I am in the midst of a slump. I have written very little over the last handful of months, and people are beginning to notice. Unfortunately, my lack of motivation stems from boredom of sorts. This space had devolved into a weekly diary, and while that type of content can be fun, it can also become monotonous. I have still had the same free time every week to produce content, but I have chosen to do things such as obessess about my fantasy baseball teams, read a book, or even do extra chores at work. The last few weeks of activity have involved me thinking about writing quite frequently, and even half finishing a post on a couple of occasions. I have come up with a gimmick that may help me post more regularly while at the same time making me look at tad bi-polar. Each paragraph will start with one of two words, either up or down. Then I will either rant or rave about a topic, but will devote no more than a singular paragraph to each. Why up or down? See the title.
UP: Two weeks ago today our little family returned from our modest summer vacation. We spent 3 nights at Valentine Lake in the southern Cariboo. From all accounts everyone enjoyed our little getaway. We met up with Sheila's Aunt Sherry and Uncle Terry and it was great to get to spend some time with them. It was a rare chance to spend time together as our regular visits are short and rushed around the holidays. The lake was secluded, only a few other people were there. The lake was quiet, no outboard motors, no highway traffic near by. The weather cooperated, lots of wind, but only a few minutes of rain one afternoon. The fishing, thanks to Uncle Terry's knowledge, help and gear, was great! Jasmine caught her first fish, and her second, and third, and fourth. Many more were on the line only to get away as she fought valiantly. Sheila caught the biggest one, a 4 pound trout. Asher helped me reel one in, though surprisingly, he didn't find the fish flopping into the boat nearly as excited as I thought he would. When I asked him what his favorite parts of the camping trip were he told me: "Hiding under blankets!" A game we play regularly at home, we stuff ourselves under any blankets and pillows were can find and pretend that there are guys coming to get us. Asher makes it seem pretty authentic. If a crack opens up in the blankets he shouts: "Close upa windows, Daddy!" The other thing he mentioned was just "sleeping in the tent." We spent a night curled up, him soundly asleep as the wind whipped the tent wildly. I was convinced that only our bodyweight kept the tent from flying off into the woods. We had a lot of fun on the Thursday of the trip when all 6 of us piled into Uncle Terry's pickup truck and went exploring. He had been told about a lake nearby that had seen 12 pound trout pulled from it. After galavanting down a number of different dirt roads, we bogged our way to the shore of the lake. It didn't look like much, but it was enough to convince Terry that it would have to be tried on a subsequent trip. We continued our exploration, and Jasmine was happy when we found Whale Lake. A beautiful setting, hills, forests, and most of all, quiet. We got some very nice photos, and Jasmine and I took the plunge into the cool clean water. Jasmine dove off the end of the dock a number of times, hollering each time. On our way home the next day we stopped in for a dip and some breakfast at Lac La Hache, making it 3 different lakes that I had swam in over 2 days. We parted in Quesnel where Auntie and Uncle live with some goodbye hugs and plenty of appreciation for the wonderful hospitality.
UP: Jasmine makes me proud regularly, but her willingness to embrace my spendthrift ways had me beaming on a few occasions recently. We made a trip to our favourite thrift store recently, "St. Vincent de Paul's" and made out like bandits. The kid's clothing selection is usually pretty thin, but we found a few things. Jasmine "hates" jeans, but she was willing to try a pair on. We found a hoodie and a long-sleeve t-shirt that fit nicely. Dad agreed to buy a framed unicorn print that Jasmine got even more excited about when she found out it was from 1979. "That's sooooo old Dad!" I grabbed a stack of 6 novels, and Jasmine found a couple as well including Goosebumps that I read 20 years ago. 8 books, 1 picture, 1 pair of jeans, 1 hoodie, 1 long sleeve t-shirt. Out the door for 8 dollars and 50 cents! Turns out there was a sale on the clothes and they were even cheaper than they had been tagged. I always leave my change at St. Vincent's as they are a charity, and one that gives endlessly. They are always giving away clothes to those in need, and while I was there a man came in looking to buy steel toed boots for a job he was starting the next day. Readying to pay, he stared in disbelief when the lady said, "Now don't you worry about that" gesturing for him to put his money away. The next week we found ourselves at the mall. We found the Sears kids department, then I quickly noticed the clearance racks were an additional 40% off. Jasmine got 10 or 11 pieces of clothing for 65 bucks and not once did she mention all the other racks in the store. When she picked out her fox hoodie at a different store later, I pointed out that all the money we had saved at the other store meant that I could afford to pay full price for this one. No, this wasn't a brand name Fox Racing hoodie that would have cost 60 bucks. Jasmine has no interest in logos and brands. This was a fox hoodie, red and white with whiskers and paws screenprinted on. She ended up picking it over the zebra one because the ears were just sooooooooo cute. A typical female love of shopping mixed with the cheapness of a typical man? Wonderful, just wonderful.
DOWN: I have many faults as a parent, and the biggest one is patience. I feel like Jasmine is at a critical age where she is beginning to figure out that she has ways of "fighting back" against her parents. For the most part she is a great girl, but we have been dealing with some new things this summer. She can often be deceptive, and will even tell bold faced lies to Mom and Pop, willing to deal with the consequences later when her falsehoods are uncovered. I will admit, I don't know what the best approach is, as I tend to be overly strict. I want Jasmine to be a well mannered girl who adults aren't disgusted by. When I see teenage girls I shudder to think that my own daughter may act like that before long. The catch-22 part of it all is that being a hard ass will just drive her to rebel further. I should probably do some research about this subject, though I doubt that will help, it will likely make me even more puzzled.
UP: After years of driving some disgusting cars and trucks that have left me embarassed on many occasions I bit the bullet and strolled into the dealership. Within hours I walked out to my new car. A 2013 Hyundai Elantra. Shiny and black with plenty of features it looks awesome. It's a 4 door sedan, with plenty of room for Jasmine and Asher and Sheila to ride with me. Nice stereo, air conditioning, heated seats for the winter, no complaints whatsoever. It feels weird not to have people staring at my ride as I pull up somewhere. It has a reasonably small engine with great fuel economy so it will be ideal for roadtrips as a family. Nearing a month since I purchased, I am happy I finally removed what was an ongoing point of stress for me, and replaced it with another one.
DOWN: After years of driving junkers, I went ahead and bought new. I got a great deal on the financing as there was a sale going on and my credit rating is immaculate. The dealership had no problem offering me a long term payment plan. Sheila and the kids headed off to Quesnel in the car right away to spend the weekend visiting. I spent the weekend at work, and all the while I was second guessing my decision. I barely slept for a few days. Should I have taken longer to decide? I feel like I had been shopping for years. Every time I grabbed the wheel in a deathtrap Ford Explorer I was in a way, shopping. Could I have dithered over the decision for weeks? Yes, but I believe I would have had doubts afterwards regardless of how long I had shopped. Some positives came out of the whole stressing over the new vehicle payments.
UP: The new responsibility of paying for my car led me to take steps towards gaining more hours at work. I spoke to Asher's daycare lady about extra days, and she agreed. I asked my manager at work about my availability and told him I would be willing to add shifts. I took a look at my budget and cut a couple of corners though there wasn't much there to cut. Another thing the new car got me to do was take a long look at my poker game. A significant source of income had dried up, and I was struggling to explain it. I could find an answer though, couldn't I?
UP: Poker income is a difficult beast. There are not to many sources of income that come with no guarantee at all. Even scarier, poker could cost you money instead. I spent the first 7 months of this year playing less often, and winning less often. I played hockey during the winter months. I coached Jasmine's basketball and then soccer for the winter and spring months. I joined a soccer team of my own for the first time in a few years. I have been devoting more time to exercise and working out then I ever have before. My free time was pretty well booked up. The inactivity of poker drove me crazy. I don't like to sit and not move for long periods of time. If I am going to expect to make some money playing the game though, I need to treat it with more respect. I can't just stroll into the casino whenever I feel like and sit down and make money. The opponents are better than that. It dawned on me that poker had to get a little bit more of my attention. Not all of it, no. I need a balance in my life. But, I need to make a few bucks each month so I can have some spending money. My pay checks are pretty tied up making payments on obligations. I re-read some of Dan Harrington's first volume on cash games. I played some small stakes games on the computer, focusing on the play rather than just going through the motions. As a positive coincidence, August was the third month of the quarterly freeroll cycle at the poker room as well. If I managed to play a significant number of hours in August I may be able to qualify for both the monthly and the larger quarterly freeroll tournaments. Both provide great opportunities to make some extra cash without having to pony up any money. Just play lots, and you are in. I made more than $3000 in 2012 playing these free tournaments, but I have yet to play any of them this year. I haven't played enough, and usually I have coaching and work commitments on Saturdays that get in the way. I already had booked off the first 2 Saturdays of September for other reasons, so I would be able to play. Get to work I told myself. My renaissance has started well. I have put in lots of time over the past 3 weeks and I have seen some decent results. More importantly, I feel like I playing great. I will likely play less in September after exhausting myself this month. I'll update here with the outcome of the tournaments.
UP: Sports gambling has been pretty lucrative for me this past year. Last winter I won a NFL survivor pool for a couple hundred. Last spring I got second in a hockey pool for a profit of $400. I subsequently won the playoff hockey pool to make another $400. This summer, I have 3 baseball teams on the go, and as the season winds down, all three team have a chance to be profitable. I have been investing a decent amount of time, so hopefully my efforts pay off. In one pool the playoffs start next week, another the week after that. The third pool is points based so it just runs until seasons end. I am currently 4th of 13 in that one, with 3 teams getting paid. I have already committed any winnings from baseball to playing the hockey pool again, and I am jumping into a different football pool that will draft next week. Ah, fantasy sports the only thing better is real sports.
DOWN: Speaking of real sports, they have slowed down considerably for me lately. About a month ago I jumped for a header on the soccer pitch and come down on my ankle. With a nasty turn of the joint, I threw the rest of my season for a whirl. I limped off, but as our team has been decimated by injuries, I was right back out there 10 minutes later. Over the next couple of days I swelled up to a baseball sized ankle. I haven't had a significant sports injury since I tore my groin in grade 12. So, each game I taped up and went ahead and played. I went to hockey once, and my ankle didn't bother me. So, early last week I played soccer, beginning an 8 day span where I had 5 games of hockey and soccer scheduled. At some point in the second half my hamstring went. We had no extra players and we were hanging on to a 2-1 lead at the time. I continued to play. I made it worse. Just today I started to notice significant improvement. It has been 9 days. I missed my other 2 soccer games, and my last 2 summer hockey games. I hope I can play our soccer playoffs that start next week.
UP: I had an awesome outing with the kids earlier this week. In order we: visited the horses at the agriplex, we browsed at the hockey store, we visited all the animals at Total Pet, we went for a swim at 4 Seasons Pool, we got a treat from the german bakery and ate it in sun downtown, and we went for a walk an stopped at a handful of stores. Asher fell asleep on the drive home.
UP: Sheila and I watched the movie "Mud" last week. It stars Matthew McConnaughey, but the really great performances were from a couple of teenage boys, one of whom was making his acting debut. Great job by the director finding a couple of kids who worked so well. Do yourselves a favour and go see it.
UP: Sheila and I have gotten back on board with "Breaking Bad". Excellent start to the season through the first 3 episodes. Also, AMC has a new show called "Low Winter Sun" airing right after Cranston and company. It started with an authentic, intense scene, and I have enjoyed it immensely through the first 3 episodes. I'm also pleased that "Duck Dynasty" is back for another season. Sheila has her "Big Brother", you can call this one my guilty pleasure.
UP: Finally, I have found a few new music gems. I can't stop playing the album "Howlin'" from the Aussie electronica group Jagwar Ma. The other day, I may have found my favourite album of 2013 so far. A cross between bluegrass, folk, americana and soul, Aoife O'Donovan's "Fossils" is breathtaking. It should appeal to a wide variety of people, it's mellow but uplifting at the same time.
That's my time. Remind me to return mext week.