Friday, December 27, 2013

Ordering memories from the catalogue

Once again, Christmas day has come and gone.
And once again traditions took centre stage as people throughout the land re-enacted Yuletide festivities like they have for generations.
My grandparents were from ‘the old country,’ as my grandma always called it, so our tradition was to open presents on Christmas eve.
This had many advantages growing up. I could call my friends and tell them what I got several hours before they even went to bed. They had to wait until the morning to discover what wrapped wonders awaited them.
A tradition my family never did was the Santa thing and I would often dismantle my friend's belief in St. Nicholas for my own fun and amusement.
I suppose it was mean to crush their dreams that some fat guy would sneak into their homes once a year and deliver a bunch of presents, but I was a kid and kids do stuff like that.
I simply pointed out Santa must have ordered from the Sears catalogue because the stuff he provided was identical to the store-bought goods.
That catalogue was as much a Christmas tradition as eggnog and wrapping paper.
There was no Internet or online shopping back then, but there was the Sears Christmas Wish Book. What a great day it was when the glossy paged book of dreams was dropped off on the front stoop. It usually turned up in the fall, so all us youngsters would have plenty of time to leaf through the pages and make agonizing decisions as to what we wanted to ask ‘Santa’ to bring us.
I would spend hours looking at the pages of toys, that is when I could wrest the book from the evil clutches of my two sisters who wasted the book by looking at dolls and frilly things.
Without that worn out, tattered and much-loved book, we would have no idea what was out there to select from.
My own children used to look at the catalogue, but now they go online to find suggestions for their own Yuletide indulgences (which has become their  Christmas gift-shopping tradition.)
That book was a big part of my youthful Christmas experience and one I remember fondly, but in life things change.
When I wed my lovely bride 25 years ago, Christmas changed from the evening of Dec. 24 to bright and early Dec. 25 as she wanted to hold a more traditional North American Christmas like she grew up with.
When we would spend Christmas with my parents, the old days would return and I would once again tear open packages on the Eve, but when it was just the wife and I and then when the kids started arriving, Christmas morning was where all the action was.
This was foreign to me and for a long time I did not really understand it. To me, it made much more sense to open your presents the night before, then the kids would be able to sleep that night and I would not have to get up at such a Grinch-like hour.
The morning Christmas event did create some traditions such as the annual interaction with my children when they came bounding in to our bedroom, full of the energy only the biggest day of the year could bring. As I would every Dec. 25 for many years, I would look at the clock and with all the sweetness and Christmas cheer I could muster, I would look at my young ones and say, “Go back to bed, it’s four in the morning.”
Eventually we established a rule Christmas was not to be celebrated a minute before 6 a.m., and since that agreement, the children have been bounding in to our room at precisely six and dragging us out of bed.
My family had a good Christmas this year, full of fun, happiness and love. Which really is the best part of Christmas, no matter how early you have to get up.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Time for some weird gift giving

It's Christmastime and that means people throughout the land will honour the age-old tradition of flocking to area stores where they become borderline psychotic as they search for the perfect gift.
Nothing says Merry Christmas like jostling people out of your way as you jockey for position at the ever-growing check out lines.
I am not sure what the must-have gift is this year, but remember the Tickle Me Elmo craze a few years ago where people were literally spending thousands of dollars on a toy a child will play with for two whole minutes?
One lady spent a whopping $8,000 on a stupid vibrating stuffed muppet.
Ho-ho-holy moly is that ridiculous.
Speaking of ridiculous, there is no shortage of unusual, strange and outright weird gifts you can get people. And with a couple days left until the fat man arrives, there is still time for some last-minute shopping.
Nothing says Merry Christmas like a walking corpse and with zombies being all the rage right now there is an abundance of undead gifts to give the fully living.
Zombie T-shirts are as common as a Senate expense scandal, but you can get creative for the little Yuletide ghoul in your home with the Zombie Magnetic Word Kit.
This is a small metal box containing a plethora of magnetized words that can be arranged in any order you want to spell out any sentence you desire. So what separates the zombie word kit from regular old magnetic word kits that have been around for years? Near as I can tell, the word zombie in the title. Other than that they look identical.
Or how about some zombie jerky. The tasty treat is hailed as teriyaki zombie flesh jerky. Um, OK, isn't that just regular jerky with green food dye all over it?
You know it is just a matter of time before Zombie Santa makes his debut.
While zombies are taking a big bite out of the holiday gift list, there are still plenty of options for those not fond of the living dead.
What Christmas tree would be complete without a Lucky Singing Christmas Pickle ornament? What makes it lucky I do not know and why it sings also remains a mystery.
But should you know someone who wants to combine their love of pickles, singing and Christmas you now have the perfect stocking stuffer.
Looking for something a little more elaborate? How about an $11,000 exercise cycle? The Cyclotte is a very odd looking stationary bike that is perfect for someone who simply cannot lose those last five pounds on a regular exercise bike.
That 50-inch plasma TV just not cutting it anymore? Well fear not, now there is the $1.5-million Ultimate Outdoor Entertainment System. The massive 201-inch TV retracts from the ground and comes with a built-in library of 300 movies and concerts, as well as Direct-TV. No word if you can get NetFlix on it.
Looking for something a little more practical? Then how about an acre of land on Mars. That's right, for just $29.99 you to can be the proud owner of a chunk of land on planet thousands of miles away.
At, you can purchase a piece of the Red Planet to call your very own. Of course visiting it might be a little challenging and for all you know it could be Martian swamp land, but still I would venture a guess the recipient of the gift would never suspect what it is.
Of course, we cannot leave pets out of the giving frenzy. There are a wealth of gifts to give the critter in your life, ranging from clothes to toys to hats and more.
My personal favourite this year is the guinea pig Santa suit. It is a red fur-lined jacket with a little red hat to fit any size rodent.
How does that saying go? There's one born every minute...

Friday, December 13, 2013

'Tis the season for crowded malls and grumpy people

I used to be one of 'those' guys.
You know who I am talking about: the ones who leave their Christmas shopping to the last minute (typically they are of the male species.)
When I was young, foolish and generally not too bright, I would head out to the mall the evening of Dec. 23 to get gifts for my parents and siblings.
And seeing as we opened our presents the evening of Dec. 24, it really was the last minute.
The mall two days before Christmas is just slightly more crowded than a Japanese subway.
The spirit of Christmas can be tested when you are elbowing people out of the way while engaged in full-contact shopping.
For some, the descent into hum bug begins in the parking lot where it would be easier to find Jimmy Hoffa than a parking spot.
One year, I lucked out. While making my 132nd lap around the lot, I saw a car pulling out of a spot relatively close to the door. And by relatively close, I mean I would not have to bivouac overnight half-way to the mall entrance.
I pulled off to the side, put on my turn single and gleefully waited for this prime parking spot to become vacant.
I was the only car waiting, until another vehicle entered the lane from the opposite direction.
They could see I was ahead of them, and by the globally sanctioned rules of parking endorsed by the UN, NATO and Rotary International, that meant the spot was mine.
The lady driving the other car was in her early 40s, and had a couple of youngsters in the back seat.
With the white stuff gently falling and a parking lot covered in accumulated snow, the spirit of Christmas came upon me like a divine wind and I turned off my signal and raised my hand palm up and pointed toward the spot.
This is also an internationally recognized signal for 'Merry Christmas fellow shopper, please, take this prime parking spot and I shall search for another. You're welcome.'
The lady then looked at me, mouthed something about a duck and the word hassle before giving me the bird and taking the prime parking position.
I must admit, I was a little stunned by her Grinch-like response, but who knows what kind of a day she was having and after the initial shock wore off, I found the whole thing so ridiculous it was funny.
It took a few more laps around the lot to find a parking spot, but it was no big deal and my Christmas spirit was not hobbled in the least.
Humming my favourite Christmas carol as I ambled toward the distant front door, I ran through the mental list of what I wanted to get everyone.
Entering the mall was an assault on my senses. There were people everywhere, Christmas songs were playing over the sound system, kids were crying, people were scurrying too and fro and cash registers were dinging away.
Yup, sounds like Christmastime to me.
After a couple hours of jostling with the frenzied masses, I completed my list and was able to escape the chaotic confines of the shopping centre and return to my car – if only I could remember where I parked it.
I remembered where the good parking spot was (where Grumpy Gertrude's car still sat) but it took a while to find my own vehicle.
I found my car, went home, wrapped the gifts and vowed to never again wait until the last minute to do my shopping.
And I kept that vow – right up until the following Christmas where I once again found myself at the mall days before Dec. 25.
Eventually I wizened up and started doing my shopping earlier. This year, I        completed my list a full two weeks before Christmas.
That's right gentlemen, I am done my Christmas shopping.
Joy to the world.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ah, the joys of getting older

It is taking some getting used to, this aging stuff.
I am on the downside of my 40s and 50 is knocking on the door with a sledgehammer.
My knees protest everything from wet weather to walking up a flight of stairs.
My neck aches at the thought of a cold wind and I am starting to produce enough flatulence to power the space shuttle.
I can recall my grandparents generating enough gas to float the Hindenberg on a daily basis, and now it would seem I am well on my way to maintaining the family tradition of farting like a raging volcano.
I guess it is just another one of the thrilling aspects of piling on the years. Of course the alternative sucks, so I plan on operating my personal methane factory for as many years as possible.
When I was a young buck with lots of hair and no gut – those two have now reversed roles – there were many things I never thought about. Sure there are things a young mind dwells upon, but health, diet and abundant flatulence were not at the top of the list.
Back then, I was more worried about getting a speeding ticket or where we going to party that weekend and would a certain member of the female persuasion be at the party. Bills were dealt with on a 'need to' basis – as in I need to pay my rent or I will be living in a cardboard box, or worse, back with my parents.
Long-term planning was deciding what to wear to the party next weekend.
The stroke of midnight meant the good times were just starting. Now if I am up past midnight, I worry about having a stroke.
Being young meant you were indestructible, invincible and unstoppable. As I slide out of my middle-age years and into whatever the 50-year range is called, I see life through a much more realistic lens.
People say youth are the care-free days of our lives. I am realizing it was not so much care free as it was clueless.
You either didn't know the stuff you were doing was bad for you, or you didn't care because you knew you were indestructible and when you are indestructible you have no fear of destructing (if that is even a word.)
It would seem age has a way of washing away the haze of youthful exuberance and replacing it with wisdom and a much better understanding of what is going on around you.
Back in the day, I never worried about what I ate. When I was hungry, I ate whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted.
Bacon, fries, gravy, cheeseburgers all made a delicious snack.
I can remember going to adult recreational establishments until the wee hours of the morning. Then, with ears ringing and stomachs growling, we would head to an eatery where it would not be unheard of to decimate a pizza or that burger I was talking about, before going to bed at four in the morning.
My arteries hurt just thinking about it.
These days, the only thing I do at four in the morning is get up to go pee.
Greasy burgers and fries have been replaced by fresh greens and low-calorie dressing.
Cholesterol, triglycerides and other nasty words are now a back-of-the-mind distraction with every meal.
Long gone are the cheese-filled, fat-laden, late-night meals, replaced instead by a wholesome treat full of wonderful fibre and whole grains.
Food labels are read like the tablets handed to Moses, with no detail being over looked. Grams of fat, carbs and sodium are now the cardiac Axis of Evil and despite how delicious something tastes, that nasty little chart on the back of the package often outweighs the desire to ingest such a delectable delight.
With age comes wisdom, with wisdom came the realization I am not indestructible.
Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Old monster movie plus a cat equals a change of underwear

One day my son came to me and said he wanted to watch a scary movie.
I am not a big fan of horror flicks, so I really didn't have a lot to offer him. He suggested I take him to the latest slasher movie where people are killed in more original and gruesome ways every five minutes.
I find watching people get murdered for fun and entertainment unappealing, so I declined to take my 13-year-old son to such an event.
But he persisted and then I remembered I had the movie Signs. It stars Mel Gibson (before he was a raving lunatic) and while not a horror movie per se, it did have some scary moments in it.
It did the trick, and there were more than a few parts where Junior was on the edge of his seat without having his young mind damaged by pointless, excessive violence.
Mission accomplished.
As he got older, Junior still liked scary movies, but old scary movies. He is into the black and white horror flicks that relied on acting and situations to scare people rather than gallons of fake blood and someone getting chopped up with a hedge trimmer every 10 seconds.
I must admit, as a young lad I too was called by the lure of scary movies. With only two TV channels to choose from, my options were limited, but every Friday night there would be a horror flick I would stay up late to watch.
Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man - all were roaming my TV on a weekly basis. There was also a lot of other movies I cannot recall the names of, but one movie in particular stands out.
It was a black and white show where the monster made a sound similar to a screeching cat an instant before it devoured its victim.
The movie itself was not memorable, but its aftermath was.
After watching the monster mash-up, I headed upstairs in the darkness to go to bed.
Nothing scary about that, except I did not see our black cat sitting at the top of the stairs and I certainly did not see her tail when I stepped on it.
She, of course, let out a screech not unlike the one I had just listened to in the movie.
I went straight up in the air like I had been shot out of a cannon. I knew the beast from the movie was in my house and was about to launch a fearsome attack.
Because it was dark, I did not see it was the cat until she moved near the window and moonlight caught her shiny fur.
It was only then that I starting to come down from the ceiling where I had launched myself (and was in serious need of a change of underwear.)
I laughed when I saw it was the cat, but it was a nervous, jittery laugh. Kind of like when you narrowly avoid getting hit by a bus, or being ripped to shreds by a monster. It is more a laugh of relief, than laughter of something being funny.
I continued with my Friday late-night horror movie events, but now did so with the lights on – for the sake of the cat. I did not want to accidentally step on her again, not because I was scared or anything.
In retrospect, watching all those movies was probably not the best way to influence my young mind.
For many years, whenever I was in a dark area - inside or out - all those images of monsters springing from the shadows would play in my mind making me a nervous wreck.
Of course, now I am all grown up and know there are no monsters in the world – well at least not like the ones in the movies - so I am brave, calm and under control no matter where I am.
Unless it is dark. Or creepy. Or dark.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Beware the sabre-toothed deer

There are many duties and responsibilities that come with being a father, one of the most important of which is keeping the family safe.
In many animal kingdoms, it typically falls to the male to fend off the invading hoards, defeat the savage beasts and in general keep the Missus and the wee ones from harm.
This goes back to the beginning of time when cave man dad would use any means necessary to protect his young ones from a sabre-toothed tiger, even if it meant throwing the mother-in-law into the jaws of the beast.
Hey, I never said it would be easy to keep the wife and kids safe, but some sacrifices must be made for the greater good.
While I have yet to do battle with a sabre-tooth beast, and would fight just as hard to protect my mother-in-law as I would my wife and kids (honest, I would), history has decreed I be the protector of the clan.
This role was brought to the forefront last summer when we were visiting my brother-in-law at the Sunshine Coast.
Young Daughter and I were walking up a wooded trail from the beach when we noticed a sabre-tooth deer on the other side of a fence. OK, it was just a regular old deer, but still...
Anyway, it was a wire fence with rectangular holes in it that the deer seemed much larger than, so I was not concerned.
Besides, these were town deer and grew up around people, so I did not think a doe on the opposite side of a metal barrier would be a problem.
I must admit, I was rather surprised when the deer turned in our direction and jumped through one of the holes in the mesh fence.
So now I was standing five feet away from what is technically a wild animal, although normally a docile one, it was still a woodland beast.
The deer did not act in a threatening manner, and for a couple seconds we just stood there looking at each other.
Young Daughter immediately jumped behind me.
OK, time to put on my brave-dad act. I had a walking stick with me that I figured I would use as a weapon should the deer attack.
Of course, I knew it would be a useless weapon, but I was pretty sure my disarming charm and witty nature would prove even more useless in this situation.
I have seen videos where deer attack people with flailing hoofs and gnashing fangs – OK maybe not fangs, but those hooves could surely pack a wallop.
Young Daughter, who was now Scared Daughter, was still behind me when I decided to take action and go on the offensive. I lifted my arms in the air to make myself look bigger and yelled “Heeeyyaargh” while waving the stick in an effort to scare the deer away.
The tan-coloured critter just stood there and looked at me with an expression of, “Aren't you cute with your little stick.”
It was obviously not intimidated in the least.
Fortunately, the deer got bored with our game and wandered off to munch on some nearby fauna and deposit a bunch of those little brown marbles all over the place.
Relieved, Scared Daughter came out from behind me and asked why I yelled at the deer.
"I was trying to scare it away, Honey.”
"Oh... It didn't work very well.”
"No it didn't.”
So, rather sheepishly, I led now Not-So-Scared-But-Still-Wary Daughter along the rest of the trail, keeping a close eye out for anymore smart alec deer that felt like getting in our path.
Fortunately there were none and I did not have to show my mean face again. Which was good, because it would seem my mean face is really not that intimidating and if a deer is not afraid of it, what on this planet would be?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Like father, like son

They say the acorn does not fall far from the tree.
It seems the older I get, the more of my father’s traits I take on. It makes sense, because he was the role model by which I formed my opinions, beliefs and morals.
Fortunately, my dad was a good father and a good, honest man. Sure he had his faults, who doesn’t, but he was a man of integrity, and that influenced my entire life.
He worked a lot – too much, which he admitted to a few years ago  – but he did his best to provide for his family and make sure we were always fed, clothed and safe.
My dad was not, however, adventurous. He was not big on travelling and did not like taking risks. That would be more my mom, and those are a few traits I picked up from her.
In my younger years, I was always up for a road trip and would head out on a moment’s notice. Just say the word, and I am out of here.
But, I’m not sure where I got the “go-fast gene” from. It was definitely not mom or dad, because they both drive slower than a sloth on valium. I have always had a penchant for driving motorized vehicles in a manner some might consider less than safe.
I can remember doing doughnuts in the driveway with our riding mower when I was 10. That is until dad saw the marks and told me to stop. Then I just did them in the backyard, where he was less likely to notice.
At 13, I bought my first dirtbike and took to the trails like bat out of hell. I loved going fast.
When I got my driver’s licence, I carried my lust for speed to the street. I had a very slow car, but I still drove like, um, well, I drove like a complete idiot, actually.
I fully admit and take responsibility for my lack of safety in my younger years. But, by the grace of God, no one was ever hurt by my youthful stupidity.
My wallet was hurt on a regular basis as I received many tickets. I paid more money in speeding fines than the car was worth. But my friends and I (they also drove like complete idiots) just saw it as the price you had to pay for having fun, so it never really slowed us down.
It really wasn’t completely my fault.
You see, I had a medical condition – I was an idiot. I also had a right foot that seemed much heavier than normal and was always putting more pressure on the gas pedal than it should have.
So what does all this have to do with that acorn I was talking about?
I fear I have seen shades of the same need for speed in Junior.
It was in a school assignment where he wrote he was not really crazy about his first car because, and I quote, “it was ugly and slow.”
The ugly part is not a concern, but the slow comment got my attention.
If it was slow, why would it matter, because he couldn’t go faster than the speed limit anyway. Yikes, words straight from my father’s mouth.
Junior has not yet received any speeding tickets, or been pulled over for any reason, so I feel fairly confident he is not driving like I did at his age. Aside from the hazards of such activity, the punishment for driving in a reckless manner nowadays is huge.
While the bravado of youth may taunt him to hit the gas, it would seem the long arm of the law and hefty fines has convinced him not to.
Junior still wants a fast car, but he says it would be more for show than anything else – at least that is the belief I am clinging to.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Hey you kids, stop having fun

Who out there has ever played a game of tag?
That's what I thought. Pretty much anyone who was a child, has played the game at some point.
Tag is where one person is 'it' and they must run around and touch - or tag - another person who will then be it, and then they run around and touch someone else etc.
So basically it is a fun game where children build up their cardio after spending hours sitting in a classroom.
It is a game that has been played on school yards since the creation of school yards.
Well not any more. An elementary school in the Lower Mainland has banned Kindergarten children from playing tag.
Why, you ask with a look of astonishment on your face?
Were kids taking steroids to perform better on the field of honour? Were ringers being brought in from other schools to dominate the playground?
Nope. It would seem school officials are worried about children hurting themselves while playing.
Some are concerned the running and twisting and turning involved in such a sport could cause one of the little ones to fall upon the hard earth and scrape a knee or skin an elbow.
Oh, the humanity.
School officials said they banned Kindergarten kids from playing for safety reasons and one teacher was astonished anyone would object to such a move.
In fact, the school took it a step further – like they always do – and banned any game where there is any sort of contact no matter how minor.
You can't push your friend on a swing anymore because there is contact and you certainly can not run after them and tap them on the shoulder because that would lead to fitness and children having fun outdoors.
And then people wonder why Junior weighs 200 pounds going in to Grade 1.
For years we have heard about how weight-enhanced our youth are becoming and now they ban a game that is nothing but pure exercise from start to finish.
Did I play tag when I was in school? Of course, who didn't?
Did anyone get hurt while playing tag? Not really.
Sure someone would stumble and fall down, causing minor boo-boos, but 99.99 per cent of the time, that person would jump right back up and get right back in the game.
What kid hasn't scraped a knee, scuffed an elbow or planted the palm of their hand so hard tiny rocks get embedded in the skin?
No need to panic, freak out or cancel the game. All you have to do is brush the tiny rocks away and keep on playing.
Kids are going to be kids and by being kids they are going to encounter a variety of injuries, typically none of which are serious enough to require such a drastic move as banning the game of tag.
I can remember playing tackle football without any gear during my elementary school lunch breaks.
Yes we did get hurt. We had minor cuts and bruises and even the occasional sprain, but it was all part of the childhood experience.
Soon, schools will demand children be completely encased in bubble wrap while wearing a hockey helmet and steel-toed boots just to go to class in case they accidentally fall and need a bandage to cover a tiny wound.
I agree safety for our children is important, but it is also important to let them be children. Let them run around and have fun. Let them chase each other in a game of tag and, yes, let them fall down and scrape a knee once in a while.
Creating a generation of overweight children who are afraid to leave their rooms for fear of being hurt is not good for anyone.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Barkerville is always a blast

To get away from grind of work and the pressures of daily life, I loaded the wife and kids into the mini-van and headed out on a family vacation.
The destination was the historic gold-mining town of Barkerville. This was the fifth time I have been the to the old Cariboo community and I have a great time, every time.
There is just something intriguing about turning the clock back 150 years to a day when men were men and women were, um, well, based on the stories I read some of them were a lot like the men as well.
You had to be of hardy stock to live so deep in the woods, taming an untamed land. The lack of bathroom facilities alone would be enough to keep me in the city, but many made the journey through the wilds of B.C. in search of gold.
William 'Billy' Barker actually did not start the gold rush in the Cariboo region, but he did haul out a lot of gold. He hauled out some $600,000 in gold, which even today is an astounding amount of money.
Barker had the richest claim in the area yet he died a pauper in Victoria. His grave did not even have a marker until the 1960s.
So Billy was a great gold miner, but not so great with money.
Barkerville is a steady climb up a mountain roughly an hour from Quesnel. By stagecoach it was a two-day journey.
We went for a ride on the stagecoach around the historic settlement that lasted about 20 minutes and my butt was already getting sore, so I could not fathom doing that for days on end.
For those walking to the gold fields, the journey could take weeks. Did I mention my concerns over the bathroom facilities?
On this trip, we stayed at the Wells Hotel, which was built in 1934. It was the oldest hotel I had ever stayed in. The rooms were the smallest I have seen and there was no phone or TV in the room. It was one of the coolest hotels ever.
Not very often do we get to actually interact with history like that, so staying there added to the already historic feel of the journey.
There are a couple of bed and breakfasts and a hotel in Barkerville itself where people can stay, and actually spending the night in the old town is something I have got to do one day.
The buildings in the once-thriving town are as close to original as they can be and offer a fascinating look at how life was way back then.
There are actors strolling about in period costumes who put on performances in numerous locations around town throughout the day.
It seemed every half hour or so, someone would break into a routine depicting life long ago. The performance at the water wheel was my favourite street show, mixing humour with the telling of the history of gold mining. They are all free and add greatly to the experience.
The show at the Barkerville theatre is a must see. You do have to pay for this one, but it is well worth the cost. The stagecoach ride costs extra as does panning for gold, but all add to the adventure. And when you pan for gold, you will find several flakes of the precious metal that is put in a little vile that you can take home as a souvenier.
At the far end of Barkerville is China town, where you can get a glimpse into how the Chinese helped settle the region and the contribution they made to the town.
One of the things that impressed me about the entire Barkerville experience was the lack of price gouging. I know, I couldn't believe it either. Typically a tourist destination has you paying through the nose for everything (Disneyland charged me $8 for a hot dog.)
But the prices in Barkerville are reasonable. Wake Up Jake restaurant has wonderful food for the same price as just about any restaurant I have been to recently. The 'general store' also has reasonable prices on their confectionaries, souveniers and other items. For those with a passion for pastries, the old bakery offers up fresh treats, breads and other items – at a reasonable price.
There are some expensive, high-end items to be found, but there is also a bevy of well-priced items ideal to take home as a reminder of your trip.
And it is likely a trip you will remember, especially if you harbour a fondness for the rugged frontier. My children remember their excursions back in time and the city of gold still has enough magic in to keep even teenagers from getting bored.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Just because we're married, doesn't mean we both like zombies

My wife and I have been married for 25 years (and all of them to each other). That is a quarter of a century together, and more than half my life.
After that many years you do develop many traits that are similar, but there are also long-standing differences I suspect will be there even after 50 years.
For example, I like zombie movies. My wife hates them. She would rather take her mom grocery shopping than watch a zombie flick.
I also like pretty much any post-apocalyptic movie with or with out zombies. She sort of likes them and will occasionally sit through one, depending on who is in it and it is zombie free.
The Missus is more of a fan of those sappy, so-sugary-I-need-a-shot-of-insulin movies where everyone is in love and they ride off into the sunset together with smiles on their faces as they bask in the glow of their eternal happiness. Yeesh.
Perhaps that last one is universal for women because they all seem to love The Notebook and Beaches, both of which rate extremely high on the chick-flick-o-meter. Although Beaches does not have a happy ending in the traditional sense (yes, I have watched it), it oozes sap like a wounded maple tree.
Seeing as how I am not a member of the female fraternity of frilly flicks and she is not a card-carrying member of the macho manly movie club, our taste in entertainment varies greatly.
When we first started dating, it was not that big of a problem.
We were both brimming with new love and willing to sit through any form of cinematic torture just to be with each other. I would manage to get through a girl movie without falling asleep, barfing or going into a sugar-coma one week and she would cringe her way through a man movie the next.
But after two and a half decades together, we now debate what movie to see and if a consensus cannot be reached, we likely will just stay at home and go another day.
Over the past 25 years we have spent a lot of time together, so squeezing in a couple hours more at a movie really is not that big of a deal.
In our younger years, I would even go shopping with her and pretend to be enjoying myself as she tried on 345 pairs of shoes without finding the exact ones she was looking for.
“You don't like any of them? Well that is OK Sweetheart, we will just spend another four hours in the mall while you try on every single pair at the next store. I love standing around waiting for you to find the perfect pair of foot wear.”
Nowadays, when my wife says she is going to the mall to look for shoes my response is a little different.
“OK, see ya.”
“But don't you want to come with me? We can spend the afternoon together. It will be fun.”
"Sorry, but there is something else I have to get done today.”
“I don't know yet, but I will think of something. I am sure it is very important and must be tended to the exact time you are looking for shoes. Sorry, my hands are tied.”
She will then head off to look for new foot attire while putt around the homestead looking for anything that is more exciting than watching my wife try on shoes – like scooping dog droppings from the backyard, or performing home dentistry with a drill and hammer.
I love my wife more now than I ever have, but with age comes wisdom and with wisdom comes understanding that we do not have to like all the same things and it is OK to do things apart once in a while.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The downside of children growing up

I have mentioned before how little an empty nest is going to bother me.
Left overs in the fridge – oh no. Actual hot water for a shower – oh the horror. More than an eighth of a tank of gas in the car when I need to go to work – say it isn't so.
Yes there will be many benefits when the youngsters fly the coop.
My oldest will be moving out any day now (he just doesn't know it yet.) My middle one is in Grade 12 and he is looking at university and my youngest just entered the hallowed halls of high school, so the light at the end of the tunnel is still a few years off, but it is growing brighter.
Even now as my kids get older and more independent, my wife and I find we have more time for ourselves. We can actually go to a movie and not have to re-mortgage the home just to get the entire family in. Going out for dinner no longer involves clowns, grease burgers or a play area.
When the children were really young, going to a movie or anywhere else for that matter, was quite a process. We would have to book a baby sitter a week or so in advance, pick up the rented child watcher, leave a list of what is to be done, make  formula, write down contact information, blood types, next of kin, genetic DNA codes and all sorts of information.
Following the evening out, I drove the baby sitter home which, depending on the sitter we were blessed enough to get that night, either took a few minutes, or more than a half hour for a round trip.
Of course when we did get home, the dog would bark, which would wake up the children which would mean we had to get them to go back to sleep which meant any relaxation gained from the evening out was somewhat diminished by the immediate return to parental duties.
As they grew older, it was a little easier to go out as not as much preparation and planning was required. Eventually the oldest one reached an age where he could look after his siblings and whole new world opened up.
Now, my children are all in their teens so they can pretty much fend for themselves. Going out consists of telling the kids, “Hey, your mom and I are going out. There's food in the fridge. Bye.”
And off we go, simple as that.
However, in a stunning development, a problem with aging children and their independence has arisen that I did not foresee: Halloween.
For the first time in roughly 17 years there will be no one trick or treating in my home.
But if no one solicits strangers for candy, and if I am not required to escort them around the neighbourhood to gather said candy, how am I supposed to collect my 20 per cent service fee?
OK, now we have a problem.
I have always loved Halloween and long believed it should be some sort of national holiday, but this year things will not be the same.
The two oldest have not wandered the streets begging for sugary treats for a few years now, and this year my youngest is not going door to door, but to a friend's Halloween party, meaning I will be without my allotted portion of sugary treats.
I could just go buy some I suppose, but where is the fun in that? Where's the thrill of looking through the loot bag to see what all 'we' collected?
It just won't be the same.
My middle-aged waist line does not need the candy influx so I guess this is one of nature's ways of keeping me from getting flabby, well flabby-er anyway.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Look up, look waaaay up

It was good to talk to someone who knew exactly how I felt and what I go through on a daily basis.
By no effort on our part, we were brothers of sorts as we face similar issues and challenges.
You see, I am 6'4” tall. Being tall has many advantages such as being able to see over a crowd – my personal favourite - or being able to reach things in high places.
When you are tall, certain things are expected of you. I have changed more lightbulbs in my lifetime than most could even imagine .
Of course there are also hazards to being height enhanced. I have bonked my head more times than I can possibly count.
Just the other day my noggin took a hit as I walked into the open back door of our mini-van.
I was busy loading stuff into the rear compartment of the van, and my watch-out-for-things-that-you-can-hit-your-head-on radar was temporarily down when I stepped forward and whammo – mini-van to the cranium.
Having rattled my brain time and again, I am instantly angry when it happens. It is just an automatic reaction. I admit it is not the best reaction, but I have never claimed to be perfect.
I have also hit my head on the top of door frames, on tree branches, a steel clothesline post (that one hurt) and have taken out more than one chandelier by simply standing up from a dinner table.
The destroying of chandeliers was mostly when I was younger. I grew 10 inches in eight months and was not used to my new height so I developed the habit of looking up before I stood up from any table.
It is a habit I have to this day.
So at my friend's birthday party this summer it was nice to talk with two brothers of the tall who were both a couple inches higher than I am.
We spent a few minutes comparing notes – and forehead scars. We talked about bashing our heads, reaching things without a step stool, about people asking 'How ya doing Stretch?' and of course, changing light bulbs.
I can't talk to my wife about such matters because she is only 5' tall. In the 25 years we have been married, she has bonked her head only a couple of times and it annoyed her each time.
Welcome to my world. 
It is always strange to run in to someone who is taller than I am as it is an odd feeling to look up to someone when I talk to them.
I am just not used to it. That is why I have suggested to my wife we take in the tall people's convention put on by Tall Club International.
Men have to be at least 6'2” and women 5'10” to become a member. (My dad, mom and sister all qualify.)
It would be interesting to be one of the shorter people in the room for a change.
For some reason, my wife has expressed no interest in attending the gathering  even when I suggested we could then attend a little people's convention and she could walk around feeling tall.
Again, she declined the proposition.
My wife's family is, how shall put this – vertically challenged. They are not a large people. My family on the other hand is like the land of the giants. 
The men are tall, the women are tall – everyone is tall. 
My dad's side comes from Germanic decent, while my mom's kin have a Nordic bloodline. Vikings are not known to have been of small stature.
My children however are neither tall, nor short, but slightly above average.
I am not saying it is better to be tall, short or anything in between. It's just the way it is and you are who you are.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hormone hurricane blowing through my home

I have heard it said raising boys is harder when they are younger and easier when they are older.
The exact opposite is said about girls.
Being a father of both, I can say without hesitation “Yikers, were they ever right.”
When the boys were younger they were nothing but a mass of kinetic energy, always having to do something.
One of their favourite pastimes was wrestling. Not professional 'wrassling' where they hit each other in the head with chairs, but just good, old fashioned wrestling around on the ground like young lads have done since the beginning of time.
They would wrestle in the livingroom, the front yard, the backyard, the mini-van and on occasion, even in the grocery store, much to the horror of their mother.
I was a popular target for their wrestling attack and I spent many a moment fending off two tiny grapplers as they tested their strength against dad.
After one particularly energetic match, my wife, who was watching with an amused look, asked why they never wrestled with her.
“Because we love you,” said my eldest before going for another headlock. Only a five year old could devise such logic.
They were not bad boys, just your typical energetic lads looking for an outlet for all that pent up enthusiasm, but they did take constant watching, guiding and correcting.
The term 'perpetual motion' was conceived by a father watching his young sons as they tore around the estate.
My daughter on the other hand was content to calmly play with her dolls – of which she had roughly a gazillion. Everyone would comment about how quiet she was and what a little angel she is.
That is if we could hear each other over the roar of imitation car sounds, explosion sounds and other noises made by my sons and their friends who invaded my home on a daily basis.
Boys took a lot of attention in their younger years, mainly because they never thought things through and dove into situations without considering about the consequences.
“Um, dad, I wanted to help you out so I decided to move your motorcycle for you and it kind of fell over...on the lawnmower.”
“Why did you even try to move my motorcycle?” was a rather exasperated reply.
“I dunno, because I thought it would help.”
After picking the bike up and looking at customized dent in the tank, I figured there was no point in getting angry because he was just trying to do something nice. But I was once again reminded how you have to watch young lads every second.
Meanwhile my daughter was pretending to make cookies in her room – silent as a little lamb.
Fast forward a few years and my daughter is...well, let's just say raging hormones can be problematic at times – like all the time.
Suddenly the boys were the easy ones to raise. They were quiet, well quiet-ish, and were logical in their discussions.
But take a pre-teen girl with hormones raging through her like a torrential flood, tsunami and tornado all rolled into one and a look out.
“Honey, could you please get all your dirty laundry from your room please?”
Simple request, right?
“Why is everyone always bossing me around? Why does everyone hate me? I'm moving out and never coming back.”
Dealing with a young woman with newly installed hormones is like trying to baptize a cat - there is just no easy way to do it.
I was not prepared for this hormonal hurricane.
And of course all of her friends are going through the same process, so the girl drama is enough to make me want to take a job as a yak herder in Peru.
I asked my wife how long this would go on for. She just smiled and patted me on the shoulders.
Did I say 'yikers' yet?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I married the worst criminal on the planet

My wife is the worst criminal in the world.
Not that we have ever really done anything illegal, but I know for a fact she would never make it in the underworld of crime.
This became painfully obvious when we went on a road trip a few years after we were married.
Junior was just over a year old and my mother-in-law blessed us by taking the wee one for the weekend so we could have a little getaway.
It was the first vacation we had been able to take in years and the first time we would be away from Junior for more than a few hours.
But we were confident he could handle being with his granny for a couple days, so we packed our bags and ran for the car.
Um, I mean we tearfully said goodbye to our precious child before forcing ourselves to leave our first born as we embarked on our trip where we would miss him dearly every second we were away.
Who am I kidding. We ran for the car so fast the wind of us passing by knocked our neighbour on his butt.
Packing took a matter of minutes, as all we had were two suitcases instead of the dumptruck load of stuff needed to go on a weekend outing with a toddler.
I will admit, there was a little bit of guilt at leaving Junior behind, but fortunately I was able to ignore it.
Our destination was a hot spring resort town where we would have two glorious days to rest and relax.
We were not staying in what we soon dubbed “The Richie Hotel” because we were not rich. Instead, we stayed at a decent hotel down the road that was more suited to our budgetary situation.
Because this was a hot spring town, we wanted to bathe in the natural pools of mineral-laden water. The problem was, our hotel only had a regular old hot tub, so we ventured to the public hot spring facility which was basically a large, warm swimming pool.
It was somewhat relaxing, but not quite the hot spring experience we were looking for. Later that day, we wandered down to The Richie Hotel and saw not one, not two and not even three, but four pools of varying sizes filled with hot spring liquid.
Upon seeing the pools of luxury an idea formed in my cranium: we were going to crash the place.
Sure there were signs that stated for hotel patrons only, but God made the hot springs, so who is man to tell me I can't indulge. Later that evening, we snuck in the side entrance, doffed our jackets and shoes and slipped into the soothing warm water.
My wife was nervous about breaking the rules, but I convinced her it would be fine. She was just beginning to relax when hotel security came by and started talking to people.
When she saw him, my wife went white as a sheet. She became visibly nervous as he came in our direction. I casually asked if they were closing the pool and he said they were just asking anyone under 18 to leave because it was now time for adults only.
What a wonderful idea, I said as the security guy went on his way. 
I looked at my wife and I thought she was going to have a heart attack. She was nervous and stressed and a few minutes later we had to leave because she could not keep up the criminal ruse any longer.
We gathered our stuff and took off like we had just robbed a bank.
She began to breath easier and I realized I had married the worst criminal in the world.
I tried to get her to sneak into The Richie Hotel again the next day, but she would have none of it.
Personally, I rather enjoyed our walk on the dark side. 
The weekend went by way to fast, but it was relaxing, restful and informative as I learned never to involved my wife in any sort of activity that was not 100 per cent above board.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Murphy has a penchant for precise pooping

If Murphy the Wonder Dog were a person, he would likely be considered eccentric, maybe even a little touched in the mind.
But because he is a dog, he can be considered goofy, playful and, well, who am I kidding he is an odd little hound.
I saw the oddness of the mutt early on and have often wondered what he is thinking and why he does the thing he does.
Murphy has a rather unique personality and it shines through on many occasions. First off, he has little-dog syndrome, but that is to be expected from a beast of only 17 pounds.
He knows he is a big dog trapped in a little dog's body, so whenever he sees other dogs, big or small, he acts tough by growling, barking and acting aggressive – much like most little dogs do.
The fact is he is not tough enough fight his way out of a fog bank, let alone take on another dog, but because he is size challenged, he must put on a good show.
But there is nothing strange about little dogs trying to act big, so what makes Murph the Surf so unusual. 
Where do I begin?
When he was a few months old, he pooped on my son's acoustic guitar. Odd you say? Well you haven't heard anything yet.
He did not just make a boom-boom on the guitar, he walked backwards part way onto the neck of the guitar to, um, er, make a deposit.
I have never seen a dog do that before – ever.
And his penchant for precisely placing poops in precarious places did not end there. Not by a long shot. He is now five years old and just the other day he backed up a cement meridian as far as he could to um, er, make a deposit.
He was basically doing a handstand on his front legs to get his butt as high as possible before pulling the trigger.
He has backed into a thicket of weeds so dense he had to force his way in,  he has balanced on three legs so he could make his deposit atop some ferns, climbed on top of a rock the size of a medicine ball and in general he finds the weirdest places in the world to do his business.
He is a strange little dog, but he is good for a laugh.
He also hates the wind. Even a slight breeze freaks him out and he is reluctant to go outside, but put him in a car and he sticks his head out the window at 60 miles per hour, happy as a dog can be.
Unlike most dogs, he won't eat everything you place in front of him. He will sniff it and think about it, and on occasion he won't even eat it. Unheard of in the canine kingdom.
He will turn his nose up (literally) to a new type of dog food, but then he will eat a half rotted mouse the cat left in the back yard.
We took him to the salmon run a couple years ago and he dove into a large rotted spawner like it was his last meal.
The closer I got the faster he ate. A few minutes later he was recycling the rotted fish meal all over the woodland trail, but still seemed as happy as can be.
Yes, Murphy the Wonder Dog is a strange little animal, but he greets me every time I come home and no matter how bad my day was or how grumpy I am, he is always glad to see me.
Which is why most people have a dog, even if they are weird.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Yikers - my daughter is in high school

I wanted to do the clothes shopping myself, but my daughter would have none of it.
Instead, she dragged her mom to every mall in the Valley looking for the perfect clothes to wear to school.
Personally, I would be happy to see her decked out in a nice big burlap sack. Cut out a hole for her head and arms and send her off to school.
"Dad, what is burlap anyway?” she asked.
"Burlap is the latest in fashion,” I replied. "It is all the rage in Europe right now. You could be a trend setter, honey. The first to break out this new fashion style here.”
She went online (stupid Interweb) and saw what a burlap sack actually was and no matter how much I praised it as Euro-chic, she did not buy into it.
I would prefer she head off to school with a big, ugly piece of cloth wrapped around her. Perhaps a big floppy hat that covers her face as well.
Instead, she walked out the door every bit the pretty young woman she is – darn it.
My wife makes sure our daughter dresses modestly, with none of the three Bs showing – boobs, butt or belly.
And for the most part my daughter complies with little fuss, even though some of her classmates are dressed differently.
"But their mom's let them dress that way,” is occasionally her plea.
"Well, I'm not their mom. If I were, they wouldn't be dressing that way either,” replied my unflappable spouse who is a big proponent of modesty  in young ladies.
It was a lot easier for me to see my boys grow up than my girl.
At her elementary school graduation, it hit like a Mike Tyson sucker punch that she will now be going to the big school, a school full of teenage boys. Yikes.
I remembered what some of my classmates were like as teenage boys and I immediately wanted to ship her off to an all-girl boarding school somewhere in the Arctic circle where there is virtually no chance of boys being around.
I know that is not realistic, but I still wanted to do it.
I worried about my boys when they went into high school, but for different reasons. With them I was more concerned about their grades, who their friends were, who their teachers were and other things a typical parent thinks about.
I thought about those with my daughter as well, but in the back of my mind   (actually it was screaming its head off in the front of my mind) was: building full of teenage boys with raging harmones.
If I recall, teenage boys only think of a few things: girls, girls and more often than not, girls.
To be fair, they also think about sports (to impress the girls), cars (to take the girls out in) and how they look (see to impress the girls.)
Personally, I was never a 'dog' in or after high school. Jumping from girl to girl was just never my style, but I knew many guys who were the eptiome of a man-whore and would chase anything with breasts.
Those are the type of young men who concern me. OK, they all concern me, but those ones concern me the most.
My daughter has a good head on her shoulders and is a smart, confident person, but I am a dad and that gives me the right to worry about my little girl. And that is a right I choose to exercise – a lot.
I cannot force her to wear a burlap sack, forsake all makeup and look as frumpy as possible, but when a boy does come over, I can sit there in my martial arts uniform, sharpening a 10-inch hunting knife and muttering to myself about how much I miss all my old pals in prison.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I have seen fear and it is a spider

I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and knew something wasn't right. There was something on my neighbour's house and it was huge.
When I looked over I was stunned to see an arachnid so large it was hauling a cat into its web.
OK, maybe not a cat, but it was one of the biggest, ugliest black spiders I have ever seen in my life.
I stood and watched the beast for a few moments while trying not to wet myself as this monster of prehistoric proportions scurried along its web.
A shiver ran down my spine and I knew what I must do: kill the spider. The question was how. I was about as close to the critter as I planned on getting, so smashing it was out of the question. Besides, I did not have an elephant gun and it had crawled behind a downspout, which I assumed was its lair, making it nearly impossible to smash.
And if I failed in my noble quest to slay the beast with a manual form of attack, it would panic and who knows what havoc it would wreak upon an unsuspecting world.
Then I remembered I had a can of spider killer spray stuff in the garage, so I ran for the canister of death and dispatched my foe with extreme prejudice.
I sprayed half a can at the beast and when its convulsing body hit the ground, I actually heard the impact. 
A co-worker said the multi-legged terror was a cat-faced spider. So I went to the knower of all things worth knowing – Google – and sure enough, there was a picture of the creature in all its hideous glory.
Even seeing a photo of it on a computer monitor gave me the creeps, so you can imagine what coming across one in person did to me.
With the monster dead, I continued to mow my elderly neighbour's lawn and noticed more of the spiders that had strung massive webs between the cedars and the fence.
I am not sure if it is a particularly bad year for these kind of spiders, but it looked like they were having a convention at my neighbour's place, causing me great anxiety.
My fear of spiders is well documented, but I have not always been an arachnid wussy.
I came by my fear of spiders honestly when I was around 11 years old. Until 'the incident' I did not like spiders, but they did not warrant the stark-raving terror that grips me today.
It was during a school camping trip my fear was born when as some friends and myself were running through the woods.
I grew up in the country, so playing among the pines was one of my favourite activities and on this fine spring day I was leading the charge when it happened.
I ran full speed into a huge spider web that wrapped around my entire head like a sticky, silk helmet.
Sitting in the middle of the web was a spider of epic proportions. Upon hitting the web, the spider ended up in my left eye socket before it scurried across my face, over my head and was trying to hide down the back of my shirt.
I began to spin and gyrate like a madman while ripping off my shirt and throwing it to the ground.
But the panic did not end there. I still had the webbing wrapped around my cranium and the feeling of being encased in the fine white string gives me shivers to this day.
My friends, of course, thought this was the funniest thing they had ever seen and offered all the sympathy an 11-year-old boy can conjure up – none whatsoever.
I threw my shirt on the ground and stomped it with a blind fury. I went back to camp and grabbed a new shirt, leaving that one hanging in a tree incase the beast was somehow still alive. My fear of spiders was tattooed into my mind forever.
Even as I write this, I can feel little creepy crawlies scurrying all over my body. Time to think of something more pleasant, like a trip to the dentist.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Maybe an empty nest won't be so bad

It was something my wife and I had not experienced in a long time.
For the first time in 20 years we went to the IPE without children.
The IPE, (the Interior Provincial Exhibition, which technically is the official name,) is also known as the Armstrong Fair.
The fair has been held for more than 100 years and has become a family tradition for many. As usual, my family went to the fair, but this year we didn't all do it at the same time.
The Missus and I took in the fair on opening day, with the young 'uns heading out on the weekend, when all the action is.
The thing I noticed about the drive to the fairgrounds this year was how quiet it was. Nothing but the sound of the road and the wind whistling past, giving the Missus and myself a chance to partake in some adult banter.
The next thing I noticed was how light we could travel. All we had to carry was our jackets in case the earlier rain storm returned.
When the kids were younger, we ventured out with a stroller loaded down like a chuckwagon with diapers, food, extra clothes, juice, water, Cheerios (of course) and a variety of other implements of parenting needed for a day trip with children.
And if you buy anything at the fair then you have to lug that around as well, because despite promises of “Please can I get one? I'll  carry it,” they don't carry it, and the pack mule (aka dad) ends up having another item tied to his back.
No wonder I was always so tired at the end of the day.
The older the kids got, the less stuff I had to carry, but there was still five of us so travelling light was nearly impossible.
And unlike previous trips to the fair, we wandered through the midway without really stopping.
With kids in tow, it was always a debate as to what rides they would go on and 'Can I ride with my friend' and 'I don't want to go on that one' etc.
Age differences usually meant the kids wanted to go on different rides (and I wanted to sneak off to the closest neighbourhood pub.)
But as we strolled through the midway this time, there was no drama, no discussions and no debates. There was just the chatter of the people around us and the non-stop barking of the carnival workers as they try to entice you to 'win' a prize at their booth. Where else could you spend $10 to 'win' a $2 prize?
Going to the IPE sans kids was also more of a leisurely stroll from exhibit to exhibit than the typical race to get through the numerous displays as the next generation's short attention span demanded new input every five seconds. 
I guess at some point in my tale I should start to lament about how much I missed my children, and 'Oooooh how I wish they were little again' and drift back the good ol' days and all the fun we used to have.
This is one of the first tastes of empty nest the Missus and I have experienced in two decades and I have to admit, so far, it is not that bad. 
Let's review: no drama, no need to buy snacks every five minutes so they can make it through to the big feed at dinner time, no big feed at dinner time, no spending half our time in the midway listening to the chaos that is a midway and no rushing through the 'boring' exhibits us older folk enjoy.
I know eventually I will yearn for the days of children buzzing around us and I may even miss the chaos of going to the fair with a load of children in tow, but for now I just enjoyed spending a day at the fair with my bride, just the two of us, like it was oh so long ago.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Sometimes, nothing is a good thing

A reader recently sent me an email telling me I am the greatest writer in the history of writing and my columns are the best thing to come out of the English language - ever.
OK, maybe he did not say all of that, or any of that actually, but he did say he enjoys my columns and after commenting on one particular piece about men and women communicating, he included a link to a YouTube video featuring a funny man named Mark Gungor.
Gungor is part marriage counsellor, part stand-up comedian and this particular link was to a presentation he did on the 'nothing box.'
Yes ladies, men really do have a nothing box. So when you ask, 'What are you thinking?' and we reply 'Nothing,' we mean it.
We really are thinking about nothing, we are doing nothing, we are accomplishing nothing. Come to think of it, we could probably change the name to the The Senate box, but that is for a different column.
The Missus found it hard to believe men can think about nothing, but after watching the Gungor video for herself and doing some reading on the subject, she finally relented and acknowledged it is possible for the male species to actually think about not a single thing.
Why do you think NASCAR is so popular? It is not thinking, but you get to watch fast cars and drink cold beer while you do it with.
Personally, I love the nothing box. It is like taking a mini-vacation without leaving the house.
The nothing box is another fine example of what a jokester God really is.
But it would seem God can also be a little mischevious because there is the other side of the coin called the woman's brain.
Women do not have a nothing box, in fact, they don't have any boxes at all.
Gungor compared the female grey matter to a bowl of spaghetti with the woman possessing the power to think along multiple strands at the same time.
We men go from one box to the next, often not allowing those boxes to interact or even touch. That does not mean one is superior to the other, it just means we are different – very, very different – when it comes to how we think.
We have established men really can think of nothing and have a darn good time doing it.
But when you ask a woman what she is thinking and she says, 'Nothing'  proceed with caution because women are always thinking about something – always.
Even worse is if you suspect there is a problem, but when you ask your significant other what's wrong and she says “Nothing,” you are doomed. Warning bells should be going off and red flags should be popping up with the ferocity of fireworks.
You better pursue your line of questioning with the focus of a psychiatrist and the stealth of a ninja until 'nothing' is discussed at length.
If you do not, 'nothing' will build like a swollen reservoir before breaching the dam and washing you onto the couch for the next few nights.
I am hardly an expert on man-woman relations, but I have been married for 25 years and the Missus and I have taken several marriage courses to help us better understand one another.
Ladies if you are having a hard time believing your significant other can literally think about nothing, look Gungor up on the Internet because he is an expert and he has some good advice for us married types.
Now if you will excuse me, I have a lot of nothing to think about.