Archive for January, 2016

Day 21 of 100 Happy Days – Extend your table…


Day 21-100Day 21 of 100

I have a comfortable life. I love, and I am loved. I am safe. I have a job, and a place to sleep. I can keep warm when it is cold, and I can eat when I am hungry. I can travel to places to which many, many people can only dream of visiting. I entertain myself when I am bored. I walk only because I want to, not because I have to. I could have more, but I don’t need it.

And as I look around, there are those who do not have what I have. Maybe they started with a disadvantage. Maybe they have had bad luck.  Maybe they are not loved as I am. Maybe they have troubles and challenges that I could never ever imagine

Happily, many of them are not alone. Some have caring, generous people who are trying very hard to give them a helping hand, to provide assistance – be it time, or money, or skill, or food, or shelter.  But many of these helping people are sadly overstretched, woefully under-resourced and simply wondering how to keep the doors open one more day.

Big charities make big money with their big campaigns and big reach. I know, I have given to the big ones through workplace deductions and cash donations. I have even given some of them my time.

But small, unknown charities limp along painfully, wondering where those that they care for are going to find help tomorrow, if things do not improve.

They say charity begins at home. And maybe it does…community kitchens in the temple, alms to the church, dropping a few coins in the hat, shovelling the neighbour’s driveway. You do it when you are young. Maybe  you continue all your life.

Or maybe you stop. Maybe you are wrapped up in taking care of your family and working hard to make ends meet. Maybe you look inward instead outward. Maybe it is hard to provide for others because you can barely take care of yourself.

Or maybe  you never do it. Maybe you are too busy collecting things…too busy building walls to protect what you have so no one can take it away from you. Too busy wanting more.  Maybe you do not feel the need to help others.  It happens.

But, we all have a chance to become part of something bigger than we are.

One day you realize that if many of you can band together, each giving up just a little bit of their bounty – the cost of good meal, a tank of gas, a month’s worth of lattés – that you can give a lot. At least enough to make a huge difference to those that have nothing.

$100 from 100 men.

And so, it was with a happy heart that I took part in my first meeting with 100 Men YEG.  It is a simple concept that gives the small charities a huge boost. We are like-minded, big-hearted people who want to share a bit of their plenty with others.

We are men, and women, who want to extend their tables rather than build walls around it.

100 Men YEG…it is the Power of 100.  ( 100MENYEG.COM )



Day 20 of 100 Happy Days – Good times…


“Letting the hair down” with old and new…

Day 20 of 100

So, it was just a short few days ago that I mentioned it was hard to unlock the social code since retiring a couple of months ago. Well, this weekend we came a step closer to learning a combination that could let us through at least one one door, if not all the doors. And again, like so many times in my life before, a true, blue friend – one I have known since we weer just puppy Officer Cadets – came through. And funnily enough, he had a number of friends over to celebrate Australia Day a few days early.

True, blue, friends are special. There are no pretensions, no defences, no shields – what you see is what you get.  And as I recounted earlier, while my career has created wide, shallow roots, I have had the distinct pleasure of making some lifelong friends.  Many I do not see for long stretches, because of the vagaries of distance. Canada is a large country.

The opportunities to be with these gems of gentlemen seem to pop up just when I need it – a five-year reunion at my alma mater in Kingston, an unplanned dinner in Victoria while on course, or an unexpected business overnight in Ottawa. All it takes is a few emails or phone calls and there are good times to be had.  Because the network is wide, there are chances for more “chance” meetings with more good people – like a couple of adventurous days in Yellowknife, or other places that I would not normally think to visit…with the prospect of great food, good drink, happy company, and epic stories about common experiences.

Back to this weekend…it was a great evening. In some ways, it was just what we needed…the chances to hit it off with friends of great friends. The chances of having a few things in common are pretty good. It is funny how a multitude of different beginnings, with their twisted and turning roads can converge in one spot. How people who went to different schools, in different cities and countries, who worked in different fields, at different times, can share so much in common.

It was a great night, with great people. And as we celebrated the land down under, we met old and new alike. Jokes told, laughs shared offer a potential of more to come.

Here’s to old mates who “have your six”.  Thanks for the happy time and the belly laughs.



Day 19 of 100 Happy Days – Spice for the Ears…

Day 19-100

The King of the Groaners…a little bit of Sosatie for the ears!

Day 19 of 100 Happy Days

We are gifted with several senses…smell, sight, taste, touch, sound. If you are fortunate, you have all five; but the human body is extraordinary and adapts, and some people have super senses to compensate for a weakness in another.

Much like my post on smelling the roses, there are probably similar sayings for the other senses. Visual feasts, sound smorgasbord, the sweet smell of victory, the gentle touch of a loved one…all provide a picture of what potential your senses can achieve.

Life offers a lot of variety…and we can treat our senses to an array of spectacular experiences.  But often we get stuck in a rut.

We could be experiencing the curiosity of exotic cooking…serrano peppers, saffron, tangines, wine infused cassoulets, vindaloos, wursts, suchi….so much more than meat and potatoes and gravy (don’t get me wrong, these three have their own place in the culinary repertoire- and sometimes it is just what  you want!).

We could be experiencing the perplexity of modern art, or the bewilderment and astonishment of performance art. Maybe they are not your cup of tea, but you come away feeling something – even if it is a “WTF?” moment.

We could really pay attention to what we are touching…I mean actually pay attention and determine what it is that pleases or displeases us. Similarly, we can take in all the smells – some are offensive and need to be avoided, but some are so wonderful…a medley of smells that evoke some emotion. I can still remember the smell of Noxzema cream; it reminds me of my first few years in Canada. Sometimes I can catch the faint remnants of my wife’s perfume, on clothes, on the pillow, on a towel…and it smells wonderful and reminds me of how lucky I am.

So it is with music. I do listen to everything…but I have my favourites – my meat and potatoes stuff. Most of it is anglo-american and involves electric guitars and classic lyrics – Zeppelin, The Who, GNR, Pearl Jam, Floyd, The Stones, The Boss, blah blah blah.  Yet, while there are so many great bands and artists that I listen to, sometimes it just feels like the same old, same old.  It is the same aural menu of meat and potatoes and gravy, over and over.

And then, this Christmas I tapped into one of those music channels available with my cable package…World Music…and oh, my goodness it was like tasting bruschetta, or bourgignon, kimchi, or tandoori for the first time. I am experiencing fusions, and artists, and styles, and instruments I have never heard before.  I am listening to artists from Africa, the Maghreb, South America, the Balkans, Asia…artists I had no clue even existed: Adelaide’s Shaolin Afronauts, South Africa’s “King of the Groaners” –  Intombi Emnyama himself, Tanzania’s Vijana Jazz Band, The Poly Versal Souls from Berlin.

And though I may not understand the lyrics, I get the vibe…just like I may not know how to make butter chicken, but I enjoy the taste. (Well, actually I do know how to make butter chicken…bad analogy, but you get my drift. How ’bout Peking duck? I do not know how to make that…)

The variety, the texture,the feel, the sound  is intriguing and exciting. Music, something I love deeply, has spiced up a bit.  And how can you not be happy with that!





Day 18 of 100 Happy Days – Cozy Socks…

Day 18-100

Old, wooly, winter warfare socks, my cozy trackies, heat from the fireplace, and pablum on the TV…makes a tired guy happy….

Day 18 of 100 Happy Days

Days are busy. Early morning workouts, followed by commuting, then meetings, emails, briefings, questions, presentations, interviews….

And sometimes evenings are full; if you are lucky, it is with your best mate with dinner and laugh as you look into each other’s eyes lovingly, or a fun filled evening and drinks with friends.

Regardless of what it is and even if it is challenging and invigorating, entertaining and enjoyable, it takes energy and effort. To maintain that happy face, the telephone voice, the “I can do it” attitude, and to look like you have it all together can be exhausting some days.  Even in the best of jobs with the best of colleagues, some days and weeks can be draining.

And once home, you can put down the shields. You can take off the tie, slip off the shoes, and relax. Sometimes it is about crawling into a pair of sweat pants and cozy socks, and hunkering down on the couch to watch TV.  There is no pressure, no expectations, no demands…the mind can go into neutral, and recharge.

And the TV can be banal and clichéd and trivial…sometimes the mind needs the cerebral equivalent of junk food. It allows for defragmentation… it soothes…it relaxes… it lulls. The mind takes a nap while you don’t.

It is hard to be “on” all the time. Coming home, putting up the feet, and just doing nothing is sometimes just what is needed.  Sometime the thought of coming home and unwinding, kicking back, and loosening is something to look forward to and can make for a happy end to a busy day.

Enjoy your cozy socks and sweat pants watching Netflix, or slippers and pyjamas in front of the hockey game, or your tatty bathrobe and the evening’s shows…whatever makes you happy!



Day 17 of 100 Happy Days – Smell the Roses…

Day 17-100

The simple majesty of frosted trees creating the archway for an early, early, brisk morning walk with my silent canine friend. Appreciated solitude to mentally rehearse the day’s activities.

Day 17 of 100 Happy Days

The hustle and bustle of those you love creates a feeling of happiness, fulfillment and joy as you take stock of the beautiful things in your life.  Their love, laughter, jibes, noise and silliness fill your heart and your soul with wonder and enjoyment.  Time with others is beautiful.


Sometimes the deafening silence of solitude is what your heart, mind and soul need. It is time to reflect, to unwind the complex knot of thoughts in your mind – whether they are positive or negative – to just enjoy your own being.

Time with books, with vinyl, with my guitar or piano or harmonica, is lovely.

But it is the time that I am alone…running, walking, having a cup of tea while staring out the window…when the simple beauty of what is outside the house makes me realize that there is something extraordinary within my grasp to take in and enjoy.

I suppose it is why we are told to stop and smell the roses.

Solitude, and nature. The hoarfrost on the trees, the wonderful buds of spring time, the dapple of sunlight on a thousand shades of green, the brilliant oranges and yellows and reds of chlorophyll starved leaves – all  are part of the cycle of life and majestic in their simplicity.

Hypnotized deer, rabbit footprints in the snow, birds in flight, fish in the water, the frantic transit of a scared chipmunk across your path, a noisy creek frog on a rock, a brave cricket holding his ground…seemingly irrelevant and inconsequential in the parade of humankind’s history and future, but still happenings that make an ordinary person’s day something special.

We can make our way through our day with our head down, moving from point to point to execute our tasks or chores or obligations as rapidly as we can; or we can move about with heads up, taking 30 seconds or 5 minutes  or a whole afternoon to enjoy what is around us. Choosing the latter reminds you that there is more to this world than your troubles, and makes your challenges so much more bearable.

All around you, so much to see, and so much to enjoy. Happy, happy.







Day 16 of 100 Happy Days – The fruits of our labour…

Day 16-100

Orange you glad I didn’t say banana?….

Day 16 of 100 Happy Days

I take my lunch to work everyday. It varies…sometimes it is a sandwich, sometimes leftovers, sometimes it is a something grilled on some greens. Tuna, beef, chicken, pork…all of them have been in there in some way.

But regardless of the midday, brown bag, main course, there just has to be a piece of fruit, or two. Fruit  makes the lunch whole, and signals that it is over!

Today, there are so many different types of fruit…citrus, melons, berries, whatever you call the banana family, the apple and pear gang, the fruit with pits like peaches and plums, and cherries and grapes,  and then the whole bunch of exotics– pineapples and passion fruit, persimmons, lychees (or is that a nut), papaya, guavas and so on and so on. (I won’t include tomato in this list…though technically it belongs here. I just have never had a tomato with whipped cream….)

If you have not tried them all, and sampled the cornucopia of other fruit that is available, do you know what you are missing?

As a kid with braces, fruit was became our candy as gum, gummmies, and toffees were not on the “allowed list”. Of course there was the occasional sweet – usually plain milk chocolate –  but my parents were smart. They knew fruit could scratch many itches: it was special, we loved it, and it prevented scurvy!

The real treat was on a weekend afternoon when we used to share a massive fruit plate – usually after the Sunday 10km walk through Toronto’s valley parks (my Dad’s favourite hobby, since fresh air was cheap). Mom would peel and core the apples, wash the cherries, slice the bananas, quarter the oranges, add the grapes. And If it was on sale, we would get the treat of a fresh mango or two, watermelon, or a  whole peeled, cored pineapple – you know the kind that came in the large clear plastic tubs.

And if the fruit was expensive, or out of season, the fallback was tinned fruit – a British delicacy!  I remember the joy, just short of squeals,  that a tin of fruit would elicit – probably more than fresh fruit. I think it was because the sweet syrup was manna from heaven by itself, let alone when Mom jacked it up by adding some evaporated milk to it.  The peaches and pears in the fruit cocktail was great – except for those washed out cherry halves that looked like discarded shrunken clown noses and those grape halves that looked at you like some kind of aged eyeball. .

We are incredibly lucky that we can enjoy fruit even if it has to be trucked in from southern climes. I have to remind myself that for many it is an unaffordable luxury.  Sometimes I forget that.

That is why I am happy that everyday can include a little bit of nature’s bounty.

Eat your fruit!



Day 15 of 100 Happy Days – Bored? I’m game…

Day 15-100

Pennsylvania, B&O, Reading, Short Line Railroad or the Mexican Cardinal Train?….

Day 15 of 100 Happy Days

I really enjoy board games and card games. We used to play board games a lot when I was a kid. My mother and father loved them and it was a family thing to do. I remember lying on the living room floor, we did not have a table big enough,  and playing all sorts of games with my brother and sister and my parents.

Charades, Snakes and Ladders, Checkers, Chess, Parcheesi, Yahtzee were the kind of games we mastered when we were younger. And as we got older, we moved to Sorry, Dominoes, Risk, Monopoly, Operation, Scrabble, Life, Mouse Trap, Jenga, Yahtzee, Trivial Pursuit, Master Mind, Clue, Charades….the list goes on and on.

It was fun to play, even if my Dad invented the most annoying song in the world, which he sang after each of his victories…”Loser the packer! Loser the packer!…” The words ringing in your ears as you collected the pieces and placed them in the box.  I am sure he helped, but I don’t recall it!

It was serious business back then. Winning and losing was important. I suppose it still is, but now it is just as fun to play.

For a brief period, the video game ruled. I still enjoy the infrequent jaunt on the game console…even if I am rubbish at it. But that is not a very social event, even if I am getting my butt kicked on line.  But the board game, or family game, is a whole different experience.

As opposed to a gang passively watching someone punch on a game controller, many are  involved in the same game at the same time.

Today the games can move into the ribald and risque, but the spirit is still the same. Balderdash, Pictionary, Cranium…and the game that shall not be spoken aloud – Cards Against Humanity!

No matter the game, it is always full of laughter, excitement, and fun…the jibes, the jokes, the taunts.  They are interactive and so engaging. Hours can while away as you spend time with those you care about trying hard to be a good sport!

This Christmas was a board game renaissance. It was great to reconnect with family over the kitche table, enjoying the spirit and the spirits. Good times!

This afternoon in the warmth of the kitchen, my lovely bride and I whiled away an hour or two playing Mexican Train – in which game she seems to have a lucky horseshoe!  In a few days it may be Scrabble, or Pick Up Sticks, or Yahtzee. And so we will continue with the games and enjoy being together, keeping our minds and hearts active.

I am even happy when I am losing…which is a lot of the time!



Day 14 of 100 Happy Days – Have a Hug, Old Man Winter.

Day 14-100

Day 14 of 100 Happy Days

It was -21*C in Edmonton yesterday. That was the air temperature. With the wind, it felt like -30*C.  That’s cold. That’s 10 minutes before exposed skin freezes. It was only 10*C colder on Mars…

I often wonder why Canada is populated.  Why didn’t the first settlers just say, “Damn it’s cold. Let’s move South”? Who knows, but they didn’t.  Instead they hunkered down in their sod huts, their layers of fur and toughed it out.

We sort of do a 21st century version of that, too. It is funny the coping mechanisms we use. Having lived all across Canada, I have heard all the catch phrases.

At least it is not -40*C for the 14th day in a row like on the Prairies,” they say in Eastern Canada.

At least were not getting hit by another blizzard like in the Atlantic Canada,” they say in Central Canada.

It’s a a dry cold!” they say in the West.”At least you can dress for it.”

Oh my, shut down the City…we got  1 cm of snow last night!”, they say in BC.

We use many strategies to deal with the cold. There are two extremes: to hunker down in your Snuggie, jam on the Netflix, and hibernate for a few months, or to kit up with super high tech materials and equipment and embrace the cold. I’d say that equal amounts of both are the best way to get through the dark, cold, Canadian winter.

There is some perverse satisfaction in having faced Old Man Winter, having stared him down – asking him to throw all he has at you – and coming out on top.

“Is that all you got, Jackie Frost?”

And as you warm up in the comfort of your house with the fireplace working overtime, the furnace humming efficiently, watching Netflix as the warm winter sun comes through the window, the fact that you took the cold on like a true Canadian creates that tiny aura of contentedness and happiness that comes with facing a little adversity.

Bring it on, Winter; I can handle it – I am a happy Canadian.



Day 13 of 100 Happy Days – In Vino Veritas

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.” ― Ernest Hemingway

“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”
― Ernest Hemingway

Day 13 of 100 Happy Days

Had the good fortune to be invited out for drinks tonight. Well, a few glasses of wine actually.

Wine. Vino. Wein. Vin. Vinum.

I am not sure when I developed a taste for wine. I drank it when I was of age, but I did not have a schmick about what I was drinking. I remember buying Rothschild’s Mouton Cadet when I was younger…I was a cadet at the Royal Military College and my rank was on the wine label! How bad could it be?

I suppose I developed a taste when serving in Germany during the tail end of the Cold War; I drank fine German wines like Reislings and Weissburgunders (Pinot Noire), Gewurtz Traminers, late harvest and ice wines and made my foray into the Old World French wine…Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Cremants. There were so many and they all tasted wonderful.

At some point in your life, you move from shooters and hard hitting spirits, and become a wine person. It’s no longer about getting hammered, drinking as much as you can or as fast as you can. It is more about enjoying, about socializing, about sipping and tasting, about pairing…meats, fruits, cheeses, nuts, chocolate.  Maybe it comes with age…

Now it is all about heavy reds…Merlots, Cabernet Sauvignons,  Prioriats and Malbecs.

Wine can shift a mood…turn bad into good, turn good into great; it is consumed by the glass, by the bottle, or occasionally, by the bottles.

And while it should be consumed in moderation, occasionally we take Oscar Wilde’s advice, “Everything in moderation, including moderation”. El vino did flow…in a David Brent kind of way!

There have been many painful mornings, and many declarations of “never again”. But the sweet bacchanalian temptation always brings us back for a glass of red, white, rose, sparkling, fortified, late harvest, or ice…and happy times.



Day 12 of 100 Happy Days -Old friends who pop in

Day 12-100

Great friends. like Lou, always bring a smile.

Day 12 of 100 Happy Days

Our transition to life after the military has been pretty smooth…in fact I think we have landed on our feet given that my departure was fairly quick due to a medical release after the heart surgery.

We are well settled and enjoying life, but….

One thing we have not been able to do is crack the social code on the outside. Though I have friends here in Edmonton and area, it has been ten years since I served here and the friendships, though still intact, are not as tight as when I was with the Regiment and the Brigade. A decade creates a lot of new opportunities, a lot of new demands, a lot of new experiences.

In my military career, each new posting unearthed a new series of friends…new relationships were started or old ones rekindled. There were meet and greets, and bbqs and Happy Hours and Mess Functions to meet new people or to be introduced to new people.

That is not so much the case in my new operating environment. Sure, people are friendly enough, but the dinner parties, the spontaneous kitchen parties, the afternoon beer sessions, haven’t materialized yet. Maybe they will over time, but there not here as of yet.

So when a great friend says they are popping into town from Ottawa for a night, and makes time to come for dinner, it is a special occasion. Even if it is not the knock’em down, drag’em out kind of night because we are older and there is a long drive to the airport hotel before a morning flight, it is still great to chat, to laugh,to hug.

Good friends make for good times; great friends make for great times.

Here in Alberta, the doors are always open.