June 23, 2011

Gut Feel

Once again the amazing Julia Rosien points me in the right direction (it's like she knows what she's doing or something...) She recently tweeted a link to a blog entry by Erika Nepoletano on listening to your gut. Now, I fancy myself as someone who tries to listen to his gut as often as possible. It's usually right. Not always, but enough that I have learned to trust it. I love my gut. I feed it steak as often as possible.

After reading Erika's wonderful story I thought about all the times my gut has come through (even after more than a few nights of treating my gut like a test kitchen and drowning it in alcohol and jalapeno nachos):
  • My first real kiss
  • My first real job
  • My first *ahem* time
  • Picking a University
  • Meeting my now wife for the first time (at University. See? I told you my gut was good)
And this one...

Back in 2009 my wife and 2 children had been living in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for almost 5 years. We were a good 5 hour drive from my family in Toronto and a good 6.5 hour drive from my wife's family in Woodstock (only 60 minutes from Waterloo - where my wife and I first met).

On March 13, 2009 (my 35th birthday), while my wife and daughter were in the Dominican for a girls getaway, my father-in-law David called to tell me that my wife's brother Ryan had died. Tragically, accidentally, and well before anyone should have to leave this earth, he was gone.

On June 24, 2009 I received a phone call from a headhunter about a job back in Waterloo with the interview to happen on July 2nd. I was going to be at the beach with my family and my wife's parents on July 1st for Canada Day, and the cottage was less than 3 hours from the interview, so I was seriously considering it.

There was much discussion between my wife and I over the complication and risks associated with moving our quite comfortable life from Ottawa back to Southern Ontario, but in the end it was my gut that told me what to do. Even before I went to the interview and well before I had any decision to make, my gut was telling me, "DO IT".

On Canada Day after all the festivities had wound down, David took me aside and wished me good luck on my job interview (he's good people). At that moment I shook his hand and gave him a hug and I promised him that I would bring his daughter and his grandchildren back home. I guaranteed it.

After two and half hours of driving in July with no air conditioning (and in a suit), three and a half hours of interviews with 2 Managers, 2 Team Leads, and Human Resources, and another two and a half hour drive back to the cottage, I was sipping a nice Shiraz on the beach. A little thank you to my gut, who does enjoy the grape very much as it turns out.

On July 13, 2009 - exactly 4 months after my bother-in-law died - I received a letter of offer for the job in Waterloo.

Exactly two months after that, and exactly 5 months to the day after Ryan's death, and on my wife's birthday! (August 13) the Government of Canada created a new agency with an office in Kitchener a mere 17 minutes from my office in Waterloo.

On August 24th, 2009 - exactly 8 weeks after that first phone call from the headhunter - I was working my first day at my new job and had moved into a house in Cambridge (27 minutes from work, and 41 minutes from my wife's family). 

In September my wife interviewed for a job (at her level even) at that government agency in Kitchener, and on November 2nd she had her first day on the job.

We've been here for almost 2 years, we're both still at our jobs and loving it, and my wife and I and our two children get to see my wife's family practically any time we want. Everyone is smiling, and I'm presently enjoying a nice Shiraz as I edit this post.

Trust your gut. It knows. You can thank it later.

June 20, 2011

Sum of all Parts

This is the third post in a series about Twitter, and it's impact (or potential impact) on today's technologically engaged society.

I've been in a bit of a funk lately, at least with respect to writing. I've had a couple of half ideas but nothing really worth mentioning. It's was very frustrating, and I decided to turn to Twitter. Did it help? Not especially. Well, at least not at first...  I went to Start Up Drinks Waterloo (#SDWat) and just chatted about start ups and new technologies and usual good-to-see-you stuff. 

Remember my post about how Twitter changed my life? Remember the one about proximity to greatness being effective? Well a conversation started about my lack of ideas for another blog post and a mini brain storming session broke out. How Twitter changed our collective sense of humour, turned into a commentary about how Twitter just generates more headline writers. Eureka! I argued that to write well you needed to edit. You don't write, you RE-write. Twitter forces that on you 140 characters at a time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words but with that kind of word count anything's possible. The challenge is doing more with less. Screenwriters do it all the time. For screenplays less is more and it's the writer's job to be as descriptive AND concise as possible. So can a writer use Twitter to break a complete thought down to its purest form and use it as building blocks for a larger story?

I say yes.

Twitter, with its "restrictions" and "limits", can force the succinctness out of even the most verbose scribes. You just have to allow it. There are cheaters or hacks that use leet speak or abbreviations, and there are those who simply won't ever conform to 140 (Kevin Smith). There are also writers like myself that will accept this as a worthy challenge and use that to sum-it-the hell-up (for a change).

Embrace the limitations of Twitter and use it to improve quality and challenge others to do the same. Don't dilute the imagery - perfect it. Be careful though, we don't want to lose the art. I want recreate each of Shakespeare's works in a single tweet.  I fear this is a bad idea.

Hamlet: If you're a king watch your back. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern take one for the team. Be true to yourself or die like everyone else.

Then again, if Homer had a smart phone high school English might have not seemed so bad after all.

Stealing slightly from MasterCard:

Writing = 3 hours
Words = 416
Characters = 2383
19 Tweets

Priceless? You tell me.

June 13, 2011

My Stanley Cup

I filed this under "Random Thoughts" but it's not really that random. I've been doing a post like this (or something on Facebook, or on my family website) just about every year since 2003, the day after the Stanley Cup is awarded. This year however I am posting it a little in advance, reasons for which will become apparent in a couple paragraphs.

For as long as I can remember I have watched the captain of the winning team hoist the Stanley Cup above his head and plant a giant kiss on it. This memory is burned into my brain from at least 1980 onward. Certainly for my entire adult life I know I have not missed the raising of The Cup once. Even an overtime game on the West coast couldn't keep me from watching. 

I normally root for one particular team to win The Cup but this year I'm actually rooting for The Cup to be decided TONIGHT. You see, this is the first time in 9 years that this particular situation has arisen. I like to think of it as my own version of Halley's comet.

Back in 2002 my wife was pregnant with our first child who was due on July 4th. I was always a bit ticked off because of all the days for a True Canadian to have a baby, I got stuck with American Independence Day as a due date. Three days earlier would have been ideal.

At any rate, there we were living in Cambridge, Ontario and as always I was watching the Stanley Cup Finals. It was mid-June. In fact to be completely precise it was June 13th. Detroit was playing Carolina in game #5 and Detroit was up in the series 3-1 after losing the first game.

As I mentioned, for as long as I can remember I have watched the Stanley Cup get hoisted by the captain of the winning team. I can go back to when I was a kid and my dad would let me watch them hand out the cup. I'm not sure what it is about it, but growing up with a dad who played hockey at a very competitive level and playing it myself for 10 years, and having been down to the old CNE grounds back in the day to see the Hockey Hall of Fame when I was just a small kid and having seen the Cup up close - and having even touched it, well it's just something that's hard to explain.

So, three weeks removed from our first child, my wife and I are lying in bed that Thursday night and Detroit wins the Cup. Lidstrom gets the Conn Smythe for playoff MVP (of course) and then Gary Bettman comes out and presents the cup to Steve Yzerman. Stevie Y hoists the cup over his head and plants a big kiss on it.

At that exact moment I turn to her (she was pretending not to watch the game) and pat her on the stomach and say, "OK, you can give birth now". At 05:00 the next morning she wakes me up with, "Andrew, we're going to have a baby". More than half asleep I reply, "I know". She replies with, "No. We're going to have a baby TODAY. My water just broke".

So we go and have a baby and at 17:17 weighing in at 7lbs 7oz our daughter Avery was born.

So fast forward a few years to the point where Avery is old enough to watch a hockey game for more than 5 seconds. I start recording the Stanley Cup presentation ceremony and the morning after they hand out The Cup each year I sit with Avery and watch the last few minutes of the game, the handshake line (because that's just good sportsmanship), and the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup presentations.

Tonight is June 13th and the Stanley Cup will be in the building when Vancouver meets Boston in Game 6. I'll be watching it live, and recording the game just in case. 

OK Vancouver, you can win The Cup now.