Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Day in the Life

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling a bit anxious. It was Friday, of course, always a good day in my books but it was also a very busy day, with significant events in my personal and professional life both happening on the same day.

I don't write a lot about my professional life in this blog, which seems absurd as it is such a huge part of my life. Very soon I will have been employed in my position in Communications at MacDonald Island (now the Regional Recreation Corporation) for a full year. Over that year I have learned so much, and to say that I now spend my entire day writing is not a stretch as that is exactly what I do. I have truly grown into the role of a professional writer, and so my days are filled with creating content for articles, press releases, and every aspect of communications for a large organization. Coupled with my freelance work it seems I write for hours every day, and I suppose it only seems that way as I do - and I love every single moment, too.

Yesterday was an exciting day due to a professional event and a personal event that both occurred on the same day, as these things often do. My morning began when I arrived in my office and shortly after sitting at my desk the names of those dancing in Dancing With the Stars Wood Buffalo 2014 were announced - and my name was on that roster. It's a commitment I take very seriously, as it involves time and effort and eventually dancing on a stage in front of hundreds of people with a camera live-streaming to hundreds more (and with a partner I just met yesterday). I was nervous about it all, especially since I did not know the names of the other "celebrity" dancers, but I was pleased to see that I know most if not all of them, and that this will be a friendly, but serious, competition.

That announcement, though, set off a flurry of activity in my life, with Twitter and Facebook lighting up with the news that I would be participating when I am quite well known for making it clear that I am not a dancer. And then of course there was the requisite promoting and trash talking, as competitions like this are only fun if you can wind everyone up a bit (and every wind up might lead to more money raised for the SPCA, which at the end of the day is what this event is all about).

When that excitement was beginning to die down, though, it was off to my professional excitement of the day, and the re-dedication of the Terry Conroy Mini Ice at the Suncor Community Leisure Centre. The mini ice was originally dedicated in Terry's name in 1996, but over the years and with the expansion of the facility the history of this designation was lost, and I will admit that I personally had little idea who Terry Conroy was or his role in our community until the last few months when we began to plan this celebration of his name and legacy. Terry Conroy, you see, was a giant of this community.

When he died, far too early in his life, he left a tremendous hole in this community because he was one of those quiet souls who just gets involved and does the things that need to be done. He was a coach, a mentor, and an advisor to young athletes from a variety of sports. He encouraged them to pursue their dreams, whether it was sport or education. He was involved in a variety of other initiatives, like creating the now much-loved Oil Barons franchise. He was a husband and a dad and an employee, and he was one of those citizens who leaves a legacy long after they are gone because of all the things they have done, quietly and without fanfare or accolades. What captured my imagination the most, though, was his annual backyard hockey rink, which he created every year for the kids of his community.

I suppose it's because it triggered memories of my own father doing the same thing. My dad didn't create a rink every year, but I have clear memories of him working to maintain the rink in the very small town where I was born. We left that town when I was six, and so my memories of that rink are fuzzy, but I recall the sound of water splashing across the ice, and a shovel being pushed across the surface. I remember being placed on the ice gently with his strong arms above me, and feeling it under the surface of my skates for the first time. I must have been four or five, I'd guess, and it's one of my first memories of my father, who has now been gone for several years. I clutch that memory tightly to me, so tightly I think I almost forgot it, until  I began to work on learning more about Terry Conroy.

The more I learned about Terry Conroy the more memories of my dad flooded back, and almost in a reverie I would think about the sights and sounds of those backyard rinks that have dotted our nation for decades. I thought about the commitment and dedication of those who build them, not for any personal gain but simply so their kids, and the kids of others, can enjoy them. I thought about how that simple act, not so simple when you think about the work that went into them, can change the lives of those who experience them, cementing them forever in their memories. I suspect a lot of children remember Terry's backyard rink, and now they carry memories of it, and the legacy he left, forever.

So yesterday we gathered once more at the mini ice surface where I work, and with the Conroy family present we again celebrated his memory, and his legacy. I have done many things in my professional life in the past year, but this is perhaps the one of which I am most proud, because we celebrated the impact left by an "ordinary" man who was not ordinary at all. We celebrated someone who helped to build this community that I love, and we honoured his memory - and I was so very privileged to take part in it. Now I know the story of Terry Conroy, and it is one I will tell again and again, because it is the story of the impact one person can have on their community if they choose to do so. Yesterday's event was the culmination of months of work, but the legacy now lives on because it has found a new home in the memories and hearts of people like me.

I will admit the activities of the day left me exhausted, but I had one more commitment. Some friends had invited me to a house concert, and while I have often been too tired or too busy to attend these evening events in the last year I had decided to go to this one. I texted my friend and warned him that I might fall asleep, and that I was completely exhausted, but he told me to come. Maybe sit in the back, he said. Sleep here if you need to, he said. What he didn't say, and didn't need to say, was that he knew I needed to be there, and that the home he and his wife have always opened to me is a safe place where I can simply be, even if it means falling asleep during a house concert.

I didn't fall asleep, though. Instead I sat in awe as I heard two musicians, part of the band The Navigators, play some incredible music. They might be from Newfoundland but they took me right back to my time in Ireland three years ago, where evenings were spent in small corner pubs listening to local musicians and learning the lyrics of traditional Irish songs. Once again I could feel my memories being triggered, thinking back to a night in Dublin in a tiny pub at a table in the back where we sat on long benches right next to those who played, and exchanged stories and laughs. What many don't know is that Ireland is where all of this truly began for me, because my time there is what started me writing again. I came back with stories spilling out of me, things I needed to share, and so I began to share them on a personal blog, which eventually led me to starting this blog you are now reading. I sat in awe on a bench in my friend's living room, and realized I had come full circle, right back to the start of a journey that took me from being a stay-at-home mom who watched daytime TV and didn't feel she was doing much with her life to someone who works full tilt as a professional writer, rarely has time for TV, and often sits in wonder at what her life has become.

Yesterday was just another day in my life, of course. But it was one of those days when the past and present collide, and in the best possible ways. I thought about the history of this community, and the legacy of a man who changed it for the better through all the things he did. I thought about how I can contribute to my home, by learning to dance to raise money for an organization I love. And I thought about how life can change if you want it to, and how changing your life can have ripple effects far beyond what you expect. This morning I sit here with a coffee and write this post and think about today, and another day in my life. I think about all the possibilities that lie ahead, and all the memories of the past. I think most, though, about how you can come full circle as the ribbons that tie your life come together, and make you realize how incredible a journey life truly is.

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