Sunday, 24 March 2013

Snow Melt Soon

It seems that every year at this time my mind starts to wander.  Generally, I am more sedentary during the winter months and come the spring time as the snow starts to melt, I begin to have different ideas, nay schemes about what physical activities I am going to take part in.  Now, this has been the case for as many years as I can remember.  Back when I was a little boy, even though I was deep in the middle of hockey season, had participated in the fall volleyball season, and for a few years in elementary school the post-Christmas basketball season, when the snow started to melt, my anticipation began to build.  I have been playing soccer since I was 2 years old in one form or another.  Every Februrary I would begin to think about the season, hoping that the snow would melt early and Quesnel might get their season started a week or two ahead of schedule.  In recent years, even when I had neglected any physical activity whatsoever in the winter months, and my body and capablities had begun to get away from me, the melting snow still brought thoughts of a renewed vigour for all things active. 

Now that I have managed to get myself more active, and my second full season of recreational hockey is coming to a close my mind has been working overtime.  I have put considerable time and thought into just how I want to spend my spring and summer months, and what activities I am going to be involved in.  All we need now is a little cooperation from mother nature and my schemes can become reality, or at least I can begin procrastinating rather than dreaming.  As I type this at 7 am on Sunday March 23, 2013, supposedly the 4th day of Spring according to the calendar the thermometer reads -16C or 3.2F for any American readers out there.  If that isn't enough to make your blood boil, obviously that figurative as it can't be literal, we here in Prince George, British Columbia, Canada are still dealing with a thick blanket of at least 4 feet of snow.  During the winter months the extent of my outdoor exercise is my dozens of opportunities to shovel the driveway.  This a point that my dad and I were lamenting while on our 3rd annual Prosk family skiing trip this past week.  Considering we are close to passing the 5 month mark with snow on the ground and I have been a 30 year resident of this region you would think I would have some winter hobbies.  I do have hockey, but played indoors in a heated arena, it doesn't depend much on the weather and I don't have the chance to breath fresh outdoor air while playing.  Maybe the lack of winter hobbies plays a factor in how silly I can get when spring comes.  The idle mind begins to wander, and the last few weeks, wander it has.

While the years pass some things change, but some things also remain the same.  Spring still means soccer season to me, and this year I have been anticipating it as I always do.  I have already officially signed on to coach for my 6th straight year as Jasmine continues to share my love for the game, and she remains excited about having dear old dad as her coach.  I had a great experience last year, Jasmine's team was full of girls who enjoyed playing and working hard.  My co-coach and I got along great and have agreed to work together again this year.  I'm hoping to have an impact on the girls I coach this year, as I feel that happened last year and it really is the measure of success as a coach.  While volunteering to coach may seem like a chore to some, I quite enjoy it most of the time and get very involved.  Anticipating my turn as a coach is one thing, but after taking the year off last year, I am most looking forward to playing the game once again.  While my schedule doesn't allow me to participate in the competitive "Open Division" as I would like, I was hoping to be able to play in the Monday Night Rec League this year.  It's not ideal, but I don't work Monday's and Jasmine's soccer night has moved to Tuesday so I am free to play.  I played in this league most recently in 2011.  It's pretty disorganized and the level of play isn't much of a challenge.  The negatives aside, it will be nice to get out and play.  One day my work schedule will change and I will be able to play competitive soccer again.  I will need to make sure my body can handle it when that day comes.

Most of the time that I have spent scheming and dreaming about warmer weather has been spent on running.  I have been fairly consistent, even in my out of shape years I would be all gung ho about running come the spring time.  In I believe 2008 I ran regularly throughout the spring into the summer.  In all my gusto I cnvinced myself to sign up for and run the Labour Day Classic that year, the 13 km distance.  While my training tapered off, and ultimately I was ill prepared for the race, I made myself go anyway.  I was able to complete the run in a respectable time, even beating a handful of other people.  Ever since I have planned to race again, but it hasn't happened.  This year, while dreaming up my pie in the sky plans I actually went ahead and took steps to bring the plan closer to reality.  Nearly every organized race in Prince George takes place Sunday morning.  I am scheduled to work every Sunday morning, and throughout the summer months it is nearly impossible to do anything about it.  I scoured the schedule and made a few vacation requests.  To free up an additional Sunday morning, I asked to switch my shift to the afternoon.  As it stands, my ambitious scheming has led me to this schedule that shall prove challenging.

June 2nd YMCA Road Race (5 km, 10 km or 21.1 km race)
June 15th Beat The Bugs (5 km or 10 km trail race)
August 21st Masich Mile (1 mile race)
September 1st Labour Day Classic (5 km, 8.5 mile or 17 mile race)
September 15th Terry Fox Run (5 km race)

I decided to go ahead and list all of the distance options for each race because as of now I really don't know where I will be at physically when these dates arrive.  At the Labour Day Classic I will be tackling the 8.5 mile race, so my training will be focused on working my way up to that point.  Likely, the first race of the season will be of the 5 km variety.  The Masich Mile is much shorter, more of a sprint, and it takes place conveniently on a Wednesday evening.  The Terry Fox Run is important to me, and I decided to take the day off this year and actually run it instead of walking like I have in years past.  If Asher hasn't outgrown his stroller by then, he will join me for the run.  Coincidently, all 4 official races I listed (The Terry Fox Run is informal) also have a kids fun run.  Back in 2008, when she was only 5 Jasmine ran the kids race at the Labour Day Classic.  She has fond memories of the cookie she got at the end, so I will help her get ready to participate in as many of these races as she wants to.  Hopefully training for a few races will get her away from her screens that she was fallen deeply in love with.  Not only do I have myself to motivate, but I am taking on this ambitious project as well, wish me luck!

No, my scheming didn't stop at just soccer and running.  Ultimate Frisbee looks like a blast, and I did give it a try many years ago.  I also played it a zillion years ago in high school p.e. class.  It was an awesome workout and the closest I will ever get to playing football.  The local league has been going strong for years, and I have decided to give it a shot if my coaching and soccer playing duties will allow.  I figure it will give me some variety in my training for the running races as well.  It looks to be fairly affordable as well.  For the last few years I have thought off and on about trying out some of the Mixed Martial Arts disciplines.  While I didn't think I could handle it when I was an out of shape blob, I believe I'm ready to give it a try.  While I have looked into it somewhat, I need to be sure that I am ready to make the time and money commitment it will require.  It's still a pipedream right now, but one that I am not giving up on.  As far as I know the club trains year round, so maybe I can give it a try for a month or two when I am not busy later this summer.  You know, after the soccer craziness has died down. 

The other summer sport I am greatly anticipating, is basketball.  Unfortunately, there isn't an organized league to play in as far as I know, but I quite enjoy just getting out on the school court and shooting hoops.  Jasmine keeps getting better, and Sheila also likes to play 21.  I grabbed a fancy new ball at the close out sale of Sport Mart and I am looking forward to putting it to use.  It's another good way to get some cardio work in that adds variety to the monotony of running. 

Anyway, I am going to end my long winded ramble about my summer plans.  What summer activities are you looking forward to?

Friday, 22 March 2013


Sheila and I returned to Prince George this afternoon, having spent the last few days visiting in Quesnel home to my mom, dad, older sister, Sheila's dad, sister, brother-in-law, 2 nephews, 2 neices and her nanny (Grandma) as well as numerous cousins and other relatives.  Sheila had been visiting with Jasmine and Asher since Saturday and I had been in Quesnel since Tuesday.  While the only plans we had really made was a trip out to the ski hill, the visit turned out to be quite eventful.

After arriving at mom and pop's house Tuesday afternoon and getting greeted by Asher with a huge "DADDY!" and the corresponding hug, I recieved an invite from my dad to attend his Special Olympics soccer practice that evening as a "guest coach".  My dad is heavily involved in the organization, as he runs the thing with my mom.  He also wears a number of coaching hats, curling, bowling, track and field, honestly I am unsure of just how many sports he is directly or indirectly involved in.  Soccer though, is his pride and joy.

My dad has coached a soccer team in one form or another for over 30 years.  Before I was born he began volunteering with Quesnel Youth Soccer, and at his peak he was coaching my team, my sister's team, my brother's team and at least one rep team either mine or my brother's.  As we got older and my sister and I were no longer involved in youth soccer, my dad moved on to coach the Correlieu high school team, featuring my brother.  Coaching soccer in Quesnel can be a thankless job.  My dad has never been in it for the accolades, or the team trophies.  It's difficult because Quesnel is a small town with a small player pool.  Soccer is not the most popular sport in Quesnel with the athletic kids.  Hockey is king, and soccer is more like the court jester.  Once in a while a particularly talented age group comes along and a trip to the provincial championships make occur, but being competitive at these events is challenging at best.  My dad has been involved with the Special Olympics soccer program for 6-7 years I think.  If memory serves, he started the program.  The team as a whole has improved considerably, and their yearly trip to a tournament in the Lower Mainland has seen some significant successes.  Last year, they did very well and managed to qualify for this year's B.C. Summer Games in the Lower Mainland.

I arrived at practice with Asher, and the athletes were already warming up.  Asher got set up with Grandma on the bleachers while I joined the practice.  Plenty of jogging, followed by stretching, then the real work began.  There were about 16 athletes at the practice, and they make up two teams of different skill levels.  It is likely a difficult task for my dad to find drills and skill development activities that all are capable of doing, and can challenge the various levels that the athletes are at.  There was no easing into the practice.  Everyone was asked to line up on the goal line, and we ran a series of windsprints.  Many, including myself were already winded, but we moved right into a series of ball control and passing drills.  I worked with a trio of guys on quickly making return passes, even tossing in some headers back to the original passer.  The practice concluded with some work on delivering crossing balls while being pressured by a defender, then a short but intense 4 on 4 scrimmage.  I have had the chance to see these same players play almost every year as I will referee their games whenever I get the chance.  I knew that the guys were capable of playing decent soccer, but I walked off the field Tuesday mightily impressed.  One of the athletes threaded a beautiful pass threw two defenders leading to a great chance to score on the mediocre goaltender (me).  There was a series of passes during the scrimmage with little wasted time, as the guys tossed the ball around in an umbrella formation, leading to plenty of open space and another quality scoring chance.  All of the athletes took the practice quite seriously and it was good to see.  My dad has done a solid job impressing on the athletes that while the idea of playing soccer is to have fun, you are also there to be competitive, get better and to win games. 

Throughout the rest of my visit, the topic of the soccer team came up a number of other times.  I gave some suggestions to my dad about ways they could continue to improve in advance of the Summer Games, and while he was a little skeptical, I believe that a handful of his players could compete in the local mixed league.  These guys aren't just good Special Olympics soccer players, they are good soccer players.  Period. 

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Always Begetting

When I thought of the above title, I wasn't completely sure I had a real word there.   Perhaps on an occasion or two I have used the root word beget in every day conversation.  I had most certainly never used the longer word begetting, as it is a very rare word.  The term beget has but 2 definitions.  The first and unbeknownst to me, the most common is "to father".  Fair enough, there must be multiple hundred different words for that.  The other definition is "to cause to exist" or "to produce".  It is in this form that I use the word here. 

I have really grown over the last couple of years to enjoy exercising, in all of its different forms.  I won't lie, physically being stronger is solid motivation, but I do have a few more specific reasons why I enjoy being active, and why I believe I won't get bored with it.  Something that I have said a few times recently is that "the more you exercise, the more energy you will have".  I have said this to a few people not because it has a basis in science. it really is something that I am starting the buy in to.  One thing that holds true for me is that a lazy, listless start to a day will often lead to a lazy day all the way through.  On the other hand, a quick start to the day can lead to weird and wonderful energy levels later in the day.  I believe it only happened once all last summer, but there was one day that is vivid in my memory.  Sheila leaves for work at 0730 and it is rare for me to be vertical by then.  Maybe Asher is laying beside me watch baby tv.  Jasmine is often up as well, especially on school days, but I am usually one-eyed and miserable when Sheila exits the house.  On one glorious day last summer I jumped out of bed, threw on shorts and a t-shirt, strapped on my ipod and stormed out the door.  The time?  Approximately 0700, did you really expect me to have all the details?  The morning air was a little more crisp, and I think I suffered slightly on my speed due to being only half awake, but upon returning home and hacking up a morning lung, I felt very alive.  I'd love to tell you that the rest of the day was full of exercise and lots of fun, but truthfully I don't remember.  But, I remember that feeling I felt after the crack of dawn run, and I am looking forward to feeling it again.  Weather permitting of course.

The above paragraph may not have provided the most powerful evidence to back up my lofty claim, but I do think the concept has some merit.  I will say this, when I start the day well with some physical activity, I am then more excited about the rest of the day.  After starting well, something in my head keeps reminding me about that, pushing me towards finishing the rest of the day well.  A few weeks ago, on a Thursday, Asher and I spent time hanging out in the morning.  We usually grab a drink, coffee for me and usually juice for him, and we head to the man cave.  I sit down at the computer, sip my coffee and attempt to find something to read.  This isn't a tough task, but after 30 minutes or so I have read the blog updates, checked ESPN, Facebook, the Prince George Citizen website, perhaps a poker site or two, looked for any news for my upcoming fantasy drafts and then, it's decision time. 

On a lazy day I will probably still lift weights, but the pace will be sloth slow.  One set, followed by a desperate attempt to find more reading material, or a half-hearted attempt to join Asher in whatever he's doing.  If I am motivated and exercising at a decent pace, I will play with Asher in between with a similar energy level.  On a good day, the weight routine is complete well before lunch time, and tired out from all his playing, Asher and I head upstairs to have lunch.  On this glorious Thursday, Asher fell asleep after lunch and I had a little time to myself.  I started an album on the computer, turned the elliptical to max resistance and went for 12 minutes.  I get bored easily on these machines, so I crank up the resistance and get the same workout I would get in 20 minutes on an easier setting.  Asher woke up, we picked up Jasmine and had a typical afternoon at the house.  Some fighting about chores, resisting her homework, and some screening thrown in.  I had hockey scheduled that night, and I was feeling good after my early exercise.  Sheila was set to miss her water aerobics because of my hockey, then I suggested we all go swimming before hockey.  Sheila loves doing thing as a family so off we went.  Chasing after my little guy at the pool may be the best exercise I got all day.  He is endlessly in motion at the pool.  I snuck away and spent some time in the steam room and sauna, then it was time to go.  I got dressed and said good night to the family and made the short drive to the hockey rink.  Playing hockey with the elevated body temperature from the sauna and steam room was interesting.  We were playing in the big barn that night too, the CN Center is notoriously the warmest rink in the city, as there seems to be an odd desire to keep the empty plastic seats at room temperature.  I always sweat when I play, but this was amazing.  After my first shift, my forehead was dripping.  I had actually worked up a lather in the warm up.  It was an awesome feeling.  My energy definitely came down some towards the end of the game, but all in all, the day was a success.  I get a kick out of trying to string together a day full of exercise like that, and will be trying my best to outdo that day. 

The other thing that really motivates me when I exercise is the constant struggle to over come the desire to quit.  Be it acute pain in a body part,or general fatigue, often people cut exercise short due to their inability to direct their attention away from the problem.  If you don't enjoy exercise and are doing it for some other reason, you are likely to struggle to motivate yourself.  When you do manage to get yourself to get active, you have only partly won the battle.  It goes without saying that the longer duration of time the better when you are active.  If you aren't motivated, you will be looking for any reason possible to cut your session short.  This search for a reason to stop, goes hand in hand with the level of intensity the exercise is performed at.  It is quite normal for someone who is looking for a reason to quit to also be paying little or no attention to what they are actually doing.  This is not a recipe for high intensity exercise.  One of the reasons I enjoy exercising outdoors is the distractions available.  I have to balance focusing on my intensity level, with the need to distract myself from any pain or fatigue I may be feeling.  Music and visual distractions are two keys to getting through the distance you want to complete.  If I feeling truly sadistic I will actually focus my thoughts exclusively on the potential road block, my most common being shin splints, or knee pain, and force myself to get over it.  Train the mind so that when your body is physically capable of more, your brain will already be ready to handle it.  The way I see it, is that I will be able to gradually increase my capabilities by fighting through things that may have previously made me stop. 

My whole family has become quite the active bunch.  Jasmine has found a couple of sports that she really enjoys in soccer and basketball.  She also swims regularly, often twice a week.  Jasmine also has pretty healthy eating habits, eating large portions of lunch and dinner including vegetables that some kids detest.  Asher is developing a love for all sports, probably due to his family's influence.  He runs around the basement with a basketball because he watches Jasmine play with her team.  He doesn't go a day without playing hockey because he sees it on t.v. constantly, and has come and watched dad play a few times.  Asher also loves to swim, and as I mentioned earlier, is quite the handful when he goes.  Sheila as I have mentioned here before has made significant changes to her diet, and is more energetic because of it.  She also exercises a few times a week at the pool, or down in the dungeon at home. 

As the weather warms, we will all likely get more active outdoors.  Jasmine and I are both signed on for another season on youth soccer, player and coach respectively.  I'm hoping to find time to play soccer myself this year, but my weekend work schedule will likely reduce my options.  The recreation league plays on Monday nights so I can play there.  Jasmine and I have also been discussing trying a few road running races this year.  I've gone ahead and scheduled a few days off for races that I would like to run.  The YMCA road race is in June, and it includes a shorter race for kids.  It's going to be fun cheering her on.  I'm also going to try the "Beat the Bugs" race later in June as it falls on a Saturday and I won't be working.  The other key race is the Labour Day Classic, as it serves as the only race I have done before.  I ran the 13 km course years ago, and I have been itching to try it again.  They also hold a kids race that Jasmine tried the same year I ran.  She has fond memories that we can hopefully add to.  Two weeks later is the Terry Fox Run.  Usually, I walk the course in support of Cancer, but I hope to run it this year.  I wrote in this very space about last year's walk that saw my friends overcome physical challenges and walk much further than they are used to.  I'm looking forward to getting myself ready for these races.  Jasmine asked me recently "Dad, is there prizes or anything for these races?"  I just laughed, "There is Jas, but Dad doesn't have a chance.  I just want to do my best."  Running these races has been a life's dedication for many of the people who go, my efforts to complete a few races shows me how difficult this lifestyle can be.  Dedication, will power, and strength, both physical and mental are not things to be taken lightly. 

Today, as I type I am well into my weightlifting, and Asher has played soccer, tossed the football and shot a few hockey balls.  Soon we will head upstairs for lunch, then Asher will lay down for his nap.  I will hopefully keep my day going, Asher and I are going to walk to pick Jas up.  I have hockey tonight and it's a matchup with the top team.  Maybe I'll be dripping sweat and loving it tonight as well.  It's day one of a ten day break from work, and I'm quite happy about the way it has started. 

Monday, 11 March 2013

What's In a Name?

The power of speech is well established in modern society.  Language can be used to manipulate situations, those that possess a larger vocabulary essentially have a larger arsenal to fire with so to speak.  Lately, I have been thinking a lot about this idea, that words are weapons in a sense.  Specifically, how we speak  to one another carries a lot of weight in the world.  To narrow it down even further, my thoughts have been about names, given names, nicknames, names that we call others both derisive and endearing.  Why is it that names hold so much weight and power?  When a name is hurled at you, either positive or negative, you are recieving a glimpse into the person's mind.  Often, insults are played off by the delivering party with cursory comments such as "I didn't mean anything by it", but in reality, the words wouldn't be in your mind to begin with if there wasn't some intent behind them.  It is quite startling how frequently the topic of names comes up in every day life, in such a wide variety of contexts.

My mom and my sister were up for an overnight visit last week, and while they were here the topic of names came up a few times.  My sister's name is Paulette, which I think is a very nice name.  It is one that most people will have heard of, it's easy enough to spell, but when you look it up in any database's you will realize how rarely it is actually used.  My mom was telling us how she always gets a kick out of Paulette's reaction to meeting other people with her name.  It is infrequent, but when she goes to the hospital in Quesnel she will see the nurse there named Paulette.  As mom tells the story, the woman has been there since time began, and is in her seventies.  Paulette first met the other Paulette when she was a child, now she is 31 (Not to worry my sister is happy to share her age with everyone).  My sister loves this lady.  It may have something to do with her being very friendly and helpful as she is a nurse and they have a knack for that kind of thing, but it mostly comes down to their shared name and the common bond it seems to create.  My sister has also taken to lighting up when someone has the same name as my mom.  It's interesting, because this facination with names is something that my sister and I share in common.  I am always curious about names, where they came from, how they are spelled and the like.

We, being Asher, my mom, my sister and I all went to meet my brother and his girlfriend at Tim Horton's to visit.  My brother and his girlfriend have a baby on the way in July and the discussion turned to baby names.  Not surprisingly, baby's mom (not sure she wants her name out there so I'm going to play it safe), has had some names picked out for years as many females are apt to do.  She announced that if it's a girl she wants the name to be Elizabeth.  I could tell Ian didn't like the name, and I provided support by agreeing, it wasn't a name that I liked.  I regretted this afterwards, as I really should play no part at all in the naming of your baby Ian.  I hope the two of you choose a name for your baby that you both like after having a lot of discussions about it.  My obsession with names aside, once the baby arrives, the special bond between parents and baby and the overwhelming love that you will have for baby takes precedence over the name you choose.  Sheila and I both feel like "Asher" suits our little guy perfectly, but I have a feeling we would say that about any name we had gone with.

At Asher's favorite place these days, the Strong Start class at Malaspina, one of his little friends goes by the name of Princess.  She is just shy of 2 years old, has blonde hair, with big blue eyes, the type that seem to follow you as she observes you.  She is very cute, and the name Princess just seems perfect for her.  It's a unique name, and due to my curious mind, I had been wondering for weeks about it.  She comes to the program with her nanny, but I didn't want to offend by asking about the origins of the name.  I was signing Asher in one morning and noticed that she had been signed in as "Aaralyn/Princess".  So, as we helped the kids I brought up the name thing, and as it turns out, Princess became Princess by simply acting like a Princess.  Her nanny had taken to calling her that because of her demeanor and it stuck.  There is nothing wrong with her given name but Princess just suits her perfectly.  Normally, I am a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to given names, but a little girl lucky enough to have a very nice given name and a perfectly suited nickname is a lucky girl indeed.

At work the other day over coffee myself and a co-worker were discussing what led us to working in the field that we do.  As it turns out, we were both the recipients of bullying and intimidation in our younger days.  My co-worker is more middle-aged then I, and it seems the treatment he recieved was much harsher.  From what I can see, he overcame this and became a caring, well-rounded person.  This had me wondering though, perhaps my obsession with names leads back to my time being bullied in high school.  I've experienced the power of name-calling first hand.  While my work can be dull at times, the position of support I can provide for the guys who work with is fulfilling. 

High school really is the home base of the personal name calling type of insult.  It has been years since I can recall being the target of a personal attack.  At University I was taken aback initially by the mostly accepting culture where those from such a wide variety of backgrounds can co-exist peacefully.  The default attitude went from prejudging those who were different to more of a curiousity.  When I met someone from a different background I always wanted to know more about them.  Be it another culture or socio-economic background or otherwise, I didn't have a predetermined outlook on what that person would be like.  Often, I wonder if I am too curious, and too open with others.  Maybe to the point of being annoying.  In the end, I can't do a whole lot to change that.  It's the way I am.

Names are a large part of life.  My focus of today's writing was largely on names of people, but all things we come across in life have been named, and often these names that things or people have been given influence the way we look at them.  Whether it be the name of a band, or a television show or movie, we are likely to draw conclusions about the content or style of something based on the name that they have.  Self-given names are usually less telling, but if something or someone has had a name bestowed on them by others, say Princess for instance, you are likely to get more of an idea of that person's nature or that band's style.

What ultimately prompted me to write this content was a comment a friend gave me about my previous series of posts.  Having my material called boring shouldn't shock me, as people do have varying tastes.  Having my content called boring publicly was a bit more surprising.  While I know the comment wasn't meant as a personal attack, I initially took it that way.  My blog, being that the content comes from my mind, is an extension of me in a way.  My blog being insulted, felt like an attack on my person.  I know that I am sensitive to "put downs", but it was very reassuring that another friend then defended my content.  It goes without saying that those that are bored by this blog need not read it, but things aren't always that simple.  I want people to speak their mind just as I do, even though the results may not be pleasant or heartwarming.  Ultimately I want to thank both guys for being honest and truthful, not to mention that the exchange spawned another post boring, intriguing or otherwise.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A Book Review: Sons and Lovers

My reading so far in 2013 has veered off down a lonely road towards challenging and thought provoking.  The last book I completed was "Time Must Have a Stop" by Aldous Huxley.  It was at times difficult to remain interested, but knowing the intellect of the author I felt compelled to continue reading so as not to miss out on something monumental.  In actuality I can't say that the book was anything more then a solid read, but "Sons and Lovers" by D.H. Lawrence provided the next challenge and it was indeed that.  Finding a place at number 9 on the Modern Library list of the 20th century's best novels, I had a pretty good idea that the novel would prove enjoyable.  As I have now read a large handful of novels from the list, I have had success in that all the works on the list have been well-written and thought provoking.  They have been from a variety of genres, written in an array of different styles and it feels like I am truly learning new things about the art of writing whilst consuming the reading material. 

The novel "Sons and Lovers" explores in excruciating depth the dynamics of family relationships, and the idea that your upbringing can shape considerably your personality and your ability to develop relationships outside of the family.  This novel is unique in that it doesn't follow one central character throughout the work.  It opens with a focus on the mother Gertrude Coppard, and examines her marriage to the miner Morel.  She is of the middle class, and marries down into depths of poverty that she didn't realize when she first fell for Morel.  He soon shows himself to be a functioning alcoholic who abuses his young bride which leads to Gertrude turning her love and affection towards her children, specifically the eldest William.  Their father's abusive behaviour towards their mother leads the children to resent him, and to strengthen their bond with their mother. 

The novel moves to focus on William the oldest son as he gets older and begins to move on with his life.  He moves to London and quickly begins moving up in social circles.  He distances himself from the family, only coming home for occasional visits.  He develops a relationship with a young lady, but it seems that the relationship is based solely on status, as his lady friend appears dim witted and superficial.  The author works masterfully in the subtle way that he has the mother Gertrude quietly disapprove of her son's relationship, but she is resigned to having lost control emotionally.  The girlfriend returns with William to visit the family a few times and she proves to be as materialistic as suspected.  The William chapter closes with him returning for a visit not long before the planned wedding.  He is sickly and it seems that his bride-to-be had hardly taken notice.  He returns to London despite his ill health and is dead days later.  This serves as a prelude to the heart of the novel, as the mother turns her focus to her youngest son Paul who shows a more dynamic depth of character then her middle son Arthur or her daughter Annie. 

The main focus of the novel emerges, as Paul struggles through his teen years into adulthood.  He has developed an extreme dependence on his mother that had been nurtured and shaped significantly by Gertrude herself.  This is graphically illustrated in Paul's inability to develop his relationship with Miriam.  He can not fathom loving another woman as deeply as his mother.  His mother for her part disapproves of his relationship with Miriam which provides another wedge that eventually leads Paul and Miriam apart.  He is overwhelmed by the depth of Miriam's feelings for him, as he can not devote himself fully to her when his mother truly has his heart.  Paul moves on to a relationship with Clara, a married but separated woman who was a friend of Miriam.  While he is now adult and his sexual relationship with Clara is more significant then he had with Miriam, it becomes apparent that he once again is incapable of giving his heart to another.  Clara being an already married woman adds to the complications of the situation. 

As the work moves towards a conclusion, Gertrude ages and her children all move on and out, except for Paul.  He feels attached to her in a way that leads him to pledge to her his heart eternally.  Quite dramatically, the bond between the two teeters on the edge of inappropriate before Paul realizes that his mother is aging rapidly.  In one passage he questions the "fairness" of life, not wanting to accept that his mother will at some point be gone.  As his mother falls ill with a tumor, Paul's mediocre relationship with Clara disintegrates.  He develops a friendship with her estranged husband who had at one point engaged him in a fight.  He realizes that because he never did grant his heart to Clara, he had not earned her as a wife.  She tells him plainly that despite her husband Baxter's failings he had opened up to her, granted her access to him wholly, unlike Paul who was so guarded and distant.  His mother's illness rapidly advancing towards death, Paul begins to realize that he should return Clara to her husband.  He distances himself from everyone, Clara, Miriam, his family distant and immediate.  Paul arranges to reunite Clara and Baxter, and as he bids them adieu at the train station on their way to Sheffield, he appears resigned to being alone.  His mother dead, his sister returns to her husband and their life together.  His father, so distant from Paul, goes to live with acquaintances and Paul takes up a living arrangement in Nottingham where he works.  The author paints a desolate portrait, Paul wandering through the city alone with little to no human contact.  Suicide is contemplated at this time, but no action is taken.  One night after a few weeks he attends church where he sees Miriam.  Walking to say hello after the service, they decide to go to dinner together.  Returning to his apartment after, D.H. Lawrence begins to hint at the young lovers reuniting.  At this point Paul extinguishes any possibility of that happen as he appears to resign himself to being alone in his misery.  He seems to be punishing himself for his prior treatment of Miriam, knowing that he is not deserving of a wife so in love with him.  Being unable to reciprocate as he never learned how to love, Paul sees Miriam out of his apartment as the novel closes.

I didn't realize while reading this book how much it made me think.  I struggled at times to keep my interest, but eventually I read a significant portion of the 420 pages in a few days.  The message becomes overwhelmingly vivid, and it really is an important one.  An inability to love can be crippling.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Politics in British Columbia: A Creatively Written Soap Opera

Christy Clark, oh how I love you.  She currently presides over the B.C. Liberal Party and as such she is the Premier of the province.  Effectively, she is the most powerful person in the province that I have lived in my entire life.  As I near my 30th birthday this fall, I have spent all of my adult life living under the government of the B.C. Liberal Party.  I have dutifully voted against their party in both 2005 and in 2009.  In 2005 I cast a vote for Bob Simpson who at the time was representing the New Democratic Party (NDP), and he was successfully elected as a member of the Opposition.  I have never voted either Provincially or Federally for party that was able to win and form Government.  It looks as though that may change come this May as B.C. looks forward to the next election.

As I recall, while the election was approaching in the Spring of 2009, the NDP was full of optimism.  The party was led by Carole James a charasmatic leader, who led the party from near wipe out in the election of 2001 back to relevance.  James had ties to the local region, her husband is from Burns Lake, and is now the Chief of the Burns Lake Indian Band.  As I fly off on this tangent, I'll say that James' fault was basically that she was too nice.  She seemed to struggle when it came to taking the government to task.  Inherently, this wasn't just perception, she is just too good of a person to attack in a way that Political leaders need to.  She has been a foster parent for over 20 years, and spent time in her twenties working with mentally handicapped adults, both activities that garner her much respect from me.  The optimism the party had leading into the 2009 election was based on hope more than substantial reasoning.  As a result, the NDP made some gains, but they weren't significant and the election was once again lost.  As it was the second losing election for James as leader, it wasn't surprising when key members of the caucus denounced her as leader, and asked for a leadership review.  She subsequently resigned on December 6, 2010. 

While I have been a follower of the political scene since I was teenager, and I obtained a BA of Political Science at UNBC, I have been regrettably inactive in the political scene.  I had gone to a number of NDP events and such with my dad when I was younger, but once I moved from Quesnel to Prince George, it was rare for me to go out of my way to attend.  The race to choose a new party leader in 2011 rekindled my interest.  I paid my dues and became a card carrying member of the party, this enabled me to cast a vote in the leadership race.  I attended, along with my dad and brother the debate that was held in Prince George.  All 5 candidates were present, and a lively debate ensued.  While less heated then debates between competing parties, I still learned plenty about the ideas that the candidates held.  As a low-level cannabis activist, I had already determined that I would support Dana Larsen on the first ballot as he is THE activitist when it comes to cannabis law.  Knowing that he would likely drop from the ballot my second choice was John Horgan.  Ultimately, the party chose Adrian Dix, current MLA in Vancouver Kingsway, and former staffer for Premier Glen Clark in the 90s.

The NDP spent 2011 and 2012 quietly gaining popularity by having the governing Liberal Party make egregious errors that cause consternation amongst the voting public.  As the calnder turned to 2013 and the election campaigned neared, I began to anticipate the NDP's approach to the election.  Well, the Liberal's have hardly given them a chance to get started.  I am happy that the NDP has chosen to stay away from attack ads, which are usually a staple of Opposition parties desperate to get ahold of power.  Conversely, it is the governing Liberal Party that have spent heavily on attack ads, bringing up improprieties about Adrian Dix from 17 years ago.  Yes, you read that right.  All the while, numerous sitting MLAs have come out announcing the won't be running in the next election, an odd development that rarely occurs.  The Liberals started throwing shots at the NDP questioning why they were not producing an election platform for their party to criticize.  While we still haven't seen that platform, the Liberals have been busy deflecting and evading as they have faced numerous scandals in the past few weeks.

The budget was produced two weeks ago, and it was full of promises.  Balanced budget of course, and the way I see it, this is just standard electioneering.  Hardly something that the Liberals should be criticized for as the NDP were guilty of producing shady budgets when they governed as well.  It's an election tool, plain and simple.  What the Liberals didn't account for were the events of this past week.  Last Monday, the latest opinion poll results were released.  While there are 5 or 6 different firms that conduct opinion polls, the Angus Reid Group is the most consistent.  They have conducted a poll nearly every month since the last election in 2009.  The Liberal Party hasn't led in any of these polls since 2011, and even then it was by a few percentage points.  After a couple months, the NDP retook the led and has held it ever since.  The latest numbers released on February 25th saw the NDP at 47%, the Liberals at 31%, the Greens at 10% and the Conservatives at 9%.  Certainly, with less then 3 months until the election, this had to cause concern amongst Liberal Party members.

The next day, two prominent business men, along with Conservative leader John Cummins came forward with accusations that minister Pat Bell, one of the MLAs for Prince George, had improperly promised them an inside track on a huge downtown construction project.  Sure, they are likely bitter that Pat went back on his word and the bid process went ahead with 3 other bids as "finalists", but there is likely some merit to these accusations.  One of the men had brokered a deal with the other to buy up a large parcel of downtown land in order to then sell it to the province or the University so that they could build the Wood Innovation Centre, a mega project that the Liberal Party has been touting for years.  One of the businessmen had sunk some serious money into acquiring the land from the other.  Pat Bell has denied all involvement, stating that he obviously wouldn't anything like he was being accused of, because of course it would be improper.  The best part of the story, is that the businessmen are both long term supporters of the Liberals, and one has donated funds totalling more than $100,000 to their party.  Now the party is willing to paint these men as liars and to throw them under the bus, while happily counting the money they had been given.  For a better account on the accusations and the denials see here: story.

Fast forward two more days, yipee they made it one day without a new scandal, and the now infamous memo was brought up in the Legislature by the NDP. The memo, written by Christy Clark's Chief of Staff and personal friend Kim Haakstrand, was 17 pages long and distributed via personal email to 17 or so other important members of the party.  It outlines a number of strategic ideas that were developed in order to woo the ethnic voters of the province to the Liberal Party.  While this practice is not uncommon, it is rare to see it blatantly spelled out in such a manner.  The most inappropriate thing was the plan to use tax payer funds to implement the plan.  Well, I'll be!  I thought the Pat Bell debacle was bad, then this one came along to take the cake.  Of course, there is more.  Christy refused to apologize initially, and still maintains that she knew absolutely nothing about the document.  All this while a number of the recipients are close friends of hers, including the author who is described as one of her closest personal friends, and an employee of hers for over a decade.  Many of the other recipients were close personal friends of hers.  While denying, she is also forgetting that the Chief of her Staff is employeed to help her develop policy, usually under her direction.  The next day during the sitting of the Legislature, we did recieve an apology.  Not from Christy, as she was not even present, but from her right hand man Rich Coleman who read a statement on her behalf.  She demanded an inquiry, ridiculous when you consider it, as she could just ask her best girlfriend what was going on (remember, she didn't know about it, tee hee hee).  She has now let her friend Kim get thrown under the bus, all while the RCMP has decided to get involved.  This story can be found here.

In the end, the Liberals called an emergency meeting, got together on a Sunday afternoon for a few hours and emerged a "united team".  Buy that if you want, but the whole thing stinks and likely seals the fate of the Liberal Party in the coming election.  I plan to volunteer in my local riding, doing some menial tasks as well as attending the local debates in there are any.  Shirley Bond of the Liberals who currently serves my riding classicly refused to attend any debates in the last 2 election campaigns.  Will she once again be unwilling to take part knowing she is behind in all polls this time around?  We will have to see.  Perhaps it is time I will be able to live while being governed by a party that I actually support.  This is to say nothing of the Federal government, or the local municipal government who are raising fees and taxes so rapidly I can barely afford to keep my home.  Alas, I digress.

Weekend Update!

Good Morning to my family, and the other 3 readers of this blog!  It's Monday, and for me, that means happy Friday!    I always have my days off in the middle of the week, 3 of them in total.  That's one too many by my count, but the upside is the extra time I get to spend with the kids.  While I was working my regular shifts on the weekend I found some time to have fun as well. 

My little man was sick with a cold last week, runny nose and some dreadful hacking coughs, but he was getting over it towards the end of the week. So on Friday morning we went to Strong Start after skipping it on Wednesday.  He had fun as usual, quickly flitting from one activity to the next.  We made playdough cookies shaped like stars, then moved on to haphazardly decorate a cardboard barn, then on to the cardboard blocks that Asher stacked high and then tore down with fits of laughter all the while.  He had a funny little dispute while there.  He has grown really fond of "money" lately, particularly shiny money.  So, at one point he reached into his pocket and pulled out 2 pennies.  As he was staring at them, a little girl of almost 2 grabbed at them.  He didn't like that.  Asher hollered "No!  My money!" and slugged her.  Ughhh.  Luckily, she wasn't hurt and I shrugged my shoulders at her nanny while giving Asher trouble.  Asher is quite possessive of "stuff" at home and at Strong Start, but at circle time he is so very cute.  The teacher and the parents sing the little songs while the children do the dance moves to varying degrees of participation.  As we have been quite a few times now, Asher is starting to learn the moves and it is very cool to see.  I know I am getting old when I enjoy watching others having fun. 

After working Friday night, I had a notion that I would get up early Saturday morning and go to the pool.  Sheila laughed at me when I told her my plan as she knows that I am lucky to crawl out of bed on Saturday morning by 10.  For the fall and winter months I had Jasmine's basketball to coach, and it was all I could to get up and shower in time to get there for 11.  So, I told Sheila to wake me up when she gets up.  So, that didn't happen, but I did crawl out of bed at 8, got my stuff together and went to the pool.  10 minutes on the bike, 20 minutes on the treadmill, and 5 minutes on the eliptical to cool down.  I was happy with my effort, and rewarded myself with some lounging time in the hot tub, steamroom and sauna.  I came home and Sheila's sister and brother-in-law had arrived.  They were dropping off my neice Cienna for an overnight stay while they celebrated their wedding anniversary at a local hotel.  We all had coffee and a nice visit, then I went outside for a snowball fight with Jasmine and Cienna.  I even got the joy of discovering that my pocket was full of snow 20 minutes after I had come inside. 

The weekend was rounded out with a trip to the Spruce Kings game Sunday afternoon.  It was my second game of the weekend, as I had taken one of the guys to the game Friday night at work.  Jasmine and Asher came with me to the game, and we met my friend Ed there.  Fun was had despite the poor effort from the Spruce Kings.  Jasmine declared that the Spruce Kings sucked again after being spanked 8-4.  She has been a hex for the team this year as any time her and Asher go to a game, the team stinks out the joint.  I finished off the weekend with some reading and exercise last night.  Normally, I am very lazy on Sunday and Monday and end up squeezing my workouts in on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings.  It will be nice to have them more spread out this week, giving my body time to recover.

I will be back later today or later this week with a political peice I am working on, until then enjoy your day!