Tragedy and a Lesson in Moving On — The Boston Marathon Bombings

The now-famous video frame that shows one of the bombs detonating at the 2013 Boston Marathon.
Source: Stringer/Reuters

What do we do in the face of tragedy? Do we stop everything we do to remember the victims, or do we work even harder to honour them?

The answer, it turns out, isn’t so simple.

Do We Move On or Do We Remember?

Ever since the Boston Marathon bombings a few days back, I haven’t been overly keen to blog. I’d written a post about blogging — about how people choose to sacrifice quality for quantity when it comes to blogging and why they needed to change the entire idea of how we blog. I’d actually written all weekend, on topics like my February trip to Las Vegas, a look at the future, and a number of the events I’ve been to as of late.

But none of it felt right. None of it felt like the stuff I should be blogging about, considering that others had it so much worse off than I did. It felt — empty, maybe. Like the things I planned to blog about didn’t hold enough meaning to share them with others. Much of what I’d planned to blog about suddenly felt tasteless. The things I was passionate about moments before didn’t interest me anymore.

And so, I slowed down for a bit. For the second time in as many weeks, I found myself in a state of self-analysis, trying to figure out why it is that I do what I do.

We all respond to tragedies in different ways. Some of us internalize that pain, empathize and cope with it by ourselves. Some of us work hard to prove that we’re still alive and won’t let the ills of the world get us down. There’re any of a multitude of coping mechanisms we use to try to get past acts like this, but there’s something it gives you, if even for the briefest of moments — perspective. A tragedy like this gives everyone the chance to reflect on what’s actually important.

Problems Without Solutions

I’m a problem solver — I like to look at a situation and try to figure out what the best possible outcome is, and I’ve gotten pretty decent at it. But the problems that really matter in this world are bigger than any one person: hunger, greed, war, disease, violence… it feels at times like the world is sinking and there’s no purchase for us to climb out of the pit.

I’m a problem solver. When someone has an issue come up in their lives, my first reaction is to try to come up with a solution (much to Sarah’s chagrin when she just wants to vent). My brain works a mile a minute, trying to connect dots and figure out what I can do to make things better.

But some problems are too big to easily find their solutions. Things like war, hunger, poverty — or yes, senseless acts of violence — are things that have been around for generations, and one should not expect to find a solution for them overnight. We can share ideas, volunteer and donate — but many of these are Band-Aid solutions that don’t address the real issues that allow these things to keep happening:

Ourselves and our attitudes toward the world we live in.

So I took to my notebook and tried to rationalize what was going on. I started writing what you’re reading now — what the things I’ve seen and read about these past few days has me thinking about. Processing the negative and trying to turn it into something positive. Something to make this world a little better — even if only for a moment.

Pulling the Band-Aid Off

In the end, I decided it was due time to get back to the grind and do what I do best. We can’t stop our lives for every tragedy that happens or we’d never get anything done. At the same time, we should never forget that these tragedies happened, nor forget the victims that endured them. The world’s a big place — and it’s not all good. Many of us are simply going through the motions day by day as we try to make sense of it all and find our place. And while we still need to solve the equation for world peace, what I do know is this — we won’t find it without waking up, caring a little more about each other, and choosing more actions that benefit our communities and not just ourselves.

From ABC News: “A runner tapes a sign combining a Boston Red Sox logo with a yellow ribbon on a corner street post where Massachusetts Street intersects another roadway, April 15, 2013, in Seattle. (Elaine Thompson/AP Photo)”

Make the world you want to live in.

–case p.

THE GREAT SOCIAL MEDIA STORY: Man in the Mirror

“Brrrrrrrr. What happened to that boy?”

–Birdman (featuring The Clipse), “What Happened to that Boy?”, Birdman, 2002

I decided to stay away from blogging until I had something worthwhile to say. I’m not just an event blogger. I don’t just take photos of food and share stories from my past.

I used to draw. I used to write novels. I used to spend months on projects instead of trying to crank content out to keep — what, relevant? Popular? To show how good I am at social media?

Whatever the reason, I was lost. I was blogging out of control with no end in sight.

This wasn’t the way it meant to be.

An Epiphany

After two solid years of spending the lion’s share of my time on social media and events related to it, I’ve figured out that I’m far happier investing time in creating quality projects than I am doing lots of little things daily to keep fresh in everyone’s mind. I wasn’t doing anything for myself anymore — I was starting to do things because of so many other obligations, and not simply because I could. It was like being 16 all over again.

We might be the sum of our experiences, but we are measured by the sum of what we put out into the world around us — and if we put stuff out that we can’t always stand behind, then what does that add up to?

Christine recently asked me a question that caught me dead in my tracks. It was so alarmingly simple that I’m surprised I hadn’t thought on it before, but the more I thought on it, the more I realized that I’d lost my way and needed to stop figure out what exactly I was doing. It was only four words, but they captured much of what I’ve felt lately — and that question is this:

“What are your goals?”

Why Am I Doing This?

I usually start things for one reason: because they’re interesting. When I started blogging on LiveJournal in 2002, it was because it gave me an outlet to express myself through all the emotional turmoil and confusion that was my transition from high school to university. When I started doomsdayblaze.com and Fish ‘n’ Chimps in 2003, I was looking to develop my coding skills even further and put a regular webcomic out about the characters I’d grown to love. I started using Facebook in 2005 because it was “cool” and gave me a better place to represent myself than I would anonymously on other sites like AsianAvenue or BlackPlanet.

I start things because they interest me, and social media was no different. When I started with a Twitter account in ’08, I barely used it, and no one was listening to me. That would change when I finally started meeting people at tweetups by the end of 2010 and building a network of peers, friends and business associates to work with.

But there lies the problem — work at something enough, and it reaches a tipping point where what was fun and interesting suddenly becomes serious. You become marketable. That thing you dabbled in suddenly becomes work.

LiveJournal became less important to keep up as my life became more routine and I found less wonder in each day — forcing myself to write about myself became an uphill battle that I didn’t want to fight. With school, work and a social life, I found myself at home less and less often, which meant my art suffered from my absence, and my content for doomsdayblaze.com with it. And while I still use Facebook and connect with my friends, I’ve stopped broadcasting my every thought like I used to and started sharing — almost instinctively — the ideas which I think others would actually respond to.

But social media took that tipping point to an entirely new level.

Blogging Outta Control

I’ve changed a lot over the years of social media, blogging attempts and general Internet consumption… but is it for the better?

Okay, let’s be real — for the most part, bloggers don’t know what the heck they’re doing. They like to party, they like to get free stuff and they like to feel important — but why are they blogging? Ask a blogger what their goals are for their blog and wait to see if they have an answer. What story are they trying to tell? Who is their audience? Does it make them happy?

When I hit that first tweetup a little over two years ago, it was an amazing experience for someone who thrives off of the energy level in a room — I met dozens of new people, tried new places — it was a rush.

My calendar would fill with more and more of these events, like HoHoTO shortly afterwards — one of the craziest parties I’d hit up in a while; TwestivalTO and DefineTO which merged dancing, drinking and competitive karaoke; or even the upcoming Bloggers in Sin City, an unconference specifically for bloggers which I wouldn’t have considered investing in during those earlier days.

Twitter’s very likely been one of the last steps in my transition to becoming a complete adult from the big kid I’ve always been. I’ve held jobs pretty steadily for the last 15 years, but never in any of them did I have to work on being a brand. I was given tasks and I did them — but that’s a heck of a lot simpler than doing things while trying to stand out from a crowd. Or trying to develop your own personal signature or way of doing things. Working a job and trying to do things for a boss is simple cause and effect — but social media sees a lot of effort going toward cause… but without the effects being as obvious when you fire things out into the ether, it’s not the same at all.

The Art of Selling Out

Back in the early days of my social media journey, there were others I looked up to with what was almost a reverence, wondering how they managed to make a name for themselves. The Zaighams, the Jos, the Craigs and the Casies of the world – the people I saw out there with thousands of followers; everyone knew their names, and they just seemed to exist on an entirely different level.

The years go by, though, and you see that everyone else is just as human as you are. Everyone else might have some idea of what they’re doing, but they’re not working any less than you are. They’re not any luckier than you are. Oftentimes, that person you’re envying is probably who you could be if you were willing to put the years of work, network building and sheer effort needed to get there.

I’ve learned that nothing comes easy, but in that quest for the best, you can lose sight of who you are. Of what you’re supposed to do. Of why you’re doing it.

Waking Up

So, social media, my eyes are open and I’m awake for the first time in a good while. There’s a lot I need to do, but you know what?

I have all the time in the world to get it done.

Until the next post,

–case p.

Paying Dues — Stand for Something or Fall for Anything

Sign: "I'm lost. I've gone to look for myself. If I should return before I get back, please ask me to wait."
Sometimes you must step outside of yourself to really see what you’re doing.

“Everybody wanna be a star, don’t wanna be who they are.”

— Beanie Sigel, “Everybody Wanna Be A Star”, The Truth (2000)

You can get sucked into the game faster than you can blink.

Build an audience and people will start knocking at your door. Brands, would-be collaborators, haters — making yourself visible for all to see will make you a target for all sorts of attention, like it or not.

But never forget what they came for in the first place.

We’re Bringin’ Blogging Back — YUP!!!

The blogger brand’s diluted. Everyone’s fighting for the same piece of pie and many bloggers are more than happy to do whatever it takes to stand out and go home with the biggest morsels. Some of us fight to keep our integrity, but often feel like integrity doesn’t pay. Commissions pay. Sponsored and affiliate posts pay. But at the same time, if you don’t do it right, they can take away from your brand  and everything that you stand for.

Many of us follow the same formula. Sure, we might tweak it — add a personal touch here, an amusing anecdote there — but ultimately, there’s a finite number of opportunities for a finite number of players, all who’re learning from each other how to keep those opportunities coming.

It’s all too easy to lose your way. I love a good event — the chance to practice photography with interesting subjects and to experience things that I wouldn’t otherwise. When brands send me on experiences because they want to see my words and understand my take on it, I’m honoured and flattered. But if I don’t keep a balance between event/product reviews and posts about what I’m really thinking, not only am I alienating my audience, I’m not being true to myself.

So where’s the sweet spot between integrity, relevancy and profitability?

Why Blog If You Can’t Keep It Real?

Cheryl Lynn had it right back in the 70s — “Got to be real!” And in keeping it real — it’s not easy to feed mouths from blogging alone. People are skeptical — selling stuff to people over the Internet takes an insane amount of charisma and influences; not just anyone can separate people from their hard-earned dollars. And being even more real, what incentive do many bloggers out there offer brands to trust them with the products and images that they’ve poured millions into? The idea of free labour and an engaged audience might seem like an attractive package to offer from a blogger’s perspective, but your following of a few thousand is nothing compared to the millions consuming TV, magazines, movies, etc.

If you don’t stand for anything — if all you do is parroting what other bloggers are doing and hoping to get the same success, you’ll soon find that first impression are the only ones to make impressions — you can’t pull the same stunt twice on the Internet and expect it to stick; people are always looking for the next thing. You are not the next social media darling. You are not the next big-time blogger. You’re the next you — what is it that you can do that no one else can?

 Going Back to Myself

In the end, this is my promise. I will stand for a higher standard. I will work to stand out from the crowd not through elitism, but through telling a story and sharing thoughts that improve the world, not simply beat to the rhythm it already has. I will challenge things and ask the hard questions. I will be a blogger — and not just a mouthpiece.

Stand for something or fall for anything. The world’s waiting for you to be yourself — why be the next whoever or act like everybody else? Show us what makes you different, and the world might start paying attention!

–case p.

TV — Why Can’t I Quit You?!

Casey and Jon at Disneyland, 2oo6.
To be fair, I think “Space Ranger 2” had done this ride before. At least a few times!

I did it again, didn’t I? I pulled the entire “holier than thou” routine again, and now it’s come back to bite me in the ass.

I used to be a staunch agnostic in my high school days, only to end up being baptized in 2008.

I used to be firmly against drinking until the age of 20, and now have no problem with having a beer with dinner.

And for a few years recently, I was firmly against the idea of TV and anything it had to offer, but that too would soon find me being a hypocrite….

TV, the Greatest Frienemy I’ve Ever Had

I spent the better part of my childhood in front of a TV: Saturday Morning Cartoons, afterschool video games with my friends, and growing up on the sitcom gold that the 90s had to offer.

But growing up brought the Internet. YouTube. Every possible reason to be out of the house and not keeping up with what the major networks had to offer. (Though, with comic books having been a huge part of my upbringing, cartoons and anime still found their way into the mix — even ’til today!)

It wasn’t until only recently that I got too busy for TV! Living in Mississauga. Dating in Toronto. Hanging out at tweetups and working my day job when I wasn’t doing everything else — who had time for TV?

That is… until Netflix made its way into my life….

The Netflix Fix — I’m a Slave to the Screen!

I can’t remember how it happened — one day I was on a week-long free trial at my parents’ place in Mississauga, and the next thing I know, I’m married, living in Toronto, and using my iPad as a second monitor to watch the massive list of shows that people have recommended to me! Don’t get me wrong, there’s some amazing stuff out there (you have not lived until you’ve seen Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock!), but I can’t help but feel that I’m only filling my life with more distractions and trying to justify them by consuming them very efficiently.

With that said, it’s not so bad. I only have these shows left to get through:

  • The West Wing
  • Battlestar Galactica
  • Dr. Who (Series 3 on)
  • Torchwood
  • Sons of Anarchy
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Downton Abbey
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Freaks and Geeks
  • The Mighty Boosh
  • Little Britain
  • Life on Mars
  • The Young Ones
  • Black Adder
  • Scandal
  • The IT Crowd
  • Kings
  • Vikings
  • Misfits
  • The Newsroom

…okay. Maybe it’s a little bad.

–case p.

To Infinity and Beyond – Why You Should Make Me a Space Axetronaut!!!

The picture of me on the AXE Apollo Space Academy contest voting site.
Because space is the final frontier… and I’m not there yet!

To help me in my quest to become an Axetronaut (a term coined by my friend Christine), you could not bother reading this post and just vote for me at http://bit.ly/SpaceCase, but I’ve got a story to tell.

[hr color=”gray” width=”90%” border_width=”1px” ]

How cool would it be to go to outer space???

A while back, I’d put a quote up for discussion on my Facebook from Penelope Trunk, author of The New American Dream:

It used to be we had a midlife crisis. Then we had a quarterlife crisis. Now we have a
constant crisis. Adults feel overwhelmed by the idea of trying to construct a life that
works. And the core of this problem is that the goal of happiness is feeling vacuous. It’s
just hard to say that. It’s hard to say you are not trying to get what you were raised to
get. It’s hard to say you are not playing the game you were taught in school – for twenty
years – to play.

In her book, Penelope surmises that we’re not actually looking for happiness in our lives — we’re just looking to keep things interesting. We get so wrapped up in our daily routines and trying to live at a certain standard that we forget to change it up now and then. To try new experiences, go new places, meet new people — we somehow convince ourselves that we’ll be happy if only we can keep things constant and meet a specific goal.

You’re kidding me, right?

No, the universe out there is so much larger and more complex than we can even fathom — yet me limit ourselves to the files on our desks. Or to our social media rankings. Bank account balances.

All things that won’t matter a lick at the end of our lives.

What we will have until the end are the experiences that make us unique. The experiences that make up the very foundation of who we are.

Our jobs do not define us.

Our stuff does not define us.

But we cannot choose whether our experiences define us — we are the sum of our experiences!

Axeing You to Make Me an Axetronaut!

The header image for the AXE Apollo Space Academy contest.
Only 2 Canadians can make the cut. Will I be one of them?

With all that in mind, I want to find my way to outer space!

While I’m not a fan of popularity contests (I’ll take feats of skill or luck over “Who ha the most Internet friends” any day), some prizes are too cool to pass up so easily!

But why send me to space? Why should I be one of the ones to represent Canada in one of the first commercial flights among the stars? Well…

1. I PROMISE TO MAKE THE MOST OF THE EXPERIENCE

Anyone who’s seen me in the midst of a new experience knows I’m like a kid at a candy store. My eyes light up, my energy levels spike, and I soak it all in. I’m not there to say I was there — I’m there to get everything I can from the experience I’m in! This would be no exception!

2. YOU CAN FREELY BE AMUSED BY MY COMPLETE LACK OF SHAME

No holds barred, y’all. If I need to upchuck my lunch after a ride in a centrifuge, you’ll be there. If I have a really embarrassing crotch-to-face collision while in zero gravity, you’ll be there. When I write, I’m here to help you experience what I experience, both good and bad. And if you trust me to go to space? It’ll be ridiculous.

3. I REP CANADA, THROUGH AND THROUGH

I’m proud to stand by the re and white colours of our flag. I’d love to show what Canadians are really made of and that even though we can be nice and polite to a fault, we’re also tough contenders when it comes down to it! Space would be the perfect arena to prove this!

How it All Works

The three stages for the AXE Apollo Space Academy contest
One year. One chance. Thousands of votes.

So we have 8 months to show that we can rally enough support to send us to Space Camp. You’ll see below that you can only vote once, so the real mission here will be to convince you guys to share my http://bit.ly/SpaceCase link with as many people as possible in that time! I’m somewhere around 200th now, but in that time, trust me — we can do some serious damage!!!

For a more detailed look at how the entire contest works:

Stage 1 — VOTING

  • Voting runs from January 9 – August 31, 2013
  • You can only vote once over the 8 months, meaning you want exposure to as many people as possible and not just harping on your friends to vote for you daily! (i.e. I’m going to badger you lot to share the heck out of the link instead!)
  • The Top 2 Canadians who advance to Stage 2  will be announced on or before October 31, 2013

Stage 2 — SPACE CAMP

  • Stage 2 is held at the Axe Apollo Global Space Camp in Orlando, FL in December 2013
  • Winners can meet winners from promotions in other countries, and take part in authentic astronaut training missions (including: a flight in an L39 Albatross Mk11 jet, a session in a G-force centrifuge simulator and a flight on  a zero gravity-inducing aircraft)

Stage 3 — ASTRONAUT SELECTION

  • The winning Canadian Axetronaut will be selected by January 31, 2014 based on 3 criteria:
    • MENTAL APTITUDE – BASED ON PERFORMANCE IN WRITTEN TEST
    • PHYSICAL APTITUDE – BASED ON PERFORMANCE IN 3 MAIN EVENTS AND ASSAULT COURSE
    • AXE SPACE CREW TEAM FIT – DEDICATION, ENTHUSIASM & TEAM SPIRIT
  • The prize: A flight on the X-COR Lynx sub­‐orbital space vehicle, now under development by X-­COR Technologies
  • Selected by January 31, 2014
  • Launch site: Currently anticipated to be in the United States, or the island of Curaçao.
  • The X‐COR Lynx sub-­orbital space vehicle: Currently anticipated to be ready to carry private passengers on commercial space flights from late 2014 onwards; Space Flight is planned to take place between January 1, 2014 and January 1, 2017, if it happens at all. (If the flight cannot take place by January 1, 2017, the Space Flight prize will be cancelled and Promoter will award the winner a cash prize of about $85,000.

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TL;DR

Me. Space. Doing crazy stuff. Think about it!!!

Later gators,

–case p.

A November to Remember, Verse 4: Of Motive and Movember

Jim Sullivan, special guest speaker, sharing his story of surviving prostate cancer
Jim Sullivan, special guest speaker, sharing his story of surviving prostate cancer.

What’s the difference between a good person and the ones to be wary of? Or a good and an evil action? What helps us to draw the line between right and wrong in anything we do?

Reasoning. Intent. Motive.

Motive. Motive makes all the difference. It defines the things we do for personal gain versus those we do for people simply because we care about them. It’s why we look down on the common thief yet admire Robin Hood. Motive defines how we are perceived, always working in the background behind every decision we make.

So Is It WRONG To Be Selfish???

From L-R, @AmandaBlake9, myself with the GOTSTYLE prize pack, @michaelkim, @fastdrvr
We can all be a little selfish sometimes — as seen from my notoriety for winning stuff….

Yesterday we took a look at selfishness. When I brought forth the idea that selflessness is completely possible, I got some interesting counter-points, like:

“There’s no such thing as true selflessness. The act of giving or pursuit to assist others is in and of itself a means of self indulgence.”

Justin Baisden

“Being selfish is an important part of our own survival. If we don’t always consider ourselves first, the probability of our own survival declines immensely. I don’t even know that it’s a bad thing. Our social conditioning throughout the ages is that the strong survive. ”

Zach Bussey

“Yes, people derive satisfaction from doing things that benefit others. But I think in many (if not most cases) we would do something “selfless” because we genuinely want to see someone else benefit/prosper/succeed.”

Erik Kingissepp

Summarizing:

  • everyone’s a bit selfish — so what?
  • we need selfishness to survive
  • selfishness  isn’t the root of the problem; the real problem is when our self-interests don’t align with the interests of the greater population

I’d agree with Erik, though, and would argue that motive is the key difference between selfishness and self-interest.

My reasons for being at The Big Give definitely started out as selfish — my notorious luck in full swing, friends had already told me that I’d be going home with a ridiculous amount of swag on top of whatever else I happened to win. To me, attending wasn’t even an option. But there’s a blurry line between our selfishness simply adding to our lives… and that selfishness negatively affecting the lives of others. It’s fine to do something for your sake alone now and then, but too much of it will make you unpleasant company to just about anybody.

With that said, the very next day, it was time to change the tune. Amanda Blake, a friend of mine, was throwing one of her After Work Drinks Toronto (#AWDTO) events,  where she’d asked me to attend as the official photographer. And because I like Amanda and the great person that she is, I said yes. But why else?

#AWDTO Movember Edition: Selflessness Is Possible

Family. Friendship. These are the kids of bonds where the entire idea of selflessness comes from. We’re taught from a young age that if we behave; if we do what we’re told — our actions will equal to rewards. But as we grow older, we discover the inequities in life. We find out that sometimes no matter how hard we try, we’ll see no improvements to our lives — sometimes there’re simply no rewards for the blood, sweat and tears that we put in!

The simple fact: it is so easy to get screwed over in life!

So why do we help if it’s unrealistic to expect anything for what we do?

Because we can be selfless. We can do things for others simply because we like them. And because this is completely possible, events like #AWDTO: Movember Edition can exist. Above, Zach pointed out that selfishness is important to our survival. But he also commented on the nature of selflessness and where we’re going next:

“[W]hen you’re able to consider others and give back… everyone goes “Hey that’s awesome good for you!” and we give praise… because we recognize that value in doing it. Our new world of having plenty (in Canada at least), is teaching us to do more… social good, giving back, charity, caring for others etc. 

Overnight will we all become charitable/giving/caring/selfless etc… no. Takes time to reprogram ourselves… but it is definitely taking hold in the collective consciousness.”

— Zach Bussey

 Giving a Little Mo’

In the course of 24 hours, I’d gone from seeing people clearly out for their own interests, willing to nearly trample one another to go home with a bit extra — to a different kind of crowd altogether. Some where there to support friends. Some to network. Some people eyed the prize table as soon as they came in. But the glitz was gone. The glamour was absent. In the end, there was just a room full of people just looking to have a good time.

And we would. We would meet new people We’d learn about the experiences of a prostate cancer survivor and why it was important to support the cause. Some of us would win prizes, all of us would leave a little changed — and I don’t think that anyone was worse off for it.

Organizer and DJ Andrew Lo playing the music for the party
Not only did he help organize, but DJ Andrew Lo was on the 1s and 2s for the night’s party!

So if anyone tells you that we’re all inherently selfish, or say that everyone is ultimately out for themselves — I want you to remember this: a selfish world cannot work. If we all cared for ourselves alone and never for the people that we care about, society couldn’t grow. We wouldn’t collaborate. Ideas that need more than one person’s abilities wouldn’t happen as often. Humanity would stagnate.

We all need each other to keep growing in this world. So let’s all be a little less selfish and make it happen!

–case p.

Next in the series: That time when Casey and Sarah took a little break to cruise in the Caribbean and what it taught them about themselves and WHY they appreciate Toronto.

A November to Remember, Verse 2: Of Resting, Wrestling and Lessons

A shot of me at the Walmer Retreat taken by Niki
Casey Palmer in the early days of Movember with little but a 5 o’clock shadow upon his visage!

Ask anyone I know, and they’ll tell you that at times I’m totally an overgrown kid. I let my imagination run away with me, I rarely let myself by limited by the concerns that most adults focus on, and believe that life isn’t worth living if it isn’t kept interesting.  It’s hard to get me to sit still if you haven’t given me a task to focus on, and I rather do things until I’m totally wiped out than waste a single moment sleeping.

I don’t wanna grow up — but we don’t stay young forever.

Ain’t Getting Any Younger

Let me tell you a bit about my church.

With a congregation of about 150-200. Black, White, young, old, rich, poor — we cover multiple spectra.

Every year, we go up to the Muskoka, ON area for a church retreat — a weekend dedicated to worship, togetherness, and maybe most important — rest.

The encouragement cards we fill out for one another to keep everyone going through the hard times.
One of the big takeaways of the weekend are the encouragement cards we fill out for one another with kinds words and thoughts.

I’ve been 4 or 5 times now, and while I’ve enjoyed it every time, I don’t know whether “restful” is something I’d call it from my experience.

But that could have something to do with my unexpected role as a makeshift babysitter for the church.

Misadventures in Makeshift Babysitting

Some of the younger ladies at church basically trying to find out how strong my back is.
The upside to this? At least I know my spine is strong.

It’s been going on for too long to remember when it started, but for some years now, I’ve served the role of an unofficial mascot for the kids at church. While I’m not ready to have kids of my own (though to hear most  fathers tell it, who ever is?), I have a huge soft spot for kids. If a child in a stroller waves at me or says “Hi”, I go into instant smiley-face happy mode and do the same back.

Oh God. I’m channelling my mother. Ugh!

Anyway, for the reasons I stated at the beginning, children seem drawn to me. I play their games. I speak to them like equals and not dismiss their ideas. I never underestimate them, as kids are capable of more than you could imagine. And so, out of just about anyone in the church, I’m the one they flock to after the Sunday services.

But after an hour of being chased and pulled around the sanctuary; poked prodded and jumped on; and generally fulfilling my role as a walking, talking jungle gym — I’m exhausted.

There’s another guy who helps out — here’s 14 or 15, and I wish I had his energy. But here I am in a body that’s been well-used these past few decades, and I’ll admit — it needs its rest!

But if I’m in need of a nap after an hour… imagine how I’d be after a weekend???

A Time For Rest

The main hall where we grabbed our grub!
By day: A dining hall for all to enjoy. By night: My refuge to try to scribe some thoughts out.

Apparently, I haven’t quite grasped the meaning of the word “retreat” yet.

[hr width=”75%” ]

re·treat

[ri-treet]

noun

3. a place of refuge, seclusion, or privacy: The library was his retreat.
5. a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.
Source: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/retreat?s=t
[hr width=”75%” ]

Thinking about my retreat experience and the fact that I’m horrible at finding rest leads me to a question — when’s the last time you had some time to yourself?

I mean really had some time to yourself — spent some time being by yourself and doing what you want to do with your time?

I’d bet that few of us get the opportunity. So many of our lives get filled with so many responsibilities, questions, worries, woes and other such complications that we get very little time to do what we want to do.

That’s part of what I think retreats are for, but somewhere along the line I forget this and keep doing what I always do. Play the role of the jungle gym. Stay up late having conversations with just about everybody. Essentially, do anything but rest.

I Know This is Supposed to Teach Me Something…

There’s a lesson here to learn. One might be that maybe I am ready to have kids and I just don’t know it. Maybe it’s that life is about balance and we aren’t forced to take on every role that’s thrust forward at us. But for me, I think the most important lesson is probably this:

It’s okay to rest. Go get some.

 How about you, readers? Are you overachievers? Do you have kids and knew when you were ready to have some? Think I’m totally off-base? Drop a comment. Let me know. And I’ll let you know if I think you’re wrong 😉

Until next time,

–case p.

A November to Remember, Verse 1: A Close Shave and The Novel That Never Was


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The tree we purchased for Christmas 2012
The tree we painstakingly purchased for Christmas 2012.

Every year. Every year we go through this.

We near the end of the year, wondering where all the time went and lamenting all the things we failed to do over the months. We plan to close out the year with a bang and swear to make a better effort to hit our goals in the next year. Year after year we try, but invariably repeat ourselves time and time again. So while the year’s already seen a lot of awesome in my life, I’d told myself back in January that this would be the year I rocked Movember and NaNoWriMo, earning fame, riches and glory in the process!

It’d all started so well.

I’d thought, “Grow a moustache and raise money for charity — that’s not so hard; I grow facial hair all the time anyway. And write a 50,000-word novel? I write, like, every day. I can do this.”

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I had the drive, determination and direction to make it happen — I was convinced that if anyone could do it, someone who was so used to juggling multiple things all the time was the perfect person to do it!

It’s funny, the things we can convince ourselves of and yet be so utterly wrong.

Movember, or “Why Did I Grow This, Again?”

The facial hair that I DID manage to grow by the end of Movember 2012
Not a double-forked goatee by ANY means, but distinguished, nonetheless 🙂

In the end, I was able to do some good, raising $175 toward preventing prostate cancer and supporting men’s mental health, and another $430 through the team I’d created for the initiative — the Central Agency Clustachios (a play on the name of the place where I work).

While a pleasant outcome, I can’t help but feel that I could’ve done more. Being honest, 70% of the money I raised came in the last two days of November, after I’d received enough pestering at work to rally some troops for one last go at getting donations. Between events, trips and a hefty workload, I lost sight of the goals I’d originally set and — as can often be the case in our lives — tried to make up for lost time.

If I learned anything from Movember, it’s two things:

  1. It’s impossible for me to be everywhere. Life is full of opportunities and responsibilities, but I also need the energy to take them all on. Prioritization and being realistic are skills that will be necessary to being successful in my life; and
  2. No man is meant to grow facial hair for 30 days straight. You just get to a point where it’s itchy as hell and you wonder why you started doing it in the first place.

Better luck next year, right? Hopefully I’ll be able to go the way of friends like Amanda Blake and help organize events for the cause!

Putting the “No” in NaNoWriMo

A view of the mess that's on our table right now as I try to sort through literally PILES of stuff.
And they ask why I didn’t pull NaNoWriMo off…

Even though I wrote a ton of words in November, none of it really looks like a novel.

NaNoWriMo is an ambitious little initiative, and these sorts of things need dedicated time to make them happen — even more so when creativity needs to come into the mix!

With being away half of the month and at events almost every other day, I thought I could still pull it off. But I forgot to account for work and the huge things they needed me to do this past month. I forgot to account for the fact that one can only work so hard before fatigue catches up with them. I forgot to account for the fact that life goes on with or without the blog posts I put out!

So, my dear NaNoWriMo, unfortunately you’re gone ’til next November, ’cause this one wasn’t your time to shine! In fact, NaNoWriMo, let’s play you out:

The Lesson

So what did I learn? I learned that November is not to be underestimated!

It may not be the flashiest month. Not nearly enough people look forward to celebrating the sacrifices that war veterans made to keep us free and keep us safe, so most people treat the month like a write-off and just buffer time before they get to Christmas. It’s not usually even wintery enough for the ski and snowboard types out there.

But, you’ve gotta learn to treat November with respect. It has more than enough to keep you busy if you’ll let it, and when you finally reach December and everything doesn’t look the way you expected, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

Because honestly, is there really anything else that one can learn from November?

–case p.

Next Verse: We’ve all gotta get rest sometimes, but even the best plans to get our sleep on can go awry!

COMIN’ RIGHT UP: NANOWRIMOvember

“Suddenly, a wild November appeared!”

–no one in the Pokémon game series ever

 

Before I start talking about November, let’s talk Halloween.

When Did Your Inner Children Die?

When did people forget how to have fun? When did anyone worry about whether dressing up was “cool” or not? Seriously — when did you people let your inner children die?

I wore my aforementioned Ghostbusters outfit (sans proton pack, which I haven’t fixed yet) to work, only to discover that I was the only one dressed up.

Totally uncool. The fact that everyone was so worried about keeping up appearances (or on the other end of the spectrum, didn’t care enough to bother dressing up) that they couldn’t cut loose for a day and have a little fun (or, again on the flip side, are too beaten down by life to bother) really bothers me. Policies? Guidelines? Permission???

Are you kidding me? It’s HALLOWEEN!!!

Anyway. Gives me a lot to think about — the environments I’m in, the people I hang with — but that’s not the point of this post.

NANOWRIMOvember — Where I Grow Facial Hair and Grow Tired of Writing!

What I look like on the first day of Movember

Movember Day 1 with a clean-shaven face and head to match!

So we’ve finally reached the final stretch of 2012, where we wonder where the year went, worry about what to get people for Christmas and get fat off of all the holiday parties that tend to go down!

Well, we’re not quite there yet. We still have to make it through November.

November is an anomaly of a month. Not only is it one of the few months without a statutory holiday in Ontario, unlike its cousin named June, there’s very little that we tend to like about it. No hot weather, no looking forward to the summer — just reminders that we’re getting back to layering up and grey — oh so grey — skies above.

But not all is lost in November…

I Got 50K Problems, Being Done Ain’t One

A badge from the NaNoWriMo site
Can I write a 50,000-word novel in a MONTH? Time will tell…

As if I’m not busy enough (because we Torontonians love to be busy), somehow I decided that being part of the National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO for short) would be a good idea this year.

The basic premise: write a 50,000-word novel through the month of November. To put that in perspective:

  • a good length for a blog post is around 400-500 words
  • when you’re writing an essay for school, a double-spaced page is about 500 words

So about 100 blogs and/or 20 or so essays over the course of a month on top of regular blog posts and Mansformation.

Not exactly my brightest idea, but no one can ever say I’m unambitious! But fortunately, I’m brimming full of ideas, so stay tuned, amigos!

http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/doomz

Gimme Some Mo!!!

One of the many images that Movember supplies to its Mo Bros and Sistas
When all else fails, trust the Mo.

With Movember comes events, awareness and a solid excuse for guys to grow some wicked awesome beards! I’ll admit that I never got around to participating until this year, but I look forward to seeing what I can come up with after a month! (If my post-Africa pics are any indication, apparently not much.)

I’ve drawn a quick mock-up in good ol’ Photoshop to let you see what my facial hair would look like at the end of Movember in an ideal world…

A mock-up of the ideal moustache I'd want after Movember
I call it… the “Evil Overlord”!!!

…but I fear that a beard of awesome won’t be a dream soon realized.

I don’t fight alone against prostate cancer, though — friends like Amanda Blake are throwing events in support of Movember! You can find me at her After Work Drinks Toronto event (or #AWDTO for the hashtag-inclined) on November 8th snapping photos and hanging out with some great company. With a $10 price tag (going right to Movember) to have free beer samples, more fun than you usually ever do and the chance to win some great prizes, I definitely encourage you to show up!

But no Movember blog post would be complete without a little self-promotion! I believe in supporting causes to help humanity improve — I support friends who climb towersride bikes and do all sorts of activities through the year in the name of various causes, but I rarely enter the fray myself. So now that I have, I hope that friends can give generously and help contribute to the fight for a better (and prostate cancer-free) future!

You can find my donation page at http://mobro.co/CaseP

Play Me Off, Keyboard Cat

So while the news might tell you that it’s time to get yourself in Christmas mode (only 53 shopping days left, people!), November is no month to be glossed over!

So while I’m rockin’ the Mo’ and writing fo sho — what the heck will YOU be doing all month?

–case p.

I AM NOT A FOODIE: The WVRST Night of My Life

WVRST-1-of-7
You’ll probably need to hit WVRST multiple times — it has a LOT of options to offer!

As Lisa McPhee would tell you, the west side is the best side. While I can’t completely agree (since I rep the Danforth these days), there’s plenty of things it does right.

Like sausages made from animals that make no sense being on this end of the world!

Welcome to WVRST!

Planning for the WVRST

Trevor and I had been planning to go to WVRST for a good while now, but never seemed to get around to it. However, on a day where our schedules got flushed down the tubes due to oversleeping and being too tired to bother doing anything too nuts, getting this item off of the to-do list didn’t seem like — wait for it — the WVRST idea!

Making the Best of the WVRST

One thing to keep in mind about WVRST is that it’s not your typical restaurant. Yes reservations; no wait list — just a lineup; no specific waiter or assigned seating — just a bunch of benches where they bring your food to you after you order and pay for it at the front counter.

And maybe it’s because they keep things so simple (i.e.  a beer hall-style restaurant that serves mainly beer and sausages) that they actually manage to understand customer service!

We did get there without a reservation and had to wait in line, just like everybody else. While some people were told an hour’s wait when we were at the back of the line, it was only 15 minutes in reality. And in those 15 minutes:

One guy was a complete jerk and wouldn’t let a German tourist pass to ask the guy manning the stairs a question about the wait time, causing her and her friends to leave angrily

Ironically, the jerk and his friends would leave angrily almost immediately after, helping shorten the line by about 10 people between the two groups

Even better, almost immediately after they left, one of WVRST’s staff came out with a ton of free fries, offering them to us to apologize for the long wait! Note to all restaurants: if patrons are waiting in line to get into your establishment, they’re probably hungry. A little food can go a long way in making that wait better!

From Better to WVRST

We got in and found some seats, but damn that place is loud!

One thing I forgot about King Street West is how trendy the area is. We’re not even 30 yet, but we were easily some of the oldest people in the room! It was a very different crowd than what I’m used to having around, but everyone looked to be enjoying themselves thoroughly.

But back to the food.

I went to WVRST to try something different, so I got some elk and kangaroo sausages, washing it down with some Church-Key beer from Campbellford, ON. The beer was a bit bitter to start with, but the sausages made it a lot sweeter! Not being a foodie by any measure, I could always tell the difference between a hot dog and a premium sausage I’d get from a butcher, but I never really appreciated the difference between different kinds of game.

What I can tell you is this — while I enjoyed both, the elk was definitely more to my tastes, with a pinch more spice and other spices. Because of the free fries, we didn’t get much more than just the sausages on buns, but next time I’d love to try some currywurst and duck fat fries!

So if you’re ever in the mood for something different, I recommend WVRST. With efficient staff, tasty food and a large list of international beers, I think it’ll do well to sate most people’s appetites. Well, you know — as long as they eat meat.

Seriously, check it out. What’s the WVRST that could happen???

Wvrst on Urbanspoon

–case p.