Christmas is over already?!

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the Christmas season passes.  I look forward to the holidays the whole year and get to watch the anticipation building in my kids for the latter part of the year and then it’s here and gone in the blink of an eye.  Like everything, though, it seems to speed up as I get older…..The holidays were nice though and we got to see both sides of the family as usual.  On New Year’s Eve we had two couples and some of their kids over to our house to celebrate the new year.  It is always nice to be able to share a once-a-year celebration with good friends.

This year Santa was good to the kids and they were very excited as they opened up their stockings and found their Christmas treasures.  Only the toys this year are just as much fun for Mum and Dad so we’ve been negotiating with the kids over who gets to play and when.  I think I’m developing Carpel Tunnel Syndrome!

After many days of very (unseasonably so) warm weather, we’ve got a bit of snow on the ground today.  It’s not enough to make me shovel the driveway but I’m glad that traffic is still a bit lite these days since normal traffic would probably slow to a crawl as everyone adjusts back to wintery driving.

Happy 2011!


The Mighty Moira and Other Short Stories

A few months ago, I started work on an editing project for Wm. Manley Nobles, a gentleman who lives near Kingston, Ontario.  He published his first anthology of short stories in 2008 with the assistance of Canadian Stories magazine.  It was titled Canadian Stories:  Miracle at Midnight and Other Short Stories.

After submitting a story to Canadian Stories, I became involved in the production of Mr. Nobles second book as editor and today I received a copy of the finished book.  The latest anthology is titled Canadian Stories:  The Mighty Moira and Other Short Stories and, like his first book, this one is full of great stories related by the author as if he were seated around a campfire with his audience sitting spellbound around him. 

His stories are from the heart and are great examples of Canadian folk stories.  He is a man from the the old days when stories were retold from memory and the characters are brought to life by the words of the storyteller.  Moments in Southern Ontario history are recounted in his words and an astute reader can learn much about the history of the area through his work. 

This was a great project to be involved in and I am very proud of the finished product.

Ghostly Toys that Whistle in the Night

A couple of nights ago, I awoke from a dead sleep to hear a strangely eerie whistle coming from one of the toys that litter our bedroom.  There’s a sofa off in one corner of the room along with a bookcase and several boxes of toys and it was from that area the ghostly whistle was coming from.

As a fan of Ghost Hunters on OLN, I thought maybe I was just replaying one of the recent episodes in my head and that I should just sit up and say, “What the crap is that?”  However, the whistling ended and I started to drift back to sleep.  A couple of moments later the whistling started up again and this time I was wide-awake wondering, “What is going on?”

That isn’t the first time a toy has started playing it’s music by itself.  We have a small stuffed duckling that was a present for one of the kids at Easter.  If you squeeze it’s belly, it will begin to quack about 10 times.  One day, my wife was rocking our son to sleep when he was only a couple of years old.  There was a thunderstorm outside and after one particularly close lightning strike and accompanying thunderclap, that little duckling started to quack.  Since it was across the room from my wife when it began quacking, she was quite freaked out but has since attributed the spontaneous quacking to the proximity of the lightning strike and thunder.  I stay away from that duck.

Another close call was when I happened to be downstairs late one evening and was freaked out by a doll’s carriage that seemed to be moving of it’s own accord.  I always told my wife that she could keep it since it was hers as a child but I also warned her that it I saw it move on it’s own, I’d chop it up and throw it out.  I was beginning to think about where I left the axe when I realized that the appearance of movement was caused by my shadow moving across the room and the flashlight in my hand (phew!)

Oh yes, the whistling sound in my room was caused by my eldest daughter who bumped up against the toy as she came into our room to lay down on the sofa.  Apparently, she had a bad dream and thought she saw a ghost.


Peel Literacy and Beyond Conference

This past Saturday my wife and I attended a children’s literacy conference hosted by the Region of Peel at a High School in Mississauga.  There was a great turnout and it was well worth the drive. 

I was a tad sceptical at first but after an interesting and “moodivational” performance by a guest speaker, I was looking forward to some interesting and informative workshops.  In total there were 53 different workshops offered throughout the day in three sessions.  

The topic of the first was how to help your child with mathematics.  This is an appropriate topic because I had some difficulty with math as a child and all the way through High School.  There were some interesting insights into current Board thinking with respect to math and I think we can use what we learned to help our three kids.

The second workshop we attended focused on socializing children and how to help them to be comfortable in different social situations.  This was another appropriate workshop since our kids tend to be a bit shy and sometimes need some prompting from us to get them involved. 

We were a bit late for lunch since we decided to take a look at the offerings of the vendors and community groups displaying their wares in the main hall.  As a result, only the veggie sandwiches were left but that was fine for us.

The last presentation of the day that we sat through was how to nurture childrens’ intelligence.  The presenters gave us an overview on the current thinking of intelligence and how to help children to strengthen the areas where they are a bit weak.

Overall, I’d say the conference was a success given the number of workshops and the number of parents who considered it important enough to get up and be at the conference for 8am registration.  I was surprised by the turnout and hope that everyone got as much out of the presentations they attended as I did!


Facing the BLANK Page

Sitting here in front of the computer at 8 AM wondering what to write.  Several things come to mind and for one reason or another are discarded but I think I’ll review them right here just to clear them out….

During the March break I stayed in Guelph with my family for a night.  We stayed at a hotel on the Wednesday eve and came home on the Thursday.  Not a long vacation but time enought for us to spend some time together in a more meaningful way than we do at home.  In the comfort of our castle, we tend to be together but all doing separate things:  someone on the computer, someone watching TV in the family room, someone constructing a spaceship out of toilet paper tubes, someone harrassing the dogs, and someone else puttering around the house.  Not exactly apart but not quite together.  In Guelph, we went swimming, had snacks, walked to the Tim Hortons on the corner, and then lazed around the hotel room together.  Nice.

Our two Dalmatians are getting older now and seem less and less “there”.  Riley, the older of the two is 13 years old now and he is getting pretty creaky in the mornings.  He also is not in good control of his…movements.  I have to listen for him while I’m sleeping and as soon as I hear him get out of his bed I have to get him and his sister out of bed and outside before his…movement…surprises him and me.  His sister can hold it a bit better but she needs to get outside right away too since she is 12 and not in complete control either.  It’s sad really but in many ways they age just like we do.  Creakier in the mornings, in need of doggy diapers, Riley has cataracts (Patches eyes are clear so far), and both of them spend more and more time sleeping.  Occasionally they will perk up and act like puppies again but it doesn’t last very long and stops abruptly if Riley runs face-first into the wall.  We need to enjoy their company as much as possible now before we run out of time.

After much delay, I took my older two kids out for a bike ride a few days ago on the last nice day that we had.  Just down the street and through the park but it was nice to get out.  It was early enough in the year that riding a bike with your mouth open didn’t result in flies in your teeth.  The kids were sooooo excited to pull the bikes out of storage that they were happy to put on their helmets and ride off down the street.  EJ still is a bit small for the two-wheeler he’s riding but once he gets going he is fine.  He fell once but no damage done.  They’re probably going to be asking to go for a bike ride every weekend from now until the snow flies in the fall.  When they come running with bike helmets in hand I’ll have to keep in mind that in a few years they probably won’t want me going with them anymore. 


Bobby Kris…Now

A friend of mine has released his CD on iTunes.  It was originally produced a few years ago but he has recently been looking at reviving his music career and decided to put his CD “Now” up on iTunes.  You can find it here Bobby Kris “Now”.  In case you’ve not heard of Bobby Kris, he was the frontman for Bobby Kris and the Imperials in the early ’60’s.  They released a successful cover of “Walk on By” which was originally penned by Burt Bacharach/Hal David and turned into a hit by Dionne Warwick.  The Imperials covered the song in 1965 and it charted well for them.

The band split when some of the members joined Bruce Cockburn’s Flying Circus in 1967.  Bobby went on to become a teacher in Toronto and now owns an organic and natural food store that delivers to customers around the GTA.  The store is called The Clean Food Connection and customers are welcome to visit any of the three locations or place orders through the website. 

Now by Bobby Kris is a rhythm and blues based disc featuring a new cover of Walk on By as well as a couple of songs written by Bobby Kris.  The disc was produced by Sam Reid, keyboardist for Glass Tiger.   Keep an eye open for new releases from Bobby Kris.


The Hotel California

I pulled out my vinyl copy of the Eagle’s classic “Hotel California” yesterday and treated myself to one of my favorite albums.  Released in late 1976, this album was a critical and commercial success spawning two hit singles, “New Kid in Town”, and “Hotel California.”  One of my personal favorite songs on the album is “The Last Resort” which makes a statement about how we are treating the Earth and is as relevant or perhaps more relevant now than it was when it was written.  “Life in the Fastlane” is on this album and also makes it onto my list of favorites. 

Joe Walsh make his first vinyl appearance as an Eagle and his personality and distinctive guitar are a welcome addition.  The Eagles have always been one of my favorite bands and this album is one that I turn to most frequently although my copies of Desperado and The Long Run are also well worn.  I regret that I have never seen the Eagles in concert.  Their Farewell Tour I Live from Melbourne DVD is fantastic though and I almost (but not quite) feel like I’ve seen them live…


Food Inc., Food Matters, and The Future of Food

These are the titles of three movies my wife and I have watched over the past few weeks all centered around food.  Food Inc is a documentary about farming and how the nature of food in North America has moved from an agriculture and farming focus to a factory and food creation focus with less accent on the agriculture and more on the production.  Generating higher yields quicker and cheaper in search of the almighty buck.  But at what cost?

Food Matters is a film based on the idea that we are what we eat.  If we eat highly processed chemical laden foods those chemicals become part of our  genetic makeup and can affect our health.  The film doesn’t claim to find miracle cures or sure bets to avoid disease but what it does say is that the nature and type of foods that we eat does matter.

The Future of Food is a film that looks closely at Genetically Modified Foods and how prevalent they actually are in many of the things that we eat and use every day.  Once GMO’s get out into nature, it is virtually impossible to stop or control them.  A truck driving down the road with GMO wheat, corn, or soy lets some seeds blow off and onto a farmers field.  That GMO seed germinates and grows.  Now that field is no longer GMO free and in an odd twist, the farmer is sometimes held responsible for the fact that GMO seed is growing on his land even if he did not plant it and does not want it there.

I can only touch the surface of these three documentaries in this space but I highly recommend all three.  If they don’t change your views on the food that you and your family are eating I hope that they are at least “food for thought!”


As I near the nine-month mark

of being laid off, I have been busier than I would have ever thought possible.  It seems that the things I’ve put off for the last 15 years are all getting done now.  Of course, having three young kids also means that the taxi service is constantly required as well as the referee, chef, litigator, judge, jury, teacher, psychologist, speech therapist, doctor (well, advil and tylenol dispenser anyway), librarian, book reader, and best of all, friend.

In between that I’ve been taking courses trying to embark on a new career while somehow managing to find the money to pay the bills.  I’ve just completed course two of five with course three scheduled to start in January.  Just need to find a market for my writing now!

Kids are off school for two weeks and I have mixed emotions about that!  Having them away for a few hours each day gave Lily and I a chance to catch our breath but now with them home all the time it seems that the storm named KristenEliJordan is always blowing through our house throwing books, clothes, and toys all over the place.  We go from room to room cleaning up after them while they mess up the rooms behind us…..

It’s all good though, they are growing up in front of my eyes and I know that someday I’ll back fondly on this time while my mind conveniently forgets all the stuff that drives me crazy now.


Lane Merges Left – 100 ft

Some time ago, I was driving in the left lane of a two-lane road headed home after work (so obviously, this was quite awhile ago).  Moving at about 80 KM/hour, I was already thinking about the things I wanted to do when I got home when I noticed that the car next to me in the right lane was a little more than a car length behind me and the right lane was merging left in about 100 ft.  Naturally, I expected the guy (yes it was a man, not the crazy lady from the car insurance commercial!) to just change lanes in behind me since we were both going about the same speed.

Imagine my surprise when ding-dong decides to speed up and try to get in front of me.  Well, by this time there was not enough time or space for him to get in front of me but he tried anyway.  I maintained my speed, neither speeding up or slowing down and, obviously, he ended up braking hard and merging behind me when his lane ended.  So what do you think this person did?  He blows his horn at me as if I was supposed to put my brakes on and let him pass and merge in front of me.  I just put my hand up and waved politely which I’m sure made him blow a gasket but at that point I didn’t care what he thought.

What kind of an ignoramus thinks that I should have slammed my brakes on to let his royal a** in front of me?  He’s the kind of person who will squeeze past an elderly person to get through the door first and then let’s it slam closed behind him.  Or the type who squeezes into the Express lane with 30 items in his cart and gives everyone around him dirty looks as if it’s his right to be there.

I’ll admit that, yes, it’s been probably two years since this incident but every once in awhile I remember it, smile to myself,  and wonder how badly it hurt his ego to have to brake hard and slide his car BEHIND mine…..

Oh well, have a Merry Christmas buddy, wherever you are….