2020: A New Beginning

I think I have global support when I say that 2020 has been one of the most communally challenging years most of us have ever experienced.

The first half of 2020 was, hands-down, the most difficult period I’ve ever trudged through. In the first week of January, I started in a new position at work. The role of Travel Wrangler hadn’t existed before I claimed it on my freshly ordered business cards. I was excited for the opportunity to put the knowledge I’ve gained through my years of travel to good use for my colleagues and the company. It seemed as soon as I found my footing, got to a point where my Impostor Syndrome wasn’t crippling me any more, global travel came to a red light.

Then came February, when I suffered whiplash from being rear-ended, while stopped at a traffic light. In Chicago, in March, I got horribly sick on the last business-related trip before the aforementioned travel stoppage. I’m 99% sure it was COVID-19, but securing a test was impossible that early on. A friend on my softball team, who was full of love and light, with the most incredible smile, took his life in April. Then we were in May, and my wife and I were 2 months into a self-imposed lockdown (Florida wasn’t really enforcing anything), and I was struggling without the social connection I so desperately desired. By June, I came to the realization that my marriage was in crisis.

I was in crisis.

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Attending a music festival or concert.

I had recently discovered Brett Dennen, a singer songwriter whose unique voice, heartfelt lyrics, and beautiful guitar melodies captivate me. I saw that he would be a performing at the Moon Crush music festival last October, and I wanted to go.

But more than simply going, I wanted to go with someone in particular: Amy. She was, after all, the person who introduced me to Dennen’s music. She was ecstatic at the possibility of going together, enjoying incredible musical acts and spending a 4-day vacation on the beach. And, privately, I was hoping that the trip would be the impetus to kickstart a romantic relationship with her.

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Watching a Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training game.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love the fact that my team, the Toronto Blue Jays, play their spring training games in Dunedin, Florida. The same Dunedin, Florida in which I live. They even have their practice facility on the road right behind my condo complex. It’s amazing!

I was wondering whether I’d be able to accomplish this memory this year, as Major League Baseball had locked out the players. Spring training and part/all of the regular season was at risk, as no one was allowed to play or practice.

Continue reading “Watching a Toronto Blue Jays Spring Training game.”

Watching the Maple Leafs play in person.

This will be a memory I want to make each and every year. Each and every time I have the opportunity to see my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs play a game, I will be in the arena. Granted, my desire to cheer them on in person will always be restricted by my budget and whether I can afford the cost of admission.

That’s why I’m so happy to live in the Tampa Bay area. When the Lightning host the Leafs, ticket prices are actually reasonable enough (when compared to Toronto) for me to go. This season, I had to be patient and wait until early April, almost the end of the season, for my boys in blue to play here. And they did not disappoint!

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Making s’mores.

As a kid, I remember s’mores being a rare delicacy around the fire pit when I went camping with my family. Marshmallows, sure. Those were staples, packed along with hot dogs and baked beans. But actually pulling out all the stops, and bringing graham crackers and chocolate, too? That somehow seemed to be more difficult.

And now, as an adult, I get it. S’mores are a major treat. They’re a special occasion. One can’t have s’mores each and every time the campfire roars, lest the prestige of the dessert would be called into question. That’s what makes this memory so wonderful.

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Picking fresh strawberries.

Every year, it’s a surprise that Florida fruit ripens so much earlier than I’m used to. Growing up in the Toronto area, my brain has strawberry season being a summer thing. Having them be pickable in early March is somehow hard to remember. I’ve been in Florida for about 7 years now, and this season was no different.

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Participating in Bloganuary.

It’s been just about a week since I wrote a blog post. Normally, that wouldn’t feel weird. But after last month’s Bloganuary extravaganza, these past 6 days have been quite the respite. Did you get tired of my posts? I hope not. If you did, though, thanks for sticking it out with me.

Last February, right after I returned my from sabbatical, my team lead at work informed me that the team would be splitting up into three different focuses. Since the pandemic stole the Travel Wrangler role I was hired for a quick 2 months after I had started in that position, and my company had no plans of travel taking off again, I needed to choose a new path. That new route was Community Growth, and it sparked something within me.

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Bloganuary: Jan. 31, 2022

For the month of January, I’m going to be doing my best to participate in Bloganuary, a daily blogging challenge. I know it’s a divergence from what I typically write, but participating in this challenge is on my Memory List for this year.

Today’s prompt:

How do you feel when you look at the stars?

I feel as small and as insignificant as I believe it’s possible to feel. Not in a negative emotional way, but rather, in the literal, physical sense of the Universe.

The ever-expanding vastness of Space is overwhelming. My brain can’t crunch it, so when I look at the stars, it’s as if I’m the tiniest bit bigger than non-existence. And that’s perfectly ok with me.

It helps me put my life into perspective. I’m here, taking up a minuscule amount of space, for only a finite period of time. When I look at the stars, nothing I’m dealing with is life or death. Stuff simply becomes small shit not to be sweat over.

I get lost in the twinkling beauty. I imagine what people over the millennia have thought about when they looked up to the stars. And then I’m blown away by the fact I learned when I was a kid visiting Chichen Itza in Mexico, where the ancient Mayans plotted the full night sky, by looking down into a reflecting pool in their observatory, El Caracol.

I like looking for the constellations I know: Orion by his belt; the clump of stars making up The Seven Sisters; the scoop of The Big Dipper, and how it points to Polaris, the North Star, which is the handle of the The Little Dipper; and the “W” of Cassiopeia.

Wow. I really do like looking at the stars. I think I’ll have to update my Memory List for this year to find a place, away from as much light pollution as possible, with the Night Sky app in hand, and let my astronomer’s side get lost among the heavens.

Follow along and make memories.

Bloganuary: Jan. 30, 2022

For the month of January, I’m going to be doing my best to participate in Bloganuary, a daily blogging challenge. I know it’s a divergence from what I typically write, but participating in this challenge is on my Memory List for this year.

Today’s prompt:

Describe yourself as a tree.

Trees. Oh, I love trees. A recent Bloganuary prompt asked about where I go to find solitude, and my mind brought forth images of a dense forest, with a babbling brook meandering beside me.

I remember attending a Quaker meeting with my ex-wife, back when we lived in Toronto, and one woman stood up with a poignant message that still echoes in my brain: “Trees! Where would we be without them?”

The symbiotic and reciprocal nature of our relationship with trees makes me sparkle with wonder. They provide us with so much good, it’s heartwarming. But to choose a specific tree to describe me? That’s tough.

I suppose it depends it on the day. When I feel waves of sadness, I imagine myself as a weeping willow (salix babylonica). On days when I feel vulnerable and raw, I crave the needly protection of an eastern white pine (pinus strobus). And when I’m feeling sweet, and in touch with my Canadian roots, I like to think of myself of a sugar maple (acer saccharum).

But since I’ve been living in Florida for the past 7.5 years, those trees aren’t as prominent. Instead, it’s the southern live oak (quercus virginiana). I think that’s my tree.

I’m not a nudist, so the fact that live oaks don’t drop their leaves in the winter makes sense for me. They’re long-living, with some famous ones reaching 1000 years old, and I at least strive to be alive for a long time. Live oaks are strong, and their large, winding limbs are full of character. That’s totally me, don’t you think? They’re big supporters of their surrounding environment, by providing shelter and shade, food (at least for animals), and flood prevention (a mature tree can soak up 50 gallons of water per day). That’s me again! I love helping others.

So, yeah. I’m good with being a live oak. I think, overall, it depicts me well.

Follow along and make memories.

Bloganuary: Jan. 29, 2022

For the month of January, I’m going to be doing my best to participate in Bloganuary, a daily blogging challenge. I know it’s a divergence from what I typically write, but participating in this challenge is on my Memory List for this year.

Today’s prompt:

How are you changing the world?

I strive to live by a simple motto: Be the change I want to see in the world. Apparently, after doing a bit of digging on Google, that quote has been misattributed to Gandhi. But it doesn’t change the significance to me.

Nothing will ever change if everyone continues to do the same thing. If I want to live in a more compassionate world, which is what I want, I must live more compassionately. I do so, knowing full well, that my overall impact in the world may only be as extensive as a small pebble dropping into a vast ocean. And that’s ok. It’s still moving the needle, no matter how slight, in the direction I want to see the world go.

So, each day, I extend as much love and compassion I can to all beings. That makes my world a place in which I enjoy living. And if my little pebble creates some ripples in the ocean, well then that’s a wonderful benefit.

Follow along and make memories.

Bloganuary: Jan. 28, 2022

For the month of January, I’m going to be doing my best to participate in Bloganuary, a daily blogging challenge. I know it’s a divergence from what I typically write, but participating in this challenge is on my Memory List for this year.

Today’s prompt:

What is on your music playlist right now?

I just let out a big sigh of relief, reading this question. It’s straightforward. It’s easy. It’s not going to force me into a place of deep reflection. And, that feels perfect for a Friday. I’m tired today, so I’m going to revel in the simplicity of my answer.

My go-to singer/songwriter for the past 6 months has been Brett Dennen. I love his lyrics, his unique voice, and the way he plays his guitar. I enjoy his music so much, he’s the reason I’ve got tickets to go to a music festival at the end of April. And checking out the lineup of that festival, I discovered other artists that have found their way to my playlist: Brandi Carlile; Joshua Radin; Lake Street Dive; and Caamp.

When I want a break from the folksy sound, I enjoy relaxing times with Mozart or Norah Jones. If I want a bit of a pick-me-up, I switch to AJR or Avicii.

The rest of the time, I just let Spotify just play similar songs. That’s how I’ve found some other artists I really like Joy Oladokun and Trevor Hall.

Alrighty, it’s time to get to work. Currently playing: String Quintet No. 3 in C Major by Mozart.

Follow along and make memories.