Thursday, March 28, 2013

Wandering through a Workshop

Lately I have been helping out at the Sussex Corner Elementary School's breakfast program.  This is a great program that provides kids whose parents can't currently provide them with breakfast.  I feel blessed to help out with this program.  While there, I was approached by a staff person from the District and she asked if I'd be interested in providing a writing workshop to two middle school groups.  I jumped at the chance to expand my skill set and writing portfolio.

Last summer I provided a workshop to a small group of adults and felt pretty good about what I had presented.  I edited this past material to suit the younger crowd and to meet the time requirements I had.  The night before the workshops I got really nervous and began to question my own ability.  When I awoke in the morning I had a good breakfast and once I stepped into the Sussex Middle School library I was ready or I was hoping I was ready.

The day went off without a hitch and I was able to take 15 boys from Sussex Middle School out around the trail and along Trout Creek.  This followed the brief 1/2hour presentation I gave and in which I was surprised at how well behaved the boys were.  They enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and listened intently as I gave them my perspective on how I observe and write about nature.  I encouraged them to use all five of their senses and take in the smells, the sounds, the colors, textures, and tastes and to mentally note how they feel.

When we returned to the classroom we gave the boys some time to write a piece that I would review.  It was amazing to me to watch the majority of these boys sit and focus on writing.  It was more amazing to read some of what they wrote.  One young man wrote from the perspective of the black capped chickadee that we observed and he was incredibly detailed in the descriptions he provided from that view point.  When I did the same exercise for the kids in Belleisle, I was again impressed with the material the boys created.  I dare say that one student there was more intellectual than I was and wrote poetically about our short trip up a hill and through a spruce stand.  Another boy wrote a spine tingling piece about a "stalking crow" that had me feeling a mix of emotions that was both awe of the setting and fear of what was to come.

It was rewarding for me to put on these workshops.  It was encouraging to see the material these young men wrote and while I don't think I had a big role in that, I am hopeful that through my influence they will continue to write and embrace that skill.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Way to Go Sonics

This entry was published in the March 26, 2013 edition of the Kings County Record.  Since press time the Sonics lost in the cross-over game against Fredericton but despite that, the kids have created their legacy that they will talk about for years to come.  Way to go guys.  I really wish I had a good picture from my high school hockey days I could share, maybe on a later post.

High school was an exciting time for me.  It was an easy time too.  I had very little responsibility, I attended lots of social functions (a mature way to say parties), and I played a ton of sports.  I was a multi-sport athlete but my heart and soul went into playing hockey.  As luck would have it recently I was taken down memory lane and I wanted to acknowledge the contribution my high school hockey team had on me and now more recently, the current Sonic Boy's hockey team.
The 2013 Sonic boy's hockey team recently won the NB Southern Conference hockey championship and I want to congratulate them for that big victory.  I know how hard these boys worked to make that happen.  My Mom used to shake her head in frustration I'm sure as I would put twice the effort into hockey practice than my school work or chores.  The early morning practices twice a week, an afternoon practice, and then one or two games a week were physically demanding but I loved every minute of it.  The bus rides to St. Stephen with pranks and jokes and lots of heavily exaggerated stories, the excessively loud voices and laughter in the dressing rooms, and the warm up music all still sit fresh in my memory banks.  When I think about those days a smile creeps over my face and then I turn a little sullen as I think about what might have been.
In my senior year we came close.  We won the regular season championship only to be denied in the playoffs.  We were played out and struggled with injuries but made no excuses.  We won as a team and we lost as a team, thanks to all that time on the bus.  That group of guys, even today, likely feel a connection that will always be there because when one was disappointed we all were.
As I write this the Sonics are prepping to play a winner take all regional crossover game against the four time defending Provincial champions, Fredericton Black Cats.  Tonight I bet the boys struggle to get to sleep.  They'll be distant from those around them as they put their focus on the game ahead of them.  Right before the puck drops their stomachs will do a quick flip as their heart starts to race.  Once the puck hits the ice its game on and muscle memory, competitive drive, and adrenaline takes over.  The aches and pains from the regular season disappear for 60 minutes as they put the team before themselves.  There is little difference at this point between sweat and tears as their emotions are bared and raw.  Late in the game when their muscles can no longer push them, their emotions power them on, and allow them to find that last needed effort.
For the seniors it is so much more than just a hockey game.  It is a chance to create a legacy that will live in the halls of the school and the dressing rooms of the rink for years to come.  Win or lose the Sonic hockey team should be proud as they have already won a number of games but they have built up each other and made each other stronger.  Way to go guys.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Cherishing Many Moments

I love weekends where I have nothing planned.  I'm not much of a planner anyways and prefer to "wing things" or "go with the flow."  The only thing I had planned for this weekend was to coach a hockey game for the "Wolfpack."  I should state they won the game handily.  Outside the hockey game I had nothing going on.  My wife was taking my son to a chess tournament Saturday morning so I thought...or my daughter thought..."Yay!  A daddy/daughter day." 

I couldn't let her down and I know she loves a picnic so we got up and had a good breakfast and then packed our picnic.  She helped me make a couple of sandwiches, PB&J for her and ham and cheese for me.  We packed some drinks, fruit and granola bars.  We packed up and away we went.  I had no idea where we were going but just walked out the door and headed off.

It was colder than previous days but she was still eager to go and her short legs followed me across the street and into the wooded area behind the Sussex Corner Elementary School.  The dog was happy to be off her leash and sprinted back and forth in front of us.  We watched birds flit amongst the poplar and birch trees in front of us.  The thin ice layers on the mud puddles cracked and creaked under the heat of the morning sun.  It was a morning that filled the senses and my daughter brought youth and humor to the whole scene.

We worked our way up along the farm fields of the Dutch Valley and then crossed the road and headed up parallel to the Mill Brook Road.  We through a frisbee for the dog and she chased it and would set it down.  Shaylee and I would then race to get it.  I couldn't believe how much energy her three year old body had.  In a cedar grove along Mill Brook we sat and enjoyed a morning snack.  She found a snow covered hill and decided to slide down on her bum.  She climbed the short hill, I bet, 15 times, and giggled every time.

We continued hiking and I pointed out trees and told her the names and she eagerly soaked up everything I passed on to her.  It was an awesome bonding time for us but it had to come to an end and it was too cold to have Shaylee out for a picnic so I surprised her by ending the hike at her grandparents.  We enjoyed hot chocolate and our sandwiches.

Shaylee shared her stories with her grandparents and it was now my turn to soak it in.  It is important to cherish moments like these and I was doing my best to do so.  Hopefully this blog will help do that.  That afternoon I went to the rink to coach the hockey game and share moments with my son, who also did admirably well in his first chess tournament.

Bonding on the Bus

I have had a great year coaching hockey this year and I think the boys have a similar feeling.  It was a great weekend not long ago that prompted this blog entry.  I hope you enjoy it
I've poured my cup of tea and have formed a column idea so now to put it on paper.  It has been a great winter and I was able to get out a number of times on snow shoes and have spent time just taking in snow covered hills and frozen fields while an eagle or crow flew over head and snowflakes gently fell.  I've spent time in various arenas in our region and even a couple at Harbor Station during a Seadogs game or two.  That is where my inspiration for this column comes from.  Not the Seadogs necessarily, unfortunately they are having an off season, but from a particular trip I made to a game with the Novice 1 team I'm coaching. 

Thanks to the great support from a number of the kid's parents we were able to take a Tim Horton's tour bus to Saint John for a Sunday afternoon game between the Seadogs and the Voltigeur.  It was a defensive game won by the Volts 1-0.  The boys all sat and cheered loudly and some of them got their faces on the score board.  I continually laughed as some danced and acted silly while some sat and analyzed the game and it struck me how different the kids were yet they all got along so well.

After the game was over we hung out for a bit and the boys were invited down to skate with the Seadogs players.  I went from being amazed at how well mannered and behaved my team of 7 year old boys were to being stunned at how accommodating the 17-21 year olds from the Seadogs were.  They chatted with many of the kids and signed tons of autographs while wearing a smile, despite the tough loss they just played through.  It was also neat to see how much of an impression these junior players had on the Initiation and Novice players that had been given the chance to attend the skate.  Many of the kids I coach were continually coming up to me showing off the autograph they just got on their jersey or game ticket and they didn't need teeth whitener because the glow in their cheeks brightened their smiles better than any toothpaste could.

The bus ride home was full of laughter as most of the kids, who on the way to the game hung more with their parents or tighter friends, now all grouped together towards the back of the bus.  It was then when I saw how certain events helped bond youth and I felt blessed to have been able to help provide this moment for them.  For many of these kids they will play a tournament at the end of March where most of the team is booked in a hotel and likely this will turn into another bonding experience.  If they are anything like my self, they'll share memories they'll remember for a lifetime.

Any sport or team activity provides various bonding experiences.  No doubt you already know that but in case you don't, I suggest you try a team activity or simply taking a road trip with a number of acquaintances.