Telling the story of my life in my home - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The War on Fort McMurray

There was a time, not so very long ago, when I felt much like a soldier in a war. It was not a war of swords or weapons, but rather a war of words when I felt our community was under attack by journalists, film-makers and others who came to the place I have chosen as my home to write salacious stories about our community.

The stories they told often seemed like thinly veiled schemes to expense trips that consisted of visits to strip clubs and bars, their toes never crossing the threshold of places like recreation centres, schools or churches to find stories that perhaps reflected a different reality of life here that did not support their hypothesis that this town was “no place for young men” or the den of lifestyles devoted to “hookers and blow”. I would find myself tracking down the writers, sparring with them on  Twitter or through email, disputing their stories as being only part of the story of our region, one small slice they had chosen to reflect as opposed to the entirety.
And just as I was doing this, so too were others, writers and podcasters and filmmakers, all striving to tell other stories of life here. We didn’t try to discount the ones told by those we sparred with, as we would be foolish to suggest these things didn’t occur here, just as they occur everywhere – but we tried to present other stories, the ones we felt were not being told and that spoke to our community’s heart and our incredible energy and enthusiasm.

After several years of this, after blog posts filled with some degree of anger and others filled with stories that provided an alternate viewpoint of our community I would suggest that something has happened: the war on Fort McMurray is over, and we won.
When the Globe and Mail first informed me they were creating a bureau office here I knew that a crack in the armour of the salacious story had appeared. No longer would the journalists stay for a day or two, just long enough to catch a show at the strip club and maybe a night in the casino. No, they would be here long enough to learn the cadence and rhythm of our community, to explore the stories that others had left untouched as they did not involve sordid details. They would have the chance to see the real Fort McMurray, the blooms and the weeds, the successes and the failures, the triumphs and the heartbreaks, and so they have as recent articles have shown.

Over time I found myself meeting with journalists and filmmakers before they even began to write their stories, working to connect them with people who could tell them a rounded tale of life here. Not a white-washed, picket fence tale of some utopian idyll, but stories of depth and complexity reflecting the true nature of this community. What happened is that the salacious stories became old and jaded, reruns of stories that had already been told, and the media, always hungry for something new, began to tell a different narrative of life in Fort McMurray, one far closer to the truth and the reality that life here is almost exactly like life in every other Canadian community, with both challenges and opportunities.
I found myself sparring less and less and working more and more collaboratively with journalists from around the world. The war was over, and armistice had begun.

Just as in every war there is some soldier left on a desert island who didn’t get the “war is over” memo and who is continuing to fight a battle that no longer exists. Instead of a war, though, we have moved on to a dialogue, not one based so much on our community but focused on our industry instead, and dialogues of this nature are not only necessary but needed for the development of every industry, not just the one we hold dear. One of the things I have fought hardest for is the delineation between community and industry, as while they are connected they are not synonyms, and we have begun to achieve the understanding of that distinction.
Perhaps the war was always in my head, as even when it was being waged I did not feel that those I fought were truly adversaries but rather individuals who simply did not see the larger picture, maybe because they did not have it presented to them. I fought not to prove them wrong but to show them that picture, always ending every single scrap with an invitation to visit again for a personal tour of my community and a discussion on what makes us great – and what makes us troubled, too.

All I know is that I no longer feel as I once did; the sense of needing to defend my community has lessened, although it rises again on occasion when I meet someone who simply doesn’t know anything but the old stories of hookers and blow. There is a new narrative of Fort McMurray, and it has been quietly spreading across the country through those who are telling more complex stories about life in our community, whether they are residents or those who now come not seeking sleazy tales but the truth. And those who do choose to tell the sleazy tales will, I suspect, find less of an interest in their stories and significant pushback from those who have lived and seen a different reality of life in this northern community.

The war on Fort McMurray is over. The stories we have begun to see are more balanced than ever before, and now our only goal should be ensuring a wealth of good stories originating here that not only can be told but cannot be ignored. And in this - and in us - I have every confidence.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

There Are Bad Ideas - And Then There is Killing a Lion

The saga of Cecil the lion and the dentist who killed him has raged on the internet for days now. No doubt hundreds of thousands - maybe millions - of words have been written on the topic, from the unnecessary and deeply troubling death threats made against the dentist and his family (while killing a protected and majestic animal is horrific death threats are no less so) to those who have risen in his defence, scattered as they may be. Wound into the story has been threads of those outraged that we as a society could have so much outrage over the death of a lion, a collective global anger, when crimes against humans often go unpunished.

"Why aren't we as outraged about child abuse? Child pornography? Human trafficking? Domestic violence?" these voices cry, as if somehow the outrage over the death of one lion minimizes the outrage I would suggest most people feel about those very issues. I think that for most of us, though, we feel powerless in the face of those issues because we don't know how to address them. They anger us, they sicken us, they torment us, and they are entirely too close to us as we know they are happening in our own communities, as opposed to the death of a lion in a country far, far away. We can express our outrage over the death of a lion because it doesn't require us to try to consider how to stop it, other than vowing to never trophy hunt lions ourselves, as opposed to thinking about issues much closer to us and finding the bile rising in our throats as we recognize how woefully powerless we feel to combat them.

I am not upset or angered about the collective anger over the killing of one lion. I am troubled at the threats and the vociferousness of some, but instead I am genuinely relieved that the death of a lion in a country far away elicited a strong response in our hearts - because it means we still have them.

Let's be honest: thanks to the internet we are now deluged on a daily basis with horror. My timeline fills daily with horrific things, the sorts of things that smash you upside the head and make you almost wish you had never known them. I now know the terrors experienced by children all over the world as they are forced into slavery, the pain experienced by millions for various reasons, the agony they is enough to make one numb, and it is the numbness I fear the most for us, because constant exposure to such horror can make one numb and incapable of feeling empathy.

I have had friends who have worked in difficult professions, medicine and law enforcement, for instance, who "burned out" and left their professions when they realized they no longer felt anything for the suffering of those they encountered. They had been so exposed to these horrors that they became numb, disconnected from our basic instinct to feel empathy for the pain experienced by another. One of my fears is that social media has the capacity to do this on a massive scale, exposing us on a daily basis to such horrific occurrences that they stop being horrific and instead become commonplace, just a story we scroll by instead of stopping to read and absorb it.

Is the reaction to the killing of a lion that few of us ever saw in a country far away excessive? Probably, particularly when it touches on darker sides of our own nature and we threaten a fellow human and his family over it. But am I troubled that people expressed sorrow over the death of a lion? No, not at all. Better sorrow over a lion than sorrow over nothing, and hopefully this is a sign that our ability to feel and express empathy has survived this brave new world, allowing us to still feel that same kind of empathy for all those other issues that are far closer to us and far more likely to touch our own lives.

The saga of Cecil the lion will fade into obscurity soon enough, as these internet sensations always do. Maybe it will prove the catalyst to enact better protection of vulnerable wild animals, and maybe it won't. Whatever happens, for a brief moment in time at least some of us connected with that empathy that is being dulled on a daily basis by a world awash in tragedies, and we remembered our ability to feel anger, and sorrow, and pain.

We still have our hearts, and whether they are triggered by the death of a lion or issues much closer to home I am so very grateful we have not yet lost them. It is in this knowledge that we should take comfort, as it means we still do have the ability to care about all those issues much closer to us - and act on them, too.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Touching Down

“Are you in the basement”, the text to her reads. She is far from home, in Calgary with her father, but her behaviour at almost 16 is predictable enough to assume she is in the basement, which appears to be the preferred space for most teenage humans (myself included when I was her age).

“No, I’m at the mall,” she fires back, and I can feel the prickly beginnings of alarm rising in me. I could call her, but as most parents of teens know for some reason they respond to the sound of a text message in an almost-Pavlovian way, while a ringing cell phone can be ignored for hours or even days.
“What mall,” I text. “Are you alone? Where are you in the mall?,” I continue, as that sense of alarm begins to grow.

“Downtown, by myself – why?” she sends back, and I instantly move into “protective mom mode”, that instinct that takes over when we need to protect our genetic legacy from any sort of imminent danger from bears and cougars to tornadoes – and in this case it was a tornado I was concerned about.
“Get into the lowest level of the mall, closest to the parkade, and stay there – there is a tornado alert in Calgary,” I text.

“Cool,’ she fires back. “I want to see it,” she texts, but she knows better than to disobey an order given by Crisis Command Mom, so down into the lower level of the mall she goes.
Last week a tornado did not touch down in Calgary, but it could have easily done so, as funnel clouds were spotted and an alert issued as the possibility of a tornado loomed. It was a clear and present danger, to borrow a phrase, and I reacted as I knew a bit about protecting oneself from natural disasters like tornadoes and forest fires. When it was all over and the storm clouds had cleared I began to wonder how many people in our community have prepared for the possibility of an extreme weather event such as a tornado.

Tornadoes are not common this far north, although after some research I learned they may be more common than we believe since Canada’s north is sparsely populated, and a tornado could easily touch down in a remote area far from human eyes and never be detected. We do know that tornadoes are not impossible in the north, and that we have certainly seen them occur in places like Edmonton.

The question that remains, though, is how many people have actually thought about what they would do in a tornado? I suspect it is not even on our radar for the most part, one of those things we don’t consider until we see the swirling winds and watch as a strange storm envelopes us and those we love.

Disaster preparation, from being ready if threatened by a forest fire to knowing what to do in a tornado, is hardly a popular topic of conversation. Most of us believe we are unlikely to ever be touched by such occurrences, but then again the very nature of nature is its unpredictability. It is in that unpredictability that we find both awe and respect and, on occasion, terror, as nature charts its own path and sometimes we find ourselves in the middle of it as it cuts a swath through our cities, our farms and our lives.

After the alert was lifted I texted her again, my daughter who spent the storm hunkered down in the lowest level of a mall eating chocolate she found at a small shop there, and after stepping out of the mall she replied: “It’s already way sunny here - Calgary is crazy,” but of course it isn’t the city that is crazy but nature itself, which can swing from ominous storm clouds and potential disaster to a sunny summer day in mere minutes. The tornado did not touch down in Calgary, but the event was a reminder to all of the power of nature, and power of the need to protect those we love, even when we are far from them, connected only by a cell phone, text messages and an enduring commitment to keeping them safe, no matter what nature – and the world – throws at us.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Where Have You Been?

Where have you been?

That is the subject line of the email I find in the inbox associated with this blog. That email is followed by two others from different people, expressing some concern that the blog posts have been a bit on the sporadic side recently and hoping that I am okay.
Where have I been?

Well, where to begin, really. This has been a summer unlike any other in my world, so perhaps I will post a bit today to just bring my readers up to speed on where I have been, and why there has been a bit of hiatus on the blog.
At the end of June the Intrepid Junior Blogger left to spend the summer with her father in Calgary. I don’t usually cry when she leaves on these visits any more, as I have become accustomed to the weekends when she is away, but I admit on this occasion I did as her plane departed. The hardest part of single parenting is this moment, I think, when she is not with me, and on that day in June the next two months loomed in front of me like a spectre. It has been almost a month now and I miss her fiercely, but I know this is a good introduction to two years from now when she will likely leave home for good to head out on her own to University. I will be honest, too, as her absence has likely impacted my desire to write in a personal manner, like in this blog, as it colours everything I feel right now while I work my way through parenting from a distance and being separate from the one person in this world I love more than anyone or anything else.

The absence of the IJB also seems to unleash some sort of mothering instinct in me, as last year when she was gone I managed to adopt a hedgehog (as regular readers may recall). The hedgehog, named Ciel, has never really warmed to us and continues to be a small hissing ball of fury most of the time, and we tend to tiptoe gingerly around him as he is cranky at best and ferocious at worst, but for better or worse he belongs to us now. And this year, just a couple of weeks ago, I made a fateful stop in a local pet store and spied two small ferrets, about 12 weeks old, in need of a new home. I don’t claim to be an expert in much (maybe only in shoes, really) but I know a thing or two about ferrets, having owned them for decades, and so it was Patty and Liz ended up coming home with me to join our little resident ferret duo, creating a new ferret gang. The dynamics are pretty intriguing, as the smallest and prettiest resident ferret has decided she is the alpha and is spending her time trying to ensure the other three fall into line, despite being far smaller than the new arrivals (and new arrivals who are still growing, too). There is a reason they call a group of ferrets a “busy”, because having four ferrets out at playtime is much like one adult watching a dozen toddlers. They may each weigh about a pound, but they are each at least 20 pounds of mayhem.
This summer I was honoured to be recognized along with eleven other local women at the annual Girls Inc. “Women of Inspiration” celebration. The reasons the other women were nominated was clear to me when I watched the video depicting each of the inspiring women, although why I was included in this notable group seemed less clear to me. I suppose all I can say about inspiration is that one simply needs to be true to oneself and follow your dreams, carving your own path if necessary to do so. I am touched that I was included in this celebration, and even more touched that over the course of the summer two other people told me how my journey and actions have inspired them to follow their own path.
Without a doubt I have been busy at work this summer as we celebrated the grand opening of Shell Place. Two CFL games and one concert helped me stretch my wings both professionally and personally, working with media and professional sports organizations from around the country. For the recent Aerosmith concert I had the opportunity to both work in my professional capacity and as a runner for the tour management, which I have done before and enjoyed every single time. There is something incredible about chatting with people who drive million-dollar tour buses and learning about life on the road, about their pride in what they do, about the places from where they come and sharing a bit about life here. This last adventure as a tour runner involved the delivery of a lot of pizza and even earned me a t-shirt proclaiming me to be “Aerosmith Local Crew”, a title I will proudly wear and one I never thought I would carry.

I have been quietly observing the changes in our community as the economic impact began to make itself known. I have lived through the dips and dives before, and in a resource based economy one becomes accustomed to them, but I am troubled by the number of people I have known for years who are making the difficult decision to leave our community. As one said to me: “If I am not making any money here I may as well go home to Nova Scotia and live in my house close to my kids and grandkids and not make any money”, a sentiment with which I cannot argue. Some of these people will likely return when the economy picks up again, but some will likely be lost forever, and I find it hard to say goodbye to people of whom I have grown so fond and who are part of the rich tapestry of our community.

I have watched the layoffs and downsizing, and I have watched as moving trucks roll onto my street and roll away as houses sit vacant waiting for new owners to take a chance on us and our prospects for the future. I am, as always, an optimist, but it is impossible to not be impacted by these changes and to feel some degree of pain for a community that is going through a tough time. I know we will rebound, and I know we will be okay – but there are changes occurring, and some of them are hard to witness when you love this place in a way you have never loved another.
I have been taking a break from provincial politics, seeing it as more peripheral than central in my life. There is no doubt that after having invested in the PC campaign in 2012 I felt invested in the party, and there is equally no doubt that I felt betrayed by how some of those who came into power after that election behaved. The saga of Redford, the absurdity of Bill 10 and more hurt me deeply, particularly as the IJB had a stake in it all too, and I saw as her idealism and enthusiasm began to fade and be replaced with a jaded and cynical take on the political world. After the NDP sweep of the province I realized I had been a witness to the last dying gasps of a dinosaur of a political party, one that failed to adapt to a brave new world around it, and that faced almost certain extinction. I have taken time away from it all to mull it all over and to watch the new dynamics unfold, content to be a distant observer. I am still a political junkie, but I am one who is taking a bit of a break to recover from three years of a roller coaster ride that no one could have predicted.

I have been working on my house in a way I never expected or anticipated. It was when I found myself in the checkout line at Rona with a drill and a caulking gun that I realized how much I have changed. A small flood in my basement after a recent rain led to pulling up baseboards and taking apart eavestroughs, determined to prevent it from happening again and stubbornly forging ahead to do it on my own. I now know more about eavestroughing that I ever imagined I would, and it is the kind of knowledge I tuck away and savour a bit as it is so far from what I would normally carry in my head. This, like many other tasks homeowners carry out, is an ongoing one and this weekend will find me re-installing baseboards.
So, where have I been?

I have been here as always, working away at my job and my house, missing the IJB and cuddling the inhabitants of the Triple M Zoo (except the hedgehog, who is about as cuddly as your average hand grenade), and making a lot of quiet observations that are being recorded as I begin to formulate the outline in my head for the book I am looking to write about life in a northern town, a place of trials and tribulations, a place of success and failure, a place where one part of my life ended and where who I am as a person really began.

I must be honest, too, as on several occasions over the past few weeks I thought of ending this blog, of posting one final message and then allowing McMurray Musings to fade slowly over time, as who I am now is so very different from who I was when this all began. I have spoken about this with friends and thought about it late at night, staring into the dark and wondering if I wanted to continue to write this blog. It has become so much more complicated in recent years, as instead of being an observer of things central to life in this community I have become part of them, someone with “a dog in the fight”, and I have learned that I must exercise both discretion and caution when I write as I am no longer just an opinionated woman with a blog. And yet I find myself drawn back to this blog, because even as I have changed (and my reality has changed) this is where it all began, and to some degree this is where it continues.
So, that is where I have been. I will continue to post – perhaps not as frequently over the summer as I still have those pesky eavestroughs to contend with – when I can and when the urge strikes me. I have some posts in the works already, as I have some things to share and some thoughts to express. I genuinely hope my readers, wherever they happen to be, are having their own summer adventures just as I am. Some are likely quite exciting, and some are less so (like eavestroughing repairs), but all are contributors to that crazy thing we call life, and where we have been.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Football Road Trip from Anchorage to Fort McMurray

One of my colleagues has the most charming expression for when they deliver a definitive statement, a conversation closer beyond argument or reproach. “Sheh-bam”, they will say, always with a smile and a confidence that the discussion, whatever it was, is now finished because there is nothing more to say.

A few weeks ago I got an email inquiring about the local transportation plan for this little CFL game we had going on where I happen to work. I was getting dozens of those emails and responding to each as best I could, but this one was a bit different as the sender shared he was driving to Fort McMurray with his two small children...from Anchorage, Alaska.
I was admittedly both impressed and stunned, as it appeared he had never been to Fort McMurray and yet was setting out on an epic trek with a 6 and 3 year old to take in a football game in place far from home and where he had never been. I responded to his query, and over the days leading up to the game I contemplated contacting him to try to meet with them while they were here, but, tied up with the myriad details and complexities of my job, the email was never sent.

Imagine my delight and surprise when he emailed me after the game to share that he had written about their journey. I had checked my email late at night and stayed up even later to read his travelogue about their adventure as they drove from Alaska to Fort McMurray, the place I call home. I marvelled at his courage, as even though the Intrepid Junior Blogger is 15 the concept of being trapped in a car with my child for this many days strikes me with a kind of terror and I cannot even quite imagine doing it when she was younger. But I marvelled most at his story of not only their journey, but their experience of Fort McMurray – enough so that I asked his permission to share it here on my blog, because it is perhaps the definitive tale of why people should come here.
Got a family member who complains about how far it is to come visit you? Tell them about the guy who drove from Anchorage with two small kids to see half a football game. Run into people dissing our community without ever being here? Tell them about the man who came to place he had never been, bringing his small children and an open mind about what he would find. Find people looking for reasons as to why they should come here? Send them this link and tell them that if some guy from Anchorage can find a reason to drive here, so can they if they really want to (and if they don’t want to, well, it’s their loss).

It is a long read, and so very worth it. There were moments when I laughed, and moments when I found small tears forming in the corners of my eyes, because it was incredible to see my community through someone else’s eyes. It was equally incredible to me as a parent to read of an epic road trip that the kids might not remember (at least only bits and pieces and blurs) but that their father will never forget, just like all the adventures the IJB and I have undertaken in the last few years.
I am saddened I didn’t get to meet this man and his children when they were here, but as we corresponded he offered that if we are ever in Anchorage to let him know – and as luck would have it the IJB is planning our next cruise for the summer of 2016 (having discovered her love of cruises on our trip to the Caribbean last year) and her chosen destination is, of course, Alaska, with Anchorage one of our ports-of-call.

So, take the time to read this travelogue, because it is worth it. Keep the link handy, too, because the next time someone questions how far it is to come here, whether it is worth it and why they should visit I suggest just sending them this with one word attached: “Sheh-bam”

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Making History in Fort McMurray

There are few things I find myself unable to write about, at least immediately after they occur. For troubling events I often find myself working them out through my words - but it is the other events, the ones where I can almost feel my heart bursting at points, that defy my attempts to pin them down on paper, instead fluttering around like tiny butterflies unwilling to be captured.

This weekend I was part of two such events. All I can say about them - at least right now, until the butterflies drift down to earth once again - is that they were magical. They were the kind of magic, though, that comes from hard work, teams of amazing and dedicated people and a belief in what we can accomplish - and in our community.

Two days, back to back, that have left me aching in every muscle, feeling slightly hung over without having touched a drop of alcohol and completely, overwhelmingly, exhilarated. Instead of words today I am going to rely on some photos, because these are the images I will carry in my heart long after the words have faded away. 

Thank you, Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo. I am so grateful every single day to be part of this community, but you see over the last two days we made history - and I am so proud, and so humbled, to have had the opportunity to be part of it.

Shell Place Grand Opening, June 12, 2015

Northern Kickoff presented by Shell, June 13, 2015

~The official disclaimer: these comments are purely my own reflections and thoughts, 
and do not represent the opinions or views of the organization by which I am employed~

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Living in the Moment with the Imagine Dragons

There are moments in time so unique and unforgettable that you know they have found a special spot in your memory. You know you will tuck them away and pull them out in the future, reflecting back on an experience that meant more than it would seem to on the surface. Last night was one of those moments.

We almost didn't go. I had purchased the tickets - and not just "a ticket" but an entire experience - months ago but work matters had intervened and I had told the Intrepid Junior Blogger that sadly we could not attend the Imagine Dragons concert in Edmonton. She was understanding, if disappointed, but she was even more surprised when suddenly this week the clouds parted and it became not only clear that we could go but should go, an opportunity for a small road trip before the summer and a break before our lives step into very high gear for awhile. And so, on rather short notice, we threw some things into a suitcase and hit the highway, travelling a few hours down south to make a memory.

As we waited in the line-ups, first to check in for our VIP experience and then to meet the band, the IJB was remarkably calm. She doesn't get excited about much, approaching life with a degree of calm I wish I could emulate. She isn't much of a hero worshipper or fan girl, either, generally unimpressed by fame or fortune. Much like her mother, though, she struggles to live in the moment, always thinking about the next class, the next exam, the next phase of her life. Her outward calm hides her constantly working mind, one that is relentless in conjuring up expectations and creating often unanswerable questions. It is a pattern I know far too well.

As we waited we both noted how terrific the staff were at Rexall Place, and how calm they seemed to be too, the flow of these events honed over the years and dozens of concerts just like this one.

But for the IJB this wasn't just another concert. This was her first stadium concert, different from the small concerts of 1500 or so fans she had attended before. As someone who cut her teeth on huge concerts in the late 1980's featuring bands like New Order, Psychedelic Furs and Echo and the Bunnymen, I knew how special that first concert is, and how it sets the tone for your expectations of those in the future. I knew how concerts are one of the rare times when you can set aside all other thoughts - the pounding music and bright lights making it almost impossible to do otherwise - and live purely in the moment. But I also knew not all concerts are like that, some instead lacklustre affairs with disengaged performers there to earn a paycheque and disinterested in their audience. As someone who had spent years with musicians I knew the magic that happens when audience and artist connect, feeding their energy to each other and leading to one of those heart-stopping moments of perfection. I also knew this was unpredictable and elusive, and one never knows when it will happen...and now I know it happened last night, and the IJB was there not just to see it but be part of it.

In our brief moment with the band we discovered a group of four young men who were kind and gentle, calling the IJB sweetheart, telling us how much they love Alberta and how happy they were to be there last night. One could think these were just hollow words, rehearsed and insincere, but we didn't doubt their authenticity as they were delivered in such a seemingly heartfelt manner it erased all doubt. And once they stepped on the stage any doubts of their love for what they do, of their genuine affection for their fans, of their pure joy in being there, disappeared in a puff of smoke.

There are so many things one could say about the Smoke and Mirrors tour. Opening act Halsey was intriguing, particularly her reference to the Pride Parade held in Edmonton the very day she was performing for us. I was delighted to finally see Metric perform, a band I have loved for a long time and had been anxious to see live - but it was the Imagine Dragons who owned the stage and the audience from the moment they walked out.

The stage set was unbelievable, the remarkable column-like screens creating a unique backdrop for every single song. Watching them move and shift, watching them become not just part of the set but part of the narrative of the songs, was astonishing - but even without the stage I believe it would have been an incredibly special moment.

There were points when it was incredibly beautiful, when Rexall Place was lit up by the tiny lights from thousands of cell phones floating in the dark like little fireflies. Decades ago we held up lighters, and every time I see this I feel that flashback to the past and I know how much the world has changed - and how much it has stayed the same. 
There were points when there was laughter, and points where there was nothing but the sound of thousands of voices - including mine - singing the lyrics we know by heart.

For me though the special moments were when I would look at the IJB and see her, eyes closed, singing along and knowing every word, and completely and entirely living in the moment. It is so rare to live in the moment now, in a world filled with distraction and information rushing at us from every angle. It is a gift of the most precious sort to live in the moment, one we often struggle to find.

It would be an unkind understatement to say they brought down the house. They did so much more, leaving it all on the stage as good artists do, connecting with an audience of thousands and yet I suspect making each person feel like they had connected with them personally. When they played their encore - after the crowd erupted into cheers when they left the stage the first time - huge glittery leaves rained down on the crowd, creating a moment that was not only beautiful but magical, and one I managed to catch on camera.

There are some firsts in life. You can only ever have one first kiss, one first lover, and one first concert like this. You never know how those "firsts" will unfold, and how they will shape your memories. Last night I had the honour of being there as my daughter experienced her first stadium concert, and I saw in her face the kind of our joy and abandon a live music experience should bring.

As we left the stadium with the crowds around us and walked towards our car, the sky now dark and the city lights bright, she said: "I don't know what it is but concerts like that just make you feel like you don't give a damn about anything else." 

All I could do was smile, because that's exactly how I wanted her to feel. That feeling is called "living in the moment" and last night, thanks to a band called Imagine Dragons, we did.