"Age means nothing, attitude is everything. I live by that every day and I think that came through today."
- Colette Bourgonjie, Canadian, 2010 Vancouver Paralympic silver medalist in 10km cross country ski race
I've been loosely following the Paralympics currently taking place in Vancouver, BC. I admit that my enthusiasm towards these games is not as focused as the Olympics two weeks ago and for that, I feel ashamed.
I would argue that these athletes have even more of a challenge facing them than our previous ones. Overcoming a disability to compete internationally in grueling courses, games and competitions must be applauded -and in the very least - paid attention to.
As mentioned in the quotation, attitude really is everything. Attitude changes a viewpoint. It changes your demeanor. It changes how you deal with a tough situation.
After reading the story about Bourgonjie winning Canada's first Paralympic medal, I was reminded that it's not all about winning. She came in second place, but her attitude towards the opportunity she was given showed gratefulness and humility. She said this:
"I'm shocked and I can't believe it. I don't think it has sunk in yet. I am still racing because I wanted to compete at a Paralympics in Canada and I'm just so proud to have done this in front of Canadians. I share this medal with all of Canada."
It's people like Bourgonjie that make me believe in the goodness still residing in the hearts of men and women, even if it hides deep within us.
Wars come and go. Violence continues to persist. Despair, sadness, cruelty plague our world, but it can all change. It can change with you and me. We need to break our negative attitude into a thousand pieces and build it up in love, peace, grace and humility.
We are now slightly less than two months away from welcoming a baby girl to our family. The overall mood around the McMullen house is bristling with excitement, worry and curiousity. We are down to two names for her: Zoey Elizabeth McMullen or Ella Elizabeth McMullen. We are very fond of Zoey. The name came to Ruth a couple weeks ago out of the blue. No baby name books or internet lists. Something divine perhaps.
I love the name. It means 'life' in Greek. And it's a name I don't associate with anyone I know; always a bonus.
I can't wait to become a father. I have so many ideas in my head for how I'd like to raise her, what to teach her, what music to show her; the list goes on and on.
The love I hold in my heart for her overwhelms me daily.
I recently finished Donald Miller's latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and I am now reading through it again. Re-reading helps me remember key points I missed the first go around and also inspires me to pay attention to detail.
Miller talks an awful lot about something he calls an 'inciting incident', wherein the character (you and me) must enter a story because of an external means causing him or her to do so. So, my incident happened to me last Friday. I've received a call from a camera store, inviting me in for an interview. I had applied for this job over a month ago and was beginning to lose hope. It also came on a day where I felt trapped in my current posting.
Finally! I thought. I caught a break for once. The interview was the next day, so I trimmed my beard, had some hairs cut off my head and wore my nicest button-up shirt and dress pants. I was ready. I arrived early to the interview, considerably anxious and excited. I browsed around the petite outlet, not really paying attention to the product I was looking at.
Shortly thereafter, I was called into the back room for the interview. I answered the questions as honestly as possible. Hypothetical questions are very odd, as there is no way to accurately predict what you would do in a uncomfortable situation or how you would sell a camera.
I had the manager laughing throughout the interview. Not at me, but at the jokes. I left the store feeling good, like I nailed the interview. I had entered into a story.
That was four days ago. I still haven't received a phone call and the manager said she would give enough notice to whoever was selected to come again for another interview on Thursday. It is Tuesday now. This morning, after picking up some free coffee from the Golden Arch, I called the store and asked to speak with the manager. A girl named Rebekah took my number and said I would be called back shortly.
So now, I'm waiting. Patiently twiddling my thumbs and distracting my anxiety by writing this blog. I'm living a story today.
And despite my elevated heart beat and sweaty palms, I am glad to be in this state. It reminds me that I am alive.
Never have I seen a man more possessed by his electric guitar than lead Wilco guitarist Nels Cline. A legendary guitar virtuoso in his own right, there's no question he stole the show last night at the Halifax forum. The venue was small, but it fit the 2000 or so people in very nicely. I was dead center and could literally reach my hand out and touch the stage, save the anal security guards (who did a fine job controlling the mayhem). The arena air was thick with the smell of pot, sweat and body odor. I had to pee the entire night, but I wasn't going to leave the best spot in the house. My bladder hurt quite a bit later, but the pain was worth it.
I arrived to the show 3 hours before the doors opened. A good friend of mine got there just before me and was chatting with another die-hard Wilco fan. I think his name was Shant. He was an interesting character and had plenty of stories about past shows he's been to. He once ate dinner with Ben Folds and saw Radiohead on their OK Computer tour back in 1997. We were the only ones for a half hour or so. We were fortunate to hear Wilco's sound check through the glass doors. They practiced Ashes of American Flags and Can't Stand It. This was a welcome treat as it was beginning to get cold. A teenager named Gavin and another woman (his mother maybe), hung out with us and we shared our love for Wilco together, asking how the other became a fan and what his or her favorite song was.
After an hour, the wind picked up and it started to flurry. My friend Jonathan was losing circulation in his middle finger on his right hand, so we quickly paced over to a grocery store and bought some hot coffee and food. Jonathan was given a hot chocolate on the house. We now had our beverages and headed back to the forum doors.
About 20 people showed up in the 15 minutes we were gone, but thanks to our newfound friends, we easily secured our spot at the front of the makeshift line. And after hours of pleasant conversation, the doors opened. I was the first ticket buyer in and walked alone to the front. It was a moment of bliss. I took my coveted spot and anxiously waited for the music to begin.
The Bahamas, a two-man group from Toronto, opened up for Wilco with an energetic albeit breezy set. I was very impressed with Afie Jurvanen's guitar playing. This band is definitely worth a listen and they made sure the fans knew that.
Wilco took to the stage at 10 p.m. to a raucous crowd cheering and hooting. Within seconds, the band ripped into the Wilco the Song, the self-titled first track off their latest album, also named after themselves. It was a good opening tune and set the mood for the rest of the evening. Following this, the Summerteeth staple Shot In The Arm had the crowd singing at the top of their lungs. It must be a great feeling to have 2,000 people sing your songs back to you. Judging from Jeff Tweedy's smile, I knew he was loving every second.
The boisterous and stringent Bull Black Nova sounded better live while the bluesy You Are My Face showed the band's amazing chemistry.
Expected songs such as I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, One Wing and Via Chicago did not disappoint. Via Chicago had an impromptu furious drum solo from Glenn Kotche, giving the folksy number new legs, arms and body armour.
After Tweedy played the opening chords to Impossible Germany, the fans all had one thing on their mind: Nels Cline elongated shredding solo. At one point during the song, Tweedy was making serious eye contact with a woman who was allegedly videotaping the show. True Wilco fans know that is a serious offence against the band. Tweedy's dead stare made me glad I wasn't in his line of fire.
From Mermaid Avenue came the acoustic three chord song California Stars; the song lyrics hail from Woody Guthrie with some Wilco tweaking. Handshake Drugs, You Never Know and a powerful, head-throbbing Misunderstood pumped the crowd up before descending back to earth for a rousing sing-a-long of Jesus, Etc. Tweedy stepped back from the microphone to let the crowd sing alone. That was probably the highlight of the night for me.
Wilco capped off the night with the Beatle-ish rocker Hate It Here, Walken andI’m the Man Who Loves You, a personal favorite. Tweedy put down his guitar and played the Mick Jagger role for Hummingbird, swinging and catching his microphone, to the crowds laughter. After saying goodnight, the roadies came on stage, tidied up some cords and mics and encouraged the crowd to shout "Wilco! Wilco!" The band returned to play an eight song set, which is listed below.
The Late Greats
Heavy Metal Drummer
Can’t Stand It
I’m a Wheel
After the show, a roadie threw out some guitar picks used by Tweedy and I caught one! It was a fantastic end to a truly emotional and inspiring evening.
Thanks Wilco, and I hope you come back to Halifax.
Tonight, I am going to the Halifax Forum to watch alt-rock band Wilco perform. I became a fan of this band back in 2007, around the time Sky Blue Sky came out. Due to my obsessive musical nature, I quickly bought the group's entire catologue, including any side projects from members of the band. I had Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in my car for three months straight and I'm still not sick of it.
I missed an opportunity a year and a half ago to see them open for Neil Young. I didn't have enough money to pay for a ticket. So, when a friend of mine told me last October that they were returning to Halifax, we quickly purchased two tickets. And I began to wait.
And the waiting is over! I'm going to stand in line at least three hours before the show actually opens. I want to be up front and center and feel the intensity this band is sure to resonate.
"As you go through life, you've got to see the valleys as well as the peaks." - Neil Young
I am 23-years-old. I have been married for three and a half years to a beautiful woman. I have an education. I live in Canada, one of the most taken-for-granted nations in the world. I have a job, even though I can't stand it. I live in an apartment and in less than three months, I will become a father to a baby girl. I have a close relationship with both sides of my family and an excellent host of friends.
And yet, I still find time to complain about the shortcomings and trials in my life.
Sentences and envious thoughts such as, "Why is this happening to me?" and "Why are they more successful than I am?" cloud my mind and more recently, my judgment or ability to make decisions.
I try to comfort my fears with comforting thoughts: "It's just a phase," and "My time will come." Honestly though, it seems whatever I am striving for is constantly out of reach. Like sand slipping out of a clenched fist, or trying to cup water in your hands, the aspiration is short lived.
So if we all have to walk through the valley before ascending to the mountain peaks, why does it seem some of us have trouble climbing up and out?
Do I not work hard enough? Am I not smart enough?
We are all created equally and each one of us have been designed to serve a purpose. However, I believe we all serve our purpose at the time set for us. Maybe it means waiting for a sign or maybe it doesn't. Whatever it is, I believe that if we don't venture outside our door into life, we will never discover it.
A life left up to wondering is a life unfulfilled.
And that's what I've been doing. I've been wondering about the 'if' and 'when'. It's hard for me to admit that, but in doing so, it's forcing me to deal with that admission. Acknowledging your fear is the first step to overcoming it.
And now I sound like a self-help guru.
I really just want to confess today that I struggle with my identity. I compare and define myself with all the wrong reasons.
I am who I am. I am where I need to be. And I will not take that for granted any longer, or at least start to try.
Today is a new day. The snow has melted away here in Halifax after a blusterous weekend jam-packed with rain and strong wind. A sign of good things to come, I think.
Nothing lifts your spirits more than seeing old, dirty snow wash away into the street drains or soak into the brown grass beneath it. And while there's not much color out there, I can feel it hibernating. It's breathing and waiting for the sun.
And so, in this spirit of possibility, I feel the need again to write. I want to tell stories again. I want to live and breathe each moment of each day. And my want needs to become my desire, as I have learned. A want is simply not good enough. A desire is something deep inside all of us, compelling us to live inside the story we have been created to inhabit.
And since I have the day off work, I chose to start my morning differently. After dropping my beautiful, baby-carrying wife off at university, I drove quickly back home and brewed some probably outdated French vanilla coffee. It smelt like wet dog, and it's taste wasn't too far from the mark either, but I drank it. For those of you who know me a bit more than the average person, I don't make coffee. I don't know if it's laziness or my inability to measure grinds and water, but I usually make tea. It's simple and requires little effort. Well, that changed this morning. I brewed my own brew. It tasted weak, I think. After this, I laid back on the couch, underneath the window and read Donald Miller's latest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I soaked it up. I chose to re-read sentences, paragraphs and quotations. I thoroughly enjoyed his ideas and thoughts and now I feel, they have become mine. I have been wanting to start my mornings with coffee and a good read for a long time, and I just don't do it anymore. If I don't start living my story, I never will.
Continuing in the burst of excitement, I decided to work out for a bit. I moved the coffee table out of the living room and forced myself to do 10 push-ups and 10 sit-ups. I've been gaining a little weight around the stomach area and I'm always complaining about it. Not anymore. I'm going to do something about it. And so, after a painful 10 minutes, I accomplished my tiny goal. It felt great.
I did something today. I lived out part of my story. Are you living yours?