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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Has it really been that long?

Has it really been that long?  Can it be that my wife and I have been married for 11 years?  It seems like only yesterday I was proposing to her in our tiny 1 room basement apartment in Toronto.  I can still hear the clicking of high heels and the stomping of little feet on the ceiling above us.  We had a Jewish Orthodox family (complete with a Rabbi) living upstairs.

Two kids fell in love one sunny afternoon
I had been planning the proposal for a while.  I had gone ring shopping after classes when possible.  I was still attending University at the time and was living off of a starving student's budget.  This meant working ridiculous hours at a Second Cup coffee shop, drinking limitless cups of the stuff and scarfing down day old baked goods that were destined for the trash, just so I didn't have to buy groceries.  Every dollar went towards the ring.  Eventually I settled on Birks.  The ring was perfect.  The sales person was awesome and I was approved for financing.  Yep.  I was growing up.

Sometimes we get a little weird
I was not uber-creative with my proposal.  I didn't have a choir sing to her nor did I have a plane sky write my undying affection for her either.  I was a traditionalist.  So I stuck with a traditional method.  Leaving my classes for the day, I stopped at a small florist on Bloor Street and purchased two dozen long stem red roses.  I then hopped on the TTC (subway for all the non-Torontonians out there) and took the longest ride of my life.  45 minutes of heart pounding, palm sweating, stomach churning terror.  "What if she says No?  Holy Shit!  What if she says no?  I can't take the ring back can I? What'll I tell that nice sales guy?  What'll I tell my friends that I've been bragging to?  What'll I do with all these flowers?  Give 'em to the homeless guy on the way home?"  I kinda didn't have a plan 'B'.  Crap.  I'm sure people riding the subway thought I was clearly nuts.    I mean, here's this dude riding by himself; flowers in hand, talking passionately to himself (rocking back and forth) and occasionally looking around wildly for someone...anyone to offer some advice. Mind you, that's not that uncommon to see in a city like Toronto.  Hooray for mental illness?

I got off the bus and walked the remaining few blocks to our tiny closet apartment and just stood staring at the door.  I knew she was in there.  All  I needed to do was turn the handle.  But my hands wouldn't move.  I just stood there....breathing.  The window was open in the basement and the soft light was glowing from inside.  I could smell dinner cooking and hear the radio playing quietly as she sung along.  I thought to myself "This is where I want to be.  Right here...with her."  I turned the handle and walked in to her warm smile.

She asked me what the flowers were for.  I rambled off some inconsequential line or two hoping that my shaking hands didn't give away my intentions.  I told her to look how gorgeous the bunch was (having hidden the ring box inside the bushel).  I remember her opening the paper packaging to look inside and her eyes becoming wild with alarm.  "What is that?" she asked.  "" 

I got down on one knee and looked up into her smiling/crying eyes and asked her to be my wife.

Has it really been that long?  We have had tremendous challenges and tremendous successes in our 11 years of marriage.  We have been blessed with 2 beautiful, if not fiercely independent children, a strong sense of family and a grounded outlook on life and love.  I am a better man today then I was 11 years ago because I have a wonderful woman in my life.  I'm so very lucky to have her as my wife.....and she likes to remind me of that fact every time she gets the chance!
Pretty lucky dude I am
Happy Anniversary Darling.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Today I wore an orange shirt

Today I wore and orange shirt and didn't give it a second thought.  It was hanging there in my closet beside all my other shirts.  Cleaned, pressed and ready to wear, I slipped it off the hanger, onto me and headed off to work.  When I arrived at work, I signed in to my computer to check the news before my day started.  I like to read the news with my coffee before the madness begins.  I was settling into some mundane article about who know what when my wife 'pinged me' on Messenger. Three words flashed across my screen without prejudice:
"Jack Layton died."

I sat stunned for a second before I numbly replied.  I had known that he had been ill.  Hell, every person that watched a Canadian News channel had known that Jack had been ill.  He had been fighting an extremely difficult and very public battle with Cancer for months.  His campaign, in its initial stages, had been overshadowed by this serious health scare.  But with determination, vigour and an unapologetic moustache, Jack soldiered on and went to lead the NDP to a political victory, the likes of which this country had rarely seen....
...until the summer.

With Jack largely out of the public eye since the last election, it came as a crushing shock to his supporters when, at a press conference he called, a gaunt, frail-looking Jack Layton announced that the Cancer was back and he would be temporarily leaving the NDP to seek medical treatment.  And although he was positive that he would be back on Parliament Hill come September, deep down, most of us knew this might be the last we saw of Smiling Jack.

A Man of the People
I never had the privilege of meeting the man or the moustache.  When I was younger, I didn't even find him that appealing as a political candidate.  Used Car Salesman.  I think that's what I referred to him as at some point.  But it wasn't until I had been out of the country for several years that my view of the country started to shift.  I saw, what I considered to be, social inequities and injustices happening at the highest levels of our government.  I saw a right wing government being lead by a Man with his own Agenda and a long term vision that included increased military spending, reductions in the health care industry and a drive to separate the classes as far apart as possible.  I wanted/needed a better political solution.  And in marched Jack and the 'Orange Crush'.

Call his political views leftist, socialist, wispy even but he was the counter-weight to Harper's Evil Empire.  He kept the see-saw balanced.  Canadians had been constantly pushed into the corner and told "You have 1 choice or suffer the consequences in the next Federal Election".  If there's on thing that we Canadian are it is certainly NOT PUSH OVERS.  Push us, and we will push back.  While we are a peaceful people, our hands were armed with pens as we made our marks on the ballet boxes, helping push the NDP and Jack Layton into the official role of Opposition.  The Orange Crush swept across the country and left it's mark.  The future of the Party now lays in question with Jack's unfortunate passing.  I can only hope that those who voted Orange in the last election recognize that the man made the speeches, but the party makes the changes. "Hope ... is what drives New Democrats," Jack said, adding that his party "will always be the party of hope."

Today I wore an orange shirt and didn't give it a second thought; until I heard the news that a strong Political Leader, a Husband, a Father and an all around Man of the People succumbed to an illness that knows no colour, creed or political allegiance.  Cancer is a Bastard.  Jack Layton was another statistic, but by no means was he Cancer's Hostage.

"My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
All my very best,
Jack Layton"

Read the full letter here: Jack Layton's Letter to Canadians
Rest in Peace Jack. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

I'm good right? Please validate me......please?

I'm good right?  Please validate me......please?  What makes us 'good' at something?  What makes us rise above the rest and exemplify the best behaviours and best actions?  What makes me a person to look up to; a role model if you will?  I hardly think that I'm qualified enough to be considered a role model, yet here I am.  Helping to raise two children who, through sheer luck, divine intervention or just some really shitty cosmic lottery, have landed on having me as their Dad.  Poor kids.

In the last few weeks I've had people tell me that I'm really good or great at something.  I've been told I'm one of the best Trainers so and so has ever had.  I've been told that I'm a great listener.  I've been told I'm a good Dad.  All flattering really...but I still feel that these claims are unfounded; baseless even.  What grounds are these compliments being measured against?  I would assume in some cases past personal experiences. But how is that 'quality of character' measured? 

Al Bundy.  The Poster Child of Greatness

I always tell people that I don't consider myself a Great Trainer (even though I have the awards and recognition to validate that I am).  Rather, I tell them that I am a Good Trainer because the minute I believe I am great, I stop growing in my profession; I peak. I'm too damned young to peak.  I often wonder if I should apply that same philosophy to my Parenting and my Husbanding (is that a word?  Husbanding? I don't know.  Fuck it. It is now). 

Not to undersell myself but if I think that I'm a Great Parent or Husband, will I become sloth-like?  Complacent even and stop working towards always getting better?  I've worked too long and too hard in this life to simply accept that I can't be better than this.  Besides, my wife would murder me if I just settled for a working in a new butt grove on the couch while breaking the world record for seeing how many cheesies I could stuff in my mouth at once.  No no.  I'm bound and determined to always work towards the stature of being "great" in my personal and professional life with the full knowledge that I may never reach that goal.

My Parenting Skills are Awesome!
I'd like to think that I'm doing a good job so far when it comes to raising the monsters children and entertaining the wife.  I mean, the kids aren't out lighting fires and robbing banks....yet.  And my wife still seems relatively happy with my antics. I mean, I cook, I clean, I worship the ground she walks on.  I really don't expect much except for the occasional slap and tickle, so I'm pretty low maintenance.  But there's always that nagging little voice in my head that keeps say "I'm good right?  Please validate me......please?"

My greatest fear is that one day someone will call me out as a fake; an unqualified, you have no clue what you're doing F-A-K-E and I'll not be able to prove them otherwise.  Anyone with kids knows what I'm talking about.  There will come a day when your child realizes that a large portion of what you said to them was pure and simple bullshit.  And you will stand there with a made-up grin and simply say "I'm sorry".  A Great Dad would have his apology speech all planned out.  Screw you Ward Cleaver!  Screw you.  But for the rest of us schlubs...errrr....I mean Good Dads, we can only hope that our kids will accept ice cream as a form of apology.  Or at least be smaller than us so we can still beat their asses for being disrespectful!  Kidding....Children's Aid....kidding.
Thanks Ward for making the rest of us Dads look like jerks.

I'm not really sure I can answer what exactly makes a person great at what they do or who they are.  I suppose if you're not in jail, driving a big ol' van with Free Candy written on the sides or using your children as monkeys in an organ grinder show, then you're well on your way to being a "Good" person.  If you said "Well...there was that one time...." seek professional help and then reassess your life.  For those of us that question our worth day in and day out, don't listen to the voices in your head.  Realize that the difference between good and great is marginal and subjective.  If the people in your life love you for you and what you do, then congratulations....keep up the good/great work!

What's the worst that could happen?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Good wholesome family t.v.

So Shark Week is back on!  Yeaaahhhh!!!  A whole week of Good wholesome family t.v. Right?  Right?  Well, define "wholesome"?  Why is it that it's acceptable to show the bloody gaping wounds  of shark attack victims?  I mean, I know it's educational.  And the the "bleh" factor certainly brings the ratings in.  But a gratuitous close-up of a bloody stump that used to be some surfer's limb is just a little over the top.

Dah-duh.  Dah-duh.  Da-da-da-da-da-dad-duh-duh (think cello music)
Now to be fair, I have learned something in watching these shows this week.  For example, Atlantic Sharks can travel thousands of miles down the coastline to maximize their hunting season.  Also, Great Whites have recently been seen off the Santa Monica Pier.  Wait....what the hell did they just say?  Santa Monica?  As in California Santa Monica?  Uh-uh.  Ain't no shark better be all up in my bizniz down in Santa Monica!!  The Pier is where you go to get crappy food, less than safe carnival rides and dirty beach sand.  You DO NOT go to Santa Monica Pier to get your face eaten!!  So.Cal residents be aware.  Hide the good China, the Sharks are moving in!

Welcome to Santa Monica.  Ready to be fish chum?

Obviously the Discovery Channel is doing something right.  According to a press release posted to TV by the Numbers, more than 11 Million Viewers Tuned in to the 24th Annual SHARK WEEK Premiere. Shark Week also took a bite out of social media, generating over 300,000 related tweets on Sunday.

Still, I think the Discovery Channel needs to step it up a notch when it comes to the quality of the program they choose to broadcast.  I mean, the SyFy channel has it right.  They know how to get top-notch actors and best-in-class special effects and make an amazing movie!  Don't believe me?  Check it out!

See!!!  See!!!!  Now that's entertainment!  It's got marketing potential written all over it!  But it doesn't have to end there!  No way.  These guys don't need to kill each other off.  I mean, there's so many things we could do here.  Sequels people!  Sequels.  What if we made it a love story?   Two headstrong creatures of the deep.  Fate made them mortal enemies.  Love made them eternal!

And then to complete the trilogy.....9 months later, we have.....SHARKTOPUS!

All right, all right.  Maybe I should just leave the programming decisions to the Company Execs.

Write something creative!

Ummmm......not tonight.  I've got nothing.