While I was at work, I left the camera at home with Wendy, Mark, and Oliver while they set up Wendy’s Christmas village and captured it on video. I know the white balance sucks but since it was Wendy setting up, we will blame her.
For those of you holding a Grey Cup (or a Western or Eastern Division playoff game), check out Wendy’s collection of recipes for watching the big game. There will definitely be something that is appropriate for the big game festivities this year, no matter who is playing.
I attended the funeral of my friend Kristy Dean today. I got to know her through Jerry and Gloria Reimer and we like many others became her friend. As Gloria said today, she crashed there for a night but stayed there for 10 years. With Jerry and Gloria being godparents to Mark and Oliver and the closest thing Wendy and I have to parents, Kristy was close to us as well.
Today her sister and Gloria gave stirring eulogies. I came home and went looking through some photos and found some favorites. I thought I would post some here and tell some stories.
We spent most Christmas Day’s with Reimers and even if they were travelling, we always celebrated Christmas, even if it was early. We also spent a lot of other holidays together. Later on I hired her at the Salvation Army and The Lighthouse where she worked the front desk which if you know anything about shelters, is the most demanding part of the job.
Hiring a friend is always challenging but Kristy was great and found that balance between giving me absolutely no respect as her boss and getting the job done. I appreciate that in any front desk staff.
She had changed a lot by the time she worked with me. She was strong willed, loud, and could be defiant, all skills someone needs working with a challenging population. She also took those strengths and used them to advocate for people. Many time she would call me with a course of action she wanted me to take on Monday for someone who needed help.
Kristy was a quick thinker and good problem solver. She understood the big picture and the system we were in well. That made her a great employee but also someone I could talk with about the job because she understood the inherent frustrations in the system.
She was a passionate Edmonton Oilers fan and I am wearing a Calgary Flames watch while typing this so our friendship was based on either making fun of each other or just prolonged times of sadness when both Calgary and Edmonton sucked at the same time. We went over the Reimers one time and Kristy just said, “I have nothing to bug you about. It’s just pathetic how both of them are playing.”
We did set that aside momentarily on Christmas Day and we would often exchange Edmonton Oiler and Calgary Flames merchandise on Christmas. Just as we were both enjoying our gifts, the other would say something like, “I found it in the trash at Walmart. They tried giving them away but no one wanted it. I got you one.” Those truces never lasted long.
I like to think I won the exchange at least once. Kristy was a photographer and used a Nikon camera. I bought her a Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens mug. The box hides the fact that it is a mug really well and Kristy thought I had bought her a $2000 lens. I was like, “Umm, we aren’t that close of friends”.
So she then realized it was a mug and while laughing about it was still really happy. The weird thing about this mug is that the top seals totally, there is no hole in the top which makes it really annoying. She told me a couple of months later that it drove her crazy every single time she tried to take a drink from it. She cursed my name every time and knew I would be pleased with that. I was.
The above photos of Kristy is my favorite of her. It was Christmas Day 2013 and for some reason after Christmas meal at the Reimers, Jerry and Gloria had somehow talked us into playing charades. The look on Kristy’s face is of her disgust with her losing team mates. If I remember correctly, her disgust was appropriate. Her team was horrible.
Someone asked me today if Kristy was close to the boys. She was close enough that when we brought Oliver home from the hospital, we stopped by Jerry, Gloria, and Kristy’s place before we stopped home. She tormented Mark for a decade and he loved every minute of it.
The day before she passed away, I was looking for something to get her for Christmas. I was going to give her an Edmonton Oilers Goalie Mask because I thought it was cool and I knew she would love one.
I decided to day that I am going to pick one up anyways. None of us are quite ready to leave her memory behind yet.
Some of you know this but Pat Lorje is a good friend of Wendy‘s and mine. She was a friend as a councilor and I am proud to call her a friend of mine now that she is not.
I don’t have any thoughts on her loss, the people of Ward 2 did that but I am going to share something about Pat which will probably make her mad. Why, because Pat has the honor of telling me off for more columns than anyone else. Not only that but she does it better than anyone else. More about that later.
Pat won’t remember this but I remember literally running into her in the Legislature. I was running for the Progressive Conservatives under Bill Boyd in the 1995 election and Pat was a NDP MLA.
Along with Bill Boyd and Dan D’Autremount I was heading to the Legislative cafeteria. Storming at us was Pat Lorje who informed us that they were serving liver (I think). That stopped all of us in our tracks and we all took her lead and headed the other way. I am not sure where Pat had lunch but the Tories went to Outback Steakhouse.
Later I crossed her at The Salvation Army and we met more formally. She had made some incorrect statements (I’m trolling her) about social agencies and we invited her to talk with us about her concerns. We dealt with each other on a variety of issues and later became good friends.
Not only did she become my friend but Wendy’s and Mark‘s as well. Privately during the worst of Wendy’s depression a few years ago, Pat’s ability to project her personality literally helped Wendy get through the tough times. For Wendy, if Pat could deal with the city, she could get through her depression.
She was over at our house once with several other politicos. She told a funny story about a politician that Mark should not have heard and one that hated me (still hates me) deeply. The problem was that Mark was sitting very quietly and as still as a statue in the corner because he wanted to hear this story. Pat noticed him about the same time everyone else did and didn’t miss a beat and introduced herself by the name of the politician she was talking about.
If Pat phones, Mark will still tell me, [insert scandalized politician’s name here] called.
Pat’s friendship always surprises some people because we have very different opinions on a lot of things. I have taken aim at her in more than one column. Those columns have always been greeted with a phone call and being told exactly why I am wrong in very clear language. Generally I explain back why she is completely wrong. I don’t think either one of us have ever backed down.
Of course the only thing I did that made her really mad was several years ago. Sean Shaw and I disagreed with a policy she had worked on for years and we had both lobbied the rest of council to vote against it. They did and Pat was livid. After a week of being told off, we made peace at the Rook and Raven. We didn’t concede anything but we did pick up her glass of wine.
Like all losses there are a lot of factors. Hilary Gough ran a winning campaign and there was a feeling of change that moved across the city. Only Montgomery voted for the status quo and Atchison and no doubt that hurt Lorje.
So why am I writing this? I don’t know but there seems to be a general lack of class that happens by the chattering masses when someone loses. There was more than post and tweet that crossed the line. Yet there is a side to all politicians that we never see. Pat Lorje wasn’t just the Ward 2 councilor or a politician, she was and is a great friend to my family. I’ll miss debating with her but I look forward to spending time in the future.
In case you missed it but Tammy Robert is blogging again here. If you are reading my blog, you are clearly looking for correct opinions and commentary but if you want the, err, contrarian view to what is correct and right, check out her site.
For the provincial election, Tammy is doing some excellent commentary on the campaigns. If this election gets you excited, her blog may be the best one out there.
So I heard Derek Powazek talking on Twitter about having a fresh start on Twitter.Â Someone posted a YouTube video with code on how to unfollow everyone.Â After a couple of days of considering it, I decided to try it and saw me unfollow almost 1100 people.
So as soon as I did that, I decided to go look for interesting people to follow.Â Of course there was some family and friends but I decided to find local people to follow and started to click “follow”.Â It was a lot of fun and some people that I was aware of and enjoyed their tweets and never followed were added to the list.
That took me to about 300 followers and then I looked at who I should be following.Â It was all Alberta names!Â Apparently many of us in Saskatoon keep an idea on what is going on in Calgary and Edmonton.
I added a few national voices to my followers, photographers, and photography sites and I found myself back at about 900 followers.Â I also realized that Saskatoon now has a lot of journalists covering city hall.Â You can blame Dave Hutton for that.
I also followed some MLAs from both sides of the floor.Â My advice for them is to be more like Brad Wall, Cam Broten, Trent Weatherspoon, or Dustin Duncan.Â It’s okay to act more like humans and less like robots folks!
The people I left behind were the spin doctors, NFL pundits, and a lot of American political voices.Â They can be fun to follow but don’t contribute much to my life.
If I unfollowed you and haven’t followed you back, don’t take it personally.Â It will take some time to track down everyone I left behind and I’ll get to you soon.
Good morning everyone. To be honest I hope you arenâ€™t reading this when I post it. Â Itâ€™s early and I canâ€™t sleep.
Not sleeping well on a Christmas Eve/Christmas morning used to be my normal routine. Â As a kid I would go to be early with all of these expectations of Christmas morning in my head. Â I desperately wanted to sleep but never could (even then I knew that sleep would make Christmas come sooner). Â I would read, count sheep, read some more and eventually around 4 a.m. my brother and sister would wander into my room while we debated if it was too early to go upstairs and wake up my mom (it was but it didnâ€™t stop all three of us from taking the opposite view).
Around 5 a.m. we would try to wake up Mom only to be hollered at to go back to bed (later on I found out that she was awake too but wasnâ€™t going to get up at 5:00 a.m. to open presents). Â Around 6:30 a.m. she would wake up and tell us that we couldnâ€™t come up until the coffee machine was done perking her coffee. Â The normally fast coffee maker would slow down to a crawl on Christmas morning as we huddled at the bottom of the steps waiting for it to finish while Mom set out our Christmas stockings. Â Every drop of coffee was heard and seemed to take forever.
After what seemed like hours, her coffee would be done and we would open our stockings and then our gifts before Mom would make us a big breakfast. Â Since our stockings always had candy in them, at least once that morning Mom would say, â€œno more chocolate until breakfastâ€ which would generate howls of laughter from her and us as soon as the words left her mouth.
After breakfast the wrapping paper would be carefully gathered up making sure nothing got tossed out. Â Mom would then turn on the Disneyworld Christmas Day parade and we would collectively mock Regis and Joan Lunden. Â Joan Lunden isnâ€™t nearly as irritating as Kathy Lee Gifford but it was Christmas morning and we were high on chocolate and strong coffee.Â Some toys would be assembled but in a family of readers, the books would distract us and soon all three kids would be in our rooms reading whatever soft cover book was in our stocking. Â Since all three of us were up all night, it lead to a Christmas Day nap and some quiet time for Mom.
Then we would do something fun. Â We went public skating one year, tobogganing on many of them, often we took Misty our dog for a walk along the Meewasin Trail and there was often friends who stopped by. Â Once mom would make her initial proclamation of â€œno more chocolate until breakfastâ€, you would hear someone say it every time someone ate a candy, including her.
Eventually it was time for the Christmas dinner. Â Mom had these crystal glasses that meant the world to her. Â She would always warn us to be careful and it seemed like every Christmas she would break one in the weirdest of ways. Â Even weirder was that even with brain cancer, she never broke many things except for those goblets. Â The Bay sold them and we would always pick up the replacement glass for her on Motherâ€™s Day but it was kind of a tradition, Mom breaking her prized goblets. Â It wasnâ€™t like she dropped them. Â Something would fall out of a counter (which never happened) bounce and the ricochet into the goblet. Â We would just sit there with a look that said, â€œI canâ€™t believe that happenedâ€. Â Even weirder is that as kids, we never broke one and we were the ones who broke everything.
Then it was a night of talking together, playing crokinole, and drinking too much strong coffee. Â
I hated crokinole. Â Mom played it all of the time as a kid and would sit there and do all of these crazy trick shots and then go, â€œJordon do you want to play?â€ Â Let me see, getting humiliated by my mother who was a poor winner seems like a lot of fun. Â She was undefeated for her entire adult life. Â I was winless. Â So I would play and get beat badly and then get taunted for losing. Â I was so happy when Jolene and Lee were there and could be beat as well. Â To be fair, my mom was insanely competitive and would accept any video game challenge we made to her. Â She got as good as good as she gave. Â Then we would wind down and make plans to take the tree down on Boxing Day. Â Christmas always started the same (waiting for coffee to perk) and ended the same (waiting for more coffee to perk).
Taking the Christmas tree down on Boxing Day started because my great Aunt Beth spent every Christmas with us. Â Aunt Beth never married and adopted Mom as her favourite niece and spent every holiday with us. Â She would come down from Regina on the bus and stay for a couple of weeks. Â We loved Aunt Beth but she was eccentric and lived alone too long. Â She was also really short (that matters) and smoked a lot. Â i used to bug her that she lit her last cigarette when rationing ended after World War II and then just lit one smoke of another since then. Â It wasnâ€™t that far from the truth.
Aunt Beth would come in the second week of December and so would the smell of Playerâ€™s Light cigarettes. Â So to get the smell of nice pine Christmas Tree, our tree had to go up before Aunt Beth got here. Â Which meant by Boxing Day, we were tired of the tree and Christmas decorations in general so it all came down. Â She never realized the reason and I donâ€™t think she cared that much either. Â There was still cookies to eat and festivities to take part of.
So today is going to kind of be the same kind of day. Â The boys arenâ€™t awake yet but they will be upstairs soon. Â My coffee is being made as I write this and I assume I will be joined shortly by Oliver and Mark (who will also be drinking my coffee) Â We will have a nice breakfast together and then head downtown where we will take some photos of an empty and abandoned downtown core. Â Mark, Wendy, Oliver and I have new camera gear to test out. Â Someone has to feed Bridge City with fresh photographs. Then back home for a charcuterie board for lunch and maybe the kids will have a nap while Wendy cooks our Christmas dinner before spending the night goofing off and drinking too much coffee.
Hope your day is a good one. Â Merry Christmas.
(tomorrow, the decorations come down)
Having raised Mark to the point where he is now in high school and with Oliver in Grade 1, I have some experience in Christmas shopping for school aged boys.Â You can read my gift guide for teenagers here and my ideas for what to get a school aged boy below.Â If you have any other suggestions or ideas, let me know in the comments.
Includes Batman, Man-Bat and Night Wing (who used to be Robin).Â You child will be saving Gotham non-stop with this set.
All-new Fire HD 6 or Fire HD 7 tabletâ€”with 1 year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, Kid-Proof Case, and a 2-year worry-free guarantee
- A real tablet, not a toyâ€”A quad-core processor for great performance, a vivid HD display, front and rear-facing cameras, and Dolby Audio
- Built for even the toughest kidsâ€”Enjoy the peace of mind with an unprecedented 2-year worry-free guaranteeâ€”if they break it, return it and we’ll replace it for free. No questions asked
- Don’t worry about the billâ€”The Kids Edition includes a year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited so kids get unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and gamesâ€”at no additional cost. Learn more
- Starts in Amazon FreeTimeâ€”Built from the ground up for kids, the background color and fonts change to a kid-friendly design. Kids can navigate visually to content based on characters or topics. Parents can exit Amazon FreeTime mode with a passcode
- Best-in-class parental controlsâ€”Personalize screen time limits, set educational goals, and choose which titles kids can access from your own personal content collection
- Take and edit photos in Amazon FreeTimeâ€”Snap photos within Amazon FreeTime mode using front and rear cameras. Fun editing tools lets kids explore their creative side by adding stickers, drawing on their pictures, and more
- Kid-Proof Caseâ€”Durable, lightweight case to protect against drops and bumps caused by kids at play.
We gave OliverÂ Wendyâ€™s old Kobo Vox tablet last year.Â We tossed on some educational games, some apps, and he loves it.Â We did the same with an old 2nd Gen iPod Touch that we loaded up with music.Â He is careful and responsible with it.Â With the Amazon Fire HD case and apps, it makes introducing your child to a computer even easier.
This time it is Spiderman saving The Daily Bugle and J. Jonah Jamieson from certain doom.Â The only question I have is, will Peter Parker get a picture of Spiderman.
Nerf guns are all over our house.Â There is nothing quite like wandering down into my basement and being ambushed by both my kids.Â If you want to add to their arsenal of fun Nerf weapons that are good inside and out, consider the Nerf Mega ThunderBow Blaster.Â Five bullets and lots of fun.
If you want to survive those ambushes, you may want to pick up one of these for yourself.
There are a great gift.Â Indoor hockey played on your knees has been a Canadian tradition for decades.Â So has mothers complaining about having to patch the knees of pants.Â Of course with them being sized or indoor use, they are perfect for when it is too cold to play outside.
The old classic is still around.Â It includes 86 all wood pieces.
If you donâ€™t have your own Batcave, this is the second best thing.
How cool is this.Â An R2-D2 that projects the time onto the walls.Â â€œHelp me Obi-Wan, you are our only hope of waking up on timeâ€¦â€
A great option for the kid who struggles to wake up is the Lego Star Wars Storm Trooper alarm clock.Â Plus nothing helps you sleep well than knowing you are beside an elite trooper who lost a key battle to a bunch of Ewoks.
- $24 from Amazon.Â If your child is superhero fan more than Star Wars, there are Batman and Superman Lego alarm clocks for $30
We passed down an iPod Shuffle to Oliver a couple of years ago.Â It is small and easy for him to use.Â Even the 2gb version is enough to load him up with music for the longest of roadtrips.Â Combine it with these kid-friendly Batman Headphones and you have a gift that they will love as much as you love the silence.
Kid Safe headphones have a volume limiter meaning that your child will not be at risk of hearing damage.Â Over the ear design also means that they wonâ€™t get headaches either.Â Â Itâ€™s a great add on to the Kindle Fire for Kids or the iPod Shuffle.
Sometimes kids want to listen to their music out loud!Â For those times, a portable, small, and rechargeable speaker that provides great sound is the way to go.Â Â Â It provides great sound but wonâ€™t overpower your house.Â Â The also have a modular “Buddy-Plug” Design: Integrated stowaway 3.5mm stereo audio jack plug and socket connects multiple XBOOM Mini Portable Capsule speakers together for maximum sound.Â So if one isnâ€™t getting the job done, you can keep adding speakers.Â They are compatible with any device that has a headphone jack, so phones, iPods, or any MP3 player.
Despite the game being for players 10 and older, Oliver has been loving the game for a couple of years.Â Â Instead of getting your child a game that only they will like for a year or two, why not start them playing some games the entire family can play for a lifetime?
Remember your first H0 model train set?Â How about a set that is modelled afterÂ Colorado’s oldest scenic line?Â It combines rich history, spectacular views and stylish accommodations into a train that takes you on a 24-mile journey through the 1,000 Feet deep Royal Gorge. Passengers travel alongside the Arkansas River on a ribbon of rail for an up-close nature show deep in the canyon, observing bald eagles, blue heron, bighorn sheep, mule deer, and flora native to the gorge.
How much fun would any kid have opening this set on Christmas morning?
The Hohner HAG250P is a handcrafted classical guitar with an Agathis top back and sides. This wood match-up creates a crisp texture to the overall sound of the instrument. The smaller scale of this instrument (considered 1/2 sized) is specially designed with the younger player in mind and is highly recommended for the players that are starting between the ages of 5-9. This instrument also comes equipped with light gauge nylon strings for easier fingering as to not discourage the first time player.
Spy Gear for His Latest Adventure
Utility Belt with Micro Spy Tools like a Micro Ear Light, Micro Listener, Micro Motion Alarm and Invisible Ink Pen on every surveillance mission
The coolest utility belt that doesnâ€™t belong to Batman.
Because every great adventure needs a team and a two mile radius is very, very impressive.
â€œYouâ€™ve got an emergency. Who would you call at four in the morning, knowing they would get out of bed and do whatever they could to help you? Those are your friends. That reduces your Christmas-card list a lot.â€
This could the most important thing you watch this week.
Tonight Wendy, Mark, Oliver and I joined a lot of people in saying goodbye to our good friend Bert Lang. Â
I got to know Bert while working with him at the Salvation Army Community Services where we worked many of the same shifts during the week, the always exciting 4-12 shift. Â I worked 8-4 during the weekend which meant he relieved me each shift. Â Bert was there early so we always had a cup of coffee together where he would criticize me for how I made my coffee. Â In my defense, it was No Name coffee and I am not sure if Bert would recognize a fine cup of coffee if it walked up and introduced himself to Bert 🙂
Later on after I had left the Salvation Army he asked me to help him find him a position elsewhere and I recommended him to my friend, Shaun Dyer who hired him at the John Howard Society and I was thrilled when they started to work together.
Despite us not working together anymore at the same agency, we worked closely together on social and housing issues. Â Bert and I often talked when we needed professional advice and of course we had a close professional relationship. Â Bert got along with most people so of course him and Wendy clicked but Mark also thought the world of Bert, partly because when Mark was with me at work, Bert knew where the secret supply of Coke was and would recruit him to help out at the Front Desk. Â While it was our friend and co-worker who once joked with Mark that, “You don’t have to listen to your dad at the office,” Bert’s line was, “Mark is hard at work and needed a break”. Â Bert validated Mark constantly and I will always appreciate that.
As Wendy wrote about it, we were very happy to be invited to Bert and Don’s wedding a couple of weeks ago. Â Despite Bert being ill, it was a really happy day.
This was round three of cancer and it won this time. Â Bert will be missed badly by everyone that knows him.
Donald (Bert) Sladden Lang of Saskatoon, SK, went home to his Creator after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer on Thursday, July 4, 2013.
He was born to the late Faith Jeanne Sladden Lang of Edmonton, AB on December 28, 1956 in Edmonton, AB and is survived by his father, Benjamin Phillip Lang of Edmonton, AB.
Bert graduated from Ross Shepherd High School in 1974. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton, AB in 1997.
After a career in business, Bert joined the world of charity work for Non Government Organizations and was most proud of his work with The Salvation Army and The John Howard Society who recently named a new facility after him: Bertâ€™s Place.
Bert will be remembered as a caring and loving person who worked passionately to improve the lives of others. His razor sharp mind and wit will also not be forgotten by those who knew and loved Bert.
Bert is predeceased by his Mother, Faith Jeanne Sladden Lang, of Edmonton, AB; and his brother, Roland Lang of Edmonton, AB.
Bert is survived by his husband Don Lafreniere of Saskatoon, SK; his father, Benjamin Phillip Lang of Edmonton, AB; his sister Carol Lavold of Nevis, AB; his daughter Bethany Dodd, of Edmonton, AB. He is also survived by two nieces, Pam Lavold Hennig, of Sherwood Park, AB, and Nancy Warwaruk of Nevis, AB; and one nephew Wayne Lavold of Edmonton, AB. He is also survived by many other nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to The John Howard Society of Saskatchewan.
I just got a press release from John Howard Society that they are renaming their Emergency Receiving House (Avenue I in Saskatoon) slated to open June 1st will be formally named “Bert’s Place” in honour of my friend, Bert Lang.Â
Bert and I worked together at the Salvation Army and he has made a huge difference in the lives of youth since moving to the John Howard Society. Â Congrats to Bert for the honour and to John Howard Society for opening their new facility for at risk youth.
I had planned to go to the cabin this weekend but last week Chris Powell came into my office and asked if he could borrow Mark this weekend. Â A good parent would have gotten some details but I said, “Sure, what do you need him for?” Â Chris said, “A human piÃ±ata”. Â Sounds reasonable to me.
Later I asked, why Mark was going to be beaten with sticks and I found out he was planning to have a Star Wars themed birthday party for his six year old and he needed someone for them to hit with lightsabers and he thought Mark could take the punishment and be Darth Vader.
Now that is some fine birthday planning folks. Â Not only is Chris putting on a good party but he has outsourced the pain to someone else. Â Of course it isn’t all good. Â We had a heated discussion at the office when we found out that Chris is not sending home party bags. Â Chris’ weak argument is that parents and even kids hate bags full of toys that are designed to break in the car ride home. Â If they do make it inside, parents just step on them and hurt themselves.
To that line of reasoning we say, “I want a guy with a parachute to throw down the stairs”. Â That and Mark is now available to be rented out for beatings at your own kids party.