Posts tagged ‘year-in-review’

… And What a Great Year It Was

So, it’s the last day of the year.  I woke up with a bit of a cold this morning.  And there were no eggs in the fridge.  But other than that, it was as fine a day as any other in 2011.

There were some very fine days in the past year.  Being the last day of the year, and all, I thought I’d put together a blog entry remembering those occasions that were truly gifts from the Creator.

GETTING ENGAGED – By far, the most significant moment for us.  With my beautiful partner Deborah and her girls, we boarded a horse-drawn carriage for an evening ride through Central Park in New York.  In view of the crisp moonlight and sparkling lights of Park Avenue, I get down on one knee.  Still shocked, and über emotional, Deb said yes.  It was a beautiful night and a beautiful trip.  Man, I Love NY!  It also takes a lot of clandestine planning and investment management to get engaged.  From the large piece of carbon crystal gemstone on her finger, to the interim family vacation to NYC, I wanted to make sure it was unforgettable to my betrothed.  Wedding date:  Cinco be Mayo.  Location:  Playa Del Carmen, Mexico.

THE TRUE MEANING OF WINTER – I have finally found the true meaning of winter.  For years, I would huddle up in my warm little house and wait the wicked season out.  Forget ice fishing, snowmobiling – too cold for me.  But this March, on another memorable family getaway to Mont Tremblant, I discovered skiing.  OMG!!!  Overwhelming fun, exhilaration, breathtaking landscapes, and closeness with Gzhemnidoo.  Skiing is the Creator’s sport.  Physical, spiritual, mental and emotional exercise.  And yes, they have size 15 ski boots.

NEW YEARS IN SOUTH AMERICA — Last year at this time we were in Iquitos, Peru. The heart of the Peruvian Amazon, we ushered in the New Year with my father-in-law James, Rossana, family and friends. We got to see other indigenous cultures and experience the great Amazon River. Amazing experience. Particularly our time in Iquitos, handling the monkey and fishing for piranha.

CAREER DIRECTIONS – On May 30, I began my career as a Director in the Ontario Public Service.  Following an intensive recruitment process, I was appointed the first Director of Aboriginal Relations for the Ministry of Transportation.  The highlight so far was establishing the new Branch from scratch.  Developing the mandate, a strategic framework on , hiring staff and delving into the policy work.  It’s nice to be able to mold without mold removal and create a legacy piece.  It’s also great to be working with First Nation and Métis communities again.

VISITING DEB’S FAMILY – In my blog, I described our summer family vacation as nearly two weeks of visits.  But perhaps the most memorable visit, was being introduced to Deborah’s Grandma.  Her bingo-loving matriarch was spry, kindly and opinionated, especially when it comes to her family.  We paid a visit to Deb’s reserve, Pabineau First Nation.  We spent some time at Uncle Fisher’s, as well as Chief David’s place.  Deb and I took a romantic four-wheeler ride to Pabineau Falls where she shared some of her childhood memories.

WEIGHT WATCHERS – Lost twenty pounds in 2011.  Stepped back on the scale this morning and found out I gained it all back.  I did enjoy working out at the gym.  I need to find some time to do that again.  We’ll see what 2012 brings.

KATHERINE FAITH – got her driver’s (learners) permit in Nova Scotia, celebrated her sweet sixteen and moved into a new home with her newly married mom and her partner Ricky.  She looked so beautiful in the bridesmaid’s dress.  So proud she worked in Toronto this summer and saved her money.

JASMINE – applied to Bill Crother’s Secondary School and is looking forward to superstardom in the sports high school.  She been playing on a competitive volleyball team, the Stingers.

GRIFFIN – has discovered reading in a big way.  Like his big sister, he started with manga but really transformed by enjoying the Hunger Games.  Griffin played offensive lineman during the Bulldogs summer football program.

MIIGWANS – is looking forward to playing summer football again next year.  He wishes football was all year long.  It’s so great to see him pick up a sport and try really hard with it.

FIONA – has become a social animal in the past year, able to be friends with everybody.  The holiday season has been a boon for her, hanging with Rowena, Michelle, Jaicee, Griffin, Miigwans, Alie, Ty, Cayden and Aria.

THE TABLET  – I’ve used every piece of mobile technology:  iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Palm.  In my opinion, nothing beats the Galaxy Tab 10.1.  Apple technology is way to proprietary and static while the interface is stiff.  Android provides us power users the flexibility to get the device to do what we want it to.  I use it for telephony, music, photos, reading books, magazines, news, television, movies, social networking, web browsing, and some web development.  Recently, I’ve been bringing it into the office and using it for work and at meetings.  Damn fine piece of technology.  My honey got it for me for my Birthday.  Miigwetch, my Love.

TV SHOW – I have discovered Fringe, by new favorite TV show.  Great series created by J.J. Abrams.  Wicked storylines and great characters.  Kind of like having the X Files back again.  I’ve watched all episodes so far, but ironically, none of them on television.  I’ve watched them exclusively on the internet.  Looking forward to my first-ever, new episode of Fringe in 2012.

BEST MOVIE – Rise of the Planet of the Apes.  The movie explains a lot from the cult classic film franchise.  I seen it three times at the theatre, a few times on my tablet, and my Boyz gave it to me for Christmas.

Yeah…  [reclines back in his chair.]  Good times.  Good times.

My Life in Retrospect, 2010

Really, it’s been a rather uneventful year.  Which is a good thing.  No big changes, other than another contract job in the Government of Ontario.  Had a couple of great vacations and a blissful home life.  However, a little ticked at Black Bloc anarchists and Rob Ford, two entities spurred on by angry mobs.

NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR:  The G8-G20 fiasco here in Toronto.  Our offices were closed for a day or so.  A major portion of downtown was fenced off.  Police in riot gear on every corner.  And thousands upon thousands of protesters.  For kicks, Deb and I drove through it on June 26 after a morning at the St. Lawrence Market.  Although, I can’t condone the instances of bad policing and the conduct of some individuals.  I also can’t condone the massive, systematic arrests and abuse of emergency police powers.  However, what got lost in the story was the violent protests and use of black bloc tactics by anarchists.  Sure, the police may have abused their powers – but could you imagine what would have taken place if they weren’t there?

I CHEERED for World Cup soccer.  It’s not a very big part of culture in northern Ontario.  But everyone in the city goes crazy at World Cup time.  And now wonder.  Everyone has a team to cheer for based on their nationality.  While we Anishinaabeg may never have a team to cheer for.

I JEERED Mayor Rob Ford.  Knowing George Smitherman, he was definitely the best man for the job.  Hands down, the Toronto mayoral race was also the year’s biggest political disappointment.

BEST MOVIE:  The King’s Speech.  We just seen it last night.  It is a fascinating story about King George VI.  The acting is absolutely superb.  Colin Firth is so believable in the role.  As is the Queen Mum, played by Helena Bonham Carter.  Geoffrey Rush plays the likeable speech therapist, Lionel Logue.  One of the most comedic scenes is when Logue’s wife comes home unexpectedly to discover that her husband is being paid a visit by the new King and his wife Elizabeth.  These British royalty films are great.

CAREER:  Presently, I am the manager of culture policy for the Ministry of Tourism and Culture.  I’m responsible for managing the policy direction of the Government of Ontario in the areas of heritage, archaeology, libraries, museums as well as the Ministry’s role in cultural planning, renewable energy and Aboriginal Affairs.  I have a great staff of fourteen people.  What amazes me most is the constant turnover.  Staff are always coming and going so I spend a lot of my time managing human resources, filling vacancies and making sure we’re being responsive to senior management.  It is gratifying to know that many of the things we do go a long way to preserve the rich cultural heritage of the province.

NEW WEBSITE:  I wanted to do it last year but the designer I wanted was so incredibly busy.  However, I’m satisfied with the look and feel of the design.  But what lot of people really don’t know is, I am the developer. The content, function, database operation, and programming is all me. The technology stuff is great.  The best thing about it, for the first time, the website was developed completely with open source programming.

FAMILY:  Deborah and I having the time of our lives together.  We are working on being more healthy – eating right and staying in shape.  Katherine Faith turned 15 years old, with a mind of her own, a boyfriend, pretty good judgement and aspirations of driving the car.  In fact, I took her on a couple of joy rides and she did really well.  Griffin turned 11 and Miigwans turned 8.  Jasmine turned 12 and Fiona turned 8, just like Baby.  Singing:  “When you’re eight, you can do so much more.  When you’re eight, you can walk around outdoors.”

ROAD TRIP:  These seem to be a thing of the past, as most of my road travel is limited to getting to and from Nipissing and to attend ceremonies a few times per year.  The longest road trip, once again, was a family drive to Spring Ceremonies, June-13, 2010 in Wisconsin.  A total of 2524 km.  My car just turned over 150,000 this morning.

VACATION:  Who can forget the trip to Varadero, Cuba!  Lots of great beach and swimming action, some pretty good snorkelling and great family fun with the Girls.  Deb and I also got to spend some time in Montego Bay, Jamaica in a lovely villa with our friends Joe and Fiona.

I CRIED WHEN when I found out that Warren passed away.  He was younger than me… a family man… with a young daughter and newborn twins.  So tragic.  I was glad to know him and happy to know he’s still with us through his young family.  Rest in peace, Warren Monague.

I CRINGE WHEN people on Facebook write “R.I.P.”.  If you are so thoughtful, and want to offer a sincere condolence, can’t you write out Rest in Peace?

MEMORABLE MEAL:  Steak and lobster dinner at Joe and Fionas with her uncles Robert and George.

MEMORABLE MOMENT:  Floating peacefully, about a km out from shore, in the warm, ocean water off Varadero, Cuba.  Nothing around, accept me and the Spirit.

My Life in Retrospect, 2009

Well, here it is – my life in retrospect, 2009.  Happy New Year!

THE LOVE OF MY LIFE – It’s been a wonderful year with my partner, the Duchess of Thornhill, Deborah. She’s taken me in and we’ve built a beautiful life together so far. Everyday, I truly feel I’m the luckiest man in the world. I’m thankful to the Creator everyday for her. Her daughters are really great little people. They get along great with Katherine Faith, obviously… and the Boyz as well. We’re having our first mega-family holiday get-together on Friday. Fifteen people in all.

MY CHILDREN – They’re growing up to be wonderful people. My Boyz are so kind and generous. My Griffin is such a good-deed do-er. My Miigwans is as smart as a whip. My daughter is equally an wonderful young woman, whose grades are good. She just Loves spending time with her friends. And they are all so good to their Dad. But it’s hard being away from my kids so much.

CHANGE IN CAREER DIRECTION – 2009 marked quite a change in career direction for me. After 10 years with the Union of Ontario Indians, I’ve moved from the front-line of First Nations politics to the machinery of government. It’s quite a different pace moving from a 24/7 job in the Grand Chief’s office to a singular responsibility within government. But the objective is still the same and I’m working just as hard for our people.

JOHN BEAUCAGE CAMPAIGN – In 2009, I had the career highlight of my life. I had the pleasure of managing John Beaucage’s campaign to become National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Unfortunately, the best man doesn’t always win. Despite running a campaign on the best platform and the best values – the Chiefs chose to elect Shawn Atleo to succeed the great Phil Fontaine. They’ll be looking for something else next time around, I’m sure. John is an amazing man, and a great leader. Who knows what the future will bring him. He will be running the Olympic torch tomorrow in Parry Sound.

LIFE IN THE LODGE – I’ve written this year-end journal over the years, but I rarely include any references to my true life – as a Midewiwin man. This year was the first time I’ve had my Boyz in the Lodge with me as Midewiwins. They are still very young and have lots of time to discover what it means to be Mide. The Three Fires School looks great with the new addition. Lots of new space. It’s also great to see the young people from Shingwauk attending ceremonies each time. They are a great group.

MY BLOG – This year, I had more of a chance to write. It is something that I really enjoy. I’ve been able to write about human rights, First Nations issues even the environment and the economy. I hope I’ll be able to write more and more.

NUMBERS – It seems people are reading my stuff on my website too.

• I had more visitors to my website than any other time in the past 14 years.
• Although I won’t reach 1 million visitors before December 31, I’m pretty darn close: 969,414.
• From 1997 to 2007, I had only 304,351 visitors;
• Web traffic numbers went up substantially when I started marketing my website.
• 93,445 page views in 2007.
• 262,844 page views in 2008.
• This year I’ve had 308,774 page views so far.
• That number will go up by a few thousand once I post this new blog entry.

NEWS STORY OF THE YEAR – To great fanfare, Barrack Obama, the first African-American president of the United States took office in 2009. He inspired many of us. But for the red-neck majority in the US, his message was met with skepticism, boycotts and measures of racism. In his first year, he won the Nobel Peace Prize and dealt with health care reform – head on. Now can he address middle-east peace and terrorism?

CLIMATE-GATE – The biggest non-news story of the year was “climate-gate”. The Copenhagan climate summit that wasn’t. No commitments by the major governments of the world. No carbon reduction targets. Absolutely, no leadership from Canada whatsoever. In fact, it should be an embarrassment for all Canada. Canada – the fossil of the year! Lots of good will in the agreement but nothing binding. I seriously doubt that the agreement that was signed in Denmark will lead to any drastic changes needed to address climate change.

FILM – I Love the movies. In 2009 I seen 48 movies in the theatre. Definitely, the most ever. The best film of the year was Avatar. Another James Cameron epic blockbuster. This year there were a lot of similarities between the film world and indigenous peoples. It began with District 9, a film about an oppressed alien race forced onto “reservations” in South Africa. On the surface, District 9 may seem to have more ties to apartheid than indigenous people. But what most people don’t know is that apartheid was based on the Canadian Indian reserve system. It is another of Canada’s great contributions to world history. The message is clear in Avatar – protect the environment and the world’s indigenous peoples. This movie had the best ending of the year. Sometimes I wish we can turn back the clock and reality, climb aboard our dragons and march the oppressors, at machine gun-point, onto space ships bound for another world.

MY HEALTH – Well I’m apparently in a holding pattern. Spent the first half of the year in the gym and just gave it up. I thought my diabetes was under control, until I had to miss Christmas dinner on a fast to reduce my sugar-induced diabetic episode. I must avoid sugar, especially home-made ice cream, as well as eat in regular intervals. I don’t believe in new years resolutions – but I’ve got to take control of my own health. No one will do it for me.

VACATION 2009 – Went to The Bahamas in May and snorkelled with sharks on the continental shelf. Spent the summer in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg with Deb’s family. Lots of good memories. In October, we spent a long weekend in New York City. Ate at Nobu and seen The Lion King.

LONGEST DRIVE – 1,286 kilometres between Toronto and Cedar, Wisconsin for Fall Ceremonies.

LONGEST DRIVE – Laurentide Golf Course, Hole 6, about 290 yards.

GOLF GAMES – 4. The most in five years. I hope I get to play a lot more in 2010. My game is really, really rusty.

FEWEST NIGHTS IN A HOTEL – In 2009, I spent fewer nights in a hotel than the previous 5 years. I averaged about 100 nights in a hotel in 2007 and 2008. I may not reach Delta Privilege Platinum this year. I miss the Delta Chelsea and their cherry jello with the canned peaches in them.

POW-WOW TIME – This year, because of the campaign, career and family obligations – I wasn’t able to enjoy time on the pow-wow trail. It’s difficult to balance so many things in life and pow-wow has had to fall by the wayside. I want to thank the Taabik Singers for allowing me to sing with them for the past few years. I hope to catch up with them as often as I can, and perhaps MC a few pow-wows from time to time.

I CHEERED IN 2009 – …for Barrack Obama. In 2008, I actually cheered for Hillary Clinton.

I JEERED IN 2009 – … over the goofy paranoia and sensational media coverage of the H1N1 Flu pandemic which was a little stronger than the usual seasonal flu virus.

I LAUGHED WHEN – … we all make fun of Nicole, who seems to move like Eeyore to the bus-stop in the morning.

I CRIED WHEN – … I lost my uncle Henry.

MEMORABLE MEAL – Definitely, the Chef’s Choice at Nobu in New York City. I also really liked the spiducci at Joe and Fiona’s house.

MEMORABLE MOMENT – The Longest Date: March 27-29, 2009. Beginning at Peter Pan’s on Queen West and A Haunting in Connecticut. The long walk from Queen, up Bathurst, across Bloor and down Yonge Street. Late night sweets at Just Desserts. In the morning, up to John Street and into Thornhill to the Duchess’ residence. Another movie (I Love you, Man) then back downtown again.