Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Cruise industry + Hamlet = paralysis.  Odd equation, you might say.  Bizarre.  Intriguing, perhaps.  Even divergent. 

The connections began rather innocently, like  the perfume of toasting coconut, seconds before it burns.  Scanning the cover of Maclean’s to inventory  what I might like to read in that issue, I hovered on the headline, “Troubled waters for the cruise industry” (July 22).    We’ve enjoyed three cruises since 2007, the most recent to the Panama Canal in February, all with Holland America.   We like the smaller ships; the dancing and shows conform to our taste and style, and the food lives up to expectations.  Mostly, though, we’ve met fascinating people:  an 89-year-old chemical engineer who worked on the Gemini and Apollo space programs; two very courageous women fighting lung cancer; an American lieutenant-colonel veteran of the first Gulf War (1990 – 1991), when integration of women in combat was just beginning. 

Given our memorable cruise experiences, I was eager to delve into the article.  Beyond the Costa Concordia and the Carnival Triumph (aka. “the poop cruise,” it seems), disasters which have garnered a lot of publicity, the cruise industry has faced many problems which often don’t make the headlines.  The article goes on to say that failed generators, passengers overboard, sexual assalts, and viral outbreaks number among the issues the cruise industry is facing, 97 such mishaps in 2012.  Those statistics are attributed to  Ross Klein, professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, and self-appointed cruise industry watchdog, who documents his findings on his personal website, Cruise Junkie.  Klein maintains that the cruise industry is almost totally self-regulated.

I had always attributed our great holidays to hard work and carefully planning on the part of everyone connected with Holland America.  With our second sail one month after the Costa Conordia disaster, and the Panama Canal cruise barely a week after the Carnival Triumph fire, we were certainly aware of the risks.  Still, we considered those incidents the exception rather than the rule.  Now, I wonder if an element of luck was involved, too.  Even more disturbing, I ask myself if we want to tempt fate again, and choose another cruise as a holiday.   

This detailed information  removed my blinders, and rocked my travel world.  Suddenly, I thought of Hamlet, a young man raised in an idyllic  home by parents who loved him and, he thought, each other.  Suddenly, his world cracks.  Not only does his father die, but his mother marries her husband’s brother three weeks later.  Things get worse.  A ghost tells Hamlet that his uncle, his mother’s husband, murdered his father, and he must avenge the death.  For the young idealist, this is too much information.  “Conscience does make cowards of us all,” he realizes, conscience here meaning “awareness” rather than “a sense of right and wrong.”  “Enterprises of great pith and moment,” Hamlet continues, ”lose the name of action.” The weight of that information and the responsibility attached to that information paralyze Hamlet.  He is unable to act.  

We are just as vulnerable, even if our plans don’t involve avenging a parent’s muder.  In the face of a decision, we can feel overwhelmed with facts and statistics, often contradictory in themselves, and at odds with our view of how events play out in the real world.  To sail or not to sail?  To drink coffee or not to drink coffee?  To eat bread or not to eat bread?  To purchase a home or not to purchase a home?  No matter what the decision, there will be sufficient evidence to support either side.  Even worse, our minds made up and action taken, we’ll be barraged after the fact with information calling the decision into question.  It happens all the time—buy a dress and find it on sale somewhere else a week later; house prices fall after you jump into the market; the Canadian dollar goes up just after you exchange an impressive total.

In the face of the surfeit of information which disturbs my blissful ignorance, I need a strategy to prevent the paralysis of inaction.  So, I remind myself to live in the present moment.  I do my homework, research, be aware, and then act, for today.  If things change tomorrow, well, that’s tomorrow; I have no control over tomorrow.  Living itself is risky business.

Cruise industry news plus a sideways connection to Hamlet can give me pause.  However, it’s important to press the play button again, especially at this time of my life.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The 6 Tab Foldable Organizer

Step 1                                                                          Step 2
Place an 8½ by 11 sheet of paper vertically.               Fold it in half, and press down lightly on the 
                                                                                    fold to mark the spot.

Step 3                                                                         Step 4

Bring the bottom edge  of the paper to the                  Bring the top edge of the paper to the middle,
middle, and fold.  Be sure the fold is crisp.                 and fold.  Be sure the fold is crisp.

Step 5                                                                          Step 6

Fold the paper in three horizontally.                            Open the folds.  
Be sure the fold is crisp.                                                                   

Step 7                                                                                                     
Cut along the horizontal folds, to the middle.                               
You now have six tabs.                                                                       

Step 8
On the top middle tab, write CANADA:  THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE.
On each of the other tabs, write one of the following headings:
·     The Land
·     People
·     Connections
·     Images
·     Worldviews


Wednesday, July 24, 2013


I am looking for the me that believes in the dissenting opinion, the me that loves feedback, the me that wants to improve, the me that can handle criticism.  That me is hiding somewhere, like my keys in the hidden recesses of my purse, under the wallet, the hair brush, the kleenex, the hand sanitizer, and the scarf.  I am wondering what compartment my me has drifted into.   Just as, when I rummage through my purse for my keys, I wonder why I didn’t put them in their signature niche,  now that I have lost my me, I am asking myself why I didn’t keep it tethered to its usual spot.

The me that’s used to having her work picked apart to make it better bolted when I opened the document my editor sent for revision.   That me left a bemused, forlorn stranger staring at a screen painted in the signature blue, red, and green boxes, lines, and fonts of Track Changes.     Overwhelmed, that stranger scanned the document to gauge the scope of the revision.  Her eyes widened and glazed over.  Her heartbeat accelerated, and her jaw dropped.  So much to do.  In so little time. No idea where to start.  No desire to start, either.  Enter the back burner.  I closed the document, and decided I could both feel sorry for myself and mull over a strategy while I  vacuumed.

I had to bribe myself back to the computer.  Come on, work for an hour, and put in a load of laundry; after another hour, read for half an hour on the deck.  Somehow, I had to make the task appear more manageable.  Usually, when there's work to be done and no creative idea to be found, I tackle the mundane, routine aspects of the task first.  After all, they have to be done anyway, and a blank mind doesn’t impede progress in that context.  The tough questions simmer; the chores get done.

I began, then, to clear away some detritus so I could see.  I accepted all the changes dealing with format and minor deletions.  That created more white space, and enlarged the comment boxes so they were easier to read.  On the first go-round, I could see that my editor has a keen eye, and a penchant for asking insightful questions.  She also uses neutral, professional language.  I just had to “put my courage to the sticking place,” in the words of Lady MacBeth, and get on with the job, one step at a time, like untangling a fine gold chain.  As I cajoled myself through the process,  I felt less threatened.  My equilibrium peeked around the corner, and crept back.  My strong me had returned like the prodigal son, and I could recognize myself again. 

If feedback on a simple editing job could unnerve me to that extent,  however, what  might I do in the face of comments with the potential to alter the course of my life?   Would I have the courage to see opportunity in honest feedback?   I thought of an article Rob Vanstone of the Leader Post had written about Riders special teams coordinator Bob Dyce a few weeks before.  Last year, Dyce was the Riders’ offensive co-ordinator.  During the off-season, however, as the team wanted to bring in George Cortez to work with the offence, head coach Corey Chamblin discussed with him a move to special teams.  Dyce put aside any negative feelings, and agreed to the move.   Attitude is the key, he says.  “You’ve got two choices. You can sit down and be upset and mad and sulk, or you can look at a new opportunity and grasp it and run with it, and that’s what I chose to do.’’  (Regina Leader Post, July 19)  Special teams have never been so special. Talk about a perspective to emulate.

In another football example, Brad Sinopli of the Calgary Stampeders also faced a momentous decision in his career.  Quarterback at the University of Ottawa, he joined the Stampeders in 2012 as a third-string quarterback.  He was released at training camp, and then rejoined the team three weeks later.  In that role, he dressed for nine games.  At that moment, head coach John Hufnagel presented him with a new scenario, too.  Sinopli could retrain as a receiver, or be released from the team.  We’re talking about the 2010 Hec Crighton Trophy winner as the most outstanding player in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) football. Sinopli had to decide what was more important to him—pursuing his dream of being a quarterback, or playing professional football, no matter the role. 

In the end, Sinopli decided that playing receiver was a new opportunity, and he might as well take advantage of it.  “For me, that’s in the past now,” he said,  in an interview with Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald (July 13). “This is where I am now playing receiver. I mean, I can sit back and look and dwell on, ‘well, I’m not a quarterback’ and all that stuff. But that’s not the case. I’m playing receiver.”  Sinopli chose to see the recommendation to play receiver not as a criticism of his quarterbacking talent, but as an insight into his ability from someone who interpreted his skill set in a novel way.  In the July 12 game against Montreal, Sinopli made a highlight reel catch the nation is still talking about.

Both Dyce and Sinopli had the courage to step back, and to focus on opportunity rather than criticism.   The result has been personal and professional development for each inividual, and a winning record for the team.    These two athletes inspire me.  They remind me of the strength and equanimity necessary to listen to someone’s comments about a process and/or a product in which you are very invested, detach yourself, and search for the elements that will improve your performance.  If I don’t want to lose my me the next time a revised copy from an editor shows up in my inbox,  I can apply strategies that crystallized from this experience:   smile, clear some space so I can see what needs to be done, and scrutinize the comments for pearls of opportunity from which to grow.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Wednesday, July 10

“I’ll clean up, if you have things you want to finish up out here,” I say to Elmer, who is mopping up the last bites of the steak I barbecued for supper.  “I wouldn’t mind a hand bringing things back into the house, though.” 

“Sure, I’d appreciate that,” he comments, relief etched on his face, like I’ve thrown him a lifeline.

Elmer’s intensity around the yard exceeds even his usual passion.  What gives? True, Dominique, her boyfriend, Andy, and Julian are coming home for the weekend, but so what?  The yard looks fine the way it is.  Yes, the shed would look better with a new coat of paint, but no matter if that’s not done today.  Or even this summer.  We can mark my birthday anway.

Somehow, though, it does seem to matter.  By 9:00 p.m., he is still out there.  What is going on?  Absorbed in the meal plan for the weekend, and the attendant shopping list, I dismiss the thought.  Lots to do—it’s already Wednesday.

Thursday, July 11

Best to get moving.  I text Dominique to check on arrival time.  Saturday morning, it seems.  “ Glad to know,” I message back. “Helps with organizing the days.”

A few minutes, later, my phone buzzes. “Hi, speaking of organizing, don’t plan any meals from supper on Saturday on, we have it taken care of.”  Wow.  Amazing.  But odd.  Could it be that . . .

Another buzz.  “As I think you’ve already guessed, we’re planning on having some family and a few neighbors over Sunday for supper to celebrate. ”  I am incredulous.  That explains the yard frenzy.  Okay.  Good thing the bedrooms are ready at least.  It would be a good idea to go through the bathrooms, vacuum, dust off a few cobwebs, too.

“The kids might enjoy cinnamon rolls,” Elmer suggests later, as I run over the meal plan with him, to placate me and keep me busy, I suspect.   ”But don’t make anything else.  Oh, and Daniel is coming on Friday.”  Daniel is coming from Calgary?  I am overjoyed.  Haven’t seen him since February.  The pieces are starting to fit together.  Elmer has planned a celebration.  Given that he lives by the philosphy that More is more,  I am afraid to contemplate the scale of the proceedings.   “No more questions,” he admonishes.  I consider myself told. 

What to do except go with the flow?  Seems like I will be informed on a need-to-know basis.  Letting go will be hard for me, though.  Whenever we have a backyard party, I am  the one organizing the food and the guest list.  Still, I want to behave well to honor all the preparations my family seems to have in place.  And so it begins, I see, the graceful release of control, and the responsibility to make things easy for my family.

Saturday, July 13

The children have arrived; my meagre food contribution awaits in the freezer; the house is as clean as it ever gets.   I have nothing to do.  Unprecedented.  People are coming over tomorrow, and I am visiting, like the party’s already started.  I guess it has.

After supper at the Waverley Hotel, we head to Rainbow Hall where Elmer’s band, Country Sunshine, is playing at a dance.  My sister and her husband are to join us.  When I see my nephew and his aunt there as well, the scope of the gathering the family has planned overwhelms me.

Sunday, July 14

Indeed, Sunday morning, the view of the back yard confirms my premonitions.  The yard has sprouted two extra patio tables, and chairs bloom under the trees like replicated beanstalks.  Behind the planter in the middle of the yard, Elmer has hidden an emergency stash of chairs.  The neighbors’ yards must be empty!  At the back of the yard, in front of the fence, he has erected a gazebo that protects speakers, a mike stand, and some instruments.  Julian is testing a microphone.  We will have live music, too.  I can’t imagine how long my dear ones have been planning this celebration.

At three o’clock, the guests  begin to arrive.  The guest list goes way beyond family and neighbors.  Friends from disparate avenues of my life have driven several hours to be here.  Oh, my.  My niece has come, my birthday twin, with her son.  Other nephews and nieces have brought their families.  I am wondering how I will manage  to visit with everyone to honor the compliment they have paid me by coming so far.  Daniel frames the gathering so people will know what is happening.  Appetizers appear, and, later, a catered meal.  Now I understand why Elmer dissuaded me from preparing pulled pork.  I try to eek out a few moments just to watch, to admire the accomplishment I see in my children.   As they insert sixty tall candles on the birthday cake, and distribute three butane lighters, I realize they have filed away the lessons from the near conflagration some twenty years earlier, when I lit eighty candles on my father’s birthday cake.

My heavens, there’s a program.  My sister and her husband sing a song they have written.  The kids involve the guests in a trivia game.  They know me so well:  my passion for the Riders, my love of the novel Pride and Prejudice, my obsession with correct grammar, my tastes in film, my signature teaching strategies.  Kaylie and her father sing a few songs.  Then the band starts up with polkas, waltzes, and Latin-American tunes:  Elmer on accordion, Julian on trumpet, Daniel on bass guitar, nephew Corey on bongos, celebrated musician and lifetime friend, Len Gadica, on accordion.  Connie, Joanne, and Dianne, our very own “Supremes,”  add vocals.  People polka and jive on the deck and on the grass.  Janet volunteers to be the official photographer of Yvette’s 60th birthday party.  The fun continues late into the night.  No one up the street or across the back lane complains.

Monday, July 15

I am so grateful for this celebration, whose intrinsic value supersedes the individual.   My decade birthday was just the catalyst.  The gathering brought all these people together for a joyous occasion.  It created the conditions for relationships to be renewed or forged: between a great-aunt and great-uncle and the next generation; between friends of mine who had never before met; between our children and the neighbors who watched them grow up and whom they don’t see very often any more; between our children and friends of ours whom they had never met, but who know them from conversations and the New Year letters; between former neighbors who have moved away and those of us still on the block.  The celebration was a reminder to create occasions to mark the milestones in our lives.

Today, on my actual birthday, we celebrate another milestone, a funeral.  Elmer’s cousin passed away on July 8, and was buried this day, July 15, his birthday,  too.  He had always tracked the Beutel Family July 15 Birthday Club, which included him, my niece, myself, and another cousin’s husband.  How serendipitous that he would be buried on that day as well.  This is the second time I have attended a funeral on my birthday, both in the Beutel family.  Really, we don’t want a July 15 Funeral Club.

The juxtaposition of two remarkable celebrations, both surprises for the guests of honor, underlines for me the role of celebration in our lives.  At a significant moment, a heterogeneous group of people comes together to commemorate a memorable event in the life of someone to whom all present are somehow connected.  Whether the celebration highlights a particular highlight in life or brings closure to the entire journey, it allows for introspection, fun, reflection, relationship, and respect.  It happens thanks to the hard work and generosity of many people.   Most important, it brings out the best in people, and allows them to integrate into their own lives the rich fruits of the experience.

Monday, July 15, 2013


Today is my sixtieth birthday.  6-0. 

None of my other decade birthdays bothered me in the least.  I sailed through each one looking forward to the joys and challenges of the years ahead.  There’s something about 60, though, that does give pause.

Maybe it’s because I have had a front-row seat at the aging drama.  My parents lived with us for eighteen years, ten part-time and eight full-time.  I know all too well what’s ahead .  I know that I will have to reinvent myself more times in the next part of my life, however long that may be, than in the six decades I have already lived, just when reimagining one’s life is the most difficult.  I know all about closing the family home, failing strength, losing dear friends and family, negotiating independence, down-sizing, hearing loss, dementia. 

But, thanks to my parents,  I also know about sustained curiosity, unflinching determination, indomitable will, astounding resilience, unconditional love, and a prevailing interest in life and people.  Voilà my focus.  As for the inherent challenges down the road, we’ll eat that elephant one bite at a time.

I understand as well that the gap between my chronological age and my own perceived age will continue to widen.  When I sip my soup from the bowl, or suction up the last bit of my iced-cap, I am twelve.  When I reach for the knit dress on the rack, I figure I’m forty.  As I continue to collect professional books and read articles on pedagogy, then plan how I can apply what I’ve learned to the classroom, I am fifty.  My mother never reached 92 in her head, and my father embraced the world past his 100th birthday.  That’s probably why they made it to those impressive milestones.  Age, after all, is a state of mind.

However, the clock does not lie.  I  was born in 1953, so I must be 60.  There are other reasons.

I must be sixty because:

· I no longer start planning lessons, grading papers, or reading for feedback at 9:30 p.m.
· I don’t spend weekends at school;
· most of the time, the dining room table doesn’t have leaves;
· there’s lots of room in the fridge;
· I can travel in the low season;
· I read for fun;
· I write for fun;
· I say good-bye a lot, and I go to a lot of funerals;
· I have to drive to see my children;
· I get to let go and let my children;
· My parents, who were 42 and 36 when I was born, have both passed away;
· My oldest child is 32 and a half years old;
· I try new recipes;
· I remember the Canadian flag debate;
· I attended mass in Latin;
· I remember the actual historical events depicted in films:  Apollo 13, Argot, Thirteen Days, JFK, Bobby, Iron Lady, Shake Hands With the Devil, to name a few.

Here come the 60’s. Bring them on!  Each decade of my life has been better than the preceding one, and I am excited to explore what this new decade will bring, as well as what it might exact.  I embrace the adventure.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


 I often multi-task while I bake.  Yesterday morning, I twinned rustling up two dozen cinnamon rolls with the prosecution rebuttal in the George Zimmerman trial.  I’m more comfortable with cinnamon rolls lately, especially since switching to a recipe from Anna Olson.  The process is quick, reliable, and foolproof, when you are not multi-tasking.

As I work, my inner voice reminds me to double all the quantities.  No problem, I’m used to that.  Except that today, prosecutor Bernie de la Rianda’s closing arguments keep me glued to the TV.  I am assembling the ingredients during the commercials.  So, I measure up the sugar, the milk, and the yeast; I drop in the eggs, add the butter, and then the flour.  As the instructions suggest, I turn up my Bosch, fitted with the dough hook, on the lowest speed, to mix the ingredients.  The dough looks funny though.  I see wads of butter that I don’t remember from last time.  Oops!  I was supposed to melt the butter.  Oh, well.  Now, I start kneading.  I’m still not happy with the dough.  It looks dry, and it doesn’t glisten like usual.  Nevertheless, I swirl it around my oiled bowl, and set it to rise.  Even the prosecutor’s compelling arguments, however, don’t dissipate the malaise.  Something is not right.

I look over the list of ingredients again.  Salt.  I forgot the salt.  All cooking is a chemical reaction, some reactions more critical than others.  Bread is one of those finicky processes.  No salt.  No reaction.  Will the bread rise?  Well, maybe not—I also forgot to double the yeast!  Nothing to do now but start over.

I have struggled with error all my life.  I was raised to operate by the book. When my father made a mistake, especially during one of his carpentry projects, he berated himself for minutes on end.  If he cut a board too long, or worse, too short, the man who prided himself on his language indulged in a riff of colourful expletives.   The subtext for me was that capable people do not make mistakes. 

As a pianist, the spectre of error coloured my process and my performance.  In an effort to eliminate errors, I drilled on scales to develop finger facility.  I also practiced slowly.  These strategies helped.  However, no matter what I did, errors would creep in.  Sometimes, a finger would slip for no reason, especially on an unfamiliar instrument.  When I was playing in a group, listening to the drummer, the organist, the trumpet player, and the other singers, and singing a harmony part as well, I was particularly vulnerable.  The fear of error made me nervous, and being nervous increased the possibility of error.  It was a vicious circle.

Then, by chance, I heard pianist Emanuel Ax express the same fears.  In an interview with Charlie Michener of the New York Observer in 2012,  Ax confessed,   “Today’s pianists have a terrible fear of wrong notes—myself included. A lot of it has to do with the recording business, which has created this mentality that everything has to be note-perfect. It makes me long for the days of Horowitz and Rubinstein, when pianists could perform with real freedom—and never mind a mistake or two!”   Michener also asked pianist Earl Wild about mistakes when, at age 90, Wild performed at Carnegie Hall.   “ ‘Are you afraid of wrong notes?’ ” [Wild] laughed. ‘No,’ he said, ‘because there’s nothing you can do about them.’ ”

Mistakes happen.  How best to handle them, then? As Justine Heinrichs says in A Passion to Teach,  “It is the response to mistakes and not the mistakes themselves that matter.”  I had to think about that.  Am I going to let the menace of error paralyze me, or am I going to reconcile myself to their presence, learn from them, and move on?  There doesn’t seem to be much of a choice.  So, whether I leave keys at home, mix up times, make custard with salt instead of sugar and borscht without beets, say things I regret, and regret things I don’t say, I am learning to forgive myself.  I do my best to prevent mistakes, but they will creep in despite my best efforts.    

But what about when mistakes have dire consequences?  If I am to be reconciled to my own mistakes, then I have to accept that others who impact my life are bound to make some, too, despite their best efforts.  It may be my doctor, or the pilot of an aircraft in which I am a passenger, the driver of an oncoming vehicle, a city worker, anyone.  A mistake could cost my own life, or the life of a loved one.  

The cinnamon buns are easily fixed.  Within ten minutes of the do-over, I have a glistening, smooth dough that is already rising in the bowl on the stove.   When I roll out the dough, later, I enjoy the soft, pudgy layer beneath my fingers.  I slather on the melted butter, sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon mixture, then turn the edges over to begin rolling.  As I place the individual pinwheels in the goo for baking, I anticipate the delight they will bring at breakfast tomorrow. 

Not so with train derailments or aircraft crashes.  The cause of my mistake was distraction, combined with some arrogance that I didn’t have to concentrate so hard, since I had made these buns before.   I file that away where my inner voice can access it for next time.  With that reminder to concentrate and double check what I do, I won’t be responsible for neglect.  At the same time, when I do mess up, I have to forgive myself, and hope the damage won’t impact anyone else.  Why do I feel like Nik Wallenda walking across the Grand Canyon on a cable?

To read Charlie Michener’s complete column, see

Sunday, July 7, 2013


A lull has settled over our son and daughter-in-law’s home in Calgary on November 7, 2009.   Everyone is resting.  After Daniel’s signature spicy skillet and a few hours of Saturday shopping, it’s time for some fortifying shut-eye before a much anticipated late supper at The Garlic Clove.

I won’t be sleeping, though.  I pick up my novel, and read a few pages.  Not the author’s fault I can’t concentrate.  All I can think of is the game.  Not just any game.  The Saskatchewan Roughriders are playing the Calgary Stampeders for first place in the Western Division of the CFL.  They should be in the second quarter by now.

To this point, I am quite proud of myself.  I’ve managed to carry on a rather lucid conversation.  I haven’t mentioned the game at all, given that I am the lone football fan in the household.  My husband never watches sports, and my son has continued the family tradition, a trait which his wife cherishes.  In a reversal of roles, I am the football fanatic in the family.  In fact, I had no intention of even mentioning the game.  After all, I can watch football any time, but I don’t often have the opportunity to visit with my adult children who live in adjacent provinces.  I had steeled myself before the trip; I am prepared to forego the telecast, and read all about the game in the morning.  I had "conditioned my mind," as my father would say.

Now, however, it’s quiet in the house.  I am the only one downstairs.   Would it be so bad if I stole a few surreptitious glimpses of the game while they are resting?   I move from the sofa to the TV stand, looking about for any sign of life.  Still quiet.  Why do I feel so guilty, as if I am checking my email or texting during a conversation.  Now, this could get complicated.  I see three remotes, a DVD player, and a few other black boxes I can’t identify.  I match up the remote brand to the TV, and find the volume button.  That way, as soon as I press Power, I can lower the volume so I don’t get caught.  I hear the click and whoosh of the TV powering up.  Bingo.  Now, I scroll through the listings to find TSN.  Eureka—I have the game.  The challenge now will be to cheer or wail on mute.

Twenty minutes into my viewing, Daniel comes downstairs.  A little abashed,  I fill him in on the critical nature of the game, to rationalize my  actions.  He settles on the sofa beside me to watch, and we chat as ball possession changes hand.  Things look good for the Riders, so far.  A few minutes later, his wife joins us.  She is shocked.  Daniel never watches sports. 

"Dan, are you watching sports?"

"It’s not sports." I interject.  "It’s the Riders."

I don’t watch sports, either.  But I am a Rider addict.  I love football.  This makes no sense because:
· I don’t watch any other sports;
· I despise violence;
· I even stopped watching hockey because of the fighting;
· I can’t imagine the immediate and latent damage of the hits on those bodies;
· I don’t even watch NFL football.  The game is too easy—four downs and a narrower field, come on.
· I think professional athletes receive obscene salaries.  CFL players are a curious exception to this rule—they play for the love of the game, not for the millions.

In the hierarchy of Rider fans, I rank somewhere near the bottom, a rung above the fair-weather fans who abandon ship when the going gets tough.  After all,
· I don’t often make it to a game (I can’t use the three-hour return road trip as an excuse—Rider fans drive three times as far for games without batting an eye);
· I have never donned a watermelon helmet;
· I don’t paint my face or dye my hair green for games;
· I have never met any of the players;
· I rarely tweet or comment on the Rider Facebook page.

However, I am known to :
· schedule cooking or computer work to coincide with football games so I can watch and work at the same time;
· cheer madly;
· track player and coach interviews;
· watch the highlights (sometimes several times);
· read and view all the TSN articles, blogs,  and clips;
· monitor the statistics sheets;
· scour the Leader Post blogs and articles;
· transfer from TV to radio to listen to the post-mortem of the game, The Point After. on CJGX;
· follow the 7 other teams as well.

So, what’s so fascinating about football?  For me, it is often a metaphor for life.  Cases in point:
· There is strength in numbers.  A small province like Saskatchewan, with a population of just over a million people, can support a thriving professional football franchise because the entire province bleeds green (see nine-hour road trips, above).  The spirit of Rider Nation makes it happen. 
· Former Rider coach Ken Miller’s mantra:  Be where you’re supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there, and do what you’re supposed to do when you’re there.  Really useful in the classroom, too.
· Axiom: The best quality in a quarterback is a short memory.  When something goes wrong, forget about it, and don’t let  it contaminate the next play.
· Heart, effort, and discipline trump talent.
· Play the entire 60 minutes.  Stay focused, play hard the whole way.   The great  job you did in the first half can be erased in three minutes or less.
· Hubris lives.  If you succomb to arrogance, it will come back to bite you.
· Use your notoriety to be an exemplary role model, and give back to your community.  Thank you, Riders, for your generosity.

My football addiction has paid unexpected dividends, as well.
· It’s a great conversation starter, especially because somehow people are surprised to learn I know a lot about football. 
· I have used the Riders and their current status in more than one classroom lesson and teacher workshop introduction.
· Decades ago, I recognized a parent coming in for his son’s kindergarten parent-teacher conference as a former Rider.   When I  asked him if he had played in the playoff game when Ed McQuarters returned a fumble for a touchdown in the dying minutes,  he stared at me for a few seconds, and then slowly nodded.  The interview went well.

We did make it to The Garlic Clove for a wonderful dinner, those four years ago, on the heels of a Rider victory.  As the Riders sit 2-0 today, after a very impressive win over Calgary on Saturday, I have every intention of feeding my CFL and Rider addiction.  I live in Rider Nation, after all.