The Western Terminus of 37a Avenue

It was around this time last year that I stopped posting here. It was not intentional. I ran out of time in the day. My job situation changed significantly; the learning curve steepened, and my time spent outside and away from computers increased drastically. I really like that about my new job, but every few months I’ve looked back longingly at this blog, wishing I had the time and mental energy at the end of the day to come up with something.

Driving is a major component of this job. I travel the streets and back alleys of Wetaskiwin, Millet, and the westernmost reaches of the county, all the way out to Alder Flats, and all points between. I’ve been been racking my brain for the last little while, trying to come up with something that fits the theme here, but I’m just not convinced that anyone will share my passion for the convenience of 48th Street. In case you’re intrigued, if you ever want to skip the busyness and traffic lights on 49th and the school zones and cross-walkers of 47th, 48th is a delightful alternative with only one stop sign and very little traffic. But you can’t build a blog post around that!

And then the other night I was on my way to pick up a snack for my sweetheart and I to share for our “date night.” It’s amazing how having kids who don’t sleep well lowers one’s expectations for date night. A bag of chips and a movie is about as exciting as it gets for us these days (My wife is laughing exhaustedly in a chair across from me as I read this to her).

I was headed west towards the Automile on 37a Avenue, and about to turn up behind Safeway when I noticed the sun setting off behind the Pizza Hut. Without hesitation I sailed past the turn off and coasted across the Automile westbound. The sunset and the soundtrack playing in the minivan required my attention.

On the west side of the Automile (also known as 56th Street), 37a Avenue runs past Pizza Hut, a pawn shop, and then dead ends about a block later. There is a very convenient snow road I made good use of this past winter that connects this avenue with the back side of Walmart, but that snow road is now a mud road, and my work van is not adventurous enough to use it any longer. All this to say, it’s supposed to be a dead end.

I made my way to this dead end, and restarted the song, a new-ish offering by Coldplay; “Midnight.” Definitely worth looking up. And while I have nothing against the video for the song, if you’re planning to experience this song via YouTube like I did, I’d recommend ignoring the video in favour of a good sunset.

There is nothing quite like a spring time sunset. It is a sensory experience beyond the visual. You can smell a spring sunset, at least I smelled it that night, with the window rolled down, the music rolling out and the evening air wandering casually in. The visual aspect also bears mentioning. It was the typical prairie offering; varying flavours of orange and pink, in unorganized layers. And you can’t truly appreciate the beauty of a sunset without the interruption of cloud. There’s probably an analogy there.

I sat for the length of the song with my arm hanging out of the window, resting against the side of the car. The city hummed gently behind me, and the county presented the splendour before me. Those five minutes and seven seconds were all the time it took to convince me that I had stumbled upon the best sunset-viewing spot truly in Wetaskiwin.

It’s possible you may feel like this is unremarkable subject matter on which to base a blog post. You may be right; I know the thought crossed my mind, even lingered. And then I realized that if an optimist waited for only remarkable reasons to be optimistic, he might be sadly disappointed a lot of the time. I’ve decided to continue to make it my business to find joy and adventure in even the smallest things, and I’ll do my best to guide this weblog in that direction.

So if you feel the need to “get out of town”, and find yourself unable, take advantage of this quiet corner of the city. I’ll recommend the evening of a partly cloudy day, and if you are slightly melancholic like me, may I also recommend the soundtrack?

P.S. If you are reading this, you probably are one of three people: my wife, my mom, or some very patient person who has put up with my epic lapse in posting. I can’t guarantee a return to more regular posting, but I can guarantee I’m going to try. Thank-you for reading!

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Warren’s Music

Last week I mentioned having grown up in a little town outside Saskatoon. It was a great place to grow up. In my teen years, there were basically two schools of thought for young men: there were those who played a musical instrument (or attempted to), and there were those who rode dirtbikes. I personally spent a considerable amount of time in the “attempted to” category of the musical instrument school, but eventually I was able to actually play a guitar and dabble in drums and percussion. But even when I was still attempting, I started hanging out at H.E.L. Music on Broadway in Saskatoon. I never felt cool enough to linger for long, but I darkened the door as often as I could and gazed at the hanging rows of gleaming guitars. The walls were full; if not with guitars, then with other musical equipment and accessories, or signed photographs of musicians, some famous, some obscure. It was like a mystical cave of dreams for me and my friends, and it was an easy decision to avoid the larger, national chain music stores and offer my meager business to H.E.L. I had an old electric guitar – more of a shadow of a guitar, really – and on one occasion I brought it down to H.E.L. to see if anything could be done. I was young enough to be supervised by my mom, and I think she was glad she came as we were led by a strange, long-haired musician, via winding stairs and corridors, deep into the bowels of the building. Apparently we had arrived when we entered a tiny room, with guitars stacked high around a tiny workspace, decorated only by a tiny, trickling fountain, fringed with non-descript greenery. A wide-eyed, friendly-looking woman was confined to this space, looking and acting far happier than anyone in such a cavern should. Her prognosis for my guitar was not good, but the experience was eccentirc enough that it has never left me.
All this is to demonstrate that H.E.L. Music was more than a store in Saskatoon. It was a hang-out, a society, and an institution of sorts. More than just a place of business, it was a place to live life and create art. Saskatoon suffered a considerable loss when the owner decided he wanted more time for fishing and closed the place down forever.

After the impact H.E.L. made on my young life, I never expected to find a place like it in Wetaskiwin, and when I moved here, I didn’t. And then last year I noticed some activity in an empty building across from the library, and that activity quickly took the shape of Warren’s Music.

When we discovered this, my oldest son and I were on one of our Sunday Morning Adventures, which involved our minivan, Choral Concert on CBC Radio 2, and a tour of the peaceful streets of Wetaskiwin, for the purpose of giving my wife a much-deserved morning off. We had turned up 51 ave downtown and suddenly noticed the sign for Warren’s Music hung over the previously deserted storefront. Despite the car parked in front, I assumed that, because it was a Sunday, it would be safe for us to have a peek. So I parked a few doors up and hauled my little man out of his car seat into the pleasant summer morning. We walked up to the big front window and took a quick look inside. One look was all I needed; we were definitely coming back during business hours. I turned quickly to go, because even though no one appeared to be there I felt quite self-conscious peering in through the window. We were almost at the car when I heard someone behind me. I turned, and the man who would turn out to be Warren himself was standing in the doorway, inviting us to come have a look. I hesitated openly, but he insisted it was fine, so we quickly took him up on the offer. 

photo stolen from

photo stolen from

Walking in, I was almost immediately transported back fifteen odd years to the sanctuary of my teens. The store is smaller than the one of my youth, but it’s perfect. The walls are heavy (without being cluttered) with fine guitars; a perfect balance between standards, famous gems, and lesser-known yet high quality instruments, all at remarkably reasonable prices. I don’t claim to be exactly current when it comes to quality and pricing, but I’ve never found a dud at Warren’s.

The atmosphere is cozy. T-shirts and posters of local bands have their place on the wall, and the odd banjo, mandolin, and violin punctuate the steady flow of guitars. Stools and chairs stand around, welcoming customers to not just look, but to try out an instrument, and the familiar, somewhat comforting hint of cigarette smoke is barely detectable; the only ashtray in the place tops an ornate stand and is clean of everything but a colourful assortment of guitar picks.

Needless to say I stood in the centre of the room, slowly turning in a circle and trying not to drool on the little boy in my arms. When my slow-roaming gaze reached the door at the back of the room I was delighted to glimpse shelves of richly-coloured wood, obviously from trees grown in areas where winter isn’t allowed to “just show up” ten months out of the year. It suddenly became clear that Warren not only sells and repairs fine guitars, he also builds them himself. The deal was sealed. I would be back, and probably not nearly as often as I would like.

Since that day I have learned more about Warren and his shop, and it has only served to bolster my opinion that his is an establishment worth haunting. Warren is active in community events. If you’ve listening to music at an outdoor event this summer, it’s probably rushing out of his speakers, and he’ll be the bespectacled man, under a golf cap, standing behind the soundboard. The man himself is delightful and laid-back, putting me at ease as I try to corral my energetic toddler, bent on turning every knob on every amplifier in the store. My recently-repaired guitar is a testament to the quality of Warren’s work, and rarely do we walk by his front door without the warm sounds of vibrating guitar strings wafting out to meet us, either from a lesson in progress or a weary soul satisfying their hunger for music.

Like I said, I’m not there nearly as often as I’d like, so if you’re like me and you long for a place to call your second home, then take a trip to Warren’s Music for me. Lean against the wall and soak in the atmosphere; be a part of the art that hangs in the air like a faint and subtle smoke. Believe it or not, there is more to say about this wonderful place, but I’ll leave it to you to discover it for yourself. I feel strongly that a place like this is not to be taken for granted. Warren’s Music is a rare gem, and we the citizens of Wetaskiwin are lucky to have it’s doors open on our city.

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There are two little boys in our home. I never knew the pleasure I would feel in casually mentioning “my sons” in conversation until I suddenly have that privilege. Having children is a dream my wife and I shared long before we met. It is certainly a dream being realized, but there are parts of it that are not a dream, or at least not the type of dream that one is asleep during. There is far less sleep involved than I ever imagined.

Our youngest son is four months old and sleeps very well at night, which I think is only fair, since his two-and-a-half year old big brother didn’t manage that until about a year ago. Teething was a painful and ridiculously long process for our oldest, and it woke him (and us) up every hour, on the hour, every night, for the first eighteen months of his life. To add to that, he had a stage where he couldn’t fall asleep. We tried everything, and for a while, taking a drive in the evening helped quite a bit. Sometimes we drove for twenty minutes, and there were times when it took more than an hour. Often my wife would join us, but there were times when she would take a much-deserved break and let me and the little man make the trip alone.

At the time we rented the southwestern-most house in Wetaskiwin (not on purpose; it just turned out that way), and, being a map person and someone who prefers “east and west” to “left and right,” my natural tendency was to head for the northeastern-most point in the city. Our son’s phase occurred during a particularly snowy winter, so we travelled streets bumpy with packed and frozen snow, enjoying the cover of darkness and the warmly lit windows that populate a resting city, like characters and scenes in one of those deliciously slow-moving movies. Heading steadily north, it only takes about ten minutes to cross the city, and right before the hospital on the northern edge, I turned east on Northmount. Heading north again I found an established neighbourhood with mature trees, decent sized yards and valuable homes. As I stubbornly carried on my search for the northeastern-most house, the houses became nicer without being pretentious. Suddenly I was guided north by a dead-end sign, onto a short street called Applewood.

With a name like Applewood, could a street be anything but lovely? At the risk of forfeiting my “man card,” I will right now admit to a long-standing love of the Anne of Green Gables stories. Naming a street Applewood reminds of how Anne saw a “Lake of Shining Waters” where others saw only an unexceptional slough. Maybe most people wouldn’t see much of anything special on Applewood Street, but to me it is a cozy, quiet street so close to the edge of town that you can almost feel the countryside creeping softly in.

One last jog brought my son and me onto the home stretch. Aspen Ridge Crescent is a cul-de-sac, lined with more impressive-yet-cozy houses. We bumped along the road, and I instantly liked the place. We quickly reached the section of the street where you have to swing around and double back, and instead of the normal expanse of bare pavement that is usually featured in a cul-de-sac, a tiny grassy, treed area sprung from the centre of the street, small enough to stay out of the way, and just large enough to be decorative. I think that is what sealed the deal for me.

I grew up in a small town not far from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. There were less than two thousand people in the town, and we lived one house away from the north-west corner of town. When I was very young, the Carlton rail line ran northbound right along the western edge of town, less than one hundred yards from our home, but it quickly became obsolete and was pulled up when I was still quite young, leaving a perfect, tree-lined walking trail running for miles between the farmers’ fields. Walking along this trail we quickly discovered it was a wildlife corridor where we regularly encountered deer, rabbits, ducks and a vast assortment of birds.

Photo of the old railway trail courtesy of Jeanne Friesen (thanks, Mom!)

Photo of the old railway trail courtesy of Jeanne Friesen (thanks, Mom!)

This wooded highway became a childhood playground. In winter, the old railbed created perfect drifts for snow forts, and in spring, the ditches flooded, which was perfect for rubber boots full of slough water. We named certain spots along the trail (in the style of Anne Shirley), and dreamed up many more forts than we ever built. As we grew older, my sisters and I became more reluctant to go out for a tramp, and Mom had to drag us out on a Sunday afternoon. While I grumbled at the time, I am now quite thankful for her insistence.

That cul-de-sac mini-park on Aspen Ridge is the type of place I would have haunted daily in my childhood. While it is much smaller than the trails I was fortunate enough to wander, the size would have only slightly narrowed the scope for imagination. Even now, with those days far behind me, in that little tuft of trees and grass I see a pirate ship in the doldrums, an emergency wilderness camp site, or a towering oasis city, dwarfed by a vast desert.

This may seem like a stretch to be considered a reason to feel optimistic about Wetaskiwin, but for me it easily makes the cut. It is tiny pockets of life like this that make a city into a home instead of just a hotel; a place to live, and not just a place to eat and sleep.

Clearly we can’t all live on Applewood, and the folks on Aspen Ridge Crescent might not appreciate me and my boys setting up a fort in the middle of their street, but this corner of the city has awakened my desire to seek out similar corners throughout Wetaskiwin. If you live here, and you’re reading this, it’s quite likely you live in one; I believe I do. So, while this post is not about anything that is particularly unique about Wetaskiwin, celebrate that very fact with me: that there are average, homey places in this town where sleepy summer days, breathless winter adventures and ocean voyages across quiet streets are alive and well.

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Hong and Sandy’s Hole in the Wall

There is a particular block downtown that feels, in my opinion, exactly like a charming, “old downtown” area should feel. It starts at the corner of 50th and 50th and heads one short block west. This section of the street always seems dark; the brightest it gets is shady, and the trees growing up out of the sidewalks add to that effect. The brick-and-stone buildings lining either side of the street appear to be quite tall, especially when a person is on foot, creating the illusion that they are leaning toward one another, over the street, leaving only a narrow strip of sky above. It’s a quaint, homey darkness. Even when the setting sun blazes a brilliant path down the street from the west there is a comforting feeling of being in shadow.

In summertime it is shady and cool there. There is at least one occasion every summer, the Wetaskiwin Festival of Arts and Agriculture, when the city shuts the block down to all but pedestrian traffic and sets up a stage and space for various local vendors and artists. It’s the perfect environment for this type of event, and we’ve gone to the Festival for an afternoon each year it’s been in existence.


It can’t be much more than a year ago that someone started painting one of the storefronts on this block a bold, barn door red. It used to house some sort of cafe but had been sitting empty for I can’t remember how long. I noticed the painting in progress once in passing, but didn’t think much of it until a sign was hung above the door reading “Hong & Sandy’s”, advertising Chinese and (the inevitable) Western Cuisine (I don’t understand why so many of these restaurants feel the need to offer hamburgers and grilled cheese sandwiches alongside their signature, ethnic dishes. I guess I just assume that most people who go to a Chinese restaurant are planning to eat Chinese food. I’ll move on.). Driving by on another evening I noticed a bright, hissing, neon pink “CAFE” sign hanging out over the sidewalk, clashing brilliantly with the red paint. A crude, bristleboard, hand-“Sharpied” sign was taped in the front window, advertising a brunch schedule and pricing. Despite all these efforts to draw me in, I hardly gave it a second thought. The only item that hung in my mind was the name. I found the mix of exotic and familiar (Hong, and Sandy) to be intriguing enough that it registered in my consciousness each time I drove by, but I was not intrigued enough to stop in.

The difference came last summer when we bought a little house in town, and our generous and helpful realtor (and family friend) offered us a gift certificate for Hong & Sandy’s in celebration of our purchase. I admit I was surprised that she chose this new restaurant, but she made an effort to recommend it highly, noting that at least one of the owners was from Hong Kong, meaning that, in her opinion, the food was better. At that time, we were solid supporters of a different local Chinese place, but with my wife six months pregnant, a toddler underfoot, and a house full of moving boxes, a free meal was nothing to turn up one’s nose at.

A few days later, once we were a bit more settled in, we called in our order and a little while later I headed down to pick it up. As soon as I stepped inside, my suspicions were confirmed: this restaurant was a hole in the wall.

A “hole in the wall,” according to my personal definition, is a tiny, quirky, one-of-a-kind, small town restaurant. It can be a good thing or a bad thing. At first glance, I had a feeling it was going to be a good thing.

Like many Chinese restaurants, the decor was outdated and a little gaudy, but in a charming, familiar way. Most of what I saw was typical, hole in the wall, Chinese restaurant-esque. An empty buffet stood in a back corner; a waving cat and other figurines graced the counter; paintings of plants we don’t have on this side of the ocean hung on the walls. A young woman was obviously taking orders and waiting on tables, while an older man was visible through a small window in a door at the back, toiling methodically in a narrow kitchen.  Three generations of Chinese women, presumably from the same family, were represented in the front room. What, to me, was entirely a-typical, was how these ladies were passing their time.

A large, shiny-new flatscreen television hung from the wall above the counter, and all three women were watching what appeared to be an Asian soap opera of sorts, each one varying in their interest, ranging from the casual glances of the waitress to the unflinching gaze of the woman I’ll call Grandma. I’m not sure it ever registered with Grandma that I was in the room, which allowed me the opportunity to observe both herself and her soap with great pleasure.

The scene I took in involved two young people, a man and a woman, both very composed and understated in their actions. They were obviously emotional, but they in no way resembled the outrageous characters I had encountered in past stumbles onto North American soaps. Obviously they spoke a language I don’t understand, and the subtitles charging across the screen below them did nothing for me, displaying the characters of some other Chinese dialect, I suppose.

I was about to lose interest, my mind about to drift to the order I was waiting for, when composure, on the part of the actress, was suddenly and completely exchanged for shrieking and rage. The young man was only slightly ruffled by her rapid change of temperament, and quickly began to match her, shriek for shriek.

I couldn’t help but giggle at this point (what an intelligent response to something culturally different from what I’m used to!), and, turning to the waitress, I said, in the knowing, loaded voice I save for when I have something really witty to say,

“I don’t know what their saying, but they don’t seem very happy.”

My humour (and I’m using that term generously here) was completely lost on this poor woman, who graciously passed it over and proceeded to explain to me the piece of the plot that I was obviously missing. Mercifully, our order was soon ready, preventing me from attempting any more humour. I thanked the waitress, received a good natured smile, and headed home.


If I’m choosing Hong & Sandy’s as the topic for this post, then it goes without saying that we enjoyed excellent food that evening. I won’t go into a lot of detail in regard to specific foods (as this post is already approaching the length of a novel), but I will say that the food was fresh and hot with excellent flavour, and served in large portions at comparable prices to other places in town. It took us two or three sittings to polish off this delicious meal.

The one exception I will make regarding describing food is in the case of the ginger beef, because I take ginger beef very seriously. This was not your bad, hole in the wall ginger beef; not the dregs of the lunch buffet, stuck together, black and sticky, wear-your-jaw-out-from-chewing ginger beef. It was perfect: a pristine combination of crispy and soft, golden brown in colour and the aroma! Inhaling those waves of ginger, I felt like I was growing healthier by the moment.

I am no foodie, and have no qualification to rate this restaurant, except that my experience there – food, service and cultural immersion included – was exceptionally enjoyable. This little cafe is the type of place where a great Canadian novel should be written; where Wednesday night supper could become a long-standing family tradition; where first dates and 20th anniversary suppers should be shared.

So, if you’re in the mood for Chinese, join me in picking up some ginger beef from Hong & Sandy’s (quite possibly tonight, in my case), and reward these good folks for giving us another excellent reason to love this town.

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By The Lake Park: Winter Edition

The other day it snowed here; soft and silent, in a little wind. It reminded me of why I love By The Lake Park in the winter time.

By The Lake Park is probably my favourite spot in Wetaskiwin. It scores so high above all the other spots we frequent that I am right now going to reserve at least three more posts for this subject: one for each season. I’m not sure I’ll be able to say enough about this park.

According to the City of Wetaskiwin website, and a few other random Google hits, By The Lake Park is home to a 17 acre lake, surrounded by 2.2 kilometres of walking trails, partially paved, but mostly well-groomed gravel. I was frustrated by the lack of information available on the internet regarding the history of the park. Apparently I have some research to do.

One of the characteristics I appreciate most about the park is that, while I am walking there, I feel more free than anywhere else in Wetaskiwin to greet the people I encounter. Regardless of age, race, economic status, or any other difference that might intimidate me elsewhere, at By The Lake Park I somehow feel more eager to offer a smile and a quick word of greeting, and so far I have been fortunate to receive the same in return. That being said, my favourite winter memory at the park happened when I was the only person on the trail.

0118032158You need to know that I am absolutely fascinated by extreme weather. I love it; even winter. If it blizzards, I want to go out in it. If you think I’m crazy, I can handle it. The other thing you need to know is that in March of 2011 my grandpa passed away. There is no man I admire more than my grandpa and I miss him terribly. He was a fine outdoorsman, among other things, right up until the day he died. When Grandpa passed away, his children fell to helping Grandma handle hers and Grandpa’s possessions. It was a difficult time, but I had some small happiness in carrying away two pairs of wooden snowshoes, built in the older, more traditional style. There were a couple of days last winter where there was enough soft snow to snowshoe to work, and I enjoyed that a lot. I felt clumsy and really hadn’t a clue what I was doing, but I felt like I was honouring the memory of my grandpa.

Then a Sunday morning dawned where my wife and then one-and-only-son were napping, and a soft, silent snow was falling outside. Around 10 o’clock I was in the car with a pair of snowshoes in the back, on my way to the park.

It was a cool morning, probably in the neighbourhood of -20 C (just the way I like it), so I was dressed warmly. I was the only car in the parking lot, a fact that thrilled me to the point that I stumbled out of my shoes and into my boots and snowshoes as quickly as possible, and then took off at a rambling jog, eager to get into the bush before anyone else arrived. As it turned out my rushing was for nothing. Not a single soul appeared that morning, and I was winded before 5 minutes had passed.

My mind is clouded these days from lack of sleep and the busyness of raising little boys, so I don’t remember things in very good order. My memories come in glimpses and impressions. Here are some glimpses of what I remember from that morning at By The Lake Park.

I remember heading out across the frozen lake, pushing fresh powder with all the joy and excitement of a back country skier, but none of the speed or finesse. I remember finally getting the hang of it; changing gradually from the awkward, bow-legged gait of a weekend cowboy after a trail ride, to the confident, long, straight-ahead stride of someone who trusted his snowshoes not to step on each other. I remember the feeling of confidence when my pacing found a rhythm not unlike a heart beat, and the immediate child-like quickening of that beat when I realized I had it figured out. I remember looking back over my tracks, shielding my eyes against the heavy falling snow, and revelling in the aloneness of the scene.

I remember bright red willows standing out against the snow in the frozen marshes, and winding my way in among the branches, sometimes bent double; pausing, crouched in a red archway, to look back over the lake now obscured by the thickening snow; catching my breath.

I remember the sudden sensation of it being so profoundly quiet that I could actually hear the snowflakes as they drifted past poplar branches. I convinced myself I could hear them piling – million upon million – on the bed of snow below. I remember, in that particular moment, a feeling of closeness to my grandpa; not in an eerie or supernatural way, but a distinct feeling of his memory being suddenly sharpened, like when a familiar taste or smell transports you instantly and completely into a moment from your past.

I remember leaving the trail for awhile and heading out on a detour the City had used one spring when the lake flooded a large section of the trail. I remember, as I headed back south toward the main trail, the snowfall thickening, and having to blink almost constantly to see where I was going. I remember the joy this brought me; to be alive and unconcerned, out among the fast-falling snowflakes.

The last thing I remember was encountering one of the many bird feeders hung in the trees along the trail. On that morning, the chickadees were as undeterred by the snow as I was. I watched from about 50 feet away as they darted playfully through the trees, to the feeder, and then away again. I marvel at birds in flight, at the appearance that they are doing little more than preventing falling. Flying is no struggle for them; it rather resembles a series of casual wingbeats, just enough to keep them afloat. I remember needing to continue past the feeder, and finding that, even when I was 10 feet from the feeder, the chickadees barely hesitated. I stood still, so close, watching them flit around me, soaking in the emptiness of the park that allowed me to enjoy it in all its splendour.

Back at the van, standing comfortably in my boots again, I tapped the snow off my snowshoes and laid them in the back with a feeling of satisfaction. There was still no one in the parking lot. As much as I love the sense of community I feel among fellow park-goers, it was the sense of solitude on that beautiful morning that makes this a memory I won’t soon forget.

Just writing this makes me feel like going for a walk. If there was such a job as Park Ranger at By The Lake Park, I would beg the city to give the job to me. For a city the size of ours, this is a rare gem, so congratulations to us. Here’s to getting out and enjoying the park!

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a toast to the pharmacy staff

Before I moved to Wetaskiwin, I didn’t spend much time around the medical profession. When we had been married a little over a year, my wife became pregnant, and that changed things forever. Doctor’s appointments became the norm, and trips to the pharmacy were a frequent event that, thankfully, we grew to look forward to.

pharmI have never met a pharmacist or pharmacy staff member in our city that I didn’t like. In my experience, they are among the friendliest people in town. We go to the pharmacy at Safeway almost exclusively, but I’ve had occasion to stick my head in the door of a few other places, and my experiences have been positive, time and again. For example, both times I stepped into the Wetaskiwin Family Pharmacy the ladies behind the counter were literally laughing with joy over some joke they were sharing, but were more than happy to stop and serve me with a friendly smile. It wasn’t the kind of laughter that is at someone’s expense, or where you walk in on it and it is immediately awkward. It was the kind of laughter and the kind of people who make the instantaneous decision to let you in on their happiness. Can they possibly enjoy their jobs that much, or are they just quality people? I’m guessing a little bit of both.

We love they pharmacy staff at Safeway. While our boys literally could not be more wonderful, unfortunately the time they spent growing inside my wife could have been A LOT more wonderful. Pregnancy is a cruel, cruel master over my poor, brave wife, and over those months I was a frequent visitor at the back counter at Safeway. The prescriptions were always accompanied by an enquiry after my wife’s health, an expression of disappointment that the current trimester was, yet again, no better than the last, or a friendly demand that we bring the baby by as soon as he made his appearance. I was new in town when this was happening, and I found myself considering these genuine, friendly people to be some of my most cherished acquaintances, even friends. When our first son was born, we made a special trip to the pharmacy to introduce him, and the cooing and oohing and awing must have been heard across the store. When our second son was born a little over two years later, the reaction was the same.

And it hasn’t ended there. These busy people are never too busy to answer our questions, often going beyond protocol and delving into their own personal experiences to help us make informed decisions regarding ours and our sons’ health. Several of these fine people have been serving my wife’s family for decades, and their loyalty and dedication is hard to miss.

It always feels good to be a “regular,” and to have a “usual” (even if it’s anti-nausea medication) is something to treasure. I never expected to find such an experience in my local pharmacy, but I’m glad I have. Though it may seem trivial, this is one of the things that I truly love about this town.

Therefore, raise a glass to the fine pharmacists of Wetaskiwin! Thanks for doing your part in keeping optimism alive.

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the wetaskiwin optimist

On November 2nd, 2006, in a bustling home for abandoned babies in South Africa, I met a beautiful woman who stole my heart. 21 months later we were married and started our life together in her lifelong home, a small city in north central Alberta called Wetaskiwin.

In the years I have spent living in Wetaskiwin, I have heard many complaints and criticisms of the town, and have spent my fair share of time subscribing to those beliefs. To be fair, there is probably some truth in at least some of these beliefs, but focusing on negative things does not foster the kind of lifestyle I (nor my family) want to live.

The purpose of this weblog, therefore, is not to confirm or deny the criticisms that are familiar to many residents of this city. The purpose is, instead, to write aboout some of the good, even great things I have stumbled upon around Wetaskiwin, whilst becoming a husband and father, doing business, seeking pleasure and generally learning about life.

Sometimes I will probably mention people and businesses by name, and I doubt I will ask for permission. If I ever receive so much as a coupon from a company in response to a post, I will let you know. Money or any kind of renumeration is not my goal; my goal is to talk about good things: whether it’s a local restaurant or a location for a national chain, an individual I’ve encountered or just a hidden corner of the city that I feel needs a little light shed upon it.

In short, I’m going to take an optimistic approach to living in Wetaskiwin, as a person should in any community in which they choose to live. Without permission, I hereby dub myself the wetaskiwin optimist.

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