Archive for the ‘FLOO-G Reminisces’ Category

threeframesIt was just like any other backyard summertime get-together in late July; barbecue on the go, beers in hand, buddies laughing and bonfire blazing.

With we Flugs being a family that never says no to a cheap or free firewood deal, sometimes people are bound to bring some over for us once in a while.

In this particular case though, what was brought to us that was intended for the fire pit turned out to be a little slice of Canadian food history.

boxes1boxes2

In this old apple box label, it looks like a Mrs. Suffsick from Sinaluta, Sask., at one point before I was born, seemed to really love Vernon, B.C. apples enough to custom order them. Stuff intended for firewood has a story, it seems.

On this old apple box label, it looks like a Mrs. Suffsick from Sinaluta, Sask., at one point before I was born, seemed to really love Vernon, B.C. apples enough to custom order them. Stuff intended for firewood has a story, it seems.

Needless to say, we couldn’t burn these.

These old apple labels that were donated to us by a family friend come from the early 20th century, starting from the World War I era going all the way until the 1960s when B.C.’s fruit was still packed and shipped in wooden boxes with all of these colourful labels, according to a former Kelowna Museums executive director quoted in this post from Good Fruit Grower.

There is even a postcard book of some of these labels.

This collection of about a dozen that fell into our hands doesn’t include any of the more eclectic artworks that are supposedly out there, like a Biblical image of a snake biting into a juicy, delicious apple (guess B.C. fruit’s just that tempting), but still a neat rescue nonetheless.

Three of them have since been given new life by my brother, who built solid oak frames around the labels and gave them a thick lacquer finish. It was a birthday present for my mother this fall.

mapleleafappleshoweapplesorchardLesson? When you’re donated firewood from someone that will help you huddle and keep warm this winter, look before chucking first.

Hard to believe this thing is 10 years old.

chair

Every student was handed the same blueprint for this chair but, if I remember, we got to pick and choose which type of wood we’d like to use.

chair2This chair is made out of cherry with its inlays made from walnut, purple heartwood and South American bloodwood. No stain, just lacquer.

The bloodwood in particular I didn’t get from the school’s shop supply, but rather was donated to me by my brother.

Bloodwood is pretty cool. It’s very dense and sinks in water; it smells like a very mild incense when burning; and, hence its name, its sawdust can leave some dark red staining on other woods when sitting too long.

No, the chair’s not for sale. Just thought I’d show you an old, proud project for Throwback Thursday.

Considering that, these were also some of the first photographs I took with my first DSLR camera, a Nikon D60, way back in 2008.

I haven’t built anything in a long time though. If I had a chance to build another project, it would be a duct tape boat.

Forget about the MythBusters “Don’t try this at home” warning, it just seems like a pretty cool thing to ride.

Courtesy: STOCK.XCHNG

Courtesy: STOCK.XCHNG

Looking back, after working for three years between finishing high school and starting post-secondary, I’m glad I took the year and a half that I did being both an upgrading and open-studies student before committing to a degree program. I probably needed the time to adjust to campus life.

Sometimes, I would wonder things that I feared would make me look stupid if I asked them out loud, like, “Rubric? What the hell is that?” On a quick side note, journalism school was fortunately quick to plant the bug in my mind that it’s OK to ask stupid questions.

Like all first-gens, I’ve never been given the wisdom of parents’ advice on making it through post-secondary life to fall back on. I only knew what I knew about campus life from Hollywood comedy flicks (not good), so I had to depend entirely on first-hand experience of what was expected of me as a student.

Bumps along the way happened, of course. Working too much and putting studies on the backburner; and too many loonies spent playing pool at the campus pub (plus all the beer) were two of the big ones.

Being “creative” with a paper and going off of the rubric (oh, so that’s what it is) landed me one C+.

There was also a little bit of culture shock, but mainly in a good way. Unlike high school, university students seem to have, for most part, grown up and let go of the idea of cliques. I didn’t really like high school—I hung out with the misfits who’d smoke on the parking lot. On my first day at post-secondary, I was a bit apprehensive that it would be more of the same.

I was also taken aback that Canadian campus culture doesn’t really have as strong of an Animal House or Van Wilder sort of sense of brother- and sisterhood that you see in U.S. fraternities and sororities. Hell, I’ll confess that I first got involved with my student alumni chapter, way back in 2007 when it was first born, because I stumbled upon a Facebook event for an on-campus summer retreat hosted by it. I thought that it would be more like a fraternity-recruitment shindig where we would eventually go out in the bush somewhere at a leader’s (or his parents’) cabin. Ultimately, the retreat had the goal of forming the group and planning its year ahead. Happy accident that I came; I went with the flow of the retreat’s theme, contributed my own ideas and ended up volunteering for the chapter for more than three years.

On May 31st, 2012, I officially received this piece of paper proving that I had joined the ranks of “them edumacated smart peoples.”

On May 31st, 2012, I officially received this piece of paper proving that I had joined the ranks of “them edumacated smart peoples.”

Although they’ve either never went or finished, my family still knew that post-secondary education was important, and they wanted to see me succeed. It was a (sadly, not granted) last wish of my late grandmother for her to live long enough to see me walk the stage in my gown and that ridiculous cap—convocation can be an even huger deal when that rite of passage is a brand-new type of leaf to grow on an immediate family tree’s branch.

I’m not sure how much on-campus support there is out there for first-gens vs. other student minorities, but first-generation learners do seem to be considered a disadvantaged population. Based on a quick Google search of work done by U.S. scholars, it seems to reveal that retention rates aren’t as rosy when compared to students whose parents are post-secondary-educated. This one 2009 paper cites one dramatic finding from the University of Oklahoma, indicating that first-generation students are a little more than twice as likely not to finish, with financial problems being one contributing factor. To add to that, the paper also cites another scholar’s work that lack of preparation and self-confidence issues can also potentially accumulate.

Closer to home, I did find one summary of research done by the Université du Québec à Montréal on the persistence of first-gens, acknowledging from the get-go that they face some of the said disadvantages mentioned in American research.

The odds of success, statistically speaking, seem to have not been in my favour. So how did this blue-collar bum see it to the end? I can’t really explain that to you other than sheer will, backed by good emotional family support.

The scholarships that I earned, as well as government low-income grants, were a relief and in one instance, a lifesaver. They’ve kept me from deciding to take a year off and kept my student loan debt from becoming an intimidating number.

I was eager. I was ambitious. I was engaged. I was an excited 20-something little kid. But throughout, I was sometimes a nervous wreck.

Was it a matter of wanting to be one of the best? For me, at the time, sometimes it was. But perhaps the healthier outlook is not to see it as a matter of strictly winning or losing, but rather to be open to the journey of becoming more and more self-aware of just how far you can go.

I’m still a bit surprised I made it all the way to being an editor-in-chief of my J-school program’s newspaper website. Maybe it was my gratitude to be back in school every day that drove my (damn near single-minded) commitment to learning and applying the knowledge to be entrusted with such leadership.

Going back to my quick Google search, it looks like there are some support and mentorship programs in Ontario universities tailored specifically to first-gens but I truthfully can’t say with certainty if there are any programs like that here in Calgary’s institutions (leave a comment with a link if there are any). If not, then maybe it’s worth discussing the idea of starting some here? Do we first-gens need the extra attention in the eyes of peer-support services? It’s good to ensure that special needs of ethnic and sexual minority students, as well as those with disabilities, are met. However, even here in “Gas Town,” socio-economic status shouldn’t be forgotten.

I’m sure there are many other blue-collar bums out there who can make their own self-discoveries that, yes, they can succeed in higher education.

LINK: Watch a short documentary following the lives of first-gen students in Nevada here.

Analog Coffee on 17th Avenue, sitting at the second window stool from the left. Photo: Zoey Duncan

Me (not pictured) and my hand at Analog Coffee on 17th Avenue, sitting at the second window stool from the left.
Photo: Zoey Duncan

I’ve always imagined that lattes would, by default, taste a lot sweeter than they actually are—almost like some sort of cutely-decorated dessert that you sip. To my surprise, it was a little bitter (my fault, I didn’t add sweetener) but in a satisfyingly-rich sort-of way.

Lattes and downtown coffee shops, as a lot of you may know, share symbolic (albeit stereotypical) association with the likes and pastimes of the young-adult, urban, condo-dwelling, Apple-cultist demographic—one that I am no part of, minus the “young adult” part.

I live where I grew up in Cedarbrae; a neighbourhood on the west end of the suburban fringes of Calgary. Men in my family work in carpentry, construction or mechanics. I’ve chosen a different career path, but still have simple taste in a lot of things, particularly coffee. I’m content with a cup of 7-Eleven joe with cream and sugar before the work day, standing in line with fellow labourers decked in checker-patterned Dickies jackets and duck pants.

I’m a self-described blue-collar bum and some have told me my flesh-and-blood demeanour fits the part well.

I’ve worked for nine years, on and off, as a residential drywall finisher (it’s a less dirty phrase than “sander”). From starter shacks in McKenzie Towne to estate homes in Heritage Pointe; and townhouses in Panorama Hills to renovations in Mount Royal, I’ve done them all and everything between.

I wear another hat as a writer/journalist. I’m a first-generation university graduate who majored in communication (journalism), and this first post about my first latte is my renewed attempt at trying this blogging thing-a-ma-bob again.

Why write about a first latte? It’s been a while since my last attempt as a writer at uncovering the extraordinary in the everyday—so I’ll try with me telling you about my Tuesday morning.

I met an old J-school classmate I haven’t spoken to in a while, who lives in the inner city, on 17th Avenue to talk a bit more about research projects we’ve been doing for our old university. We share common passions for social media and digital storytelling and boy, does she know plenty about effectively utilizing the tools. Yes, she earns that brown-nosing sentence.

Upon my confession that it was actually my first latte, she was quick to capture the Kodak-errr… Instagram moment.

What drove me to go for the latte instead of the regular coffee? It was an ordinary across-the-counter decision backed by my motivation to major in journalism to begin with. I thrive from hearing and learning from other walks of life that are different from mine but haven’t done it as much as I should have since leaving J-school. Maybe it’s just an excuse, but working a construction day job, then in the evenings, doing copy editing and web production work for alt publications from home can leave me nestled in my own little world, which can be too much of a bad thing.

It’s always wonderful to re-connect with fellow scribblers I respect who are all walking unique career and life paths of their own. Urban or suburban; latte sipper or double-double gulper; white collar or blue collar; employed or freelancing, everyone I encounter has something to share that I can learn from.

It isn’t solely the event of my first latte, but I choose it as the perfect symbol marking the beginning of getting out of my writer’s mental rut, where I admittedly have been for a few months now after years of working really damn hard through university. I’ve always been practising communications part-time in editorial or web production positions after graduation, but it’s time to blow some dust off of my own byline—starting with the baby step that is this new blog.

Does this mean I’ll blog at uptown coffee shops and stop getting my morning fix from corner stores? Probably not, but I won’t mind having another latte with you if you’re having one (I’ll add sweetener next time)—the world of fancy-schmancy coffee will be just one of many new things for me to experience in my young life ahead.

There will be personal ramblings with my occasional special dose of cheesy, sentimental introspection. I’ll share memories of my own life. I’ll engage with you and ask you something and encourage you to leave a comment. When you see my byline somewhere, I’ll link out to it.

Will there be another post correlating drinking latte with writer’s reinvigoration? Doubtful. For now, I’ll just say welcome to “Pronounced [Floo-g]”, my friends.