Monday, 16 December 2013

Chapter 2: An Untitled Project

I fell back, allowing myself to be partially swallowed up by the well worn micro suede sofa I had purchased second hand the previous spring.  Another mundane day at the office had come to a close a few hours ago, and after stopping at a nearby take out joint on the way home I had eventually found my way to my current situation.  Before digging in to the plastic bag to find my dinner, I could think of nothing but the extreme exhaustion I was feeling.  Likely, the food I was about to eat would alleviate that feeling somewhat, but it wouldn't cure my condition completely.  Was it really fatigue, or was I dealing with something bigger?  I had felt like this for as long as I can remember, but how long was that really?  As I unclasped the styrofoam packaging and dug into my steamed noodle dinner with my plastic fork I realized the exhaustive feeling that I felt might indeed be something more.  The seed planted grew as I ate my dinner, I didn't have a chance to enjoy what I was eating, as focussed as I was on establishing a reason for fatigue.  The food was consumed and my conclusion was drawn.  Exhaustion wasn't the right term, as frankly I had little reason to be exhausted.  My work was not physically demanding, but it was most certainly mundane.  My routine consisted of just that, routine.  No excitement, no dynamic twists in the regular plot.  I had fallen into a dreadful malaise, and it seemed that my mind was made up, tonight was the night I was going to do something about it. 

I had thrown on my overcoat, buttoning the front as I headed down the stairs.  As I tossed the door aside and stepped out into the early evening I felt the damp air on my face.  I walked a couple of blocks east to a public parking lot.  A regular user of transit, I had no desire to own a vehicle due to the infrequency of use a potential car would get.  Instead, for the rare occasions when I found a vehicle needed or desired I took advantage of the car share program on my city of residence.  Knowing, that the ride share company usually had a couple of sedans stashed in this lot I glanced around to find the tiny smart car parked a short distance away.  I waved my card at the reader on the front dash and jumped in.  My mode of transportation hardly matched my surging thirst for adventure but it would have to do. 

As I moved through the busy streets of the downtown core, I had the small engine working towards the outskirts of town.  Knowing adventure was rarely found in the concrete jungle I wanted to get myself as far away from my comfort zone as I could fathom on a weekday evening with work looming once again in the morning.  In a car built solely for efficiency and not power and acceleration I gradually made my way out of the city and steered my way to the urban version of a nature park.  City planners had the foresight to leave this small swath of forest protected from the greedy capitalist investors who rarely were able to appreciate the beauty of naturally occurring environmental wonder.  Instead, the profiteering types would envision a large commercial project of some sort to fill the space once the forest was removed.  Tonight, I was more that glad that the forest had remained, at least trees were still there, the term forest didn't seem appropriate when the park was unable to shelter one from the urban noise of a burgeoning city. 

Parking the borrowed car in the paved lot provided, there was a few other vehicles stowed, but all in all the nature spot was quiet.  Sadly, the few nature spots in the city that had been protected were not being used regularly by most residents.  This only added fuel to the fire for those businessmen who saw a number of better uses for the forested area.  I climbed out of the car and headed towards the trail system that snaked its way through the handful of acres provided.  No need to worry about wildlife, the forest was buffeted on all sides by urban sprawl, so no animals had found the living space palatable.  I filled my lungs with polluted air, pining for the fresh air of real wilderness.  Eventually, I found my way around a circuitous trail route, returning to the parking lot a short time later.  A couple of people were milling around a car near mine, and as I walked by the turned to look.  In the dimly lit parking lot, I likely was an unwelcome sight.  Two women being approached by a lone male in dark clothing.  Not knowing, I felt an urge to holler out that I was not a menacing creep.  But, does that actually provide reassurance?  It seems a creep may yell something like that just to ease a troubled mind.  Remembering that I was on a quest to rid myself of the rut I had dug myself over the period of weeks prior I decided to address the ladies.  I had to walk right past them anyway on my way to my borrowed car.  Forming what I hoped was a welcoming smile on my face I tried the most sincere greeting I had in my repertoire: "Hullo."

Hardly known for my wit or charm, I am one who has a small circle of friends.  I struggle to make new friends, but at the same time I don't put much effort into the act.  Perhaps struggle isn't the right word.  It implies that a make an effort that is ineffective.  In reality, I hardly try.  Not afraid of rejection, just too comfortable avoiding it.  With my smile plastered to my face, I was relieved to see that the ladies had received my greeting amiably and replied with smiles of their own.  One of them stated: "A nice night for a little stroll, isn't it?" shortly after they had both said hi.  Thirsting for human contact, I could do little more than guess at the appearance of both women.  We chatted somewhat generically about the weather and the evening before it was suggested I join them for their walk.  Accepting the invitation, we headed off as a group to a trail different than the one I had tried.  As we found our way through a variety of topics: work, leisure, where we were from and more I had one thought straggling at the back of my mind.  Rut, you have been effectively squashed.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Chapter 1: An Untitled Project

     A slow drizzle fell from the grey, dreary sky as it does on many mornings here in my hometown.  I step off the stoop of my apartment building, buttoning my jacket as I normally would.  There is little alteration in the weather pattern particularly in the fall months as the temperature remains steady throughout day.  Precipitation is either falling, about to fall or has just fallen in this city and one tries their best to get used to it.  I begin my commute to work by briskly walking two blocks to the nearest bus stop where a tired old bench sits awaiting my arrival.  A cigarette is placed between my lips and I cup my hand around it, attempting to ease the process of lighting it.  On the third attempt the lighter flares up and ignition occurs.  Breathing deeply the tobacco smoke enters my lungs, a habit I have had for many years despite all of its negative connotations.  One takes a certain comfort in the routine happenings of a typical morning and I am no different.  From the hot shower, to the cup of coffee, to the hurried bowl of cereal I consume knowing that nothing is out of the ordinary provides a reassurance that the day ahead of me is navigable.  The bench is certainly looking tired when I arrive, but the presence of a young lady who's looks appeal to me provides a life to the bus stop that it doesn't usually have.  I slow to a stop a few feet from the bench and stamp out my cigarette under the heel of my worn dress shoes.  A nervous smile is flashed at the woman sitting on the bench but no smile is returned.  She is well protected by her oversized sunglasses, which are completely unnecessary on such a grey gloomy day.

     No longer do people have to punch the clock when they begin their work day.  The act of physically punching the clock is not such a long ago action, I was indeed punching a time card at one of first jobs, in my teenage years at a large grocery mart.  The tromping through the foyer to the elevator for the ride up to the office feels like the beginning of a temporary sentence, a feeling I always get when my card entered the machine at the grocer.  No crime has been committed, but the dreary feeling in the pit of my stomach makes me feel much like a remorseful criminal.  A few others slide through the elevator doors, and I nod to a couple in recognition.  It seems that my fellow elevator riders are as aware as I am what awaits them.  These people don't work for the company that I do, but it appears that their day holds slim prospects for excitement, just as mine does.  I exit the elevator on my floor and say and quick hello to the receptionist.  I consider enquiring about messages but the day has just begun and I am a low level employee who rarely recieves phone calls at any hour, let alone prior to the start of my work day.  I shuffle to the back of the main work area and find my square footage.  Three half walls separate my space from the other work stations.  Everything is where I left it the day before, and the lack of personal effects present make the area cold and uninviting.  After three years of employment at the same company you would think I would have done something to personalize my area.  That simply isn't in me.

     Slipping back outside the weather hasn't changed.  This city is known for his monotonous weather conditions that provide a type of time stopping sensation.  One requires a watch when living here because the grey cloud cover makes morning blend into midday then on into the afternoon.  An hour can pass or five and you wouldn't know it without an accurate device to measure time passing.  Hence the watch.  Planning to make the most of the interruption of my work day that I am granted daily I walk briskly away from the building.  An idea of where my walk will take me is always present, but I attempt to trick myself into thinking I don't know where I am going.  A creature of habit, a routine embracer like myself often thinks of being spontaneous prior to the decisive moment where once again the usual is chosen and relaxation occurs.  Changes brings on unknown factors and this causes uncertainty which sets the mind racing through all of the possible outcomes.  Which outcomes are considered first by a routine embracing mind?  Why, the most negative of course.  Excuses are quickly developed to denounce any positive outcomes and eventually the thought of breaking routine is discarded.  I pull back on the aged door and enter the shop.  A small bell clinks against the top of the beaten metal door signalling to the propietor that a customer has entered.  In my case the word customer may not be appropriate as he recognizes me and knows full well that I am a browser more than a buyer. 

     The familiar fusty smell embraced me as I stepped inside as the stacks of worn books closed in on me from all sides.  As much as I enjoy finding and reading a great book, the appeal of this used book store to me is its utter lack of organization that causes it to ooze character in a blatant manner.  The propietor not only embraces the chaos within the walls of his shop, many of the teetering stacks appear to have been engineered by him and his employees to add to the decor.  When I first discovered this oasis not long after I began working nearby, I gained an affinity for the shop due to an exchange I had with a woman who works within.  As she stared up at a shelf which exceeded ten feet in height she held a small paperback book in one hand.  To her left was a large haphazard stack of books that appeared to have been there for a considerable amount of time.  Other stacks surrounded her making it appear as if she had built up a defensive barracade of sorts around her.  Continuing to scan the shelf with her eyes it dawned on me that she was indeed attempting to shelve the book.  The stacks of books built up around her were where the were supposed to be, but this one book was destined for the shelf.  How was that determined?  It amused me even more to watch her as she retreated to the front desk area and retrieved a few more books.  She wandered about the store shelving them as well.  Organized but messy.  Watching the proprietor work was also fascinating.  He answered the phone, or spoke to customers in the flesh and anytime they mentioned a author or work they were looking for, he knew it's location.  Not always precisely, but there were general areas of the shop designated to a variety of topics you would typically find in a bookstore.  A love affair began that has lasted nearly three years with no termination looming.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Hockey Burnout: **** the Oilers!

The weather has been turning on us lately here in the northern part of the northern country of Canada.  The start of winter in Prince George is usually designated by a first snowfall, or more specifically the first snowfall that stays grounded.  If it snows, like it did late last week, then melts within a few days, is it really "winter"?  I digress.  Hockey in Canada, does not wait for winter.  This year, I was even part of a team through the summer though I struggled to make it to games.  The real season has been underway for a couple of months now, and just the last few games have been played with the feel of winter surrounding them.  The professionals also have been playing for a couple of months.  As the years go by, the coverage of the preseason has increased, couple this with the ability to now see nearly every game played by every team in the league and I have already begun to feel what I have termed "hockey burnout".  Allow me to elaborate.

I support the Edmonton Oilers.  Let's get that out of the way right now.  I have been cheering for the team since 1995, when my former favorite team, the Quebec Nordiques packed up and moved to Denver.  I was 12 years old at the time and I had a thing with cheering for underdogs (this hasn't changed).  I also felt that I should be cheering for a Canadian team, as a Canadian boy.  I never considered the Vancouver Canucks despite spending my entire life in the province where they play.  My aforementioned affinity for losers also would have discounted the Canucks at the time, as they were but 1 year removed from a heartbreaking finals loss to the New York Rangers.  What was so appealing about the Edmonton Oilers at the time? 

Aside from the fact that Edmonton is only 14 kilometers further away than Vancouver, the Oilers had another endearing quality at the time.  You guessed it, they were a bunch of losers.  A sad sack bunch that had little or no hope of winning a playoff spot, let alone a championship.  At that age, I was unaware of coaching or management ineptitude, and with basic cable, I only saw Oilers games when they happened to be on Hockey Night in Canada.  Perhaps it was a case of yearning makes the heart grow fonder, but I would endure losing seasons with pleasure, knowing that like most things in life, hockey is cyclical.  You lose for years, then you win for years.  It's not that any team is entitled to winning seasons, but for nearly any sports team, this is how it works.  In your lean years you stockpile talent and assets for the future until these assets mature and a quality product results.  I would liken it to a roller coaster, except the Edmonton Oiler version of the ride has been quite devoid of ups lately, and so full of downs that the ride is struggling to keep going. 

I missed the golden years of Oilers Stanley Cups, choosing to join up when they were faltering with low revenues and ownership that had little to spend.  The late 90s produced a few memorable moments, i'll never forget Curtis Joseph and "the save" or Todd Marchant and the subsequent goal that led to Edmonton knocking off Dallas in a huge upset.  The season following, Edmonton knocked off heavily favoured Colorado before losing to Dallas in the next round.  As it turns out, Dallas got their revenge not just the year after losing to Edmonton, but again the next year, and the next, and the next.  Dallas eliminated Edmonton 5 times in 6 years, only taking a break because the Oilers didn't qualify in 2002.  Despite the lack of playoff success, these were good years as a fan.  The team battled every night, overcoming a talent void with hard work and aggressive play.  Led by one of the most unassuming stars of the era, Doug Weight and an overworked goalie in the aforementioned Joseph, the team got timely contributions from guys like Mariusz Czerkawski, Mike Grier and Boris Mironov.  After the repeated early exits, a narrow miss followed and it felt like a few lean years were ahead.  Edmonton lacked blue chip prospects, as they have been historically terrible at draft and finding talent.  The lockout of 2005 came and went before the season of 2006 provided some of the most surprising hockey in Oiler history.

The spring of 2006 I was working at Irly Bird selling building supplies and going on the occasional delivery.  I had to rise early to work at 7 am, and Sheila and I were working our tails off to get ahead, or at least stay afloat.  At some point during our struggles we decided to go ahead and shut off the cable.  We still had internet and downloading, and Jasmine who was all of 3 at the time had a pretty extensive VHS collection.  Then, it happened.  Not only did Edmonton squeak their way into the playoffs, they started to win playoff games.  I started itching to see the games, but I worked until 530, not home until closer to 6 and with quite a few starts at 4 pm, I was missing out.  Eventually I got cable back in time for the 3rd round, but without a PVR in those days, I still missed plenty of the action.  It was a glorious run full of overachieving and some of the most determined efforts I will witness in my time.  Chris Pronger was an absolute beast, leading the team with 21 playoff points.  Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth provided secondary scoring.  An unheralded 3rd liner by the name of Fernando Pisani led the entire playoff scoring race with 14.  Truthfully, much of the credit goes to the goalie who they picked up at the trade deadline, Dwayne Roloson.  Of course, heartbreakingly, Roloson would get hurt in the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, leading to the Oilers falling in the 7th and deciding game with a backup between the pipes, Ty Conklin.  Knowing the amount of overachieving that took place during the run, I knew it would be tough to repeat that kind of success.  The team was the 8th seed, they qualified for the playoffs on the last weekend of the season.  During the summer Chris Pronger and his immense talent demanded a trade, and the shine diminished.  Little could anyone have known at the time, but 7 years later the Oilers would still be waiting for their return to the postseason.

Now I say that we as Oiler fans are still waiting, but there is little suspense at this time.  It is a given that the Edmonton hockey club will not be playing in the playoffs in 2014 either.  With only 19 of 82 games having been played so far, it is pretty sad that I can make that statement. The last handful of seasons have begun with me bursting with optimism.  A few years in a row I was foolish enough to make and lose bets to friends based on the teams performance.  This year, I didn't bother with any of that.  I made no heady claims that this team was destined for greatness, or even for that matter, mediocrity.  That hardly makes their shitty play any more palatable.  I have, for the third season running signed up for the Centre Ice package which gives you access to almost every single game played all season.  I have witnessed first hand almost every Oiler game since the start of the 2011-2012 season.  I have access to a number of different news and discussion websites where I can talk and think Oilers without stopping.  Well, with the team sitting at 4 wins, 13 losses and 2 more overtime losses, I think I am ready to stop.  It hurts to think about how bad they are.  It hurts to watch, and due to my loyalty and my access to every broadcast, I still flick the television on when a game is scheduled.  It really has sucked a lot of joy out of the game for me.  Will I still watch?  I want to stop, but the car crash has always been exciting viewing.  Perhaps Wednesday night when they play next I will try it out.  I just won't bother turning on the game.  If the players don't give a damn, why should I?

Monday, 4 November 2013

Turning Thirty Worked Out / alt. title: (A Trip With Pops)

I'm official.  I have gained entry, through no fault of my own into what I termed the "original old guys club".  That is, I have hit the first milestone in life where normal people start to joke about your age.  I say normal so as to exclude certain abnormalities that include kids who often point to anybody older than them as nearly dead.  I'm alive, and the celebrations surrounding my turning thirty have died down from their feverish peak.  This morning, I am most certainly feeling old after driving myself pretty hard all week in the exercise department.  You see, I was determined to do so after indulging quite a bit on my birthday weekend. 

Being the naive person that I am, I had been totally taken aback by a nice little surprise party that Sheila had organized for me on the weekend before the big day.  Buoyed by the fact that it was a week early, the party was meticulously planned by Sheila to not allow for any clues that would tip me off.  Sheila asked my manager at work if he could allow me a day off on the Sunday of the weekend, and she also arranged with my co-worker to switch with me so I would off Saturday evening.  There was copious amounts of food, and I was arriving home with Ian just as that night's UFC card was starting.  The fights were great, the beer was cold and the company was quite nice.  After the fights and a rushed game of poker, a number of us went downtown to spend too much on ridiculous cover charges and inflated drink prices (channelling my newly acquired old guy status).  I would be lying if I told you I remembered the finer details of the night.  I am essentially a non-drinker at this point in my life, but I cut loose and go overboard on this occasion.  It seemed like as good a time as any.

The reason the hoedown in my honour had to be held a week early was because I was set to be quite busy on the weekend of my birthday.  A couple of months before the big day, while visiting at our place, my parents asked me if I would be interested in a sports getaway weekend to celebrate my big milestone.  It has been more than 4 years since my dad, our friend Kamil and I went to Los Angeles for 3 sporting events, and 3 years since I saw my first NHL game as an adult in Edmonton.  I made sure that my Dad knew how interested I was, and also that I would be more than happy with whatever you wanted to plan for the trip. 

After a non-start to our trip which involved waiting to board our delayed plan while sharing a holding area in the Prince George airport with more people than should be allowed in the small space, we were in a race against time to reach BC Place Stadium for Friday night's football game between the British Columbia Lions and the Edmonton Eskimos.  The timeline would have been tight without the hour long delay, as my Dad was scheduled to work the day and we couldn't fly out until the afternoon.  Each part of the flight seemed to take place in slow motion, from the overly thorough flight instructions, to the disembarkment from the plane upon landing.  We hurriedly walked through the expanse of YVR to Skytrain station, missing a departing train by seconds.  8 minutes later and we were seated for our trip into the downtown core.  By this time, the game had started, and I was able to check the score as we rode.  I let my Dad know that we could toss the bags at the hotel desk to save time, so after a brisk 2 block walk from the station to the hotel we dropped our bags with a friendly bellman and raced across the street to the stadium.  We had gotten lucky.  The game wasn't nearly as far along as we expected.  Two minutes into the second quarter, and the score was 12-1 for the villains. 

The game we were attending had unfortunately become irrelevant due to the positioning in the standings of both teams.  The game could have had a considerable dearth of intensity, but if it was there it was less than glaring.  B.C. had their backup quarterback playing due to injury, but the interesting part of their offense was the dual headed monster at running back.  Andrew Harris is the established starter, and Stefan Logan has recently returned to the team after a couple of years playing in the NFL.  With mixed emotions about missing the terrible start to the game, we proceeded to sit down to enjoy a barrage of offense that extraordinary even for the CFL.  In the 40 minutes of football that we witnessed, B.C. threw for 4 touchdowns and ran for 2 more.  Dad and I had plenty of chances to holler and cheer, walking away after the game with a happy glow.  Delays forgotten, we had thoroughly enjoyed our first CFL game in about 10 years (not sure when the Eskimos game was, but I was a much younger man at the time). 

We checked in to our room, taking a minute to relax before heading down Robson to find a bite to eat.  It was about 11 pm and the street was quite lively.  The last Friday before Halloween added some traffic to what is already a busy spot on the weekend.  We walked a number of blocks, eventually deciding on a Persian joint with music blaring and what appeared to be the rare, Father, Son and Grandpa providing all the staff neccesary.  For a reasonable 10 dollar each we enjoyed Lamb kabobs, rice, salad and hummus.  Exhausted, we headed back to the Hampton to call it a night.

The men's trip continued the next day as we filled our faces with the free continental breakfast while discussing what to do for the rest of the morning and afternoon.  I told Dad about this awesome used bookstore that Sheila and I had gone to a couple years ago, and it turned out we were less than a kilometer away from it.  Our hotel's location on Robson proved to be most convenient, as we took but 1 skytrain ride all weekend, everything we wanted to see or do was in the near vicinity. 

McLeod's on Pender didn't disappoint.  My Dad is more into book buying and reading than I am, and the haphazard stacks that cluttered the narrow aisles had his head spinning.  The front desk of the store where the long time proprietor sets up shop is completely buried under papers and books.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that not an inch of wood is exposed, as if the desk was being heavily guarded by the mass of paper and cardboard it was covered in.  How the clerk found the debit machine to take payment was beyond me.  I chatted with a young female clerk about her job, this after sharing a laugh over her line: "Can I help you find something?"  This was uttered as she held a book in one hand helplessly staring up a 12 foot high shelf hoping to find it's home.  We ended up escaping after finding a few books each.  Asher got "Fox in Socks" to add to his Dr. Seuss collection, and Jasmine was happy with her copy of "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe".  I opted to add a couple books to my Truman Capote collection, continuing the tradition from my last visit.  I also grabbed an obscure George Orwell title.  I thoroughly enjoy both authors and hope to eventually consume all of their works. 

We filled the rest of our afternoon exploring Gastown and Chinatown, restraining overselves at the gigantic used book sale at the Vancouver Public Library, then as headed back to our hotel to kick back for a second the scents coming from the restaurant across the street overwhelmed us.  It seemed that the BBQ establishment called "Back Forty" had their smoker going fullblast out in their parking lot.  Having not eaten since the complimentary morning face filling, we were enticed to enter the crosswalk and check the place out.  It was swamped with people, only getting busier as our stay went on.  Wanting to ensure that we got a dish that had been smoked out in the lot, Dad and I both chose the pork ribs.  The mushroom caps came with the meal, odd for an appetizer, but that didn't stop them from being delicious.  We consumed barbecued Brussels Sprouts for the first time in our lives as they were the seasonal vegetable provided.  The ribs were solid but not amazing.  All in all, a decent meal but I am a big proponent for trying things in the big city that I can't get at home.  I'm not certain that I can get smoked pork ribs in Prince George, but this meal lacked that blow me away factor.

We had realized in the weeks leading up to our departure that our Saturday night of the weekend was blatantly unfilled with sports.  Dad and I scoured all ticket sources in search of an elusive sports event to attend, but alas we were left holding the bag when our only choices involved multiple transit transfers and a level of hockey only slightly above the beer league that I play in.  In a funny twist, as we were unpacking our bags Friday night, I mentioned that I had found a small concert at a nearby nightclub that might be fun.  It was also inexpensive.  My Dad countered with another small concert that I had somehow overlooked.  The headliners were unknown to me, but they were billed as "indie rock" and I thought that might appeal more to both Dad and I.  The venue?  The Rickshaw Theatre. 

An old as dirt venue smack dab in the middle of the "worst" part of Vancouver, The Rickshaw on East Hastings sounded intriguing.  We walked from the hotel, 2 kilometers through the downtown core, I love the feel of being in a city.  The walking we did during the weekend was always enjoyable.  I like the buildings, I like the people watching, I like checking out various obscure stores and restaurants.  We arrived way too early, my Dad enjoyed getting his i.d. checked, then we decided to go wander around until closer to show time.  My love for politics and my interest in socioeconomic diversity lead me to enjoy getting a feel for different parts of a city.  I am not a bleeding heart per se, but I do like to experience this type of thing so that I am less likely to perpetuate stereotypes that others are willing to expound.  Dad doesn't usually spend a lot of time downtown on his Vancouver trips, so the walk was a bit of an eye opener.  I remarked that there seemed to be a lot less people around than the last time I had walked the street.  Hopefully that is due to an increase in shelter capacity, but it may be that the street population was forcibly reduced for the Olympics in 2010 and it hasn't recovered.  It was a nice mild night in Vancouver so we enjoyed our walk before turning around and returning to the theatre.  After a short wait, then concert began.

Dad and I had not heard of the headlining band before that morning.  We listened to one song on you tube, and that was enough to determine it was worth spending our evening enjoying "Okkervil River" in concert.  Despite our ignorance, Okkervil River has produced 7 full length albums, and has enjoyed 15 years as a band.  The lead singer Will Sheff has been the lone constant in a revolving door of band members.  As the show began the first couple of songs were alright, then we got blown away by a song I later discovered  was called "Big Love".  Great melody, killer vocals, you name it.  The next song involved a lengthy breakdown into instrumental extremes as the band's dual percussionists and it's keyboard player went off on a lengthy tangent.  Simply put, it was awesome.  It was after this song that my Dad remarked: "This is the opening act."  I can only surmise that he could tell this based on a poster he had seen, or perhaps the one music video that we had looked at.  Well, the opening act was great.  We were still in the dark about the name of the band until we checked a poster on the way out after the concert.  Matthew E. White, thank you.  You have at least one new fan.  This gushing about the first band is not to take anything away from the main act, Okkervil River.  They were a little more fast paced, a little more rock styled than their predecessors.  Ironically, as I was celebrating my first old man milestone, in classic old man style I started getting sleepy by the end of the concert.  I had enjoyed a few pops, and the theatre was getting hot.  Despite my drained energy, the experience was very positive.  The theatre was genuine, and I prefered this intimate setting to the passionless feel of an arena concert.  Did I mention that the tickets were but 20 dollars?  I plan to attend more concerts in the future, and have already made tentative plans to take Sheila to a local one later this month.  Folk rock band that I have never heard of for the more than reasonable price of 15 bucks?  Sign me up.

Sunday started with a nice soak in the jacuzzi at the beautiful hotel spa.  Lots of places you stay claim to have a gym or a spa, but this one really had one.  Complete with multiple cardio machines, free weights and machine weights, ping pong table, jacuzzi and a sauna.  Even the change rooms were expansive, with seemingly no expense spared.  Coupled with the free breakfasts and the great service from the staff, the hotel added considerably to the enjoyment of the weekend.  I suppose a glowing review on trip advisor is in order.  Tangent be damned, I was all cleaned up and ready to tackle the Casino across the street for a little poker.  Well, as any seasoned poker player should know, Sunday morning is not a good time for the game.  What a silly man I am.  Feeling like I should play due to the proximity, I was conflicted because my Dad doesn't play and I was quite enjoying our time together.  He had some work to take care of, so this seemed like a good time to go for a bit.  Boring is the word.  I lasted an hour and lost, but I think I would have been bored whether I won or lost.  Not a highlight of the trip that's for sure. 

I came back to the hotel and agreed to the suggestion of taking a ride on the skytrain.  Dad and I ended up at Metro Town mall.  After strolling through aimlessly, we took to the streets of Burnaby.  It was nice to find the condo building that my Grandma and Grandpa used to live in, and we enjoyed reminiscing about the good old days.  It has been more than 15 years since my mom lost both her parents within a short time span.  As we strolled around the neighbourhood I imagined how much both of them would have just loved Jasmine and Asher, and it most certainly brought a tear to my eye. 

My Grandparents had an awesome view from their place, and one of my Grandma's favourite things to do was watch people out and about.  As little kids we were fascinated by the skytrain, and it raced by on its track just a few hundred meters from their building.  Our visits at their place involved a handful of traditions that I will never forget.  One night, there was always the chicken dinner from KFC.  My Grandpa was a great cook, so ordering take out was reserved for 1 night while we were there.  Their building had a pool on the groundfloor, and Paulette, Erin, Ian and I went daily while we stayed.  I can remember like it was yesterday the agonizing half hour wait we had to endure after eating because as Grandma put it "you will just end up with a tummy ache".  A few blocks from their place is the beginning of Burnaby's Central Park.  Going for a stroll in Central Park with our Grandpa calmly leading the way was something we all looked forward to.  Usually, we stayed overnight with Grandma and Grandpa in staggered intervals, the boys for a night or two, then it was the girls turn.  My memories of Central Park don't involve my parents, just me and my siblings along with my Grandpa.  The park is impressive with some gigantic old growth trees, the type that even adults can't reach around.  Grandpa would always get us to try though.  Along the walking trail were a series of exercise stations, we always tried them even though we couldn't do them properly.  We didn't always make it to the duck pond as it was on the far side of the park, but I can recall standing at the edge of the water, bread in hand.  The destination on these excursions was always the same.  We enjoyed the expansive park area for as long as we could until Grandpa said it was time to head back.  I always insisted on peeking through the fence to get a glimpse of Swanguard Stadium where the Vancouver 86ers played their home games.  When I was a bit older, I got the chance to take in a couple games there with my Dad.  My Grandma didn't come to Central Park, that was Grandpa's gig.   My Grandma, for the entire time she was apart of my life, was confined to an electric scooter due to a car accident.  That didn't stop her from delivering big and frequent hugs that enveloped us kids.  She would always want to kiss us, and little kids aren't always fond of that, but we humoured her nonetheless.  Maybe part of the reasons why the kisses were "scary" was due to Grandma's taunting us with her teeth.  She would pull them out on occasion to get us to laugh, then show off how silly she looked without them in her mouth.  Grandma always took us to the Metro Town Mall for a little shopping.  Grandpa would drop us off, and we would follow along beside Grandma's scooter as she lavished us with coloring books and jogging suits.  Always with the jogging suits, and at Christmas time, we would get the annual sock allotment as well.   Sadly, I can admit that I don't think of my Grandparents as often as I might like.  Life keeps me busy, and at times my priorities are askew.  They were two of the best human beings I will ever encounter in my life and it is important to remind myself how lucky I was to know them.

My Dad and I ended our jaunt to Burnaby with a nice lunch at a quaint little Thai restaurant.  I can happily take credit for exposing my Dad to the cuisine for the first time, and we both came away satisfied.  It was then time to jump the train and head back to the hotel, before going to the soccer game.  We stood in line an hour before the game, the plan was to enjoy the warm up and the atmosphere, not to mention the open roof was likely going to make chatting in the stadium quite pleasant.  They let us in, and right to the left of the entrance they had a merchandise booth with sale signs on it.  Any sports fan would know, that rarely happens in a stadium, at a game.  We jumped in the rapidly forming line, not even knowing what was on sale or whether or not we "needed" anything.  If we don't jump into line right away, we would have missed out.  Dad grabbed a jersey, and I did too, picking up a great hoodie for Jasmine and a hat for Asher as well.  I paid 55 bucks for all 3!  The game itself was great.  It was my 9th or 10th live soccer game, and likely it was the best of the bunch.  Firstly, my team won.  Vancouver's star striker Camillo needed 2 goals to win the season scoring title on the last day of the season.  No problem, he proceeded to get all 3 goals in a 3-0 win.  We stayed after as the crowd feted Y.P. Lee, their best defender who had decided to retire.  The team all stayed on the pitch for a lengthy salute to the fans, then they gave away their game jerseys to lucky fans who had been preselected.  The only Korean fan selected randomly got the Y.P. Lee jersey (he is Korean), and the highly coveted Camillo jersey went to a boy of 11 or so who had gone on field all by himself.  It was all pretty cool.  Exhausted after the game, Dad and I unwound in the hotel room only heading out so that I could get dinner.  I ate the biggest burrito I have ever seen, and despite my fears, experienced no backlash whatsoever.

Our trip wound up Monday with an excursion to the Kerrisdale area where we visited with an old family friend.  Elizabeth used to live in Quesnel, where she worked with my mom as an elementary school teacher.  It had been more than 10 years since I had seen her, and nearly as long for my Dad.  We had an nice visit, discussions surrounding teaching and adoption.  Elizabeth is and always has been a very positive person, and she gave very few clues that she was smack dab in the middle of radiation treatment.  Tragically, her breast cancer was discovered right at a time when she was set to complete an adoption of a child after years of jumping through hoops to be able to do so.  After struggling against beauracracy for so long, I couldn't imagine the emotions she felt when she had to turn down the adoption.  Complications with her cancer have caused a need for secondary surgery that will keep her on the mend for much longer than originally thought.  Through all of these occurances, she has kept up her optimism, and as we parted with hearty hugs at the airport, I was thoroughly impressed by her outlook.  She will have a child eventually, and it seems that thought keeps her going. 

I had a great weekend with my Dad, and the memories of our excursion will stay with me a long time.  I appreciate the thoughtfulness and planning that both of parents put into the trip, and their generousity can not be overstated.  Thanks again for everything Mom, I can never say that enough.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

My Little Bubble

It's quite the paradox that I am currently facing.  I am interested in doing some creative writing, but every time I have put any amount of thought into the idea, I come up completely empty.  When I try to think creatively I realize that I am not creatively inclined naturally, then all I can think about is how uncreative I am, which makes it even more difficult to think creatively.  The last time I wrote anything of a creative bent has long since been stricken from my memory, so needless to say, it's been a while.  While pondering my situation, I have been thinking about the things I have in my life and the things that I enjoy doing.  I get to spend considerable time with my children, and they often do and say very creative things.  If you have ever raised a toddler or even spent significant amounts of time with one you will discover that they are apt to say or do almost anything.  I am amazed regularly by things Asher says and does, as it feel like his mind with it's 32 months of life experience should just not ready to speak in such a way.  In the last couple months his intellect has been developing rapidly, he is figuring out how to count to 10, he is getting the colours of the rainbow all sorted out, and i have had my jaw dropped a few times when he remembers small happenings days later when I have long since forgotten them.  Why is it that a boy of less than 3 is seemingly more creative minded than a man of nearly 30? 

It is puzzling, this lack of creativity.  Being aware of my situation has my ego injured.  Genius seems to have eluded me in life, but I do feel that I am intelligent enough to recognize excellence in others who take a shot at this whole creativity thing.  I consume considerable entertainment material that has at it's core a creative quality.  Television shows, novels, movies, editorial opinion columns, sports, children's play are all things that when considered, involving a considerable amount of creativity.  I am a consumer of creativity who has little patience when the product is uninspired and dry.  I don't watch reality television, it fails miserably in the creativity department, and it seems most of the subject matter is intriguing to television executives as it is easily consumable.  Creative material requires a certain degree of critical thinking to be enjoyed as intended.  This may be why I struggle to find television programs that I enjoy outside of the mindless sitcom genre.  I know what I am getting with the 22 minute laugh track, and I can take it at that.  My movie tastes have evolved considerably, as I will no longer tolerate the commercialized trash that big business movie producers shove down the throats of consumers.  Occasionally, I will still enjoy a movie that I have been told to watch by countless commercials and endless promotion but these productions often leave me unsatisfied.  There is a certain satisfaction that comes with enjoying a movie that most others haven't seen.  I feel like I am part of a little clique when that happens. 

As I type this, I am realizing that my tastes in all things seem to unfold in a similar manner.  I enjoy reading books that other people aren't reading, lately I have been focused on old works that may have been read by a large number, but only because they have been available for many decades and eventually enough people found their way to the material.  Albert Camus is the author I am currently enjoying, and truthfully I was first drawn to him because his books are thin little things that were caught between the wide spined tombs of the adult fiction section.  What business does a 120 page work have in the novel section?  Camus was an Algerian born French citizen who won himself a Nobel Prize in literature in 1957.  He wrote a few published plays, 5 non-fiction works, a short story collection and 5 novels, 2 of which were slapped together posthumously from material he had written.  I just finished reading "The Stranger" and am now halfway through "The Fall", which means that in a week I have absorbed a considerable amount of this man's literary contribution by stealing a few minutes here and there throughout my day.  Less is more has never been more true.  "The Stranger" is all of 118 pages, and they are large font, well spaced pages at that. 

Packed into "The Stranger" is a lot of subject matter devoid of the usual filler content that you get with most novels.  The book starts on the very first page with Mersault the main character learning of the death of his mother.  A picture is quickly painted of a young man who seems to be devoid of the compassion and feeling that is expected of him.  He is not outwardly upset about his mother's death.  He attends her funeral as if it is a chore.  He engages in a sexual relationship with a former co-worker just a day after the death.  When asked by the girl if he loves her, he responds that he doesn't think so.  When Mersault murders a man who had been after his acquaintance Raymond the reader is provided with no explanation or motive as to why.  As he is tried, it becomes clear that Mersault's lack of conventional compassion will be used to paint him as an unfeeling monster.  I have a tendency to grow attached to villains when reading or watching creative material and this novel was no different.  While the fact that he had murdered a man in cold blood was not in dispute, the focus of Camus' writing was on Mersault's inability to act in the manner that was expected of him.  By focusing on this aspect, Camus successfully trained my thoughts on the life and upbringing of Mersault and the impact that these events had on his committing such a crime.  The prosecutor focused on Mersault's treatment of his mother, who he had placed in a nursing home but a couple of years before her death.  He lacked compassion towards his mother it was implied, because he had lacked the same with him.  Mersault the monster who lacks compassion was created by his mother, who he then mistreated and ignored in the most ironic of twists.  As the novel is wrapping up, Mersault comes to realize how insignificant individuals are.  Conform or be exposed.  He takes some solace in that he will be remembered in the short term despite how negative that impact may be.

The hope I had this morning was that I would have my creative part of my brain jostled into action by concentrating on the concept.  I may not be creatively inclined, but I am aware that somewhere in my brain there is a compartment set aside for such thinking.  Creativity can't be forced and my experiences this morning have given me further confirmation of just such a thought.  I still plan to eventually produce some creative material for this space, but I have concluded that it will just happen when it does.  No amount of self pressure will change that.  At some time, somewhere, an idea will hit me, and material will produced and eventually self published here.  I can't tell you when, or whether or not it will be any good.  I do know that every human brain has some capacity for creative thinking, and my brain works on it's own schedule.  Fine by me.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Just Me and My Son

We have had a fun morning here in the man cave.  Asher had fallen asleep again while watching teetee so when I rolled out of bed it was deathly quiet in the house.  The little man woke shortly after and we have been busy ever since. 

Asher brought out the deck of cards first and proceeded to continuation bet on a flop of ace, queen, jack.  I called with my ace ten.  He bet again on the turn and river, while I made both calls without improving my hand.  He flipped over his cards one and at time, happily announcing that they both had a match: the nine that had hit the turn, and the seven that had hit the river.  He is 2 and a half.

Next, Asher pretended to be a "moncur" while I attempted to hide under a couple of blankets.  It's not every day that a growling, scary lizard gets spooked by the dark, but this little guy did.  After he found me under the blankets, he immediately had to go as the windows were all closed up.  He is 2 and a half.

Asher climbed on top of the eliptical machine, and while he can't make it go with his feet, he is strong enough to move the arms and turn the wheels.  He called over to me for help with counting as he completed 10 reps.  Asher is 2 and a half.

After we took a break to get dressed and watch the garbage truck come by, it was time for breakfast.  I poured a bowl of golden grahams and grabbed a glass of water.  I came back downstairs, and he followed a minute later with a chocolate pop tart.  No offer to share his find, he was more than willing to alternate bites of cereal with me while also eating the whole confection.  He is 2 and a half.

I received a series of high fives and low fives topped off with a kiss before Asher spotted me for a set of reverse dumbbell flys.  He was also kind enough to count my reps for me, only skipping the numbers 5 and 8 on our way to 10.  Asher is indeed 2 and a half.

We have managed to squeeze in a little basement baseball too despite being so busy this morning.  At one point he called to me to take a picture.  He had put on my weight lifting gloves and had 1 leg resting on the weight bench with a tooth filled smile plastered on his face.  What can I say?  I've had  a great morning with my Asher.  He is 2 and a half.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Do This Do That

I'm back in front of my keyboard with a little time on my hands and I figured, what better to do with my time than to lull my small band of loyal readers into a false sense of enjoyment?  I kid indeed, the content in this space is not intended to entertain, because if I went about it that way, I would be setting myself up for failure.  If, after I type this piece and you have read it and enjoy it, then and only then should I recieve any credit whatsoever. 

Lately, I have noticed that I am a bit depleted.  How so you might ask.  It is kind of hard to explain.  See, it's been a couple of years since I started making positive changes in my life.  Slowly, I began to make more and more changes, and it is entirely possible that I reached some kind of limit.  I was going to categorize the different changes I made, but in actuality, they all tie back into physical and mental health.  Most of the things that would find a place on my mental list have been mentioned in this space.  Sheila has joked on occasion that I just didn't have the time in a day to do all the things I had in mind.  It seems in the past few months rather than run myself ragged getting all sorts of things done, I have copped out and done less, or even less than less, nothing at all.  You might think, oh, what a smart move.  Less burnout.  Matt must be feeling better.  I'm not so sure.  There really is something amazing about the way you feel having accomplished numerous things in your day.  This is not to say that I can't find hapiness in the small things.  Jasmine and Asher give me reasons to smile all the time as I documented in my last post with Jasmine's new trumpet.  I want to use my time today to make a list of things I was doing to better myself either physically or mentally that I have gotten away from either completely or somewhat.  I intend these to be short snipets, rapid fire style, but you know me, long winded is an understatement.  I am hoping that getting these things down on virtual paper will inspire me to get back at them.

-MORE CARDIO!  Ugh, I had a few soccer injuries that became convenient excuses, but the last 3 weeks or so I have been flat out lazy.  Get on your bike son!  Go walking with the kids!  Get a few jogs in before our 6 month winter sets in. 

-EAT HEALTHIER!  This one has slowly crept up on me.  Too much pizza.  When I was doing well, my treats and junk food were limited to night time while watching boob tube or playing cards.  I should be able to have decent will power during the day when I am not even hungry.

-TAKE YOUR VITAMINS!  This one should be easy.  It takes about 2 minutes to open the bottles and pop the pills.  No effort required.  I currently have green tea tablets, ginseng, fish oil, glucosamine sulfate, calcium, coenzyme Q10 and a multivitamin.  When I take the lot of them after a meal, I end up feeling much better throughout the day.  2 minutes of time to feel better all day?  Only an idiot would be too lazy to not bother.

-PROTEIN!  I also haven't been bothering with protein shakes.  Stupid.  I usually have cereal or yogurt for breakfast, then a sandwich or leftovers for lunch.  Sheila is a great cook and dinner is always good whether she or I make it.  That extra 20 grams of protein that a daily shake provides in needed for my health.  It's also one of the only ways I consume milk as I rarely think to just have a glass. 

-ACTIVITIES WITH JASMINE!  It has dawned on me recently.  It's much easier to entertain a 2 year old then it is a 10 year old.  We did take advantage of our nice September weather, and I had the kids out exploring at the Nechako River, soaking up the sun at West Lake, and a few other things.  Asher thoroughly enjoys anything we end up doing.  Aside from swimming weekly, where I am occupied with her brother, Jasmine doesn't have any regular activities that we do together.  I aim to work on that.

-MORE HELP AROUND THE HOUSE!  This one comes and goes.  Sometimes I am very helpful for weeks, other times, not so much.  I had been making more meals and getting more chores taken care of, but this rut I find myself in has led to less productivity in all aspects of my life.  Cook more, clean more, feel accomplished.  Allow Sheila to relax more.  Seems simple enough.

PICK UP A GOOD BOOK!  I had a short virtual conversation with one of my few reading buddies over the weekend.  She asked if I had read anything good lately, and I was ashamed to admit, I have barely been reading.  My spare time at work is best for reading, but it seems I haven't managed to get motivated.  I did read a solid mystery novel recently by Louise Penny that I got through quickly due to my interest level, so perhaps I have turned a corner.  Reading is so much more enjoyable than mindlessly staring at a computer screen or television though I forget this at times. 

WRITE MORE!  This poor blog has been neglected for too long.  If I do more things with my spare time, I will have more things to write about.  Easy game.

BRUSH YOUR TEETH!  This one is a bit embarassing.  I always brush in the morning and usually once or twice more during the day.  I floss religiously, something I never forget due to a few small gaps in my teeth that are essentially magnets for food scraps.  It's the bedtime brushing that I am lazy about, and it's been getting to me.  Haul your lazy ass out of your bed and spend 2 minutes in the bathroom scrubbing the stubs.  60 year old me will thank 30 year old me in the future.

HELP ASHER GROW!  So my little guy is getting pretty close to being a 3 year old.  He is growing physically and mentally every day.  My brother was over for a visit last night with my neice Charlotte who is but a few months old.  The little one is cute as a button, and she provided a reminder to me about just how different children are at 2 months as opposed to 32 months of age.  It is up to Sheila and I to mentor and guide Asher's ever growing mind.  We were both estatic the other night when he counted 10 dots for us!  He is beginning to learn the different colors too!  We have been locked in a months long struggle towards potty training.  Asher has been peeing in the toilet for a couple months now, and even will initiate the visits to the bathroom so he can go.  Number 2 has not been so easy.  Sheila and I have been working at it, and he has managed to go twice now, but both times Sheila had to trick him somewhat.  We have established a rewards system that he is well aware of, but after he got the toy motorcycle, he seemed to be content.  No need for the other cars apparently. I am lucky enough as a Dad to get lots of one on one time with my little guy.  I need to be more productive with this time.

SEEK OUT NEW MUSIC!  I am a music lover.  I have no shame in admitting that I will listen to most any genre if I enjoy what I am hearing.  Music can often alter my moods significantly, and I will use it to pick me up if I need a boost.  It is also important for me to keep finding new stuff so I don't get bored with what I have.  Go forth and journey young man!

LIFT MORE WEIGHTS!  More cardio is one thing, but I would also like to get stronger.  No one wants to be a string bean.  I have done pretty good with this one, but I find that my workouts are taking longer and longer as my motivation has been lacking.  Routines that could be completed in a matter of 45 minutes end up taking me upwards of 2 hours as I search for things to distract myself with.  I often run out of time and have to cut exercises out of my plans.  Sad, sad, sad!

ENJOY WHAT YOU HAVE!  I am not good with being appreciative.  There are many things in my life that I am thankful for, but as I rush through life I don't think I spend enough time reflecting.  I have a woman in my life who adores me, despite my numerous flaws.  I have two very healthy children who are beautiful and well behaved.  We have a house to call a home, and reliable vehicles to get us around.  My extended family is close by, and they are very supportive.  I see people struggling and I empathize with them, but I am often too busy bemoaning the minor difficulties in my own life to properly put things in perspective. 

DO MORE FOR OTHERS!  I have been thinking about this one for a few weeks, ever since I found out my work schedule will not allow me to coach Jasmine's basketball team this winter.  Perhaps there is something more I should be doing?  Volunteer coaching is something, but it is only a few hours a week for a few months of the year.  This is me telling me that I will help with the Good Cheer campaign at Christmas time.  Maybe it is time that Jasmine and I start volunteering at the soup kitchen like we have discussed a few times?  I will have my Saturday mornings free throughout the winter so even the feeblest of excuses is gone.  I can't afford to give financially, but for many charitable organizations they need man power more than money power. 

That's my time, I hope everyone has a great week.  With all of these topics in mind, I know I will.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bonding Over Trumpet Blasts: Who Knew?

I am coming to you late in the week for a rare Friday afternoon installment.  It has been an amazing couple of weeks to be outdoors in Prince George.  Most years at this time we are already dreading the long winter slog that lies ahead in the not so distant future.  None of those thoughts have entered my mind.  Hockey season is starting, the Spruce Kings our local junior A team have their home opener tonight, and it is currently 28C/82F 3 hours before puck drop.  My soccer team is scheduled to play our semifinal game on Sunday afternoon.  The weatherman is calling for a high of 30C/87F that day.  Luckily, the Terry Fox Walk takes place at 10 that morning, so the inbetween time cam be used to cool off. 

During the past 2 weeks I have managed to squeeze in a few fun outings with Jasmine and Asher.  Last week we took a drive out to Miworth after I had realized that 10 years after moving to Prince George, I still hadn't seen the area.  We drove to Wilkins Park and found ourselves right on the banks of the Nechako River.  Asher, Jasmine and I went out to water's edge to check out the slow moving water.  We found a few shells, but the baby toads got Jasmine most excited.  She carted a couple of the them around as we went for a short hike down the river.  We toyed with the idea of bringing them home, but then decided that mom might not like that.  After playing soccer for a bit in the nice grassy area, we were on our way.  I hadn't really planned the day, but as we were getting hungry I decided to stop off at Dana Mandi to try their lunch buffet I had heard about.  Jasmine dug right in, and Asher was so riled up to be out at a restaurant that he could hardly eat.  He stayed in his seat for the most part unless Dad or Jasmine was up getting more food.  Then, he was up.  And around, and in the back area of the restaurant.  It was quiet in the place, so he wasn't as disruptive as you might imagine.  Jasmine and I ate our fill (always have to have 2 plates at any buffet is my rule (Jas had 3!)) while Asher ate about 7 pieces of Naan bread and 2 bites of Butter Chicken.  I went to pay, and the ladies working (all part of the owner/operator family) told me that I need not worry about paying for Asher "he is just little" were her words.  A nice gesture that you rarely see these days.  I added to the tip and we were on our way.  Off to the swimming pool for some fun and exercise, then a stop at the Pastry Chef Bakery as is our custom, and an exhausted Asher passed out in the car on the way home.  It was a nice way to celebrate Jasmine's last day before school started.

This week, Asher and I have taken advantage of the nice weather by walking each of the last 4 days.  Tuesday, we walked to the high school and stopped to play soccer while watching the school teams work out.  Wednesday, we walked to Jasmine's school to attend Strong Start for the first time this year.  Asher had a lot of fun seeing all of his old friends, and getting his stamp at the end of circle time from his teacher.  He has been looking forward to "school" for weeks.  In the afternoon, we went swimming with Jasmine. 

Thursday, as we got ready for another walk, I looked around the house for Asher's hat.  Having no luck, I grabbed one of mine and he was happy to borrow it from me.  We made it to the high school and started golfing.  Asher insisted that we bring the "real" clubs, telling me that his plastic ones were old and didn't work anymore.  Smart boy he is.  Well, the junior version of the "real" clubs are too heavy for him.  Did he care?  No, not at all.  The only way he could connect was by pushing the ball along the ground with the 7 iron, but after getting plenty of praise from me he didn't know the difference.  Many of the highschool kids were commenting on how cute he was with his oversized ball cap and giant club.  He didn't get discouraged, instead he got a lot of fun out of chasing the balls that I hit across the field.  After a bit we decided to put the clubs away and take out the soccer ball.  We moved over to the big goal to take some shots.  Then I hear, "hey Dad!  My hat!"  I turn around and see Asher holding up what appears to be a ball cap, but it has been mangled by the lawnmower.  I get closer, and sure enough, it is Asher's roots ball cap that he wears regularly.  Though I don't remember, we must have left it at the field on Tuesday when we were there.  The coincidence of him finding it himself got an interesting reaction from him.  He thought it was kind of funny how it was shredded with grass all stuck to it, but he was also quite sad that his hat was wrecked.  Later, as we were leaving to finish our walk, we loaded the wrecked hat in the stroller so we could toss it.  Asher got a little sad about it until I told him he could keep my Expos hat because it was my fault that his was ruined.  "That's pretty funny Daddy!"  It was still on his mind a while later when an older later waved hello to us, then stopped to oogle Asher.  She got to hear all about the mean lawnmower and what it had done. 

As we were walking, a thought crossed my mind.  It is so nice out, it would be cool to head to the lake.  Jasmine would get a kick out of it, expecially on a school day.  We had a nice time, even though it was sooooo hot.  Jasmine did plenty of swimming, but Asher was too scared of the little fish that were swimming everywhere.  We left after a few hours that ended with Asher getting stung by a wasp.  He had already had a wasp land on his face 5 minutes before so this was ridiculous.  2 wasps in 5 minutes?  I would have expected a 2 year old to be more upset when stung by a wasp, but man is he tough.  A little bit of crying, calmed down within a minute, then he held the side of his face quietly for the whole drive home.  No fussing at all.  He calmly told his mom what happened and had a cold cloth on it for 2 minutes.  Then he moved on with his day, never mentioning it again.  After eating dinner we decided to go to the pool for some more swimming, then topped the day off with an ice cream cone.  Asher was so tired out from his long day that the sugar jolt had little effect and he fell asleep quite quickly after we got home. 

While all of my time with Jasmine and Asher is important to me, there were a few very cool things that happened in the last couple of weeks that reminded me just how much my kids love me.  Jasmine has recently started grade 5 and is 10 years old.  She has already entered that phase where outward affection towards her Dad is not always the cool thing to do.  Now, she does still give me a kiss and a hug before she leaves for school, but I know this will not always be the case.  She doesn't spontaneously announce her love for mom and dad like she used to.  It's been a while since she told us that she planned to live with us forever.  Forget all that.  I don't need words, when actions provide the same message. 

A couple of weeks ago, I looked into minor basketball as Jasmine was considering playing again.  I got confirmation that the games would be Sunday morning this year instead of Saturday meaning that I could no longer Coach due to work commitments.  When I broke the news to Jasmine, she was quite upset.  She wasn't sure if she wanted to play anymore because as she put it: "you have always been my coach Dad."  It's true.  She hasn't played soccer or basketball without me being one of her coaches.  I was happy to see that I am still wanted, and not yet a source of embarassment made me tear up a little.  Sheila and I did convince her that playing was still a good idea, and she went ahead and signed up.  On Tuesday night after she had soccer, Jasmine tagged along to my practice.  She was going to sit and watch, and get some reading done for school.  Instead, she spent a bunch of time booting the ball around with me while I warmed up.  She was genuinely disappointed when I told her she couldn't play with the guys during our scrimmage.  Jasmine doesn't take much interest in soccer practice, so this was awesome to see. 

A little while back, we started hearing from Jasmine that she wanted to be in the school band.  As parents, we are always happy to hear about new interests, and we were supportive of this one too.  The first week of school she came home with information about the band program.  There was to be a meeting where the kids could try out the instruments, and Jasmine was going to go and decided that night what she was going to play.  We talked about the band a few times during the week, and I told her a few stories about my 2 years spent playing the trumpet.  By the time the meeting came along this past Wednesday, Jasmine had already decided that she would play the trumpet.  Her two best friends were also signing up for band, but Jasmine wasn't worried about what instrument they were picking.  She picked the trumpet solely because I had played it, and she told me just that.  Wow, that blew me away.  I told her that maybe we can look into getting 2 trumpets so we could play together.  Not only did this not repulse her, she actually got excited about it!  We signed up for a 2 month rental which gives me time to shop around online.  The trumpet market is pretty competitve, so getting 2 of them won't be that expensive.  The opportunity to bond over music is too good to pass up.

Jasmine is now signed up for band, minor basketball and Girl Guides so she spent plenty of time joking with me and Sheila about all he clubs and teams.  She let us know that she was also going to do lunch time monitoring for the younger grades, and decided that this counted as another "club".  This is probably enough to have on her plate, as she will have regular homework, plus plenty of swimming outings, as well as winter fun when the snow flies.  It's good to keep 'em busy somebody once said.

One last story to pass on as I my time runs out.  Asher has been pretty excited about the whole trumpet development this past week.  Last night, as Jasmine was practicing, he even got in on the act, blasting a couple of notes and getting a good laugh out of us.  Jasmine, Asher and I were all downstairs listening to some trumpet music on the computer.  I have a modest collection of ska music, a style that incorporates elements of punk music with big band style brass instruments.  On most records, the trumpet is just a bit player, but we found an album that featured trumpet playing on every song, and it was the lead instrument on a number of the songs.  We played a few songs off of the "Skatalites - The Best of" album and then Jasmine strolled off with her mom to the band meeting.  The next morning as Asher and I engaged in a spirited session on blanket hiding ("the bad guys is coming!  close up the windows!") he abruptly turned to me and asked for "trumpet music".  He does tend to be in awe of the things Jasmine gets to do, but this was still pretty shocking.  I put the album on, and a little later after we finished playing he asked to lay down.  What?  Still wondering what was going on, I set him up with a pillow and blanket on the couch.  It was only 930 in the morning.  Asher will sometimes initiate this as a prelude to a nap, but tends to be closer to noon or later.  He didn't seem tired, and he wasn't.  He laid quietly listening to the music.  As confirmation that he was indeed listening, he called to me a couple times when there was gaps between songs, wondering when the next one would start.  He fell asleep after about 45 minutes of listening to "trumpet music".  Fast forward to this morning, and right around 930 he once again asked for "trumpet music".  This was in response to me telling him I was going to put music on.  He immeadiately asked for help getting up onto the couch and he once again set himself up to listen to the tunes.  After about 30 minutes he was once again having an early morning nap after relaxing to the sweet sounds of Johnny Moore on the trumpet. 

That's my time.  I'm glad I got the chance to share today, as many of the little things in life have led to me smiling constantly over the last few days. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

Things That Make My Lips Curl

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.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Picture Blog: A New Arrival!

The week as it is known by convention runs from Sunday through to Saturday.  The week that now is behind us was filled with new life, lots of visiting with loved ones and some pain and suffering.  You haven't heard from me much in the last few months, not necessarily because I've been busy, but due more to a lack of inspiration.  The past seven days have cured my inspirational void and left me ready to type.

Last Sunday the entire family was eagerly anticipating some very big news.  My brother and his girlfriend were at the hospital and it seemed that baby was on the way.  As baby are apt to do, the little one kept everyone waiting.  By Monday afternoon Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie Paulette had come up from Quesnel, bringing Jasmine and Asher home after a fun-filled and exhausting visit.  They too joined the baby watch.  In the evening, my dad and sister returned to Quesnel, while Sheila and my mom raced off to the hospital to be closer to the action.  Jasmine headed off to her friends house for the night, and suddenly the house was very quiet.  Just a couple of guys hanging out, watching some rasslin'.  Eventually Asher succumbed to sleep and it was just me hanging out and watching some teetee.  I got a call from Sheila around 11 pm letting me know that it could be a looooong night.  She had to work in the morning, but wasnt worried about getting any sleep.  Baby first, work second. 

When I woke early in the morning Sheila was next to me in the bed, or at least she had been.  The baby had arrived!  Sheila had arrived home some time in the early morning, but my mom had stuck it out.  The little one had arrived via c-section at 620 am.  Between Tuesday and Wednesday I managed to get 3 different visits with my brother, sister-in-law and the new bundle of joy.  She was healthy alright, with a mighty set of lungs that she had already figured out how to use.  Ian and Larissa didn't settle on what to call her until Thursday I believe, and it was then that my neice was given her name: Charlotte Reyna Marie.  A great name, and she recieved the middle names of her two grandmothers as her middle names.  I am really happy for the new mom and dad, and it has been a great week filled with happiness and new life.  Allow me to introduce you to the star of the week.

The new baby consumed our thoughts for a few days, but later in the week we had planned to go on our first family camping trip in quite some time.  The exhaustion of the baby's arrival and having a few house guests threatened to postpone the camp out, but in the Sheila and I decided to make it work.  The trip had been reduced to 1 night, but that would give us a chance to test out the gear we had bought in preparation for a longer camp out in August.  We were joined at the lake by Sheila's dad and her 5 year old niece Cienna who proudly told me: "Uncle Matt!  This is my first time sleepin' out in the wild!"  We spent all day Thursday swimming in the lake.  It was sunny and hot, so why not?  Jasmine is an ace in the water so we spent hours horsing around further out in the lake.  Cienna and Asher also had lots of fun in the water, though the were much more careful than Jasmine which was good for us as guardians.  After a hamburger dinner prepared on my old school coleman white gas cookstove, we returned to the lake. 

Cienna's mom and dad drove out to join us, bringing their sons Ethan and Seth out for some lake time.  The joy that the boys had in their faces was great to watch.  They had a ton of fun horsing around the water, and Ethan joined Asher in watching Ethan's dad do some fishing from the shore.  Asher seemed in a trance, he crouched down staring at his Uncle while he baited and casted, likely only being so well behaved due to the exhaustion from a long day.  Ethan on the other hand wanted to be involved.  He would creep out into the water after each cast, wanting to get ahold of the line.  We ended the visit with some smores around the campfire before it was time for the boys to pack up and head for home and their beds.  The campers turned in soon after, though Asher put up a fight even though he hadn't napped due to all the excitement of being out at the lake.  After a rather chilly night in our tent, Jasmine and I joined her Papa around the fire at the crack of dawn.  I fried up some eggs and hanburger patties for her and I while Papa sipped his coffee.  All the other campers were silently sleeping still and missed out on the beautiful scenery.  We talked about the Loons that we had heard during the night, and were about to spot a cluster of 5 or 6 of them out in the middle of the lake.  Jasmine spotted what she says was a hawk (she knows her animals better than me) swooping down to try and get a fish.  We had a great spot, our fire was less than 50 feet from the edge of the water.  Jasmine than claimed to have seen an otter surface not far from shore.  I was a doubter, and Papa politely told Jasmine that otters don't really live in lakes.  The little guy surfaced again a few more times, and all three of us got a decent look.  We decided that it must of been a beaver, it was too big to be a muskrat.  Jasmine claimed to have seen a big flat tail.  Cienna had just woke up, and she rattled off a number of beaver facts for us.  I was impressed, she's only just finished kindergarten, where did she learn so much about the beaver?  Of course, here are some pictures of our camp out for you to enjoy.

After spending the week being overwhelmed by neices and nephews, we weren't finished being spoiled with cute little kid time.  One of Sheila's good friends stopped by on Saturday with her little guy we all got to take turns holding him.  He is 2 months old, and his name is CJ.  I have had a few thoughts this week of babies, but the toddlers have managed to counteract the happy thoughts with thoughts of exhaustion and patience testing.  The little guy fell asleep while I was holding him, his little eyes part way open, and his mouth twisted off to the side as he was in the middle of sucking on a bottle.  His mom and dad told us that he does fall asleep like that quite often so we weren't alarmed.  I am a pretty big softy when it comes to the babies.  Of course, I won't leave you hanging.  I have a couple of CJ pictures as well.

From reading the above, you may think that all Sheila and I had time to do this week was visit with neices and nephews and kiss babies.  For the most part, you would be right.  we did have a little free time last Sunday while the kids were down visiting with Grandma and Grandpa.  We went out for a greasy dinner at the Chinese Buffet (a mistake made after our chosen Vietnamese place was closed), then made our way to the movie theatre.  I managed to convince Sheila to try watching her first horror film, and we didn't jump into it lightly.  We went to see "The Conjuring" which has been getting cracking reviews from the critics.  Generally, horror movies are poorly done, light on story telling and acting talent and big on cheap scares.  I use to "fear" horror movies to some extent, but often they are so badly put together that I end up laughing instead of screaming.  The critics liked James Wan's latest offering, and I did too.  Sheila only screamed a couple of times, and she did have to hide behind her jacket for parts as well, but it sounds like she also enjoyed the movie.  If you haven't seen it, go out and do so James Wan did an great job of building believable suspense that resulted in some of the most intense horror scenes I have seen as the movie climbed to a finish. 

This past Friday night I jumped in the car and headed to the soccer field.  We had a 630 game scheduled against Westwood Pub.  Now, as a team we have been doing alright.  We are still undefeated within our own 30+ division.  Unfortunately, we have been tying games left, right and center.  Having leads and blowing them, desperately catching up from behind, we have managed to tie games in a variety of ways.  In divisional play we have accumulated 3 wins and 5 ties.  Great.  We haven't lost.  With soccer though, wins are very valuable.  They are worth 3 points while ties are worth 1.  So, even though we have not lost, we are not in first.  We are in a battle with one of the other teams for second out of the 4 teams in the division.  On Friday night, we got scheduled into a game against one of the Open division teams, and after checking out the website before the game, I discovered that their record sat at 9 wins and 1 loss.  I looked at the scoring tables to discover that they had 2 of the top goal scorers in the league.  I knew we were in for a tough game.  The score tallied up to 8 for them and 3 for us.  A few thoughts from the game:

-Scott DeBianchi and Matt Jubinville are good soccer players.  Great soccer players.  Scary good.  Likely the best players currently living in Prince George.  On multiple occasions on Friday night they made our normally solid team look silly.

-Despite only having 9 players, Westwood was still way too good for us as a group.  They didn't have their normal goalie, and we were able to take advantage of that to some extent by putting 3 goals on the board.

-I actually had more run with the ball in this game then I often do.  I made a couple of sprinting runs with the ball that didn't result in anything tangible, but my efforts were moticed by teammates which always feels good.

-I twisted my ankle badly in the first half, coming down on the side of my foot and crunching my ankle over.  I limped off quietly, lucky that I was 10 yards from the bench when it happened.  10 minutes later I was feeling quite a bit better so I ran back on.  By the end of the game the list of injuries that I had incurred included a bruised toe, and a bruised knee to go along with the ankle pain.  All on my left leg.  The ankle ended up ballooning by the next morning, and I had to take it very easy all day.  3 days later, it's still sore but I am hoping to play hockey tomorrow night.  We will see.

-The highlight of the game was definitely the hanging out after the game.  They boys were in a celebratory mood despite the clobbering on the field.  The beer was flowing until well after the game.  I was hungry after skipping dinner at home, and enjoyed an awesome steak sandwich from the "concession".  It was restaurant quality, like at a decent restaurant, and the price tag was a ridiculously fair $10.  I've been annoying numerous people since by raving about it.  The "concession"  which is better than most restaurants in Prince George is only open on weekends so I won't get too many chances to make return trips.  I may have to book a Friday off just for it.  It's that good.

I have a busy week of family time, soccer, hockey and poker ahead of me.  I'm also going to make an effort to get back to eating better and exercising more.  I have had my first major lull in action as far as weight lifting, running and exercising goes.  Hopefully, I can put an end to the negative downturn this week.  I'll keep you all posted.  Until next time.