Saturday, March 20, 2010

Life in a paradox

The element of surprise.

It's big in sports. Hit your guy off the puck, blindside the receiver so he can't make the catch, hit off-field instead of pull.

The other guy never sees it coming, right?

That's me.

You'll never nail me down and therein lies the secret to figuring me out. Sounds complicated?

A few weeks ago, we were at Flames Central to watch Olympics hockey.

It was intense. We were yelling at the big screen, fist-pumping the air and high-fiving each other when the opportunities arose.

Within seconds of the final horn, the TV screens switched over to the original dance final for figure skating.

I oohed and aahed as Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir glided across the ice, their Twizzles spectacular, their lifts breath-taking and their edges so deep and graceful with a dazzle of power and a hint of serenity.

A friend looks over at me and says, 'you're such a paradox.'

Main Entry: par·a·dox
Pronunciation: \ˈper-ə-ˌdäks, ˈpa-rə-\
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin paradoxum, from Greek paradoxon, from neuter of paradoxos contrary to expectation, from para- + dokein to think, seem — more at decent
Date: 1540
1 : a tenet contrary to received opinion 2 a : a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true b : a self-contradictory statement that at first seems true c : an argument that apparently derives self-contradictory conclusions by valid deduction from acceptable premises 3 : one (as a person, situation, or action) having seemingly contradictory qualities or phases

That's me.

In my early years, my mother was determined to instil in me the qualities of a 'young lady.'

All I wanted to do was play 'War' and 'Cowboys' with my brothers and the neighbourhood boys, even though Jennifer and Stacy were just up the hill waiting for me to come play Barbie.

Today, I can recite the rules of baseball, hockey and football and, in the next breath, quote Shakespeare and tell you about my senior thesis on dream analogies in his works.

I can pull on cleats and a ball glove ...

Then, after a day at the ballpark, I can run home, jump in the shower and be ready to play dressup. Inside of 90 minutes, I had my makeup done, my hair curled and I was wearing a dress -- all set for a night out with friends at my favourite Calgary restaurant, Santorini.

Pssst ... that's not me.

And wouldn't Mom be happy to hear that I'm OK with wearing a dress now?

Now you might be thinking 'this chick is heading straight for an identity crisis.'

Too late. I've already been there.

The world came crashing to a halt when I could no longer identify myself as a sportswriter.

That's who I was.

But it wasn't. It was only a part of who I was. And it's a part of who I am ... forever.

As I battled to overcome the challenge to figure out who I am, I've realized I don't need to be this or that, either or, neither nor.

I just need to be ... doing the things I love to do. That could be sliding into second, cruising Zappos or Buckle (my new addiction) for a new pair of Naughty Monkeys, telling goofy pun jokes with Lisa or reading about the sociological effect of technological advances.

The secret is to never be surprised when you're surprised by me.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Moving on ... my Olympic dream, part II

Every once in a while, I'll Google my own name.

Until I blasted my name all over social media networks, my results were populated by bylines from the Calgary Sun.

But as my former newspaper started to archive stories off the web, my results list started to dwindle, my bylines were disappearing.

I started to feel forgotten, a lingering effect of the pain I felt ... nay, feel ... over that day almost four years ago when I was told my services were no longer required.

I was a number. A negative effect to the bottom line for Quebecor Media. My $38,000 per year was hurting the company and I became one of 120 cross-country victims to the streamlining.

So many people have asked me if I miss it.

"Some days, with every breath I take," I respond.

Slightly more than two weeks ago, I wrote My Olympic Dream, bemoaning my absence from the 2010 Vancouver Olympics as a sports writer.

I should have been there. I'll always believe I could have been there, had it not been for a suffering journalism industry.

Tonight, I was looking for files to support work I'd done on a recent fundraiser.

I searched my name, remembered the Archives section of Google News results and clicked.

Kaboom ... Google has been busy indexing past stories from the Sun. Not just any stories ... my stories.

There they were, byline after byline after byline ... words composed by me.

Instead of heaving the same sigh as I breathed while writing through streams of tears two weeks ago, I smiled, excited to remember the interviews with athletes who now are Olympic gold-, silver- and bronze medallists ... John Morris, Kevin Martin, Cheryl Bernard, Joannie Rochette, Shannon Szabados, Clara Hughes ...

And the others who are no less accomplished or fascinating ... Randy Ferbey, Devan Dubnyk, the WHLers, curlers, baseball and softball players, the Newfoundlanders, the British Columbians ...

After downloading those stories and memories tonight, I consider it a career well served, telling the stories of those who committed their lives to feats of athletic prowess, vicariously sharing in their victories and mourning their defeats.

A career on which I now can close the books and focus on activities that make me happy ... nights and weekends to pursue my own athletic interests (yay, slopitch!), explore my adopted home of Alberta, breathe fresh mountain air, walk with my dog and enjoy time with great friends.

But if it's all right with you, I'll continue to love sports and follow the careers of those athletes ... as a fan now.

Sharing them with you here, on Twitter or by clinking glasses at the bar, jumping up to high-five you when the thrill of victory descends upon us.

See you there.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Life is a highway

Don't expect that lame Tom Cochrane song all the bars played to death in the early 1990s.

Nope, I was cruising down the 22 yesterday and my MP3 player landed on another old classic.

And there I was, hands on the wheel, bopping my head around and singing at the top of my lungs.

Yeah, there were probably even a few fistpumps involved.

I was a big Bon Jovi fan back in the '80s. Truly a shocker, I'm sure. The band became too mainstream, though, and I drifted away.

This is a 2003 song ... one of the few Bon Jovi songs from the last 15 years that have caught my attention.

The words are huge ...

You better stand tall
When they're calling you out
Don't bend, don't break
Baby, don't back down

If I die tomorrow -- not anything I plan on, mind you -- I hope I remembered as someone who said what was on her mind and stood by her principles .. even if it got her in trouble.

Because it's my life.

Like Frankie said, I did it my way.

Spring is in the air

You know it's spring time when random boys are tossing around the football in the park.

Consider me starry-eyed.

Oh and then there's the hacky-sack kids.

Yes, sirree ... the weather is fantastic and you get treated to two Project 52s in one weekend.

That will make up for the missed one, right?

I help coordinate a group of folks ... OK, full disclosure, I'm one of the head nerds of a group founded on Twitter, #yycphotowalk.

We are, I believe, all comfortable with our nerd status.

We irregularly schedule get-togethers for photographers of all levels to get out into the city, take pictures, socialize and maybe learn from each other. We share the links to our online albums and then encourage, prop up and inspire each other.

It's great fun and we're meeting folks from end of the city to the other ... and folks who've come to our awesome city from all corners of the world!

A terrific friend, from whom I must learn as much about life as about photography, has perused my photo albums. Julie declares my work 'whimsical' and I like that.

I have, I suppose, a childlike fascination with a lot of things ... from people to buildings to sports and photography. Just because we grow up and mature doesn't mean we have to lose sight of the things that make life fun and interesting.

In that vein, we came across an elementary school playground and spent some time shooting there.

These handles reminded me of the time in elementary school when I fell off the monkey bars and had the wind knocked right out of me.

Of course, then there was the time at Columbus Field when my elder brother Kevin tossed the swing bar toward me. I wasn't looking and it hit me square in the nose. There was blood everywhere.

I never found out whether it was intentional or not.

(Of course, I now hear my brothers all thinking 'how in hell do you remember these things?')

And yes, I did take a turn on the slide, probably the first time in 20 years.

By the way, snow in the forecast for Tuesday, dangit.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Silence is golden

From my notebook in the field

All I can hear is the gurgling of water, falling over rocks and tree roots, the chirp of woodland birds and the flutter of their feathers.

Fallen trees lie dead in the water, their rough bark long since washed away, their skin bleached by the blazing sun.

The birds dive closer, testing their invaders' will, but we go nowhere.

No drivers honk at each other in futile fits of rage.

No phones beep to indicate a message received.

No news of strife or destruction blasts from a box in the corner.

The silence is broken only by nature, my camera whirring and clicking, Shep's collar clinking as he moves to watch the birds.

And there exists only peace.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hurrrrrreee haaaarrrrrrd

Tis the roarin' game, b'ys.

The first time I had to head to the curling rink to cover a spiel, I hated it. There were still ashtrays at either end of the ice back then.

These were not the ideal athletes.

Things were a bit different when I moved out west. People were nuts about this game.

And as a sports reporter, it was my duty to learn the game inside and out ... from angle-raise takeouts to draw weight vs. hack weight and why Barry McPhee curled in dress shoes covered in duct tape.

When I moved to Calgary to work at the Sun, I was relegated to desk work. I was off the street, taking the odd kernel thrown my way and writing my story from the limitations of a phone.

The opportunity existed ... and I managed to carve out a tiny little niche for myself by covering - of all things - curling.

I worked my beat to the ends of the earth, compiling a contact list that included Randy Ferbey, Dave Nedohin, Kevin Martin, John Morris, Colleen Jones, Cheryl Bernard ... yeah, I'm name-dropping. What?

I've done stories on every level of the competition -- from drunken spiels to world championships, the Scotties and the Brier, and the Olympics.

And so it was that I stepped into the mire of teaching over the last two weeks.

I've never claimed to have much patience and I've always gotten bothered by endless whys and whatfors.

Until now.

Friends were texting me ... Twitter pals were @ing me ... the emails were coming fast and furious.

How are the points scored? Why are those rocks left outside of the circles? What is the sweeping for?

I loved it.

I loved knowing that the game, getting the ultimate spotlight on the Olympics stage, was being opened up to a whole new influx of fans.

One Facebook friend, in Texas of all places, wants to learn how to curl.

And that will put her one step ahead of me ... because I've never played the game either.

Maybe it's time to learn.