Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Family Blessings

Looking outside as I type this, the snow is falling and the mercury has begun to plummet into double digits. This time of year I always find myself being a little conflicted.

The summer is my favourite season. The mosquitoes and bugs kinda suck but I'll take the warmth, golfing and time spent sharing campfires under the stars with Lee and the family all year round if I could. Something so simple brings me so much happiness. For this reason I despise winter because I don't like the cold, being stuck inside for months and the sun is rarely seen.

For as much as I can't stand the arrival of winter, I also appreciate that it brings the end of the year and a perfect opportunity to reflect on what has happened over the last 12 months and to appreciate the people in my life.

I am so blessed on several points. I have a loving, funny, beautiful and intelligent girlfriend who; despite my quirks and weird behaviour; embraces my faults and brings so much happiness into my life every day.

Her two beautiful daughters and their husbands have welcomed me into their lives from day one and I appreciate them very much. The year has been stressful at times but our support and love for each other grows every day. I love you Lee.

My parents are still alive, which in my father's case is a miracle. Over three years ago, in June 2014, dad was diagnosed with with Stage 4 Renal Cell Carcinoma. Cancer had formed in his only remaining kidney and had moved beyond it. The prognosis was not good and the Oncologist told us that Christmas 2014 would be his last.

My dad is my hero and I've never known a stronger, sweeter, more hard working or caring man. But he also showed me just how much of a fighter he is as well. The road hasn't been easy for him but he's still fighting hard and if all goes well he'll celebrate his 80th birthday in June.

Mom has faced her own battles as well, including surgery to have a defibrillator / pacemaker placed in her chest. The woman never stops going.
At 76 she still caters for the Lioness Club, canvasses for the Cancer Society and prevents dad from becoming a permanent part of the furniture by keeping him active. I don't say it enough but I love you mom and dad.

The year brought some fun moments along the way including a visit from my brother Scott, sister-in-law Erin and the kids who traveled from Florida to spend a couple of weeks here in the summer. We had so much fun and made some amazing memories.

Lee's daughter Addison got married to Conrad in October in Collingwood and we were so happy to be a part of their special day. Now we await the arrival of a baby girl due later this month. Lee's oldest daughter Jessyca and her husband Matt were here a few weeks ago and we all celebrated little Dax's first birthday.

I truly believe that family is always the most important thing in our lives and I have been blessed to have oodles of family moments this year. Life may throw you some curve-balls and challenges along the way but family is always the glue and support system you can count on.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

One Bullet For Him

The following is a true story and sad story told to me of a long time friend of mine. The names of been changed to protect their privacy.

Growing up, every summer beginning as a newborn, my parents would pack up the car and we’d be off camping at Presqu’ile Provincial Park. These vacations were a highlight and to this day hold some of my favourite memories as a child.

While camping there we met and became friends with a family from Pennsylvania, the Anderson's, and our vacations would be planned so we would be there at the same time. They had several children who were older than me but I would spend a lot of time hanging out with them from the time I was 10 until I was in my teens. To this day some of them still come up to camp although their parents have long since passed on.

They convinced a friend of theirs to make the trip north in the late 70’s. His name is Bubba. Well, that’s what he went by. If anyone spoke his real name he didn’t appreciate it much. Bubba had such a good time that trip that he too decided to visit us every summer as well.

One year, Bubba brought his girlfriend Noreen up with him and they decided to get married while they were here.

We all helped to organize a little reception for them at the campsite after they returned from the Justice of the Peace. It was such a happy occasion surrounded by their friends and they’re still together to this day.

Time passed and Bubba and Noreen would always make the trip across the border to celebrate their anniversary at their favourite camping spot and I always made a point to visit them for a beer and maybe some card playing.

This continued up until about five years ago when we stopped seeing them and heard nothing from them. We knew Bubba had retired but as far as we were concerned all was okay, they just weren’t able to get away for some reason. Sadly, even in this day and age we didn’t even have an email address to contact them.

Fast forward to this fall when one of the Anderson boys showed up at the park again for some Fall camping. He gave us the scoop on what had happened to Bubba and why we hadn’t seen them in years.

Bubba enjoyed hunting. One day he grabbed his gun and ammo and decided to trek into the wilderness of Pennsylvania by himself. He’d done this before and he always went well off the beaten path where he’d never see another human, only wildlife.

This excursion began like so many before but eventually took an unforeseen and scary turn. It was during this trip that Bubba became ill.

He started to feel odd and eventually collapsed on the spot. I can’t even imagine the panic that must have been going through his mind. He was unable to stand or walk. He lost all use of his legs and any chance to get out of a hopeless situation. It was quite likely that where he sat was where he’d die.

Things were bleak to say the least. Bubba’s only hope was to fire off his gun and hope that someone would hear it and find him. The chances of him being found in time or that anyone would hear the gunshots or cries for help were bleak and he knew this. He loaded and discharged his weapon repeatedly most of the afternoon with no luck. As his ammo was getting low, he made the horrible choice to save one bullet for himself. If it came down to freezing to death or being lost forever in the hills of Pennsylvania, he decided that he’d rather end his life on his own terms.

It was looking more and more like his only remaining option would be to use that final bullet. The sun was setting, the temperature was dropping and not surprisingly he hadn’t seen or heard anyone the entire day. All of a sudden as if God had heard his prayers, someone emerged out of the bush right where he had collapsed. This was unheard of. In all the years hunting this area, Bubba had never encountered a single soul. But to his amazement, standing before him was his saviour.

Immediately the call went out to rescue him. Search and Rescue were scrambled and located him deep in the forest propped up against a rock and unable to move. Bubba was placed on a helicopter and air lifted to a hospital where it was eventually determined he'd had a serious stroke.

To this day, I'm told, he has been unable to regain the use of his legs and remains paralyzed from the waist down. His life is changed forever but he has his life thanks to a bullet he never used and miracle he never expected.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Remembrance Day Myth

Halloween has come and gone and with it went my diet and craving for chocolate. I think I might have set a new record for most tiny Aero bars eaten in the time it took to hand out candy to the trick or treaters visiting the house.

No sooner does All Hallows' Eve pass and the annual controversy surrounding Remembrance Day and Christmas resurfaces with a passion and anger no other holiday can achieve.

I'm not sure what fueled this debate but I can guess that the world of retail sales likely had a lot to do with it.
How dare these stores start pumping Christmas carols out of their speakers before November 11th and the day we honour our veterans of past conflicts and wars. Why is this even controversial?

Is there some rule or bylaw that states celebrating the holiday season can't begin until we've officially recognized the sacrifices made by our brave men and women in uniform? Am I disrespecting their memory by listening to Jingle Bells on November 8th?

I consider myself lucky to have spent my entire life living in a military city. I have known many people who have served in dangerous places as peace keepers and in areas of brutal conflict. My uncle served in World War 2 and I knew a couple of men who landed on Juno Beach in Normandy on D-Day and survived. One man hit the beach and had friends on either side of him shot and killed as they moved forward.

These men I knew have since passed away but I asked one of them several years ago about this very subject. While he didn't like to talk about the war too much, he did feel strongly that he fought to preserve our freedom and way of life. Freedom means being able to celebrate whatever you want whenever you want and he had no issue or complaint with people celebrating Christmas prior to Remembrance Day.
He only asked that for that minute at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month you think about the sacrifices he and his fellow soldiers gave so that we may live as we do today.

I don't think that's too much to ask which is why I always try to attend the service at the cenotaph on November 11th or at the very least stop and silently remember them. I know for a fact that if I'm listening to Christmas music on the way to the service he'd be completely fine with that and that's good enough for me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Give Up Drivng

I think it's fair to say that the majority of people who drive their chosen mode of transportation will tell you they're a good driver. I'm here to tell you that that is complete crap for a vast majority of them!

While I feel I am an excellent driver overall, there are times when I do falter in this department. I've been guilty of driving too close or speeding, although I don’t drive nearly as fast now as I did in my younger years. I rarely speed within city limits by more than 5 km/h and on the highway when its smooth sailing I might be 15 to 20 km/h over. Judging by the number of vehicles that pass me like I'm standing still, that doesn't seem so bad. 

My biggest annoyance on the roads today is how so many drivers feel their destination is more important to arrive at than anyone else's.

This need to be first usually results in people running red lights, excessive speeding, dangerous lane changes and the general disregard of most common sense and safety concerns.

Racing to beat the traffic lights is so common in my town that instead of policing this problem and nabbing these scofflaws, the city has added delays to the most accident prone intersections. These morons now know that when they go through a red light, the delay of four seconds before the light turns green the other way means they can break the law safely. I can see the added safety by instituting these delays but this does nothing to deter this illegal practice which has reached epidemic proportions.

A few years ago I was stopped at a red light and once it turned green I slowly proceeded through the intersection only to have a woman fly through the red and sheer off the front of my new car. Had I been faster to move forward she could have T-boned me and left me seriously injured. As it was it took over $10-thousand to fix my car. Sadly, a year later a tire came off the front of a truck approaching me and demolished the front of my car again. That also cost $10-thousand to repair but luckily the tire didn't bound through the windshield and kill me. 

Speeding within the city limits is out of hand as well. Nobody likes to get where they're going more than I do but getting there in one piece and safely is most important. I'd like to say I've slowed down as I've matured but the truth is I see aggressive drivers of all ages today. To be honest however, these speed demons seem to be more often of the female persuasion and of all ages. This isn't sexist, it's a fact. I've had women agree with me on this. The majority of male speeders seem to be younger in age.

The stats speak for themselves and between speed and distracted driving these are the most likely causes of accidents today. In a province where using a hands free device is the law, I'm shocked by the number of people I see every day with phones to their ears or texting while driving.

Before the law changed and the fines became so severe, I would be one of these people and I know from my own experience that this was a dangerous practice. Once the laws against distracted driving came to be, I went 100% hands free and it was the best decision I ever made. And with the new operating system on my iPhone, I don’t get any notifications while I'm driving so I'm not even tempted to look at texts or alerts. In today's vehicles with Bluetooth a standard feature, there's no excuse to break the law.

Some days I dread leaving the house because I know I'm going to have several near misses or witness numerous illegal and dangerous examples of driving and it frustrates me beyond belief. One thing it allows me to do however is use my horn more and curse a blue streak at these menaces to society.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Enjoy Life and Smile

I posted a blog earlier today and after some reflection and some wise and loving words from my girlfriend, I realized the post wasn’t really me . Okay, it was me who wrote the words but they didn’t truly reflect my feelings and my life right now. I was, for lack of a better term, a real asshole. And if there’s one thing I’ve prided myself on, it’s being a good person and respecting everyone who shows me the same love and respect in return. So I deleted the blog.

I think most of us reach a point in our lives where we can reflect on things and appreciate the good and block out the negativity. It comes with age and wisdom.

As kids, we would let peer pressure seep in and rule our feelings and actions and then one day you wake up and you no longer allow others to dictate who you’re going to be. You can choose to hate the world and everyone around you and isolate yourself. Or you can embrace life, appreciate the people who touch your lives daily and choose to love the people who truly mean the world to you.

Bitterness can be an evil thing if you allow it to take over your life. Lord knows we’ve all had things happen through our lives where we could have allowed it to blacken our hearts or force you to put up walls. I feel sorry for those people who shut themselves off and are afraid to love and be loved. Or maybe they spend life being alone. I guess it could be possible for these people to be truly happy when they’re alone and miserable but that just seems horrible to me.

I’ve known disappointment, anger, pain, sadness and pretty much all of the good and bad feelings a lifetime can bring and yet I choose to remain optimistic, cheerful, friendly and loving because I know that it’s all a part of this short life we have.

Whether you live 100 years or something significantly less, it’s important to not waste the time you have.

Appreciate the people you have in your life and those you have met along the way. Life can bring you bad times but how you react to those obstacles and move ahead determines how you’ll move forward.

I see people walking around looking straight ahead, afraid to make eye contact, not willing to share a friendly greeting, smile or so much as a nod hello and I feel sorry for them. I suppose that’s their right but it just feels like an awful waste. When I’m out and about I may be having a bad day but I still manage to give a smile, wave or hello with those I meet.

I think it’s important to surround yourself with people who annoy you, challenge you, inspire you, appreciate you and most of all care about you. I try to do that every day.

Thank you Lee for reminding me what’s most important. I have a loving girlfriend, a family that has supported me throughout my life and will be there whenever I need them. And while I don’t have many close friends, I have a throng of supporting and caring people who are always willing to accept me for who I am and share in my life. I appreciate all of you who have touched my life and shaped me, even in some small way.

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