I don’t really want to write about my kid. I think he should be the narrator of his own life, not the subject of my anecdotes. And “mommy blogger” is an ugly word when you’ve busted your ass to become a “journalist” or “contributing writer” or whatever it is that I actually am.
That said, this video, released a month ago from Whistler Blackcomb as part of the #winteriscoming hype, made me think of him.
I worked on Whistler Blackcomb’s Wonder campaign at Origin Design + Communications before popping out for a year of mat leave (creative work of a completely different nature.)
Nine months has passed, so I can’t be sure whether I crafted the opening copy or not. The collaborative process means I never quite know what I can claim as mine… nor do I care to. Brainstorming and creative development go better when you’re willing to take full responsibility for bringing great stuff to the table but don’t need to claim any of the credit once it’s live. (Credit is for the client. The booze drawer is for the creative team.)
Regardless, this pretty much sums up my state of mind in February last year, after 38 weeks of gestating.
Or, as I told friends at the time: I feel I’m packing a waist-belt full of explosives. Detonation is inevitable, but the when, where and how is in someone else’s hands.
Advice from one buddy: “Just stay away from school buses.”
Opening Day has just been announced. November 16. The waiting game is over.
I’m thinking I’ll go in to get the kid his first season pass. After all, Whistler Blackcomb has been part of his family story from the beginning.
It’s where his dad and I met 18 years ago.
Which means, we’ve been around long enough to be regulars at the Length of Service dinner for seasonal staff. Last winter we went to honour a friend who was being recognised for 30 years with the mountain. We rode the gondola up to the Roundhouse to celebrate. I snuck a glass of wine when my husband wasn’t watching. Joked with senior WB staff about keeping ski patrol close, just in case. “If I have my baby in the gondola, can he have a free lifetime season pass?” I asked Rob McSkimming, (me, ever the dirtbag angling for a free pass.) The infamous kids instructor Princess Stephanie had a long conversation with my belly, “Come on out, baby. I want to meet you. I want to go skiing with you.” At the end of the night, we parted from friends by the Day Lots, and one clicked his thumb like a bomb trigger, over and over. Twenty minutes later, as we were pulling into Pemberton, I said to Dave, “Um. I have a strange feeling tonight is the night.” He spun the car around, double-backed to the gas station to fill the tank.
Quite a few revolutions of the gondola later, we welcomed a big fat dose of Wonder into our lives.
And here we are, heading back into winter. Deeper and deeper into the riddle of it all.
So, that window of time in which I should have been learning how to express milk, bottle-feed, attempt early weaning etc? I was busy compiling an anthology of Crankworx’ greatest moments. (Think: nap-time meets triple espresso-fuelled heart palpitations.)
Meaning that, when the event itself rolled around and an invitation pinged into my in-box to attend the party launching the book, it wasn’t remotely conceivable that I attend in person. (And suddenly all that helpful advice that I had so easily shrugged off about “extending the leash” made perfect sense. Ah, grasshopper.)
But it was okay.
Because, my partner-in-crime, the leaves-me-speechless-she’s-so-talented Susan Butler was there.
As was the equally brilliant Blake Jorgenson, whose portrait work next-levelled the book.
Collaborating with them, under the steady hand of Cap’n of the good ship Crankworx, Darren Kinnaird, has given me the confidence to keep sharing my 2am idea-bursts out-loud.
(“So, I’m thinking, Annie Liebovitz meets the Crankworx influencers…” “Like it. “Needs to happen in the next two weeks.” “Let’s do it.”)
Admittedly I was a little scared to hear the feedback from the industry’s legends, in case it was critical. (Cue the crumple-face.)
But mostly because, as much as my Ego would have enjoyed the celebration and the schmoozing with some of the greatest athletes in freeride mountain biking history, I wasn’t actually needed there. I was needed on the couch. (Prioritizing time and tasks is that black and white right now.)
The book nearly didn’t happen. Team Crankworx had plenty to do just running the 10th event, without stopping to put together a coffee table book commemorating the fact. The logistics were daunting. It sat in the Great Ideas Parking Lot for a while, before we circled back and said, “you know, this is an opportunity that would be a shame to miss.”
I’d written it last year in an article about the Bike Park, which welcomed its millionth rider without a moment of retrospection.
The thing about downhill mountain biking is, it doesn’t serve to look back. When you’re charging down a mountain at 50 km/hr, you’ve got to stay focused on where you’re going.”
And I’d discovered it again, when I attended the ceremony for the totem pole on top of Whistler.
It was a hot day, there were a ton of speeches, and the part of the ceremony in which the women danced around the pole went on and on. I felt my attention start to wander, okay, we get it, let’s keep this thing moving. Then Chief Ian Campbell took the microphone and explained, “The artist needs to be free to move on to his next project, so we are awakening the spirit of the work itself, so it can stand on its own and he can move on.” Oh, that almost hurts, it feels so good. The ceremony of completion is worth its own chunk of time.
So, this nap-time, I let the to-do list languish, and I sit down quietly with a G&T and my copy of the book. I flick through it – the portraits, the timeline of game-changing moments from every year, the image selects that 10 of the best bike photographers in the world shared along with their tales from the frontlines, (thank you Sterling Lorence, Harookz, John Gibson, Sven Martin, Mattias Fredriksson, Ian Hylands, Malcolm Mclaws, Robin O’Neill, Yorick Carroux, Dan Barham, and Blake Jorgenson) and the Encyclopedia of Champions that the incredible Nathalie Grether compiled.
So, thanks to all you crazy ones – game-changers, thrill-seekers, onlookers, all. Whether you were behind the scenes, behind the lens or behind a sign, you helped make Crankworx what it is today: All Time. All in. 10 Years Deep. Here’s to you. Now go make history.
And I raise my glass, to all that went into this moment.
Even as we make the hard decisions about where our energy and focus is most needed and best deployed, it’s worth setting aside the time to celebrate.
Even if it’s quietly, on your own, at 2pm, with a drink. (That’s why they call it mother’s little helper. Ah, grasshopper.)
Earlier this summer, I had the chance to check in with Sherpas Cinema’s Dave Mossop, for a story about world-famous sherpas for a new coffee table book coming out from the Mountain Life crew, the Mountain Life Annual.
Mossop was wrapping up 2 years of filming for the Sherpas’ next opus, Into the Mind, preparing for the launch of FlyOver Canada, packing for a last minute shoot in France, and fielded about 12 phone calls during our conversation. Oh yeah, he’d just been ordained as one of Outside Magazine’s Adventurers of the Year. Dubbed “the auteur”, no less.
“They called you an auteur, Dave. I looked it up. It’s a real compliment.”
“I know. I had to look it up, too.”
Busy, yes.FlyOver Canada TV Commercial from FlyOver Canada on Vimeo.
It was a great interview and I can’t wait to share it. It was also a deja vu moment. The last time we’d checked in, he was deep in the Editing Hurt Locker on All.I.Can, a pain triggered by the Sherpas’ approach of releasing a teaser and announcing a launch date, before the film is even storyboarded. Committing, yes.Into The Mind – Official Teaser from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.
Our conversation, and Mossop’s commitment to the same modus operandi, inspired me to revisit this blog post that I wrote for Origin Design + Communications’ blog back then – How to Make Something Awesome, Sherpa–style.
1. Don’t be afraid of a big idea.
2. Commit yourself, boldly and publicly.
3. Give yourself a deadline. That you must meet. Or suffer public humiliation.
4. Trust your obsessions.
5. Make the process as fun as possible. Explore a question you are passionate and curious about. Take the dream trips for your research and shooting. Work with people you love and admire and have a blast hanging out with.
6. Be disciplined and dig in for the hard yards.
2 years later… same song, different tune. A bigger crew, better equipment, an incredible profile… and the same feeling of over-reaching to try and serve a creative vision. As Mossop joked, about Into the Mind, “I’ve been dreaming of this film for a long time. It seems like we’re constantly calibrating our aspirations to be just an inch beyond what we’re capable of, no matter what.”
In the winter, I interviewed Louis-Phillipe Leonard, co-founder and marketing manager for Leon Lebeniste, for an article in about-to-land Coast Mountain Culture magazine.
Now that summer’s here, and I’m man-handling my bike onto its wall hooks in the garage after every ride, I’m coveting their signature bike rack even more.
Here’s the story behind it.
Jon and I had always dreamt of doing Leon Lebeniste in BC someday, though I had taken a couple years in a different direction from Leon Lebeniste and was starting a new career in TV hosting in Montreal.
Jon had shipped all the machinery out to Squamish and set up shop there. He called me from BC and told me to come for a few days and even offered to pay for the flight. He said: Come. If you like it, you stay. If you don’t, go back and do the TV hosting in Montreal.
It took me 3 days to realize that Squamish was the best place in the world. I decided to stay and that was the best decision I ever made.
The story behind those racks – after moving to BC to room with Jon we ended up renting a new place in Amblepath. The landlord, when we visited, was pointing our each little tiny scratch on the walls from the previous tenant and was asking us to sign everywhere on the lease so that we’d be responsible for any new damage..
After that, owning 4 bikes myself, Jon 2, skiis and snowboards (all leaning against the walls), I was like, how am I gonna do this without ever scratching anything. So then I thought, Okay, I have access to the coolest woodworking tools in the world… Let’s make a bike rack.
- Load 4 bikes
- made of Europly (multi-layered baltic birch)
- easy to assemble and disassemble
- no tools required
- flat pack so I can store it in a closet or underneath the bed or ship it easily all over the world, and it doesn’t take to much space to store in a bike shop
- Lots of hanging on both side for gear and equipment so you’re not looking for your helmet of pads all the time when it’s time to go for a ride, it helps drying wet equipment and keeps everything off the ground.
So it started that way. I made a few prototypes and improved all kind of details on it and I can say that they work really well now.
Usually when I explain all these details, people look at me and say that’s very smart.
The bike racks are cut with the CNC machine. We’re on to the 9th version of the original bike stand. I would say, especially for “LE GARDE” our most popular one that is made for 4 bikes front loading, there’s maybe 150 hours of design time in it.
A work of art and a talking point all by itself. Eric Goodwin
So nice I didn’t want to put it into the garage. Graham Bolenback
I love my stand, and my neighbours comment on it all the time. Chris Kiely
7000 photos later, I have a 7 week old baby.
(Apparently, he crossed over from being a newborn to being a regular garden variety baby at the 6 week mark, a milepost we came upon like rally car drivers, speed-whipped and vaguely stunned, leaning hard into the next turn.)
There is a new quality to my days (apart from the Monty Python moments, like 5 minutes ago when I backhanded a half litre mug of tea over, onto a storybook, notepad, camera, desk calendar and box of colouring pencils piled neatly on the kitchen counter. Sippy cups – clearly not originally invented for the babies.)
It’s a shining, ice-cream headache kind of quality (which may be the abrupt assault to my circadian rhythms perpetrated by the lovely but hungry Wee Dictator and his marble-sized stomach)…
or maybe has nothing to do with sleep and is just the halo effect of the boy who strikes me as peculiarly brilliant – not in any IQ, developmental fashion, just in a radiant illuminating kind of way.
His existence seems to affect everyone around us:
my father in law stares at a tape measure laid flat on the floor, unleashed to 90 inches, pondering his 65 inch notch in the tape and how little time he has left compared to his grandson who has barely even registered on the timeline;
my mother is packing together five generations worth of family heirlooms and 35 year old babyclothes that she has had hidden under the stairs to bring for her first visit, even though all we really want from Australia is Vegemite and sun-kissed cuddles form Grandma;
my 6 year old niece and 3 year old friend are obsessed with looking at the baby, especially when he’s asleep. “Can I see the baby?” they ask, (and call him “she”, which makes me wonder momentarily, ‘too girly a name? too girly a wardrobe?” or maybe they just see him as a miniature version of themselves.
Don’t we all.)
My husband’s 90+ year old grandmother says wistfully, “he’s right at the beginning of things. Everything to come will be a first.”
And everyone else says: Enjoy it. It goes by so fast.
A cliché I turned my nose up at before…
but I watch his changing face and try and decipher his grunts and squawks and leg kicks and headflops,
and I think about my friend Ronan, who died suddenly at just-turned-two, (and his parents who carry that with them like a second skin,)
and about my friend Ange, who died on Friday at 38, (and whose brand new baby girl will carry that with her, into her brave and barely begun life,)
and I’m crying for us all, and how goddamn fast it really feels.
And I’m hoping the post-natal depression screen doesn’t pick me up; that this isn’t labelled as anything other than an almighty dose of love, life, and whiplash at the barely-bearable fleetingness of being.
When my father-in-law first left us in Home Renovation Wilderness, he was worried.
But he had to let us fall out of the nest on our own, so he distilled all his worry and advice to this:
Every day, make a to-do list.
Start it fresh, every single day. On a clean sheet of paper. And just work your way through it.
We went through a lot of scraps of paper.
But we came out the other side – health, relationship and renovation project in tact.
It’s a simple survival tactic that has subsequently gotten me through several major Events Marketing and PR gigs, three more house builds, life as a freelancer, and a bout of stress-induced insomnia.
(The only cure for the 3am Monkey Mind is to get up, write that shit down on a piece of paper, and go back to bed. It’s amazing how pathetic those to-dos seem in the light of dawn.)
Recently, I read a great piece in brainpickings, on how to further refine the list.
A psychologist was invited to give a talk at the Pentagon on managing time and resources. He decided to warm up the generals with a short writing exercise – to write a 25 word summary of their strategic approach.
The exercise stumped most of them. None of the distinguished men in uniform could come up with anything.
The only general who managed a response was the lone woman in the room. She had already had a distinguished career, having worked her way up through the ranks and been wounded in combat in Iraq. Her summary of her approach was as follows: ‘First I make a list of priorities: one, two, three, and so on. Then I cross out everything from three down.’”
The bottom line: get it down to 3 things.
Behance’s Action Method notebooks are a fancy way of facilitating that, you could become a disciple of David Allen’s Getting Things Done process, or you could try a free app like WunderList, but ultimately, a post-it note, or the back of the envelope will do.
Just realise that a 50-item list, no matter how helpful or authoritative it purports to be, is about, oh, 47 entries too long to be useful. Unless, of course, you are trying to build an entire culture from the ground up. If you’re just trying to get through the day, keep it to 3.