The Days Before Tomorrow. 30 Years Later and a Call to Action

It’s now 11 years and a week or so since she passed, and now 30 years since that fateful summer when we first met. That special relationship put myself and her children on a path that I never could have foreseen.

Though lovers be lost

Though lovers be lost. I never forgot this poem as it always reminded me of her.

I haven’t written much about the kids this year, especially as I’ve only seen them twice. As I’ve explained, they’re not mine through blood or law, but they are of my heart nevertheless. In every way that truly matters to me and to them, we are family, and they’ve taught me so much about how it is to be a proud father.

Terry completed his stage in Las Vegas, and then extended it, and then extended it once again. He’s on leave of absence from culinary school now, simply because he was encouraged to travel and learn under some of the best in the culinary world. He’s in England, doing a stage on a culinary level that simply stuns me. There are no words I can express to describe the heights he will achieve.

Georgia is in year 2 studying law, the very degree her own mother couldn’t complete due to the events long ago. In a moment of face palm humor and frustration, she continues to show the stubbornness, passion and brilliance that her mom possessed. You see, she introduced to me her new boyfriend, another Chinese kid who I swear resembles me a little. But this time, he seems to genuinely love her, and they met through the same law program. Of course, I warned him as a father to take good care of her or else, but he already knew better than to upset her. She’s going to be brilliant, but I admittedly look forward to see her walk the aisle in a white dress.

Every Dad's Dream

Every Dad’s Dream

But that’s not the purpose of this blog, and why I returned to the Days. The real story is why that chance meeting 30 years ago continues to guide my life even now.

As you’ve probably read, I’m running for office now. I wasn’t planning to, but I discovered that I had to. There’s the classic saying, “All it takes for Evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” But while I subscribe to such dramatic thoughts, I believe that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it far better:

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

I’ve always tried to be a defender for others. I see that the highest aspiration of a person is to serve his or her fellow citizen and found that the problems we see in life is very often rooted in silence. I simply want to serve my city, my home and make it just a little better each day, and to speak out to hopefully inspire others to act and do the same.

Now, I have a chance to serve and make a real difference on a great scale. There are so many causes that matter to me. Education. Equality rights. The future of Calgary. Small business. My friends and family. So many and more… and to make a difference, I choose to stop being someone who spoke from the audience into someone who wants to speak truth to power. This truly unique opportunity has come up, an invitation to run for office and have a voice where it matters.

Why am I standing up for what I believe in, when others could have been content from the sidelines? It was Terry who inspired me. He took the chance and had the bravery to come out to me, telling me a truth where so many other children found themselves ostracized, beaten, abused or even banished as my friend, photographer Kelly Hofer. With this decision, he showed me what true bravery was, and why I fight now.

One summer long ago, my first love and I kissed. It was a cheeky french kiss at a time where I was helpless while pretending to demonstrate mouth-to-mouth rescue breathing. It was a kiss full of mischief, joy and bold acts of young love and sweet moments. It put me on a path, through her legacy, that guided me to this moment of perfect clarity and the bravery to act.

The First Kiss

The First Kiss

To my wife, my friends, my city, the people of Calgary-Glenmore, and the bravery of a young man who I love as my own son, I dedicate myself to serve, to inspire others, and most importantly, I choose to lead. I am Terry Lo, a dreamer fighting to make a great Calgary into reality, and I want to be your MLA.  And this is a call to action to all, and I beg of you to stop being neutral or silent. Help me, be brave and stand up and act.

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The Story of the Days Before Tomorrow and the Children

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 1 – An Introduction

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 2 – Shattered

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 3 – Betrayal and Hurts

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

The Days Before Tomorrow, The 10th Anniversary of Her Passing

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An Anatomy of YYC Burger Week

YYC Burger Week, the little event that could. Founded by Sabahat Naureen (First Founder), myself as @calgarydreamer (co-founder) and Chris Karaplis, the mysterious promo shy man in the shadows, we were all former Montrealers who had found our home, and our hearts here in Calgary. But as much as we did, it didn’t seem to be enough to simply just be here. We had to help, but just didn’t know how.

The YYC Burger Week Logo

The YYC Burger Week Logo

In 2012, while on a routine visit to Montreal, Sabahat had visited Montreal, and partaken in their own Burger event. It was an in-house event, dedicated to simply self-promotion of the restaurants with a competition aspect. However, as I understand it, there was no charity aspect. With that, a light bulb went off in her head, and she came back wondering about how to make this event come into fruition in Calgary. Finding that no one else was even thinking of a similar idea, she started to put out little feelers here and there to assemble a team to organize the event. Seeing a kindred spirit, and a burger lover myself, I was the first volunteer right away.

I’ve known Sabahat and Chris for almost a year by then. Sabahat and I were members of the Yelp Elite, assembled by our friend and current world traveler Wendy Peters, and Chris had attended as Sab’s date often.  I had no idea who the heck was the people I would meet at the first meeting, and was shocked to find out that it was them. That January 2013, the work began. We managed to assemble 16 restaurants and parlay what strengths we had into a city wide festival. Sabahat was always stronger in terms of openness and self-promotion, but I was the one who had the restaurant connections, and usually preferred to be the overall support as well. More importantly, I had a good working relationship with the chefs which we all ran with. Chris, ever hiding in the background and preferring anonymity, designed the back end with the initial website and voting system.

The Competitors

The Competitors

We hemmed and hawed, Sabahat ever being the most ambitious one (I believed we needed months to prepare… we actually managed to get 95% of the work done in WEEKS). We all agreed, there was no way on earth we were going to promote a chain like McDonald’s and the like, and wanted to highlight the local talent and the best that Alberta agriculture had to offer. We designed a system of 16 restaurants being voted in by the public and hoped that by making the voting a little annoying (needing a unique email per vote) that it would reduce the cheating. We contacted 8 local charities (it would have been 9 as we almost signed up 18 restaurants, but we just couldn’t wait any longer for their legals).

The 2013 Nainalicious Winning Burger

The 2013 Nainalicious Winning Burger

Despite that, we were still pretty new at this sort of game. Understandably, some restaurants had considered us to be questionable as it was the inaugural year. Some were just too busy, although even now we would LOVE to see them enter and we would gladly invite them again and again. But then there were the one or two who were actually pretty insulting. I’ve heard some rumors that a few thought they weren’t invited because I disliked them personally. Nope, if anything, there were simply too many restaurants that we sent invites in 2 waves, with a 3rd had it been necessary. Once the initial 16 spots were full, it was done. But then again, that’s the name of the game really.

The competition started, and it wasn’t without a few hiccups, but with such fantastic people as Anju’s Roy Oh (missing you this year), downtownfood’s Darren Maclean, Notable’s Michael Noble and more, it came across as a triumph. Still there were a few more problems, but it was a great week.

In the end? We raised over $6300 in a week of burger frenzy. We were a bit too ambitious in terms of charitable givings as we had tried to promote EIGHT charities at once. To try to spread the funds evenly, we partnered them with 2 restaurants each, one that we considered a heavyweight to every newbie, but it didn’t work entirely the way we wanted. Still, everyone got a lot of promo, and we had cemented ourselves as part of Calgary history, even if just for a brief blip in time. More importantly, a great story came about as little Naina’s Kitchen, the smallest and the least known of all 16 places, came out the 2013 Champion. Looking at owner Erin’s face was worth it all, and we couldn’t have been more pleased.

This year, it was much easier, but far more ambitious. We asked over 50 restaurants to join, but put in a caveat that it was a first come first serve basis. Originally we were shooting for 20, with only 2 categories in the $10 and $15, but as the names came in, we soon found that would be impossible. We ended up selecting 30 competitors, and learned from the previous year to ensure a great selection for our participants by adding the $20 category. Again, we also dared the chefs to come up with something unique, something special. It had bothered us a little that in Year One, many of the restaurants simply put up an existing burger on their menu up for the challenge. But this year? They REALLY stepped up, with so many imaginative takes on burgers made of elk, bannock, cranberries, sprouts, hemp, lobster, pork, beef of all sorts and cuts, foie gras, ramen, bao, mac n’ cheese, pepper steak, ahi tuna and more. It always surprises me by the creative energy of our chefs, and how wonderful it is to be a part of that scene in our small way. And to help promote such creativity, we created the Burger Ambassadors, comprised of some of the best food writer, personalities and bloggers in Calgary. They’ve done a great job, and their comments have help the diners choose their preferences.

Blowfish Sushi Lounge's Ramen Burger

Blowfish Sushi Lounge’s Ramen Burger

We also started looking for funding again, since we thought that it might not be as hard as last year, but was surprised that it was actually even harder as our contacts for many organizations had changed, and had to re-justify ourselves. More so, while YYC Burger Week came about, so did literally dozens of other new food festivals, and we ended up having to compete ourselves in a much bigger forum.

But as a wise man once said… the universe will listen. Things will work out somehow.

It did. We still worked on everything, and refused to compromise on our principals to promote Alberta restaurants, talent and produce. I wager that if we were willing to do so, funding would probably would have been a lot easier, but then, what would have been the point? We are CALGARY STRONG. It’s our home, and we wanted dearly to be at the heart of it all. More importantly, we found ourselves ever more in love with our city, and found inspiration in the people that united for those shining moments after the Floods. There would be NO compromise.

The team also expanded this year, with great new members joining in. Wanda Baker, noted food blogger of Baker’s Beans, came in with her knowledge and experience, and insight on how to approach matters while ensuring that the t’s were crossed and the i’s were dotted. Trevor Gibbons, our surprise Unofficial Judge in the Bacon Suit in 2013, also leaped in, and brought in a new energy and great ideas to promote our festival. More members with unique strengths still joined in, and now we number 11 strong. It’s a great team, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

With those skills, connections and energy, and the excited inclusion of ATB Agriculture, we found our little festival now stood toe to toe with some of the best festivals in the city. To date as I write this, there has been literally THOUSANDS of tweets, and who knows how many people out there roaming the city, discovering new and old restaurants for the first time, and personally challenging themselves to try all THIRTY burgers (for those who are doing so, I recommend our next festival YYC Soup and Salad Week…). We’ve been in tv, radio, print, and online all over the city. The restaurants are being lauded, tried out and challenged creatively in a fun and unusual way. And at the heart of it all, the 3 charities chosen this year will greatly benefit from the exposure and the funds.

So that’s really that for now. YYC Burger Week is almost at it’s 1/2 way point, and we’re seeing such an incredible energy through the city as people run into the restaurants with their passports. We love it. I love it.

To Calgary, from the 3 founders and the 8 new committee members, this is our labour of love, and our gift to the city. And we can’t wait until 2015.

Bon Appetit. And don’t forget to stamp your passport and VOTE by RATING your favorite burgers!

Adventures in the Spy Biz: Reflection on the Final Days

Seven years. I’ve been involved in the Spy business for 7 years, and it comes to a relative end in 2 weeks.

Image

Always watching through the windows when you least expect it

In 7 years, I’ve been involved in at least 4-5 police investigations involving murder, assault or kidnappings. I’ve assisted in a number of child abuse cases, or at least made it possible for the parent to do the work themselves. I’ve helped prevent at least 2 child abductions, and helped family members find out if their son or daughter was into drugs, planning secret parties or being cyber-bullied. As for infidelity or other stuff, I can’t even begin to count the number of cases I’ve either directly or indirectly been involved in.

In the end, as my time here comes to an end (not 100% immediately, I’ll still do the odd case or two or assist with my successor to complete existing contracts that started in my time), I wonder what did I learn?

Well, the first thing is… unless you work for a corporation or contracted to one, it’s not exactly the most glamorous job in the world. For every interesting case involving police work, there are 10 jobs involving husbands or wives cheating. It’s not so much James Bond as it’s the cheekier side of Magnum PI. In my last entry under “Adventures”, there tended to be a lot of times that would involve long hours watching a hotel or sneaking around a place in the middle of the night to plant tracking devices, cameras and the like.

Next, you find out that Hollywood has completely misconstrued everything to be a world where there are tracking devices the size of sugar cubes that work around the world and need absolutely zero power. For example, those wireless portable cameras that Lisbeth uses in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. How the hell did those cameras operate? Battery power on wireless cameras work for a matter of HOURS, not days, not weeks as suggested. If they applied the real rules, then the cameras would have run out of power long ago and her journalist friend would have been murdered. There’s Hollywood, and the laws of physics. I would bet on those laws every day. One special note though, the tools and the gear has improved a lot though, even from when I first started my work.

Finally, there’s always an anterior motive. It doesn’t matter who and what case, there always is one. I won’t comment on the Police ones out of respect to the inspectors who have a hard enough time as it is, but there have been too many cases from other Private Investigators and the public at large to not have seen this. I’ve found that without knowing that motive, a client’s case would linger for weeks, even months. I’ve had cases go for over 5 years because I was directed to look in one direction without knowing the other. Sure they pay well, but you just want to have the closure eventually.

So, as my time comes soon to an end, I wonder, was it worth it? I know that a huge chunk of my soul has been bruised in ways that I can never describe. The look of horror of that woman when she found out how her child was being drugged. The knowledge that no matter what I do, often the client refuses to help themselves and endure unspeakable abuse. The regular disappointments by occasional clients that despite retrieving what they needed, they lack the courage to take it that last step. But in the end, I think yes. Despite what my family and friends who disapproved of the job, in the end, I can honestly say that I was in a position to help far more than most. That’ll be the thought that will follow me.

But if I’m so melancholy of the time I spent as a spy of sorts, how did I manage for so long? People in Calgary know me as a social media person, a regarded foodie and Calgary booster. That description probably fits me well, but little do people know that all of this wasn’t just me being a particularly involved with things, it was my life line. While the infidelity stuff can be funny, more often than not, it was simply tragic. It’s a world where there are legions of broken hearts, misplaced anger and residual damage in the lives any children involved. I needed the social media world, a dynamic arena of minds and spirits the world over to keep me engaged with the brighter parts of life. I needed to be a foodie, not simply because I truly enjoy good food and the passions involved with cooking, but to give me a means to brighten the horizons of others through the simple communion of a shared meal. As for being a Calgary booster, that was easy. For every one case I dealt with, there were 100 Calgarians making the lives of one another a better place. If anything, the people of Calgary bring me hope that there are happy families out there, lovers enjoying the simple joys and artists creating art and music. To this incredible city, thank you, and I promise to continue to serve.

The Days Before Tomorrow / The New Frontiers – 1 Year Since We Met Again

Almost 10 years ago, the woman I first loved had died in a stupid car accident. She left me her 2 kids to care for as my own, only to have those plans torn apart, and divided them from me supposedly for good.

Last Christmas, after finding and watching me on social media, they contacted me in the hopes to rebuild a relationship though in what nature, only time will say.

As can be read in the New Frontiers, we’ve met in Vancouver. It was awkward. very strange but liberating as well. Even though the two weren’t raised by me, I can see my influence in their deeds and the way they act. More importantly, when I look into their eyes, I can so see the eyes of their mother in my mind’s eye. In some ways… it genuinely hurts, as every time I look at them, I wonder about the path not taken and the ghosts of Christmas past.

Terry, the older one, has turned out to be the son of my heart. As my fellow Calgarians can attest to, I’ve become a recognized foodie in the city (no, not a famous one, but it’s nice to be one of the crowd). Terry has turned out to be quite a chef-in-making, and is well on his way of getting his red seal while still completing his culinary studies. He’s apprenticed at 2 of Canada’s best restaurants, and now has an opportunity to work in Las Vegas under a truly legendary chef. Needless to say, you’ll hear about him a decade from now. I’m sure of it. Strangely enough, he’s actually working on a unique style that can only be found in the streets of New Orleans, a Cajun/Creole/Asian style. His crawfish po-boy with hoisin sauce is still a work in progress, but his updated version of bread pudding using Asian steamed bread is honestly to die for.

Georgia… ah Georgia… She’s her mom’s daughter. She’s smart, pretty, opinionated and multi-talented like heck. She’s mastered the flute, guitar and piano, loves cheesy movies and has some pretty interesting dance moves. More importantly, she’s taken the path not taken by her mom, and Is actually studying law on a full scholarship. Unfortunately, she’s also willful, headstrong and given to passionate actions that aren’t particularly well thought through. Yep… that’s her mom in there. Strangely enough, that’s exactly how I always expected a daughter of mine would be like.

What can I say, I love them both, though I’ve tried to establish the ground rules that I’m NOT their dad. That ship has long passed as I wasn’t there when It mattered. But, they both still insist to call me Dad as well… and they know that somewhere in my heart, I always wanted them to be mine.

Since the last update, it’s been an interesting time. I’m still learning all about them, and they’ve become open with their thoughts, their beliefs and their secrets. For example, Terry, it turns out is gay. He had the bravery to finally come out in October, and is now proudly showing that he’s accepted himself for who he is, and I couldn’t be happier for him. Fortunately, he’s also talking to a “Dad” Terry of 2013/2014 who has rejected religion altogether, which is in large part because of the stance against the LBGT community. I am proud to be the “dad” of a gay son, because it’s him at his essence. His boyfriend seems to be a nice sort, though I admittedly have no clue how to act in some ways. I always ran the scenarios of meeting the boyfriend with a daughter in mind over the years in my head, so it just feels a little odd to apply the same questions knowing it’s for a son instead. Still, they seem like a good couple, and let’s see where this goes.

Georgia, well, that’s a new story altogether. I can’t really explain the whole story STILL because there are some legal implications, but she’s happily married at 18 (note: I reallllly didn’t approve of it officially, but mostly because I think she’s so young). She had gotten married literally a few months ago, and had expected me to give her away. I had refused because I didn’t think it was my place, after all, her real dad is still around. In the end, NEITHER father attended since we both were in agreement that we didn’t think this was right. But, I did make the effort to at least call and talk to her. Her father didn’t. I guess that’s why Georgia and I are still on speaking terms.

How she can manage a part time job as a waitress, study at law school, and still be such a young wife at her age is still totally beyond me. Just in case, the economy box of condoms I passed on to her for Christmas should give her the hint to be sure to not get pregnant for now! (And YES, I DID send that for Xmas… and flowers). Her husband, well…. I see him as a bit of a flake really, but that’s more due to the fact that I really can’t relate to him. He sees the world from the eyes of an artist, a painter, while I tend to try to see things in a more straightforward manner. Ah well, when I visit in January, maybe I’ll drag him out to a bar and get him really blotto so I can interrogate him properly.

As for me? I’m about to start a new adventure of my own after 7 years in investigations and security. Hopefully this will give me more time to properly explore my relationship with my kids. Being in different cities makes it difficult, but not impossible. But either way… they are my kids in every way that matters. I love them… and I really especially thank my wife for being so understanding in a situation she never expected or wanted… but supports me anyways.

In the meantime, thanks for following the Days, the Frontiers and the rest. The story continues on….

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The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 1 – An Introduction

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 2 – Shattered

The Days Before Tomorrow, Interlude

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 3 – Betrayal and Hurts

The Days Before Tomorrow, Pt 4 – Those Left Behind

The Days Before Tomorrow, Epilogue and Answers

The Days Before Tomorrow, Afterword

Memories from My Youth – Her Pilgrim Face

I will be returning to the ongoing saga that is my stepchildren and eventually to some of the more interesting cases I had been involved in. My daughter is now in a different quandary, while my son seems to have found his place. But today, as the first snow hits Calgary, this event in my life came to mind, and it was time this story was told.

I hate those days when you’re walking into a wind so fierce that the snow and the rain fly sideways. Days that the wind bites deep, and the skin of your face turns ice-cold. Days like that one long ago, where I was old enough to feel invulnerable and confident. One particular day, when I met her.

I was trudging along Sherbrooke St in my beloved home of Montreal on a miserable February afternoon.  I was just blocks away from the closest Metro station, but it may as well have been miles away based on what I was feeling. Icicles had literally started to form on my eyebrows as the snow melted and froze on my face. It was only 4pm, but the night had already come and the street lights struggled to provide light to lead the way for my fellow pedestrians.

Montrealers are born to the cold, the snow and the tests of winter life. Strangely enough, it’s bred in our DNA to also be defiant to some of the most sensible laws, such as jaywalking. One of my favorite writers once noted, that while waiting for Pierre Trudeau for lunch, Mr. Trudeau had crossed the road in mid-block, and impressed upon my friend on how much a Montrealer that our once Prime Minister was. This was no different, despite the poor conditions, the dark and unfortunately, the miserable road condition that led to a car to careen off the street, and strike a small child who was trying to jaywalk.

Her body had flown a good 10-15 feet down the street, and just near where I stood. The car that struck her had come to a full stop, a stunned driver motionless behind the wheel. As I looked down first at the girl, then from side to side, the enormity of the situation had still not come to realization for anyone near.

I ran to her side and mumbled incoherently to the broken doll on the ground. She still breathed, whimpering at the pain induced upon her, warm tears quickly turning cold. I grabbed her hand, and continued to try to comfort her, though to what kind of effect was debatable at best. But as each moment that passed, the accident had gathered a crowd, all watching from a safe distance while I knelt down onto the icy street to be with her as oncoming traffic still sped by, paying little heed to us both in the dark and the snow.

Seconds ticked by awkwardly as there was naught that I could do, save wait, and hope, and in another lifetime, even prayed silently in my head, still trying to give comfort to the little girl before me. I didn’t care, and hadn’t even given the danger a second thought. All that mattered was her, and as I held her hand tight, the seemingly slow realization that she was already fading. It wasn’t going to be much longer, and while I was useless to her medically and probably even emotionally, I knew that I just wasn’t going to let her pass away alone.

Fortunately, the Queen Elizabeth hospital was near, just a few hundred feet and sadly, a lifetime away. Paramedics arrived and ordered me to give them space. I didn’t. I couldn’t. Even as I tried to comply, I felt her hand grow tighter refusing to let me go. And as time grew tighter, what choice did they have really. There I stayed, and followed her into the waiting ambulance and to the emergency ward.

She was now just speaking in halting terms, not understanding what was happening around her, but I like to think she knew what was to be within. Her breaths became laboured, faster, but just above her oxygen mask, she looked at me. It was just for a few seconds, and there was chaos all around as the medic worked on to keep her around that much longer. But it was there. That look.

And then, as we entered the emergency bay, her eyes closed. And through it all… the medic, the sounds, the adrenaline and the crisis, she closed her eyes as if to sleep. I think she knew it was over, and with that knowledge, a calm, a peace came upon her.

The medic then demanded I release her hand so as they could move her to emergency.  But, he needn’t have bothered. She let go of me, all strength gone from her grip.

I stayed there in the hospital a little longer, having become the custodian of the girl’s backpack. I just sat there, quietly as the aches and pains of a people passed before me. I sat there blankly looking at the reception admit this person for their fever, that person for their hurts, The shock of all that occurred had finally hit me, and all I could do was just sit, feeling the cold sweat running under my clothes, shivering a little although I was far insulated from the wind and the snow. I looked inside her bag, and found a few school books, some markers, crayons, a teen mag featuring the New Kids on the Block and so on. All perfectly normal for a kid in grade 4. A few officers walked in, and after reception pointed me out, they came to me with their questions and so on. I answered as best I could, gave them my info, and as I started to leave, handed them her backpack.

She passed the moment she let go of me. I’m sure of it. The papers reported the accident as the week passed, but she died before me, her hand taking comfort with mine. I didn’t know much more, but her final look to me was one that has always haunted me to this day… one more ghost that hides behind my eyes. But unlike the other spirits I’ve since lost, her’s will always inspire me in a different way.

When she passed, despite her young age, she didn’t show a look of fear or loss. It wasn’t a look based out of pain or agony. What she showed me in mere seconds was a look based in serenity, of acceptance. Her pilgrim face was all the words I could say to describe her, one of innocence and wisdom all at once. And she showed me a bravery I only wish I could have myself.

Do you know me personally? Have you ever shook my hand, shared bread with me or shared in my adventures? When muttering to myself during Dragon Boat practice, I spoke out loud to the imaginary Powers that be, “why does things [weird, exciting or interesting events] always seem to happen to me?” My dear friend Heather quickly replied, that it’s because things don’t just happen, but it’s because I run into them with my arms open wide. She was right. She IS right. And that small little girl a long time ago is why.

That’s all the lesson I needed or wanted to know as a teen. Time is fleeting, and the fates that be can be cruel and sudden, so do what can be done. And when my time comes, it will be with bravery inspired by her.

The State of Terry 2013: Taking Stock… One Hell of a Year

Wow.  43. I’m surprised I made it.

In this year, I’ve hit some pretty interesting milestones, some that were kinda expected, but most that had blindsided me entirely. Most have been a true honour to have accomplished or achieved, and some are still pending. But as is, it’s probably going to be one of the most memorable as life goes.

This year:

– After years of dragon boating (I started in my late 20s!!!), my team, The Red Eyes Paddling Club, has finally come out into it’s own, and has taken a festival outright. No consolation, B, C, D, E or whatever… it’s a clear outright win.  Only a few weeks later, we followed up with that by being clearly the Bronze winner in another. Incredible.

– I’ve taken the social media lessons I learned the summer of 2012 and ran with it. I’ve always been comfortable as being a relatively altruistic type of person, but usually in the shadows. With social media, those same actions have led me into a whole new world where I can actually influence opinion and help on a scale I never could have reached before. (Yes, it’s probably a bit narcissistic as well, but damn it, to me if whatever I can do can genuinely have an impact, then why not.)

– Employment… well… I’m still here at Spy, though I’ve long since branched out into investigations. The difference before was that in the past, I did the work based purely on the odd occasional referral. Now I get regular requests for P.I. stuff all the time (I still pick and choose though).

– YYC Burger Week – now THAT was a hell of an experience. One of the co-founders of an honest to goodness city-wide festival! I had 3 tv appearances while the big brain herself, Sabahat, had 2 tv ones and a bunch of newspaper and radio ones as well. More importantly, we raised over $7000, sold over 6000 burgers, and gave 16 charities and restaurants a ton of free publicity. I’m seriously looking forward to year 2.

– Health – well, there’s always a sword of Damocles out there, but at least I managed to avoid any outright serious illnesses this year thus far. I could be writing this a bit early, but for now, it’ll do.

– Connections – this is a bit related to Social Media, but I’m shocked by the number of connections I’ve made over the year. Honoured with the ING ambassador scarf again, still a Yelp Elite, a member of Awesome Foundation – Calgary’s task force (during the floods) and more, I’m an actual known quantity in the city. And a number of my peers paid me the best compliment ever… that I represent the best that is in Calgary. I was, and still floored by the compliment. There’s quite a few I would say who are far more deserving, but it’s something I hold quite dear to my heart in many ways. As is, it’s inspired me to reach out even more into the Calgary sphere. It’s also inspired my writing, my blog and my new position as the Stories From Our Streets editor of Calgary is Awesome.com.

– Discovery – this was the first year I truly felt that I came out into my own.  In one way, it meant that after so many many years of aspiring to be a knight, this is probably the first year I truly feel I am. There was a classic line that I always took to heart, “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good to stay silent.”  Well, once and for all, I took a stand against everything I was against in one way or another…. so much so, that I was described as an activist even.  Unfortunately, as I know it caused pain to my family, it also included one final affirmation against what I perceive to be a form of injustice in one controversial HUGE aspect of my life… I rejected religion once and for all, and declared that I am an athiest. From pretty staunch beliefs as a Catholic to a 32 yr journey (starting from the sacrement of Confirmation) to secular humanism, for the first time in decades, I honestly ceased to hate myself in a lot of ways. And in this, I found a new found freedom that I never expected.

– the Floods and Home – Despite living here for 10 years, the floods have shown me for the first time that I truly am home. The pure sentiment of other Calgarians trying to help is something I still can’t forget, and still haunts me today. But, Calgary is truly my home, and I want to do my best to help others aspire to that ideal.

And last and definately not least….

– Terry and Georgia. I still have to keep a lot of info about them under wraps, as I want them to have as much of a normal private life as possible. Right now, my readers of their tale number into the hundreds, but as this story unfolds still, it can possibly explode into far far more. All of the anger, sorrow, loss and tears that came from my very odd relationship with my 1st true love, has developed into a new family dynamic, where I get to try my hand at something very new… fatherhood. I’ll never have my chance to be a father with my own kids, but with T & G, I’ve learned that there are different types of parents and different types of familial love. They’re both still young, and they’re learning the mistakes I made. There’s some even bigger revelations which is coming in the next “New Frontiers”, one that I’ve been afforded a singular honour that I embrace wholeheartedly. And as the years go by, and as they eventually will be revealed to the world entire as my “kids”, I can only look forward to the time to come.

So that was the year that was.  As for the year to come?

I’ve got a huge decision coming up. 2014 will be a very different year for me as I’ve found my true passion… one that I plan to follow.  Life with progress with YYC burger week, and me growing and evolving in Calgary life… but for now, it’s a story that will be written with every morning breath.

To my friends, family, and my ever patient gal WK…. it’s going to be a bumpy ride. But with all of you alongside, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

#MondayBlogs – Rants on Faith: What Went Wrong Pt 3

So a few weeks back, I began my explanation on why I left faith and belief in a supernatural being altogether, and embraced what can be proven, explained but more importantly, what was right for me.

I was very much the Catholic zealot at one time. I envied those who gave more of themselves for the greater glory of God, was fearful of eternal flames and so on, I followed the lessons given me, and kept up with the schools of Christian thought. There was what was right and wrong, seen through the rose shaded glasses of the Vatican, and tried my best to follow the tenets. But there was always something that was dissonant between what was taught, and yet what was actually done and what I felt in my gut.

As the years past, there were little things here and there that changed my views ever so slightly. But what made me start on a new path were a few things here and there…

I’ve explained about how science fiction and how the concepts embodied within had put some nagging doubts I’ve had into some form of perspective. The story “Dead Run” especially resonated with me much later in life, that is the concept that I was taught, and the Vatican confirmed after the new Pope’s recent comments, that atheists are doomed to eternal damnation no matter what good they did in life. Add the fact that I had just started dating a non-believer herself, I was getting especially pissed if anything.

That thought stabbed deep in me, as I couldn’t believe a loving God would just gladly damn my then girlfriend to Hell, especially someone fundamentally good as she was.  Worse, there was the thought that at any time since the founding of the Catholic faith, something between 99.9999% (the beginning of Christianity) to 5/6 (modern days) of the world’s population has been doomed to Hell because they were not of the correct faith or by the simple fact that they would have never even had a chance to even hear of Him let alone convert. If God was all powerful, forgiving and loving, then what the HECK was casting the majority of the world’s population to Hell in the last 2000 years. That’s the act of a spiteful child, a cruel sadist and an outright sore loser.

Add my doubts in regards to abortion/women’s rights, women priests, the treatment of the LGBT community, the questionable politics, the ever expanding rape of thousands of children and women by priests and deacons the world over and the resulting deplorable actions and cover-ups by the so-called leadership in the Vatican… and I found that I was on the wrong side both as what I believe to be moral and as a simple human being.

As each scandal went by, each news headline, each action by a bishop, each reply from the Vatican and more, I found myself questioning why was I a Catholic? More so, I have always believed in a modern form of chivalry, whereas defending the right and the weak was what mattered.  This was my state of belief, one foot out, one foot in right into my early-30’s.

What tipped things over was the election of Pope Benedict, the former Nazi pope. With his election, and his dedication to bring the Church back to the 12th century, I found that my membership in the Catholic church completely untenable. I broke off completely, and started to look for a Protestant option. Yes, I still believed in God at that point, but just refused to have anything to do with His chosen agents.

And in this modern age of YouTube and the internet, I would be soon introduced to even more ideas that I never had access as a child, a teen or a college student, that shed more doubt about the Catholic faith, but this time from a roundabout way via the unlikely combination of minds, South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Monty Python’s John Cleese. A particular episode covered the origins of the Mormon faith, which was all founded upon the story of how Joseph Smith found these mystic plates telling of the New Adventure of Jesus in the New World and so on.

South Park – Joseph Smith and the Creation of Mormonism from swingitjack on Vimeo.

I won’t go into it, but it was so incredulous, that I just shook my head in puzzlement for the absurdity of the premise. But not long after, I caught a chance argument between John Cleese and the Catholic Church in an old documentary. In this, Cleese made a key comment about how ridiculous it was for the Catholic Church to follow the books of the Disciples, seeing as they were (go ahead and verify this… won’t take long):

1) Based on scrolls from various ages in various ancient languages, that contradict one another with translation problems galore;

2)  Based on INCOMPLETE knowledge as thousands of other scrolls were deliberately discounted and destroyed by the leaders of the Catholic faith in the 15th century

3) Many of the scrolls and books were written centuries after the original subjects lived, in an age where documentation and recorded history was spotty at best. Virtually all of these were written based on stories told time and time again each generation. Ever play the game Broken Telephone as a kid where the original sentence changes radically only 10-20 people down the line? Now imagine THOUSANDS of people down the line over hundreds of years. I would definitely say there’s some poetic licence involved here.

4) Most of the early scrolls were written by various factions, each who had their own version of the stories involved, and all around the 4th century. It was for this EXACT reason why Constantine convened the Nicean council to get everyone on the same page!

4) Books and scrolls were cherry-picked in the 17th century in what would become the King James Bible, of which the 49-54 or so writers apparently had very specific instructions to make it politically acceptable, and then was “Shakespeare-ized” by Sir Francis Bacon to make it more reader friendly.

So… the modern bible we all were taught with was a translated book, written under various political and personal rules dictated by King James to be acceptable, fluffed up to be easier to read, based on scrolls written in ancient languages in the 4th century, based on retelling of oral stories by hundreds to thousands of people over 400 years, all written by various competing factions with their own agendas, and still cherry picked for what was convenient by the (then) modern church.

This was totally and absolutely absurd. Now every lesson, parable and reading is now called into question, and Christianity as a whole is in some way centered around this??

This was a HUGE hole in my belief in Christianity. Corrupt and vile leadership was one thing, but to know that the documented heart of the religion was so fundamentally flawed was another. So now I was spiritually rudderless so to speak… or was I.  It was then I finally was introduced to Christopher Hitchens.

End of Pt 3