Friday, 27 January 2012

#5 A Dedication to Fitness

At times I have fallen into significant lapses in physical fitness.  I was never a gym rat but I was blessed with a naturally strong metabolism and growing up I was surrounded by a very active family.  As a teenager I was involved in organized hockey, soccer, and volleyball.  I chose to spend much of my additional free time shooting baskets or fitting in as many rounds of golf into a summer as I could.  As a university student I had various reasons and excuses why I couldn't keep active.  It cost too much to be involved in any organized activities, and I had to rely on the transit busses to get to activities.  Occasionally I would take part, playing intramural soccer for a few winters, attending the University gym for significant periods of time and so on. 

Nearing the end of 2009 I was falling further and further out of shape.  I had finished the summer soccer season on a division 2 team, but I was struggling badly to keep up.  I worked a little in the fall of 2009 to get myself where I wanted to be physically.  The results were a small weight loss from a decent running regiment, but once winter hit, my sedintary lifestyle kicked in again.   I gained a few pounds back, but the most significant problem was the complete loss of stamina and athleticism.  The spring of 2010 came around and another season of soccer began.  In short, I embarassed myself.  We were the worst team in the league and I was a key reason.  I could not keep up, and I would come of the field gasping for air at least a couple times a game.  Thankfully, I could recognize the problem I was facing.  I don't feel that I am old by any definition, but the days of eating horribly and lazing around the house without punishment are over for me.  If I make bad choices with food intake and activity levels, I pay for it.  I did get out of the house on occasion during the late summer and fall to jog in the neighbourhood, and I would jump on my bike for a fast paced ride through the city, but the dreaded winter months were coming, during which physical activity opportunities mean spending money, of which I had very little. 

In October, Sheila and I finalized a deal to buy our first home.  We moved mid month and were blessed with significantly more space then we had before.  3 bedrooms upstairs, one set aside for the baby to come, and plenty of spare room downstairs.  We have a small spare bedroom, and a recroom of 18 X 20 dimensions.  As we moved in, the sofa set and tv filled one side of the rec room, and the computer desks were spread out to fill the other side.  A few months later, on a suggestion from my brother, we rearranged the basement.  We moved the computers behind the sofa, opening up a large area on the other side of the room.  Ian and I were determined to get ourselves in better shape, and we now had to space to do so.  After considerable browsing on Kijiji we got our start.  We found a great deal on a bench press set, complete with barbell, full set of olympic weight plates and a bench that featured an incline option to give more exercise choices.  The bench alone retails for $600 new and we were able to buy the whole set for $250.  Excited about the deal, we got to work.  The weight set was complete a few months later when we added a full set of dumbells with a stand for $200.  This has proven to be an invaluable addition, I find myself picking up the dumbells a number of times a day to quickly do a few exercises. 

In the spring Ian and I were able to find time a few times a week to jog together.  The routine with the weights was informal, jumping on for a set or two whenever we felt like it.  Also, with the new addition to the family, we made a point of attending the pool every Wednesday as a family.  Asher loves the water, Jasmine swims endlessly when we go, and this gave me a chance to swim a few laps, run in the river, and get in some relaxing time in the steamroom and sauna.  I was able to find time almost every day for some form of exercise, and conversely I felt great.  If I didn't feel like jogging, I would talk myself into a bike ride instead.  When April came around, soccer started again, keeping me busy once a week on Mondays.  I was happy with my progress, and Ian and I were proving a sucessful motivating team.  It was around this time that we both started looking at supplements as a way to maximize our results and to improve our health even further.  After some extensive research I have settled in to a fairly extensive regiment of supplements aimed at helping my mind and body. 

As the soccer season moved into full swing, I found myself enjoying the game more then I had the last few years.  I was better conditioned, able to keep up to the pace of play better, rarely needing a break as badly as I had needed them in the past.  I had played on a team with Ian only briefly in the past, and we enjoyed some great chemistry together.  Ian is a much better player then I am, and trying to keep up to him was proving to be a considerable challenge.  We had a good group of guys, and we were playing well, winning most of our games.  As some team members were having a few drinks after a game, hockey was brought up, and it was soon apparent that a number of the guys played rec hockey in the winter.  Ian and I are both former hockey players, myself being 10 years removed from my last spate of organized hockey.  Dan, one of our midfielders, thought there might be room for us on his hockey team if we were indeed interested.  Knowing that there is a considerable cost associated with playing hockey, we were both interested but unsure of our ability to afford the fees.  In hindsight, I am very glad that I decided to take the plunge.  I have met a bunch of great guys playing hockey, and we have seen success together.  We are currently in second place out of 8 teams, and we find ourselves on a 9 game winning streak.  I always look forward to our games, and it has been a great way to keep active during the winter months when I usually go into hibernation.  We play once or twice a week, which provides plenty of game action, but also a nice amount of time to recover between games.  Although my running routine has stopped for the winter, I have been able to maintain a solid fitness level between hockey, my trips to the pool with the kids, and the weights in the basement.

In general, I am very pleased with the changes I have made in my life in regards to fitness.  I have never been as active on a daily basis in my adult life.  I feel like I showed some extreme discipline over the summer with my eating habits which helped me get to my desired weight.  I have relaxed a bit in regards to my discipline, but my hockey games and my almost daily use of the basement weight set have kept me active in the winter months.  As this is the first time that I have ever lifted weights for a long period of time I have seen some amazing changes in body compositon and despite adding some decent mass, my metabolism has remained high, and I have been able to maintain my body weight.  I haven't been at this weight since I was 18, and I can confidently say that I have more muscle mass then I have ever had before.  Here is to another great year of fitness!

Monday, 23 January 2012

#4 A Return to Cinema

Simply put, I watched a lot of movies in 2011.  For many years I claimed that I didn't have the patience to sit through a piece of cinema of any length.  Regardless of the quality of a picture, I simply wouldn't watch it.  There wasn't any genre that caught my attention.  Good comedic movies come along so infrequently and I was unwilling to sit through something just to say that I had witnessed it.  A great movie can provide a wonderful backdrop for spending time with family, and most of the movies were seen with either Sheila, Jasmine or both.  Until this last year I just flat out refused to watch any animated kids movies, not realizing just how happy it made Jasmine to have mom or dad watch with her while she enjoyed her show.  I have to say, some of the best films I saw this year were of the animated genre.  Jasmine and I were at the theatre a number of times this year, and I can recall seeing Megamind, Rango, Happy Feet 2, Despicable Me, Puss In Boots, Arthur Christmas within the last 18 months.  I really do get spoiled as I also attend the theatre regularly with the guys at work and have witnessed a number of great flicks in their company as well.  Allow me to share my favorites with you, and perhaps this will inspire others to give some of this movies a try.  Keep in mind I am going to restrict this list to movies that were either released in 2011, or were released in the last few months of 2010 and made it to home movie in 2011.  Without further ado, on to the list.

#10 Rango (Animated Western) Starring Johnny Depp, Isla Fisher, Gore Verbinski (Director)

I had been seeing the previews for this flick for months ahead of time, and the character of Rango just seemed perfect.  A meek hero who falls into saving a dying town from the evil big wigs who are controlling it seemed like a great premise for a movie.  Johnny Depp lending his voice to an animated flick that Tim Burton had nothing to do with was surprising, and I have nothing but respect for his ability to select quality projects.  I was seemingly more eager then Jasmine to see this movie, and in the end it fulfilled expections.  It had a genuine Western style, with twists of great humor to boot.  Jasmine was laughing throughout, but they also included some showdown scenes where Rango had his back against the wall and was able to excape through hook or by crook.  Gore Verbinski's other works include 3 of the Pirates movies, and I am glad that he didn't force this one into 3D, as I have seen a few animated flicks that felt forced due to the need to include 3D elements.  If you have kids or you don't this is a really funny movie that you need to see.

#9 127 Hours (Biographical Drama) Starring James Franco, Danny Boyle (Director)

A perfect storm of events came together which ultimately led to Sheila and I watching and thoroughly enjoying this movie.  Sheila is not a huge reader and when she reads she tends to stick to the sappy romantic type books.  During a visit to the library we found Aron Ralston's book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place", and I am struggling to remember why it was chosen.  I believe Sheila saw Aron make a media appearance on TV and felt compelled to give it a try.  She devoured the book, reading it in a couple days, as I have never seen her delve into a book before.  She had to finish before we saw the movie as it was being released days later.  I was also excited to see the movie as I respect very few Hollywood actors more then James Franco.  The man involves himself in projects that interest him first, seemingly giving much less thought the the amount of money or fame that will go along with his work.  From all indications this movie paid Franco a small amount, and the role itself seems tedious.  He is stuck in one location a calamity that occurred while the character is out rock climbing.  Through a series of flashbacks we gain perspective on the character's life and it is through these scenes that we build to the ultimate moment when we discover just what courage is.  If you haven't seen this film I don't to ruin it, but the climax of Danny Boyle's movie is one of the most memorable movie scenes I have witnessed.

#8 Our Idiot Brother (Comedy) Starring Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer, Jesse Peretz (Director)

While my sister and brother-in-law were in town we threw this movie on, and I will say I was pleasantly surprised.  The premise seemed like it could have fallen flat.  Lazy and unmotivated, Paul Rudd's character Ned does not lack for complicated layers to his personality.  Instead of being portrayed as a burden, he comes off as a loveable guy that you can't help but pull for.  The supporting cast is great as well, playing 3 contrasting sisters who all pull for Ned in their own way, and ultimately come together to help him in the end.  The movie likely benefitted from my afinity for all things involving Zooey Deschanel, she is an ace when it comes to comedic timing, and her sitcom "New Girl" was one of the reasons I was looking forward to giving this movie a try.  I was not disappointed by her performance or the movie as a whole.

#7 Cedar Rapids (Comedy) Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Miguel Arteta (Director)

The best comedy of 2011 in my opinion was "Cedar Rapids", a flick that very few people saw based on the $5.6 million box office gross in North America.  Sheila, Ian and I sat down for this one and I think we all came away pleased.  Ed Helms plays the loveable loser who has never travelled out of his hometown, as he ends up spending a weekend away at an insurance salesman conference.  He meets up with Anne Heche's character who along with John C. Reilly playing the party hard insurance man proceed to spend the movie currupting the loveable loser until he thinks his world has ended.  Smart, witty and endearing, Miguel Arteta directs in a very understated style as he plays into the actors strengths.  Arteta directed last year's "Youth in Revolt" that I also highly recommend.

#6 Unstoppable (Action Thriller) Starring Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Tony Scott (Director)

Oddly enough I heard absolutely nothing about this movie until I found it online and gave it a shot.  With a relatively large budget of $85 million, and being driven by Denzel's obvious star power I would have thought a major hype engine to follow.  In the end the movie stands up very well on it's own.  A simple premise, a minor mistake by a railyard worker leads to a runaway train.  The entire length of the movie is spent trying to bring the train under control and avert disaster.  Various suspenseful methods are tried without success before the climactic final scene.  I have always had a soft spot for Denzel's movies and he doesn't disappoint with this one.

#5 Super 8 (Science Fiction) Starring Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler, J.J. Abrams (Director)

With the team of J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg at the helm of this project, my expectations were high for very good reason.  I can say that I was most satisfied as I was able to enjoy "Super 8" at the theatre opening weekend with the guys.  It was an awesome visual experience as there was a huge train explosion scene as well as an alien creature that were created with the use of CGI.  While the visual effects were most satisfying, I was also blown away by the job done by the child actors that played the main characters in the movie.  Joel Courtney who plays the main character Joe, and Riley Griffiths who plays his best friend Charles both were making their mainstream acting debuts in "Super 8" but you wouldn't know it while enjoying their work.  Aged 13 and 14 respectively, both interact well with each other and the other characters including Elle Fanning's character Alice who is the object of Joe's affection.  Definitely check this movie out for the CGI graphics and J.J. Abrams' directing work, but be prepared to appreciate the acting talents on display as well.

#4 Win Win (Sports Comedy-Drama) Starring Paul Giamatti, Alex Shaffer, Amy Ryan, Thomas McCarthy (Director)

Here is where I confess my love for all things Paul Giamatti.  As I write this I have now seen 5 films in which he starred or co-starred.  His 2004 film "Sideways" ranks as one of the best movies I have ever seen.  In the last year I viewed "American Splendor", "Cold Souls", "Cinderella Man" and this entry "Win Win" and every time I came away satisfied with the experience.  All 5 of these movies reviewed very favourably with critics and all with the exception of "Cinderella Man" where Giamatti is a supporting cast member, are driven by his lead performance.  "Win Win" likely flew under the radar for most movie viewers as it didn't have the benefit of a wide release or any advertising whatsoever.  Giamatti plays small town attorney Mike Flaherty who's life is crumbling around him.  In a desperate attempt to stabilize the family financially, he takes on power of attorney for an elderly client.  Flaherty also coaches the local high school wrestling team that has a penchant for losing.  When a teenage boy comes looking for his grandpa who ends up being the man in Flaherty's care, a wrestling star is found.  The story benefits from a series of small twists that provide a great deal of unpredictablility.  My bias opinions aside, this would be a great movie to view on a relaxing night, small parts humour with a great deal of human interest as well.

#3 True Grit (Western) Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Steinfeld, Coen Brothers (Directors)

As 2011 moved along, I found myself getting more and more interested in the Western genre as a whole.  As I had seen so few movies in the previous, well, 27 years of my life, I had missed out on a number of westerns that proved to be great films.  "3:10 To Yuma" and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" were very well made but they were outclassed by the Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris film "Appaloosa" released in 2008.  I was happily anticipating the release of "True Grit" on DVD after missing it at the theatre.

My new found affinity for western movies, coupled with my love of all things created by the Coen Brothers meant this movie was one I couldn't miss.  To top it off, the movie critics were heaping praise on the directing, Jeff Bridges' performance and the debut of one Hailee Steinfeld.  Steinfeld beat out 15,000 other girls who read for the role of Mattie Ross.  Indeed, a role beside Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon in a Coen Brothers film has to be one of the most amazing ways to start an acting career. 

To sum up, the movie did not disappoint.  Jeff Bridges plays Rooster Cogburn an old and weathered U.S. Marshall with an incredibly accurate shot.  While Matt Damon's character LeBoeuf spends much of the movie quietly questioning Cogburn's sanity, we get taken on a wild adventure while the two men chase criminals together with Mattie Ross who's father had been killed by the ringleader.  While the men overcome obstacles like Cogburn's drinking, his accidentally shooting LeBoeuf and the fact that they have a young girl riding with them, the movie climaxes with a wonderful scene involving a standoff between the lawmen and the criminals.

This movie proved to be the most commercially successful of the Coen Brothers movies and deserves a few hours of your time if you have not already seen it.  I anxiously look forward to their next picture, as they always deliver regardless of genre.

#2 Blue Valentine (Romantic Drama) Starring Ryan Gosling, Michelle Williams, Derek Cianfrance (Director)

The romantic drama makes a one time appearance on my list, with the little known "Blue Valentine" finding a home at number 2.  Considering my lack of affinity for the genre, this only serves to add weight to how strongly I felt about this picture.  While I have not seen Ryan Gosling's most known work "The Notebook", I did decide that I should give him a try as he boast a series of well reviewed movies on his resume.  Sheila and I viewed "Lars and the Real Girl" and came away quite contented.  Gosling plays an awkward man who after the end of a long term relationship finds himself falling in love with an anatomically correct sex doll.  Working with material that could have deteriorated badly under the wrong guidance, Gosling provides a very moving performance that leaves the viewer pulling for him at every turn.  The suspense is well drawn out as few indications are given as to how a conclusion to the situation will be found.  After this pleasant experience, we also gave 2001's "The Believer" a try.  While turning in an equally believable performance, the subject material isn't as strong as "Lars", and for this reason only, I would rate this movie below the latter in Gosling's resume.  So, with some deal of anticipation, Sheila and I got ready to view "Blue Valentine".

There are a number of things about the production of this that stand out.  The entire movie was put together for $1 million, including actors salaries, production costs and marketing, of which there was very little.  Michelle Williams read the script for the first time in 2001 and remained committed to the project thoughout numerous challenges from securing financial backing, to finding a shooting location, to ultimately finding an actor to co-star in the film on the cheap. Eight years later in 2009 filming finally began.  To get into their roles as quarreling lovers Williams and Gosling rented a home and outfitted it based on their characters incomes.  They even went so far as to get family portraits done at the local Sears involved their character's young daughter.  The level of dedication to their roles is quite uncanny. 

#1 50/50 (Comedy Drama) Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Jonathan Levine (Director)

50/50 was a movie that I was waiting for with a great sense of anticipation.  I had heard about the movie months before and the cast was very appealing.  I really enjoy Seth Rogan's work, and his coupling with Joseph Gordon-Levitt intrigued me.  The supporting cast is also very strong, Anna Kendrick and Bryce Dallas Howard providing, the latter developing an uncanny knack to draw heat from an audience.  The subject matter, while seemingly quite delicate, was also of great interest.  A comedy about cancer?  This was definitely a unique topic, one that had scarcely been breached before.

As it turned out I had the opportunity to view 50/50 on opening night with my coworker and the guys I work with.  The theatre was only half full, a disappointing turnout for a movie that had recieved considerable promotion.  Perhaps the topic was offputting to some, or maybe the love I have for Seth Rogan movies isn't as universal as I had thought.  In the end, it was those that stayed away that lost out.  Grossing only $39 million at the box office the movie was seen by a relative few compared to such commercial giants as Transformers or Harry Potter.  Regardless of commercial success, I fully endorse this picture as the best one I saw in 2011.

From the outset director Jonathan Levine gets to work establishing Rogan and Gordon-Levitt's characters Kyle and Adam as good buddies who met through work but now spend considerable amounts of time together outside of work.  Rogan's Kyle is a sarcastic man who likes to joke and goof around even if it is not the right time for it.  Gordon-Levitt's Adam on the other hand takes his job much more seriously, looking to excel in radio broadcasting.  He also has a very serious girlfriend, one who has gotten in the way of the friendship between Adam and Kyle.  When Adam is first diagnosed with cancer his girlfriend and bestfriend react in very different ways.  The girlfriend becomes withdrawn and aloof, while Kyle shows a different side of himself, doing his best to pick Adam up out of his depression.  Adam begins attending counselling sessions with a rookie psychiatrist played by Anna Kendrick.  As his relationship with his girlfriend deteriorates he begins to open up to Dr. McKay about what he is going through.  In the end, a candid story of a young man's battle with cancer is told, with requisite plot turns and twists thrown in.  Rogan's great humour and wit and Gordon-Levitt's understated way of quietly battling with such a serious issue make for a great dynamic.  What put this movie at the top of my list was the excellent cast of supporting characters.  Anna Kendrick who I was not familiar with before this movie is very cute and she sparkles as her character and Gordon-Levitt's character grow closer throughout the film.  Adam becomes friends with two older men at the hospital who are also battling cancer.  Played by Matt Frewer and Philip Baker Hall, his new friends provide great comic relief and give an nice look into how daunting the constant hospital visits can be. 

I walked away from the theatre that night with a special glow as I felt that this movie had actually exceeded my lofty expectations.  A great project from all of those involved, I greatly look forward to the next work from Rogan, Gordon-Levitt and the director Jonathan Levine. 

Monday, 16 January 2012

#3 New Musical Tastes

For much of my life I have limited myself when it comes to experiencing new media.  For 15 years I stuck to the same genre of music, listening to different artists, but rarely straying from the hip hop style.  I have participated in the downloading scene for years, but I was unaware of just how many great types of music are out there on the internet if you know where to look.  I have really enjoyed discovering new genres, and along the way have found some bands and artists that I have listened to over and over again.  It is nice to have different types of music depending on what mood you are in or what you have going on.  If I am in a laid back mood and want to relax I really like listening to folk music or a well put together indie album.  When I need a boost of energy I look for electronica or house music, these styles are great for working out as well.  Some albums bring me to a happy place regardless of what I am doing.  I thought what better way to share some of my musical tastes then to put together a "top 10" favorite artists list.  This is proving to be quite hard, but I will highlight my favorite artists, the exact number to be determined  Most of these artists are new to me this year, but a few of them have been constantly played by me for much longer then that. 

Tegan and Sara - Ironically, the first song I heard from these ladies was "The First", released in 2000 on their debut album "This Business of Art".  Listed by Wikipedia as an Indie Rock band, the music is really about Tegan and Sara, their guitars, and their incredible ability to write the perfect song time after time.  Emotion spills from them, and they feel genuinely invested in everything they perform.  In 2011 they released their 7th studio recording, but for the last couple of years I have been stuck on their 2007 release "The Con".  I play this album constantly on my ipod as it really never gets old, but I will make a point of giving their last 2 releases a play in the coming weeks.

Matisyahu - Unique musical stylings flow from this man like water.  Likely the only artist to combine rap, reggae, beat boxing and the scat singing style associated with jazz music, the first time I discovered his music I fell in love.  My sister told me about his amazing talents, and knowing me she was surprised that I hadn't heard him.  As a deeply religious man Matisyahu always has a message to deliver through his songs, and he follows through time and again in a powerful way.  I have listened to his most recent work "Light" hundreds of times and it flows like a well constructed story, each song transitioning from the last.  Give it a listen if you have never tried it.

Balkan Beat Box - This collection of musicians make up one of only a few gypsy punk bands in the world.  Alternatively described as electronica, the songs have a fast-paced upbeat feel, and their "Blue Eyed Black Boy" album can be relied on to bring you out of any funk that you are in.  The guys hail from Israel, and the trio is made up of Ori Kaplan, Tamir Muskat and Tomer Yosef.  They also work with other artists on their albums depending on what kind of sound they are looking to achieve.  Their music incorporates the saxophone, trumpet, trombone, guitars and percussion instruments to create a unique sound that carries a great positive message.  I am eagerly anticipating some new material from the Balkan Beat Box crew.

Chromeo - My brother Ian deserves a thousand thankyous for introducing me to this amazing duo from Montreal.  I played their "Fancy Footwork" album more then any other this year.  These guys produce a fun brand of dance music through their use of keyboards, synthesizers, guitars and the rarely utilized talk box.  "Fancy Footwork" released in 2007 was their first widely recieved effort, though the guys have been working together since 2001.  They followed up with another album in 2010 called "Business Casual" and it delivers as well.  Chromeo has a great style to get your blood flowing and get you in the mood to work out.

Corb Lund and the Hurtin' Albertans - Ah, what can I say?  Corb Lund is the best musical storyteller I have come across in my time.  He and his band have passed through Prince George many times, but I was too ignorant to get out and experience it.  I have always been a strong hater of commercialized country music with the constant references to whisky drinking and general lack of creativity.  When I discovered the amazing storytelling style of Corb Lund dubbed "Country Folk", I had to put down my defences and let country music into my life.  The 2005 album "Hair In My Eyes Like a Highland Steer" is gold from start to finish, with the song "All I Want to Do Is Play Cards" serving as a type of personal anthem for me.  Try these guys out if you haven't already.

Bombay Bicycle Club - A recent discovery, this indie rock group from the UK has a nice mellow style, couple with a solid flow from song to song.  In the last few months I have found myself going back to their 2011 album "A Different Kind of Fix" time and time again.  They have found some solid success in the UK and elsewhere in Europe but have yet to be released in North America.  I will be checking out their previous two albums in the near future.

Alexandra Stan - After hearing her widely known "Mr. Saxobeat" single, I added this super poppy artist to my collection.  She has an infectious dance style that never fails to get me going if a work out is in order.  Likely the only Romanian artist I have ever listened to, I have played her album to death.

Other Artists I am Listening to:

The Black Keys, Florence and the Machine, The Ting Tings, M.I.A., The Cool Kids, Wiz Khalifia, Glasses Malone, Asher Roth, Yukon Blonde, Danko Jones, and Fall Out Boy.

I look forward to discovering more new to me artists in 2012 but for now I will leave this list as is.  Try new styles and genres, you just might find yourself branching out.

Monday, 9 January 2012

#2 Jasmine Rose Theriault: Growing Up

My little girl really isn't very little anymore.  Jasmine is 8 years old, and less then 3 months from her 9th birthday.  She still loves her petshops and her webkinz but the past year saw her become more mature in many different ways.  She really has been a great big sister to Asher; constantly worrying about his safety and looking for ways to entertain him when he is whining.  She has always been great with helping out around the house, on occasion she even helps out "for fun".  She vacuums, sweeps, does dishes, bakes, takes out the trash and most of the time she does it without a fuss.  While she matures Jasmine has also developed quite an attitude towards her parents.  She puts in a good fight when asked to go to bed, or to clean up her room as she has learn some psychological tools that she employs against her parents.  As far as I know, this attitude is restricted to at home and with mom and dad.  Everyone else who meets her knows Jasmine as a very respectful girl who loves to try new things and gets along with all sorts of different kids.  She is well liked in her class at school, with the boys as well as the girls, and her teacher has nothing but good things to say about Jasmine. 

Jasmine has not been able to escape her father's influence as she gets more and more involved with sports as she gets older.  This spring Jasmine will be playing her 6th season of soccer.  Her game developed last year as she started to use her running speed and her size to her advantage.  I've tried hard to encourage her to be more aggressive, and she really started to turn the corner in that regard last season.  This year her age group will play on a bigger field with more players on the field at a time.  The game will more closely resemble a true soccer game, and hopefully I can impart some soccer knowledge to her about position and teamwork.  At this point she is an out and out striker, looking to score goals and taking a lot of pride in her ability to do so.  I am happy that she seems to really enjoy the game that I have always loved.  She is always amazed when I tell her I have been playing for 24 years and counting. 

Jasmine's sporting exploits are not limited to soccer.  Over the last few years she has tried t-ball, learned to skate, tried floor hockey, fallen in love with swimming, and she is currently playing her first basketball season.  I decided to encourage Jasmine to try basketball because I felt like it would suit her well.  She loves to run and does it well.  Her long limbs and tall frame combined with pretty good coordination are all assets in the sport of basketball.  When I told her I would be her coach she became very excited to give it a try.  It makes me feel good knowing that she wants me to be involved in her activities, and I have fun encouraging her and the other girls to improve themselves and to enjoy their time.  She has met some great new friends playing her sports and her basketball team is no exception.  All 8 girls are very polite to their coaches and each other, and they all seem to really like basketball.  Jasmine is enjoying to game, scoring some baskets or goals as she calls them and playing stifling defence as well.  It is too early to know, but I think we might have found "her sport".  

Saturday's are for basketball, but Jasmine also keeps busy with brownies on Monday nights and she is soon going to start playing floor hockey again on Thursday nights.  I really like that she keeps active, and that she enjoys the activities that she is involved in.  She spends all of her free time at school on the monkey bars, constantly tearing up her hands by overdoing it.  She also loves to swim and we try to go at least once a week.  Jasmine loves to skate also, visiting the outdoor skating oval is one of her favorite things to do when the weather cooperates.  Like any kid, Jasmine loves her tv shows and her favourite websites and mom and dad get stuck playing the villain when it comes to controlling the amount of time spent on these activities.  Considering her physical activities, her love of reading and art projects, and I can't help feeling that she is becoming a very well-rounded little girl.  Here is to another great year for my little Jasmine Rose!

Monday, 2 January 2012

#1 The Birth of Asher Felix Prosk

The day my son was born, the sky was clouded, the air quality was as offputting as it normally is, and my lady and I were extremely sleep deprieved.  The eleventh day of January was actually ten days later then the doctor told us he was to arrive.  My sisters, my brother and my parents had spent the entire Christmas holidays at our house waiting for the little guy or girl to arrive.  Unfortunately when the time came for the baby to come, everyone had returned home to go back to work.  Luckily, my mom was able to find a replacement at work and she drove up to spend the day with us.  Sheila's cousin Daphne joined us at the hospital in the morning and my mom arrived from Quesnel shortly after.  We spent the day travelling back and forth between home and the hospital, labour had been induced early in the morning but the baby was stubborn, not wanting to arrive on anyone else's time but it's own.

I don't remember many details of the day, but come the later evening things were moving along.  We had something to eat in the dingy cafeteria downstairs, loosely referred to as "Tim Hortons".  We headed back upstairs where we were moved to a birthing room, the first major sign of movement towards the actual event.  Sheila started grunting and screeching, trying to manage the pain that inevitably comes with this joyous event.  Sparing the gory details, at 11:18 PM our little man came out of his hiding place after being assisted by the Doctor's suction cup device.  The timing was close to a very odd phenomenon as Asher entered the world at 11:18 on the 11th day of the 1st month of the 11th year of the 2000s.  Without hesitation this was one of the first things my very nerdy father mentioned when he got the news shortly after.  If he hadn't inherited the giant melon of the Prosk clan, he just might have come 7 minutes earlier. 

Sheila and I had agreed, we didn't want to know what the gender of the baby was ahead of time.  We had the ultrasounds to ensure the health of the baby, but it made sense to us that we should wait to find out any other details.  We were going to love the baby unconditionally.  Jasmine if I recall was hoping for a little sister, but with the way she has responded to her little brother, any disappointment she felt was only momentary.  We had picked out a few names ahead of time, but the only thing we had decided without a doubt was that a baby boy would be named Asher.  Asher has roots in the bible, though it really wasn't for that reason that I was so drawn to it.  It strikes me as a classic name, but it doesn't have the traditional overuse that comes with other simple names.  Neither of us were looking to "create a name", so we were both pleased when we came across a short name that we thought was not in heavy use.  As it turns out, there will many Ashers in the world soon as the name has been used extensively this year throughout North America.  The name suits our little guy perfectly, he was an Asher from the minute we laid eyes on him.  His middle name was one that kept coming back to me.  Felix is latin for "happy" or "lucky", and Asher Felix Prosk is exactly that, he is always happy, and we are lucky to have him.

Without a doubt, we have been blessed with an amazing little guy.  He laughs constantly, he smiles readily whenever he sees a favourite family member be it Mom, Dad, his sister, his Uncle or his other family members.  He likes driving us crazy, never letting anyone have fun without him.  He suffers at night, as he is unable to sleep consistently, but these are about the only times he ever cries with conviction.  He already has developed some hobbies, seeking out any electronic device that he may hide or damage.  He likes to build forts with his sister out of pillows and blankets, though he usually causes some sister angering damage before too long.  He loves going swimming, we have consistently taken him to the pool since he was 3 weeks old.  He has attended hockey games, local teams, as well as a few games involving his Dad and Uncle's team.  He loves taking naps on his Dad's chest, leaving a sweaty spot wherever his head comes to rest.  He really has been an incredible addition to our family, one that keeps Mom and Dad and sister at our best.  I love everything about you Asher Felix Prosk

Things that went right in 2011

So, it has been 2 and a half years since I recieved my degree from UNBC.  It has been more then 5 years since I attended University full time.  I wrote all the time when I was attending school full time.  Be it taking notes about the lectures I was attending, jotting down pieces of information that I may use for assignments, or piecing together something that I was to submit to a Professor, I was always writing something.  Then, I just stopped.  I have taken a few work related courses in the last few years, but the last time I wrote something that required any amount of thought would have been sometime in 2006.  I can't really tell you why I stopped.  Other interests got in the way.  I regret that this happened because for quite sometime I thought that I could make something of my writing skills.  My ability to put together a coherent essay using colorful language was something I took pride in.  I lacked researching skills, but I was generally able to overcome this when it came time to put together a short essay on a variety of topics related to politics.  An essay on Pakistani/Indian relations holds a dear place in my memory bank, as it recieved a favourable mark despite my poor research.  I also managed to write a 3000 word essay on the sustainability of Reindeer farming amongst the Sami people of northern Scandinavia, despite my last minute realization that very little information was available to me.

Looking back I feel like my departure from writing was all part of a bigger personal problem.  Simply, I let myself go.  I spent much of my time lazing around, not accomplishing a whole lot other then keeping my daughter safe, working with Sheila to keep food on our table and a roof over our head, and generally just staying afloat.  I had a few minor personal accomplishments during this time, but I truly feel that I started to turn a corner in this past year.  Many great things happened to me and to my family as a whole.  I am going to outline a few of these things in the coming posts over the next few days.