Friday, November 23, 2007

Not A Winter Person

As I stand in my kitchen and look out our big front window, I see that all the roof tops are frosted with a light white dusting of snow.

Yesterday we had our first snowfall of the year, but unlike the rest of Canada, none of it stayed.

It all melted as it hit the ground. I guess some stuck to the roof tops.

That is the only thing that Windsor has in common with Victoria British Columbia. We generally have – by Canadian standards – a mild winter.

If I have not made this next point clear yet, please let me do so now.

I am not a winter person.

I can’t skate.
I can’t ski.
Ice fishing is not an interest that I pursue.

I just don’t like cold weather.

I was pretty much raised in the southern US. On our first Christmas in Atlanta, all the guys in the neighborhood got together and played a game of basketball in a buddy’s driveway.

Shirts vs. Skins. On Christmas Day.

I love hockey, I just never had the opportunity to play.
I would really love to ski, but I never really had the chance to try.

I am still not interested in drilling a hole in the ice and waiting for a bite.

Tomorrow I will hang the Christmas lights. I couldn’t do it last week when it was in the mid 50s. That’s 12 degrees Celsius for you metric freaks.

We will also put up our Christmas Tree in front of our big new window in our living room. It will look great.

But you know we won’t have all the decorations that we need. I will have to go to Canadian Tire and get some more. And as I go to put them in the trunk, there will not be enough room. My golf clubs are still in there.

And I don’t really want to take them out. I might still have a chance to play.

I only used them five or six times last summer. When the weather was nice.

Did I mention I’m not a winter person?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Americans

I know that I am Canadian. And I know that the November Thanksgiving holiday is for the Americans.

I know.

But I still like it. Although I am not certain that I like it better than ours.

The Canadian Thanksgiving is held in early-mid October. It usually sneaks up on me when I am not expecting it. It is supposed to occur just after the final Canadian harvest is reaped from the land.

It is generally a Sunday holiday and inherits some of the general attributes of a Sunday.

The American Thanksgiving is of course on what I thought was the last Thursday of November. It also celebrates a successful harvest. I think I like that it is held on a Thursday much better, as it gives the feel of a day off that you should be working – adding yet one more thing to be thankful for.

And while they are at it, they take the Friday off too!

You can’t knock that, can you?

Both are similar – both traditionally expect turkey dinners with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing and cranberries. Both are meals completed with pecan, pumpkin or apple pies for desert.

The difference is however that in Canada we are inundated by the American media reminding us that they get this great holiday, while for us, it is just another work week.

We actually suffer from “American Thanksgiving Day Envy”. And we might be a tad bitter.

Both events are fall events. The Canadian event has the color of the leaves in the trees. The daylight lasts longer, and often I have even played golf on Canadian Thanksgiving day.

The American Thanksgiving day has the mythology of Pilgrims – Quakers for the most part – celebrating with their new native friends they mistakenly dubbed to be “Indians”. I have always wondered why the NFL did not insist the Patriots play the Redskins on this holiday.

Perhaps it was discussed and dismissed as “too predictable”.

On the topic of football, it is traditional on Canadian Thanksgiving to actually watch a Canadian Football League game. It used to be that you could watch Ottawa vs. Saskatchewan - the Rough Riders vs. the Roughriders. Ottawa vs. Saskatchewan. But Ottawa dropped their team recently – so the games are usually the Alouettes vs. the Argonauts.

It's even funner to watch it on the RCO - the French-Canadian side of the CBC.

My daughters bring home a ton of “crafts” from school every day. Things they have colored, cut out, pasted together, and present to their Mother and I as artwork worthy of precious fridge door space.

I noticed this year at Thanksgiving time they brought home construction paper and tape versions of Pilgrim hats. I asked them both to ask their teachers how many Pilgrims ever migrated to Canada. They did – eventually – from Dutch Pennsylvania – our family was part of that migration - but I don’t think they were still known as Pilgrims.

I think it must be cheaper for the Canadian primary schools (elementary schools) to use left over American artwork rather than make our own.

How many maple leafs can you color anyway?

In any case, the underlying foundation of both versions of Thanksgiving is to be thankful.

In the Canadian sense, thankful that the harvest was successful and there is food enough for the 6 months of winter. Thankful you won’t starve.

The American sense is to be thankful for being American, and to get a jump start on your Christmas shopping on that Friday you have off as well. Oh yeah, and all that stuff about family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends and loved ones. We in Canada are thankful that you are still thankful. As long as you’re content, we know you won’t be invading us.

I will be thinking of you as I sit at my desk pounding out work this Thursday and Friday.

And to those of you Americans who have me on your gift list this Christmas, I am now a 38 waist with a 30 inseam.

Yes, I have put on a little weight.

I think it all started last October on our Thanksgiving day.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Change is Good

Normally, as I drive into work in the morning, I quickly go through the days events – before they happen – as – after seven years - my day has become predictable.

Or at least it was. Right now I am in transition mode. Performing the final duties of my old role, and also performing the beginning duties of my new role.

I carry two laptops - one for the old job, and one for the new.

I sit at two desks - one for the old job, and one for the new.

I answer to two bosses – one for the old job, and one for the new.

I carry a day-timer – a Franklin day-timer, and my life is organized by it.

I only have one Franklin.

Everything I do is written into my Franklin, and everything I do is tracked and organized by it. My schedule, my calendar, my action items, all prioritized and carried forward from day to day until accomplished.

As a normal day easily fills a page, my day-timer is twice as crammed with additional notes, action items, and calendared events.

But change is good.

Change is good for your mind. It is great for your soul. Like a new chapter in the same story. The scenery changes and the characters are different. But the same story line prevails.

The role I am leaving has been with a project that has lasted fourteen years. I was on that team for exactly half that duration, the last seven years. And after seven years, I am still regarded as a “new guy”.

I wasn’t there when the contract was won.

I wasn’t there for the proto-type.

I wasn’t there for the go-live implementation.

You know, the ‘good old days’.

During my time I did help usher in new technologies, new methodologies, and I designed some very key aspects of the system as it evolved. And they have recognized that.

But I am still ‘the new guy’.

My new role is on a brand new project. We will be using brand new technology for a group we have never worked with. The fact that I am new to the group holds no bearing because I will be there as long as the project exists.

And I will look back on these upcoming events as ‘the good old days’.

At this time I am the only resource dedicated 100% to this new project, although I still have to spend 50% of my effort supporting the end of the old project.

So I truly am giving 150% percent at the moment.

My poor Franklin.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Calling In Fatherhood

The train was rocking gently as we roll through the black of an Ontario November night.

The seafood dinner was actually good, and the white whine served mini round glasses had put me in a very relaxed state.

Heading home. Finally.

It had been a very long two weeks. The first of training, the second chock full of tedius interviews with our Toronto office as part of a large scale requirements gathering study.

I didn’t find out about the second week of travel until midway through the first week.

I had kept touch with home frequently with my handy dandy cell phone. And things were not going all that great. And it sounded like things were getting worse.

One of the two Grandmas was staying with Darlene to give her a hand. The Grandma would get the kids ready for school each morning and take them. I think that is the toughest part of my day, waking up and getting the girls to school. So I certainly appreciated the Grandma’s frustration.

“Hello?”, would answer the grandma as I called each evening.

“How is it going Grandma?” I would ask.

“Who is this?” would say the Grandma.

“It’s me, Fred” I would say.

“Oh Fred, what a day ….” The Grandma would start. And I would hear the long list of all the day’s frustrations, why my girls are horrible little monsters, and her apology for having to break such news to me.

Finally Darlene would come on the phone. The frustration clearly in her voice.

“The girls miss you … ”, she would state unnecessarily during the conversation.

“Grandma was crying … ”, was also commonly mentioned.

“Tell them you’re never traveling again …” would be expressed at the end of the conversation.

So I would hang up the phone feeling pretty powerless.

Some people travel much more frequently than I do. I remember my Dad for stretches of time, only being home for the weekend. I don’t know how he did it.

Perhaps this is a cell-phone accessibility problem? In the old days, one would simply make a single call from the phone in their hotel room.

I carved the Halloween pumpkin with the girls last Sunday morning, just before leaving for the second week. Leaving after spending only the Saturday at home.

Alannah and Ashley-Rae drew the face on the front of the pumpkin. Mean eyes with big fanged teeth growling at you. The finished product was declared to be “beautiful” as we packed up our tools.

Then I left by train for a second week away from home.

I thought of that face all week while I was away. “Were they painting a portrait?” I thought. “Of the faces they see on adults?”

I hope not. But maybe?

I have to travel back to Toronto the first week of December.

I have had a week of celebration and good-byes this week. As I transition from a team now departing to a new team just starting a new type of project, I am excited. And I need for everything to go right.

But these phone calls home just don’t help.

Maybe I should just get a Blackberry.

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