Trying To Get Back To “Normal”

It’s going to feel good to get back to some sense of normality. The Christmas season always brings on some added stress as we try to find the perfect gift, get the tree up and down, make sure the turkey is cooked right and don’t say anything stupid to a relative when you’ve had one too many drinks. And for me my mother-in-law passed away in California just before Christmas and then on December 29 my father passed away. So, this hasn’t been the most joyous time. The thing about a loved one dying is that you have to try to take out the emotion as much as you can because there is so much to do. Thankfully, my dad had a pre-arranged funeral but you still have to make a number of decisions, cancel things, call people and clean out his apartment. It’s a real whirlwind and it leaves you little time to grieve. Sometimes you think you’re the only one who’s going through this but you only have to read the obituaries to realize it’s happening quite frequently. It’s been heartening to hear from so many people these past few days who offer their condolences and support. It really means the world to me.

I talked a lot to my dad about life and death and while his passing was sudden and unexpected I’m confident that he was at peace with the life he had and was willing to accept that his time had come.

When cleaning out his apartment my brother and I chose what we wanted (which wasn’t much) and threw away everything else. That filled the dumpster at Martha’s House. It is amazing what we keep. Again you have to take out the emotion and just get realistic about what you should and shouldn’t keep. I think I’m going to do some purging in my own house over the next few weeks because I’ve got so much crap. This is where downsizing is a good thing. We decided to call the Salvation Army to pick up all of the furniture which I was grateful for. They didn’t pick up the mattress because there was a bit of a stain on it but I called St. Vincent De Paul and they said they would take it. For anyone going through a cleansing like this, I recommend those two agencies. They come with trucks and do all of the work for you for the donation.

I’m still coming to terms with everything that has happened. Each day it gets a little better. Booze helps. And it would be really nice if Canada wins the World Junior Hockey Tournament today.

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Post Noel Thoughts

It’s a cold -21 December 27 as I sit in front of my computer. A couple of neurons have fired. It’s like my brain just got a boost from the AMA. A few thoughts have transferred to the page here:

Remember when it was a scandal for businesses to be open on Boxing Day here in Lethbridge? If they did, they would get fined by the city. I remember 5th Avenue Electronics saying, “We’ll take the fine. A Boxing Day sale is worth it for us.”

I remember being at the West Edmonton Mall one Boxing Day. (I’ll never do that again.) I specifically recall that it was so crowded I turned my head to the left and got elbowed by someone. Parking was a nightmare. (With due respect to those of you who have to park at the U of L)

As an addendum to that, remember when no bars were open on a Sunday so those of us in need of splashing a few over the breath would take the drive to Sweetgrass? Who remembers Curly Bobs or the Glocca Morra? (sp) And by the way, the 5 bars there were usually packed with Canadians.

I was sad to see that former Leaf goalie Johnny Bower passed away. I still recall an amazing save he made on Jean Beliveau in the 1967 Stanley Cup finals that helped the Leafs win that year. Do any Leafs fans know that 1967 was the last time they won the Cup? (He said very sarcastically.) And how did goalies ever play without a mask?

I was also sad to see that the actress who played Louisa Von Trapp in the Sound of Music, Heather Menzies-Urich died on Christmas Eve. She was 68 and had brain cancer. Her older sister in the movie Liesl played by Charmian Carr died over a year ago. I’ve watched that movie a thousand times and I will probably watch it again next year along with It’s A Wonderful Life.

Canada won its first game at the Spengler cup in Switzerland. If anyone wants to get me a gift, can you please fly me to Davos next year to watch this tournament? It’s on my bucket list of things I want to do but can’t really explain why I’d like to do it. I have talked to a couple of players with Lethbridge connections who have played there. They say it’s a great event and quite the atmosphere. Plus I can visit my old pal Urs Burkler who is from Switzerland and I haven’t seen him since we spent Christmas together in Motueka, New Zealand in 1978. That’s a story for another day.

Glad to see Canada also won its first game at the World Juniors. Remember Canada, if you’re going to lose a game in this tournament, lose it during the preliminary round, not in the playoff round. (But you probably knew that.)

I’m feeling guilty for not getting my dog out for his walks but it’s a little too cold for him right now. (Translation: It’s too cold for me right now.)

I’m sad that 10,000 Villages has closed down. I made an annual stop there at Christmas. They had some really cool gifts there plus they would also gift wrap for me. Win-win!!

And I hear that Esquires downtown is closing. That must mean there’s room for another Tim Hortons.

I was at Costco on Christmas Eve to pick up a last-minute thing. I felt like I had to take a picture because there wasn’t a line-up at the till. I was quite shocked.

Here’s hoping that you had a great Christmas and that you won more than $2 on the scratcher you got in your stocking.

And we’ll look forward to a wonderful and prosperous 2018.

A Few Christmas Memories

Things that pop into my head at this time of year when I think of my life growing up in Lethbridge:

-I was really in to Christmas and couldn’t wait.

-The Herald would put the number of shopping days to Christmas on the front page adding to my excitement.

-I loved the day we got the tree and decorated it. It was always a real tree. The smell of pine was the best. Tinsel was aplenty.

-I loved our Nativity Scene. It was in a state of disrepair but that just added to the charm. (A couple of sheep were missing limbs)

-Eatons was the only place I shopped. Probably because I loved the escalator.

-I don’t ever remember a day growing up when there wasn’t snow outside on Christmas Day.

-My brother got all the toys on the left side of the tree, I got the toys in the right side.

-Fav gifts: Johnny 7 gun and a service station garage that had an elevator on it.

-I loved watching the Hoyts Hardware show on TV where Ed Bayly dressed up as an elf and told us what was hot for Christmas.

-Just when I started to believe there was no Santa Clause the NORAD reports they had on the news made me second guess it.

-I loved getting Japanese oranges in my stockings.

-My mom would drive up to Calgary to shop at the Chinook Mall every year.

-One of my most melancholy Christmases was when I was in Australia sitting on a beach on Christmas Day. It just didn’t seem right. There should have been snow and I should have been shivering. (I was also very hung over but that’s another story for another time)

-I loved serving Midnight Mass when I was an Altar Boy. That was our version of “getting to the show.” It was the biggest crowd of the year at the beautiful St. Patrick’s Church. You had to make sure you genuflected smartly and rang those bells at the appropriate time. That may have been an influence in my desire to get into theatre. (Is that sacrilegious?)

-As I got older and had a job in radio, the joy of Christmas became somewhat less joyful for me. I had to read about a thousand commercials from various businesses that had a version of, “May the spirit of Christmas be with you today and every day of the year…” It got really tedious. Plus I had to work on Christmas Day a number of times which sucked. My favorite night was when my pals Greg Rohovie and Norm Hovan snuck into the radio station with some egg nog. (I was only playing tapes-no big deal-don’t tell my boss)

-Christmas is so much better when you have young kids who buy into the magic like I did.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

 

Making Christmas Wonderful

It was nice to get a call from Ralph Molyneux of the Victory Church. He invited me on a tour of The Shop of Wonders. It’s a wonderful Christmas program where parents who are having a rough financial time at this time of year can register to shop for free while the kids get to make the parent or parents gifts too. It’s a Christmas toy campaign with an extra special experience. This year The Shop of Wonders is located in the old Fire Hall downtown. The staff has done an amazing job of decorating both the upstairs and downstairs guaranteed to get you into the Christmas spirit. All gifts have been donated and there are over 350 people registered for this year. Ralph says that in past years it’s been a very emotional experience. You never know when life deals you a circumstance where you simply can’t afford to buy a gift and pay the rent. The Shop of Wonders will help ease that burden and give families a memorable Christmas.

If you want more information or you want to either register yourself or refer someone for the program you can call Jenn at 587-220-2910 or 587-220-2911. Each family will get a half an hour appointment. Due to the number of people you may have to double up with another family.

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On a side note, I hadn’t been in the old Fire Hall since it was the old Henotic restaurant and nightclub. I once interviewed Pauly Shore there when he made an appearance. Take that for whatever it’s worth. (And don’t worry it’s no longer a Hookah Bar if you were wondering). It still has a lot of grace and charm and I hope that someone figures out how to capitalize on the historic building and make it profitable.

A big congratulations to all the volunteers and to the people who have donated so many gifts to make The Shop of Wonders a magical time for many.

Kaitlin Boyda: An Enduring Legacy

Translation of above Swahili caption “Seek the water at once”.

I first met Kaitlin Boyda around 2010 through my contact with John Voort of Compassion Canada. She was terminally ill and The Children Wish Foundation wanted to grant her a wish. What she wanted wasn’t typical of what teen-age kids her age would hope for. Instead of a trip to Disneyland or backstage passes to meet Beyonce she wanted to fund a water project in Uganda. I remember being so impressed with her positive attitude and demeanor. She got her water project and her story resonated with people all over Canada. What she was able to accomplish is miraculous. Her legacy continues and I wanted to get an update from John as to what is happening today. So I’ll let him take from here:

Remind everyone who Kaitlin Boyda is.

She was a most amazing young woman who passed away Thursday May 5, 2011 at seventeen years of age and who has left behind an absolutely incredible legacy by giving away her Children’s Wish gift!

What do you remember about the first time you met her?

The first time I met her was only a few days after I began working for Compassion Canada. It was the night the Children’s Wish Foundation presented Kaitlin with her $7500 and we were presenting her with a gift to say thank you for funding a water project in Uganda with her money. My thoughts as I was driving to her home were “I hope I don’t screw this evening up!” I had never done anything like this before and I was so nervous about meeting her. All my work skills came via 31 years of retail experience and here I was representing Compassion Canada. But the minute I met her, she put me at ease with her quiet and confident manner and the evening went perfectly.

You had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact she had on her water projects in Uganda. Take us through the emotion you felt.

I’ll never forget the day we shared with the people of Uganda in the community where Kaitlin’s initial water project was dedicated. It was such a big deal, I remember the second highest ranking member of the Church of Uganda and the president’s right hand man even showed up but what amazed me was that so many ordinary Ugandan’s walked from over 100 kilometers away to attend. I kind of figured that there would be much gratitude from the people but I had no idea as to what the extent of the gratitude would be.

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The amount of money she was able to raise was staggering. Did you ever imagine she could accomplish what she did in such a short period of time?

No, not even an inkling. In fact, the evening in which Kaitlin received her $7500 from Children’s Wish, we had a plan supply the remaining funds required to pay for one water well and call it hers. If you remember, Compassion Canada couldn’t commit to just the one well for Kaitlin to fund because it was part of a project that consisted of 21 water wells. It was in the middle of our fiscal and this was the only water project still needing funding in all 25 countries that Compassion International serves. Each well required $9,600 from Compassion Canada so our commitment was $201,600! As you can imagine, it required a substantial leap of faith to add this amount in the middle of our fiscal year. As I was leaving the Boyda household that night, I only managed to get to the front door when I was approached by a few of the family and we began discussing the possibility of finding a few businesses who may wish to fund a well, or maybe even just a portion, and at the same time Kaitlin, her brother, sisters and a few of her cousins decided to start a FB page that night. I left thinking these were good ideas but I didn’t for one minute imagine it would be anything too big. I figured perhaps a few thousand dollars but within 7 weeks she had raised enough money to pay for all 21 water projects.

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We all knew she was going to die but when that reality came, what went through your mind?

We all knew but we were all praying for a miracle. Honestly Mark, if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this was something Kaitlin knew she was meant to do, I’m not sure how I would answer that. Every moment I was thinking about her during the last few months, every time I was working on the funding, the trip, etc, I was and I still am in awe of her faith in God. As much as she wanted to live, she was okay with her situation because she was so pleased that she was making such a huge difference in so many lives. I’m certain that everyone has a number of people in their lives who we consider to be wonderful mentors and important influencers in our lives. The majority of these people in my life were very important and influential in my youth. Only 3 have been huge for me in my adult years and Kaitlin is absolutely one of those and most certainly the youngest one.

What has happened since her death?

Her legacy continues to grow. Every week her FB page still receives numerous views, likes and comments. She encouraged Compassion Uganda to believe they could reach their goal of water to every church/community. Kaitlin’s amazing gift has now helped bring Compassion to the point where all 355 plus Church partners in Uganda will have clean water in their communities by 2020! It’s truly going to happen! I am truly in awe. I learned a while ago that Compassion International is now the second largest water NGO in Uganda!

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Do people who have benefited from her initiative know who she is?

She is a hero in the community where the initial well went and she is certainly known by Compassion Uganda. Her well has a plaque attached with her picture in honour of her amazing contribution to their community. And of course she is known in Compassion Canada and USA as well.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from what Kaitlin was able to do?

I used to be one of those people that would tell anyone who would listen that our society has no hope for the future because of the way youth are these days. Kaitlin is the most selfless person I have ever met and she was a teen when I met her, and she made me think about my boneheaded attitude. In fact I have taken it a few steps farther than just thinking about it. My job is essentially initiating and nurturing partnerships with churches in my territory. But since she passed away, and because of her, I have been very intentional about trying to work with students in elementary and middle schools and through youth conferences as much as possible. I have been blown away by how passionate these children and youth are about making a difference in this world and I can honestly say that there are many reasons for hope in our young people for the future. They care so much more than I, and I believe my entire generation ever did at their age.

How can people still donate or learn more about Compassion Canada?

Now that every Compassion church partner in Uganda is set and totally funded to have clean water by 2020, the initiative has been expanded to the other countries we serve in Africa. If anyone wants to help Compassion Canada reach our goal of $1 million for this fiscal year for this fabulous initiative, they can click on this links to donate:  https://www.compassion.ca/make-a-donation/

We are just finished our 5th month of this fiscal and are at 32% of our goal!

It’s A Wonderful Play

Among the plethora of events designed to get you into the Christmas spirit may I suggest “It’s A Wonderful Life-A Live Radio Play.” It’s directed by Fran Rude and she took time out of rehearsals to give you a synopsis of how it came to be and what you can expect on the night.

Talk about how you decided to do the “It’s A Wonderful Life” radio play

I was invited to direct a Christmas production by Lethbridge Rotary Sunrise (via Don Robb). I remembered seeing a broadcast 20 years ago on PBS television of a radio play, “Merry Christmas George Bailey”, and it re-kindled my deep love of the golden age of Radio (1930 – 1950). It was based on the iconic Christmas film, “ It’s a Wonderful Life” and the 1947 radio broadcast of the same name, featuring the film’s original stars. PBS could not use the Film title, nor the film script, because the film studio would not release the rights: hence the title “ Merry Christmas George Bailey”. The script was adapted, but there was sufficient similarity to the film to make it recognizable. I loved the PBS broadcast and always hoped I’d get a chance to do it someday. Never happened, because the rights never were released by PBS. Then, late last year I learned that a script had been written, using the original film title, which was far more faithful to the 1947 broadcast and film and, in fact, was available for licensing. So, when Don came to me, I agreed to do a Christmas production, provided it was of the radio play, “ It’s a Wonderful life”, and here we are!!

For an audience member who may not be fully aware of what a radio play looked like back in the day, what can you tell us?

Everything was done live, not recorded; there were no “takes”. It was sink or swim: there were no recorded’ laugh’ or other sound tracks, and  shows  had a live studio audience to provide applause, laughter or other responses. The sound effects also were live, done in front of the audience. This show is set in a radio station in downtown Manhattan. When the actors are not at the mics, they have stools to sit on. There is a pianist, Richard Coombes, who plays transitional music to change scenes, also underscoring. There are commercials, sung live by the cast.

You are from an era when you would listen to dramas and plays. What sort of memories does that conjure up?

I was raised listening to radio for entertainment. Ours was the first house on our block to have a TV set, and that wasn’t until 1953!! Yet I remember listening to my favourite programs on the radio, transfixed, hanging on every word, my imagination working overtime. I’d weep at the dramas, laugh myself silly at the comedies (I actually heard “Who’s on First” live, bursting with laughter), and have the hell scared out of me, listening to suspense programs. And oh, the Big Band orchestras during and after World War 2—— love that music to this day. Soap operas were much better on Radio than on TV. Woe the person who would interrupt my mother during “Ma Perkins” or “Pepper Young’s Family”!! I’m so glad I grew up in that era of Radio, the form of which is almost non-existent today. Radio is completely different today: mostly news, politics or music, rarely dramas or comedies (with the exception of The Debaters, which I love). It was radio that really shaped my interest in the Arts. My very favourite show was Lux Radio Theatre, which I almost never missed. LRT broadcast live the scripts of major movies, with their original casts. I remember listening to “It’s a Wonderful Life” in March, 1947, as if it was yesterday! I heard “Casablanca”,”Mrs. Miniver”, and a host of others, all first rate films, all broadcast live. It was wonderful for me, because in Quebec, children under 16 weren’t allowed in movie theatres. I’d listen completely engaged and entranced— it was wonderful!

What’s been the biggest challenge for launching this one?

 

The technical demands are huge, because we’re not in a theatre, where everything would be at hand. We have to haul in  absolutely everything we need—— lighting equipment, sound equipment, large stage props, loads of cable, light towers, etc— too much to completely describe. It’s a very demanding technical show, and I am blessed to be working with the best. The performers have to adjust to a non-theatre environment, which is tough for a show like this, but they are experienced and very well grounded and just “go with the flow”. The rehearsal schedule was a challenge, because if an actor was missing  so were all the characters the actor played. A challenge for me is to stage the piece as a radio show, not a theatrical production. There is no ‘4th wall’ and the relationship between the actor and the audience is very intimate. I think in many ways, the audience becomes more engaged with the actor because there aren’t a lot of external trappings.

Tell us about the cast.

There are only 7 actors, playing over 50 roles, as well as doing many of the live sound effects. Their voice work is very demanding, because every character they play has to have a different voice: an interesting example is a three way conversation, in which one actor plays all three roles, and the radio listeners out there across the country have to believe there are three different characters. It requires tremendous discipline for the actor to remain consistent for the length of the broadcast, because it is very tiring work, but they are experienced and are doing very fine work. The cast consists of Mark Campbell, Morgan Day, Tony Deys, McKade Hogg, Jordana Kohn, Sheila Matson and Stephen Graham.

I also have to give a shout-out to the crew, who are a formidable force: Nancy Graham, Stage Manager: Jason Eveleigh ( Foley sound); Rob Stanford (Lighting and large stage props); Mary-Lynn Muhly (props and stage dressing);  Helen Barber and Patti DeGorter (costumes).

How much fun is it to incorporate live sound effects?

It can get a little crazy at times, but once we’re in the venue and the mics are there to amplify the sound, it will be a hoot!. I think the audience will get a real kick out of watching what goes on. What’s so unique is that the tools for each effect sound like the real thing, but aren’t even similar: for example the sound of crickets is created by running fingers along the tines of a comb! I won’t give away any more! The sound effects and what’s used to create them are called Foley, named after the person who invented the system back in the 20”s. Foley still is used today, primarily in the film industry.

How close to the beloved movie is the radio play?

Very, very close, sometimes word for word. The length of the play has been adapted to approx 90 minutes, but nothing is lost. The script has everything: It is very funny, sometimes sad, sometimes romantic and very relevant to what’s going on in our world today.

The play is at the Lutheran Church on the West Side. Does it work in terms of staging a play?

I love the venue! It is very warm, intimate and welcoming. We are fortunate to have it as, with the Yates being closed, performance space is at a premium. The acoustics are excellent, stage area is a good size and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The staff is terrific and I think they’re excited about this. Oh, and there is a parking lot adjacent to the church. The lobby is large, and there will be a handbell choir there from Galbraith School. The venue is very easy to find, because it is on the corner of University Drive and the Riverstone exit.

Where is the money going?

In keeping with reaching out and connecting with the community, the production is funded by sponsors and Rotary, and every dollar from seat sales will go to local community projects.

Where can we get tickets and when does the show run?

The show runs Dec 6 & 7, and tickets are available at Enmax or on line. Tickets are $20.00 ea, or 5 tickets for $80.00. Doors open at 7:00, play starts at 7:30.

Another Week Gone

Monday musings:

I attended the AUMA convention in Calgary last week. AUMA is the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. (There are a lot of acronyms when you get on City Council and I’m still learning them all.) It was a great event for a first time councillor and it was an opportunity to take in a number of informative sessions like how municipalities are doing to deal with the legalization of recreational marijuana along with a session on “Five Things Every Elected Official Needs To Know”. I was also able to network with many colleagues from around the province.

We had addresses from a number of provincial ministers and from Premier Notley not to mention Calgary Mayor Nenshi. (I felt compelled to go up to him and shake his hand. I still kind of get star struck so I’m not sure what I said to him….I’m checking my e-mails to see if I did something inappropriate.)

Olympic Gold Medal curler Joan McCusker was a keynote speaker and gave a humorous and inspirational talk.

The final speaker of the event was comedian Dave Hemstad who was hilarious. I felt so bad for him because he came after we were going through some rather tedious resolutions and we were running about a half hour behind. Be he came on and killed. (Figuratively.)

The Telus Convention Centre is a tremendous facility for an event like AUMA. Iwould love to cut and paste it for downtown Lethbridge. I’m hoping we’ll have that technology soon.

What a Grey Cup game yesterday. I was cheering for the Stamps so the wrong team won but I appreciated that it was a great game. I remember watching the Grey Cup Game with my old Paul and ardent Rider fan Paul Tessier the day that Tony Gabriel broke the hearts of Rider Nation. I said to him at the end of it, “At least it was a great game.” He said…Oh #@!$! You…”

My timing was not good for that particular appraisal of the game.

Council just approved $500,000 for the bid to host the Men’s World Curling Championships in. Lethbridge knows how to do curling events and all members on council saw this as a great way to showcase the city and generate millions of dollars.

And here’s a happy ending. I took my dog out for a walk on Saturday night. On the Sunday on my way to take my dad out for our weekly breakfast, I noticed I did not have one of my gloves. I took a chance and retraced my steps along the doggie path and by golly right there on someone’s front lawn was my lost glove. It was a joyous moment. And I got pie afterward.