Throwback Thursday

I couldn’t wait to get out of the house after I graduated from high school. I felt as though I had been held down and stepped on for far too long. I was tired of being told what to do. I was going to do whatever I wanted to do…consequences be damned.

I attended the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton in September of 1990. It didn’t take long to stand out. I was a member of a small group of frosh that the upper classmen took to. Maybe it was because I had a car with a personalized license plate (ugh…I was so cheesy and vain back then). Maybe it was because I was really cool (no…that can’t be it). But for whatever reason, my first week at university was a memorable one and I thought life was finally handing me a winning hand. No more being picked on…no more being the nerd…no more being the guy that was always fighting for attention.

Needless to say, none of that turned out to be true. I was still a nerd (though more a geek or a dork), I was still picked on (based upon my personality, I kinda asked for it) and I was still the guy always fighting for attention.

My Throwback Thursday pic displays my need for attention. I vaguely remember that it was a Saturday afternoon and I was bored. I went to my dorm floor’s “library” (although I don’t recall ever reading a book while in there) to hang out. I can’t recall the specifics, but one conversation led to another and the next thing I know, I’m building a tower out of books and chairs in an attempt to reach the ceiling.

This was the result:

Throwback Thursday

I actually look proud in that picture; as if this was some great accomplishment. I mean, it’s a memorable photo because WHO DOES THIS?? But yeah…that was me at my first year of university.

I look back at this and really take a look at myself in the picture. I mean…who WAS that guy? What was he all about? What was he thinking about and did he have plans for his future?

The end result has been a happy one, obviously. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been in my life…so I would never want to alter my life history in any way as that would change my present. Still, I can’t help but wonder how my life would have changed if I hadn’t been such a scatter-brained teenager who was ill-equipped to handle the pressure of living at university alone.


Being The Role Model

It’s tough being a father figure to children that aren’t yours…especially if you haven’t been the best father to your own kids.

I mean, don’t get me wrong…I’m a pretty decent dad and I’ve learned over the years how to be better at my job as a parent. I’m constantly changing and evolving and am doing whatever I can to repair any damage I caused with the relationships during my “younger years”. I’m far from perfect, but I think my kids would say I’m doing alright.

My stepdaughters would also agree with that. They have seen my changes over the past five years. In the beginning, I wasn’t much of an affectionate person when it came to kids. They’d both talk a mile a minute at the same time and I’d start having panic attacks. It all seemed so overwhelming at first because they were only used to their father as a male role model…I just wasn’t sure how I was supposed to act.

When I moved in with Sunshine, it was another major adjustment for me. I was probably a bit more snappy with them that I needed to be. I was probably more annoyed by the little things that didn’t matter than I needed to be. At the end of the day, I needed time to find a good rhythm so that we could all get on the same page as a blended family.

I think we’re at that stage now, which is awesome. At this point, the 9-year-old (Mo) doesn’t remember a time when I wasn’t in her life…and that type of relationship is important to me. I made a lot of mistakes with my own two daughters, so I certainly don’t want to make the same ones again going forward. I want to be as good of a father as I can be: stern when necessary, open and honest when required, and loving at all times.

Right now, I don’t think they’re getting that from their biological father. He’s not abusive or anything like that, but he’s not acting like a father should…at least in my opinion. I can’t go into details, but I know that his attitude and his narcissistic behaviour lately has really been affecting them. They’re unhappy when they visit him and they are beginning to question their own self-worth (you would, too, if you were told at ELEVEN YEARS OLD that you constantly had “your head up your own ass”).

At this point, there is nothing Sunshine and I can do to change her ex. He is who he is and nobody is going to tell him otherwise. But what we CAN do is do whatever we can to be the best parents that WE can be.

If the girls ask a question about something their father said or how he acted or a conversation they had that made them feel uncomfortable, we’ll be there to help them by answering in an honest way without continually beating them down with words until they only see our side of things.

Bottom line is that when he’s being a douchebag, we’ll let them know. The last thing we want is for their future relationships to be tarnished because they feel they should be treated a “certain way” by men. It’s just not right and it won’t happen as long as Sunshine and I have anything to say about it.

I’m not trying to push him out of their lives, though. I’m not trying to turn them against him. This isn’t a battle to me. This is simply doing what’s right for the girls. They need to know that they have a voice and, as they grow older, a choice in what they do in life.

I wish the guy would change. I really hope that he can see that he’s pushing his daughters away. I’ve done that myself by simply being distant…I’d hate to see that happen to another father, regardless of my personal feelings for him.

He won’t change, though. His ego won’t allow him to see anybody else’s point of view on anything, much less on how he’s raising his kids.

So as time passes, I will simply keep doing what I’m doing…and I’ll keep trying to be an example of how a male role model is supposed to act around their kids. It’s the only thing I can do.


The Birthday Week

I turned 42 on Sunday. Not a big deal, really…it’s just another birthday. However, because Sunshine was so overjoyed with her 40th-birthday surprise party that I threw for her, she felt pressure to come up with something equally as awesome. I told her that I didn’t care…that I’d be happy with ANYTHING because being with her and the girls is already like a present to me.

She didn’t like that answer. She wanted to know what I wanted.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything in mind that we could afford (darn you, iPhone!!) so that put her into “creative mode”. She and the girls conspired together to come up with a “Birthday Week” celebration. And I gotta tell you…I don’t know if I’ve ever felt this loved.

MONDAY

Sunshine and the girls each made their own little “countdown calendar”, where I would tear off a decorative flap and see a message underneath (similar to an advent calendar). The messages were very cute. Sunshine’s envelope had a $10 Tim Card inside of it…so needless to say I was a happy boy.

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As the afternoon wore on, I told Sunshine that I was craving ice cream from Marble Slab Creamery as a treat for the evening. This place is normally an occasional treat for us because of the cost (and calories!) involved. She immediately said “sure” because it was my “Birthday Week”.

We came home and, after supper, watched Mad Men in our pj’s while eating ice cream.

Yeah…we were off to a flying start!

TUESDAY

I opened up Sunshine’s envelope and found a coupon for a back massage. We didn’t have the kids that night so I was ALL about that! In addition, when I got back from lunch I found the following note on my desk at the office:

Note 1

Intrigued, I opened it up to find this:

Note 2

Bramoso Pizzeria is our favourite pizza place is the entire city. We love it so much, in fact, that we had them cater our wedding reception. So after seeing I could have pizza or a Panini, I decided to go with something different and try a Chicken Club Panini with a side of kettle chips.

Chicken club panini

The Panini was “okay” but it didn’t matter…I was hangin’ out with Sunshine watching Mad Men and I ended up getting a back massage before going to sleep.

Everything was coming up CBG!!

WEDNESDAY

Sunshine wore an incredible dress to the office and put a smile on my face all day long. The real gift was going to be the “birthday dinner” with Sunshine and the girls. The girls like the occasional “fancy dinner” where there are linen napkins, nice dishes, and we all dress up for the meal. I was asked what I wanted for my birthday dinner and I thought about what the girls would like, so we ended up having tacos for the entrée and chocolate mousse for the dessert. I’ll tell you…you can’t go wrong with “fancy taco night”!

Mmmmm…Sunshine makes the BEST chocolate mousse. In this case, she even  made some cinnamon maple whipped cream to go on top. YUM!!

Chocolate mousse

We then watched some TV as a family and called it a day.

THURSDAY

Today was a “mixed bag”. I woke up feeling miserable…sickness was taking over. I do my best to not let a cold get me down, but this was a flu-like “thing” and hit me like a ton of bricks. I took the day off from work so I could stay home and relax and try to feel better.

When I picked up Sunshine from the office, she had a package under her arm. It was a gift from my good friend, Random Esquire. While I waited until Sunday to open it, I can tell you it was something completely unexpected: the Archer Board Game. Awesome!

My step-daughters were excited about my gift on this day. The hint was that it was “my favourite things”. They happily brought out a box of items that were, in fact, some of my favourite things.

Favourite things

Inside were Reece’s Pieces, chocolate covered almonds, Skor bites, Dr. Pepper, peanut M&M’s, Bottlecaps, a Starbucks Moka cappucino drink, and some Old Spice bodywash (Zanzibar!!). This was a VERY cool gift and, to be honest, could have been the only thing I received all week and it would have been awesome. My family knows that the way to my heart is through my stomach. Heh…

FRIDAY

The big surprise today? It was “Beer & Wings” night!! I was home from work again because I was still sick, but I went out and picked up medication to help me make it through the day and be “up to the task” of consuming two of my favourite things that night.

Needless to say, I was feeling good enough by 6pm to enjoy the meal and watch “Pulp Fiction” with my awesome wife!

Beer & wings

SATURDAY

Today was a “surprise” day, where Sunshine was taking me out to a restaurant of my own choosing for dinner but then there was going to be a special surprise after that.

We spent the day doing what we normally do on our Saturdays together…hitting up the local farmers’ market, getting some errands done…but then mid-afternoon we ended up packing for the night. Why? The surprise was that we were going to use a wedding gift of an overnight “Do Not Disturb” package from the Halliburton Inn. It’s funny…we had been talking about using it, but never could find the time. Sunshine found the perfect time and I was really happy.

We checked in and found some champagne on ice waiting for us, along with a plate of grapes, cheese, and crackers. That was going to be consumed later…

Do Not Disturb package

2 Doors DownThe two of us got changed and walked down the street to 2 Doors Down, a restaurant that I had heard about but never had the opportunity to try before. They had a number of gluten-free options so I knew that Sunshine could pick something for herself to eat. The meal was quite good and reasonably priced. I think we would both recommend going back again.

After a quick trip to pick up some munchies and water for the evening, we made our way back to the hotel. The evening was spent in our pjs, drinking champagne, eating potato chips, and watching Mad Men on my laptop while in bed. It was relaxing and fun…a really good way to spend the evening together.

SUNDAY (i.e. my actual birthday)

It was a rough night on the bed. We both woke up multiple times and when we finally got up for the day, I was aching all over and Sunshine had quite a bit of pain down her left side (i.e. her sciatic). We showered and head down to the inn’s restaurant for a continental breakfast. A piece of toast, a hard boiled egg, and some water later we were checking out and heading back to reality.

The next morning saw rain hit the city, but I got a couple pics of the back courtyard of the inn before we left. The inn was nice. I don’t know if it was worth the money they were asking, but it was still a nice place to visit.

Halliburton Inn back area Halliburton Inn back area

I asked what the plan was for the day and was told that because today was my actual birthday, I could choose to do whatever I wanted to. I thought about it and quickly decided that I would have an “old school NFL day”.

Wait…what’s that? Well, before I started my relationship with Sunshine I would spend Sundays in front of the television watching football. Not just that, but I would begin by watching the “preview” shows in the morning and stay up to watch the late game, resulting in over 12 hours of NFL greatness all to myself. I’d eat and snack and lounge around. It really was a good day for me.

So while I didn’t quite go THAT hardcore, I decided that I wanted to watch some football games (normally on our weekends together, I have no problem spending that time WITH my wife because she’s definitely more important to me than football…y’know…for the record). She was totally fine with that so my day was set.

We went out quickly to pick up a final birthday gift: my New York Jets cap. I’ve been wanting to get a new hat for awhile, but just didn’t have the time or saw one that I liked. A new all-black series arrived at the store the previous week, so that’s what I ended up going with.

J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!

I got home, threw on some pj’s, and watched football’s afternoon games. I took a break during supper so we could sit on the couch, eat pizza, and watch a couple episodes of Mad Men (I wasn’t going to make her suffer through football) before going back to the late afternoon games.

By 9pm, we were both pretty tired from the night before so off to bed we went.

All told, this was a fantastic week. No, I didn’t get any “big” presents…but I didn’t want any. The real gift was the showering of love I received from my amazing wife and my incredible step-daughters (their “calendars” are below). Why would I want anything more than that?

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Fun Music Flashback Friday – Wait For Me

This song reminds me of a pretty special time in my life.

I was in Grade 11 and preparing for my final year of high school. I had applied for, and had been accepted into, the business program at the Terry Fox Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.

Now…for those unaware of who Terry Fox is or what this centre is all about, Fox was a runner who had lost a leg to cancer. In spite of the amputation, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research in 1980. Unfortunately, cancer over-took him and he ended the run after 143 days and 5,373km (3,339mi). He is considered a genuine Canadian hero and there is an annual Terry Fox Run that is held that has become Canada’s largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research.

What is now called “Encounters with Canada”, the program in Ottawa at the Terry Fox Centre runs every week of the school year, where 120 teenagers from across Canada come to Ottawa to learn about each other, about Canadian institutions, explore career options, and develop civic leadership skills. 

So anyway, I was fortunate enough to have been chosen to go on this trip at the end of my Grade 11 year. I took the train from Amherst, Nova Scotia to Montreal, Quebec…and then from Montreal to Ottawa. This was the first time I had gone on a trip of his nature by myself and also my first time on a train. I really loved the experience.

Once in our nation’s capital, I met a number of great people and did some really interesting things. I went to the parliament building and got to get my picture taken with an actual Academy Award (don’t ask me what it was for, though), I saw some spectacular historical artifacts at a local museum, I took part in some really interesting “start a business from the ground up” sessions with other students from across the country, and I even got a photo taken with our prime minister at the time, Brian Mulrooney.

The biggest thing, though, was that I met my first love, J. She was from Saskatchewan and was an incredible girl to talk to. For whatever reason, we clicked immediately and ended up spending the entire week together. Heck…we even bought matching t-shirts and spandex shorts (ugh…don’t ask…it was the 80’s).

Departing at the end of that week was difficult. I was a guy who was the brunt of a lot of jokes back home because I was kind of a nerd, but in the week I was here I quickly became well-known and well-liked. Heck…I had a hot girlfriend who thought I was awesome after only seven days! Leaving was tough…but reality stood in the way.

We stayed in touch for a very long time after that. This song became our “anthem” as it always reminded us of each other. It’s weird…the lyrics aren’t exactly tailor-made for our situation, but I guess we were young and the chorus was the only thing that mattered.

But I will wait for you
I will be waiting
But I will wait for you
Will you wait for me?

As the years went by, we drifted apart. Thankfully, we found each other on Facebook a few years ago and have remained friends ever since.

Do YOU have a song that reminds you of your first love?


Throwback Thursday

As I’ve been scanning and going through older photographs from my childhood, I’m constantly surprised by some of the photos that I don’t remember taking. Like this one, for example…

Florida orange grove

One of the reasons I love Florida so much is because my parents took me there numerous times as I was growing up. As far as I can recall, I’ve been to Disney four times…perhaps five. The memories are there…they just need a little kick in the pants with some photographic assistance to shake those memories loose.

I don’t remember visiting an orange grove on any previous visit, yet there I am with my parents…holding onto an orange like it was the greatest tourist attraction ever. Strange…I have vague memories of smelling citrus and warm breezes, but not of actually visiting a grove.

I’m glad I found this because I remember a few years ago Sunshine and I took the kids apple picking and took a bunch of pictures. They might not remember every family excursion we’ve gone on, but they’ll at least have photographic evidence that it happened.

Apple picking


My Last (Not Quite A) Will & Testament

When talking to my dad recently about his kind-of-near-death experience, he asked me if I had “a plan” in place. The question itself took me by surprise a bit, because I never really thought about it before. But with me turning 42 this weekend, I have found that mortality is looking at me so I need to be prepared.

I don’t have a will…primarily because I don’t have any real assets to pass down to my children. That’s terrible, I know…but I also know that I’m not alone in this situation. I had a house but I sold it. I have a car, but that would need to be returned or paid off. I don’t own any land. I don’t have any investments other than a small RRSP that Sunshine and I both started a few short months ago. I don’t have any savings. Thus, I don’t have a will.

Still…I know that I need to have some type of idea of how I want things to go after I die, so I suppose I need to make a checklist of sorts and get it all written down now. This might be a bit morbid, but I’d like to have it “on the record” in case something were to happen down the road:

  • I want to be cremated. Don’t waste money on a coffin…put me into a jar. And not a ceramic jar, either. I want to go into a thermos or some kind of stainless steel easy-to-carry jar or container (more on that later).
  • The above stipulation means ensuring that my dad, if he’s still alive, doesn’t try to get me buried in the “family plot” in my old hometown. Listen, knowing that my grandparents and my parents are resting in the same location gives me peace…but that small town isn’t my home anymore. My home is with my wife, and I know what I want her to do.
  • I want her to spread my ashes out in various locations. I would hope that my wife lives much longer than I do, so the thought is that she eventually travels to some of the places that we have been together (Belize, Chicago, Puerto Rico, Roatan, Tampa, Grand Turk, even Meat Cove) and scatters me into the ocean or the jungle or the dirt somewhere. I want to lay peacefully in the places that mean the most to me…and those are places I went with my soul mate.
  • Sunshine will have to arrange whatever payments are made from my life insurance and distribute them as she sees fit. Between her, my stepdaughters, and my own three children…there will be various places that the funds could go. I trust her implicitly to do the right thing and divide the money in a fair and equitable way (or keep it for herself…whatever she feels is best).
  • I don’t want a sad funeral. I want people to remember me in a positive way. Tell jokes…tell crazy stories…play cheesy 80’s music. I want to pass on in the same way that I have lived over the past few years: in a fun way. Of course, that doesn’t mean I want people wearing clown costumes or getting drunk at my wake…I just want things to be as light-hearted as possible. Death is a very sad thing. The grieving process takes a lot longer than the few days it takes to go through a wake, a funeral, and a burial. Therefore, why should you spend those times sad and grieving? Please don’t mourn my death. Rather, celebrate my life instead.
  • I’d like Sunshine to keep this blog active. When my children grow up into adults, they will only have memories of their father. I don’t know if they’ll ever really KNOW me like I’d like them to, so this blog will be a way for them to get a sense of who I was as a person…not just as a parent. For better or for worse, I think it will be important for them to know who their dad really was.
  • I’d like to keep my Facebook account active, as well. The primary reason for this is that all of those photos from the past few years hold a TON of special memories for me. They also tell the story of who I am and who I turned into. Pictures of work trips, vacations, my kids, and just every day silliness with Sunshine are important to me and, I would think, are important to them, as well. In this digital age, photos can sometimes vanish in the blink of an eye (or in the misplacement of a memory flash card). Keeping the account active would mean a lot to me.

I guess that’s about it. Morbid? I suppose. But I think it’s important to tell my loved ones this type of information now so that people aren’t scrambling or taken by surprise should an unfortunate event happen.

What about you? Do you have plans in place? Am I crazy or weird for even writing this all down?


1-in-1,000

1in1000.2About a month or so back, my stepmom gave me a call while I was at work. Apparently, my dad was in the hospital and hooked up to a bunch of machines testing for what she thought was a heart attack.  Needless to say, her telling me that “he is fine” wasn’t really doing the trick with me.

As it turns out, my dad was “just” suffering from a blocked artery. His attempt to walk down the street was putting a ton of pressure on his artery, and thus his heart…hence his chest pain and trip to the ER.

We had to wait a few weeks before they could administer the “dye test”, which would be the way to find out just how bad the damage was. My dad and stepmom traveled up to the “big city” and invited Sunshine, my daughter, and I out to dinner the night before the test.

During this conversation, I was told that if he needed a stent put in, there was a 1-in-1,000 chance that he might not survive the procedure. I don’t know about you, but if I’m playing the lottery I’m considering those GOOD odds…so that was really unsettling to me.

Also unsettling was the fact that his doctor told him that once the dye test was done, if he needed surgery (i.e. a stent in his artery or, as a worst-case scenario, open-heart surgery), he was going to be moved directly into another room to get it done ASAP…which is something that doesn’t normally happen unless it’s a serious situation.

I put on a brave face and so did my dad, but you could tell how scared he was about it all.

I got a call the next morning at 11:30. It was dad telling me that the dye test finished and he ended up getting a stent put into an artery. In fact, he was all done (except for the lying still for 3 hours part). He told me to bring the family over to the hotel room that evening.

Once there, it was explained that my dad’s bad artery was 90% blocked.

NINETY PERCENT!!

He was literally hours away from having a heart attack or a stroke when he wound up in the hospital after his walk. It could have been a LOT worse had my stepmother not noticed something was wrong and put her foot down (he didn’t think it was that big of a deal).

What was worse was that they told me about a friend of theirs from Florida who had the same procedure done just a couple of weeks before and didn’t make it. She was in good health except for the blocked artery but didn’t even survive the dye test.

How insane is that??

As it stands now, a few weeks later, my dad is doing much better. He’s walking 4km almost every day and is back to his usual, grumpy self.  He has slightly altered his diet and he feels better than he has in a very long time.

I haven’t written about it until now because it’s been really tough to digest. I lost my mom at a fairly young age and that really affected me. I couldn’t imagine losing my dad just a few years later. I’m turning 42 this weekend. I feel like I’m too young to lose both of my parents. My children are certainly too young to lose their grandfather.

Right now, all is good again. But it’s a situation that really makes you look at yourself and the life choices that you make. One of the reasons that I’ve been on a health-kick lately is because I don’t want the same thing to happen to me in 10-20 years. I want to do whatever I can now to undo the damage I’ve done to myself over the years.

A 1-in-1,000 chance. Those are odds I don’t want to have to face any time soon.


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