Posts from the ‘No topic’ Category

Day 11 of 100 Happy Days – Mightier than the Sword.

Day 11-100 (2)


Day 11 of 100 Happy Days

For those that know me, I am an avid writer. Yes, I write blogs, but that is not what I mean. What I mean is that I take my penmanship quite seriously.

It started early.  I was always a neat writer. I remember being a fastidious printer and I can remember the effort I put into my cursive writing. You remember cursive…the handwriting of the teacher.  The square little cards above the blackboard that showed how to make the perfect I or Q. From pencil and eraser, we graduated to pencil only – and a ruler to strike out our errors.

And then we were given our pens…classic 29 cent bics, that eventually ended with chewed caps and those little plastic bits on the end that if you crushed just right with your teeth, would suction onto the end of your tongue.

I can remember all the pens that I went through…the quadruple bic pen with the red and green and blue and black ink. The roller ball, the gel pen, the Cross, the Parker. And then I moved to the fountain pen…first it was the Schaeffer with the disposable ink cartridges.

With the fountain pen I had finally found the writing implement that I would favour for the majority of my adult life.  I experimented with many versions – thin nibs, calligraphy nibs, thick nibs.  I love the feel of a fountain pen and the smooth, elegant script that it would produce. I ignored the constant ink stains on my fingers and the occasional Rorschach ink blot on the page.  It added to the charm.

In 1992, the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck entered my life. And if a pen can define a man, this was it. That pen was my constant companion – save when I went on manoeuvres in the field. The heft of the pen was comforting and the strong, ornate nib etched a unique, bold, line that changed my writing style from functional to characteristic.

Those that know me know my handwriting. The ink, the signature, the way I make my letters, were an extension of my personality. People knew my notes.

I have owned that pen for over 23 years. I have used this fountain pen tens of thousands of times, and refilled it from black, burgundy, blue, royal blue, peacock blue, and green ink wells thousands more.  It has taken a few hard knocks, but nothing a few dollars and the skill of the Mont Blanc artisan could not replace. Every two years it goes into the “shop” for a tune up and a detailing, and comes back crisp and clean and ready for more yeoman service.

If you can care for an inanimate object, I would say that I do indeed care for that pen.

As we move to a more and more digital society, we become more dependent on laser jets and scans.  You can make your mark in thousands and thousands of computer fonts. And the letters, and certificates, and posters look marvellous.

But a handwritten note, on thick bond letter paper, in an envelope sealed with a wax cipher shows a level of attention that you cannot replicate with bits and bytes. This pen, and the notes and letters and cards that I write with it, are extensions of me. A carefully crafted, handwritten, personal note will bring a happy smile to anyone, which means that I can bring a smile to anyone. And that makes me pretty happy!



Day 9/100 Happy Days -K’I play, too?

Day 9-100

Day 9/100 Happy Days

Twice a day, I walk the dog. We usually take a leisurely loop around the wetlands behind the house. In the summer we enjoy the scenery, the cattails and the trees, and try very hard to avoid the goose and duck poo.

During these walks early in the summer, I looked at the water and thought to myself, “I betcha that would make a superb ice rink in the winter.”  And I looked forward to seeing rinks pops up when the weather got cold.

Imagine my disappointment in October when the county officials put up signs warning that the any ice would be unsupervised and potentially unsafe. “Danger, danger!”, the signs screamed at all within eye-shot. I could not believe that in Canada, in the heart of the West, there would be warnings to keep kids off natural ice.  It just seemed un-Canadian.

And once the snow started falling and the thermometer dipped well below freezing for several consecutive nights, I noticed that the Canadian spirit could not be quashed. Forget that our boys bowed out early in this year’s World Juniors, there was ice to be freed of its snowy coat.

The rinks started appearing as if some jaunty ice leprechaun was dropping pond rink seeds in some sort of wintery magic. Several nice rectangular patches of marsh ice, cleared of snow the old fashioned way – by shovel and broom – bloomed spontaneously. And no sooner than they appeared that they were decorated by beautiful  4 foot by 6 foot rectangles that signalled, “Game on!”.  Canada’s passion, like, early life, found a way to appear from nothing.

These natural rinks are things of beauty.

Forget backyard rinks, this is the way old time hockey was played…on ponds.  Sadly, I have not been out on the ice yet…a strange, grown man invading a shinny rink teeming with kids is just odd – especially if none of those kids are his!  Part of me just wants to go out there and ask, “Hey, k’I play…I got a net?…”

The ice beckons me, offering me to partake in a little bit of Canadiana. Until I can get out there, the little kid in me is itching for a go.   Just the thought of being out there reminds me of my youth and happy times.



Day 8/100 Happy Days – Who are you wearing tonight?

Day 8 Meme

Day 8/100 Happy Days

It’s Awards Show Season!

The Golden Globes are on tonight. I like the Globes…it is the junior league of award shows. Serious, but not too serious; slightly less pretentious, and definitely funny – intentionally or not.  It is the warm up act for The Oscars, and gets us all primed for the narcissim to follow!

I do not really follow the whole celebrity thing and I do not really care who wins what film or TV show except that the Awards are usually a good indicator of what movies I should shell out the $13.00 at the theatre over the next few weeks.

But it does appeal to the voyeur in me – the one who wants to see the train wreck.

You know what I mean.

I want to know what will create the buzz for tomorrow. I want to know what special interest group is going to be most offended…by either the MC’s jokes, the presenters’ weird-ass attempts at livening up the dullest category of awards, some stray word uttered in the heat of the moment without malice, or whomever was scorned in the nominations.

I have to admit that I enjoy the awkwardness of the award shows. Firstly, the immense pressure that the MC is under.  The best ones are the irreverent ones – I do enjoy Ricky Gervais as he is both fearless and tactless…a great mix to ensure hilarity.  However, so many other moments can make you cringe.


The great teleprompter moments…it is boggling how can actors who spend their whole careers adding feeling and emotions to scripts, can be so bad at reading the prompts.

I love the way the cameras pan on all the nominees, and relish the moment when we get to see in real time (plus seven seconds, of course) the poker faces and painful smiles of congratulations on the face of the those who did not win. I am waiting for the day when one of the losers breaks out in tears, like an U-21 athlete who has been knocked out of the World Finals. It’ll happen someday!

I love the winner’s or tribal leader’s  hunt for that scrap of paper, the one with notes in six font; their frantic search all their pockets for a pair of glasses,  as they start to thank everyone and anyone for their victory. I love how they start out deliberately and carefully, and then gradually pick up speed like a Klezmer band as the time wears on and the Award Show Orchestra plays louder and louder – an aural “shut the f*** up” and get off the stage.

Finally there are unscripted moments…the faux pas, the stumbles, the shock.

It is theatre and it is entertainment. I love how such a self-congratulatory event becomes bigger than itself…it makes my every day seem so much saner.



Day 7/100 Happy Days – Carnivorous Rex

Day 7-100 Meat Periodic Table

Day 7/100 Happy Days

It was my sister’s birthday yesterday and we went out for a family dinner. It was a celebration. It required meat.

Today is Saturday.  Have to make dinner for the gang. It requires meat.

Need to eat tomorrow. Better reach into the freezer and thaw some meat!

I am a carnivore. I love meat: beef, lamb, goat, poultry, game, fish. I like it grilled, barbecued, roasted, spitted, smoked, crock-potted, pan fried, seared, stewed, poached or simmered.

I am not sure where I developed the taste…maybe it is making up for my childhood, when meat was scarce and the occasional weekend treat. Maybe it is because I love the taste.

I know. I have read the ethical debates, the moral stances, the environmental concerns that swirl around the meat/vegan debate. I know there is a dark side to producing meat on an industrial scale.

I also know about the health side of the debate. I have been educated on fats, and cholesterol and cooking methods.

In the interest of expanding our horizons, and maybe our lives, we have now instituted meatless Mondays. There are some great alternatives to meat – some great dishes that are tasty involving vegetables and legumes and pulses.

But they are not meat.

Before you try to convince me otherwise or tell me how evil I am, I understand your viewpoint. And I get it.  I still love meat and will continue eating it – with relish. (Pun sorted of intended…). To me, a day without appeasing my carnivorousness is like a day with sunshine. A lovely steak, or stew, or soup, or roast just makes me happy.

Yum, yum – where’s my hasenpfeffer, rabbit?!



Day 6/100 Happy Days – Camellia sinensis, or A Cuppa (if you prefer)

Day 6-100 Happy Days

Day 6/100 Happy Days

Major General Urquhart: Hancock. I’ve got lunatics laughing at me from the woods. My original plan has been scuppered now that the jeeps haven’t arrived. My communications are completely broken down. Do you really believe any of that can be helped by a cup of tea?

Corporal Hancock: Couldn’t hurt, sir.

Operation MARKET GARDEN in  A Bridge Too Far (1977)

‘Ow ’bout a cuppa Rosie Lee? A Builder’s? Or do you prefer exotic and dangerous like Lapsang Souchong or maybe Oolongs. Maybe a respectable, venerable Earl Grey….or maybe just some comforting and soothing Chai  – milk and sugar.

I grew up on tea. It was the staple hot beverage in our house. Nice strong traditional Indian tea, black or pekoe, was brewed with a heady mixture of  cardamom, cinnamon, cloves – a special ingredient my Mom called “chai masala”.  Loaded with milk and sugar, it still is beyond compare!

The cups of tea would start first thing in the morning, usually delivered by Mom while we were still in bed, just shaking the sleep from our eyes. It was the best tasting laxative that a child could ever ask for, and was the homeopathic solution to constipation and all sundry affliction related to it – headaches and grumpiness being the two most common.

That was the Pavlovian conditioning. Tea equals love and comfort and care. It has been that ever since.

Now I know that some people are coffee people – and I have to admit that I can be bi-caffeinal. Mostly at work. Coffee has its own unique merits, but comfort is not one of them. Coffee is a no-nonsense hot beverage.

Coffee signals business, business, business…wake up, stay awake, stay alert…it is the pick-me-up needed during long meetings or conferences. It fights boredom. It is the trophy of our constant drive-thru hunts. The extra large we rush in and out of as we dash from place to place and commitment to commitment. It is the human fuel of the long distance road trip. It is the drink of commerce, all frothy and tarted-up, flavoured with syrups and creams and covered in chocolate sprinkles or powdered cinnamon. It is dolled up to disguise its taste – mocha or pumpkin or brulée. It is the adrenaline that jacks us up and gets us all fuelled to take on the world.

It is not tea.

Tea is the yin to coffee’s yang.  Tea means that you are taking the time – the time to boil the kettle, the time to steep the tea as the lovely herb is brought back to life from its dehydrated stasis, the time to sit and open a newspaper, a magazine, or a good book and expand your horizons. It gently encourages you to sit and reflect. To pull up a chair and have a chin wag. It evokes images of family and friends and steaming cups of fragrance, fortified with lashings of sugar and milk.  It doesn’t necessarily solve the world’s problems, but it makes life so mellow that you actually don’t care about them!

After a particular demanding round of home DIY, after a hectic period of errands, after an evening meal, nothing hits the spot like ambrosia under the tea cozy…

Add a cookie – or biscuit, if you prefer – and it’s heaven.

Put the kettle on then, eh? Oh, Happy Day!



Day 5/100 Happy Days – Baby Faces


shaving 2

Day 5/100 Happy Days

Twice a year, you can always recognize the serving Army guys. They are the ones sporting the hockey playoff beards, the mutton chops, the goatees and other facial hair during the summer and most definitely over the Christmas break.  I am not sure if it is some sort of low-level mutiny, a full-scale rebellion, or just a desire to take a break from the daily ritual of dragging a piece of steel across their faces.

Facial hair – you either love it or hate it.

And if 1 December is an indication, I am guessing the majority are not fans. I have never seen such looks of relief on so many partner’s faces as when the Movemberites shaves of the 30 days of growth.

Since I was a young lad,  I have been gifted with the werewolf look (except on top of my head). I had to start shaving at a young age, secretly at first.  My father warned me that my silky, but ugly, adolescent boy-beard would gradually morph into unsightly, coarse stubble. This transition was the gateway to manhood.

I remember watching my Dad using his Noxzema shaving cream, a cracked plastic measuring cup, and a double edged safety razor to complete this daily ritual, seven days a week. It was so manly.

I know this does not make sense to many of you. Maybe you do not have a beard; maybe you have a beard but you can shave with Kleenex. Maybe you put milk on your face and let the cat lick off your beard. If that is your fortune, you probably don’t get it.

But to many of us, shaving has just become one of those grooming things we have to do – like putting on deodorant or flossing our teeth. What a shame!

It is a unique rite of manhood!

As a 20th century man, I moved through a multitude of razors to achieve a closer and closer shave: first the disposable safety razors by Bic et al; then through the chain of cartridge razors – first the Mach series, and then Fusion series, and now I am wooed by the Pro-Glide FlexBall!.Oh, the money I have spent!

I have even tried the electric razor – but that experiment did not last long.

And I won’t even delve into the different types of creams – gels or foams, menthol or tropical breeze, tube or can  – or the pre-shave exfoliants, the post- shave balms, other razor burn soothers and the sometimes required step It is boggling.

Alongside the razors, the cream, and the various other products, I have adopted many different strategies to maintain the Army grooming standard. I am trying hard to forget the dry shave that many a man has tried while rouging it in the deep of winter – when warming up cold water and stripping off the shirt is just too manly to attempt.

I have tried hot shaving cream, hot towels, evening shaves, and shaving in the shower. For pure ease and convenience, plus the added benefit of spending time under soothing massaging jets, shaving in the shower is the winner – if you can find the right mirror that doesn’t fog and stays put!

I have always loved to grow outlandish facial hair when I could. To grow be Lemmy, the Fu-Manchu,  the Boer War Chops, or the Breaking Bad  has been fun – even if my wife and friends think I’m a nut!

After this Movember, I splurged for a relaxing straight razor shavette to smooth my bald pate and baby-faced cheeks. If you have not pampered yourself by fully reclining in an old fashioned barber’s chair, by having your face lovingly swaddled in almost too hot wet towels, by allowing liberal applications of facial pre-shave creams and hot mugs of foamy lather, by experiencing a slow, deliberate with-the-grain and against-the-grain straight shave, and ending with an invigorating facial massage – you are just not living to your potential!

It is the male equivalent of the pedicure and toe nail polish.  Expensive, yes – but I would argue, a periodic necessity!

During my time in the Army, I saw shaving as a necessity – something that had to be done, sometimes twice a day.  And even though I still can pull off the two minute panic shave to get myself to work on time, I believe that taking the time to pamper your face is important.

Occasionally you just need slow it down and to reconnect with males from yore. You need to wet the shaving brush, vigorously work up a lather in a shaving cream mug, carefully and liberally paint your face lovingly with warm , and slowly, deliberately and shave those whiskers off your face as you enjoy the unique sound of one thins steel blade dispensing with the whiskers in the traditional way .

In these hectic times, a slow, cautious, deliberate shave is a meditative experience that kindles thoughts of a simpler time! Something all we men deserve to be happy, happy!



Day 4/100 Happy Days – Ibuprofen and Hot Tubs

Day 4-100 Happy Days

Day 4/100 Happy Days

As many of you know, I have been ridden hard and put away wet oh so many times. Lengthy athletic & military careers and officers’ messes have taken their Knievelesque toll on my frame.  Multiple knee surgeries, bilateral tibia-fibula fractures, repeated broken noses and fingers, dislocated shoulders, cellulitis, and finally, a triple bypass, have resulted in many doses of Cepacol (inside army joke – sorry) and more than a few ice baths.

Many a specialist has told time and time again that maybe it was time to pack it in. But I couldn’t; I did not know how. Ever since high school I have lived by the credo that there are only have two speeds, “all out, or broken”.

Funnily enough, as I watched my son play rugby, I have realized that those words are the repeated mantra of youth and invincibility. I can remember when a whisper of tough skin spray and another layer of athletic tape could get all my teammates, and me, through the last few rugby games of the season, skating another shift on the ice, or setting up a few spikes with swollen. misshapen and sprained fingers.

Moe than one medic told 20-something Pal that perhaps it would be better to sit out the rest of the season – otherwise I would regret it when I was 45.  “Forty-five?  Who gives a sh*t about 45? Hell, that is over 20 years away, I might not even make it!  Tape me up doc there are still games left in this season!”

Foolhardy? Sure – when looking back at it as a 51 year-old. But would I take those moments back? Maybe…maybe not.

Many of those moments defined me… scoring the only three points in a lopsided rugby loss to West Point (though we hurt Navy a few months later), playing goal in several CF Regional Soccer Tournaments, numerous Army League hockey and broom-ball seasons with the soldiers of the Regiment, several half marathons and a full marathon where I was my only competition..

And maybe I should have taken it easy, because I tell you, I do hurt sometimes. But seriously, would that have been me?

Doubtful. I love sports too much!

I will continue to live vicariously watching amateur and professional athlete.  And as I seriously consider giving up hockey and rugby and soccer – save one last Ex-Cadet Rugby Game in 2017 to celebrate my 30th year since graduation , I will likely move to others that will provide the same thrill, but take less of a toll on me…whenever I figure out what those are!

Until then, I will continue to carry on in the tradition that many of us know well- the satisfaction and moral high ground of a solid cardio and strength workout, followed by a round of ibuprofen, and a comforting hot tub – like today! Despite the aches and pains, that keeps me happy…



Day 3/100 Happy Days – Music and Guitars



Day 3/100 Happy Days – Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World!

Each generation grows up with a fondness for a certain type of music.  I  would describe myself as a small “h” head banger, big “c” Classic Rock freak (and by classic rock, I mean pre-1990s, though I do like the Seattle Grunge of Pearl Jam and SoundGarden).

Ever since the early days of listening to 1050 CHUM in Toronto and of using my cassette deck to capture the annual “best 1000 songs of all time” from the radio, to the hours spent listening to my brother’s extensive vinyl collection, music has been important to me. The Who, AC-DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Rush and countless others that will take too long to name, appealed to my thoughts of rebellion and “coolness”.  Their memorable riffs, shocking lyrics (well for that time anyway, as they really have nothing on today’s “pop” music lyrics) were a great counter-weight to the expectations and pressures of maintaining the requisite Honour Roll Status.  While my parents dreamed of my futre including medicine, or law, or finance, I always dreamed of getting on the stage and cutting a mean axe solo à la Peter Frampton!

But it never happened. My only school age foray into music was the double bass – a lot cooler now than it was back then – and that was simply to play school-sanctioned classical selections with the other violinists.  It was not very Bon Scott.

Instead my outlet was the myriad of concerts that came through Toronto and catching a lot of the bands I loved, live at Maple Leaf Gardens, Ontario Place, or Exhibition Place.   It was not a bad outlet at all.

I remember my ex-wife giving me my first acoustic guitar on our fifth anniversary. I used the traditional “Learn How to Play Guitar in 10 days” manuals, but soon got tired of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” and other lame offerings. So it went away.

It wasn’t until six years later that I took a serious swipe at figuring out the six string. And I have never looked back. Now while I am no expert guitarist, I do like banging away on my guitars and learning new things – classic rock and the blues are very forgiving! To my ear, it is just right – can’t speak for the others in the house.

Over time, I have expanded my musical taste – pretty much everything but acid country and hard core rap are on my playlists. Music and playing the guitar are my meditation, my diversion, and one of my passions. Both take an ordinary day and make it special. Music transports me to happy places; playing songs that I like in the way I want to hear them creates a different kind of contentment – one that you cannot get from a video game, a TV show, or a movie.  I am addicted.

I could not imagine a day without music, and I cannot go a long time without playing my guitar. And while it may not make those around me “happy|, it definitely makes me happy! Now all I have to do is find a gang to jam with…and figure out the keyboards!

The Anatomy of an Accident

My Little Blue VW has seen its end...

My Little Blue VW has seen its end…

I lost my car today.  At this moment that is all that makes me sad. The rest of me is happy. Seems ridiculous, that l would feel that way – most people wouldn’t if they had just lost their car!

And at the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I have to say, it makes sense when the other possible outcomes are losing more than your car.  I could have been damaged permanently, or even dead. But again, something was on my side. I am alive – bruised, banged up, sore, stiff – but mobile and functioning. Not a bad result, really, but my supply of cat lives is dwindling.

The chain of events that led to the accident are strange…a series of decisions and actions that could have altered the outcome in many ways. And when you throw in the other person’s decisions too, so many ways this could have been so different

Concept image of a signpost with Decision Right or Wrong against a blue cloudy sky

Choose Wisely, I say….

.Last night was a topsy-turvy night…and when the alarm went off at 5am, there was decision point. We all have it. Stay cozy, toasty, and warm in bed, stealing another 60 minutes of sleepy-time, or get up and get to the gym to exorcise the demons of happy living. I chose the latter, and up I rose, still grumbling as sleep slowly ebbed from my body. By the time I was out the door, there were no more misgivings – the morning started with the promise of moral superiority over my slothliness – a well-paced morning workout with all my early morning friends of Sherwood Park.

And covered in the satisfying dew of a middle-aged workout, I headed off home. The dog awaited her morning walk in the wetlands behind the house, an invigorating shower was in store, and there was kefir and cereal to be eaten, a lunch to be packed, and an action-packed day of business planning and strategic thinking to keep me engaged.

And as I drove home, I looked at other cars and their drivers, wondering why they were on the road at 6.30am – what awaited them today?

As I approached the fateful intersection, I saw the green light and continued on my merry way. A mere few blocks from my home, it was clear sailing. And then I saw the other vehicle; I observed, and noticed he was hoping to turn left across my lanes.  I do not know what he was thinking, I do not know what he saw; I only know what he decided and what he did.

A fine example of Newton's First Law...same feeling as a car accident in the end.

A fine example of Newton’s First Law…same feeling as a car accident in the end.

It was as if I was cloaked like a Romulan bird of prey. As I crossed into the intersection, expecting the customary yielding of right of way to oncoming traffic, our worlds converged and Newton’s First law kicked in:

Every VW Golf in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external “big-ass Alberta lump of steel on wheels” is applied to it.

Decisions and actions....Newton's First Law

Decisions and actions….Newton’s First Law

And for that instance, time slowed. I saw it but I could not do anything about it. I could not stomp on the brake hard enough, I could not will him out of the way, I could not engage the Delorean’s flux capacitor, and I could not hit rewind.

I know He could not hear me yelling, “What the f*ck?” or else why would He have crossed the imaginary yellow line. And funnily enough, I couldn’t hear myself either. I have no idea if I cursed out loud or blasphemed silently, or even if I only screamed obscenities in my mind.  I could not see him, he was too high and I was too low and too close. Like a frigate stuck under the deck of an aircraft carrier, I knew nothing could be done. I saw his headlights and his grill coming at me, assessed my speed and my lack of braking and I knew that it would hurt.

And it did.

I have felt that bone jarring thud before…about 25 years ago when I fell from a great distance and fractured my legs. This one was less painful, but still as jolting. I heard the plastic crushing, the steel bending, the glass breaking simultaneously in one sonic symphony of distress. It was so fast, but yet so slow. I don’t remember the airbags deploying, but I smelled them deploying…

And then it was over.

For a millisecond, there was incredulity. Then for another millisecond, there was anger. And for a final millisecond, there was a rationale thought… “Wow, this really going to screw up my day.”  And then for a short while rationale thought departed me.

My brain tried to deal with all its inputs.Comenius-Orbis

My eyes soaked in the micro details. Though I could barely see the other vehicle as my line of sight was obstructed by the airbags and the crumpled hood and pieces of engine sticking to and fro, I saw the cracked windshield, I saw pieces of the car’s interior strewn all over the cab, I saw the airbags floating like jelly fish or sad, old, neglected party balloons with their dimpled ends.  I saw smoke, or rather the haze of NaN3 and KNO3 filling my space, post explosion. I was barely aware of shadowy images approaching us, in urgent though hesitant strides as if uncomfortable with their new roles as good Samaritans.

My ears heard muted sounds. Overpowered by the thunderous collision, they heard sounds but did not register them. I remember that the serendipity of hearing Thunderstruck by ACDC playing on K-97, but all other sounds were strangely obscure, like Tom Hanks’s young Ranger captain experiencing deafness in the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan. Someone was asking me some kind of Don Corleone version of “Are you ok?” I couldn’t decide.

And I smelled smells. Not the pleasant, exhilarating smell of detonated nitroglycerin from years of happy and rewarding explosives work, but a nauseating, buzzing, electric smell of sensor controlled rocket booster, nitrogen gas from the air bags. I could sense the odour of hot oil and transmission fluid.

And I felt pain. Every neuron in my body was transmitting a distress signal. Some had priority access, but all were screaming about something amiss. My head was telling me about some strange obstacle it had encountered inside the car – what, where, how I do not know; but there was a goose egg on the back of my head. My neck was screaming at me not to move it quickly. My chest and ribs were protesting against the nylon tether that had left them bruised and chafed – oblivious to the fact that it had prevented them from being crushed and broken against the steering wheel.  My knees were throbbing from the body check received from the console. And a myriad of other minor pain points were obviously transmitting – fingers, ankles, elbows – but were not heard until later when the major players were acknowledged and quelled.

But most disquieting was the disorientation and incapacity. I knew I had been in a collision. I knew I was banged up.  Years of training kicked in and I did a quick physical triage, but I could not remember or process the results. Was I seriously hurt or not? I couldn’t think. I sat in the smoke and smell and chaos, and tried to collect my thoughts. I tried to make sense of the nonsensical. I tried to call my wife and I knew how to do it, I just could not do it correctly. Nimble fingers had been turned into thumbs, and a mind programmed to multi-task and assess multiple threats was turned into a Nintendo 64, as I tried to process what I needed to do.

Slowly, I started emerging from the fog, the shock. In tiny incremental bits that gained speed as I gained control of myself. As I realized that I was going to walk away from this.

And seemingly out of nowhere, my wife appeared like an apparition. She was rudely awoken by my phone call and by my words, “major accident” as

The aftermath and clean up.

The aftermath and clean up.

she awoke from her fog of sleep. Given that men are prone to understatement, those words probably awoke that primordial beast of fear that lives deep in all our bellies, as she frantically hopped into action hoping that I was not badly hurt. She arrived, teary-eyed, full of relief to see me walking around the site, trying to crack very bad jokes with the fire crew. But she knows that is how I handle stress; bad jokes and puns let her know that the real me was still functioning and struggling to break free of the Wonderland that I was trapped in.  There is no overstating the comfort of her caring, friendly voice and reassuring touch. It is something I will remember when I am called on to be a Good Samaritan. I may not know the person, or be someone they know, but I am confident that anybody’s gentle, caring words, or steady, firm hand will have an incredibly calming effect on the shaking and distressed and let them know that help is coming.  My wife was my calming balm.

And then the clean-up – amidst the anxious, frenetic jumble of suburbanites who only saw us an impediment to their day, a flash announcement on their morning radio show, an accident to avoid on the daily commute. We were an opportunity to gawk and reflect, an incident to talk about around the cooler, and a misfortune to share in the coffee room to prove just how fortunate they were on this day.

The insurance people give you a checklist. The checklist is handy when you have a fender bender and angry grimaces turn to polite smiles as you exchange information and then drive off assessing the nuisance and nauz that is involved in repairing your cracked fender or quarter panel or rear lights. But when your car is beyond all economical repair, when you can’t really remember what day it is or what just happened, the checklist is hard to sort out.

That is where you are at the mercy of the emergency responders. And they did not fail me. The fire crew who arrived quickly (their firehouse was only 500m away), and the constabulary – local and federal – collected the necessary information and took charge, as they should and as I hope I could, if I wasn’t involved.  Under their control, like Formula 1 race marshals, they arranged for the clearance of the carnage, collected information allowing me the freedom to be comforted, and reassured by my wife.

The rest is mere drudgery – another episode of shaved chest hairs and ECGs, of CT scans and IVs – all precautionary given my history and all needed to ensure that my body was still in one piece, with no internal leaks, after being hit by a truck. And as I sit here, battered but thankful, I appreciate their thoroughness. It means that all the people I love can sleep soundly knowing that I am ok. Tomorrow is a new day, full of many potential decisions and actions.

I hope I choose wisely.60117047



Not “Not-Christmas”… Humbug.


It is New Year’s Eve…the end of a chapter, and the opening of a sparkling new one full of promise.  It is funny, less than a week since Christmas Day, but still Christmas seems so long ago, and yet so far way…

I don’t know about you, but Christmas seems to take forever to get here, but then it seems to be over in a flash.  As I am me, thankfully a flash is about allnow-is-the-time-to-panic-one-shopping-day-left-till-christmas-panic-ea6ed I take to prepare for Christmas.  Unlike my lovely bride – who thinks Christmas thoughts every day, seeing gifts and stocking stuffers in every store even in the middle of July – Christmas for me does not really kick into gear until the 19th or 20th of December.  I will admit, like most, that I have several pangs of “Gee, I guess I should start shopping soon…”, but as I have always said, there is no motivator like sheer panic to get you through the shops and malls.  Anyway,  I am fond of the panicked calls from the VISA people as I leave bits of molten plastic all over the stores getting a year’s worth of presents in one afternoon.

“Yes, I did visit Hipsters’R’Us and Generic Grandparents’ Gift Shop and Ridiculously Priced Jewellers and Stupid Calendar Kiosk and the Overpowering Smelly Soaps and Fragrances Store and Gangsta Ball Caps and Hockey Jerseys Store and finally the More Electronic Gadgets than You’ll ever need in your Life Boutique (with no payments until January 2016) in the last half hour.  Thanks for checking, though”.


Christmas Shopping is not complete without adding the degree of uncertainty, the thrill of waiting for the much hoped for “Transaction Approved” signal on the handheld remote pay-thingy at the cashier.   Christmas VISA Roulette.

The Wild Geese Half SheetThis year, the physical search and destroy of shopping started late…but it was executed with surgical precision as prior to launch I developed a plan with several options and branches and sequels. Courtesy of the interweb, gifts were researched and price compared and stock checked, locations identified, and the most expeditious route that eliminated back tracking and looping was mapped. It had all the precision of the Wild Geese.  It is funny what 33 years in the Army teaches you…I think I even gave myself orders and stood to attention when I received them.  And with this preparation, in one afternoon the shopping was 90% complete – less time than it would take to wrap all the presents that I was giving.

But there is a problem with being done early…because Christmas shopping never really stops. There is always that one person on your list that would love the gifts that appear everywhere you look.

“Oooh. Wouldn’t  insert name here love that…and this! …and those!”

Meanwhile, the “hard-to-shop-for-person” – the one who you are not quite sure about –  becomes more and more of a challenge, as the stakes are raised and equilibrium challenged with each gift that you pick up for that one relative or friend who is really just like you and would love “everything”.  And yet, the merchants have found a way to help us through that too; thank goodness for the gift card, and my perennial multi-purpose favourite – the universal gift certificate – that are adept at spackling the cracks of my retail confusion and perplexity.  Very few are unhappy with the sweet flexibility of the gift card, or better yet, good ol’ money!

I am not sure if I am alone, but Christmas seems to be a period of eager anticipation and equal amounts of pressure. Somewhere, somehow, I have developed a bit of angst over the quality of my gifts.  And by quality I do not mean the cost – there are some tremendously tacky yet expensive gifts out grinch03there for purchase.  What I really mean is the “meaningful gift”, the one that – as I wrote in a Facebook post – shows you get the other person: that you have paid attention to them, have listened to their aspirations, have observed their habits, or their hobbies, or their style, and have found the gift that respects or enhances that.  That is a tough call – especially if you are going to get the whole shooting match completed in one afternoon! But really, I think that is a self-inflicted Festivus wound, for as the Grinch said, “Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”  He was, of course, referring to the gift receipt.

And after the Christmas morning bacchanalia, amidst the  gifts, and the Turtles® and the Toblerones®, and Glad® bags full of empty wrapping and ribbons and bows and tinsel, amidst the intellectual challenge of trying to remember who gave you what, or indeed remembering what it is you did get, there is that feeling of utter resignation that you will have to rearrange your rec room or kitchen or house, or your closet, or your garage to fit all the new wonderful things you received. Ahhh, first world problems!

And then after the turkey is done, the belts unbuckled, the last nog consumed and the Cracker hats put away, when the afterglow of Christmas has faded like the Ghost of Christmas Present, that signals the arrival of one of the biggest dips in the Yuletide emotional roller coaster.

You know it.

2015_WJHC_logoYep, the period between Boxing Day and the New Year’s – not Christmas exactly but funnily enough not “not-Christmas” either. This is that awkward period when we start thinking of tackling all those jobs in the “Honey-Do Jar”,  of de-jollifying the house of all the festive tchotchkes and geegogs, of getting to the gym or hitting the asphalt; but instead it is simpler and more satisfying to be hypnotised and held hostage by the sweet siren song of turkey sandwiches and turkey pot pie and turkey soup, counting down the remaining days of laziness watching TV marathons or sports or movies, or going out and hoisting a few wets with friends and loved ones. All that, and if you are Canadian, rooting during that post –Christmas tradition of watching the Annual IIHF Junior World Hockey Championships – GO CANADA!

It’s that interlude where the Holiday shine weakens and starts to wear off. The time when walking the dog at night and seeing the gaily decorated houses no longer elicits happy thoughts and kindles the warm glow of Rudolph, or Frosty or the Grinch, or wassailing or mulled wine. Instead it is the start of the post-Christmas pool to pick that one house that will leave the lights twinkling the longest – well into February, March… far too long to be logical, sensible, and practical, or may I say, warranted? I am winner this year – I waited too long to put up lights, so gladly when the sheen is gone, I have no lights to take down. WIN! [Note: I offer there is a degree of flex here; giving leeway to the Gregorian Calendar, I would say that beyond Orthodox Christmas may be long to keep up the Noel display especially if there are any multi-coloured bulbs; plain white bulbs could last a bit longer as their longevity might be explained as a trendy home decor statement, not a Christmas decoration – but that might be a Martha Stewart-inspired statement!]  

honest-new-years-eve-party-posterAnd then all of a sudden Christmas is gone, and it is New Year’s Eve . Younger me would say that New year’s Eve comes with implied tasks of mandatory frivolity and fun, that it is a contrived event that forces merriment on people – but one sad New Year’s Eve doing laundry and watching the interminable New Year Eve shows with drunken “youngsters” trying hard to get their faces on TV, inspired me to do something – anything –  to close out the year, and ring in the new one. But now on my 32nd New Year in which I can consume alcohol  – legally that is – I have come to the conclusion that I am not a purveyor of the fancy place or party that requires great effort and will end with the wholly foreseeable, totally preventable, and sadly interminable hours-long wait for the scarce taxi-cabs that are directed across the  city by smoky-throated and irate dispatchers like crazed Wham-O® Super Balls®.

I’d rather be with friends, laughing loudly, eating too much, and perhaps matching that with good drink. And that is just what I will do.

I will send out the old and bring in the new with some of the people who mean the most to me. We will reminisce on the year it has been, on the year that will come, and most of all we will enjoy being together, in what is the true spirit of the Christmas Holiday season.

And as for you, I hope that is how you will spend you New Year’s Eve – either over a casual glass of wine at home, or all dolled up in a fancy-schmancy place. I hope in 2015 that more of your days are spent with those that mean the most to you, than not.

I wish you all a safe, healthy and wonderful 2015 full of good times and good people. Enjoy.