So you want to be a Calgary Band Parent?

by Mark Zaugg 18. June 2016 22:01

Well, chances are, you may or may not want to be an actual "band parent" but maybe your child is interested.  There are a number of routes to getting here.  If you've played in a marching band while you were growing up, you'll probably already know much of what I'm talking about and this is probably not meant for you.  But if your child comes home clutching an application to join the band and you don't really know what you're in for, I want to share some of my experience over the past three years to encourage you to say, "Yes, absolutely you can join!"

A little background: I've always been musical, but I've never played in a marching band myself, so almost everything I came across was new.  Everyone who knows the Calgary Stampede knows of the Calgary Stampede Showband, but I wasn't sure of the relationship of the two or how Calgary Round Up Band or Stetson Showband fit into the mix.  I knew they were in the parade each year, and they popped up all over the place during Stampede.  I also know that musically, they're pretty good performers and you have to be talented to play with them.  Beyond that, I filled in a lot of the detail with supposition.

Going to the parent orientation meeting helped me and if you have a child remotely interested in band, attend one if you can.  A couple meetings have just wrapped up, but ask the bands if you're interested, there will probably be more over the summer.  You're going to hear glorious stories about how wonderful of an experience it is for the students, you might not hear how great it feels to be a Band Parent, too.

On commitment

Participating with a marching band is not (and should not) be for everyone.  It takes a lot of time and effort from your child and if they lose their desire to be part of it, it's completely fine to say, "That's okay, let's find something else that is for you."  As a parent, please understand you'll probably see the most apprehension over the first three months.  If it's totally not for them, you'll both recognize it quickly.  However, by the time you get to about Christmas the butterflies start settling out, you all start understanding the rhythm and flow around you, and it becomes more enjoyable and the waffling tends to go away.  In our case, I knew my son loved it once he started talking about what it would take to audition for Showband.  There has been no looking back, and I'm grateful he stuck through the early apprehension.

Practising at home

Part of commitment is the desire to become good at what you play.  My musical career ended when practice became unenjoyable rather than just playing what I loved.  I never have to tell my son to practise.  Usually I'll hum along and he'll correct me when I get a part wrong.  Or he'll stick a melody in my head and catch me whistling one of his songs while I'm washing dishes.  Playing his instrument is fun - it is play!  The people who go are interested in bands will find it within themselves to practise.  The rest of the band rallies to help everyone around them get better.  Let that encouragement come from the band, all you need as a band parent is a little patience and willingness to let them play the songs in their heart.  The squawks and screeches you loathe vanish quickly when they love what they're playing.

Flutes are pretty easy on the ears played at home.  The brass instruments can use mutes to keep it bearable in the house.  I feel a little for drumline parents who don't like constant drumming.  Personally, when I rode the bus with the drumline, I slipped into the groove and bopped along all the way home.  It can be comforting having a steady rhythm tapped out around you.  Find enjoyment in your son or daughter's practise.  Which leads to:

Instrument choice

In my case, my son had to carry his instrument up a steep hill every day so he chose something light.  Smart kid.  There is an instrument and role for every child - leave it up to them as much as possible to choose what they like.  It leads to better commitment and makes the practising easier.  Choosing an instrument might happen in school, long before you have any input.  That's a good thing!  Let your kid find something that works for them.

Rent your instrument through the school program, at least to start with.  Give your child the flexibility (and the safety) to change instruments as their interests change -- or even grows!  Multi-instrumentalists are fantastic musicians, but there's no way you can afford to buy everything up front.  When they settle on a favourite, buy one if you can.  There are some great beginner's instruments available.  Don't settle on the cheapest either, they're going to have to sound good out there.  In our case, we got a beginner's flute and we're currently saving for an upgraded model.  It's been a bargain for the amount of time he's got on it.

And most importantly, I've heard of a band member deciding to stop playing an instrument and join the Colour Guard.  You do not need to be a musician to be part of a marching band, Colour Guard is an essential role, too.  The work put into choreographing the Guard got my attention early - they work every bit as hard as the musicians into honing their craft.  The visual effect during a parade or a field show makes the difference between a good band and a great one.  My stereotype was crushed early:  Colour Guard is not for girls in goofy outfits.  They carry replica guns for good reason!  Boys in Colour Guard can massively increase the range of things Colour Guard can do.  If your son is interested, encourage him to try it!

As an aside, this post is very much inspired watching the Stampede Showband's Colour Guard come off the field beaming triumphantly after a performance, then I saw them go through 30 seconds of recovery realizing they spent every ounce of energy they had, then forming up and proudly leading the band to their muster area.  I will never think of Colour Guard as anything but gifted, graceful, talented, and elite endurance athletes.  Which leads me to:


I have always believed that everyone needs to do one sport passionately throughout their entire life.  Sometimes the sport will change, sometimes you'll do more than one or play sports seasonally, but one's physical and mental well-being requires a sport.  If you're concerned about raising a console crazed couch potato because they're not interested in sports - encourage them to join a band.  To paraphrase Matt Dunigan, "Nothing goes together better than marching bands and football!"

Marching band fully qualifies as a life sport.  Those kids are working hard, not only exercising chest and lungs but also stepping in time, sliding to one side or walking backwards - all at the same time!  They don't just walk a parade, they are walking a parade blowing full tilt into a tuba!  When's the last time you walked a couple miles?  How about doing it at a set pace, carrying something heavy, while modulating your breathing and embouchure?  (Your embouchure is basically using your face muscles to provide a good sound.)  They are all athletes.

Personal development

I touched on it a bit when I talked about practice, but much of what I've observed is the band improving by supporting other band members and a growth of the people within it.  If I told you that in just three years your 12 year old kid will turn from awkward and apprehensive to a solid, upright person who is proud of who they are and confident in their skills would you be shocked and amazed or clamouring to sign up?  All adolescents are going to grow leaps and bounds over those years, but kids in Round Up are light years ahead of the average kid.  Having been around Round Up these past three years makes me proud of each and every one of them.  They are well behaved, polite and decent people - it is my honour to know those people.

The practical

Okay, you're child's interested, you're convinced it's a good idea to give it a shot.  What are the practical things to know?

Calgary Round Up is for students Grades 7 through 9 and Stetson Showband takes students Grade 10 through 12.  Both bands will accept any student, and you can (and should!) join even if your child missed the first year of eligibility.  Stampede Showband requires auditions, and I see a lot of interest in wanting to eventually play with them.  Round Up and Stetsons each have great pages on joining the band and I'll send you there to answer your questions.  The instructors are mostly people who have been through the program and are professional and top rank musicians.  This is a Grade A, top class organization from instructors to support staff to parent volunteers.  In my experience, the board is always thinking about what's best for the band families.

Fees this year are $850 for both bands.  On top of that you'll be paying for tour and some incidentals like show tickets.  Tour varies each and every year - my recollection is Round Up tours have cost $1200 - $1500 depending on the year.  They have optional fundraisers to help defer tour costs, they have been high quality fundraisers and I usually buy plenty of burgers, Spolumbo's sausage and steaks to help me get through performance season.  The fundraisers helped me out on several levels.

Call it around $2500 that I spent last year on band.  I'm not wealthy by any stretch, so that's a significant cost to me, however the outright value behind that has been immeasurable.  Not only has it been a weekly (and towards Stampede, daily!) activity, but it's been a fantastic way to plug kids into events in and around Calgary.  Parent's don't go on tour as a rule, but the kids have gone to fantastic summer adventures where they become better musicians and fantastic people.  I think most band parents will tell you they get extraordinary value for what band costs.

Time-wise you'll have to get back and forth to practice every week.  Thursday for Round Up, Wednesdays for Stetsons.  The bands try to keep it as central as possible for parents across the city and you will learn the venues very quickly.  Most months they will hold a band camp over a weekend.  Band camps are often centrally located, but treat them all as special, weekend-long events you could potentially chaperone (more on that soon!)  You will also need to set aside time to work 7-10 Bingo's, possibly a casino, and one day during Stampede to help with Kinsmen lotteries.  If you have a flexible schedule, it's easier to pick up Bingo's on short notice.  I try to book about half my bingos early on, and half later in the year on weekends or evenings (if possible).  It has always worked out, so far.  Extended family helps a lot (and I thank them for the help!), but if you're like me, you'll find all of the Round Up community becomes an extended family in it's own right.

The performances are incredible.  Yes, there's the Calgary Stampede, but there are also parades in several towns around Calgary that are also fun and fabulous.  There is an annual Christmas concert at the Jubilee.  There are several "Field Show" competitions in and around Calgary where the bands put on a themed performance.  They're a joy, and bands compete against each other - usually as a way to test their own progression.  You'll regularly see six or seven really great bands playing one after another.  You're going to want to attend as many as you can to watch the band play.

It all takes volunteer time and effort to put the whole thing together.  You can offer as much of your time as a volunteer or chaperone as you wish.  I really enjoy being around the band and love being a parent chaperone on weekend band camps and as many performances as I can hit.  "Hell Week" occurs just before the band puts together their final performances, and the kids work incredibly hard to polish their show and make it as wonderful as possible.  The final opportunity of the year is to chaperone on tour.  I haven't made it yet, but I know a bit about how much work and fun those tours are by the photos and the stories.  Show your kid how proud you are, go volunteer and make it possible for them to be part of a magnificent band.

My son is moving up from Round Up to Stetsons this year.  Ultimately, this is a thank you letter to everyone involved with the Calgary Round Up Band for the incredible program they've put together.  I sincerely hope that I can encourage other parents to let their kids enroll and be part of something historic in Calgary, current in song and style, and one of the best things imaginable for your child's future.

Let them try it.  It'll be magically for them and you.

Join the band.

Cycle Tracks: An open letter to the Calgary Eyeopener

by Mark Zaugg 12. March 2014 07:03
Dear Eyeopener,

Earlier today Michael Stark did a opinion piece on why bicycles should not get separated bike lanes.  It started poorly and went downhill from there.

I cycle.  I drive.  I ride the bus.  I walk.  I commute back and forth to work, but also move around and about my neighbourhood a number of ways even when I'm not commuting back and forth to work.  The point of travelling using multiple means of transportation is not to give an air of authenticity to my argument, it's very much to emphasize getting around is much easier when I can travel in the most appropriate way possible.  When I have my children or heavy loads with me, it is far easier to drive.  When I am commuting on my own, driving is wasteful, expensive and slow.

Mr. Stark decried those bikes zipping past him while he was stuck in traffic.  It's true, cycling is faster downtown in rush hour.  Sometimes much faster.  In real numbers, it takes me 20 minutes to ride from my home to my office at 8:00 am every morning.  Driving that same route at the same time took me 35 minutes the last time I tried it.  Then I had to find parking and walk from my parking stall to work on top of that time.

My office does not have showers, however we do have enclosed parking for bicycles and we have a change area.  I can wear appropriate clothing for cycling then change into something appropriate for work.  Or those who know me better know I somewhat underdress for work and stay comfortable and productive all day.  It's true that I'm fortunate to work at a great office.  Days when I have to dress in a suit means I'd have to slow down and not get to work all sweaty.  Suits on bikes are not uncommon.

Lack of showers or secure lock up areas are a reason to improve available facilities downtown, and are not a valid reason to eliminate cycle tracks.

As for cyclist behaviour, I ride daily along 9 Avenue SE through Inglewood.  I strictly follow the law while hundreds of drivers each and every day break the law.  Let me reiterate that, literally hundreds of people breaking driving laws by speeding, driving in incorrect lanes, cutting off other drivers, or failing to yield to pedestrians.  I ride safely and legally.  I'm more than willing to take the lane when safe to do so.  Sorry for your luck if you are tailgating me in your car, driving in the bus/bike lane on 9 Avenue, blowing your horn and blowing your gasket.  Drivers are not supposed to be in that lane whatsoever and they are at fault, not the cyclists.

Yes, all travellers need to follow law and get about the city safely.  There is a dangerous imbalance when a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds meets a bicycle.  Separating lanes means we have a clear segregation where bicycles are expected and cars can travel.  It prevents overly aggressive or overly timid interactions between commuters.  It's beneficial to me as a cyclist and it's beneficial to me when I'm driving.

Mr. Stark chooses to drive and not cycle.  His choice and his perceived suitability for commuting choices has no bearing on the need for segregated bicycle lanes.  Those of us out there appreciate the safer, quicker, standardized routes to ride and many of the drivers out there appreciate cyclists being in their own lanes where they are not likely to swing into their driving lane.  It's necessary.  We need to encourage more ways to commute into downtown so more people can make more appropriate commuter choices.

We can't keep expanding roads without starting to eliminate the very downtown the roads are built to serve.  Better cycling infrastructure is just one of a number of great ideas aimed at improving access to downtown.

 - Mark Zaugg

Dziadek's Tie Pin

by Mark Zaugg 17. September 2013 04:24

This is my grandfather's tie pin.  Dziadek's tie pin.

It is beautiful and my favourite memento of him.  I know it was a gift to him.  It is real gold, I have no idea the quality, and has six birth stones set in a circle.  I don't even remember which belongs to whom.  One is Dziadek's, one is Babcia's.  Two are for my uncles, one is for my Aunt. One is for my Mom.

I love it.

Dziadek was a Russian artillery officer in World War II.  Assuming I have the story right and assuming he told the full truth to my Mom when she recorded and then translated his history.  (We know he didn't.)  We also know he had a hard life.  I have no idea how he survived starvation, hypothermia and extreme poverty as a child.  I assume he joined the Russian army to escape the poverty but it's equally possible he was conscripted - I just don't know.  I have no idea how he survived the war.  His war stories were horrifying.  He said he had it good - he was flown around to fight where needed.  And yet he still told a story of his buddies running forward to strip boots from fallen soldiers so they could have footwear.  Some truly horrifying stuff, and as most veterans I assume I only heard the nicest of the horrible stories.  He was taken as a prisoner of war.  The stories of being in POW and concentration camps weren't much better.

For the record, he was welcomed to Canada and became on of our own, but to his dying day he was afraid the KGB would find him and take him back to the Soviet Union and later Russia.  He went to his grave grateful to be on Canadian soil.  I try to remember the blessing of being here.

At his eulogy my Mom called him a survivor.  There was never a description more apt.  He was a flawed man, but he was unquestionably a survivor and kept trying to keep his family cared for.  Today when I think of him, I think of the word "survivor" first.  Through starvation, through a war, through being stuck in post-war Germany, through coming to Canada and setting up a new life as an immigrant to a new land.  He always got through.

His tie pin gives me strength.  I wear it to court when I fight to stand up for our rights against the depravations of liars.  I wear it to weddings to remember the strength and resiliency of families.  I wear it to dinners when I want to keep my tie out of my meal.

With that tie pin, I walk with his strength and stubborn determination to survive, but also the humility of a man who had pulled through ridiculous odds against him and made his surroundings just a little bit better.

It is very special to have worn Dziadek's pin today.  I attended the Calgary Foundation's Vital City 2013 event.  It was amazing and I am very honoured to have attended.  I said on Twitter that I literally could not walk 10 feet without meeting a friend, a colleague or a person who inspires me.  I stand behind it, that was an amazing moment.  I have no idea how many people were there, but each and every one of them were actively involved in making Calgary a better city.  People I had met once or twice, to friends long standing and much admired.  Names I had admired from afar and felt honoured to just shake their hand, other folks I rub shoulders with regularly - although perhaps nowhere near as often as I would like.

I think I can safely say that the highlight of the evening was being addressed by David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada.  I'm not entirely particularly certain of where I stand with regards to the office of the Governor General, but I most certainly understand how Mr. Johnston is both inspirational and deserving of the role.  He spoke with clarity, with enthusiasm and with a deep respect for Calgary, for Canada and for the people here.  I was most impressed with his inclusivity of the community as a whole.  Calgary and all it's people.  You could feel his inspiration from how Calgary pulled together magnificently to respond to a difficult flood.  We are not a perfect city, but we have set a standard on how to be resilient, how to build community, how to create a place that is more than the sum of us all.  He genuinely transferred caring and concern for our Aboriginal peoples throughout the night.  He recharged my soul tonight and reminded me that the efforts of us all have been noticed and admired.  We are smart, or caring, but either way we're part of this city.

Dziadek's tie pin was there through it all.  From the meekest survivor in front of the emblematic head of government in Canada.  We truly do all have a role to make Calgary, and in fact our world, a better place.

Make Helping a Habit

by Mark Zaugg 30. July 2013 06:07

I am a fixer.  I want to repair things that are broken.  I want to right what is wrong.

It's part of why I value my career.  Each and every day I get to fix something, or stop something from breaking, or make sure I can recover something in case of loss.  It requires attention to detail, keeping yourself organized with good notes, and a lot of foresight.  When I make a mistake in the foresight department (and I do that a lot!) I have lessons to learn, usually they're serious at that stage.  Serious lessons are painful to learn.  You can wallow in it or you can pull yourself up, learn and move on more prepared for the next time.

I've made a lot of mistakes, some have nearly broken me.  Some have taken years to recover from.  The biggest lesson I've learned along the way is from the great Murray Walker who said, "Never, ever give up."  I've decided that in my immediate world that means I should never, ever give up trying to make things around me just a little bit better.

It's not always easy.  I still let all the stress and crap get me down sometimes.

Shit does happen.  A woman was mistreated in my neighbourhood this past weekend.  I can't change that.  I can't fix that.  I can't make it better.  It bugs the hell out of me to be helpless.  But I can work to make our neighbourhood more cohesive.  We can improve things around us.  We can help each other.  It is what a community would do.  We must continually work to strengthen our communities - be they physical communities on a map or virtual communities on the internet or temporary communities that come together to meet then flit apart.

I've done my best to teach my children to respect others, I do my best to set the example daily.  Quite often I fail, or screw things up, or come across as disingenuous.  Tonight I was told, "It must be nice to be so colourblind."  Then I thought of Naheed Nenshi saying, "Calgary is the city where no one cares who your Daddy is."  That's the place I want to live, that's the interpretation of colourblind I long for.  I want to respect all my neighbours - my neighbourhood wouldn't be anywhere near as awesome without them here.  I want my neighbours to bring their best efforts forward, I'll put my best on the table too, and together we'll make a difference.  Some days are better than others, but the sum total needs to be moving forward.

Positive, directed change.  It's not a line I'm trying to feed anyone, it is very much an idea I've dedicated myself to working on daily.  I'm not a hero.  I'm not a genius.  I'm just an average guy trying to make things better each and every day.  Trying to learn something new each and every day.

Make helping a habit.  Sooner or later we'll run across each other and together we'll accomplish great things.  The rest of the world will have to look after itself until we get around to making it better, too.

Provide Proper Flood Maps Now

by Mark Zaugg 19. July 2013 07:42

The difference between 'right' and 'wrong' is an uncrossable chasm.  But the difference between 'right' and 'kinda right' can be a very, very large gap too.

I've spent the past couple of days trying to reconcile the details from over the past month.  It's been tough, it's been inspiring, it's been hot and sweaty work followed up with sweet refreshment.

The flood has unquestionably been unprecedented.  No one has seen a flood this bad before, this was truly major.  Full credit to those involved from the start.  We have jumped in and slogged through the mud and the water.  We've done what we could to make things safe.  We've done what we can to make things right.  We aren't done, but we're still trying.

We knew it was going to be bad ahead of time.  We weren't sure how bad and we didn't expect it to be as bad as it was.  When the river flows jumped to five and ten times above regular levels in less than a day it became nearly impossible to predict accurately what was going to happen.

But poor advance warning is a far cry from no warning whatsoever.  If you were in an area affected in 2005 you had fair reason to be worried.  We didn't expect it to extend nearly as far or be nearly as dangerous.  Do not take the warnings lightly.  Be prepared ahead of time and act on it before you have to react to an emergency.

That uncertainty that has the ability to really wear people down, especially right now.  I will never forget these are good people's lives.  I am honestly trying my best to do what I can for them while keeping myself safe, healthy and functional.  These people need as many answers and reassurance as we can give them right now.  Some have the resources and ability to buy a new home, replace their possessions and begin picking up the pieces.  Others are struggling with having lost all but the clothes on their backs.  They need as much help as we can give them.

The flood maps are a good idea.  We know that we can't just keep sinking resources into a home that will be flooded in the next rain event.  We need to make sound decisions based on the best information available to us right now.  Those people deserve the best answers we can give them so they can begin making wise decisions about their futures.

The problem is that we already know the best information available is not presented in the maps as drawn now.  We know they are already outdated, based upon old data.  We know that they don't necessarily take into account floods that creep up along McLeod Trail.  We know they cannot take into account changes the river has carved into it's own channel.

I come from the world of technology, specifically from the faction that believes in "Release early, release often."  You have to pick a starting point, so rather than waiting for everything to be perfect you put out something that's good and spend time improving it.  Allow yourself the opportunity to throw away the first attempt - if it turns out great then all the better, but be prepared right from the start to throw away the first attempt if you can learn lessons and make the second version considerably better.

The flood maps are a good starting point, but they must be considered incomplete.  We do not have time for the arrogance of faux finality when there are people's lives in the balance.  Right now the maps as presented are no more than working documents, open to redesign and discussion.

A house in danger of getting washed into the river may not be worth saving and we need to be honest with the owners and residents.  We simply can't save everything in perpetuity.  But the red, pink and yellow zones are not carved into the bedrock, either.  It is far too early to say we have put due consideration into the maps at all.

We are Albertans.  We know how to work hard.  We know how to volunteer.  We know how to give.  We know how to cooperate and help.

Now is the time to state forthright that we are starting with the maps we have, but we are about to release our best and brightest minds on finding solutions for those affected.  We have people who are capable and willing to do the work.  We have experts willing and able to put in the time and effort to help our neighbours.  Let them do their work and produce the best maps possible for our Flood Friends.  They deserve answers now.

Stop pretending the maps are final and let loose the next batch of flood heros: Those who can help the affected plan the next stage of their cleanup.  No more lame meetings like we saw in High River tonight.  Get those who understand the area together with those who know how to design towns to protect against floods and get the proper maps out to those who are affected as soon as we are possibly able.  In days or weeks, not months or years.  We need the right answers now, not the 'kinda right' answers.

We have proven that we can pitch in and help each other.  Now is not the time to stop.

Building Resiliency Through One Positive Action Every Day

by Mark Zaugg 9. July 2013 13:52

Why do I believe in doing one thing every day to make Calgary a better city?

It isn't because I have had a long abiding love of the city. If you do not know the story, I was planning on staying in Calgary until 2018 and then leaving it behind for good.  "Calgary had become too big, too unfriendly, it had lost touch with what it what it had been," I once thought not too long ago.  I had struggled to find good work, I had felt the slow crush of debt and the difficulty of finding a decent home in a tight rental market.  I have lived bunkered in my home against the horde of strangers in the neighbourhood who cared nothing beyond complaining of how horrible we all were as neighbours. 

Aspects of that may still be true for many people in this city.  That is a part of Calgary that may exist literally anywhere in the city, it's just a mentality and not a place.

I hope everyone who lives in that part of the city finds the place where I live now, where we like our neighbours and love our neighbourhoods.  A place where even if we took a hit we have a thousand people showing up to help.  Sometimes quite literally.


Over the past month many Calgarians who have discovered what it means to be Calgarian.  If you were flooded, neighbours volunteered to help.  If you couldn't volunteer to tear out drywall or lift heavy things or make sandwiches you found a way to donate or contribute.  But the most important thing is that you contributed!

It goes back to a tweet I received long ago.  "Report to yourself.  Take the ownership to make change.  Don't wait for permission."

That created my new address in Calgary and I know precisely what it means to get what you give.

We will get through the flood because we haven't questioned if we should participate, we just helped.  We got through the immediacy of helping Calgary and then responded to the surrounding areas because it is the right thing to do. 

It remains so because we've baked it in that way.  You need to report to yourself.  You need to take ownership of that sphere of influence around you and change it for the better.  Nobody else is going to say yes or no, so just take on what you can.  You can't fix everything, but you can make it better, and only you will know what "better" looks like once you are finished.

That is what builds resiliency.  That is what makes us strong and keeps us moving forward.  The next phase is where we develop those immediate relationships we have formed, check in on our neighbours and rebuild our city.  Yes, we are up to this.

I saw it yesterday with Thomas, the Gutter Doctor who took pride in his work to fix the slapstick mess left behind by someone else.  I saw it with friends who simply appeared in order to make things right and are determined to see it through.  Pride in your work, giving a little extra, helping a friend: This is the better Calgary I envision. 

It happens by doing one thing, each and every day, to make Calgary a better city.  Take on the challenge for yourself.

Hey #FloodFriend

by Mark Zaugg 30. June 2013 06:14

Hey #FloodFriend,

Sorry 'bout your stuff.  If you didn't lose any stuff, sorry you had to leave your home for a while.  Or if you got through unscathed, thanks for helping out.  It's cool - it's only stuff and you matter so much more.  In fact, over the past week or so I've discovered so much more cool about you.

I genuinely like you.  I think of you as a true friend I've had for years now.  I like that feeling a whole lot more than just seeing your face pass by on the street once in a while.  We're not best buddies or anything, but I'm open to hanging out or going for beers once in a while or maybe we can hit the next Stamps game, or Flames, or Hitmen or Roughnecks.  Or something in the minor leagues or whatever you're into because, you know, you're kinda cool and I figure you like cool stuff.

Hey, those beers, let's go for something local.  I'm longing for a Brew Brother's Black Pilsner, may I offer you something from Village Brewery, Minhas, Wild Rose or Big Rock?  I'm up for anything good and local, what's your favourite?  Let's head down to the Ironwood or Mikey's Juke Joint or the Blues Can and catch a show.  Although your regular haunt would be just fine too.  I'm up for something different.

Or let me buy you dinner.  There's a great family run restaurant down the block.  We can go just after we go trolling through the galleries looking for a new painting for your feature wall.

Ya know, it is festival season too.  Canada Day is going to be kinda different at Shaw Millennium Park this year.  Different is good.  That's the whole point of meeting you through the flood, isn't it?  There's hardly a week that goes by that we can't find something to do.  Let's go find something and kick back a while.

Maybe instead we'll just say hi to each other by name instead of grunting or dodging eye contact in the hall.  The important thing is knowing we've got each other's back when the chips are down.

So, for the next little while, mi casa es su casa.  Let's just muddle through this for now and once we dig out we'll all be better off.  We're a different city now, let's keep this feeling going.

As a charter member of the Eternally Loyal Order of Flood Friends, I solemnly swear to share my food, water and sustenance (okay, I'll share my coffee but maybe not the really, REALLY good stuff), rubber boots, tools and cleaning supplies come Hell or High Water, under risk of Stampede Breakfast Banishment, forever and anon until Nenshi doth nap.


We are Calgary

by Mark Zaugg 25. June 2013 04:20

There is only one thing I could title this post.

This morning I lined up at McMahon Stadium with a couple thousand of my best friends.  We are the resolve, we are the determination, we will help each other and we will make a difference in our city.

We got our forms, we signed our forms, we ran out of forms.  We lined up to get approved, we lined up to get on buses, we ran out of buses.  We were sent to communities, we found our way to communities, we self-organized to get into the communities and make a difference.  We drove, we walked, we biked, we found our way to meet good people and make a positive difference in their crappy week.  We did one small thing today, there are many, many more days ahead.  We stand resolved to make it better.

There were tears.  Each sickening splat of my hammer hitting wet drywall ("drywall" - what a terribly ironic name today) brought a tear to my eye.  Taking out the kid's toys and the strollers and unceremoniously dumping them in a trash heap brought a tear to my eye.  The photos, the Christmas cards, the personal letters saturated and destroyed brought a tear to my eye.  Gutting the bottom floor of five beautiful homes in Sunnyside brought many tears to my eye.

But the smiles far outshone the tears.  The smiles were incandescent.  Knowing that an army of volunteers stood by to help brought out the smiles.  Just to see the faces light up knowing that Calgary cares - that brought out more smiles in all of us.  Even when we grimly pounded hammers over and over into soggy walls, working in a mindless rhythm of deconstruction of destroyed homes, every once in a while we'd look up at each other and smile.  We had come from just up the hill, we had come from Killarney, we had come from DouglasGlen, we had come from Albert Park, we lived in Sunnyside.  We are Calgarians first, and something needs to be fixed.  Just the knowledge that we've made a difference makes us smile.

This resolve is simply amazing.  It is more than enthusiasm, it is a deep determination and we will make it right no matter how long it takes.  Calgary is simply an incredible city.

I did learn a few lessons today.  I wish to share them for those who wish to volunteer in the days ahead.

1.  When you volunteer, you have no idea what you will face.  At the very least, bring gloves, long pants and wear proper shoes.  I wore steel toed boots - they were excellent.  Gum boots are good, be sure they're comfortable to wear all day.  If they aren't, bring an extra pair of shoes to give your feet a break.  Gloves may or may not be provided.  Bring your own if you can - it gives someone else a chance to help.
2.  Safety is crucial and critical.  Be safe, be smart.  Be willing to step up and show others around you how to be safe.  I worked in one home where the kids who lived there wanted to help.  They're completely invested in the process - teach them to be safe and do it right, but let them participate safely.  Let them learn what Calgarian means.
3.  Not everyone will work construction.  You wonderful people that brought me food and water are amazing.  You helped me keep working longer, you kept me inspired, you kept me grateful that I had the privilege to help someone else.  Allowing me to work more means more people got help.  Thank you for your kindness and your generosity.  Please, circle your calendars and try to schedule your food donations.  We don't have electricity where we were working - we don't have refrigeration.  Circle your calendars for two or three days from now and plan to that day.  Ask when you drop off food, please don't let it go to waste.
4.  Working local is best.  Self organize.  I rode my bike to the area of Sunnyside that I was told was the most affected and started asking people if they needed help.  It took almost no time for someone to say yes.  It took nothing to help them.  I have met many wonderful new friends today.  I want to ensure their lives are made better again.

There is a long, long way to go.  The true test will be if our resolve remains solid not just today but in three weeks from now.  I'm betting it will.  I feel terrible to destroy five lovely ground-level floors today.  But I know it is only the first step to restoring the lives of five fabulous families in Calgary.  I cannot help tomorrow or Wednesday.  We have thousands of Calgarians willing, able and eager to take my place.  Be one of them.

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Pride in Community.

by Mark Zaugg 28. April 2013 01:18

I should have clued in a lot earlier in the day that it was going to be one of those days that was something special.  I really need to remember the entire week was a little magical, I just have to remember to look where I want to go.

I'm not going to wax all that poetic, this is a business lunch blog.  In fact, I'm starting at the end.

"I didn't realize you were involved with the Lions" says Naheed.

"I didn't either."

I don't entirely know why not.  Service clubs play a crucial role world-wide in getting good things accomplished.  Seems to me they were once the staple, and I felt like they were falling a little out of fashion amoung my generation.  I think I'm far past due at least getting somewhat in touch.

I got to meet Tony Tighe tonight as well.  Just for the record, meeting the mayor is pretty blase as far as my kids are concerned, but meeting Tony Tighe?  That's just about one of the coolest things ever.  It makes sense, they've watched him for as long as they can remember.  Meeting him in person, well of course he's as nice as you'd expect.  Granted, it helps to be in a room of awesome people.  There was a very high bar set in there tonight.

Going back a little earlier in the evening, I was felt a strong affiliation when Judge Stevenson described the Lions's drive for community service.  I really sensed I was surrounded by people who get stuff done.  Who make a real difference around them.  It felt good, and I want to keep things driving forward.

I told Mayor Nenshi that it was especially nice to meet up with him tonight of all nights.  I joke that he "ruined my life" from that of a quiet, unassuming complainer who did nothing to whatever this is that I've become lately.  Citizen that actually cares?  Calgarian who wants to make the world a little bit better?  Sure, it was always there, but it's only been the past three years or so where I've been able to say I've made a consistent, intentioned effort to do something positive.  But on a night dedicated to those who really do something good in the community, it was awfully nice to see a friend who inspired me to be more targeted and overt in my actions.  I don't meet their standard, but I aspire to do more.

And on the topic of friends, my friend Nargis Dossa became a grandmother today!  It made the day just a little more special to have shared celebrating such a wonderful moment in life.  I met Nargis during the last civic election, I'm pleased to say we've remained friends and I'm extremely pleased to work with her on her campaign this year.  She's been a positive influence around me, a joy to talk with and I have to thank her a thousand times for making me her guest tonight and introducing me to such an amazing group of dedicated people.

Oh, and the music.  The McKenna Family Quintet were captivating.  If you really know me, you know I love music above just about everything and they were terrific.  They are so incredibly lucky to be able to play alongside each other on stage and just perform beautifully.  I was incredibly lucky to be able to hear it.  I enjoyed it very much, the night would not have been anywhere near as magical without them participating.

Which puts me back to walking into the Polish Canadian Cultural Centre and all the great memories of the visits there with Mom.  I missed her very much and had to take a breath or three to compose myself.  It is a place for good memories, tonight added to them significantly.

Before that, the community clean up, getting the community association's computer back on it's feet.  A day of doing good.  A day of accomplishment.  A very special, important day.

Thanks to Nargis, to Naheed, to Tony and to the Lions for letting me sit in on such an amazing night of recognition for such amazing people.  I simply must figure out how to fold them in with my life.  I feel like I'm a better guy today than I was yesterday.

Tomorrow's going to be cool too.  At some point in the day tomorrow I'm going to figure out how to apply what I learned today.

A day of AUGH!

by Mark Zaugg 23. April 2013 01:11

The longer today goes on, the odder it's become.

It started off fantastic with a beautiful ride into downtown on Earth Day.  No one can take that away.

I explored and learned a small ton of awesome stuff at work.  Load balancing?  Yes, please.  I'm more than ready to take it on.

Tonight I got invited to a ContainR update.    This is beyond cool, they're trying to create the most amazing space imaginable in an otherwise fenced off, vacant lot.  Amazing.

And then I come home to bad news, loads of frustrations and anguish.  Seriously?  It just isn't worth it.

Out of my frustration of everything that seems to be wrong, seems to be slimy behind the scenes, everything that stands entirely against my beliefs and principles...  Then:

"you signed up to do a Jane's Walk, you are engaged, you care, you...."

"The sun has recently set, dusk has past, night shall pass, and the sun will rise again. Tomorrow. Relax and sleep well."

"I’m wearing pants, for the sake of world peace."

Some days the world doesn't make sense.  At the end of the day, you're going to find me standing beside those that wear their hearts on their sleeves.  I'll be standing beside those that will say, "I disagree with you, I think you're wrong.  But I'll debate you openly."

I'll be standing with those that say, "We can do something better.  We can create something amazing out of something that would otherwise be rejected.  Together we can make something that has intrinsic value where there was no value before."

Anyone can destroy.  I'm putting my effort into people determined to create something better.  But first, I'm going to relax.  Hopefully sleep well.

Tomorrow I'll create something good.  Then I'll ride my bike to Kensington and look at a little triangle of land at lunch.  Perhaps I'll even buy lunch from someplace along the way.

Life is amazing when you take the time to notice what actually matters.


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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