Friday, December 31, 2010 | | 0 comments

We're down to the last few hours of 2010. In that time I'll do some house cleaning, workout, watch the World Junior hockey game, check out the family skating party tonight, enjoy some Indian takeout and wonder why I can't stay awake until midnight.

2010 has been a really good year for me and I'm a little sad to see it go. But, I think the mark of a good year is one that makes you excited about the year to come and 2010 has done that for me.

I've done my best to recap my personal highlights of the past year (in no particular order):

1. School - finished at the end of May. Loved the program, love the new direction for my career, the friendships I made, exciting in every way.
2. Kids - my daughter continued to excel in singing and school and added cheerleading to the mix. My son hasn't found his passion yet (does Nintendo DS count?) but becomes more of a character each, funny, caring and kind. Couldn't ask for two better kids.
3. Work - new job started in November and so far it's perfect.
4. New van - goodbye 2001 Grand Caravan, hello 2006 Grand Caravan. The purchase was made yesterday and I take delivery next week.
5. This blog - started in January and still having fun writing it.
6. New TV - goodbye TV bought with money from my wedding, hello way better TV.
7. New sister-in-law - youngest brother got married in the summer and seems to have followed our advice and married someone too good for him. :)
8. New niece - sister-in-law (not the new one) had another girl who will not know how great her uncle is for several years.
9. More time with mom - my mother retired at Christmas time and we're excited for her to have more time to relax.
10. Wife's job - full-time now and that seems to be a good fit.
11. Monster truck show - we had so much fun we're going back in 2011.
12. Disney - how could this be #12?
13. Camping - lots of fun weekends this summer, can't wait to do it again.
14. Job searching - ok for five months this sucked, but alls well that ends well.
15. New Orleans - weekend with my brother and his friends in May, much fun.

If I haven't forgotten about 100 other things that could go on the list I've missed my guess. Oh well.

Happy New Year!

The Candy Lady and Mrs. S

Tuesday, December 28, 2010 | | 0 comments

My family and I were at Wal-Mart on Boxing Day and we had an uncomfortable experience. An elderly woman saw my daughter as we walked by and immediately approached her. She told her how cute she was and said that she looked exactly like her mother. She then leaned over and gave my daughter a kiss on the forehead while my daughter stood, completely stunned. The woman's son said "Leave the kids alone mom!" as we quickly walked away. I heard her saying "This must be your brother?" as she tried to follow my son. Another "Leave the kids alone mom!" and we were safely out of range.

My daughter was more than a little frightened by what had just happened so I launched into a talk about some elderly people, mental illness, loneliness at Christmas time and shopping at Wal-Mart in general. She said "I didn't want to be rude," and I told her that it would have been okay for her to walk away. She was most bothered by the kiss on the forehead and that's where I draw the line too.

Then I told her that I knew a little bit about dealing with old, crazy people. She was interested to hear more so I shared with her the stories of The Candy Lady and Mrs. S.

From the time I was about two until I was five, we lived next door to an old, German couple. I never heard the husband speak and years later we would wonder if he was perhaps a Nazi war criminal in hiding. That's what you get for not speaking.

His wife on the other hand was always talking and took a particular interest in the neighbourhood kids. Whenever she would see us, she would invite us over to her house and always gave us candy. Everyone called her The Candy Lady and, as kids, we just thought that was her real name. She had a funny way of saying my name, but seemed to enjoy filling her house with the sound of it. She would pinch my cheeks and tell me how "beautiful" I was (seemed like a strange thing to call a boy) and said that someday she was going to steal me away from my parents. Oh yes, she would steal me. Wouldn't I like that? She just had to have me to herself and she was going to steal me. All the while she would give us unlimited access to her candy bowl and we would take good-sized handfuls with each creepy visit.

Although I was very young, visits to The Candy Lady's house were concerning and I would tell my mother about her plans to steal me. She would assure me that these were just jokes, but I don't think she liked me going into her house, sometimes on my own, and I'm sure the never-ending supply of candy was troubling to her.

Years later, we had moved and I had a paper route. Each day after school I would pick up my papers on the sidewalk, about a block from the school and Mrs. S would come over to talk to me and the other paper carriers. The other kids would go about their business and ignore Mrs. S, but I felt rude to do the same, so I would answer her odd questions, engage in these weird conversations. I don't know how it happened, but she started calling me by my brother's name and I didn't correct her.

This would prove to be a mistake.

For close to three years Mrs. S would see me picking up my papers, rush across the street to talk to me, all the while calling me by the wrong name. The other kids, avoiding eye contact with Mrs. S until she left, would ask me why she called me by my brother's name. I had no good answer to this question, but felt it was easier to just let it be.

The newspaper published the birthdays of all of their carriers and coincidentally my brother was also a paper carrier. On my brother's birthday in April, Mrs. S saw me collecting my papers and rushed across the street.

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday dear brother's name

Happy Birthday to you!

Unless this has happened to you, you probably can't imagine how uncomfortable it is to have someone sing Happy Birthday to you on your brother's birthday, calling you by his name, while acting like this is perfectly normal.

The other kids stood and stared, knowing full well that it was not my birthday. I smiled and thanked her for her thoughtfulness, but inside I wondered if this hadn't been one of the stranger experiences of my young life.

The Candy Lady and Mrs. S passed on many years ago, but I remember too well the fears of being stolen and the three years of living a double life for 10 minutes a day after school.

I hope that my daughter will soon forget shopping at Wal-Mart on Boxing Day, but it's too early to tell.

Christmas 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010 | | 0 comments

Christmas has come and gone for another year. The quick update is that it was a wonderful time in every way, but my faithful readers don't normally settle for quick updates, so here's the whole story.

Where?: I was in Collingwood for Christmas Eve (in-laws' place) and Waterloo on Christmas Day (brother's place).

Church?: Oh yeah. My in-laws like to go to church on Christmas Eve, so there I was getting all the churchy goodness. It was an early service (5 pm) for families/kids and yes, they used puppets to tell the story.

Big meals?: Yep, one in Collingwood and one in Waterloo.

Daughter's favourite gift?: A doll that is supposed to be a 3-month-old baby, but seems about twice that size to me.

Son's favourite gift?: Nintendo DS. He hasn't stopped playing the games since he opened it and I can't be sure he's had anything to eat in two days.

Gifts for my wife and I?: On Christmas day we gave each other slippers, but our big gift was a 42" LCD TV that we bought about a month ago. Our last TV was purchased 13 years ago and not only was it small by today's standards, the picture seemed to be getting darker and darker with each passing day. My wife has wanted a new TV for years because she recognized that today's TVs are way better than what we had. I fought her because our TV was still working and I tend to be cheap in those situations. I'm so glad that she talked me into buying the new set because watching it makes me feel as though I have new eyeballs. The TV has become my best friend and I don't know how I ever lived without it.

Did the kids sleep on Christmas Eve?: Yes, but we let them stay up until 11 pm and my daughter was up at 1 am as she thought she heard Santa. I can tell you without a doubt that "Santa" was sound asleep by then, having delivered the gifts, hung the stockings with care, eaten the cookies, drank the milk and written a very thoughtful letter (in handwriting that was sure to be recognized as mine according to "Mrs. Claus") about an hour before. The kids had sprinkled "reindeer food" on the snow outside and if I was expected to eat that too, there were going to be some disappointed kids in the morning.

What else?: Kids had a great time playing with their cousins, great to see my grandmother enjoy her 90th Christmas, didn't see my mom because she has the flu (only disappointment). I'm off work this week and hope to relax and knock a few things off my to do list.

Merry Christmas!

Just the (important) facts ma'am

Wednesday, December 22, 2010 | | 0 comments

I have just read the article “G20 officer tight-lipped at SIU appearance” from today’s Toronto Star and feel the need to comment. Do I have strong feelings about the recent G20 Summit in Toronto? Are charges of police brutality on my mind? Am I especially interested in the SIU? No, what prompts me to comment are the incredibly odd choices made by the reporter when writing this story.

Whatever do I mean?

The story starts out with a reasonable lead:

The police officer charged with assault in connection with a G20 summit protest looked somber but said nothing Wednesday morning when he arrived at Special Investigations Unit headquarters.

Somber…unspeaking…seems reasonable to me, especially with those tight-lips of his.

But here’s where it gets strange:

Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani, wearing a grey suit, pulled up in a Ford SUV with his lawyer.

A grey suit. A Ford SUV.

What exactly is the importance of the colour of his suit or that he wore a suit at all? Why does it matter what he was driving when he arrived? I would think that unless the officer arrived wearing a Santa Claus suit while riding on the back of a fire truck, these details do nothing to tell the reader what they need to know.

There’s more.

The officer buttoned up his suit jacket over his blue shirt and blue tie as he got out of the SUV, wearing sunglasses on his head and a wedding band.

(Horrified gasp).

He didn’t!

What kind of an officer being investigated by the SIU would do such a thing? And he had sunglasses on his head and a wedding band??? The man is obviously deranged! How was he allowed to work the G20 Summit?

Again, why does any of this matter? When someone is wearing a perfectly normal outfit and doing perfectly normal things I don’t need to know about it. If the officer had jumped out the window of the still moving SUV, wearing a werewolf mask, screaming “where the hell are my sunglasses?” then I would think that needs to be included in the story.

Twenty minutes after he arrived, Andalib-Goortani and his lawyer left the hearing and departed in the SUV.

Perhaps I’m nitpicking now, but how else were they going to depart? “The officer and his lawyer were picked up by what appeared to be a UFO, surprising everyone as the (Ford) SUV had only minutes to go before the meter expired” is detail that would need to be included, not this.

In an unfortunate turn of events, the victim in the G20 story is a person named Adam Nobody and his name creates near comic moments throughout the story.

The arrest came less than a month after the SIU had concluded its investigation into Nobody’s injuries.

Seems like a waste of Everybody’s time.

While the police watchdog said in November that excessive force was probably used in Nobody’s case…

Hmm, then why are we talking about this?

Blair later apologized to Nobody.

That’s cold Blair. Cold.

On Dec. 7, the Star ran a story about newly obtained video footage showing the officer’s face peering through a raised visor after he appeared to wield his baton during the takedown of Nobody.

Wielding his baton and taking down Nobody huh? Well that’s just crazy.

Thank God his visor was raised.

Where Were You When Lennon Died?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010 | | 0 comments

Today is the 30th anniversary of the death of John Lennon. Everywhere I looked, there were tributes to the legendary musician and I thought I would weigh in with my story of where I was when I heard that he died.

I had just turned nine years old. Before school started that Tuesday morning, I sat on the cold, concrete top step outside of the boy's door of Falstaff Public School. One of the other kids once said that their mom told them that sitting on that cold step would give them problems, but I never understood what kind of problems she was referring to and I sat there whenever I felt like it. It never seemed strange either that boys and girls used a different door to get into the school, none of us ever getting to use the much larger door on the side of the school.

As I sat on the step, Robin MacKenzie, the only boy in my class shorter than I, asked me if I'd heard that John Lennon had died.

"No...who's John Lennon?" I replied.

Robin was surprised that I had never heard of John Lennon and told me that he was in a band I'd never heard of called The Beatles. Someone shot and killed him, he said. It was clear that Lennon's death meant more to Robin than it did to me and he probably had not just learned that morning who Lennon was or that he used to be part of The Beatles.

We didn't listen to Lennon's music in the house and we didn't listen to The Beatles. My dad had 8-Tracks of Kenny Rogers and Freddy Fender and to this day I can sing every word of Coward of the County and Wasted Days and Wasted Nights. I don't think anyone would argue that Kenny and Freddy were greater talents than Lennon, but they were a far bigger part of my early life.

I have to believe my parents knew that morning about the terrible news and had chosen not to tell me. They probably didn't think I needed to know that someone I'd never known was now dead. Makes sense.

I'm thankful that many years later the music of John Lennon and The Beatles became a part of my life. I was going to list my favourite tunes here, but realized the list would be much too long.

It was unfortunate that my introduction to John Lennon was on the day after he had been killed. My memory will always include Robin MacKenzie, Falstaff School and that cold, top step outside the boy's door.

Hard to believe that was 30 years ago.

My Birthday

Friday, December 3, 2010 | | 0 comments

Yesterday was my birthday. While I'm not yet 40, as of yesterday, I'm now in my 40th year. How does it feel to be 39? you ask. Did I have a good birthday? Answers to these and other questions are the subject of this blog post.

Soon after I was up and dressed, my wife and kids came downstairs and started to make a fuss over me. My wife had disobeyed me when I told her not to get me anything and got me a really nice coffee mug from Starbucks (for the office) with a gift card so a regular guy like me can afford Starbucks coffee. My daughter made me a beautiful card with a picture of the two of us standing together. She captured my yellow pants and her purple hair to perfection and on the card she wrote that she loved me more than 1000 elephants.

That's not a typo.

1000 elephants.

Only a parent can know the feeling of being loved more than 1000 elephants and I plan to keep the card forever. My son seemed unaware that it was my birthday, but immediately set out to make his own card for me that I would see after work.

My co-workers took me out for lunch, although technically it was the new hire lunch and not a birthday lunch. I received a nice card and a gift certificate for a night out at the movies which was for my birthday, not for being newly hired.

I heard from everyone in my immediate family throughout the day via email. My youngest brother said he was celebrating my birthday by posting secrets about me to wikileaks, but I suspect he was kidding.

My family surprised me when I got home with Indian take-out and a birthday cake. The food was delicious and it was easy to ignore the strangeness of combining Indian food and birthday cake.

My son gave me his handmade card. It too was beautiful, with a drawing of the two of us looking like paper clips with ten foot legs. My parents had dropped off cards and gifts from themselves, my grandmother and my sister. I heard from Aunts and Uncles and lots of friends. Everyone did too much for my birthday, but I'm thankful for every bit of it.

I find it a bit hard to believe that I'm 39, but I'm ok with the milestone. I'm happy, healthy, have an amazing family and feel like my life is just getting better and better.

As birthdays go, I'd say this was a good one.

Better even than 1000 elephants.