Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I seem to go through phases with music. I either casually absorb whatever music comes my way , or fanatically seek out and then acquire new music. With the former, very few actual musical purchases are made; I usually just listen to what I have or what plays on the radio. With the latter, I almost obsessively add to my music collection. This usually involves less than legal means (let's be honest here), but I usually try and purchase my music when it comes to smaller bands. Even then, I would historically buy the CD, rip it, and then it would live in my car for eternity until it became unplayable. I guess I'm finally getting with the times, as this week I purchased The Double Cross by Sloan (more on that later) and IS by Hey Ocean! off iTunes. Both amazing albums that I'm enjoying tremendously. Both bands are playing in Calgary this week and I would LOVE to go. With baby arriving in a matter of days, that's not really practical. Even if it was, I don't really have anyone to go with. Since my friend James moved away I have no one else that loves awesome indie bands like I do.

During my last few years of high school and first few years of University, I was constantly attending concerts. I have no idea how I afforded it, but I was in the Mac Hall ballroom on a weekly basis. I would go to concerts of bands I'd never even heard of before, just for fun. I remember seeing Tegan & Sara there (pushes up hipster glasses) before they were cool. Alas, those days seem to be behind me. Nonetheless, I am in one of my musical acquisition phases again and am enjoying checking out some new (to me) artists as well as some old favourites. Here's the current playlist: Sloan, Hey Ocean!, Hey Rosetta!,Hannah Georgas, Stars, Florence + The Machine, Fine Frenzy, Tennis, .Fun, Joy Formidable, Of Monsters & Men, Awolnation

Friday, August 31, 2012

Way back in 2005, when we found out that we were expecting Elodie, I went into near panic mode and went about reading every book on pregnancy and child-rearing that I could find. 99% of said books are targeted at women, which is to be expected. I did my best to try and find books that were targeted at prospective new fathers, as that’s what I was, and the thought of it terrified me. Much to my chagrin, the bulk of these books were, apparently, aimed at the stereotypical beer drinkin’, butt scratchin’, male dullard. Such sage advice as, “Don’t call your wife fat, even though you probably think she is.” and “Babies poop. Maybe take care of that sometimes.”, wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. I don’t have the exact books anymore, but there wasn’t a single one that offered more than a few snippets of quality advice. They pandered at best, and were sexist and misogynistic at worst. The books targeted at women weren’t much better. On the whole, they contained more valuable content, and I was able to breeze past the sections about appreciating your lady-parts. However, each of them inevitably contained some sort of quip about how useless your husband is likely to be, and how you can encourage him to put the remote down and do something. Maybe he can even go get the baby for you sometimes! Suffice to say that I’ve chosen to stay away from parental literature this time around. Until now…

Everything with the pregnancy was going swimmingly until the 30 week ultrasound that revealed that Kayla has placenta previa, which means the placenta is blocking baby’s exit route. Although a natural labour can sometimes still occur (and we’re crossing our fingers for such), more than likely Kayla will require a cesarean section in the coming weeks. Kayla is quite upset about this turn of events, and in addition to the emotional support I will have to provide, this procedure is major surgery and will require physical recovery as well. What do I do? How can I help? I am completely clueless about all this, since we’ve been so focused on a natural birth. My first instinct was to turn to the internet. I tried Googling various combinations of ‘cesarean’, ‘partner’, and ‘support’, amongst others. What did I find? Not a whole lot. Almost all articles are targeted at women, which again, is to be expected. I was only able to find little snippets here and there with information on how to support your partner. I found one good article that is targeted at dads, but it focuses on explaining what a cesarean is. There’s not much on pre and post support, which is what I’m looking for.

I was at a loss, but I knew that my wife was ordering some books from the library on the topic, so maybe those would help. Only one has arrived, but let’s take a look at ‘The Essential C-Section Guide’ by Maureen Connolly and Dana Sullivan. I open it up and see that chapter 8 is called ‘Concerns and Questions Your Partner Might Have’, and skipped right ahead. What nuggets of knowledge does this book present to me, the supportive partner? This portion of the book is done in a  FAQ style, and starts out quite good, with an explanation of the procedure, risks associated, and what the partner’s role is during it. Post-procedure content isn’t quite as comprehensive as I’d like, as it essentially tells the partner to provide support on the emotional and practical level. It does go into some detail, but not as much as I’d hoped. Still, I did learn some helpful tips, so good job Connolly and Sullivan! But wait – this is a pregnancy book, what about the dullards that might be reading? I present to you, the following questions contained within: “Will her scar be noticeable?” & “How soon until we can have sex?” I can almost guarantee you that every pregnancy book that is either targeted at men, or has a section about them, address the question of sex during and after pregnancy. Will I poke my baby in the head? Will I break the water? The baby’s here, when can I stick it in again? LOL, men, amirite?!

There are plenty of pregnancy books on the market targeted at men. Many of them take the humour route, and even though a lot of them are legitimately funny, they do not provide practical advice. Other books take the approach that dads-to-be are useless and confused and just want someone to tell them how much sleep they won’t get, and when their wife will be skinny again. Is it too much to ask for a third option? Maybe something that’s a little more earnest and actually empowers fathers to share the parenting roll; a book that views fathers as caring, compassionate, and intelligent. If such book exists, please let me know.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

In 2002, I was in a pretty good place in my life. I had completed three full years of university and was taking a year of part time studies, as I had been elected to a full-time position with the Students’ Union at the University of Calgary. My former girlfriend and I both moved out of university residence and found a nice apartment in inner-city Calgary. When we first moved in together we each had a rabbit, which we kept illegally in residence. My girlfriend worked at the Calgary Humane Society, so that, combined with a pet friendly landlord, resulted in a sudden influx of animals. It wasn’t long until we had the rabbits, a hamster, a snake, some newts, and then two cats. We also fostered kittens for the Humane Society. The apartment was a good size, but it was starting to feel crowded. We had agreed that we would not get a dog until we were living in a house, which was not on the horizon at that point in time. Nonetheless, one day a Newfoundland dog was surrendered to the Humane Society. The story was that he had food aggression and lacked any sort of obedience or training. His name was Sneakers. That should have been enough for me to walk away, but I had always wanted a Newfoundland dog. My mom’s cousin had several when I was growing up, and they were always so docile and loving. I had to meet this one.

Thinking that there was no way this dog would go un-adopted for long, I made my way to the Humane Society as soon as possible. When I first laid eyes on Sneakers, I was surprised. He looked like a Newfie, but something was different. I was told that he was a Newfoundland/springer spaniel cross. He looked kind of like a mutant cocker spaniel. He had a docked tail, which I found a bit inhumane, but incredibly adorable. He was 9-months old by this point, so pretty much full grown. He would fill out as time went on, but didn’t change much in size. He seemed perfect to me.

I met with him in an adoption room and he was positively wild. Not aggressive, mind you, but all over the place. On me, chasing the ball, looking out the window, barking at things. While he certainly inherited the springer spaniel personality, as well as some of the look, he was oh-so fortunate to inherit the drool and fur of a Newfie. I was positively covered in the stuff. I had scratches and near-bruises from all the jumping and roughhousing. I should have said goodbye right there for any number of reasons, but that’s not how this story goes. I adopted him the next day.

Sneakers was a positively ridiculous name for this animal. I wanted to call him Chewie because he looked, sounded, and acted exactly like a wookie. This name was vetoed by the girlfriend, and we ultimately settled on Artemis. Artemis is the Greek goddess the Hunt, Forests and Hills, the Moon. Artemis the dog is a boy, but I technically stole the name from the white cat on Sailor Moon, so whatever.

I wish I could say that we were an instant pair; that it was love at first walk, and that I never looked back. Artemis had the attitude and discipline of a wee puppy, but in a 100lb body, plus food aggression. I was over my head, and I was going to give him back to the Humane Society. I could not handle this dog. I have to commend my ex for not allowing me to do so, and instead convincing me to enroll him puppy classes. I’ll skip most of the details, but I remember one aspect very clearly. We had to teach our dogs to learn the command ‘gentle’ so that they would take treats slowly and gently. Part of this training involved holding a treat in my closed hand, let Artemis smell it, but not take it until he would wait for it. Have you ever had a gigantic dog gnaw and claw at your hand, trying to get the liver treat inside? It’s not fun.

Artemis did not become a model dog. At the end of training he would still pull on a leash, liked to jump on people, and generally had no respect for personal space. Hell, he probably barely passed that class. Still, he was a much better dog afterwards, and more importantly we understood each other more. Plus, he learned some cool tricks!

In the months following it became apparent that, yes, the apartment was not big enough for the newly expanded family. In 2003 (shortly before this blog started) we made the decision to find a house for rent. This was before the Calgary housing boom, so it was actually possible for two university students to rent a house. This also meant moving to the suburbs, which was sucky, but we found a nice four level split with a huge backyard. With all the new space we had to fill it with stuff! So, the girlfriend bought a living room set, which Artemis destroyed in less than a week. We literally came home to a living room full of stuffing, and a wooden couch frame. Artemis had some pretty bad separation anxiety the first few years of his life, but for whatever reason it eventually (and thankfully) passed.

The resulting months were quiet on the pet front. I think the newts may have died, but otherwise everything was pretty swell. I wish I could say the same of my personal life. I didn’t really chronicle much of it here, but I had a lot happen including the divorce of my parents and the breakdown of my own relationship. Due to the latter, I had to find a new place for me, and the pets, to live. You can get a glimpse of that here.

When all the madness was settled I found myself in an incredibly small and rundown apartment with Artemis, my rabbit, and the snake. I accidentally put the snake into hibernation, so it went to a new home shortly after that. It’s hard to explain my emotional state at this point and time, but volatile would be a good word to use. Despite this, there was something refreshing about living completely on my own with just my dog. I had never lived by myself before, so it was nice to be 100% completely in control of my life and my surroundings. It was very important that I had Artemis at this time. I had someone to keep me company and someone to emotionally connect to. Yes, I know he was just a dog. We didn’t have deep conversations about the intricacies of life, but he was always there at the end of the day wagging his little nub of a tail. Each night he would sleep beside me on my bed, something that was prohibited by girlfriends before and after. It was canine therapy.

As crappy as my apartment was, it was located in a fantastic neighbourhood. Specifically I was one block away from the Rotary off-leash park in Crescent Heights. I was able to take Artemis for a walk, and dog socialization, three or four times a day. As rough as my situation was, it was a good time for him. He would get to wrestle and play each day. He made many canine and human friends during our time there. There are a handful of funny stories that I think of during this time. He liked to stick his head into strollers to sniff babies, terrifying mothers in the process. He would often climb into random people’s vehicles simply because he liked them.

The dog park was separated from children’s spray park by a tennis club. Often balls would be lobbed over the fence, and if Artemis got them before I did, there was no returning them to their owner. The park is also close to Peter’s Drive-In, so people often like to buy their food and eat it at the park. This is ill advised, considering it’s an off-leash dog park. One day Artemis politely approached a family eating their Peter’s lunch. They were spooked by his size and scattered, leaving their food behind. Artemis helped himself. Attempts to culture Artemis largely failed.

Artemis had many misadventures over the years. Many of them involved eating things he wasn't supposed to. I know I didn't blog about them all, but I think the bottle of Advil and tub of margarine were his low-lights. Nothing seemed to phase his iron stomach. I'm not proud of this, but he was often served as the family's composting facility. I wasn't always the greatest pet owner.

Artemis loved the water, it’s one of the few personality traits he inherited from his Newfie side. One day at the dog park he made a break for it, went around the tennis courts, and made a beeline for the splash park. He made a quick stop to be fed chips by some kid, and then went right into the pool. Children screamed and scattered. Mothers chastised me. I had to wade into the pool and collect him, because there was no way he was going to willingly leave the water. Whenever we went anywhere with water, even if it was just a muddy puddle, he would have to go in it.

It wasn’t long after Kayla and I started dating that she moved in with me. She had adopted a cat, Ciaty, after we met, but before she moved in. It came with her of course, so Artemis had feline companionship once more. Artemis never cared much for cats. He was good with them, but largely pretended they didn’t exist. I remember coming home once to find Artemis asleep on our bed, with Ciaty squished underneath. She was fine, if not perturbed.

As mentioned, the apartment I was in was quite small (and oddly laid out), so Kayla and I went about finding somewhere new to live. We both loved the neighbourhood, so we were quite happy when we were able to find a nice little house only a few blocks away. Artemis had a lot more space now, but we seem to subscribe to 'fill extra space with animals' mantra, and soon enough Apollo joined our ranks. Although not impressed by this new addition at first, they became fast friends. They would play and wrestle on a daily basis. Later, when we had a fenced in back yard, Apollo would not go outside without Artemis.

Life through us for a loop in the following months, both good and bad. As tumultuous as it was, the day that Elodie arrived breathed new life into our little family. The pets didn't get a whole lot of attention from us for a while, I'm afraid. However, once Elodie was able to move around, she made up for it in spades. Soon enough I wasn't really blogging about pets, and then I wasn't blogging at all!

Despite the various challenges, tragedies, and triumphs we went through, things didn't change a whole lot for Artemis. We unfortunately lost our rabbit Willow in 2008 to old age, and our cat Ciaty to cancer in 2009, which was hard on us all. We managed to go a couple years with only 2 pets (amazing!), but an unplanned trip to the Calgary Humane Society in 2011 resulted in Pan Dieter Von Spacecat Snoozecat (Pan for short) joining our family. He is an amazing cat who seems to love every animal and person. Pan got along fine with the dogs, but he did seem to be lonely. After fostering kittens from the Happy Cat Sanctuary, Pan bonded with an orange tabby cat we named Luna. Luna is friendly towards people, but her preference is clearly for the furry kind. She loved to rub up against Artemis and get drooled on. I can only assume she thought she was being groomed.

In September Elodie started kindergarten, and Kayla would often take Artemis to pick her up from school. We started to notice around this time that Artemis was slowing down. Eventually we noticed that the strength in his back legs was waning and soon he began to drag and trip over them. Of course we took him to the vet (as we did every year) but I'm afraid that even modern medicine can only do so much to hold off the effects of aging. He was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, cruciate ligament damage, and a compressed spine. In retrospect, there were things I probably could have done preventively to keep his legs stronger.

Things weren't immediately dire, but I knew that Artemis was coming to the end of his journey. We did our best to make those last few months enjoyable for him. For some silly reason, I really hoped he would meet our new child. Artemis loved babies, probably because they smell good. However, I went away for two weeks in July, and when I returned I could tell his conditioned had worsened. I won't go into detail here, as I want to focus on happy memories. Shortly after getting back I made the very difficult decision that the time had come to say goodbye. Perhaps selfishly, I booked his final vet appointment two weeks from then. I needed time to come to terms and say goodbye. We spoiled Artemis rotten, and he got tons of affection, attention, and treats. His last two days were very hard on him and erased any doubt from my mind that we were doing the right thing for him. That didn't make it any easier.

Yesterday was the day, and it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Elodie was emotional when we first told her of the decision, and cried several times throughout the following two weeks. However, yesterday she was calm and collected. We decided not to have her come with us, and had a friend watch her. She said her goodbye to Artemis with a hug and a picture, with nary a tear. I guess one of us had to hold it together.

I've only been present for the euthanization of two pets, but when we had to say goodbye to Ciaty, it didn't go well. Kayla was astute enough to ask the Artemis be sedated first. I guess it's not standard procedure, but I'm so glad we got it done. Car rides and vet visits stress him out, never mind the immense pain he was in. The sedation calmed him down and allowed him to fall asleep while we pet him. He even started snoring, which was one of his hallmarks. Everything went smoothly and peacefully for him. Kayla and I were a mess, of course. We spent some final time with him, just petting him, telling him how good he was, and saying goodbye. Even though he was gone, I didn't want to leave the room. He's been my companion, through thick and thin, for nine years. No matter how much I tell myself it was the right thing to do, I think I will always feel guilty about this.

Artemis had a lot of presence; he was over a hundred pounds, was loud, and was drooly. We were always aware of where he was and what he was doing. The house feels very empty and quiet without him. Although I don't think they know what's going on, the other pets are aware of something. Luna, who usually shies away from human affection, has come to me several times. Apollo has been constantly following me wherever I go. I worry about Apollo the most; he and Artemis were always inseparable. There are other animals and people for him to socialize and play with, so I hope he adjusts.

I don't think I will ever have a dog like Artemis again. I very much associate him with the time of my life that I had him. I really went through the best and worst parts of my life, and he was always my constant support. I have my current pets, and there will be more in the future, but Artemis will always hold a special place. I am completely torn up about it, to be honest, but I've been through worse. I just keep reminding myself to remember the good times I had with him, and how he was in his prime. Kayla and I have been sharing funny stories about him, and I think that's the best way to deal with the loss of someone.

Artemis was an amazing friend and companion that I had the honour of spending nine years with. He made a lot of people laugh and smile, even when he was sliming them with drool. Whether it was greeting us at the door when we got home, snuggling with us on the couch, or yelling at us in his Chewbacca voice, he has left an unforgettable impression on us all. I don't think anything will fill in the void left by Artemis, but it's nice remembering all those great times. I've put together a picture album of him, that you can view here. I'd also like to include some of my favourite videos of him:

Goodbye buddy, I'll miss you.

Monday, July 09, 2012

When I embarked on my graduate studies my greatest fear was my (in)ability to stay focused and dedicated to my studies. During my time as an undergrad I sort of floated by unassumingly from an academic standpoint. My school work was very middle of the road, neither drawing admiration nor disdain from my professors. Essays were usually smashed into a keyboard  days (or hours) before their deadlines, with only a smattering of research behind them. I look back at them now, and I really don't think they're terrible. Given the lack of foresight and planning put into them, they're not bad! Nonetheless, academics were high, but not at the top of my priority list. I was never much of a partier or social butterfly, but I kept myself very busy with campus politics, clubs, volunteering, and whatever sort of meaningful employment I could find. I knew that a BA in political science wasn't going to wow any future employer, regardless of GPA, so I focused my efforts on boosting credentials in other ways. I knew I had to get through the academic part of university, it's why I was there after all, but if gainful employment was what I sought, my energy had to be focused elsewhere.

I am now four years into the MAIS program at Athabasca University. This (and most grad degrees) are done in two years, full-time. Even this program can be done in four years part-time, but I am stretching it out to the maximum six years. This was my intent from the beginning, as I am not doing this program to work towards a specific goal or outcome. I am not hoping for a promotion, or greater career prospects. I have no desire to follow this up with a PhD program or other formal education. I'm doing it for me. For shits and giggles. To say that I could, and that I did. To learn. It is because of this that I have put far more heart, soul, and dedication into this program than I ever did as an undergrad.

My dedication was tested this past semester as I embarked on my first individualized study course. Athabasca is known for these online courses. You register, get your start date, and have six months to complete the work therein. In this case, for GOVN 500: Governance and Leadership, it was 10 online postings based on the readings, two essays, and a final research project. Six months is plenty of time to do all that; I probably could have done it in four. How long did it take me? Five months and 26 days. All my previous courses were group-study, which means they followed a pre-planned schedule with the same group of students for five months. Individualized courses have little to no interaction with others, aside from the professor/tutor. It feels very lonely doing such a course, and while it works for some, I won't be doing another. Nonetheless, I made it work. I finished it on time, and even received an A+. Do you know how many As I received as an undergrad? One, in GNST 301.15: History of the Internet. Lulz.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Some Updates

Oh blog, why must you reside in the dusty corners of the internet, only to be revived annually for some banal post about nothing? I really do miss blogging, but the combination of a busy lifestyle and the thought that no one reads it (aside for wayward Googlers looking for something else) makes it hard for me to justify doing it. However, Kayla has been reading past posts lately, and it is fun to see a snapshot of the days gone by. It's neat to see some of my early posts about parenthood and how I was dealing with it. Even if I never get back into a regular blogging schedule, I like that this blog will be here as a reminder of some of the most important days in my life. It's on that note that I feel I must make a new post:

I'm going to be a Dad again! Kayla and I have been trying for quite some time, and as cliched as it is, we didn't get pregnant until we gave up trying. We tried all kinds of things, things that would bore and/or gross you out, but finally, FINALLY, baby #2 is on its way. We will have a 6.5 year gap between kids, so I've pretty much forgotten everything about raising a baby. As terrifying as that is, I somehow managed it as a naive 24-year-old so I think I can handle it now. That said, I'm a little worried about how nonchalant I am about the whole thing. I'm excited, yes, but the pregnancy and impending parenthood doesn't seem to have the same gravity as before. This is partially to be expected, as we are now married with a house and good jobs. We've settled into our lives. Maybe it's because we defied all the odds before, that the sheer normalcy of this pregnancy isn't as imposing. Still, I hope I hop aboard the terror train soon, as there is still work to be done to get this house ready for a baby. So, that's my big news. I'm hoping that when the baby does arrive I will blog on occasion, if only as a record of the happenings in my life.

A few housekeeping items:

-I won that Art of Democracy National Youth Challenge I entered. We have an iPad now. Yay!

 -I am about to complete GOVN 500, my 8th course in my masters degree. I should be finished by December, 2013. I've been doing this program, one course at a time, since 2008. I do enjoy it, but I cannot wait to be finished. I'm sure my family feels the same way.

-All the videos on this site are hosted by Google Video, which is now defunct. Google keeps bugging me to move them to YouTube, which I may do. However, I think doing so may make them disappear from this blog. So, if old videos suddenly stop working, that's why.