The passing of a dear friend and brother

A couple of weeks ago, mon mari called me at work and asked if he could come see me. This kind of call usually heralds an impromptu lunch date, but from the tone of his voice, I knew it wasn’t one of those times. When I met him, M told me that our friend Josh had called him, and shared the news that another friend of ours, Matt, went out running the previous morning, and then had died. Since I met M over 10 years ago, I’ve seen him in tears less than 5 times, but he was weeping as he told me about Matt, his voice was full of grief.

Of all of our acquaintances, there are very few who have better exemplified the saying, “he has heart.” We met Matt and Jill during our first month in Kamloops at the church we had just started attending. We ended in up in the same small group and this introduction turned out to have a deep impact in our lives, because while we have a lot of friends – many of whom we share similar interests and pursuits (social, spiritual, physical, mental), there are a lesser number of people that truly stand out as those we want to emulate. People we want to emulate are usually older, or are celebrity writers or teachers or leaders, not so much people in our immediate social circles. But I can say with certainty that Matt is one of the people in real life that mon mari respected and admired, and who inspired in both of us – by his zest for life, by his genuine interest in people that shone through and through in his words and actions to both friends and strangers, and in his whole-hearted pursuit of his love for God and his Christian faith – the desire to pursue a sincerity and honesty in our own spiritual seeking and in our everyday choices and decisions.

During the first year of our life in Kamloops, we purchased a house that had a couple of wonky electrical switches. Matt volunteered his time and technical skills to help us out. I remember him in a beat-up blue workman’s suit crawling in between some narrow (and gross) spaces in our walls, only to emerge dusty and smudged a while later, declaring loudly with a bright grin that all should be in working order now.

To this day, every time we turn the switch on in our living room, we have light, made possible by Matt’s generosity. What a completely fitting and perfect metaphor for how Matt will be remembered.

From his obituary:

IN MEMORIUM

October 13, 1978 – May 26, 2015

Matt Vollans, age 36, of Kamloops, B.C. died suddenly on Tuesday, May 26th. He was a loving husband, to Jill, and father to his son Seth, and daughter Keziah. He also leaves behind his mother, father, Oma, brothers and sisters, as well as many family and friends.

Matt had a passion for life. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed challenging himself in mountain climbing, hiking, running, and many other sports. Matt was sensitive, loving, kind, loyal, and a dear friend to many. He always made everyone he met feel encouraged and valuable. One of his greatest joys was spending time with his family.

Above all, Matt lived his life to the glory of God and encouraged everyone else to do this to the fullest. His favourite bible verse was “Be imitators of God” and to this end he strove.

The funeral service will be held on Friday, June 5th, 2015 at 1:00 pm at Summit Drive Church, 1975 Summit Drive, Kamloops. Viewing from 12:00 to 12:30 pm. Should friends desire, donations to the New Life Mission would be appreciated in Matt’s memory.

Flexibility

Never has a word more captured what and where I need to be, for the sake of sanity, of continuity, of getting to and through the next day.

It’s when you have all the best intentions and plans lined up neatly – academic benchmarks to achieve, exciting new photo projects and photo-walk planned, a research interview lined up, transitions in work – and WHAM! a totally unexpected event comes and blindsides you.

hospital Kamloops

An event like a wrenching, devastating fall that results in 5 broken ribs, an inability to breathe properly, a lack of mobility, and a general sense of helplessness and slight depression in the overwhelming defeat that comes with the pain and immobility.

Seriously – who does that? Well, I did last week, and consequently, majorly screwed up my immediate plans for 2015.

But, I realized last week that it doesn’t mean my plans are now dead in the water. It just required, still requires…rethinking, retooling, shuffling timelines around a bit (just a bit, please!) and accepting that things don’t always work out the way we want. Being FLEXIBLE as to goals and working with thank God, very good people, who can work with me and help me through those rescheduled timelines (and in some circumstances, graciously shifting their expected deadlines), and more importantly, keep me on track and accountable – this realization has kept me sane and optimistic that not all plans are lost in the face of sudden, in-your-face life events.

Things DON’T always work out according to the timelines we have in place, but if we can be flexible and accepting of changes to our schedule, and when we have people around us to work with and to accommodate and sometimes facilitate those changes, than things are still do-able.

I’m feeling kind of grateful here.

Refreshed and roaring to go

Just following up with my annual goals. It’s as if publicly sharing them makes me more likely to stick with them. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t.

An annual review of last year’s goals revealed that 2 goals were 100% completed, 4 were partly accomplished, and 3 were not achieved at all. Worse average than in previous years, but hey, that is life.

Well, let’s roll some of those goals over and make another, intentional, serious stab at them for 2015!
goals(Trying out Wunderlist for project and list management this year.)

Look forward to checking things off as the year progresses. Allons-y!

Writing things down

moleskine goals resolutions

Some people say that making goals at the start of every year is a futile exercise, that everyone knows the burst of energy that compels us towards fresh intentions and plans will peter off in a month or two, only to leave us disheartened and glum at our own inabilities.

Bah to the naysayers, I say. And I’m apparently in good company, because many of the bloggers and writers whose words have inspired over the years seem to put great stock in the exercise of making new year goals. Putting things down on paper or to the screen, in a file, in a notebook, with deliberate intention and the discipline to conduct regular review of those jotted-down plans HELPS, I think.

I have a list for family goals, work goals, and a notebook full of personal goals. I’ll be revisiting and taking stock of them from time to time during the upcoming year. I look forward to it!

Discovering Night Panther

Music is so intensely personal and completely a matter of preference.

Once in a while there is a moment when a track or tracks of an album totally grabs you, at that particular time at that particular place. Tonight, I had such a moment. My Rdio new releases play later queue was randomly streaming and suddenly, the tune of Fever by Night Panther started playing through my headphones.

music, rdio, nightpanther

Night Panther

The album is their debut, I guess, Night Panther by Night Panther.

I cannot describe music in general – that is an exercise for another day. The band’s Soundcloud tag is “sex pop” which provides zero clarification as to the kind of music it is. The best I can do is synth-pop-indie-singersongwriter, not that my description is any clearer.

The album is just fun and rich in harmony and musical instruments. You can hear the track, and the rest of the album for yourself here.

Weekly Photo Challenge: “Good morning!”

20131005-075236.jpg

When I want so darn much to sleep in and our little wakes me at 6am (again), I am supremely grateful for the smell and sound of coffee brewing, then the sensation of that first hot sip in my mouth.

Then I’m ready to engage in the (endless) commentary, questions and exclamations that come with any day off with le Petit.

Good morning, weekend!

Learning to give things up

I looked at the calendar this morning and was flabbergasted to realize that it was the LAST DAY of September. The LAST! Where did this month fly?

I had just gotten into a great routine, what with the little one starting school, getting to work earlier, which meant getting home earlier, which meant time to make better (read healthier, more varied) dinners for the first time in ages, sleeping earlier, feeling better all around, too.

Then WHAM: what happens to all kids in the public school system, happened to mine. He got sick. Pink-eye, cough, minor fever. And he’s not a sick kid. Very healthy, very active but suddenly physically very afflicted.

So then, the morning routine flew out the window, I went back to getting to work late, and sometimes later (thank God for a flexible department/manager). Plus night conference Skype sessions with India for work. In this week, of all weeks. So there was NO more routine, with late nights, PLUS the fact that Downton Abbey resumed (that’s for me) and Breaking Bad was ending (that’s for Le Mari) and a colleague of mine informed me of the new season of Sons of Anarchy and I just couldn’t resist checking out the guy who got the role of Christian Grey…

Time basically got away. And with that, I  realized that I did not hit my loosely-held goals for the month, not at all. Goals which included: invite so-and-so family over for dinner, finish that chapter of my thesis, create that photo album for that friend, keep up my blog (this one I had great hopes for since I had Kickstarter app Pressgram, which is supposed to make sharing photos on WordPress much more seamless).

I’m not fanatic about goals, but it made me sad that I didn’t keep up with my fall targets. Also sadder that I absolutely didn’t keep up with my 2013 daily photo project. I was stressed about it sitting on the backburner online, where, God forbid, people might come across it and realize that it hasn’t been updated for MONTHS. I was bummed out about it for a day, but then BAM: it struck me that I could just LET IT GO. Let it GO. Release that defunct blog and wipe the slate clean. Like all things when it comes to letting go, it isn’t, it wasn’t easy, but doing so, I feel a lot better and feel motivated to start anew, next time with terms that leave me room to NOT be so exacting, to be more flexible with time.

So, RIP, Theo did this. Here was its burning start, and this post now is its swan song. No regrets, just letting it down softly.

Inspired by lots of awesome blogs and Flickr projects, I’ve re-started a 365 photo project for the year, having skipped 2012.

I originally started adding the snapshots to my own blog but didn’t want to necessarily post everyday here. So I started posting pics for this project here: Theo did this.

If anyone else is doing a 365-type photo blog for the year, I’d love to hear about it.

T getting clean

Ah, the first day

Every year, every September, in every Canadian city I’ve ever lived in, there is a recurring event. The preparation: crowded Superstores and Walmarts, “back-to-school” events everywhere, salons and eye doctors busy with personal prep prior to the main event, and then the Day: streets jammed up with more traffic than usual, public transportation filled to the gills with hoards of students, and even sidewalks suddenly busy with thousands more bodies marching and scurrying on to new classes and the new semester.

As I work in a university, I love the buzz of the new school year upon us. As someone who looks after international student partnerships, it’s especially exciting to see new students come to our BC university from all corners of the globe.

But this year is especially moving as it is the first year for our little one to attend school. Kindergarten begins, and so also is it a new phase in le Petit’s and in our lives.

running to school

This is how he was on his first day: running towards it, eager and open.

Oh, how I wish that he retains this attitude towards learning and the major institution that is “school” for his whole life. Corresponding to that: I wish we will be wise enough to help foster the love of learning and provide him with guidance through the sometimes tricky, sometimes hurtful social aspect to school life.

I’m very pleased, and we are all so looking forward to the adventures to come!

About being “here”

in the water, beach

Today, I read some of Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Though I picked up this book about 2 years ago, I only got  partway through the book at the time. The ideas within – about living in the moment, momentary awareness, meditation, and the practice of inhabiting our being – really resonated with me, and I wanted to learn more about them, but I was too busy to really do so.

Two years later, after juggling with trying to complete a graduate thesis, raise my pre-schooler, support my spouse, contribute to my department’s global expansion and recruitment, keep a clean house, volunteer in my community and maintain a healthy life-work balance (ha), I see that I am in need of SPACE – space to breathe, space to not worry, space to be quiet so that the balance that has been sorely missing can be found.

So many things have been in limbo, mostly because of the thesis-in-waiting, and there is a perpetual feeling of life-on-hold. But lately, I see that waiting for the future and planning on things hinging upon the outcome of other things are contributing to a general dissatisfaction in my own heart that has somewhat seeped into my work and home life.

Yesterday, I came to the realization that being “here” rather than off dreaming about “there”, and the practice and ability to focus on now/today, are things lacking in my life. I think this is hindering me from living out life more fully, and enjoying life completely. I am persuaded that though we plan and look forward to the future, the quality of our lives improve as we focus and relish what is in front of us today.

I picked up Coming to our Senses again, motivated by hearing Jon Kabat-Zinn on a podcast episode of Krista Tippett’s NPR program, On Being, earlier this week on a drive back from Vancouver.

I was actualy coming back from a memorial service of the very young son of a dear friend of mine, and both the death and the service hit home the point and desire to cherish and enjoy today the people and the things in our lives since there is absolutely no certainty of what lies in the future. The podcast conversation that I heard on the way home between Kabat-Zinn and Ms. Tippett, entitled “Opening to our lives,” compelled me to dig out that book I’d never finished.

So today, I have finished a couple of chapters and am profoundly hopeful that I, too, will find a way to come to my senses and in doing so, will bring a better self and effort to my home, my studies and to my work.