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Category Archives: Writing

Stress is a bad thing right?

Stress [stres]- is a response to environmental pressures or demands (“stressors”), in particular when we feel they are a threat to our coping strategies or well-being. Well, the clinical definition certainly makes it appear a lot better than it actually is, but unfortunately, as we all know, it’s not. People everywhere are either thriving from it, managing it or floundering in it. And the worst kind, mental stress, just doesn’t go away very easily. Dealing with the stress in our lives can be one of the most important things we do.

So, on that gloomy note, what’s stressing you out Dave? Well, I guess the answer would be what isn’t stressing me out. I can tell you for one, it’s not the weather. We’ve officially made it to spring, which is a very good thing and for the most part, it’s been decent month. There’s been a few hiccups here and there, but I am really looking forward to the day all the snow goes, hopefully sooner than later.

Now, I usually complain how busy things are and how tired I am, but lately it has become nuts. The source of a lot of my anxiety is work, more so than usual. What’s the deal you ask? Partly the everyday stuff-classes, marking, you know. However, we are less than two weeks away from our trip to Europe and there are so many little (and big things to worry about).

We had our last parent meeting on Tuesday, and yesterday I spent almost half an hour Skyping with our Tour Director Jason on some details of the trip. We have a few more student meetings coming up before we leave and I need to start the process of packing. The “big stressor” though, is something that is completely out of my control. For security purposes, anyone attending the ceremony had to register with Veterans Affairs Canada who is running the event. We did have some issues with the registration process, but now only 2 of the 26 in our group have received the entry tickets. They were supposed to be sent out by the 21st, but apparently due to computer issues, they are delayed. The revised date in now early next week, which is cutting it close to our departure date. Once they all arrive, and I have them printed out, I will feel much better.

I must say that I am getting excited for our journey in spite of all the issues. The kids are getting very pumped up too, though I can imagine there are some nerves as well. For many, this will be their first trip away from home without their parents. For 11 days, I am “in loco parentis,” which makes me nervous! Amsterdam, Ypres, Vimy, Beaumont Hamel, Normandy and Paris…it’s all going to be great. Having visited many of these places before, I can’t really decide what is my favourite. If I had to choose though, I would certainly say Ypres; I specifically asked to visit the city after our stop at Tyne Cot Cemetery in Passchendaele. It is such a beautiful and historic place. As I have done in the past, I will attempt to blog everyday on the trip. I’ll also be posting updates to social media, so you can follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well.

EF Backpack and Jacket, March 2017.

With all of the school-related things going on, my railway work seems to be a bit of an afterthought. However, I’m still plugging away on the book, albeit more slowly. I have nearly six chapters done, totalling some 18,000+ words. As I have described before, it is a challenge at times. Sometimes I’m on a roll and the words just fly onto the pages. and other times I can stare at the screen and barely manage a few sentences. I think part of my struggle of late has been that the subjects of the chapters have become more complex, which requires me to spend more time revising and clarifying my outline. I just need to remind myself that there is not a huge rush and even Rome was not built in a day.

With the onset of spring, my thoughts have also drifted towards the upcoming hiking season. I still have a number of field work sessions that I need to complete, in particular my plan to locate the final pieces of the Gunflint & Lake Superior grade. I am scheduled to do this during the Victoria Day long weekend, which seems like a long-way away, but will be here before I know it. I do have a few others to complete, but this is the important one which will help my finalize details for the book. Hopefully the weather will cooperate and keep things fairly dry to let do what I need to do.

Anyway, I better get rolling. Lots of things to do. I’ll be back right before we leave for Europe with my final thoughts on the trip. Until then…

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2017 in History, Railway, Travel, Writing

 

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Powering through the doubt

We have all felt it. You may not be feeling it now, but it is there. Nagging. Gnawing. Festering. To not feel it is to be not human; it is unescapable. Some feel it more than others…some are better at hiding it than others. Some thrive on it, while others are consumed by it. It is one little word, but it can massive repercussions. I have felt a lot of it lately, but I’m determined that it not get the best of me.

Hey kids, it’s been a while. It’s hard to believe my last post was a month and a half ago. I had very good intentions of posting weeks ago, but life kept getting in the way…I hate when that happens. Anyway, I am still alive, though insanely busy, but what else is new right? Well, I guess there is a lot that is “new,” which is why I am so busy.

So what’s keeping me occupied you ask? The usual I guess; work, family, breathing, research…the usual stuff. School has definitely been the big one of late. We are a month into the new semester and it feels like I’ve been at it forever. It’s hard to believe we’re almost at March break, though I’m not sure it has all been fun. The last few days in particular have been rough, with open house, an early release day and interim reports. Thank Jesus for the break!

One of the things keeping me occupied at school has been the upcoming trip to Europe. In just over a month, we will be departing on our exciting tour of Europe for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The trip will take us to several places in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. The planning for the trip began almost 3 years ago, and it’s hard to believe it’s almost upon us. Yesterday our fancy tour jackets arrived from EF, and today I was contacted by our Tour Director Jason (he’ll be the guy taking us around). The kids are getting very excited for the journey, and so am I, though tempered with the stress that comes with it. I’ll be sharing more information in my pre-departure post.

On the steps of the Vimy Memorial, March 2014.

On the steps of the Vimy Memorial, March 2014.

It’s funny that our last tour, back in March of 2014, was a welcome relief from the awful weather we were experiencing that year. This time it’s not really an issue. Actually, the weather has been pretty good for Thunder Bay standards; it has been very mild, at times even crazy warm, like +8C, +10C. Even today, which is one the colder days we’ve had recently, was -8C. So I’m not complaining, unless we pay for this some how in the summer.

Things have been very busy on the railway front over the past few months. When I last wrote, I was a few days away from a major presentation at the Thunder Bay Museum. I was very worried about how it would go, but despite my fears, it was fantastic. I played to a full house! I didn’t actually count all the people that were there, but it had to be over 40. We had to keep fetching more and more chairs to accommodate all the people. As far as I could tell, the crowd really enjoyed the lecture and hopefully it will lead to interest in the Pigeon River Lumber Company and the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad when I finish my book.

Now speaking of the book, I am still plugging away at it. As of today, I have completed the better part of 5 of the planned 9 to 10 chapters, which is a decent amount of work. It hasn’t always been easy; there have been times that I really have struggled getting words down on the screen. Writers block? I can’t be entirely sure, as I’ve never written a book before. Some of it, as the title of this post reflects, is a bit of self-doubt. I really wonder at times if it is interesting, makes sense or is even readable. I think my research is sound, I’m just worried if I’m doing a good job putting it together. Lots doubts and questions. However, I’ve come this far and I can’t let that deter me. Sometimes you just must put your head down, power through and hope for the best. I guess I’ll have to see what people think when I’m all done.

Anyway, I should get rolling. Thursday is usually one of my writing nights, so I’d like to get a bit of work done before it’s time for bed. I’ll be back with more news and updates soon, likely before I leave on the trip. Until then…

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2017 in History, Railway, Research, Travel, Writing

 

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The Scary First Step…

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages…oops, wrong blog! Or is it? Not very many people have gone into space, but most us have done what was described in the opening of Star Trek-venturing into the unknown. And while not quite on the same plane as space exploration, our personal journeys are no less imposing and challenging. As well, these personal experiences can generate just as much angst and stress. But we know that without these experiences, we would not grow and mature as people.

Hey, welcome to 2017 kids! It’s a new year, with new challenges and new opportunities. As usual, things are no less busy than they were in 2016. The school semester is winding down, so there are always a million things going on. Next week we will be into exams and soon thereafter we’ll start all over again with a new semester. Hopefully I’ll be able to manage all the stress without burning out too much.

One of the things that is keep me busy of late is planning our upcoming school trip to Europe. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that I’ll be leading 23 students to the Netherlands, Belgium and France for the 100th anniversary commemorations of the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April. We’ve been planning this for nearly 3 years now and it’s hard to believe it’s almost here. I just received our flight information, which makes it all too real. Things are going to get a little crazier as we move closer to our date of departure. You can read more about the trip here.

Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, March 2014.

Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, March 2014.

I guess I would be remiss if I didn’t say something about the weather, which is one of my usual things to rant about. So how has the weather been Dave? Well, how about crazy as usual? It’s all over the place, ranging from low of -30C last week, to highs above 0 this week. Hey, I’m not complaining, but it makes it awfully difficult to get to use to things when there are thirty degree swings in temperature. No climate change huh?

In a break with what has been happening over the past few months, I have done a lot of work on the railway front recently. My goal for the new year was to begin writing my planned book on the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad. I’ve never written a book before; the closest I’ve ever come was my recent article on Leeblain for the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society’s Papers and Records (which, by the way, is now available online). The whole idea is very scary and very intimidating. I am very much out of my element…research is definitely my forte.

Surprisingly, despite my fears, things have gone relatively well. In just over a week of writing, I’ve managed to complete about a chapter and a half. Now, this is not saying that I’m the next Ernest Hemingway and there are Pulitzer Prizes in my future. All I can do my best and hope it turns out well. I have a lot more to write, plus I still have some research and field work to complete. Then I have to convince someone, hopefully the TBHMS, to publish it. I’m not sure when I’ll be finished, but I already have another project lined up.

Speaking of the Gunflint & Lake Superior, I’ll have to take a break from my writing next week to deliver a lecture at the Thunder Bay Museum on this topic. It will be the Canadian debut of this presentation and there appears to be a number of people planning to attend. Hopefully it will generate interest in the book and facilitate its publication.

Anyway, I better go. It’s still early and I can get some more writing done. I’ll be back in a few weeks with all the latest news. Until then…

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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Let the good times roll!

Have you ever felt free? No, not the Mel Gibson Brave Heart sword-throwing blue face paint kind of free…though that is cool. I mean the feeling you get when you don’t have a lot of things of your plate and life is fairly manageable. Yes? No? Well, I must say that I have not had this feeling very often in recent years. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I quite often write about how busy things are and how burnt out I feel. Well, guess what?

So if you haven’t figured it out (or read the last post), I am on sabbatical. Sweet, sweet sabbatical! I’m just finishing up my second week of this and it is fantastic. I could really get used to this for sure! It’s not that I’m doing nothing all day…I’ve actually been quite busy, but there is no work related stress. I’ll get to everything I’ve been and will be up to later, but for now I am enjoying every minute. As the band The Cars once said, Let the good times roll!

We have now passed the midpoint of February and as usual time is flying by (that has not changed). The weather has been up and down, but it looks as though were heading toward more spring like conditions. I can’t wait to get rid of this snow and get out into the field.

The first few days of my sabbatical were consumed with a project in my basement that was several years in the making. It’s about 95% complete and I hope to have in done in early March. Last weekend I plunged a little bit back into work, kind of. My fellow football coaches were interested in attending the Glazier Football Clinic in Minneapolis once again (I believe this was our seventh visit) so I tagged along. As usual it was a great experience and I certainly came back with some good information for our athletes. Getting away to another city was nice too, though twelve hours of driving in four days is a bit tiring.

Glazier clinic vendors area, February 2016.

Glazier clinic vendors area, February 2016.

First clinic, February 2016.

First clinic, February 2016.

I will have lots of time to rest up over the next week while I relax on a Caribbean cruise with my family. At the time we made plans for this sabbatical (my wife teaches at the same school I do), we decided that we would take the boys on a trip somewhere since it is so much cheaper to travel outside of March break. We did go on a cruise for our Honeymoon, but it’s been a while and obviously the boys have not had the experience. We are travelling with friends of ours, so we will be in good company while we visit such places as Cozumel, Belize, Roatan and Grand Cayman. Looking forward to the great experiences and warm weather!

Since I’ve been so preoccupied with other things, I really not spent a ton of time on the railway. I did make one brief trip to the museum to photocopy a file and then expended a few hours at the library looking through microfilmed newspapers. I forgot how tiresome that could be, and how “easier” it was when I was in my twenties. Thankfully the museum will be of some assistance since they do have a number of papers digitized, which can be keyword searched. Unfortunately I will still have to plug through some papers the old-fashioned way, but c’est la vie!

Museum files, February 2016.

Museum files, February 2016.

Things will get on track once we get back from our cruise as life will be a little less busy. Besides the aforementioned trips to the museum, I do need to start work on my portion of the John Paulson article I’ve agreed to do. The plan is to present this paper at the Northern Great Plains History Conference in Saint Cloud, MN in September. I also have some interviews to conduct south of the border once it becomes more spring like outside. Did I say I wasn’t busy?

Anywho, I should get rolling. I still have some stuff to take care of before we leave. I’ll be back in a few weeks with I’m sure a bunch of things to report on. Until then…

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Travel, Writing

 

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The Final Countdown

You and I know exactly what you’re doing right now…there’s no use denying it. As you’re reading this, the opening bars to the song by the Swedish band Europe are coursing through your head. Yes, no, maybe? Not a rocker? Could you be thinking about F-14 Tomcats screaming through the sky in the 1980 movie starring a grizzled Kirk Douglas and the USS Nimitz? No? Okay, I guess you’re stumped then. You’ll just have to read on…

So here we are in a new year, 2016. It’s hard to believe that Christmas was a month ago; time continues to whip by. The passing of the holiday season also marked another birthday for me…I’m officially one year older. In my mind I don’t really feel 42, but I’m starting to wonder about my body. It feels as if I’m falling apart at times. I know I’ve written about it before, but it’s as if it’s gotten worse. Aches and pains, a nagging tennis elbow…I’m wondering what else will “break” in the near future.

With January rapidly coming to an end, it means that the current school semester has almost run its course. That, as you should be well aware, brings with it some great news. When this school semester is done, so am I! Words cannot express how excited I am to be on sabbatical until next September. I have a lot planned, both on my own and with my family. My goal is to make each day count as I probably won’t have an opportunity to do this again.

Since I brought up my sabbatical, I guess I should talk about a little about what I’ll be doing while I’m off work. My whole intention when I took this leave was to spend most of it working on railway stuff. I do have a few other things on the agenda, such as a nice cruise with my family, but the majority of my time will be dedicated to that pursuit. I have had to modify some of my plans, particularly scrapping a trip to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa, but that’s the way things go.

Well, what exactly will you be doing Dave? Now that you asked, there’s quite a number of things on my list, but I’ll stick to stuff in the immediate future. Since February is pretty booked up with a football clinic in Minneapolis, a football tackling clinic and our cruise, I’m mostly focused on research. I’ll be visiting the Lakehead University Archives, the Thunder Bay Museum and the Thunder Bay Public Library.

I also have a whole bunch of organizing to do, as there’s a pile of copies that need to be filed in their appropriate folder. I’ve managed to get a little investigating in over the last month and that has led to quite a bit of new information accumulating. If you missed it, I also managed to get a few new videos up on YouTube, the first in more than a year. You can check them out here and here.

To be filed, January 2016.

To be filed, January 2016.

At some point next month I’ll begin work on a project that has been kicking around for a few years. Back in 2014 I was contacted by a professor at Minnesota State University who was interested in the life of John Paulson, the mysterious man behind the iron mine near Gunflint Lake. We spoke about possibly doing a paper, and that has also morphed into a presentation at the Northern Great Plains History Conference in St. Cloud, MN in September. I’m not sure how that’s going to work, since the conference is smack in the middle of my busiest time of the year; I’ll have to do some creative maneuvering for sure.

Anyway, I should wrap things up. For the record, the final countdown is 7 days folks! I’ll be back soon enough with more news. Until then…

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2016 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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It’s beginning to look a lot like…spring?

Well, it’s that time of the year isn’t it? The Christmas season is upon us once more! I have always loved Christmas; the sights, the sounds, the smells. The lights are up (well, seeing as how some don’t come down, that’s kind of a given), the trees are decorated (mostly, since my wife has decided this year to go back to a real conifer in the living room and we need to go get one) and the shopping list is nearly done. Soon Jo-Anne will be in baking mode and filling the freezer with yummy treats…which, despite being delicious, I need like a hole in the head. The Christmas break is only 7 school days away and the boys are getting excited for the big day (though I think this is the last Christmas Santa will be coming for Ethan…I think he’s figured it all out). Family, food and snowy scenes are what it’s all about…err, maybe not the last one in 2015!

So it’s a couple of weeks before Saint Nick arrives and as you can tell its not looking very Christmasy outside. I guess I shouldn’t complain, as there could pile a snow on the ground and 30 below. It doesn’t feel the same though with above zero temperatures and green grass (it was +4C today). We are expecting a little snow before the 25th, but I don’t think it will be all that much. It’s “supposed” to be a milder winter this year with a strong El Nino in the Pacific, but that’s still to be seen.

December 6, 2015

December 6, 2015

December 2015 Forecast

December 2015 Forecast

School is winding down as we head toward the break, and it’s none to soon. I’m pooped! It’s just been such tiring few months. Besides, it’s around that time that the kids (including my own) are starting to get a little squirrely. Everyone needs a little time away from the ‘ole bricks and mortar here on Selkirk Street to recharge the batteries and come back refreshed in the new year.

Speaking of being tired, I don’t think I ever recovered from the end of football season. When I last wrote we were heading into the second round of the playoffs against Hammarskjold. We didn’t come out of the game with a victory, but it was probably our best effort all year. My defense only gave up 180 yards of offense and one touchdown. We drove to their 20 yard line at the end of the game down by 2 points, but unfortunately ran out of time before we could try for a field goal. We have upwards of 25 players returning for next year, so it should be a good squad on the field for the 2016 season.

One of the reasons I’m looking forward to the Christmas break is that it puts me that much closer to the end of the semester and the beginning of our sabbatical from work. It has been a very challenging few months for my wife and I, so we are definitely looking forward to the time off. We will be taking the boys on a cruise toward the end of February, which I am sure they will really enjoy. I’ve started making some plans as to what I will do when I am off and the list is starting to become fairly long…hopefully I have time to fit everything in!

I’ve been so busy with other things that I have not done a lot of work on railway related stuff lately, but that will change soon. I did spend some time in the last few weeks doing some research on the internet, which as usual turned up a few good nuggets of information. One of the big projects I have on tap for the break is to start transcribing the material in the Arpin Papers from my two visits to the Cook County Museum this past summer into the computer file I created last year. It is a bit of a laborious task, especially since the text of the documents can be hard to read and there are nearly 300 pages (or more correctly 300 photographs of pages) to go through. It will definitely take some time to compete.

Something that I’ve been giving a lot of thought to recently is when I will make time for railway research during my sabbatical. The whole reason for this leave from work was to do research on the railway; I’ve had to curtail some of my plans due to financial and time limitations, but I hope to get in as much as possible. Visits to the Thunder Bay Public Library to go through microfilms is a given, as much as it will pain my eyes to do so. I’m trying to figure out a good time to get to Chicago and La Crosse, Wisconsin to go through files related to the Pigeon River Lumber Company and the Gunflint & Lake Superior Railroad. It’s just a matter of timing more than anything else, as I need to fit it in between our cruise and my brother’s wedding in early May.

As well as travelling for research, I also need to figure when I’m going to make it out for some field work. Ideally, I’d like to be at Gunflint in early May, before the trees get too leafed out. The big question is exactly when and for how many days? I have my usual fall trip already booked and hopefully the weather will be as cooperative as it was this year. That leaves the summer and possibly more archaeological work at the site of Camp 4. However, that will all depend on the folks at the Forest Service and if they can arrange another round of field school with the University of Minnesota-Duluth. I’m sure everything will fall into place once we get into the new year.

Well, I guess I should go. I have a stack of marking that needs some attention before the break gets here. I’ll try to post again after Christmas with some updates. Until then…

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2015 in History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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Being resilient

Resilience-the ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy. We all are aware of the textbook definition of the word, but what does it really mean? I think that one doesn’t fully comprehend the meaning until you experience a situation that requires it. Life is about ups and downs, which we all go through, but sometimes there are events that completely transform our lives. They often happen when we least expect it and leave us struggling to deal with the fallout. We are either consumed by them or emerge stronger because of them. I hope I am with the latter.

So it’s been a long time since I last wrote…by now you can figure out what has gone on. I won’t get into the details, but it was something tragic and has effected my family a great deal. It was a tough couple of months and things are still difficult. We spent as much time as we could during August at camp as it was a place that brought us some comfort and is somewhere the boys really enjoy being. It’s too bad things are too hectic right now to be out there as it the weather has been so beautiful.

Bass Lake, August 2015.

Bass Lake, August 2015.

Speaking of hectic, it is now October, and I am clearly back at work. It has been a whirlwind since the beginning of September and it’s hard to believe a whole month has already flown by. But I say that all the time, and I also say that it seems like it goes by faster every year. Maybe it’s just that I’m busier each succeeding fall. I don’t know. I know that I am tired..bordering on burnout. Between the stress of our family situation, work and life, I am really exhausted. There is a light at the end of the tunnel though. There are only 4 more months to go until I am on sabbatical from work for a whole semester. Thank Jesus! It is really time for a break…maybe I’m having a midlife crisis.

One of the things keeping me busy is football and it was quite the start to the season. Up to the last couple weeks of summer, there was going to be no football due to labour issues with the government, but that changed very quickly. It was tough turning my brain back into coaching mode. It has been a challenging year so far; we have a lot (a lot) of very enthusiastic kids, but many have never played before so there is a lot of coaching to do. We are currently 1-1 but are improving every week. All teams make the playoffs, so we’ll see how things go from there. I’m also coaching Noah’s team as well, so there are nights that I do not get home until 8pm. Makes for some very long days!

With all that has been going on, things have been very quiet on the railway front. I did manage to do some research in early August at the Cook County Museum in Grand Marais. If you remember I was there last year and again in late June looking through documents pertaining to the Pigeon River Lumber Company. I finally was able to get through all the Arpin Papers, though I have a feeling I’ll need to go back and re-visit them at some point.

Lake Superior, August 2015.

Lake Superior, August 2015.

Arpin Papers, August 2015.

Arpin Papers, August 2015.

Arpin Papers, August 2015.

Arpin Papers, August 2015.

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to present some of my research at the Northwestern Ontario Historical Assembly which was hosted by the Thunder Bay Museum. I was one of the several historians speaking that day and it was great to hear what other people were up to, in some cases working on related information. It was tough trying to cram everything I had to say in 15 minutes, but I managed. Hopefully this exposure will lead to the possibility of a book in the future…fingers crossed!

So this coming weekend is the Thanksgiving long weekend here in Canada, and as usual, I’ll be spending it in the States. As I mentioned earlier I really need the break and it will be good to spend some quality time with the boys. Hopefully the weather will cooperate as the plan is to get more field work done on the Gunflint and Lake Superior Railroad for my research. It also give me something to write about in my next post!

Anyway, I better get rolling. I have to finish packing for the trip and I need some sleep. I’ll be back very soon with details from the weekend. Until then…

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2015 in Hiking, History, Railway, Research, Writing

 

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