watching.

For this one, I have to say, I’ve got a bit of a gap. I’ve long loved movies, but did give up on them for a little while, and have all but sworn off of television since moving to Victoria. I wasn’t ever a really avid screen viewer in that regard, but I did enjoy the occasional film or TV show when it came around. Kristy is much more film and TV oriented, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some favourites. Some of them are older, obviously, from when I worked at the theatre, some just because they’re films I’ve seen recently that really resonated with me.

Complicating today’s writing is that I’m in a hotel room in Ottawa, away from my usual resources. I’m lackadaisically following Mel Robbins’ Mindset Reset program for the month of January, and there is a lot of talk about the death of productivity through distraction. I’ve carved out time every morning to write (hence why I’ve gone 14/14 on this challenge so far), but one small destabilizing force can really derail a process.

Regardless, here are some of my favourite films!

  • Pulp Fiction
  • Star Wars (ep IV-VI)
  • Hunt for the Wilderpeople
  • Leave No Trace
  • Forrest Gump
  • Woodstock
  • Y Tu Mama Tambien

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 13

What are you excited about?

I’m mostly excited about the future. I have no idea what it holds, but I’m at a period and in a state of being where I’m constantly being challenged in a positive way by my surroundings. I’m in a much different place, musically, than I expected to be. I’m in a wonderful partnership that has providd me with such a sense of peace and wonder and opportunity for exploration. I’m tremendously excited to see my kids as they grow into themselves and for their paths going forward. I’m excited for what’s to come.

I always have to be careful with this level of excitement though, as it sometimes leads me to a place where I’m no longer living in the present. I’ve spent my life as a planner, always looking one or two bounds ahead for what’s coming down the pipe so I can be ready. I think, now, that as I’ve gained in wisdom and experience, that I’m able to react differently to outcomes because of the kinds of experiences I’ve had. Something needs to be fairly major in order for it to flatten me, and in doing so, I have to be less worried or focused on the future than I have been in the past. It’ll work out, no matter what.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 12

Write about five blessings in your life.

These ones are oft-repeated as blessings, but they really are in my life. I’m lucky to have these riches, because I know so many aren’t so fortunate

Family – Many ways of looking at this one. I’m blessed because I have a family (both my own, and the one I came from). I’m blessed because we don’t face any huge challenges, and we’re able to be together, generally speaking.

Kristy – My life is made richer by her presence in my world. We love and laugh and experience joy together in so many ways.

Health – Like I posted about previously, I have my health. I got my usual aches and pains, but these are minor compared to what so many deal with on a routine basis.

Music – This is one of the biggest drivers in my life. It’s enriched my life and has allowed the lives of others to be enriched as well. To have this skill is a blessing indeed.

Friends – I’ve got a great group of people that have seen me through the good and the bad.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 11

Something you always think “What if…” about.

One of my traits is that I tend to think things through. And by think things through, if I’m feeling anxious or stressed or nervous, I will think through possibilities until the end of time. It has been a major paralytic in my life, the way my brain will explore every possible course of action past its logical point of conclusion, and every sub-possibility along the way. In certain cases, like for planning contingencies when it comes down to a hike, it’s not always a bad thing. It can also really go sideways when dealing with matters of the heart and factors that are largely beyond my control, like other people’s feelings and actions in response to a given situation (see previous posts about fear, rejection, etc).

Even through all of that, I’ve long tried to live my life deliberately, and generally once I’ve set course, I let what happens happen. The universe abides, and I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without things going down the way they are. At the end of the day, I’m happy. I am in a growing relationship with myself, I have a wonderful family, I love and am loved, and I wouldn’t be at this point on my journey unless I made the decisions I did and committed to what I’m doing now.

I do have a list of some split points in my life where things could have gone hugely different. I don’t dwell on them, but certainly I can identify them as the places where my life could have changed course dramatically. First of these adult ones was when I made the (snap) decision to attend college. I was at the Kelowna School of the Arts’ summer program, hanging out with my new pal Ben Van Slyke and receiving instruction from Brad Turner when I casually mentioned I was going to take some time off and go to Boston the following year. Brad offered that there was a seat for me at Capilano College, and Ben said there was an audition opening in Vancouver for the army band. The option on that one was to just stay the course, live in Vernon, and continue my job working for the North Okanagan Community Development Corporation, where I’d gone from being a co-op student to being an employee, and they were willing to turn me into an IT professional at a time where the rise of the IT department was an exponential-growth field. I chose music instead.

Next one is a relationship-related one which I won’t delve into for respect of privacy for those involved, but I had to consciously make a decision whether or not to pursue a relationship, and going the other direction would have a radical change on my life.

I decided to pursue certain aspects of my career, and another huge split point came in early January, 2006. The war in Afghanistan was just starting up, and I was working as a clerk with the reserve Combat Engineer squadron in North Vancouver. The Brigade Superintendent Clerk called me, offering me a no-pre-deployment-training tour to Kandahar on Rotation 0 (usually the “hot” tour), and that I had 90 minutes to get back to him. I ended up not going, and know that the effects of that were that we ended up having a third child and I got a winning crack at the job I have today.

More and more of these kinds of split points have come up. I don’t dwell on them, because I’d rather make it feel like I have a sense of ownership in my life. They’re curious to look back on, but I can honestly say that I’m quite alright with where I’ve ended up.

30-day Writing Challenge – Day 10

Write about something for which you feel strongly.

Why, oh why, do I challenge myself like this? I usually have such moderate views and let the extremes be taken by others that when I express myself on a given subject and set up camp, there’s always this doubt and fear (see my previous post on this one).

Discomfort creates growth, so here goes.

I feel strongly about leadership. I suppose I always have, and my dad was a great early example of a leader, even if the parent/child relationship didn’t allow for the best leader/follower relationship. I took the concepts he established, and made them my own, and learned a few more along the way.

I feel strongly about leadership in the corporate (or military) context because it’s largely how things get done. True collectives are hard to come by, and achieving consensus can be tough, especially when dealing with folks who are creatively minded. Having someone with a goal and a focus can give shape and direction to a project or a business or a unit. Having a shitty leader can derail everything.

A major part of this comes down to the people in an organization, from the bottom to the top. If people (leaders or otherwise) don’t take care of one another and they’re just punching it in (or phoning it in, depending on whose euphemisms you’re using), and there’s little corporate buy-in, that’s where the workplace darkness can start to fester. Like a mold, it breeds best when it’s a little funky out and left in the dark. Leaders need to shine a light on the dark spots and help to clean that up.

Am I the best leader? No, not a chance. Far better humans have gone before me, and far better will succeed me, too. The folks I work with help me to stay honest and on track, and they, too, help take care of me, to ensure that when the decisions need to get made that we’re all as whole as can be and to be reminded that we’re in this together.