Friday, January 31, 2014

Junior can thank his mom for that big brain of his

You will have to indulge me for a moment while I brag about my son.
Junior is in his final year of high school and is about to cap a perfect run of making the principal's list every term (in the good way, not like I did when I was in school.)
While his friends are taking courses like cafeteria – what ever that is – art programs and other fluffy classes, Junior is taking pre-calculus, physics, chemistry and all sorts of mean and nasty implements of education.
Even with such a heavy workload, he is still pulling down straight As.
Yes, dear reader, as you have already guessed, he takes after his mother in the brains department.
Let's just say if I was attacked by a brain-sucking alien, it would look anorexic.
My mind had a tendency to wander as a youngster, and I...hey, look a squirrel.
Junior, on the other hand can be very focussed. While his friends are indulging in a life of leisure, parties and more parties, Junior is hitting the books – hard.
Since he was 15 he has wanted to be an engineer and is gearing his secondary school education to help him make it to university.
When I was 15, I wanted to be a professional moto-cross rider. I loved riding dirtbikes – motorcycles have always been a passion of mine – but a few things stopped me achieving this dream.
First off, I could never afford a really good race bike. It is kind of hard to race when you don't have a race bike.
But probably the most important reason I never pursued a career as a professional racer was I wasn't that good of a rider.
I could rip it up, hit a few jumps and pop a few wheelies, but I lacked the natural ability required to actually become a pro racer.
I knew a couple guys who rode like they were born on a bike and it used to really annoy me that no matter how hard I tried, I could just not keep up with them.
But that did not stop my teenage mind from dreaming big dreams. Dreams that had about as much chance of success as the Senate actually doing something productive.
I never had a clear focus of what I wanted to be when I grew up and when I do figure it out, I will let you know.
Junior, however, is much more realistic in his dreams, and is much more determined to achieve those dreams.
He has the brains and intensity to become an engineer. His grades are certainly conducive to pursuing higher education.
It is a challenge for him to maintain those grades, and I am sure he would prefer to be with his friends, but his determination is not floundering.
When I was in high school, all that stupid homework got in the way of hanging out with my friends, and my part time job, and riding dirtbikes, and working on my car get the idea.
I am sure you figured out by now Junior also did not get his goal-oriented hyper focus from me.
Once again, he got it from his mom who graduated as a registered nurse three years out of high school.
When I was three years out of high school, I was still wandering aimlessly through life wondering what to do next.
It wasn't until I became engaged to my beloved that I actually knuckled down and started to chase a career in the newspaper industry.
Was it a good decision? Marriage Yes. Career in newspaper...
Anyway, as I was saying, Junior has a hyper focus that will get him through the gruelling educational regiment he has set out for himself and I have no doubt he will achieve his goals.
And yes, I am a proud papa.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I know the secret to never losing your glasses

For almost as long as I can remember, my dad has had a nemesis - a white whale to his Capt. Ahab, a Joker to his Batman.
This foe has been causing him stress and anguish for many years and continues to do so unabated.
But the opponent challenging his sanity has no conscious or even malicious intent – they are his reading glasses.
Oft is the time when dad would reach into the breast pocket of his shirt only to find the case carrying his glasses missing. Or the case will be there, but the glasses are not.
They are usually not far away from him – most likely sitting on the small table next to his recliner where he spends time reading.
But it does cause frustration.
Over the past few years, I too have noticed the type they use in books, menus and even this fine publication is too small, or somewhat blurry so I went to see the eye doctor who told me I needed reading glasses.
It made me realize that every day I become a little more like my dad. Sometimes that is good, sometimes not so much.
I instantly had visions of me rattling around the house looking for those 'darn glasses' while holding a letter or newspaper in my hand.
The eye doc said he would be glad too sell me a pair of really nice glasses for $200.
Great, then I could rattle around the house looking for an expensive pair of eye wear.
I thought about it for a moment and told the doc I would get back to him. I could still read most stuff and I do have long arms, so I knew I could manage for a while.
But eventually, it got the point where I would have to either get reading glasses or  longer arms.
Glasses seemed like the much more viable option. I was not looking forward to the perpetual search for my reading spectacles and tried to come up with an alternate plan.
Then one day, while I was at a local dollar store I noticed they sold reading glasses – for a buck.
An idea was born. I bought 10 pairs of glasses and stashed them all over the place – in my car, the van, the livingroom, bathroom, bedroom, work desk, garage, you name it.
Wherever I thought I might need to read something, I put a pair of glasses.
It worked like a charm. Instead of always having to carry glasses with me, all I do is reach for the nearest pair – problem solved and all the glasses together came to a fraction of the doc's glasses.
Sure the dollar store peepers are not exactly high-end gear, but who cares. I can read just as well with a $1 pair of glasses as a $200 pair and if something should happen to the $1 pair, I can buy 199 more pairs and still break even.
If I may digress for just a moment, why do they call them a pair of glasses. There is only one item but they are referred to as plural. Just like a pair of pants when there is only a singular item
The argument I have heard is because you have two eyes or two legs thus making for a pair. Sorry, but we don't call them a pair of bras so your argument is invalid. I guess it is just one of those quirky little things in the English language and the fact that I have even spent time thinking about it means I have far to much time on my hands.
Anyway, I have been using reading glasses for a few years now, and have yet to grumble about not being able to find a pair. With my system they are always around when I need them, and I have a much lower risk of misplacing them because they have no set place to be misplaced from.
Hmm, I guess with age really does come wisdom.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Things have changed after 25 years of wedded bliss

It wasn't exactly a trip to Vegas, but it was still an enjoyable evening to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary last summer.
Yes, somehow my wife has put up with me for a quarter of a century. How she does it is just as much a mystery to me as everyone else.
I have the easy part because I am married to her.
For the matrimonial milestone we did not want to have a big party with lots of people over because that translates to lots of work. It is our anniversary, we should  have fun, not  do dishes and cater to guests.
We wanted to go to Las Vegas and renew our vows with an Elvis impersonator because who better to proclaim our love to than the King himself.
But for various reasons, that did not happen so we went with plan B.
We ditched the kids and went out for dinner before catching a live theatre production, which was a very enjoyable evening and we had a lovely time.
I worked the day of our anniversary, but my beloved had the day off so she spent a good portion of her time digging up old pictures of us and putting them on Facebook for all our friends to see.
Among the congratulatory congratulations we received, I noticed a bit of a theme was developing.
Some people commented on how much hair I had back then. OK, I get it, I am going bald.
Fortunately, I am OK with that. There is not a lot I can do about it, so why stress out over it.
I have accepted there is less hair on my head – much less – than I used to have, but as things tend to do in the cosmos, it is all balancing out because I have hair growing in other places.
When the Missus and I first tied the knot, I had about three chest hairs. Now I look like I am walking around with a poodle taped to my nipples.
I was a little surprised at the growth of locks on my pecks, but it was not out of the realm of possibilities as many men have furry chests.
The part I can't figure out is why do I have hair growing out of my left shoulder area? Other than for a member of the primate family, shoulders are not a place follicles should be found nor are they needed, but for some reason there it is.
What's the point? It does not enhance my aesthetic appearance.
No woman in the history of humankind has ever looked at a man and swooned over the lovely locks flowing from his shoulder muscles.
The other thing people pointed out when looking at our decades-old wedding pictures was how much larger I am now compared to then.
I have put on a few pounds since then, but who hasn't gained weight as they get older?
Some people pointed this out in a kind way, making a harmless comment about how much I have changed over the years.
However a few of my 'good friends' from back in the day were less subtle in their assessment of the situation and took a more blunt approach with some good-natured ribbing – at my expense of course.
Even a friend's mom got in on the action with the simple statement, “You look just like you used to, except fatter.”
Gee thanks. This lady was not exactly svelte herself 25 years ago so I simply replied she hasn't changed a bit and left it at that.
In the past 25 years I have lost my hair and gained weight while raising three children and managing to not box up my  mother in law and ship her to Uruguay.
I wonder what the next 25 will bring.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Adventures in the vet's office

Murphy the Wonder Dog was excited as usual.
As soon as we touched his leash he began doing his happy dance in anticipation of the adventure we were about to embark on.
Usually, grabbing the tether means he is going for a walk around the neighbourhood, or better yet, a woodland excursion along our favourite hiking trail.
Today however, the voyage had a different destination: the veterinarian's office.
But Murph the Surph would not be going alone. Gilbert the Cat would be joining him.
Gil is the mellowest cat God has ever placed on this earth, and for that I am thankful.
Nothing fazes the feline that is entering his 12th year of life. However, even Mr. Mellow has his hang ups and he does not like car rides, so to take him anywhere we put him in a little animal carrier.
He walks right in like it is not big deal and is calm as can be. He is totally relaxed, until the van starts moving.
He does not freak out and go nuts like some cats do. Gilbert's version of 'spazzing out' is to let out a mournful wail every few seconds to express his displeasure with the situation.
Meanwhile Murphy is trying to figure out why we are bringing the cat along on one of our outback treks.
He sniffed the cage several times to confirm it was his cat that was making those odd noises.
Murphy remained excited after entering the vet's office and he looked around and sniffed everything he could in the waiting room. Gil stopped making the odd noises and simply looked out of his holding pen, waiting to see what happens next.
Even when the vet came out and led us into the examination room, Murphy was still pretty darn excited to be on an adventure.
The vet checked his ears – which he has had some problems with – she checked his weight, his joints and his stomach all with Murphy being thrilled at receiving so much personal attention from a total stranger (something he loves.)
Then it was time to take his temperature. Suddenly Murphy was not having such a good time. I have never seen that look on his face before, but it was a look of “WHAT THE....HEY. STOP IT. I'M NOT THAT KIND OF DOG.”
As all pet owners know, you can not take an animal's temperature orally, so another method must be used, one Murphy did not remember from his last visit to the vet.
Fortunately the medical procedure lasted only a few seconds and he was done. But Murphy remained skeptical of the whole examination process from that point on. He had his vaccination shots, which he was also not too thrilled about, and was declared in good health.
It was now the cat's turn, and I am sure if Murphy could talk he would have warned Gil of the impending invasion of his personal space.
Like Murphy before him, Gilbert went through the check list before eventually having his temperature taken.
Gil was not a happy cat.
Remember that odd sound I was telling you about when he was in the cage? Well, it was even louder during the 'procedure.'
Once the vet was done, good ol' Gilbert sought some measure of revenge and promptly pooped all over the examination table.
Only a cat would come up with such a devious form of pay back. I have never seen a cat look smug before, but if they can project such an emotion, they would look like Gilbert did at that moment.
A de-worming pill and a vaccination shot closed Gilbert's time at the vet and he eagerly hopped back in his carrying pen, happy the ordeal was over.
Both Murphy and Gilbert are in good physical shape, but the psychological damage from the examination may haunt them both for a few days.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Held captive in a room with no way out

I was trapped, with no avenue of escape.
I tried talking my way out of the predicament, but there would be no reasoning. Freedom was just a few steps away, but it might as well have been across a frozen chasm guarded by rottweilers with knives.
I quickly realized I had no control over the situation and was at the mercy of my captor.
So, how did I end up here?
It was a chain of events set in motion several years ago that would lead to me being held captive in a small room in a house deep in the woods.
It began when some good friends visited their relatives in the Caribbean. The vacation itself was uneventful, but the aftermath for the couple in their late 40s caught everyone off guard and led to me being a prisoner.
A couple months after returning from the sunny clime, our friend was not feeling well, but she initially dismissed it as any one of a number of minor causes.
The feeling persisted and days turned into weeks. She found herself in the doctor's office, thinking perhaps she had picked up some sort of exotic Caribbean bug or something.
She explained her symptoms to the doctor.
"Let's start with the basics so we can eliminate the simple stuff,” the doc said while filling out requisition forms for a variety of tests.
As she looked at the form, she noticed the box for a pregnancy test was checked.
They both had a chuckle over that, but the doctor said it was just a routine test and was no big deal.
Being in her late 40s, she found it amusing the doc would even consider such a test and quickly dismissed it.
After having the tests done she was once again in the doctor's office.
"OK, we can rule out a major ailment,” said the good doctor.
“That's a relief, but do you have any idea why I feel this way?” queried my friend.
“Yes I do, you're pregnant.”
It took a few minutes for the words to register. She knew what they all meant and had heard them before, but she could not figure out why her doctor was saying them to her now.
Her husband was equally stunned at first, and then overjoyed, especially when they learned they were having a little girl. They already had three sons and were over the moon at the amazing news.
Fast forward almost three years and we are visiting their home that is nestled in a postcard-like woodland setting.
The little girl is a bundle of energy you would expect from a two year old, and is so adorable she could melt the heart of Atilla the Hun.
For Christmas she received a fancy and frilly bed that she was eager to show off to everyone. She stood at the edge of the livingroom, waving for me to follow.
It was impossible to resist, and she chatted away in a language only she could understand as I followed her up the stairs.
After commenting on what a pretty princess bed she had, I sat down on the floor while she showed me her dollies. I then stacked several blocks, which she promptly knocked over with a giggle.
I stacked them again and she knocked them down again - more giggling. We had discovered a wonderful game, but after a while I suggested we go back downstairs.
She then ran to the door and shut it before handing me a couple more blocks.
I knew at that moment I was trapped by someone who barely came up to my knee.
This tiny little human was suddenly the alpha in the room and I did not have the heart to challenge her rule, so I stacked more blocks so she could knock them over. We would both giggle.
After a few minutes her dad came the rescue and I was free, although I must admit, captivity was quite enjoyable.