Channeling John Boy

We did an exercise at Les Mis rehearsals last week that included reflecting on a kindness that was done to us that proved to be a game changer.  As I've grown older, and through certain workshops, life experiences and mentors, I've learned to trust my instincts when it comes to probing important questions like this one.

What instantly came to mind was opening up a Christmas present from my brother-in-law Michael and his wife Kathryn in 2009.  You see, several years before I started this blog - now 860 posts along - I wrote regular dispatches to family and friends, first by email and eventually posted on a blog, called the "Wood Buffalo Update".  They had gathered these stories and pictures over two full years and had them published in a book.

It was one of the rare times when I was speechless and completely moved.  I think it jumped to mind as a game changing kindness in that it encouraged me to keep writing and exploring, starting the Middle Age Bulge blog the following day.

I continue to write the Wood Buffalo Update, though not as frequently as I once did.  Now a once-every-couple-of-months endeavour, it lives on a blog site which I direct about 200 people to via an email.  It's not that it's locked down or anything like that, it's just that it is a more personal narrative of our lives, and likely wouldn't be of interest to the general reader.

While I don't get many responses to it, my Uncle Joe always sends a note of appreciation and encouragement back, as do several others.  Joe often teasingly refers to me as 'John Boy", referencing the famous narrator and writer from "The Waltons" television series. As that was my favourite character in the show, I especially appreciate the playful comparison.

"Write what you know," said Mark Twain.

When I get stuck, or if I'm in that moment between waking and getting my first cup of coffee, those words pass through my brain and heart.  Inevitably something appears - a word, a phrase, a title that leads to a post.

I'm seeing a lot of chatter and blog posts about the recent decision by Canada Post to declare a $5 surcharge for every parcel coming to Fort McMurray.  I haven't written about it, not because I'm in favour of it, rather because I haven't taken the time to fully understand the issue.  Several of my colleagues have, and I'm happy to share their perspectives rather than feeling the need to create one of my own.

I much prefer writing about stuff that I know well or have a unique perspective about.  Chronicling our theatrical journeys is a great example of something I enjoy doing tremendously.  The Farnsworth Chronicles, Journey to Hometown and now, To the Barricades, provide a unique window into the process of putting a show on stage that seems to be enjoyed by participants, parents, friends and relatives.

I equally enjoy writing about social media, family, self-improvement, and various other subjects that seem to come naturally to me.  Writing about my political adventures,comes easy as does writing about certain local issues.

I also love writing about the arts, a subject that I've been exploring for a very long time.  I wrote an arts column for the Fort McMurray Today when I was publicist of Keyano Theatre, long before any of my other writing venues.  I'm thrilled to be back doing that on behalf of Arts Council Wood Buffalo with articles appearing weekly in the Saturday Today.

Writing, in almost any form, is one of the great joys of my life.  I'm learning as I go along and am slowly getting better.  I still goof up from time to time, publishing something with glaring spelling or sentence structure errors, but certainly less than I did before.  It is the activity that starts most of my days, usually between 6:30 am - 7:30 am, when the rest of my family is still asleep and before the craziness of the day begins.


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