Friday, February 10, 2012

A week with Dad - Fridays... February 10th

I'd like to begin this post by thanking everyone who has been following along this week. It's been a busy week, professionally, personally, and emotionally. But I can't deny how valuable this experience has been. While I have pretty much choked up every morning, I have also smiled and laughed many times through the tears recalling the wonderful memories I have of my father. I am so blessed, not only for the time I had with him, but in the way he is memorialized now, with all the lives he touched sending me their thoughts and love all week. What can possibly compare?

Last year on this day, I did a commemoration on my blog of the day my Father passed, moment by moment and feeling by feeling.

This year, I have typed up the speech I delivered at his funeral - held the following Friday 6 years ago. For those who attended, this will be familiar to you. Some of you may even recognize references to things I have already talked about this week... Either way, I hope you all enjoy, and offer a smile for my Father, my family, and all those IN your life, and those who TOUCH your lives. Bless you all. Enjoy Today. Enjoy Friday.

    "To begin with, I’d like to thank, on behalf of my family, the Foothills Alliance Church, and all of our friends who have done so much to make this day easier. 

In my little experience with funerals, I have always gone to ones for people I knew by association. Never someone I knew directly. And I always wondered if it was appropriate for me to be there. I now know that sort of thing doesn’t matter. Some of you are here because you knew Dad well. Some of you are here because you know Bonnie, or you know Adam, or you know me. Or, you may know someone who knows Bonnie, or Adam, or me. For whatever reason, and however indirectly, you were a witness to my Father’s life, and for that reason, you belong here, and we all thank you for coming. 

My father touched a lot of lives, and knew a lot of people as evident by the crowd here today. We always had this joke going that if Dad was ever seen talking to the Pope, someone would probably approach me and ask “hey, who’s that guy with Doug?”

I plan on speaking today though about my Dad as a parent. For most of you, you’ll know this was an area where he really shone.

When I was really little, Dad would play this game with me that we affectionately called “the golfball.” He would pretend to hide a golf ball in his pant leg, while secretly keeping it in his hand. Then, I would be so surprised when it would magically turn up in my belly. Equally impressive was when he hid it in MY pantleg, and it turned up in HIS belly. 

As I got a little older, Dad would often take me along when he was working. We would have to enter and exit many buildings during a typical workday, and he would almost always, given the opportunity, pretend to get stuck in the revolving doors. There he’d be going ‘round and ‘round while I’d be in hysterics on the sidelines. There would be a line-up of people waiting to use the doors, but that didn’t matter. He just wanted to make me laugh. 

When my brother was born, I was old enough to appreciate more how good he was with children. His patience. His intuition. Every Tuesday, Bonnie and I would head of to Pioneer Girls, to which Adam was not welcome. Dad knew Adam felt left out on those nights, and it wasn’t long before Tuesday nights were themed “boy’s night.” I was not privy to knowing what went on during those evenings of male bonding, but I’m pretty sure it had something to do with chocolate and lego. 

As my brother and I grew up, Dad strove to get us involved in different activities he enjoyed. One year we had a ski pass and got out skiing almost every weekend. During the summer, Dad would take Adam and I golfing, which I am hopeless at but at which Adam shows promise.

For many years, every Saturday morning, he’d round us up for Karate. ‘Course, oftentimes we only went ‘cause we knew we’d go out for lunch afterwards. But it was quality time I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I remember one time in Karate class, I began to yawn. For those of you not into martial arts, it is a deep sign of rudeness to yawn. My teacher, who spoke earlier, promptly corrected me “Miss Charman! No yawning in the dojo!” Much to everyone’s surprise, BOTH my father and I responded with the customary “yes sir!!” After a moment of silence, Mr. Winstanley replied “I said MISS Charman – Why, were you yawning too?” Busted! 

Dad was a great father to my brother and I, and he would also go the extra mile for others. In grade nine, I was privileged to be selected to go on an exchange to Quebec. Each student was given a ‘twin’ – another student with whom they would stay when visiting Quebec, and vice versa when they came here. My ‘twin’ was a year younger than me, and had never been out of the province. As exciting as Calgary was, it was also very frightening, and she was often homesick. One night, my Dad heard her crying heavily, overwhelmed with the feelings of missing her family. Dad went in, took her in his arms and said, “Cette semaine, je suis ton Papa.” For the Anglophones here today, that translates to “For this week – I’m your Dad.”

Within the last few weeks, I’ve had many talks with my Dad. Many people have pointed out how much I resemble him, and during one such talk I smiled and said “Well hey, Adam and I get to think of you every time we look in the mirror.” He smiled, looked me straight in the eyes and said “I get to think of you guys always.” 

My Father taught me many important life skills ranging from teaching me to drive, to showing me how to make perfectly golden marshmallows on a campfire. 

Whether it was singing “Puttin’ on the Bibs” to the tune of Irving Berlin’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” to my brother, or teaching me the Fox Trot for an upcoming wedding, Dad loved being a Father. And he was good at it. 

The last thing I said to my Father was right after I kissed his forehead. I said “sleep well Daddy.” After all those years of him kissing me good night, in the end, it was my turn. Sweet Dreams Daddy."

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A week with Dad - Thursdays...

Ah Thursdays. Thursdays had an interesting meaning to me while I was growing up. During my elementary and junior high years, every other Thursday I would go and visit Mom. When High School hit, I ended up moving in with my Mom, so every other Thursday switched to being a night at Dad's.

Then I got my license, and a car. I was still living at Mom's, but it was up to me at that point when and where I wanted to go. It was around this time, that Dad started suggesting the Advanced Karate Class on Thursday nights! I'm sure part of that timing was because I had gotten my brown belt by now and could actually join the advanced class. Thus, Thursdays became another karate night for Dad and I. Much different to Mondays though. As mentioned above, Thursdays were for purple, brown and black belts. (For those unfamiliar with our Karate school - the belt color order is: white - yellow- green - blue - purple - brown - black). As I mentioned in a previous post, Karate was a huge part of my life growing up, and something I will always treasure.

There was a weekend every February that was our Karate Seminar. Our Sensai would come down from Toronto and we would have a Friday evening class, a Saturday morning class and a Sunday afternoon class. And then we would all go out for a late lunch on Sunday and relish our accomplishments.

One such weekend, Dad received his black belt. In our school, it is very difficult to advance in belts. Receiving a new belt wasn't tied to how long you've been around. It wasn't a pity belt. You had to work extremely hard, and show a very high level of skill. They say it takes as long to go from brown belt to black as it does to get from white to brown. I'll never forget when he got it.

It's customary, when someone receives a new belt, to come up after class and shake their hand and congratulate them. I was so excited to do that when Dad got his belt. I got in line behind all the others, and waited my turn. But I can assure you, once I got to him - there was no shaking hands. When it was my turn, Dad took one look at me, and we both burst into tears. A big hug was the only way to congratulate him. He said later that he'd been doing well at holding it together until then...

A few weeks later, I presented Dad with a picture of him getting his belt, and a short poem I'd written:

For years you worked towards it,
For months you fretted about it,
Over a weekend you were tested for it,
And on February 27th you received it.

I'm so proud of you Dad!!

It's only as we get older that we realize we can be proud of our parents and their accomplishments. I was so lucky to have been old enough to appreciate that moment.

We practiced many Thursday nights after that with him as a black belt. He would show me Katas (sort of like a dance routine, but for Karate), help me with my sparring, and generally practice the art with me. As a black belt, Dad was even able to teach the occasional class if our regular instructor was called away. That was another moment of pride for me - A little different than teaching six year-olds. And yet, I like to think Dad made an impression on all his audiences. For those who knew him, you'll know what I mean.

Be proud of your family and friends. The things we accomplish on a daily basis are actually quite amazing!! We are all amazing.

Enjoy today. Enjoy Thursday.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A week with Dad - Wednesdays

Once again, Wednesdays weren't particularly significant for Dad and I per se. I do remember, however, that Dad often had breakfast meetings on Wednesday. This would entail getting up super early, and meeting a group of other business people downtown at a restaurant for a chance to network, and have breakfast.

I remember one time, probably around the beginning of May, when I was in College. I had finished schoolwork for the year, and was on the move looking for a job. There was a job fair downtown at "Hire-a-Student" that I attended. I dressed up in a skirt suit and felt very professional. When I was finished with the job fair, I called Dad. I told him I was downtown, and since it was around lunch time thought we could go for lunch. He was thrilled. I think his exact words were "that's a GREAT idea!!" Turns out, Dad had a lunch meeting - similar to his breakfast meetings just later in the day.

It worked out well for both of us.  We both had lunch, and we both got to network. I remember feeling slightly unsure about having to stand up and say my talents and skills, but I also knew it was a great opportunity I couldn't pass up. I didn't end up getting a position through that meeting, but what I did get was experience. And the chance to public speak in front of strangers is always character building. That, and I got to have lunch with Dad.

Another thing I remember Dad doing on Wednesdays (once the breakfast meetings slowed down) was get up early and go swimming. For any of you close to Dad, you know he loved to swim, and he was very good at it. Very ironic then, that both his kids hated it. I took years to pass the first color in swimming because I was so terrified to put my head under water. It was the first time I ever refused the teachers. When Adam had swimming lessons at school, he used to hide his swimsuit in the garage so he wouldn't have to go! Poor Dad. No lifeguards in training here that's for sure.

Dad did try, though, to get me involved with Scuba Diving. This was obviously once I was older, and had passed all my swimming lessons. We took the Scuba lessons together - another thing Dad endeavored to do with his kids. Had Adam been older, I'm sure he would've been in there too. Sadly, I wasn't quite cut out for the Scuba thing either... I did the classroom and pool stuff just fine, but when we hit the lake, I had some panic moments. Dad was very patient (as you all know him to be) and we tried several times, but it just didn't work out. He ended up going out a few times with a friend of his, but it was not meant as one of our activities...

Another Wednesday - sometime in July, 2003, Dad suggested we go down to the Arbour Lake (community man-made Lake) and go fishing. Apparently, the lake had just been stocked, and it was one of those perfect Calgary evenings in the summer where the wind was still, the lake like glass, and the silence echoing. I choke up a bit when I think about it. Precious moments that you look back on. We caught so many fish that night. You are only allowed to take three at any given time from the lake, but we caught probably 5 or 6. It was like it was just us, out on the lake with the sun slowly setting, and the fish jumping all around. I don't even think Dad had finished baiting his hook before I caught the first one. I'll never forget his laugh... we laughed so much that night... Not the least of which when we were called over the intercom to come to shore. We guiltily looked at each other - worried we'd exceeded the two hour time limit to have the boat out, when we saw Adam on the shore waving frantically at us. Dad sped up the rowing, alarmed by the look of urgency we saw on Adam's face. When we got within shouting distance, to Dad's relief, Adam asked loudly a technical question about the computer. Oh the emergencies of a 12 year old!! (Sorry Dude!)

It was a beautiful evening. It was a beautiful Wednesday. It's funny - while I was never with Dad by the Ocean, being there always reminds me of him. And I think it's because of Dad's love of the water. Most of my Wednesday stories involved swimming and water activities. He loved the lake - he'd go and swim to the fountains and back. He loved the Okanagan Lake, and would swim in that too. He loved the water, and now, I feel closest to him when I am near the ocean, or by a lake. I think there are many studies about water and it's healing properties. Do try and get near lakes and oceans when you can. And say Hi to my Dad while you are there :)

Enjoy today. Enjoy Wednesday.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A week with Dad - Tuesdays

Actually, Tuesdays weren't really my days when it came to time with Dad. On Tuesdays, for most of my younger years, I went with Bonnie to Pioneer Girls - a more religious version of Girl Guides. What I do remember about Dad and Tuesdays is how amazing he was with my brother.

Adam always felt left out because I was able to go out on Tuesday nights with Bonnie. We thought of it as our Girls night out. Once Dad picked up on this, he immediately swung it around and it became "boys night". This usually involved Lego and snacks and... well, I don't really know - it WAS boys night after all :) It never occurred to me that Dad and I had Monday nights, and then Bonnie and I had Tuesday nights, so no wonder Adam felt left out... we are all in our minds, and it has taken me until now to see that. Good thing Dad was so much more intuitive than me! :)

As I grew older, I want to say that Tuesday's became piano lesson nights, but I could be wrong. That may have been Wednesdays. Either way, for the sake of this week, we'll say it was Tuesdays. That way I can talk about Dad and the piano...

Dad bought that piano when his grandmother passed away. I don't remember her much - I was quite young when this happened. But he also began taking lessons from a lady named Liz. She would come over once a week and he would have a lesson with her. His lessons didn't last long (but then again, neither did mine). And yet - once again, something I am so grateful for. Dad had a musical ear... many spoke about it, and my piano teacher looked for it in me (and I think she found some of it lingering). Dad's musical ear was much stronger than mine though. He could sit down and find the notes to a song that was in his head just by tapping it out. But his favorite song to do on the piano was "Send in the Clowns". Sometimes he would just go downstairs and pull out the music (just for show of course - I don't think he really followed notes - it sort of just slowed him down) and he'd play the tune slowly and with slight mistakes. It makes me smile just thinking about it.

I remember one time when I was a little girl and Liz was over for Dad's lesson. I had a small little plant - one of the ones that you convince your parents to get you when you are four and walking through home depot. It was seriously drooping, and it looked very sad on top of the piano. I was worried about it, and Dad was totally understanding and promised not to throw it out just yet. I went upstairs and was laying in my bed half dozing to the sound of Dad's lesson below when Dad was suddenly at my door - he said "Erin, come see!!" I came down the stairs to see my plant alive and well standing tall and full. Dad said he'd just given it some water - but I like to think it was his music, and the way the piano would coax out his gentle nature that nurtured the plant back to life. A small memory - and yet still cherished.

Dad gifted the piano to me in the last few conversations we had together. It still sits in the basement in Arbour Lake, but I will endeavor to move it to my place soon. I will have it tuned. And perhaps, like Karate, it will be a chapter I reopen again soon. I think we all know the first song I'll want to learn to play...


Enjoy Today. Enjoy Tuesday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

A week with Dad - Mondays

Here we are at another Monday. Unless Monday is a holiday, most people are not big fans of this day. Growing up, Mondays in our family were just another day of the week. Mondays were Karate nights. For those of you who knew Dad, you know Karate was a big part of his life. He started going to classes when I was about three years old. Well, that I can remember anyhow. There's a good chance he went before then, but I don't remember. I DO remember, however, that I would accompany Dad to class and would color in the corner. Or play with my dolls. That karate class sort of became another family to me.

One of Dad's favorite stories was one such time we were at one of the karate classes, and I was dutifully coloring on the sidelines. One of the potential new students was watching the class, and approached me to chat. He asked me if my Dad was in the class. I nodded. When he asked me which one was my Dad, I simply replied "the one in the white suit". Of course, in Karate, they all wear white suits. It's called a Gi and is basically the training uniform. But Dad loved the story. He would always say "she only had eyes for her Dad".

Dad agreed to teach a Karate class at the local community center on Monday nights. Partly so that I could start training. He taught two different classes - both the same night one after the other. The first class was for five-seven year olds and the other was eight to I guess fourteen ish. I was seven when he started this, so I was in the younger class for the first year. Then I moved to the second class. As I grew older, I was actually recruited to help teach the younger class. I remember one time when Dad was explaining that in Karate we address each other by last name. The six year olds were baffled that both teachers had the same last name - Mr and Miss Charman. Dad joked that we were married. As anyone over the age of 14 appears to six year olds as an adult, they bought it. He did then explain that I was his daughter, but the kids didn't seem convinced.

Karate was a huge part of my life, and it's entirely because of Dad and his love for it. I mentioned before that the Karate class was like a second family. After losing Dad it was hard to go back, and both my brother and I stopped going to classes - it was too much of a reminder of who was missing. But I carry karate with me in so many ways... Public speaking from watching our instructor, and demonstrating our katas. Breathing techniques from the meditation we did at the beginning and end of every class. The awareness of the body that comes from the training that I now apply in Yoga. Karate was a chapter I have since closed in my life, but have not thrown away, nor locked away. Perhaps I will return again. But in the meantime, it sits in my muscles, in my heart, in my soul. It sits with Dads memory, and his essence.

Mondays brought a time for Dad and I to go teach something he loved and believed in. I didn't always enjoy it. I didn't always look forward to it. But now I look back on it, and am so grateful for that time. For the many times I heard Dad recite the same speech about Kara-te and what it means. The stories that would be passed down to each class about ambition and how to not let it cloud your vision. I think about those stories and speeches a lot now. And they are for another time, another blog post. For now, I just revel in remembering Dad at the front of the class. Wondering if any of those six year olds remember him now. Those little ones didn't know how lucky they were to have shared time with my Father. But I do. And I am grateful every day!!

Enjoy today. Enjoy Monday.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A week with Dad - Sundays....

I realize I haven't been updating this very often. The summer gets us all crazy with vacations, time outside, and just life in general.

That doesn't mean I haven't thought about it!! I really have thought, as before, that little life lessons would be great to write about... and yet and yet....

I ended up waiting, and now here we are. Back at a very significant week of the year. This year it's even more significant. When my Father passed away, six years ago, the day of the week was a Friday just as it will be this year. And so, I've decided to do a daily tribute for the days of the week until we reach Friday, February 10th, to honour him and share the significance of each day as I remember them to be with him.

One of my New Years' Resolutions this year was to be more grateful. And there is nothing I am more grateful for than the weeks and weeks and weeks that turned into 21 years of time with my Father. Time I only now continue to appreciate more and more. He is so much a part of me, not only physically, but in all the ways that make me who I am today.

As today is Sunday, and most Calendars actually begin the week on Sundays, I thought this was a good place to start.

To my Father, Sundays were exactly as I believe they were meant to be - family days. Dad was a religious man, and so we often began the day with a trip to church. While I still have mixed feelings about religion, I do believe there is a God, and I do believe him to be kind, and loving, and I do believe my father now rests in peace.

After church, we would go home and have lunch, often a bowl of soup or sandwiches. From there we would endeavour to do something as a family. A walk down in Bowness. A trip to Elbow Falls. Skiing. In the summer, there was always a festival to go to. It's funny, because as I was growing up, I didn't like doing activities outdoors. And yet, after I lost Dad, I seem to enjoy it that much more. He was definitely an outdoors man. And now I know why I am always antsy to do some sort of family activity on Sundays. It's because of the years of Dad upholding the tradition of Family Sundays.

Today is Superbowl Sunday. A big day in the States, and a big day to hang out with friends, eat chicken wings, and watch sports and funny commercials. I remember a similar such Sunday when Dad was still in the hospital when my family was invited over to a neighbours house to watch the game. I was visiting my mom that weekend when I got a call from the neighbour's son telling me that Dad had been given a day pass and was going to be attending the party. I was over there immediately. I'll never forget the pleased look on his face when I joined everyone at the table.

Enjoy Superbowl today! Enjoy time with friends! Enjoy time with family! Give your loved and cherished ones an extra squeeze today. Not because you don't know how much time you have with them, though that is true. But just because we have today. Because they are in your life, and are sharing time with you today. Enjoy today. Enjoy Sunday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Calgary Stampede

For any of you who know me, you know how much I live for Stampede. It is my favourite ten days in July, and, I always say, the only reason I'm still in Calgary. While I'm not into rides, or carnivals or rodeos, I do love how the city all bands together to play and take part in something for ten days straight.

This year, I have visitors staying in my house from Kuwait who, I believe, have never been to the Stampede. I decided to put together a little list of "Must-knows/haves" for Stampede. This is what it looks like:


-          The Calgary Stampede 2011 will run from July 7th to July 17th (10 days and over two weekends). The city really does go crazy. Some locals head out of town to avoid it, and others revel in it. The city also at least doubles in population due to people coming from all over the world to attend.

-          Jeans, cowboy boots, and cowboy hats are standard attire for the full ten days. You will see this everywhere. Even and ESPECIALLY Downtown Calgary.

-          Nightclubs double and triple their cover charges.

-          There are “Stampede Breakfasts” all over town. This includes pancakes (generally two per person) bacon and/or sausage, a juice, and sometimes eggs. These are free, and only require you to show up and line up. I will provide a list of some that I know are in the area. The breakfasts sometimes also have little pony rides, face painting, and live music.

-          The Stampede Grounds are named as such, and are around the Saddledome Downtown Calgary. C-Train or LRT is also a viable way to get down there. You can park at some of the main C-Train stations, and it drops you right at the grounds.

-          Admission is $15 for adults $8 for kids (7-12) and free for 6 and under.

-          Parking can be around $20/car depending on where you go. C-train is $2.75 for adults one way. Children less than that. If you go to any gas station or small convenience store they can give you books of 10 bus/c-train passes at a discount.

-          There are fireworks every night on the grounds between around 10:30 and 11:30pm. This is because there is a Grandstand show put on by the “Young Canadians” which includes dancing, acrobatics, etc. The show starts at 8pm with the Chuckwagon races, and ends with fireworks. Tickets range from around $15 for rush seating (standing room, or far side seats) to several hundred.

-          The Grandstand is also home to the Rodeo portion of the Stampede. Tickets also range for that depending on what you are looking to see. Tickets can usually be bought online at Ticketmaster, or on the grounds themselves.

-          The Stampede is also a carnival, and therefore has a large ride, game and food section. You can buy individual tickets for the rides, or wrist bands for unlimited rides for the day. These can also be purchased on the grounds or in advance generally at a Safeway, or other major store. 

-          There exists a Coca Cola stage by the Victoria Park entrance to the grounds, and various bands play there every night. Refer to your guide for specifics.

-          There is an indoor market for shopping (tradeshow) inside the large BMO centre. This is also attached to an arena for the Ice Show – a Must See for the kids!!

-          Bell Rodeo X is also another great thing for kids. Usually a motor-cross show with acrobatics. Held in the middle of the grounds either in a large tent, or cordoned off area. Refer to the guide for more information.

-          The grounds are essentially a LARGE parking lot. So you will be on asphault all day long. Wear comfortable shoes, have some kind of hat and lots of water/sunscreen.

-          When looking at the Coca Cola stage, veer off to the left, and you’ll find Weedickville. By far the best deal on the grounds. Hot Dogs, slurpies, and sub sandwiches can be bought here for really reasonable prices. Good way to eat on the run!