This pin was my dad’s. I believe it was in recognition of 10 years service at Mack Truck, where he worked for 24 years, until the plant closed down – so he had a lot of service recognition pins. My mom, my sister, and I each wore one to his funeral and I wore mine today, in his honour, as he died seven years ago today.
Also in his honour, I made a big fat lump sum payment on my mortgage today. I know he would be proud of me for being good with my money.
Typically I spend most of my Christmas break catching up on writing the eleventy thousand blog postings that I was too busy to write during the year, along with reading books for fun and maybe watching some movies, and definitely Christmas baking. But this year has been a bit of an anomaly, mostly because I was asked to teach a couple of new courses next year, so I have spent most of my Christmas break developing course materials rather than doing all of those things. And my family did two different cookie exchanges before I got to Ontario, so my sister’s place was so well stocked with cookies that it was unnecessary to do our usual Christmas baking extravaganza.
In lieu of Christmas baking, I made some chocolate hockey sticks and pucks for friends and colleagues, and today for Christmas dinner dessert I made a sugar pie. Sugar pie is a French Canadian delicacy that I’ve always wanted to try making, so today seemed like a good time to do it.
My brother-in-common-law got a virtual reality (VR) game system for his and my sister’s family this year. So we’ve spent most of Christmas Eve doing this:
I mean seriously, if you’d told me when I was a kid that someday I’d basically be doing Jedi training in the living room, I would never have believed it! But here we are with computers in our pockets, a digital assistant that can turn up the thermostat with a simple voice command, and VR systems in our living rooms.
I feel like I’m coming up for a short breath after being submerged for a really long time, knowing that I’m shortly going to dive back down. I guess this is what it must feel like to be a whale, if a whale lived in a vast ocean of work instead of water.
The things under which I’ve been submerged recently include, in no particular order:
finishing up the course I was teaching this semester, including grading all the final assignments, calculating participation grades for the semester, and submitting final grades to the school
completing revisions for the new edition of my textbook1, including proofing all the revisions we did
my actual day job, which is getting crazy busy as a Really Big Thing is about to happen and we have to be ready for it
But the textbook revisions and the marking are all done now, and those were two really time-consuming things that I was having to fit into my weekends and evenings, and the time available for working in the evenings and on the weekends were abbreviated due to the fact that I’m dedicated to doing my three days a week at the gym (which really is a big part of what helps me decompress when I’m so busy!) and I’ve been working longer than normal hours at my actual day job, due to all the work of preparing for the aforementioned Really Big Thing. So now I feel like I have a few days where I can actually breathe. By which I mean “write a blog post about how busy I’ve been”.
Of course, this is just a short reprieve, as I’m about to dive back down into the deep ocean that is work craziness. As, I mentioned above there is a Really Big Thing happening at work soon. This Really Big Thing will involve my team (a) providing data to monitor the progress and/or outcomes (good or bad) of said Really Big Thing (translation: lots of people will be wanting to see the data we produce daily) and (b) having to provide support 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until such time as the Really Big Thing settles down into just a Big Thing and we can go back to our regular work days and hours. Which means that I’ll be working some early mornings and some weekends and also, since I’m the lead of the team, should any crises happen, I could potentially be called even when I’m not on site. All that stuff happens starting April 28th.
Also, I’m going to have some house guests around this same time! Dr. Dan and one of his students will be staying with me from May 2-8, as they will be in town for important work things, and then from May 8-13, my mom and my Aunt Wendy will be staying with me as my Aunt has an important conference to attend and my mom is coming along to visit. I’m very excited to see all of them, as I think it will be good for me to get some quality time with family & friends to keep me grounded when I’m not at the hospital doing my Really Big Things.
Image Credit: Whale illustration posted by Steve on Flickr with a Creative Commons license and whale tail photo posted by Vilmos Vincze on Flickr with a Creative Commons license.
I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that we are putting out a new edition. The original came out in 2012, which is like a million years ago in textbook years, so it was due. Nutrition is still a pretty young field, so there were a fair amount of things to update! It should be ready by the end of the month and everyone should buy a copy or 12. [↩]
Which I was just a co-investigator on, so I’m not saying I did the most work on it; was it was a team effort of a bunch of people and lead by someone else, but it still took up some time. [↩]
Each week in the newsletter at work, they do a short profile of someone working on the project. Just a few questions, like “What’s the last book you read?”, “What’s your favourite place you’ve ever visited?”, and “If you could have dinner with someone, alive or dead, who would it be?” A few weeks ago, they did my profile and my answer to that last question came to me immediately: My dad. He’s been gone six years now, and I really wonder what he’d think of all the things going on in the world these days. I wonder what he’d have gotten up to in his retirement years.
He’s been gone six years now, and I still think of him all the time. When I was fixing something around the condo, I was thinking about how he taught me how to use a screwdriver; when I shot two pucks just over the net in my game on Wednesday, I just wanted to call to tell him about it because I know he’d understand the mixture of pride (I lifted the puck that high!) and frustration (so close to scoring, but yet so far!); when I avoided a collision the other day on the way home from work when someone tried to change lanes without looking at their blind spot and so just swerved right at me, I thought both about how he’d taught me to drive *and* that I was screaming at the other driver just like he would have been.
Six years gone now, but never forgotten and always loved.
My mom found this teddy bear from my childhood and gave it to me while I was in Ontario for the holidays:
My sister had one like this that was bigger – his name was Mr. Moveable Bear, because you can move his arms and legs at the at the joints1. Mine was named “Baby Mr. Moveable Bear”, for obvious reasons2. I need to mend his paws, as the stuffing is starting to come out. Interestingly, his stuffing is made up of old nylons! Note to self: I’ve now found a use for my nylons once they get runs in them!
My mom didn’t find Mr. Moveable Bear, so we think he’s likely long gone. RIP, Mr. Moveable Bear. [↩]
Did I mention that I was terrible at coming up for names for things as a child? [↩]
Tomorrow is my mother’s birthday, so I thought it would be fun to show up unannounced for a surprise birthday visit! The conference I was at in Washington, DC ended today and, unbeknownst to my mom, I had to fly through Toronto to go back to Vancouver. So I decided that instead of having a 2 hour stopover in T.O., I would pay a few extra bucks to have a 1 day stopover so that I could spend my mom’s birthday with her! I recruited my sister to this subterfuge and had her invite my mother over tonight so that I could just take show up at my sister’s place – and she was so surprised!
The funny thing is, my sister and I came up with this awhile ago, back when I booked my flight to Washington. And wouldn’t you know it, but last month my mom tells me that she decided to go to Montreal to surprise her sister, my Aunt Maureen, for her birthday! Apparently the apple does not fall too far from the tree!
In honour of what would have been my Dad’s 72nd birthday, I give you this photo of me entering a door that has a sign explicitly stating that only authorized personnel, which I am not, may enter:
And so my father’s legacy lives on every time I see a sign that says “do not enter” and I think “There must be something good in there. I should go check it out!”
In all seriousness, though, I was thinking about this the other day and as much as I enjoy the rebelliousness and hilarity of disobeying signs the way my dad liked to do, I think there are two important character traits that I learned from my dad reflected here. One is confidence. I remember him telling me that it’s easy to get away with going where you aren’t supposed to go: “Just walk in to a place like you belong there, and no one will question you.” Acting confident can often get you want you want. And in my life, acting confident often has gotten me what I wanted! The other is questioning authority. The sign may say “Do not enter” or “Authorized personnel only” – but why does it say that? Sometimes there is a good reason, but sometimes not. When I saw the signs at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland that said “do not cross this fence”, I knew that many people have accidentally slipped off the edge of those cliffs and fallen 700 ft to the death, so I thought “that’s a sign to take seriously”.
But this “no entry” sign on an open gate in Freemantle, Australia, where there was clearly no danger, not so much:
So I guess the take home message here is not to automatically not do something just because you are told not to, but to ask the even important question “Why?” Asking “why?” has also gotten me things that I want (or, in some cases, the knowledge of the reason why I can’t have what I want – but at least I know). I think these are two pretty cool things to have learned from my dad.
I wish you were still here for me to wish you a happy birthday, Daddy.
My Dad has been gone for five years now. How has five years gone by without my Dad here to tell a joke or tease me when the Leafs beat the Canucks or pick me up at the airport with a Tim Horton’s coffee in one hand and a sign that says “Dr. Snow” in the other? He never knew that I bought a home (he’d have been proud), that I got some cats (he would have been chagrined) and some frogs and fish (he would have been amused). My sister and I have both long since finished the degrees we were just starting when he died1 and gone on to get fancy jobs that he would have proudly told about to anyone and everyone. He would have loved the antics of my nephew, who was only a tiny baby five years ago, and he would have loved the antics of my niece, who’s now nearly a teenager! He would have enjoyed the tales of my mom’s world travels, which he wouldn’t have gone on himself, not being much of a traveller, but he would have wanted to hear all about it. Who knows what he would have gotten up to in his retirement, which he didn’t get nearly enough of after a life of working hard?
I still miss you, Daddy.
A Masters of Design and a Masters of Business Administration, respectively. [↩]
My grandpa died today. He was 94 years old – would have been 95 in March. He had family with him when he went and my mom tells me that the care providers at the facility he lived in, despite him having only been there a few weeks, knew him and were very kind to him and to my family. It’s always hard when someone dies, but at least when they are 94 years old you can say that they had a good long life. And he wasn’t doing well of late – hence having moved into a care facility that could take care of his increasing health needs – so I am grateful that he didn’t have to experience prolonged suffering.
When I think about my grandpa, I usually think of him as being about 65 years old (despite that actually being 30 years ago!). I remember going out tobogganing for his 65th birthday. The whole family, laughing and careening down the hill on our various types of toboggans. All wearing orange and white toques with the Howard Johnson logo on them1, as that was where my grandpa worked at the time. I also remember eating venison that he’d hunted. And the jokes he would tell. And drinking tea at my grandparents’ house. I have a duck that he carved – a male buffelhead to be specific – in my home office, next to my Dad’s french fry cutter and one of my Granny’s china tea cups.
I didn’t get to see my grandpa when I was in Ontario for the holidays. A combination of a short trip, bad weather, and being sick (and not wanting to bring germs into a facility full of frail elderly people) kept me away. The last time I saw my grandpa was the previous year, on Boxing Day, at my Aunt Wendy’s house, watching World Juniors hockey. He loved hockey, as do many in my family, including me, so it’s a nice memory to have to add to a lifetime of other memories.
You will be missed, Grandpa.
A male buffelhead carved by Des Snow.
I also remember these Howard Johnson disposable toothbrushes my grandparents used to have at their place – they had some sort of powdered toothpaste in the brush so you just had to add water and brush. I thought they were pretty cool. [↩]