Why ‘Firsts’ Matter

poo cupcakes

A week for 1sts

poo cupcakes
Never, ever look up a picture of poo on the internet.

The best part of being a parent is experiencing the firsts with your kids. First steps. First words. First poo in the toilet.

Sadly, I missed those so the firsts that come my way I eat up like a starving puppy thrown into a pit of pupperoni. But this week had a ton. A cluster of firsts. Even one that was a first for me.

The-Youngest had his first dance. Much of it I have been banned from talking about, but I was so proud of him for going. Alone. No wingman. No backup.

I remember my first dance. It was 70s line dancing. Disco, god help me. And it was such a terrible experience, that (to this day), I am still super conscious of how badly I dance. But The-Youngest stayed an hour, did his best to mingle (gosh, that’s hard to do) and finally left, vowing to have a friend go with him next time.

Soon to come, his first dance with a girl, then first date (NOT a date, Joe, we’re just getting a slice of pizza!), then first kiss, then the next thing you know, we’ll be at a wedding.

Learning to drive in the Toyota Rav4
The training car of choice, Rav4, Toyota. Not the mustang. No.

Next first was first time driving for The-Oldest. As he can’t actually go on the road, yet, we drove in the driveway, going in and out of gear, moving forward, backward, and figuring out what everything did in the car. I was super excited to be a part of that.

I remember my mom trying to teach me and it ended with me getting professional lessons (either that or mom would have ended up in the mental ward).

I honestly don’t think I could teach either of the boys to actually drive, not only because I’d freak out when they came close to clipping another car or running over a baby, but because I’d teach him all my bad habits. “Oh, hit the gas, you can rip through that yellow light.” “A double line passing restriction doesn’t apply to mustangs.” “Let’s see if I can actually do double the speed limit.”

So soon he’ll be taking lessons. I think it’ll go well. He did amazingly well n the driveway. More than I can say about myself these days.

First hockey tournament win
Hockey win!
His first!

Third first was The-Youngest’s, again.

He won a hockey tournament! Or rather his team did. They fought like lions (if lions could, you know, skate) and beat several pretty damn fine teams.

The last game for the gold aged me about 10 years, so if you haven’t seen me in a few months, I look like Stan Lee (may he rest in peace) after a bad night of drinking.

I was so proud of him and so happy to be a part of something he’d remember for the rest of his life. That kick out save at the start of the first game. The other team hitting the post not once, but twice in the final 2 minutes of the gold game. He’ll remember skating around, holding the trophy high. He’ll remember how the team mobbed him after an outstanding last game. He’ll remember the feeling of that win, that success, that payoff for a lot of hard work forever.

Or at least until that first kiss drives everything else out of his mind.

Lastly, something new for me. A first. My first baby shower.

Now, normally guys aren’t allowed to these things, though, why, I’m not quite sure. But we hosted the event, and The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and her parents worked very hard at making sure it was a success, cooking up a storm, setting up the rooms for nearly 60 people (YIKES!) and then making sure everyone felt welcome when they came over.

My quick observations of the event are as follows. I don’t think the mom touched her baby in 3 hours. I think both are going to be incredible parents. I think grand-babies are the best anti-aging method out there (and no, I don’t mean eating them or something, but holding them, snuggling them, feeding them) – it takes years off the grandparent’s faces.

baby shower
Cutest baby ever at her first Baby Shower. My first baby shower, too

Apart from all the cool presents, though, I think the best thing about a shower is that the mom realizes that she’s not alone, that what she feels, what she fears, what she hates or loves are all things other moms have experienced. There is help out there. Empathy. Support.

And also a year supply of diapers.

Other firsts zipped by almost unnoticed. The-Oldest’s first sr. concert (he was, as always, outstanding) and The-Youngest’s first time in the front seat (a little ahead of schedule),

But there are many more coming and I mean to be a part of as many as I can, because their firsts are mine, too.

So, if you like the blog, please share on FB or hit that subscribe button (nothing will ever be shared with anyone, ever) or simply tell your friends. 

Thanks for reading.

 

 

Why An Alberta Adventure? 2018

Alberta travel

This is my first blog in a while, but it’s also the first on my new website. The site is still a work in progress, but I hope you check out everything there, sign up for the super exciting newsletters, and share the post if you like it. Any comments and feedback would be greatly appreciated. 🙂

Alberta travel
Alberta – Did you know Alberta hosts an annual testicle festival?

The Great Alberta Adventure – Day -1

Why? Why Alberta?

Being on-call for work,  the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World can’t get a ton of time off, but this year, she managed to get nearly a week. Not quite a whole week, but 6 days. Hard to do Europe in 6 days. Hard to even do Disney World in 6 days. Or Hawaii.

So we planned to see a place the boys had never been. Alberta.

Not as many leaning towers there. No spectacular seaside resorts. No cities with gangster tours. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to see.

First and foremost, many of our peeps are out that way. The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World’s parents live in Oliver and Osoyoos, and her bestest bestie had settled in Stony Plain (near Edmonton), which (coming from Calgary) is like someone choosing to live in a smelly basement rather than a penthouse suite. I mean, who could really like Edmonton? It’s either too hot or too cold. There are far too many mosquitoes, and their hockey team cheats. A lot. And looks funny.

Alberta travel
The road to Alberta lies this way ->

But aside from Edmonton, we’ll see the incredible Rockies, Drumheller with all its dinosaurs, the Calgary Zoo, the various monuments erected to celebrate my years in Calgary, and up north, near the polar bears and Santa’s hut, Edmonton’s famous mall.

Anyway, so, yeah, lots of reasons to head east. And all doable in 6 days.

No planes, no trains, just one automobile. 30 hours driving, all told.

So a plan was made by the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and me, a balance between play-it-by-ear and making sure we have a place to stay each night.

I think we arrived at a good balance. No specific times, like at 8:24 we get up, peeing will happen from 8:24-8:27, handwashing from 8:27-8:28, then getting dressed from 8:28… nor nothing too generalized – like we’ll drive until we find something then do something then do something different and then come home.

We tried to lock down the key things, like the Calgary Zoo and since we have to actually book an appointment to see his majesty the panda, we had to be at the panda pavilion at 3:45, but what time we actually arrive at the zoo, well, we’ll play it by ear.

As well, we booked all our hotels so we wouldn’t have to search for a place to stay at the last minute. We could park our bags, take a nap, check out FB, Twitter, Instagram, youtube, and all things internetie, and chillax at the pool while deciding what’s most important.

The Rockies, the prairies, Drumheller, Calgary, Edmonton… there’s a lot to see
But no sooner had we made our generalized plan than The-Youngest took over. The oldest, even right now, still doesn’t quite know what we’re doing even though we’ve told him 10 times, spent an evening showing him our plans on a map and even made a colorful file folder he could consult at any time.

Touring Alberta, Calgary, Drumheller, West Edmonton Mall
The Rockies, the prairies, Drumheller, Calgary, Edmonton… there’s a lot to see

But The-Youngest, well, bless him, he loves to plan. It’s part of the trip for him. It’s the anticipation. It’s ‘see what others have done.’ It’s imagining himself doing all sorts of cool things.

So, come read the next post and see how an 11-year-old mind works.

How much do you plan for your adventures?

A New Birthday Idea

Epiphany time!

I had an epiphany the other day.

Not one where I fall on my head and remember where I buried an old matchbox car in my backyard, but one that I needed to share with everyone.

It has to do with birthdays.

See, we were doing up a birthday party for The-Oldest. We had cake and a new iPhone for him, and we’d even agreed to all sit and listen to him perform his latest compositions, so I thought we were doing a celebration right.

But then when the-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World told the story of how he had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the bright, cold world, it hit me.

We have been doing birthdays completely wrong.

Completely.

We don’t need to celebrate the one who was born, but the one who did the birthing!

Think about it. In the end, all I did when I was born was pop out. Knowing how I like the dark and how I love to be warm, I suspect I had to be dragged out as well. I may have even tried to climb back in. Certainly, I would have wanted to write a letter about how unfair this whole thing was, but is this really a story about me?

No.

Birthdays need a Hollywood-style reboot

It’s about the mom who endured hours of pain. Of months of sore backs, thick ankles, cravings for raw meat and ice cream.  Of mornings spent vomiting. Of strangers wanting to touch your belly and hours lying on a bed with your feet up in stirrups while someone asks if their hands are cold.

So shouldn’t we really ignore the one born and give grateful thanks to the one who did all the heavy lifting?

So, next birthday, let’s try something new. No presents for the kids. No cake. No happy birthday songs. Let’s get them naked, hold them upside down and give them a good spanking. Then we show them a video of birth and they can hear the screaming and see, well, all the gucky stuff.

That should be enough for them.

For the moms, cake, lots of cake, some wine, maybe lots of wine, a few birthday cards, a foot massage, and lots and lots of presents.

Who’s with me?????

(From The-Youngest… “Wait, what? No presents for me? Worst idea ever. The. Worst.”)

A new trend?

 

The Piano Man

One of the most amazing things about being a step-dad is that you get to watch your kids grow up, learn new things, or develop new talents.

There have been a good number of posts about The-Youngest who loves to play baseball and hockey. I’ve watched him go from being a goalie whose early strategy seemed to be to fall on his face and hope they hit him in the top of his helmet with the puck, to doing great butterfly splits, getting all pro with his glove hand, and learning to play the angles. Oh sure, he still takes more than his fair share of pucks in the face, like it’s a secret tactic of his, but he’s come so far and it’s been so great to see (even at 6 am in the morning.)

But The-Oldest has gone a different route. He’s not a sports guy. He’s a music guy.

Last year in April, he started on the piano and it’s like the two understood each other, like he’d found his soulmate.

He’s gone from plunking away aimlessly to creating freaking sonatas, preludes and piano concertos.

In less than 18 months.

When he wakes up, he races to the piano right after breakfast. When he comes home from school and he goes on the piano. When he finishes supper, he’s on the piano. When he’s asked to go to bed, he says, no, just another few minutes on the piano.

This, my friends, is what it takes to succeed at something. Lots of raw talent followed up by endless hours and hours of practice.

Below are the results. To quote him. “This is my satirical love song. Taking all the pop tropes and having many hidden references. This piece is made for the public. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s everyone’s favorite prelude.”

Please support him on his youtube channel.

Enjoy.

 

A Prelude to a Prelude – Musical Monday

Well, a new thing. Music Monday.

Being about as musically inclined as a block of concrete, I struggle to understand what The-Oldest is creating.  Like anyone who really doesn’t know much about music, I simply can say, yeah, that sounds great or I love that quiet bit or pass me the donuts, so today, we’re going to start a series on music.

To help me learn and to showcase his awesomeness.

Each week I’ll post something The-Oldest has created, though I would encourage everyone to follow him on that YouTubie thing and get updates directly from him.

First up, his first prelude.

Now, a prelude, according to me is… is a car.

According to him, “It’s a quick piece that, maybe uhm, averages about 2-3 minutes that is, supposed to come before a large piece.” He hasn’t seen a concert where a prelude has been played before the concert, but it used to happen a lot in the old days., (which could be like 1970), “or in operas.”

“For example every single time there is an opera, there is an overture which ack gets you ready for the opera. Like Wagner has preludes (like the wedding march) to every one of his operas. The prelude sets up a mood.”

His prelude sets the mood for an epic piece. “It feels like we’re going somewhere later, like a start to something grand, or like the cutting of a ribbon for a store opening, but going in the store is the cool part.”

He says he changed keys in a rising fashion quite a bit which created a sense of rising tension. He changed it up, though, he added, by suddenly going down in the keys to kill the tension and slow down. Why? Because he wanted to mess with people and try out a new chord.

“The ending is the basic technique of how to make a finale, but it’s a fake one because it’s just the beginning. (the technique is going from a tonic chord to augmented chord). When I reached the very top, I went all the way back down with 6-1 chord combo and finished it with a quick bum-boom.”

Enjoy

For my musical friends, look at the trilling of the middle fingers. OMG, how does he do that? My fingers just cramp up thinking about it. (FYI, the program he’s using is synthesia)

For everyone else, any thoughts?

Canada Day 2017- When You’re Wrong, You’re Wrong

Our lovely view from the Grand Pacific

Ok, so after Nerf Wars, there was still hope that I’d be right, that every vacation needed to be planned, but after an hour or so in the hotel pool, we retired to our room overlooking the Inner Harbour and waited for the fireworks with friends. Things had gone well. Very well. And I greatly feared that I’d have to make an admission.

I was wrong. You could have a good mini-vacation without planning every second of it.

But I held out. We still had the fireworks. Maybe we’d not find a spot to see them. Maybe every single food outlet would be shut down and because we hadn’t booked a reservation, the children would go hungry and be forced to beg for scraps from rich Asians in shiny suits. Maybe, because we had no plan in place, if there was a zombie attack, we’d die while trying to find a good chainsaw.

None of that happened, though.  We had a great dinner with friends in our hotel room overlooking the Inner Harbour. Later, we found a perfect spot for viewing the fireworks, and apart from a couple of asshat punks who kept on shouting m*therf***er this and that while sucking on those stupid vape pipes, we had the most perfect time (and, frankly, what plan would I have made for those idiots other than bringing a good baseball bat?)

 

Spoons! check it out!

Even the next day, after me getting up early, driving out to visit some friends who were about to head to the Far East (Saskatchewan), we had a fantastic brunch at Spoons (another place I would HIGHLY recommend), played Smash-Up with my best friend (I lost every game), and even had an epic dance-off! (Yes. there’s a video of that, but I’ve been told not to show it if I ever want to wake up again.)

Then even got on an earlier ferry than planned. Plus, though the ferry was booked solid and there looked to be no seats for us to sit down in, we found 4 together.

Like it was planned.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world took this one.

We had the best mini-vacation I’ve ever had in Victoria. Our hotel room had two doors, and a bedroom for each of us. The weather was absolutely perfect. We found parking downtown easily and it was freaking free! We didn’t have any problems with traffic, the food was great where we chose to eat, and no one seemed to hate us for showing up 30 min late.

All with minimal planning.

So, I have to say it.

I was wrong.

The key is to plan just enough. In all honesty, I’ve done the total seat-of-the-pants traveling and it has its challenges, like arriving at 10 pm in Edinburgh and pitching a tent in a flooded soccer field or finding the only room in a town is a serial killer’s murder room (boy, that’s a story, I tell you.)

However, planning every hour simply adds a ton of stress and takes away from the adventure. Part of traveling is not just researching the hell out of an area, then seeing it, no, it’s finding something unexpected, something amazing you hadn’t planned for, something cool to do that you never would have imagined.

The best visit to Victoria ever!

I hate that I missed so many of my friends. I hate that I didn’t get to laugh with them, hear about their lives, tell them my stories, but that’ll all have to happen at another time, or when they come over to visit us.

So, as my parting thought, as I wind up this mini-blog on Victoria, let me tell all my friends out there that it is ok not to plan out everything. You can still have a good time.

No.

A GREAT time.

Nerf War Tips

Nothing says war like cats and drill-sergeants.

Ok, so you want to play Nerf Wars, do you? I didn’t hear you, DO YOU?!?

First of all, I would suggest rules. Here are some. Or you can read the previous post.

Now let’s take a look at my top 10 tips (plus one from The-Youngest.)

  1. Take accuracy over rapid-fire. Better to hit something than just leave a pile of darts around something.
  2. Ensure your gun works.
  3. Have lots of ammo. Stuff your pockets full. Stuff more down your shirt, your pants, and into your shoes. Running out of ammo means you die.
  4. Have lots of ammo loaded into clips. Big clips. Drum magazines. Stuff these in your belt or pockets.
  5. Cover matters, but this isn’t real war. A tree or trampoline netting works just fine. Your wife, however, should never be used for cover, apparently. NEVER.
  6. Numbers matter. 3 adults with bad guns and no glasses will still put one down 10-year-old with a rapid-fire weapon.
  7. Never let the kids chose your weapons.
  8. Have rules (especially about picking up afterward.)
  9. Wear protective glasses (and a jock because you just know where your children will try to shoot you.)
  10. Have fun and forget about hits and misses, wins and loses, (and whoever hid all the nerf bullets so those using 300 round magazines would not be able to reload.)
  11. (From The-Youngest) Watch, like, 200 videos on Nerf Wars.

And, for those who need to know, here are the top 3 best nerf guns.

  • Sniper time!

    Elite Centurion. (Officially the Nerf N-Strike Elite Mega Series Centurion blaster.) “Joe, did you know these are good for distance? And pretty accurate?”  (Plus, it looks like a sniper rifle.) The downside, low rate of fire. But hey, you can hide up in a tree somewhere and shoot unseen.

 

  • Fast and Furious. Hyperfire Elite.

    Hyperfire. (Officially the Nerf N-Strike Elite HyperFire blaster.) Snaps out bullets at a horrifically fast rate. Who needs to aim? You just get close and let loose. Downside – Not super accurate but since most battles are fought within 10 feet of each other, this does not matter as much.

 

Last but not least, darts.

The best nerf darts are, oddly enough, not from Nerf. How weird is that? And to make matters even worse, not all darts work in all the guns. But for a quick recommendation, check it out –Ekind “Waffle” style darts. They are approved by freaking Popular Mechanics!

As I can attest by being hit with a lot of them, these are pretty accurate. (FYI, we got the old darts, the kids hoarded the waffles.)

But above all, have fun.

If you have any suggestions on how to play an epic game of Nerf Wars, let me know!

Canada Day Epic Nerf War 2017

War is hell

The epic Nerf war of 2017 would be fought in the backyard, a yard full of rocky outcroppings, bushes, trees, chairs and one trampoline.

Rules were set (rules being even better than plans, IMHO.) They were a mix of adult rules and kid rules.

No head shots. (adult rule.)

When you’re hit, you have to stand still until you’re tagged out by a team mate. (kid rule.)

No constant shooting of people who have been tagged out. (adult rule).

No stopping to reload (Kid rule, brilliantly applied to maximize their advantage, as you’ll see below.)

No hitting anyone with weapons (adult rule.)

No one running out into traffic, no one running into the flower beds, no one shooting an ally for fun, no one eating any bullets, no climbing on cars, no digging trenches, no having fits if you lose, no one screaming out things like “Kill them all, kill them!!!!”, and everyone, yes everyone, will pick up the bullets after the war.

A clean battlefield is a happy battlefield.

(ok, let’s face it, when it comes to rules, the parents are always locked and loaded, and ready to go.)

The war should have been fair. 3 adults vs 3 kids. What the adults – especially me – lacked in speed, energy and an ability to scream at the top of our lungs, we made up with cunning, experience and hundreds of hours of playing Call Of Duty.

However, the kids knew this, so they stacked the deck.

Locked and loaded. Hyperfire Elite.

They each had a gun that fired about 300 bullets a second, backed up by drum magazines (at least 2) that force fed a thousand bullets into the barrel.

We had one pistol that had three shots and looked like the Cricket from Men In Black. We had one gun that jammed every two shots. We had a wildly inaccurate rapid-fire rifle that would have been fine had it not had a 6 bullet magazine.

Undaunted, we hid behind rocks, bushes and (in some cases) each other and waited for the onslaught. Blue bullets spitting out of their guns like horizontal hail, screaming like rabid soccer fans, they charged. We moved them down. We won the first game.

In hindsight, I think that was their plan because, after that, they spent the next hour shooting us so many times that I think I still have one bullet lodged in my ear and I looked like I had a bad case of measles from all the direct hits.

However, like the heroic defenders of the Alamo, we fought on, but we were outgunned, outrun, and frankly, outplayed. Seems kids can play Call of Duty as well. The Oldest would march forward like a Terminator with his rapid fire, belt-fed blaster. Fearlessly, he’d advance into a storm of bullets while the younger ones flanked us. We were so focused on hitting the Oldest that we didn’t see the little sneakerlings until it was too late.

The most fun part, though was when the Oldest’s gun jammed and he threw it aside, chasing around his mom while throwing bullets at her, the two of them laughing like crazy.

Panting, an hour later, we called it a day. I want to say we won as much as we lost, but having been mowed down about a hundred times desperately trying to revive The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World after being hit, I can say we likely lost badly.

No prisoners!!!!

No matter. We had a ton of fun. Even The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World could be heard shouting battle cries like a Valkyrie filled with berserkergang bloodlust. All I can say is it was lucky we had rules against hitting people with the nerf guns – “You call that shooting, Joe?!?!?! A blind grandmother with Parkinson’s could have hit more than you did! You call yourself a Viking warrior? Get it in gear, buttercup! Arrrrrrrr!!!!!”)

But, panting, sweat dripping from my forehead, as we picked up a zillion little darts, I thought, not for the first time, how lucky I am to have such a great family, such a cool wife, and such great opportunities for fun.

Canada Day – What if Everything Goes Right?

In my mind, they’re avoiding either Godzilla or a toll bridge

I’ve said it before, but the best stories don’t come from happiness or things going right.

They come from falling asleep while waiting in the ferry line and being woken up by honking and a ferry worker banging on your window and telling you to get the car in f…ing gear, in dealing with the Greek police after a car accident, in sorting out where you would have left your wallet in a place where people speak English about as well as you speak Mongolian, in pitching a tent in the pouring rain while lightning snaps overhead and thunder shakes the ground.

Now, I won’t say I look forward to those things, but they do make for good stories.

Our destination, this year, however, could prove to be problematic, vis-à-vis problems.

We had chosen to go to Victoria.

Few things are as beautiful as the trip from Vancouver to Victoria.

I booked the ferry in advance because it’s a long weekend and on those occasions, people like to travel to the Island and plug up all the roads. Now, the ferries have an odd rule. You have to arrive ½ hr before departure, but not an hour before. In other words, they give you about a ½ hour window. 5:00 – 5:30 to catch that 6 ferry.

It’s a hard window to hit in Vancouver traffic. Invariably, there’s someone who’s determined to set their truck on fire, crash into someone else or drive at the speed of a tortoise on pain meds.

Then there’s the whole getting the kids ready, packed, yanking them off electronics, stuffing them into the car and panicking as we realize we have to make a 50 min drive in 20 min now.

It can be quite the ordeal.

But not this time.

Dynamite works well, too

This time, we were totally ready to go hours before we had to leave. HOURS! And when we actually had to leave, it wasn’t like surgically separating them from their electronics.

Hell, we even left before we had to leave. BEFORE!

When we arrived within that 30-minute ferry window. No cards were declined. No one threw up in the backseat. No one forgot to bring the paperwork.

It all went fine.

Everyone who hadn’t made a reservation had a 2 sailing wait.

Sailing to Victoria, the weather was magnificent, the ocean calm, and the captain even yelled at a skateboarder over the PA system (stop it, we have cameras and can see you, you totally f…ing moron.) The Youngest read. READ! The Oldest didn’t once punch his brother while thinking we weren’t looking. And we listened to the Oldest’s newest composition (something honestly amazing).

It was horrific.

Like Heaven might be.

Then, we blazed through ferry traffic, found a parking space right in front of our hotel and got an upgraded room so huge that the Youngest said, boy, this room is huge.

Tegan and Sara in concert. Free! On the parliament lawns!

Something odd was happening here.

But it didn’t stop there. On the parliament lawn, right beside us, there was a concert playing – A duo that the Prettiest-girl-in-the-World LOVES. Tegan and Sara.

Musicians played all over. There was a truck that sold mini-donuts. People were dancing and smiling and waving Canadian flags.

So we listened to the concert for a bit, went to get ice cream, strolled along streets shut off to traffic and took pictures of the glorious sunset. The only iffy thing that happened was the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World mis-hearing the cost of the ice cream (“$40 for 4 cones??????, are you kidding me?” “Not $40. $14.”)

No ice cream got dripped on my shirt. No drunken idiots tried to beat up anyone (unlike my last visit to Victoria). No activists shouted at us, outraged at something. No police sirens wailed. Hell, the Youngest didn’t even wander off to touch something that really shouldn’t be touched.

By the time we got back to the hotel, I was reeling.

Nothing had gone wrong. We’d had a perfect time. Perfect.

And all without a plan.

How was this possible?

And would it last?

 

For fun, a Tegan and Sara video (ad kept in cuz that’s how T&S make a bit of coin.)

 

 

Life is Better With Plans, Right?

My first meme!!!

It’s been a while since I blogged and to my six fans out there, I apologize.

However.

I have a plan.

I’ve spent the last six months working on my novel, Yager’s War, a historical mystery set in 1940s Holland (about a Chicago detective who must find his missing sister before the Germans invade) and that has distracted me somewhat from sitting down and ramble-writing. AKA blogging.

All fair and fine.

But I’m back, baby.

Time to restart blogging, again. But time to kick it up a notch.

So this month, I’m going to look at revamping the website (which means an old dog like me will have to learn some new tricks.)

I’m going to look at changing up the content of the blog.

I’m going to try and make it a billion times better.

And maybe attract one more reader (see, proper goal setting is about making the bar so low that you’ll easily vault over it and not twist a metaphorical ankle.)

So put down that video game, pause season 5 of Homeland on Netflix, put supper back in the oven or move date night to tomorrow.

Cuz I may need your help.

What would you like to see in the blog?

I’m thinking some funny memes. Some advice from people who know what they’re talking about (and not, you know, me). A few guest blogs. Less selfies of me trying to look like Brad Pitt going insane.

Inner Harbour, Victoria, BC.

But first up, our trip to Victoria.

This year, we won’t be able to manage a proper vacation. You know, pack 20 bags, yell at the kids to hurry up, to stay together, to stop picking your nose in public, then spend 2 weeks somewhere that only I want to see (“What’s the deal with this Grand Canyon thing, Joe?” “Hello! It’s grand! And a canyon!”) and engage in Bataan death marches around exotic locals to see things we’ve never seen before (“Wait, Joe, I’ve seen the Eifel Tower on TV, so why do we need to see it in person?”)

Don’t get me wrong, next year, we are totally doing those things, but not this year.

This year, it’s short trips. Hit and run vacations. 2 days here. 2 days there. No planes. No borders. No strip searches (sadly – Apparently, they’re supposed to be done by professionals, not me.)

So this year, we’re going to try to do more things by… ack, I can’t even say it…by… by the seat of our pants.

Without a plan.

Without.

A.

Plan.

Grand Pacific in Victoria, BC.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

We’ve got a bit of a plan.We’ve booked a hotel (the fancy–smancy Grand Pacific) and we have arranged to visit family, but nothing like, 7am, breakfast, 7:35 go to bathroom, 7:50, get into car, 8:30 (have you ever tried to get kids into a car quickly???), head off to see something, 9:00 see something and take lots of pictures of it. 9:10 yell at kids for complaining there’s no wifi. 9:40 head off to see something else that may or may not be cool…. Etc, etc.

Nope. We’re trying to be more flexible (and by ‘we’, I mean, ME.) It’s me growing as a human being while devolving as one at the same time.

Friday night, we’ll take the ferry and sort out what to do when we get there. Saturday, brunch with family, then, THEN, sort out what to do afterward, then the evening, see fireworks, but make no plans where to see them from or what food to eat or ….

Wait, I need a moment.

Ok, hyperventilating over.

Then, Sunday, totally playing it by ear. Maybe see a friend. Maybe look around town. Maybe relax in the pool.

At the very least, it could be interesting.

Likely, I’ll be drinking more than usual.

At least, that’s the plan.

And hey, thanks to all my readers who followed me. I hope you’ll return, make a few comments below or on Facebook, and help me create a better blog. Text me, email me, respond in the comment section. Let me know what you think.

Surrey Writers' Conference – Do Or Die

It’s been a busy week, but here’s what this stepdad has been up to!

A conference where I hope someone will be interested in my writing.

What’s the definition of insanity, again? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Yeah, that’s it. Einstein, right? Or Bieber? I can’t remember. Some great mind, anyway.

So, let’s be clear, going to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference was an act of insanity for me.

It’s a conference where you can learn new stuff, meet new people and pitch your projects to attending agents or editors. I’ve been going on and off for about 10 years, and the result has always been the same. I go to workshops, listen hard, try to learn a bit, then go home and try to make my writing better.

Don Maass, one of the best writing teachers I've ever seen.

Don Maass, one of the best writing teachers I’ve ever met.

That’s all good. Sometimes, especially with the Don Maass workshops, I learn a ton and it makes my writing a WHOLE lot better. He just has a way of making me think about how I can make any story better, deeper, more entertaining.

But sometimes, I don’t get as much. Sometimes it’s just stuff I already know.

As for the ‘meeting new people’ part, well, let’s just say I’m far more comfortable sitting in the basement in a dark room and writing alone, than having to talk with people. It’s the secret side of my nature. The extreme introvert. If you want to see what it’s like when I make conversation, I have a video for you.

This is me going to talk to someone. Only I’m less cool.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIYjKmopNuk?version=3&rel=1&fs=1&autohide=2&showsearch=0&showinfo=1&iv_load_policy=1&wmode=transparent]

However, the big fail for me has always been the pitching part. I stress for days over what to say, how to say it, then, when I actually sit in front of someone, my nerves get the best of me.

The conversations often go like this…

“So, I have this book I’ve written, no, wait, I mean novel, cuz a book could be, like, you know, hahaha, a non-fiction thingee or anything, so uhm, yeah, I have this novel and it’s completed and it’s about this guy who does something and must solve some problems and then, at the end, it’s all resolved except for the parts that aren’t resolved. And it’s science-fiction. Did I mention that?”

Bring on the full body sweat.

Perhaps it’s not surprising that not a lot of agents or editors are interested in my stories. More surprising is that I’ve sometimes been escorted out by security or had the agent/editor look quietly away while I weep uncontrollably.

Ok, it’s not that bad, but last time I ate a lot of rejections, and that stung. I thought I had a pretty good story, a pretty good pitch and, yet, yeah, zip. Nada. Not even a pity send-me-ten-pages requests.

So why go back if that’s all going to happen, again?

Why?

Because there is always that hope that this time will be different. Maybe one day, I’ll pitch the right story to the right agent/editor at the right time.

See?

Insane.

But what happened this year was not something I expected at all.

Wedding Challenges

deal-with-itLet’s call this one, nobody told me I’d have to deal with this!

At my best friend’s house (m), the boys and I got ready. As I started to get ready, I found two of the tuxedo shirts had come off their hangers and lay in a heap at the bottom of the bag. It was a harbinger of things to come. Nobody told me I’d have to iron at the last second.

But I can do that and I did just that, making the shirts so crisp, they could have cut tomatoes. Then we worked on connecting the slide projector to the computer. I’d spent the last 3 days making the world’s greatest slide show, so it was super important that people actually, uhm see it.

It should have been easy, but it was the day of my wedding and nothing was coming easily. We downloaded videos to show us how to get the projector to work and all we did failed. In the end, we switched out cords and it worked.

Nobody said, I’d have to deal with stupid projectors.

Then we drove off to the wedding, the boys dressed and looking amazing!

I’d been told not to stress out too much about having to meet everyone and direct them to their seats. The wedding advisor would be there. The officiant would be there. I’d have help. Don’t worry, they said. It’ll all be fine, they said.

Instead, none of those things happened – it was just me and my brother and no clue what to do, where people had to go or what THEY were supposed to do until the wedding kind of started.

Plus, I had the boys with me. In tuxes.

Give The-Youngest 5 min unsupervised and he’ll find a way to get mud on his shoes, a frog in his shirt pocket and jello stuffed into pants. How could I leave them alone?

Nobody told me I’d have to deal with having to leave the kids! (My brother stepped in here and kept an eye on them).

So, my sincere apologies to everyone who arrived and didn’t know where they had to go and didn’t have someone in a logical place saying hi, thanks for coming.

Then, with me running around trying to find the wedding advisor, img_1565with people coming in and trying to figure out what’s what, a friend told me that some of the signs put out about the wedding are wrong.

Some said a 4 start, some a 5.

What the hell? No one told me I’d have to deal with wrong signage, the one thing that should have provided a bit of vital information in case, you know, the groom wasn’t greeting anyone.

So now I am really on a hunt for our wedding coordinator. I even enlisted the aid of our photographer. And the staff at the bar. And someone clearing the tables in the reception area. Everyone tried to help. They saw the panic on my face. The twitch in my eye. the look of someone about to run far, far away.

But no one had seen her.

Nor had any of my help arrived.

People arriving at this point saw a chubby guy in a tux blur by a lot, moving just under the speed of light. If you got a hug or a welcome, hey, hi, thanks for coming, then that was the Christmas miracle of the decade cuz I was in high panic.

Then the unflappable photographer, Mike K (see website cuz he’s awesome), came and told me that picture time had come.

But what about the wrong time on the signs, what about no wedding coordinator, what about the fact most of the arrivals had gone to the bar, what about the projector and my slideshow, what about Trump as president, what about …????

He said it would be fine, but we needed to do pictures. Now. Before we lost good light. Before, you know, the ceremony started.

I came back to find The-Oldest had managed to untuck his suit pocket  square and then stuffed it back in like some sort of softball. The-Youngest, however, was still in perfect condition. Like a miniature 007.

I fixed the pocket square. Praised The-Youngest (and God), and roared off with the kids in tow. Off we marched to have our pictures taken, wading through the chaos of people wanting to say hi, or wish me well or ask what was up with the signs.

After taking 2000 pictures, some of them actually fun, I came back in and was politely informed by my brother that I had squished a spider with my back and my suit was now covered in spider goo.

F*ing spider goo.

Heroically, he set out to find a wet cloth while I tried to find my friend who had the projector and slideshow. Of course, the bride had arrived and the computer which held the slides was in that bridal room.

Of-freaking-course.

And that little part of my brain still working said, hey, joe, listen, man, going into that room might not be the best idea.

However, I still had options so I asked my other best friend, (f) to get my backpack out of that room, please. (though, in hindsight, I might not have said please, I might have said, oh my f*ing god, the slides are in the bridesroom. Go up there now. Get it now. Now. Fast. I need that laptop. arg! ack! grurg!)

What I really needed was a drink at this moment.

Nobody told me I’d have to deal with all of this without a drink.

I’d wanted this to be the most perfect wedding of all time and it seemed to be teetering on disaster.

In the end, people made their own way to the conservatory lit by the bright sunlight, framed by wondrous fall colors, found their own seats and were ready for the ceremony to begin.

I waved at a few people, said hi to a few, shook hands with several and tried not to look like a guy on the verge of a complete mental collapse.

Then I finally found the coordinator. She gathered the mothers and fathers, the junior bridesmaids, and one Great Baba in the hallway. When the music began, my heart still pounding in my chest from all the adrenaline, I followed the parents in, escorting Great Baba to her chair.

I joined the officiant, the bride’s mother, at the front, turned to face the room and waited.

Then I saw the Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World come in, her boys escorting her.

img_1664She literally took my breath away she looked so incredibly beautiful.

At that moment, I knew none of that other stuff had mattered at all.

She was here. She was so, so beautiful.

And it was all I could do not to let happy tears flow down my face.

Nobody told me that I’d have to deal with tears.

But I was ok with that.

The Wedding Day

game-of-thrones-meme-red-wedding-rob-starks-weddings-family-wedding-jokes-memes-addictedtoeverything-ateHave you ever wanted to know what it’s like in the groom’s mind on the day of the wedding?

No?

Well, ah, that’s a little awkward because that’s what’s on the agenda for this blog post.

Let’s face it, a wedding isn’t something you do every day. It’s something you plan for, you organize, and when the day arrives, you hope it will be everything you wished it would be.

And I can’t speak for the bride, but for the groom it’s stressful.

At least for this groom.

I mean, hey, I’m the guy who gets stressed when they change the menu at McDonalds or I have to watch a Game of Thrones episode.

When people would ask if I was excited, I would tell the truth. “I wasn’t, yet.”

But when the day arrived, despite my stress levels being so high, I think I my entire suit was dripping with sweat, I actually did feel excited. I couldn’t wait to see The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World in her wedding dress and I couldn’t wait to officially be her husband.

The stress, though, came from a few things. Unlike my first wedding, where I simply showed up and smiled a lot, this time I had jobs to do!

First, I had to do a speech in front of about 150 people and it had to be a great speech that made people laugh and cry, but I had no ability to memorize that many words (hell, I still can’t sing our national anthem without forgetting if we still praise the queen or if that had been replaced by some indigenous people reference or ode to the LGBT community), and I didn’t want to read from a written script since i wanted to speak from the heart, but if I did that, then I might forget to thank someone or mind-blank on a name or simply start laughing hysterically!

So, somehow, I would have to say something amazing, off-the-cuff and not throw up at any point in the speech. Yeah. Not easy to do.

Then there was the whole meeting and greeting everyone. Sadly, my idea of setting up a rope line and hiring a greeter was not meet with a lot of enthusiasm. Nor was the idea that I hide in the bathroom stall until someone called my name and said the bride was waiting for me at the alter.

No, I was supposed to say hi to everyone, give them some directions on on where to go, and remember their names. The latter caused me all kinds of grief since I feared that mental state would be so bad, I would barely remember my own name. I had a great fear that someone I’d known for 50 years would walk up to me, and I would say, hi, errr, uhm… you.

Lastly, there was this, whole, you know, wedding thing. What if everyone could see how much i was swearing in my suit? What if I buggered up the vows or when asked if I do, I forgot how to say, I do?

What if i fainted at the alter? Farted? Giggled? What if The-Youngest had an attack of goofiness and did a clown walk in with his mom? What if it rained and rain leaked through the roof and dripped down my back at the moment I was to kiss the bride and instead head butted her as I yelled, what the f*ck?

princess-brideSo you see, at the end of the day, I just wanted it to be the best wedding a bride could ever have. I wanted The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World to remember this day with fondness and not in tears while talking to a therapist (or criminal lawyer if she murdered me.)

And how did it all go, you ask?

Oh, boy, were there some surprises.

Good and bad.