Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Putting a challenging summer behind us

It has been some time since I have posted to This Attempted Life and I apologize, to those who enjoy my writing. I hope to return to a weekly habit of posting updates on my music career and samples of my writing projects in the coming weeks.

The summer of 2014 has been a challenge, to say the least. Flooding in Southeast Saskatchewan has hit my family on three fronts; my mother and father's home was nearly lost to the deluge of water at Round Lake in early July, and our home and business were hit with flooding on July 10.

Round Lake reached levels of historic proportions as the summer season began. After holding back the water around my parents' home for a week with multiple pumps and thousands of pounds of sandbags, the flood overtook us and the house, filling the basement after a wall collapse. My father and I were in the basement managing pumps at the time of the collapse and it is only by the grace of God - along with the heroic efforts of my son and my mother - that my father and I survived physically unscathed.

Both of us were roughly three feet from the wall when it gave in. My father clung to the stairwell as the mud and water entered the basement, but I was pushed about 15 feet into the cavernous darkness. My first thought was literally, "This is where I die." But after finding some footing, my mind went numb and my subconscious took over. I scrambled through the incoming water and reached my father, who - also heroically - helped push me onto the home's main floor before my mother and I pulled him up.

Months later, I am still emotional about the experience.

The following week, Moosomin was hit with about 5 inches of water falling in roughly 45 minutes. Our sewer system held the rancid water out, but fresh water began seeping through the walls within a half hour. Mentally and emotionally, I was still reeling from my experience in the basement of my parents' home. I began to hallucinate as the carpets became saturated. The walls of the basement of my own home seemed, in my eyes, to tremble on the verge of giving in.

The vision was all in my mind, of course. After about an hour of focussed meditation and some fresh air, I was back downstairs helping vacuum water and manage a pair of sump pumps on each end of our house.

Considering the incredible amount of water - it flowed like a two-foot river down our street in a rushing current - I walked uptown to check on my wife's athletic therapy clinic. Water splashed four feet up the exterior walls as cars drove through a huge pool on the street corner the office is located on. Inside, the crawlspace was completely full and it was about a foot deep on the main level. I opened the office's back entrance and immediately saw water gushing up from the heat-vents. There was little we could do there, so I returned home to focus on our living accommodations.

In the months following, it has been determined that the clinic is virtually beyond saving. It is set for demolition early this winter, with plans to rebuild another facility beginning next spring.

Today, our home continues to dry out. I removed two feet of drywall along the floor of the entire basement through August and we are now waiting on the Provincial Disaster Assistance Program to determine if there is anything they can do for us monetarily.

Although our trial continues, the stress, sadness, anger and questions have began to wane. We are now focussed on moving forward on the rebuilds knowing that there was little we could do to stem the tide of material loss in this corner of the province.

Paco's Provision and The Old 21

On other fronts, I will soon be delving into final edits on my debut novel, "Paco's Provision," which I hope to have released as an ebook by mid-December at the latest. I wrote the book in 2008 and let it simmer for about four years before finally putting it through two re-writes through the past year and a half. I am proud of the accomplishment, but look forward to its publication as I would like to move on to another book of fiction I have begun.

"Blizzard" will be a book of short stories about hunting, fishing and the outdoors on the Canadian Prairies. The brunt of the rough draft for that project will be written through the month of November. There is no timeline for it's release, but should I stay disciplined, I would like to have it available in the spring of 2015.

Meanwhile, my music duo, The Old 21, is about 70 per cent finished our debut EP. We laid the final tracks on the CD last week and it is now in the hands of the producer for mixing and mastering.

The work includes all original songs written and arranged by myself with the exception of one written by Trevor Doroshenko; a phenomenally talented songwriter from Regina who has added to our repertoire on several occasions.

The CD should also be available by early December if plans do not go awry.

Beyond the books and the CD, I also would like to put out some recordings of my own - just me and my guitar plucking through some folk-pop songs I plan to write through the next few months. These may be made available through iTunes should the recordings - which I plan to do myself - meet the standards I have in mind.

All in all, I count my blessings. In 2013, I suffered two life-threatening seizures that were caused by a brain tumour, 90 per cent of which was surgically removed a year and a half ago. What remains of the tumour is swollen due to Gamma Knife Radiation treatment I underwent in January of this year. Then, I nearly became one of the few human casualties of the Biblical flooding of Southeast Saskatchewan in July of 2014.

The entire experience has sent me on an intellectual and spiritual journey since late last year. I have been deeply investigating - in a stimulating and emotionally healthy way - Christianity, God, consciousness, Buddhism, meditation, and ancient wisdom (specifically, Mayan and Eastern religious teachings). It's an interesting topic I may broach in future posts.

Regardless, I am extremely grateful for remaining on the right side of the grass and I am learning to appreciate every breath on a moment-by-moment basis.

This life thing; it's certainly worth living.

Friday, May 23, 2014

"Paco": A sip of my upcoming novel.

What follows is an excerpt from my upcoming novel, currently titled Paco. I am hoping to release the book sometime this summer. Please watch for further details about its availability in the coming weeks.

By 1:30 a.m., the remaining patrons had left The Boony Bar, allowing Mike and Eric to get an early start on clean up duties. Mike was giving some beer mugs a final wipe with a towel and setting them on a shelf on the bar when he heard the old stairs leading to the lobby creak. Knowing it had to be Paco on his way into the barroom, Mike set down his towel and waited for the old Mexican to come through the door.
Paco appeared without his cap, something he always had on in public. He still wore his work clothes, spotted with white paint from the work he was doing above the urinals in the men’s washroom earlier that day. He walked straight to the bar in front of Eric. His eyes were red and swollen from weeping. He looked more tired than Mike had ever seen.
“Whiskey-wadda, no ice,” he half-whispered. It was a request he didn’t need to make, as Eric already knew the order.
Paco took his glass and limped solemnly to the table reserved for him. After setting his drink down, he stared at a spot on the wall. Tears welled up in the corner of his eyes. He wiped them away with his stubby, paint-splattered fingers.
Paco made a fist and rubbed a knuckle on some unseen spot on the wall in front of him. When he removed his hand, Mike spotted just a hint of a dent in the plaster where he had touched. Paco opened his hand and rubbed the spot up and down before taking his chair and sipping his drink. He buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shuddering as he began to cry.
Mike was frozen in place at the end of the bar. He had no idea why Paco was so emotional, but felt compassion for him regardless. Mike thought about walking over and putting an arm around the old man, but stayed where he was.
The creak and slam of the back door to The Boony pulled Mike’s attention away from Paco. The dark shadow that filled the doorway made a ball of anxiety form in Mike’s throat. Brian Langlois walked to the middle of the room, removed his plaid jacket and put his hands on his hips. An arrogant smirk crossed his face when he eyed Mike. His gaze moved to Paco sitting alone sipping his drink and crying.
Langlois rolled up his shirtsleeves and started for the old man. Eric began to move around the bar, but Mike held up his hand motioning for him to stop.
“I’m going to end this,” Mike said. Perspiration was already beginning to bubble on his brow.
“I’m right here,” Eric said.
Mike strode toward Paco to head off Langlois.
“What do you want?” Mike said, standing face to face with the thickly built former junior hockey player.
“I gotta settle a score,” Langlois said. He wiped his mouth with his thumb then wiped his thumb on the chest of his shirt. “I owe grandpa here a gawd-damned lump on the head.”
“Just leave, Brian. All this stuff between you and him – and you and I – it’s over. Just leave and don’t come back,” Mike said as sternly as he could manage. “Eric’s calling the police. Leave now and there’ll be nothing to lodge a complaint about.”
Eric scrambled to the end of the bar and grabbed the phone, punching the speed-dial button for the RCMP.
Langlois wasn’t going anywhere. He reached around Mike and nudged Paco firmly on the shoulder.
“What’ya drinkin’ old man?” he said.
Mike took another step towards Langlois. He stared up into the intruder’s eyes. Langlois glared down at him.
“Leave him alone and get out,” Mike growled.
Langlois pushed Mike hard in the chest, sending the smaller of the two stumbling backwards onto Paco’s table.
“Get the fuck outta here,” Langlois snapped at Mike. “I’ll take care of you in due time.”
Mike caught his breath and checked on Paco. The old man still had his face buried in his hands, seemingly oblivious to the tense situation developing beside him.
“Get up, you old bastard,” Langlois yelled.
“Get the hell out of here!” Mike screamed, returning to his position between Langlois and Paco.
Langlois laughed and pushed Mike even harder, forcing him to the floor.
Eric ran around the bar, but Mike shook his head at him as he got back up.
Paco stood, slurped the last of his “whiskey-wadda,” and stepped away from his table. He turned to face Langlois head on. The old man’s forehead barely reached Langlois’ chin.
“Mickey say you gotta go, you gotta go,” said Paco.
Langlois threw a jab at Paco, but the old man sidestepped the speeding fist, putting Langlois off-balance. Paco leaned over to the rack of pool cues on the wall and pulled one down. He stood calmly beside the pool table as if waiting for his turn to shoot.
“You wiry old son of a bitch,” Langlois said as he charged forward for another shot.
Paco flipped the cue over and clubbed Langlois in the ear with the thick end of the stick. The force of the blow made Langlois scream and paw at the side of his head. He looked at his hand and saw blood. It dripped from behind his ear, down his lobe and onto the collar of his shirt.
“You better go before you get hurt,” Paco said to him calmly.
Langlois shook his head to clear the stars he saw after the knock with the pool cue. He wiped blood from his ear again, looked at it then took a third run at Paco, who was standing about ten feet away.
As Eric jumped the bar, Mike dove to tackle Langlois before he got to Paco, but missed and crashed into a table and some chairs.
Paco quickly snapped the pool cue over his knee then pointed the jagged end of it at Langlois as the giant began raising his right arm for a punch. His fist connected with Paco’s chin just before his momentum carried both men over a table. They spilled to the floor, neither of them moving.
Mike rushed to Paco's side. The old man clutched his chest, his face twisted in pain. Langlois groaned beside them. Mike rolled him away. The pool cue fell out of a deep puncture in Langlois’ abdomen. Thick, red blood was already pooling on the carpet underneath him.
“Eric! Call an ambulance!” Mike screamed.
Eric raced back around the bar to the phone. Mike removed his shirt, balled it up and pressed it against the wound in Langlois’ belly. Then he turned his attention to Paco.
“Hang on, Paco,” he said, tears already coursing down his cheeks. “Please hang on.”
Paco grunted, unable to pull air into his lungs. When he did manage to, it was a quick gasp followed by a gurgle. The old man squirmed from the lack of oxygen and the unbearable pain in his chest.
Mike reached for one of Paco’s hands and squeezed it.
“Please, Paco. Stay with me. Stay with me,” Mike pleaded.
Paco’s face went blue, then grey. His attempts at breathing slowed. His eyes went dim. Mike was sure he was watching his old friend die and there was nothing he could do to save him.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Matitys want to get you fishing

The following story was published in The Whitewood Herald and The Fort Qu'Appelle Times. Jason Matity is instrumental in the development of my passion for sport fishing. Through the 1990s, he and I spent days on a boat or along the shorelines of lakes and rivers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan fishing for a wide variety of species. He taught me almost everything I know about the sport.



Jason (left) and Jeff Matity have taken their angling expertise online and worldwide

By Chris Istace

Jeff Matity calls it being “sensitive to the soft-core” when he explains what he and his brother Jason are trying to accomplish with Matity’s Get Fishing.

The former Whitewood residents struck out on their own when, in 2012, they ended “Reel ‘Em In,” a fishing show that aired on CTV for seven seasons.

Their new project – which includes the website matitysgetfishing.com, seminars, media appearances and other activities under the Matity’s Get Fishing banner – is part of a plan to share angling knowledge to experienced outdoors enthusiasts, and introduce the sport they love to a new generation of fishers.

“Being sensitive to the soft-core is helping people who do not fish regularly get introduced to the sport with easy-to-learn lessons and important information about successful fishing,” said Jeff, who resides with his family at Echo Lake near Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask.

“We want people to be comfortable out there. We want them to be successful, then confident in what they’re doing.”

There’s little doubt about the brothers’ dedication to angling. Over the past 25 years, both have fished for a wide variety of species throughout North and Central America. As they made their way through school in Whitewood, the Matitys would spend most of their spare time fishing on Round Lake where their family had a trailer at West End Resort.

At home on their family farm along Highway 9 just south of Whitewood, they consumed copious amounts of information about the sport through television shows, videos, books and magazines.

Jeff, who earned a degree in biology at the University of Saskatchewan focusing on fish behavior, says the brunt of his fishing education came from resources provided by In-Fisherman broadcasts and publications.

“I taped all of the In-Fisherman shows and would watch them over and over and over again,” he said. “I have to say that if I get an honorary degree in fishing, it’s because of In-Fisherman.”

Jeff was especially drawn to the work of the magazine’s editor-in-chief Doug Stange, whom he calls a “Picasso with a pen.” Ultimately, Jeff came to know Stange personally by working on In-Fisherman projects with him.

“The passion those people had for fishing was very infectious and I think that’s where my passion for fishing came from,” he said.

Jeff had a career as a teacher and principal for more than a decade, but has since returned to the field of biology. He is now an aquaculture technician at the Fort Qu’Appelle Fish Culture Station.

Meanwhile, Jason left Whitewood High School to earn a journalism degree at the University of Regina and become a television journalist for several years. He is now working in corporate communications in Regina.

Alongside Jeff’s background in biology, Jason’s writing and videography skills have been instrumental in the success of “Reel ‘Em In” and, now, Matity’s Get Fishing, says Jeff.

Jason’s fervor for fishing, however, rubbed off of his brother. Their shared passion for the sport formed a strong bond between the two. More than 20 years after leaving Whitewood, the fruits of their deep interest in angling have also benefitted the fishing community at-large through the television show and the videos produced by the Matitys for matitysgetfishing.com.

“All we ever wanted to do was share our passion and love for fishing and the outdoors,” Jason said. “We hope that others can enjoy it as much as we do. (Our efforts) are meant to say, ‘Hey. If you’re out at the lake and curious about fishing, this is how you do it and how you can be successful at it.’ We appeal to those types of anglers; people who want to get into it and don’t know where to start.”

Besides the matitysgetfishing.com website and the educational videos it contains, the Matity brothers also lead seminars at Cabela’s in Regina and Saskatoon. Jeff conducts an outdoor education excursion program for school groups and maintains the Matity’s Get Fishing Facebook page, where he shares angling tips and lessons from other online sources.

Jason, meanwhile, maintains a media presence by representing Matity’s Get Fishing on CTV once a month and occasionally on News Talk 980 Radio. On the Father’s Day weekend for the past four years, he has also been emcee for the Riverhurst Walleye Classic fishing tournament in Riverhurst, Sask.

“A lot of this is an opportunity to blend ourselves as outdoor educators and anglers and to be able to do it however we want in whatever format,” Jason said, adding that the tight relationship between he and Jeff is integral to any success they can garner.

Jeff agrees and believes that the project is part of what they were both born to do together.

“Because we’re brothers, this is something that will not happen without one or the other of us involved,” he said. “When we go out filming, we say a prayer and leave it all in the Lord’s hands. We really hope to get as many people fishing in this province and worldwide as possible. That will be our legacy.”

While being “sensitive to the soft-core” is the foundation of what the Matitys are trying to accomplish, there are other important aspects to their mission with Matity’s Get Fishing. Conservationism and responsible angling are themes that run through much of their work with the public.

“We want to get people fishing, but we also wanted to really help people understand the value in not only traditional fishing, but conservation,” Jason said. “Enjoying the great outdoors is important, but so is the lesson of conservation, especially with the growth we’re seeing in the province.”

That’s why he is happy to see an upswing in the “catch-and-release” mentality among the province’s anglers. More and more fishers are catching larger fish and letting them go knowing that these specimens are most fit to continue healthy populations.

“The result is the fishing has gotten better,” he said. “Part of that is because we are better anglers, but a lot of it is we don’t keep everything we’re catching any more.”

Conservationism has also moved the Matitys to get involved with organizations with the same intentions, such as the Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation.

“It’s not going to be the everyday people who stand shoulder to shoulder to protect wildlife,” Jeff said. “It is the people using the resource responsibly. With the growth we’re having in the province, there is a real opportunity for there to be a lot more people using the resource. If it’s managed properly, it will still be there for generations. There will still be fish to take home.”

Although the Matitys have already come to be a popular source of fishing information in Saskatchewan, Matity’s Get Fishing is still in its infancy. Both Jason and Jeff admit they have made great gains since establishing the website in August of 2013, but at the moment, it’s still a sideline project.

Nevertheless, this does not mean it won’t become a full-time operation at some point. They are growing the enterprise in a responsible and accountable manner to see where it leads them.


“We’re going in the right direction,” said Jason. “We’re still working to get sponsors and support, but we want to make sure we’re doing it in a sustainable way for us. It’s not a venture – at this point in time – we will be able to abandon our jobs for. That’s something we want to do, but that’s a far off goal.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

Back to work already!

After focussing on songwriting through the month of February, enjoying a quick vacation in Las Vegas and swinging from Regina to Yorkton for music/writing related events last weekend, it is time to fall back into a work routine.

Yes, it was fun flying by the seat of my pants - working here,  playing there - since my Gamma Knife radiation session in January. But since my recovery from the Gamma surgery is complete and with spring upon us (I think), I believe it's the right time to put my head down, lock myself in my basement office and get back to re-establishing my new business.

Needless to say, it's been a hell of a year. March 7 represented the anniversary of a seizure that began the path towards the diagnosis of an atypical meningioma last spring. The time to move forward in full-force has long past. There will still be MRIs and doctor appointments to make sure my condition is improving, but they are months in the making. For now, my priorities are to regain the great momentum I seemed to acquire immediately after opening my freelance writing/music business in April, 2013.

Therefore, work has restarted on the second draft of my debut novel "Paco." I have found an editor and a potential cover artist for the book through a writer's group in Yorkton. I hope to have the draft ready for review by the end of April with an expected release date of mid-July.

Should you have any ties to Whitewood whatsoever, you may find the novel entertaining. The book is basically the fictionalized biography of a man who used to live and work in the town's old hotel and bar. I should note that the entire story is made up and no character is based on real people or situations, outside of my basic use of this old fellow as the face of a protagonist. The story comes purely from my imagination.

Meanwhile, I am open again for freelance journalistic work. I have written for publications in Esterhazy, Moosomin and Whitewood in the past, but have taken a particular interest in magazine work. This includes assignments from The Session, a trade publication produced by SaskMusic.

I am also available for contract work outside of the journalistic field. My background includes copywriting for advertising; the production of brochures and pamphlets; and editorial services for other writers wanting to have their work polished to a high sheen.

Then there's the music. After thoroughly enjoying performing at a house concert in Esterhazy, SK on Feb. 26, we hit The Windsor Hotel in Fleming, SK this Saturday, March 29. Showtime is 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, with the construction of our studio and the purchase of key recording equipment, Lorne Frape and I will begin preliminary tracking for an EP in April or May. The recording will include seven or eight of our favorite orginal numbers alongside a couple of brand new songs written in the past few weeks. We hope to have rough-cuts available for our June 14 show at The Lancaster Taphouse in Regina; if not, sometime this summer.

Until then, further shows are in development for Wawota, Round Lake, another Regina venue, Esterhazy and - although very early to say so - Yorkton. Follow along with us at www.reverbnation.com/theold21 and watch out for our new CD.

Last weekend, Saskatchewan's rising jazz and roots artist Belle Plain played a spectacular show in Regina. The concert was one of many hosted by Regina songwriter and The Old 21 contributor Trevor Doroshenko, who has brought the production of such an event to a high art.

The Old 21 also plays house concerts; the newest, most comfortable way to enjoy live music in Saskatchewan. The idea is simple: Invite a couple of dozen friends and family members; prepare some appetizers and refreshments (or make it BYOB); and set up some chairs theatre-style in your living room (or don't; it's really all up to you).

Lorne and I show up with instruments - and, if necessary, a sound system - and give you two hours of roots/folk/country music to clap your hands, stamp a toe or snap your fingers to. It's intimate, fun and gives everyone in attendance the impression that the artist is there to play solely for them. Should you want the party to continue after the show, we are happy to contribute even more music.

Among the many advantages are no lineups to the washroom, beer cooler or coffee pot.

Feel free to commentbelow should you be interested in being a trend setter in the province and hosting a night ike this. We are fully committed to help make each show a success and will provide further details on how to put it together.

Otherwise, please continue to support local art.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Pen, paper, mic and guitar: FAWM 2014


Less than a month after receiving the master copies of The Old 21's debut EP, I am calling back the songwriting muse for February Album Writing Month (FAWM).

Beginning tomorrow, I and thousands of others around the world will attempt to write 14 songs through the month of February. I successfully participated in the program last year. About a half dozen of those songs continue to be played in regular rotation at Old 21 live shows. Two - "Trouble Inside" and "Edge of a Knife" - were recorded on the EP.

As a side note, at least two of them were eerily prophetic considering the medical issues I experienced just seven days after the end of February, 2013. A song called "Anchor Me," for example, explains how my wife has been the rock I have clung to through my health situations. It was one of the final numbers I penned before the end of the month.

As I do during National Novel Writing Month - where, through November, one attempts to write a 50,000-word novel - I will be forced to divorce myself from my inner critic. It is the only way to maintain a sustainable pace to write 14 songs through February.

In the end, I hope to create at least seven or eight songs worthy of further play, while the rest can become fodder for other ideas developed later in the year.

Regardless, FAWM is a fun, creative and spiritually exhilarating exercise. The online community goes a long way in making this so. The people involved in the program are extremely supportive, providing further motivation to polish the tunes to the point where they are worthy of public consumption. I look forward to choosing the best of the lot for a planned LP, which will be recorded sometime in 2014.

So here I am, once again leashed to my computer for an extended period, this time writing, recording and producing my newest musical creations. I plan to have rough-draft recordings of the songs available on Facebook and Twitter as they are ready. Some may not strike a chord with you, but I am hoping a few will brighten your day or allow you to escape your busy schedule for three or four minutes at a time.

Nevertheless, I look forward to the challenge FAWM presents and hope you will tag along for the ride.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A leap forward: Driving and Vegas

Monday. Oh, blessed Monday.

Yesterday morning, I cried like a baby after learning my driver's license had been returned to me. It had been more than 10 months since I last drove after suffering from a tumour-induced seizure in March of 2013. The suspension that followed stripped me of my independence far beyond anything I could have expected.

To be honest, being forced to walk anywhere I wanted to go was definitely good for me. It was a bit of exercise to get me out of bed or off the couch during the recovery period following the surgery to resect the atypical meningioma.

However, the lack of a driver's license hindered my ability to enhance the freelance and music businesses I started after giving up my plumbing employment. It basically set the boundaries to my world to Moosomin-proper, unless my wife as available to chauffeur me elsewhere, like to the lake or the city.

I have long been an independent, proactive, self-starter. If I decide I need to accomplish something; be it a renovation, yard work or heading out of town for a football game or concert; I am impatient about getting at it. Without a license, I had to rely on someone else for the menial tasks of getting where I needed to be to get these projects accomplished. The frustration about the situation boiled within me, coming out in mood swings that were a burden for my wife and children through the past year.

Yes, I tried to maintain a positive mindset, particularly as it pertained to my recovery. This practice was integral to my victories over Crohn's Disease and a previous meningioma.

But as part of that recovery, it was essential that I attempt to maintain some sort of stable daily schedule. On occasion, my planned activities required travel. Instead, I was housebound.

There is a mental condition called cabin fever. It is real and I have suffered from it.

However, with the help of Amy Renneberg and Trevor Doroshenko from Henderson Insurance in Regina, Sask., my driving privileges were returned to me. I immediately jumped in my little-used truck and did some shopping uptown.

Oh, what a load off.

That's not all of the news from "Monday-oh-blessed-Monday," though.

During a visit with my neurosurgeon on Jan. 24, he confirmed that I was, once again, able to drive. He also gave me the go-ahead to travel and fly.

After taking the afternoon to investigate insurances, confirm a hotel room and book flights, my wife and I will be going to Las Vegas in March. The trip is the completion of an escapade we had to cancel last March after the seizure struck me down just seven days before the vacation was supposed to begin.

With this in mind, the trip booked yesterday will represent some closure to another medically challenging year.

I'm not a fool. I know my battle is not over. I must remain vigilant in maintaining a more healthy lifestyle. However, yesterday's accomplishments - my driver's license and a booked vacation - leave a sweet taste of victory on my tongue.

The biggest factor in overcoming what seem to be overwhelming obstacles is holding tightly to the idea that - despite the pain, inconvenience and mental anguish - you will get through them; that some things may have changed forever, but not everything has to.

For me, January 27, 2014 will be remembered as a day of victory; a day that proves the above statement; a day forever noted as "Monday-oh-blessed-Monday" in my life's story.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Thus, I return to work

It has been more than a month since I last sat down at my desk with intentions of accomplishing meaningful work; be it freelance writing for area publications, my fiction and non-fiction book projects or preparing for an Old 21 show.

Today, I will be productive.

After celebrating the Holiday Season at Round Lake, Sask. then undergoing another medical procedure in Winnipeg, it is about time I step into my basement office, put my head down and return to the business I started in April of 2013. I will begin that task by continuing the second draft of my novel, "Paco," which I hope to have published online via Amazon and other ebook retailers before the end of Spring, 2014.

As I plow my way through that, I will also continue to work on my memoir, "This Attempted Life." That project is still a long way from completion, considering I have numerous interviews to conduct, then several rewrites. Regardless, I still need to lay down the final chapter involving what became of 2013.

Finally, there is The Old 21 and the exciting completion of our debut EP. The master copies were acquired from the mixer - thank you so much, Mr. Cunningham - on Saturday. Despite some rough points in a couple of songs, it turned out good enough to make my hair stand on end as I listened to it for the first time.

We are very enthusiastic about the CD's implications. It will allow us to expand our performance territory further abroad, including venues in Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Brandon and into Alberta. Having a sampling of our music to hand out gives us a much more effective tool in booking shows than our previous method; handing our business cards, talking over the phone, and directing people to our ReverbNation page.

( www.reverbnation.com/theold21 )

We will continue to do the latter, only now we have an audio sampling to say, "This is what we do. When can we come?"

We will have some of the seven recorded songs available for a listen on ReverbNation and Facebook in the coming few weeks. Otherwise, we will begin processing copies of the CD for sale at our shows or through me.

Betwixt it all - family obligations, the writing, the music - I am constructing a studio at my home, relieving my wife of the weekly turmoil surrounding The Old 21's rehearsals. That work begins next month, which will also include my participation in a songwriting competition requiring me to write 14 songs in February. It's just a personal challenge, but it should produce four or five decent numbers that can be worked into a growing catalogue of original music.

There are several irons in the fire, no doubt. And, should my freelance journalism work take off as it did last Spring, those irons are going to grow even hotter.

I'm moving on with my life again. Last year's medical emergency seems like a dream now. It held its tragedy, but there are so many blessings in the mix as well.