Remember when …

You know sometimes it’s pretty easy to forget just how blessed life is. This past summer most of our children and all our grandchildren gathered for a bit of fun at Lake Windemere/Fairmont. It was awesome.

IMG_3757.jpgThe most recent addition at the time, Laken, got her introduction to the nuances of mini-golf with her playing partner, grandpa.  She was an excellent partner as we registered the low score for the day. The extended family Par 3 tournament was another success, not too much concern about scores, just a great time had by one and all.  No holes in one this year, though there was one pretty good shot at it on the last hole, complete with a gallery to witness as the ball rolled up right online about 4 inches short…too bad.

 

 

 

The Jet Ski – Pontoon Boat day was one of the most fun things we’ve ever done, so much so we did it twice.  As sons and daughters took grandchildren out for spins on the Jet Ski the rest of the crew relaxed on the pontoon boat and enjoyed the view, the laughs and the fun.

 

A nice 60 km bike ride from Cranbrook BC to Kimberly BC (check out the trail) to Lake Wasa with a couple of my brothers and some of our children and their spouses, and several rounds of golf rounded out the week.

It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the business of life while forgetting to live life.  I’ve been guilty of this on more than one occasion that’s for sure.   I’m not suggesting events like a week at the lake are the only way to live life, nope there’s been super days before, since and will be many great days in the future.  That said,  these days were, and remain, days that reset and restore an element of balance necessary to have enough in the tank to get through tough days that are simply part of the deal that is life.  At least they do for me.

It’s not just grandchildren or children that say, “remember when…” there’s a reason for that.

Cheers!

 

Dare Greatly

Several years ago at a Colour Night celebration at the Composite High School I shared the extended quote, often titled as “Dare Greatly” from Teddy Roosevelt I include it below:

“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly…who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who have never known neither victory nor defeat.”
Teddy Roosevelt

It is difficult to get banged about at the best of times, the slightly cynical “no good deed goes unpunished” speaks to those occasions when we think we are doing something “good” for others but the reaction or response is not what is anticipated or along the journey we encounter a little challenge. Think of the time you got a speeding ticket hurrying to help a single mother move for example….;-)

There is a need to develop resilience, an ability to remember who we are and what we are and remember that what we do adds to who we are but is not “all” that we are.

This past week a friend shared the work she’s doing as an outstanding young principal in our school district and pointed me in the direction of a Tedx talk by Brene Brown

After watching the video,as is recently common for me, I dug around the net to her website:
http://www.brenebrown.com/

daring greatly subsequently bought and over the weekend read/listened to most of her most recent book: Daring Greatly. I think educators, parents, dads, moms, husbands, wives, employees, employers..sons, daughters, can read this just as you can watch the video, several times and come away with different keys or ponderables for the different channels of your life.

This above all…

The setting or circumstance doesn’t really matter. When the time comes for us to venture out into the world be it that first day of kindergarten, as a teenager, a university student, an adult to work, as I said the circumstance or timing is not the key what we do while we are out wherever we are, therein rests the focus.

In the Shakespearean play Hamlet a father gives counsel to his son ranging from finances, “neither a borrower nor a lender be”, to friendship, “those friends thou hast, …grapple (hold) them to they soul with hoops of steel” to the art of conversation “give every man thy ear, but few thy voice”.  These are Polonius’ words to his son Laertes as he prepares to leave for France.

Polonius closes with “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” 

He shares this counsel confident, and hopeful at the same time, that he has provided Laertes with the upbringing and support that would enable him to make good choices in whatever situation he finds himself. That if he is constant to his values and upbringing he will succeed and be someone that others can count upon. In our own lives, our own self-development we would do well to reflect upon what it is we believe, really value as being at the core of who we are and then ensuring as the day follows the night that our actions align with those beliefs.

bravery 2I suspect it takes an element of bravery to stand for something and follow through in a constant manner. There will be times where we slip, stumble and fall in our efforts to be true to ourselves but the key rests in recognizing that the power lies within us to succeed.  To get up each time we fall and carry on. The Japanese word for bravery is Yuki. It is literally the feeling of being brave.

Yu Bravery

chikara-strength-4

As with all Kanji it is the combination of elements, strokes, and images, that creates the meaning. In the character for brave (yu) seen to the left you have at the base the two stroke character that by itself is the Japanese word for power, chikara (seen to the right).

This is not by accident, we might consider which proceeds the other, do you draw power through being brave or does it require power to be brave? I am comfortable believing it is both.

To thine own self be true is not an invitation to be selfish, it’s not to go get what you feel you deserve, it’s an admonition to reflect upon your beliefs, establish what you will stand for and not fall to the everyday breezes we occasionally mistake for the gale force winds of change. I hope people who know me, know what I stand for and can count on me being true.  Even the children’s cartoon Mulan get’s this with the line, “though the winds may blow yet the mountain will not bow”.

Each director must make choices when bringing a play to the big screen.  Watch this version of Polonius and his counsel to his son.  It is Act1 Scene 3 (I’ve included the full text below) He drops a couple of key lines from the original.  An example “Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment” is absent nevertheless it serves as a reasonable rendition and displays the anxiety at parting that I suspect most of us feel.

LORD POLONIUS

Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!
The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,
And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee!
And these few precepts in thy memory
See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
For the apparel oft proclaims the man,
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are of a most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

My Dad…

The other night  (Dec 10, 2012) I had the chance to spend a few minutes with my wife and son on a skype call to my mother and father on his birthday.  It was their first skype at their house, they’d been involved in a few others but still it was just so much better than a phone call. 75 years old and 75 years young.

My dad is special.  I’m hopeful that all sons and daughters are able to say the same thing but sadly I know that is not always the case.  For me, for my life, my dad has been special even if there were times I failed to recognize just how special, how wise and how instructive he was.

dad2
Dad and Mom watching the “kids” cliff jump in Fairmont, BC

Why share this in a post? Like millions of other sons around the world my dad has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimers and things have become pretty short term in what seems like a flash.  I know he’s given much and has more to give, my reflection provides one side of a set of mirrors and his presents that eternal reflection over time.

Perhaps your dad’s have taught you similar lessons.

At the top of the list for me my dad taught me work. I don’t know for sure when the first time was he said it, I’ve always told others it was a time I was weeding the garden but I think most of those times it was my mom cracking the whip…metaphorically of course…but I hated spiders (daddy long legs specifically) crawling on me while I was doing it and I’d beg to be excused.  “I wish I didn’t have to do this…”  Any wish that avoided work was met with the phrase “Wish in one hand spit in the other and see which one fills up faster” He’d illustrate by spitting on the one hand slapping it against the other, rubbing them together and grabbing the shovel to get to work. It has stuck with me my entire life…sports, coaching, teaching, working on my own degrees, raising a family….I wish…well get to work.

From as early as I can remember my dad was a great story teller, teacher (though not university trained most of his teaching was in Sunday School/Seminary settings) and public speaker, he loved to draw the connections of outside experiences to whatever situation connecting metaphors wherever he might from whatever he could connect. I always wanted to be that teacher who could help students, in whatever setting see the connection and understand the why…that’s from my dad.

I don’t know anyone who was better able to sleep whenever and wherever he needed to sleep. In the early 60’s there was a “trading post” just across the bridge into/out of “downtown” Banff. As kids we’d go into to get stick candy, Dad worked for the morning paper in Calgary at that time, The Calgary Albertan so he worked all night.  We came out of the store and there he was lying on the grass sound asleep snoring like a lion and I recall Japanese tourists taking his picture. Not at all uncommon was his falling asleep during a football game or show on tv and then insisting he hadn’t missed a minute.  My wife will tell you I do the same.  Need the rest, take the rest where you can.

I have coached volleyball, basketball and for most of my life football.  My interest in coaching came from my dad though “just” a newspaper man he volunteered and coached volleyball and basketball. As a volleyball coach he took Sir Winston Churchill High School to a city championship in the early 70’s and I believe to the provincial finals.  He coached church basketball and volleyball as well.  Church basketball in Calgary and Southern Alberta…well it could be pretty competitive, the joke in the church is that it is the only war that starts with an opening prayer.  Dad took the volleyball team all the way to “All-Church” when that tournament used to exist. There are hundreds of men today who remember that he introduced them to basketball through the “mini-basketball program” particularly in Edmonton later in his life and finally while he and mom were serving missions in the Ukraine he arranged to have basketballs shipped over and taught the game there while in his 60’s.

Service leadership…not sure I have enough space to write about this, suffice it to say that Dad has always been available to help whoever needs help in whatever way he can help.  As seniors he and mom have served to missions spanning 3 years and only the downturn in his health prevented a third mission. They have shown all of us the way.  My dad is not a great cook; that’s my mom’s area, but he is a great cook’s helper packing food to catering jobs and working in the kitchen even to this day.

My dad loves my mom.  I don’t think too much more is required there and I really don’t think a father can do anything more important than this in raising his boys, love their mom. They’ve been married since May of 1958 through 4 boys and all that 4 boys can bring and a life time of victories and defeats and through it all my dad loves my mom.

As the weeks and months pass on Alzheimers is doing what it does and Dad’s memory is going, he knows it and we know it but our feelings – all those feelings they don’t go away. It is the one thing the desease cannot touch.  We may lose the ability to express what we’ve felt, what we’ve experienced, even who we are or what are relationships are…but the feelings stay.

A week or two ago sitting in a James Bond movie of all places I found myself listening to the words of Tennyson from the poem Ulysses. It hit me that even in the sunset of life there is always so much we can learn from each other and that I can and will continue to learn from and share with my dad.  I share the last stanza with you below:

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Thanks Dad, I continue to learn from you and the feelings and memories are eternal.

Sir John Gielgud shares a few words from the poem Ulysses by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Peace…be still

Amy at “Writing On Stone” Provincial Park in Alberta several years ago

A few years ago we took a trip to Writing on Stone provincial park in south eastern Alberta. The geological formation there is quite cool, and relatively unique in Alberta. The name comes from some relatively ancient markings on the wall of one of the outcroppings. That’s the geography but not the point, I don’t feel like I’m the only one who from time to time feels a lot more like the class hamster on the wheel. In our hyper connected world are we losing the ability to find stillness, the time for quiet reflection and pondering that can open our minds to alternate possibilities for the challenges of our day.

Not really trapped, but sometimes we are stuck between good and best use of our time.

I don’t think it was a big box office hit, another Costner baseball movie “For Love of the Game” where the main character’s ability to focus and, what the character refers to as “clearing the mechanism“. To me this really speaks to knowing  there are times where we need to be able to zone out the distractions, find the quiet spot and expand our ability to hear ourselves above the din that clamours for our attention.

I do not think I am talking about the calm before the storm, more about finding calm, perhaps looking for it in the midst of all that surrounds us in our life.  Steven Herrick wrote, “Men walk through tragedy, quietly, calm and precise on the outside, tearing themselves to shreds inside.” Herrick writes of a calm presence on the surface but inside that calm is absent. There are times for this type of calm, particularly when others are counting on you to lead, but it has a price and requires those possessed of it to find a different time where they too can truly come to a point of resolve, a calmness born of reflection that requires time to be still.

Paulo Coelho wrote in his book, “Warrior of Light”, “Occasionally, the Warrior sits down, relaxes, and lets everything that is happening around him continue to happen….Little by little, everything that seemed complicated begins to become simple.” (p.91)

It’s hard to step out of the rushing river that is our life, even harder to see that sometimes it’s really not a river, barely a stream but from our point of view we’re drowning. Take the time to find that spot and sit down, consider Mark 4:39 “Peace, be still”.

Supporting can be complicated…but worth it

So… as a parent I’m pretty sure there really isn’t one set of rules for what to do in whatever it is we tend to define as parenting. I suspect it’s pretty natural to cast your eyes over the fence at the proverbial neighbours kids and try as you might the yardsticks sneak into the back of your head. Marks, Athletics, Musical Talents, Friends, Teeth (braces/no braces), it can be a bit of a jungle out there as you go through the compulsory stages. In the end we want them safe, healthy, and happy…get those three down and then take what comes.

Amy, my youngest of 3 daughters and 5th of 6 children has a bit of a flair for the dramatic…and fashion….and photography…and life.

The challenge, or maybe it’s just my challenge, comes with that concept of agency and sustaining support for your kids when the choices they make run just a little to the left or right of what you had in mind as the best path (my view of best path) for their life. If you haven’t had a teenager yet, you’ll have to trust me on this a bit, then again perhaps you remember using the line, “You’re ruining my life….” or “It’s my life…” usually utilized in a discussion around the teen’s choices and the direct disharmony with your parental expectations. I can’t say no one’s life is ruined…sadly some decisions actually do lead to great tragedy, but I can say a lot of the decisions we bump and struggle through with our children while life impacting are not life ruining.

Having the patience to work through those without fighting in a manner that permanently scars the relationship, that can be a challenge. Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “When we are unduly impatient…we are in effect trying to hasten the outcome when acceleration would abuse agency.” This doesn’t mean we blindly acquiesce when choices run contrary with our personal beliefs, even beliefs we feel are family beliefs. It means that we need to take a much longer view at life, and the eternal nature of the family, as we continue to support and guide and allow for agency to run its course.

As parents we have a pretty good idea of what we believe.  Our faith, both in practice and as it manifests itself as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), provides a few foundational guidelines…some do and do nots in the expectations. Most people who have met a “mormon” know that we don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke, no drugs, no coffee, wait until you’re married, even a few simple ones things like minding our language – a few guidelines to help us along the way. At some time in life each and every individual has to decide do I follow those expectations or not – either way its an exercise in agency.

As parents we have our agency as well, and one of the choices is to make sure that our children understand the expectations and hopes we have for them. The element of unconditional love works in concert with that of expectations, values, and the focus on the eternity. Then we have to give them the room to make their choices…hard as that may be at times.

I am tremendously proud of my six children – we debate choices and consequences all the time. I’d love for all of them to be right on the path my wife and I hope for them and yes I don’t mind saying that at times we’d like their path to be closer to our path and that’s why supporting can be complicated. The first student I suspended as principal was my daughter (not Amy) they all know we don’t get to choose the consequences of our choices.  They also all know that the sun will come up tomorrow and tomorrow we’ll have another set of opportunities and choices.

There is karma in all of this of course, the cycle does tend to repeat over time. As that young daughter I suspended grew older, married and had a baby girl of her own it appears her parents have become exponentially smarter…I suspect we haven’t but her point of view certainly has changed.  Complicated? Yes but continue the support, it will be worth it in the eternities.

Cheers,

Rick

Amy’s flair for the fashion world continues – she has lead a group of students at her college to develop a magazine for the 20 somethings…admittedly quite a bit outside my comfort zone, language and some content warnings – perhaps past what you’d see in Cosmo (I’m guessing) but proud of her just the same. Check it out here

Time passes….will I? will you?

Chauna and I in Hawaii

On the 22nd of December 1958 the fine couple of Bob and Marilyn Gilson brought a 10 lb baby boy into the world. My mom recently told me that I was a happy boy growing up, and suggested that for the most part that happy attitude has sustained me through the first 50 years. I know the odds are long on me seeing a second 50 years but my oh my the first 50 have been busy. In no particular order:

The Beatles – Lennon killed while I was on my honeymoon part II

Kennedy (John and Bobby), Ghandi, Martin L King Jr,

The Cuban missile crisis, the FLQ crisis, Munich Olympics, Cold War end, Vietnam, Afghanistan I, II and III, Iraq I and II, Twin Towers I and II,  Nixon, Mandela, Obama, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Gorbachev, Thatcher and Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II…there probably should have been a Gore in there somewhere.

Computers – the Apple, Apple IIe, IIc, Mac, Mac SE, IMac, Ibook, IPod, Itouch, IPhone (I’ve owned all of these except the IIc….)

Microsoft

Global warming and 50 below winter work days – a bit of a contrast really.

NASA – the moon, Apollo 13, Neil Armstrong,

Mission to Japan

Marriage to Chauna

Children – Steve, Brent, Shannon, Sara, Amy and Shayne, one grandson- Masen, two grand daughters Alaina and Nia, Two daughters in law – Janae, and Julie, two sons in law – Eric and Ryan.

Peace Bowl championships and defeats each teaching different lessons along the way, National championships, silver and bronze – again each teaching lessons along the way.

Provincial game wins and losses

Boise State and Utah winning BCS games –

UCLA and Wooden – lots of Wooden reading

12 years in the Stake Presidency – lots of talks – lots of great people

The Internet

ITunes…did I mention that? Supertramp live 3 times?

Ted Talks – Love the range of topics and inspiration

BYU Speeches – A great collection of devotionals

Bachelor of education – U of Alberta, Masters of education – U of Alberta, Doctorate of education – in progress through the U of Phoenix

A 2011 Warriors Football season that taught me so much that is both good and challenging (other posts will explore this)

27 years in education the last 15 in administration and a recent change in assignment that provides even more opportunity to learn.

All of my six children have graduated from high school – beat the odds on that, and as of this writing are healthy and enjoying their own challenges and I’m certainly grateful for that.

I wonder what it is that we are meant to take from the tests that come our way, the opportunities that come to be of service to others, and the frustrations we experience when unexpected events significantly alter our plans and our lives.  I suspect that while we may have some understanding of our purpose in life there will always be a bit more than we fully understand.

Time passes, the years march by and opportunities come and go, and through it all as I reflect back on the last 30 years I suspect I’ve let the balance swing too far toward work and too far away from family. It’s not a position I feel alone in; fact is I probably have too much company, but if I’m to pass I suspect it’s the family that will be doing the real grading that counts and it’s time to cram for that exam.

Cheers,

Rick