Friday, 2 October 2015

The Sermon over a year old and still going

Me just out relaxing and enjoying the day.
    Like your typical guy, I am bad at observing anniversaries.
    I almost forgot to mark the creation day of this blog. The first post on Stanks’ Sermon blog came back on Aug. 29, 2014, and it marked my thoughts about settling down in Saskatoon. I am just over a month late in recognizing the one-year anniversary for this site, but it is better late than never.
    This will be the 121st unique entry to Stanks’ Sermon, and I just passed 25,000 page views in total, which includes views from a number of high ranking officials from various sports teams. The fact I would make that many entries or attract that many page views were both unexpected. I figured this might be a side project, but it seems to be turning into a focus.
    When I moved to Saskatoon to be closer to family, I figured I would basically be retired from covering sports after leaving the Medicine Hat News. I expected to arrive in Saskatoon, get a communications, public relations or an office administrative position with a company like Cameco or PotashCorp and disappear into the background of real life as an ordinary person not in the public view.
    I know a lot of my friends from the media field figured I would end up in the communications and public relations field upon my arrival to Saskatoon. From there, I would figure out how I would be involved in the sports community.
    In real life, plans don’t work out as cookie cutter like that. Since arriving in The Bridge City, I have applied for numerous communications positions in town with various organizations. Going back to the start of August of 2014, I have had only three career related job interviews. Of those three career related interviews, one was with an organization in another centre.
    While talking to about three friends similar to myself who are trying to land a position in the communications and public relations field, they also seem to be running into the same roadblocks. Those positions seem to be used by organizations or companies to satisfy unwritten equal opportunity employment ratio numbers. In other words, you need to be from a visible minority group or female to even be considered for such work.
    If you are a Caucasian male in your later 30s, it seems like you shouldn’t even try to apply. I have even had the odd bud from football joke I should look into becoming like Caitlyn Jenner to get work in the communications and public relations field.
    From there, I naturally moved to find freelance work with various entities as a writer and a photographer. Becoming a freelance journalist was something that wasn’t in the plans.
    I did kick tires sending resumes to various local media outlets to see if they needed a writer or a photographer. Even broadcast outlets have former print reporters managing website content, but in the media’s budget cut era, I wasn’t expecting too much, even with the fact I have been in media in some form since 1996.
    I sent resumes to, in no particular order, the StarPhoenix, CTV Saskatoon, Global Saskatoon, the Saskatoon Media Group, CBC Saskatoon, 650 CKOM, Planet S and the Verb Magazine. Outside of getting an email from a StarPhoenix human resources representative in June, I didn’t get a sniff from any of them. As I was living with family, I figured I put myself in position to work under the hometown discount, which would help my employment chances in the media’s budget cut era.
    I have friends who ended up with positions in mainstream media outlets in Calgary and Edmonton due to the fact they moved there before applying or they already lived there.
    My disappointment on that front wasn’t too large. I know how stressed the media situation is in Canada, and I know a lot of great people work at the Saskatoon based outlets.
    The coolest thing that happened to me on the media front was reconnecting with Cam Hutchinson, who is the editor of the Saskatoon Express weekly publication. He was the long-time managing editor at the StarPhoenix, which included the period I worked there on an internship. I became a regular contributor to the Express.
    The Express contains a number of former StarPhoenix staffers, and they are spectacular when it comes to looking at my copy.
    Hutchinson had also gone public with his battles with anxiety, and he became a great person to talk to on that front. I have also long gone public with my battles regarding issues with anxiety, which started due to workplace mental health issues that arose during my final years at the Medicine Hat News.
    Hutchinson has been one of two people in the media industry that I feel have really understood what I have gone through. The other has been Gregg Drinnan in Kamloops, who is the ultimate veteran when it comes to covering the WHL and regularly tries to shed light on mental health issues in his Taking Note blog.
    In Hutchinson’s case, he has been great when it comes to offering reassuring words. It is also great to have someone in town you can go out for a coffee with to talk about mental health issues.
    The fact I have come forward with my mental health battles does kind of stick somewhat in the back of my mind of being the reason I don’t get interviewed for communications and public relations positions. I have often been told by people dealing with their mental health battles that it is a career and job killer to talk about these issues, due to the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.
    That actually jumped to the forefront of my mind during one of my career related interviews. Back in February, I interviewed for a media position with the department of Advancement and Community Engagement at the University of Saskatchewan.
Me checking out action at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    Going into the interview, I had this plan all figured out for the question, “What was the biggest change you ever faced in your career?”
    I had a strategy to talk about what I encountered on the mental health front in the workplace, and how that it was a big thing for me to find a way to overcome that challenge. I had a very minimal idea or education what to do on the mental health front just four years earlier.
    During the interview, a question came up regarding how do I deal with times that are extremely busy. When I heard that question, I figured that wasn’t much of a question. If anyone could see a video of my time at the News, they could see that every shift was hyper busy during my last two years there and that dealing with the world is caving in scenario got to the point it was an ordinary, everyday thing.
    I decided in my mind let’s stop daintily dancing around the soft question and get to the hard one. I said that being busy wasn’t a problem for me, because life was always busy at the News. I then said the biggest challenge I faced came on the mental health front.
    After I said what had happened to me, the four woman panel that interviewed me gave me this stunned, shocked look. My first reaction to that was I should have never brought up my mental health story.
    My mind then drifted into thoughts about educated stereotypes. My mind started thinking if a four woman panel interviewing me for a position at a major university can give me this look I am really screwed, because women traditionally are a little more caring and emotional than men and major universities are supposed to be forward thinking places.
    In evaluating that whole interview, I felt I didn’t perform well enough on an overall standard. I believe I was good, but I needed to be great, spectacular or impressive. One of my former media colleagues from another centre got that position, and I do have to conclude that was an extremely good hire.
    Even with that in mind, the reaction to when I brought up the mental health issues sticks in my mind. Looking back, I just should have answered the question about how I deal with being busy.
    To supplement the income from freelancing and money that comes in from this blog, I have been working temporary contract positions through Kelly Services. I started off with mainly office work, but have doing more warehouse assignments lately, which means I have put on steel toed footwear for the first time in about 19 years.
    All the work environments I have encountered through Kelly Services have been positive ones, which have been big in helping me. Since my mental health problems started due to troubles in the work environment, it was important for me to regain the experience of feeling safe leaving my place of residence and going to a work site.
    In these positions, I also met a number of other people who dealt with troubles in other work environments where employers hired outright street creatures to letting unthinkable things get overlooked like personal theft between employees or theft from the company as two examples. They were happy to find a better environment as well. On a side note, I applied to some of the companies my temporary co-workers talked about, posted the highest score on an employee assessment one company had ever seen, but still didn’t land a job.
    During my ups and downs on those fronts and feeling like I am being left behind in the game of life compared to my friends, I always had this blog. I used it to document cool stuff regarding in random order the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, the Saskatoon Hilltops, the Saskatoon Blades, the Saskatoon Valkyries, a UFC card and a couple of NHL exhibition games.
    It would be cool if creating this blog could become a full-time thing, and with that said, I eventually need to put in work on the advertising front. Actually, if I averaged getting a dollar for every page view that occurred, I could get away with writing this blog and relying on freelance work for income.
    The highlight moment with this blog so far has been writing about the Saskatoon Stars of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League, whose roster contains my young cousin Danielle Nogier. Nogier’s presence on the team is honestly the only reason I discovered the Stars and their talented young and energetic bunch. Last season, they won the female title at the Mac’s tournament, their first SFMAAAHL title and bronze at the Esso Cup national championship tournament.
    During my life, I would consider myself not to be the greatest family guy. Heck, I lived 13 straight years in centres that didn’t contain family before moving to Saskatoon.
    I was able to be at the Agriplace Arena the night the Stars won the league title, and the big personal highlight was getting to snap a picture of my cousin skating around the ice with the championship banner. I have covered and lived through a number of highlight moments in sports, but I can count on one hand the number of times those moments included family members. As sports is my passion, it was cool, special and different in a very good way for me to see one of Danielle’s big moments.
    One of the reason’s I came to Saskatoon was to experience a moment like the Stars winning a league title, even if I didn’t know that when I made the move here.
    I have to remember I arrived with the goal to live in Saskatoon. I believe I am a community minded person, which comes from the influence of former University of Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal, and my university days involved with the teams at the University of Regina. Thinking about those years and the old rivalry between Regina and Saskatoon, I don’t think McCrystal could imagine anyone going to Saskatoon to try and have a positive impact there. Lol.
    While my living is a modest one since arriving in the Bridge City, I have been able to buy my own $1,000 ticket to the One Voice Fundraiser, attend the Dogs’ Breakfast, take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, give to the Canadian Cancer Society, donate money to the late Cody Smuk in his battle with cancer, support the scholarship fund for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team, attend the Saskatoon Hilltops PotashCorp Pitchfork Fondue and pass money on to the Hilltops scholarship fund.
My young cousin Danielle Nogier and the SFMAAAHL title banner.
    On the out of town front due to longstanding links I have made, I have made small donations to Dorothy Drinnan’s participation in the Kidney Walk in Kamloops and to Medicine Hat News sports editor Sean Rooney for his participation in the Extra Life fundraiser in Medicine Hat to supports children’s hospitals nationally. Of course, I am still making donations to the Rams scholarship fund, which is something I have been doing since leaving Regina in 2001.
    The One Voice Fundraiser to support the Neural Health Project at the U of Saskatchewan, which looks to find a more complete approach to treat mental illnesses, was the one big night I felt like I was an on top superstar again. I wrote a blog post to advance that fundraiser telling my mental health story, and I felt from the people I met that night it was really well received. The warm feeling I had at TCU Place that night was something I wish I could constantly carry with me.
    I thank all of those who have invested in me in some way and have followed this blog, so that I can give back.
    My goal is to remain in Saskatoon, and hopefully, continue to be more of a positive influence. For now, this blog isn’t going away and neither am I.
    I hope you will continue to follow what I write. I enjoy writing stories mainly from the sports side of this community, and I will continue on as long as there is an audience that checks out what I do.

    If you have any comments you want to pass on about this blog post, feel free to email them to