Ballet and Work

I’ve been singing with my choir for over two decades, but I’m having a unique concert with them in a few weeks.   I’ve performed Carmina Burana with them a number of times before; it was one of our former director’s favorite piece.  But this time we are performing it with dancers.  The Victoria Ballet is performing it with us!  We had our first rehearsal with them this week.  Fascinating!
I’m working five days a week at Ozanam again.  When I returned, I wasn’t a permanent part of any group; I was assigned wherever I was needed.  For the first month, I worked with my old group – the Senior’s.  Then I helped one of our Social Skills groups until Christmas.  Now I seem to have landed in my own group.  I work with my buddy John.  He is in a wheelchair, so I help him with his lunch and with his other needs.  We go out on the city bus to check out various malls with others in our group.  We also are starting to go on walks in various parks and pathways now that Spring is here.  John is very excited that we will be touring the studios of his favorite radio station: KOOL FM!  There are three of us key workers working with eight participants in this group.  It’s nice to have a new home and new friends at work!
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Job 3 of 2009

My work is in transition again.  At the beginning of this year, I was one of three staff supervising the seniors group at St. Vincent de Paul’s day program for mentally-challenged adults.  This was a continuation of the job I had been doing for the past three years in the program since my 16 year stint in St. Vincent’s Electrical Shop program.  My first year at Vinnies was in its Woodwork shop program.  So things were relatively stable for me in my two decade history.  You can read below (in a previous entry) about the big change this year when I took on the voucher store.  The store system couldn’t afford to keep the store running, so it was hoped that by implementing a work experience program there, my program could adopt the store and the needy of Victoria would still have this resource.  It would also solve the problem of not having qualified supervision and a structured program for the 3 mentally-challenged people who work in our downtown store system.  So there came job number two for me this year.  But it was too good to last.  The funding didn’t come together, so the work experience program never got off the ground.  Without this program, there was no reason for my program to pay for me to staff the store.  So a couple of weeks ago, a store cashier took over the staffing of the store.  I was initially supposed to transfer to the main thrift store across the street so that I could start a program to answer the supervision issues of the mentally-challenged.  But then management crunched the numbers and discovered that the funding that we get to care for these three people was insufficient to pay for my salary.  So they proposed a compromise.  Now I’m working three days a week at my old location, and two days downtown on my new program.  Job number 3 of 2009.  This compromise job has one big bonus for me.  The seventy people at the main centre are like family to me, so I’ve missed them in the six months that I’ve been downtown (and they’ve missed me!)  Now I get to spend time with them again.  I may just help out wherever I’m needed since I’m there just three days a week.  That’s fine.  It gives me variety in my work, and it gives me a chance to work with more of my old friends.  I’m still in the process of putting together a calendar of activities and outings for my 3 friends downtown.  It will be nice to continue to work with them too.  But I’m working there for two days and only am going out with them once a week for an hour or two.  The rest of the time, I’m helping out in the store.  This is a bit dull.  Hopefully I can find a way to make it more interesting.  It’s tragic that I can’t continue my relationships with the poor and the homeless that I developed in the six months at the voucher store.  It would have been great if I could have continued that work.  I got to know many people by name, and it was very rewarding to see how I was able to help them.  But it was unsustainable, so those six months will just be a happy memory.
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Some assembly required

I should see it coming by now, but I still get caught.  Ann brings something home, I go to take a look and end up spending days assembling the darn thing.
A couple of years ago, our garden shed arrived as a pile of lumber, a sheet of instructions, and a week of work.  This week, we acquired a car-top carrier.  It fooled me by arriving in a large box.  The box was large enough to excite the girls.  They instantly had designs on it for playing in.  So at 8 in the evening (after completing my essential facebooking!) I opened the box.  Out came the two halves of the carrier, a bag of hardware rubble, and the nightmare sheet pictured above.  Two days later, one misinterpretation of the instructions (requiring taking one section apart again) and one skinned knuckle later, we have more cargo capacity.

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26 Random Things about Albert

My Facebook friends have been posting 25 Random Things about themselves.  I went one better and posted 26.  I’ve copied my list here:

1. I reluctantly started a new job a month ago and I’m loving it, though I miss the friends I left behind at the old job.

2. I’ve worked for The Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Victoria for over 20 years in 4 different positions.

3. St. Vinnie’s is a good fit for me because I love to help people. My life’s purpose is to make a difference in this world.

4. This vision also had me running a warehouse as a volunteer to collect material goods for Nicaraguans for three years.

5. I bike to my job downtown. I’ve biked since I was 5 years old. As a
kid I biked all over our region exploring, getting lost, and loving it.

6. In 1992 I biked across Canada with 43 others. It was organized by
"Tour du Canada" which does this annually. We left on July 1 from
Vancouver’s Stanley Park and arrived in St. John’s Newfoundland on Sept
15. I’m still riding the bike I bought for that trip.

7. Ann and I married in 1993 and we have 4 girls.

8. One of my daughters was diagnosed as being highly functioning, but
on the Autistic spectrum. This is likely genetic, and there is some
evidence to support that I may be autistic too.

9. For example, I have no friends but many acquaintances, and I like it
that way. My favorite activity is playing card games on the computer
while listening to talk radio (usually CBC Radio One)

10. I am a Christian and a member of Christ Community Church. I teach
Sunday School, serve on the Offering Counting Committee, and am the
payroll clerk.

11. I love music, though I don’t yet play any instruments. I’ve sung
with the Victoria Choral Society for 22 years and am the Tenor section
leader. I’m currently rehearsing Vivaldi’s Gloria and Mozart’s Grand
Mass. I love Handel’s Messiah and sing it from memory.

12. I also love the music of old Pink Floyd, Bruce Cockburn, Dire
Straits and used to be an intense fan of Supertramp. I like to stream
techno sometimes.

13. I have a BA in History from Calvin College in Grand Rapids
Michigan. I studied the first 3 years of this program at The King’s
University College in Edmonton Alberta. I am one credit short of a
minor in Philosophy and Theology. I also took a bunch of Biology before
I gave up on the sciences.

14. I love animals, and animals love me. I had guinea pigs when I was a
child. I reluctantly adopted a cat just before I got married, but fell
in love with her. After she died, I reluctantly got my first dog, who I
also fell in love with. She sleeps on my bed whenever I’m in the
bedroom on the computer and also at night. My daughter has a cockatiel
which would love to stay on my shoulder all day.

15. I have an odd sense of humor, which should be nothing new to anyone who has met me and is reading this!

16. I am a cheapskate and almost never spend any money on myself.

17. I get tired quickly and make it through the day with antidepressants and naps.

18. Until a couple of months ago, I had watched almost no TV for over 5
years. Now I’ve been streaming old episodes of "Lost". I’ll be starting
season 3 today.

19. I love to read, but am usually too tired so I read only a few books a year. I do read the newspaper.

20. I love Sudoku and am moderately good at it. I also like playing Scrabble here on Facebook, though I lose a lot of games.

21. I try to live my life in a globally sustainable manner. This affects my attitude towards transportation and diet.

22. I still have some of my baby teeth. I am a dentist’s nightmare.

23. It is Valentine’s Day and I have no self-control when it comes to
chocolate. I’ve eaten 5 Lindt chocolates while writing this.
Fortunately, that was all the chocolates I had, or I’d eat myself sick!

24. I can understand Dutch, since I learned it as a baby. But I can hardly speak it.

25. I invented a cure for hiccups, posted it on my website and used to
get emails from people all over the world who were helped by it.

26. I’ve compiled the genealogy of my family. So far, I’ve got over 2000 people listed.

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New Job!

At the end of a workday a week before Christmas, my supervisor called me into his office.  My manager was there, and the two of them told me they wanted me to consider transferring to a different job.  A year ago, Saint Vincent de Paul had opened a new store, named "Vinnies" downtown to help the poor.  Here the needy of downtown Victoria can come and get clothes and
household items without cash. They need to obtain a voucher from the
Saint Vincent de Paul Social Concern Office across the street stating
what they need.  The woman who runs this store is due to retire in March, so they wanted me to consider taking her place.  Having me at the helm would solve two problems: Firstly; running the store, and Secondly; supervising the mentally-challenged clientelle that help in the downtown St. Vincent facilities.  We currently have three such people downtown, but would like to expand our work-experience programs and would need staff support to do so.  The 16 years I spent in the electrical shop taught me how the supply system for the stores works, and I got to know many of the staff involved.  Add to this my experience with the mentally-challenged, I was a natural choice for this position.

My initial reaction was that this was a bad idea for me to pursue.  The 70 challenged people in Royal Oak are like a family to me, and it would be difficult to leave them.  Especially after 20 years!  Also, I live in Royal Oak, so I have been able to walk to work.  If I took this position, I’d have a long commute (bus or bike ride).  But I knew that I always initially react negatively to new ideas, so I told my superiors that I would need to think and pray about it overnight before I gave them an answer.  My wife thought it would be a good change for me.  I had to admit that I had some misgivings about how well I would adapt to some of the recent restructuring at Royal Oak, so I decided to give the new job a chance.

I’ve now finished my first week at the store.  I’ve become fast friends with the mentally-challenged man who helps out there.  I spend a lot of time putting fresh stock on the clothing racks, processing vouchers for our clientelle and bagging their selections, and cleaning the store.  I was very tired after the first few days, but it is getting easier.  So far, so good!

Below are some pictures of the store.  Here you can see some of the clothing racks:

Above, you can see our shoe racks.  The last two pictures show our stock in the back room of pans, small appliances, and boxes of dishes and cutlery.  We also have a rack of coats and a bin of blankets.  Everything comes as donations to our thrift store system.

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Red Dwarf

I’ve been a great fan of the old BBC sci-fi comedy "Red Dwarf".  I recently discovered that I could find all the shows I’d missed at

I’ve also been listening to Mike Duncan’s excellent podcast The History of Rome which is also available as a free subscription on I-tunes.

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Back to School

In September, for the first time in 21 years, I went back to school.  My employer put me through a course at the local community college on Monday and Tuesday mornings to upgrade my job skills.  I’ve had to write a 7 page paper, write a couple of exams, and test my skills in a lab exam.  The lab is a simulated hospital ward with mannequins in the beds.  We learn how to bathe and transfer the dummies.  Fortunately this course is much easier than the ones I took in my BA program.  It is part of the program required nowadays for my job.  I’d never had it before, because I started working before it existed and got "grandfathered" into my position.  It’s been very informative, and I’ve been able to talk to the other students about Ozanam, which hopefully will help them consider working there!
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