Crazy Days

Last week I officially had a new boss (she was here for about a month to learn the org). Last Thursday we got a new puppy (mini golden doodle). This Monday my old boss came back into my position and I took over a different group. This Monday I had an interview for a promotion, which I’ve spent nearly 2 months preparing for. And yesterday, I received a vaccine shot.

So in terms of stress factors, I have work, a new dependency, financial items, and health all as triggers. I’m only missing relationship challenges to pile on for a perfect storm.

A new boss comes with the requirement to build a new critical relationship and reset of my mandate. Every new boss wants to make an impact and they have their own approach to get there. We’re in the execution phase of a ‘can’t fail’ project that impacts a few hundred thousand people, so there are some limits to flexibility in change.

A new puppy, as anyone who has had a dog can attest, like brining a dependency into the house. The good news is that she’s already had some basic training and has a calm demeanour, and she sleeps like 15 hours a day. But there’s the nipping and good habits that need to be instilled, so work in that sense.

A job change in a brand new team is easier than to a sister team, because there are no expectations. This lateral move means I need to modify my existing relationships and then build a different one since my old boss is now my peer. To complicate matters further, we have different methods to achieve the same goal, so there’s some challenges in consistent messaging. Nothing that can’t be managed – if it was the only thing.

The interview for promotion is one I’ve been training for a while now, nearly 2 years. The last 2 months have been the larger process of triage, testing, and then interview. I have no doubts about the capability to perform, but I am recognizing that any promotion is less about the ability to execute than the ability to dance. It’s a rather obtuse dance that only becomes clear once you’ve taken a stab at it – yet its also the most fair approach to avoid nepotism/favouritism. I think I did a solid job, but now it’s about waiting a few weeks to get the final results. And then, the real choice of what I want to do once if I get it. That choice will impact me for the next 3-5 years.

And then there’s the vaccine. I live in Canada, where the rollout has had a few hiccups but seems to be going rather well now. I’m not essential, I can work remotely with ease, I am young and without conditions… so all of this put me near the back of the line. No stress from that factor, but a whole lot of social anxiety that as a country we can hit the proper immunization numbers to find some normalcy. It’s been an adventure to talk to all sorts of folks on this, either hesitant for the unknown side effects (understandable!) or downright anti-vax (where Darwinism isn’t fast enough). I try to be inclusive and pragmatic, there’s a reason people think the way they do and sometimes discussing it you can find common ground. In some cases however, their personal stress levels and need to find a scapegoat have pushed them into a spot of no return. It sounds weird, but it’s quite similar to an addict. They need to want help. It’s not fun.

So yeah, let’s just say that it’s coming at all sides, all at the same time. I’m more than fortunate in multiple ways, but it would be foolish to think that I am coping well. So some work to do to get back into a good mindspace by the end of month.

Logical Growth

I am a proponent that everything is a skill. The more you practice at something, the better you get. That’s self-evident for tangible actions like cooking, throwing, or painting. The less tangible items are tougher, and one where people tend to put up their own barriers. ‘Only geniuses can do that’, ‘I’ll never be able to’. The world is already full of enough hurdles, not much sense in compounding that on yourself.

(Side note: I am not dismissing that people have different skill ceilings. I’ll never be a Crosby or Einstein in their specific domains.)

I find joy in coaching, be it hockey or work. I thought about becoming a teacher, but there are certain system rules that provide a large disincentive to male teachers… plus parents are horrible. Still, I enjoy the act of passing knowledge, yet more so in seeing someone else take that data set and then coming up with their own conclusions. I’ll use a specific hockey example, which probably won’t resonate with many.

Hockey is the luckiest professional sport. There’s a significant amount of randomness given that there are few stoppages in play, and the game itself is played in close quarters. The most successful hockey players certainly have an astounding level of talent, but the exceptional ones all excel with anticipation. Anticipation requires a high level of awareness of the players and the environment. If you were to take a snapshot of any given timeframe, there are high odds you could guess what should happen next. As a player generating a play, you want to have maximum options at hand to make it harder for the opponent to anticipate. So you have the puck, you lift your head, understand where everyone is, then take a specific patch that maximizes options. The first thing I teach young skaters is that you want to avoid the middle of the ice (there are too many people there), and avoid the boards (as you eliminate all movement options on that side). There’s a concept of a magic line between the faceoff dot and the hashmarks that is the best option. Walking kids through this line means off-ice visualization, drills at half speed, cones to direct traffic, and then positive feedback. When they get it, and I mean truly get it, every other part of their game changes. They start to see the game and their anticipation of the opponent starts to grow.

While the practice itself is for the tangible parts – stick handling, skating, agility – the real skill here is mental acuity. Rapidly taking in multiple variables and coming to reasonable conclusions.

Escape Rooms

I enjoy logic puzzles, always have. Virtual escape rooms were the best, and the reason Jayisgames exists. I’ve done a half dozen real-world escape rooms now, and the real joy here is not in successfully leaving the room but in the successful teamwork required to do so. Both my kids enjoy it as well, and it’s fascinating to see the brains of an 8 and 10 year old make their own conclusions.

My wife’s prior students launched their own platform to bring escape rooms to people’s homes, either physically or virtually. We’ve done a few with them, and did another this weekend at the same time our friend’s family (video chat). The virtual ones provide a lot of context that you need to filter through in order to get pieces of a hint, then you put those smaller pieces together to get something else.

We hit a few hurdles to make sure we were all going at the same pace. Some guiding bits to help kickstart the process but by and large they just easily captured all weird spaces. Things like the number of lights next to a window, or an out of place umbrella. My youngest, with the confidence of a 50 year old, just shoots ‘oh I know this, let’s do it this way’ and pow, perfect answer. The eldest gives a ‘oh, that clue was in the drawer, let’s go back’. It’s like they have ideas in balloons above their head, and at will, they just pull one down and use it to move forward.


The kicker from this is that the balloons themselves never really go away. They just keep putting more and more up there, and keep pulling them down as they need them.

Can’t get headphones to work? Let’s go through the steps to re-pair and reset the bluetooth. The RC car is having issues, let’s take parts out and see what makes it go. Pull cord on the fan requires a bench, let’s tie a small cord to it. They want a desert, they pull out the recipe books and start going at it.

It’s absolutely fascinating to watch a brain develop on it’s own. Sure there are times where I need to step in, but I make an effort to explain what I’m doing, and importantly why. They take the information and then see if they can apply it to other similar problems. More often than not, it works.

I mean really.. have you ever asked a kid why they did something and they gave you a completely reasonable answer? A left field answer, but one that given the data makes perfect sense? Like a pair of shoes in the dishwasher cause they wanted them clean.

I am continually fascinated and impressed by the power of a child’s thought process. Everything is possible until it isn’t. A hell of a way to live a life.

Mental Strength

So there was a SuperBowl yesterday, and TB showed up, while KC’s O-line decided to take a breather. End result, is further proof of Brady’s position as GOAT in terms of QB position. I’d question anyone’s sanity declaring he’s an actual top 10 athlete, as much as Kasparov would be, but damn if he doesn’t dominate his role.

But its the commercials that people are going to talk about a week+ out. Do you know who won the SuperBowl ’84 game, or do you remember the Apple commercial instead? There’s always winners and losers in this space too, and some that really are so far out of the game that it doesn’t matter. Indeed really did a good job here, Amazon/Alexa is making water cooler talk (irony of irony having Colbert talk about supporting local business to be followed by an Amazon ad), Chipotle’s make-a-better-world burrito ad was neat, and finally Under Armor’s Michael Phelps ad on mental prep.

High performance sport way back when had only a little bit to do with mental preparation. Sure, you studied and practiced, but that was less about thinking and more about managing options. Sports mental coaching really only took off in the last 15 years, with the last 10 having the biggest push forward. Coaching teams are supplemented with psychologists to build a more resilient athlete.

In team sports, traditionally this falls to the head coach. They’ll call a time out and try to refocus the team on the goal. No question they tried that in KC, but very little success. Momentum is a thing, and when a team has it, then it feels like nothing can stop it. You may not be able to stop it, but you can certainly reduce the impacts.

The advantage of sports is that it is outcome focused, at least from the outside. You can measure progress in concrete terms. It is really hard to do that in non-competitive environments. In art? In relationships? At the job? Ehh. While sports certainly have the measure of the end goal (winning), it’s also related to winning in a healthy manner. If you win, but lose yourself in it, did you really win? (see every cyclist in the last 30 years.)

That said, the techniques in mental strength are of absolute benefit to all aspects of our lives. We all encounter adversity, daily. We all have doors closed on us without our control, or input. We don’t all have parents willing to give us a million $ to achieve our dreams and have to really build it ‘on our own’.

I lift weights and run to keep physically fit. I need equipment to do most of that, but more importantly, I need a knowledge of the subject and a plan. Watch any amateur CrossFit video, most people are doing the exercises in a dangerous manner, putting themselves at large risk. With training, they greatly reduce that risk to comparative levels of other sports.

With mental fitness you need to take the same approach – the right tools, some understanding, and then a plan. Similar to physical sports, the simplest path to that is with a coach. The downside is that these folks are next to impossible to find in the amateur space, or perhaps better articulated, educated and accredited coaches. You can find any influencer that will peddle something, but the quality is always going to be questionable. For the time being, your best bet it either through literature from an expert, or just having an honest conversation with your family doctor. A good doctor will refer you to someone that can help you.

I’d be remiss to say that this isn’t a requirement by any means. There are plenty of people who don’t look after their physical bodies and live relatively happy lives. And there are people who spend every waking moment thinking about their physical training and are depressed. Each person has a balance that’s unique to them. I thought I had that balance prior, but life taught me otherwise. So the past 5 or so years have really been focused on finding what works for me. It’s given me additional context for not only setting goals, but achieving them. And importantly, taking any set backs in stride.

Hopefully this post just gets people to consider the concept and do a bit of reading on the topic. Our minds are our best asset after all.

Ring in the Year

Clearly 2020 sucked. Some good bits in there, but overall still something I’m happy is in the rear-view mirror. 2021 at least has some measure of hope.

The year reinforced the idea that my kids have won the ovarian lottery. The only other possible advantage they could have had is being male (I write this conscious of its implications), and even then in my country the gap is a whole lot smaller than others. They have 2 well-to-do, bilingual, caring, educated parents, who have had no financial impacts from this pandemic. They were provided with equipment to continue learning at a distance. Full health care. If 2020 did something right, it was making me more aware of that situation and thankful for it.

2020 did bring us Hades, which is just a simple testament to all that is good in gaming. A developer that respects its clients, its staff, and has a clear vision in development. Ghost of Tsushima is in a similar boat, though a larger organization with a tad more resources. The less said about others, the better. Gaming was a major outlet for most of the global population, if sales are any indication.

WoW launched an expansion, which is an improvement on BfA. Admittedly, it would seem to be more effort to be worse than BfA, so that is a somewhat backhanded compliment. The game has certainly not solved the borrowed power problem, in fact it’s pretty much doubled down on it here. People are cool with it because the power is only in one direction, compared to BfA’s continual power loss. My single largest gripe here is the horrible travel mechanics. The removal of the Flight Master’s whistle is shades of dumb on par with the initial removal of flying. Bastion has next to no flight points, and Revendreth is a vertical nightmare. And the Maw is just… for a game pillar, it’s still suffering from broken hunts (which are how you improve movement).

Kids are still kicking it with Minecraft. To a rather crazy degree working together. They don’t do any chat-based online games, for sanity reasons mostly. So no Fortnite in this house, while Rocket League is a-ok.

The wife and I watched the 2 seasons of The Mandalorian over the holiday break. Having Dave Filoni involved is evident in the quality and consistency of the storylines. The rotating directors make for varied storytelling approaches as well. I won’t lie, I geeked out fierce in the Krait dragon battle. No deep spoilers here, but the ending of season 2 pretty much closed the loop on nearly every thread that mattered to me. I can see how it will be used as a launching pad for a half dozen other Star Wars stories.

Wonder Woman ’84 was also on deck as my wife is a major fan. I really liked the first one (minus the last battle), and this one is ok I guess. There’s a lot of logic leaps in to follow here, even for a superhero movie. And it’s hard to ignore the fact that Wonder Woman rapes a stranger, when the film goes to great efforts to paint the opposite picture for Cheetah. It looks cool, and it’s better than nearly every other DC movie out there.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel that my hockey will start again in the fall. Most of the country should have their shots by then. I am missing it something fierce. The backyard rink is up and running, though the very mild weather is making is a tad tougher than normal to manage. Snowshoeing is likely the main activity for the foreseeable future.

Even the summer is looking somewhat promising. The cottage is great as a getaway, but even better when we’re able to share it with people. The whole remote work efforts are making me strongly consider getting high speed internet for a few months, which is going to be costly but likely practical. I could always get a cell boost up, which is going to be a similar cost but only 1 time.

2021 has some interesting games on line. Horizon 2, God of War 2, Monster Hunter Rise (where I will be super tempted to get a Switch), maybe a clean Baldur’s Gate 3, Deathloop, Gotham Knights, and a slew of more indies all look promising. And without hockey, my gaming budget is a LOT higher. If ever video cards start to actually be launched, maybe I’ll build a new rig. Upgrading bits is fine, but a full rig today makes little sense.

As for the blog, 2020 was one of my more active years. I needed it for a multitude of reasons, and don’t see that going away in 2021. I’ll add a bit more to my reading list, as there are some really neat voices out there that provide some great perspectives.

Next post will follow the annual predictions that most blogs put out. Take care and happy new year!

Managing Change

This is a haughty topic, one that I’ve been noodling on for as long as I can remember. The old adage that the only things certain in life are death and taxes misses a key 3rd item – change. Change is inevitable. There is nothing you can do to stop it, at best you can redirect it or have some impact on its effects.

Change occurs for a multitude of reasons, though primarily due to a a powerful agent. In changes we cannot control, these agents are fundamental – like water eroding a mountainside. In change we can control, the agents are often so complex that the we can only see them from our vantage point. If you’ve never been stopped by a cop because of the colour of your skin, it’s impossible for you to understand, let alone empathize. Sometimes change comes from a need, like smoke detectors being mandatory in your home. You could make a career out of analyzing the root cause of a given change – that’s pretty much what ancient history is all about.

You can’t stop change. Change is like a flow of water, if it hits a block somewhere, it will search for a new one elsewhere. You’re unlikely to have any success impacting the agent of change. There’s nothing you or I, as individuals, could have done to stopped the crash of ‘08 which impacted the global markets and nearly every person on the planet in some form. The people responsible for detecting that change agent were complicit in creating it. Our history (and current state) is full of examples of civil wars where the change agent was repressed and eventually overcame.

You can redirect change. A slight nudge early can dramatically alter the long term impacts. Like if you know your company is looking at job cuts, you can choose to ride it out and wait for the package, or you can start looking NOW and get ahead of the hundreds of others who will be in the same boat as you. If you see that your kid is struggling with reading, then taking time when they are young will dramatically alter their learning experience for the rest of their lives. If you are cautious about a change, then you can potentially defer it until that comfort is found – like waiting for extra research on a new drug.

But let’s say for a minute you don’t accept the change, you don’t want to be part of it. Plenty of people who have done that. Maybe you don’t want to accept that your kid may be a pothead. Or that there is no future in coal mining. Or that maybe, based on the colour of your skin, there are doors that open and close. We often see folks say “I didn’t see it coming”, which is certainly possible – 50 years ago. In 2020, it’s the opposite. The ease of which social media allows for outright hatred and lies to spread is unprecedented. Smart and rational people have all but given up their ability to think, in exchange for group ownership. This “group hive” mentality is an amazing defence mechanism to change – as a group you can have a larger impact on the redirection of change, thereby limiting its impacts on you. This is how the “church” (all of them) operates, through doctrine to manage change. Waiting to accept that gays exist? Hope the Pope says its ok, otherwise it’s not.

There’s a concept of change fatigue, where so much changes so fast that people lose their sense of stability and self. It feels like you’re in the middle of the ocean, struggling to stay afloat, swimming for shore – only for another wave to push you farther out. I’ve certainly been there, more than once. It’s exhausting, depressing, an isolating. You’ll grab on to the first thing you see in the hope that it can help. There are people who know this, people who prey on the weak, exploiting their critical needs. You seem them every day on television, preaching the us vs them mentality. How your neighbour is secretly stealing your wifi, or the lady on the bus is planning to take your job.

So what do we do about it? Is it just a lost cause? No, we need to show empathy and compassion. We need to show acceptance of the struggles of managing change. And we need consequences for those that abuse the power of seeing change through, those that prey on the weak. We need to reward those who help others, and understand that it’s a strength to change overtime, not a weakness. Changing your idea based on new, reputable information, is exactly how it’s supposed to work. It’s why we don’t have lead paint or gas in our cars.

If we don’t, and we continue to reward those that sow division and resistance to change, there is only one outcome. It’s up to us all to figure out if that’s what we really want.

Black November

Black Friday exists as a point in the calendar where businesses finally started to get “in the black” (e.g. profitable) within a calendar year. Gives you an idea of how tight profit margins used to be – that it takes 11 months of 12. Clearly, this isn’t a date on the calendar, each business is different. Custom eventually slapped this on the the US Thanksgiving Friday.

That unity brought competition between various businesses and the concept of a super-sale. There are enough WalMart videos to show how well that’s gone. Over the years it started spreading to other countries (the sale, not the dumb), yet at the same time it was competing with the online sale market.

A few years ago we started seeing Cyber Monday, where online sites had major sales after Black Friday. This had 2 purposes, ensure the on-site stock was cleared, and collect more money cause who doesn’t like a sale? The smell of money drives nearly everything, so businesses started to think about how they could get more of it, with minimal effort. Never underestimate the power of greed!

See the advent of Black Friday weekend. Then Black Friday week. And now we’re at Black Friday sales all through November. Think about that for a second, a month-long sale on a pile of stuff. We’re broaching Steam Sale timeframes now. Not in the space of 10% off, but the big sticker “50% off” or “$300” off. No business can operate on those margins… so they don’t.

In Canada we have some simple laws when it comes to displaying prices, in that the ring up at the cash has to match the sticker. This is the sort of grocery store fight you see on soup prices – but it actually applies to larger things too. In Ontario at least, the price you see advertised on a new car is the price you pay (+ tax). There are no hidden “delivery fees” or any garbage. Great! Yet, they are build for the brick and mortar model.

What we’re seeing now (more pervasively) is the perception of a sale. There are quite a few businesses that operate on this model (Burlington Coat Factory is one, Winners another). You look at the item and it says Regular $89, Sale $19. Great deal! But the normal price is actually $19 everywhere. Sure, you may find the odd item, but it’s not like that business can operate at 20% the margins of another.

This model applies to online stores too. Amazon is target #1 for this, where it shows a sale, but the actual price is higher than their normal price. What I mean by this is that online retailers will sell say a TV for $900 for the month of October. Then they will add that item to Black Friday sales for the month, but raise the price to $950 and then say that they are saving $500. It’s clearly a lie, you can compare around and see everyone is selling the TV for $900 – but the concept of saving $500! Holy cow! (This is actually illegal in the UK, you need to prove the item was $500 more for at least a month. So they raise the price 1 month before the sale starts.)

While I think this is absolutely despicable behaviour, I also think that this is going to have the same long term effect of window shopping in brick and mortar. Where people today browse furniture in a store then buy online to save money, technology is already starting to catch onto these models. Sites like CamelCamelCamel are popping up and giving you the ability to see prices over time, and set alerts for real sales. Here’s a price history for a “great deal” on an Acer Nitro laptop. Save $200! Or you know, look at the history and see that it sells for this price every 2 weeks, then $200 more the other 2 weeks. Is it a sale when it’s this price half the time?

Technology is so cheap nowadays, that it’s just a matter of time before this gets wider scale use. People are going to window shop on Amazon, visit a price history site, and then make their decisions that way. This won’t stop the mad WalMart rushes though – pretty obvious there’s no saving the people who enjoy that. I’d be quite curious to see how that all works out this year, ya know, what with a pandemic and all.

Political Fallacy

There’s an interesting intersect between math and philosophy, where two opposite statements can in fact turn out to prove another point. A fallacy (there are more terms for it) is a fault in reasoning. It’s deceptive in nature, meant to not address the item at hand. It’s a GREAT political tool.

Quick example. Violent video games make people commit crimes. There are holes in this like crazy. Just violent games? Crimes didn’t exist before video games? It somehow makes people commit the crimes, by giving them the weapons? It’s pretty easy to drive a truck through that thinking, but as a soundbite, you betcha that mothers will clutch their pearls.

In modern history (post WW2), the US has aggressively pushed democracy around the world. They’ve gone to war for it numerous times. There’s a level of pride in “liberating” countries so that their people can dictate their future, rather than an unelected cabal. In principle, people can agree to this.

I won’t go into the existing US political system. It’s clearly broken, and to a degree so complex that there’s frankly little that can be done about it without removing everyone in office and preventing them from returning. Best of luck and all that.

What I will get into is the amazing spin on the invalidity of the election results. So here we go:

  • The current president told his supporters not to vote by mail, the competition did the opposite.
    • Of note, in 2016 there were 33m mail in votes. Including the current president. 2020 saw 64m mail in votes.
  • Mail-in votes (and other distance voting options), for historical reasons, are counted after in-person votes in 21 (!!) states.
  • The competition received in the range of a 9:1 ratio of the votes.
  • Regardless of the outcomes, it was clear that due to the above there would be a major uptick when those additional (and substantial) votes were counted.
  • Due to the way the US electoral system works, PA was enough to tip the final scales.
  • The US media has called the election since the 40s, they did so again, for the competitor.
  • The current president is not willing to accept the results (which is acceptable in the context of recounts), yet asking that both vote counting stop in places he’s losing, and continue in places he’s winning.

Cool, cool, cool, cool. ‘cept….

You can’t really be advocating for democracy elsewhere when you are saying that your system is rigged. I mean, they’re not in Russia where the election results are posted before voting begins. If you’re at the point where you don’t trust multiple state’s results over millions of votes, where you believe that people who voted by mail are somehow all crooked if they didn’t vote the way you wanted, then there are some foundational items wrong in the logical thinking.

Let’s say they are right, the system is broken and full of fraud – then the whole thing has to start over again and it looks like a coup from one side. Let’s say they are wrong, and this is the actual results – they will look like they tried to stage a coup from the other side. And it just amplifies the longer this goes on.

This is a view from Canada, where our election system is certainly not perfect. We have tremendous interest in the well-being of our southern cousins. It’s absolutely fascinating to see the insanity, to the point where I wonder if there’s really any point. More worried that it spreads.

Life Without Sports

I’ve been playing hockey since I was 5. I took a few years off during university/college, but went back into it about 15 years ago. I was playing 2-3 times a week and it was great exercise and stress relief. The beer after the game helped even more with the socializing, and you know, seeing people. 12 months a year, a few weeks off for holidays and what not. Same guys for most of it too, so I have a larger attachement to that, than I do work.

The past few years, my kids have played sports too. I was assistant coach 2 years ago, and head coach last year. Every weekend was activities, and more during the week. Busy no doubt, but the kids enjoyed it, got to meet new people, and got exercise. Helped that nearly all the other parents were good folks too. More than helped actually, I’ve seen the other side of that.

We also watched hockey games at night. Either just a couple of us, or with other folks. It was something I enjoyed doing with my grandfather too. I’ve been in a hockey pool for what feels like 20 years too.

We’re the tail end of October, the usually chaos of a first tournament, the start of the NHL, and the transition to indoor activities since Canada gets some crappy weather. Now there’s none of that. Like a giant hole of 20+ hours a week just plopped down, and options to fill it are quite limited.

My city is in a near lockdown due to cases stemming from September. Trend is stable now, but still not below the rate to consider it reasonable. That means that the kids can’t really go out to public spots. Museums were often a good spot for a few hours, but that ain’t an option. Bowling is out. Restaurants are closed (and can’t watch a game). Visiting folks requires the 2m rule, if at all. It’s a high dose of cabin fever!

Working from home has perks, certainly the lack of travel is a big one. But living in your office isn’t exactly good for the mental space. There’s less time to “switch gears” from work to home life. There are days where they wife/kids come home and I still have an hour+ to go. Feels like there’s no break.

Games are helping. It would be cool to share more of them with the kids as I did before. I’m thinking of getting another quick and dirty laptop so that both the kids have one, and I have mine. They are having fun with their games with their friends, the hollers between them are something else. Reminds me of playing Mario Kart with my siblings.

I used to be people’d out with work and sports. Now I’m realizing I have a gap in that area and need to do more about it. I’m sure I’ll come up with something, ideally it will be something that can be shared with the family. I certainly have enough of a backlog of games to help, just not that many that are multiplayer. Plus, paying $70×3 for the gang to play isn’t at the top of my list…

Quality Time

I have a saying in that there’s no such thing as quality time, there’s just time. Coffee mug no less. Often gets quizzical faces. The concept is that if you only think about quality time, you’re missing out on all the rest. And the rest is often the best part.

The best conversations I have with my wife aren’t set up at a pre-ordained time, they are off the cuff. Getting my kids to open up isn’t based on perfect conditions, it’s just all of a sudden the verbal diarrhea comes out and you need to stop what you’re doing.

That said, it’s not about sitting on the couch and expecting these moments to just happen. Serendipity happens when you’re doing something else after all. With a whole bunch of time on my plate with work on hold for the past few weeks, I opted to pick up some new activities. I wrote earlier about Ghost of Tsushima (get it!), but there’s a lot of hours in a day. (Side note, one of the symptoms I have is severe exhaustion.)

In March, my wife picked up a pile of paint by numbers to tide the ways. We didn’t really pick it up then, but I certainly did in September. I have some good memories of it as a child, but it’s certainly more complex today, what with better paint, brushes, and technical knowledge. We have a few different brands, and I have to say that Reeves is by far the best one. Paint is solid, the brushes are quality, and the art itself is nice. I’ll have a shot up once I’m done my panda. I’d say I have about 20 hours or so in it now. It’s good to just sit, have a coffee, and have a chat with people around the table.

Spurred by a friend who dropped off a care package, we finally purchased an ice cream attachment to our KitchenAid stand mixer. I really love baking, and ice cream making is pretty close to it. It took a few tries, but I found a recipe that provides a consistent base to build from. Gave a shot at some chocolate peppermint, and some vanilla butterscotch batches, and I am more than impressed. The challenge is in making the stuff last. It puts a smile on the face of everyone who eats it, so it’s certainly worth the time.

Exercise is also a key fact of life for me. With the inability to play/coach hockey, I still need to move. This summer was incredibly hectic with cottage repairs and way too much office work. I started up again (and dropped alcohol for September) to kick start the metabolism. I have a good program that I follow, swap a few things here and there. Less than an hour and I’m done the set. Doing this while my kids are around has them doing some too. Wife has gotten back on it as well. Nothing to do with getting big, but all to do about feeling good. Being able to shoot some hoops with the kids, pick them up, dance a bit. I love games, but there’s a time and place for them too.

So the month of September was all about taking time to do things I enjoy, and sharing that with others. And conversely, taking time to do things others enjoy. For all the negatives that September has brought, it’s also brought a whole lot of good. Thankful for that.

A Great Man Has Passed

The recent long weekend had a small family gathering, under the provincial limits and we all took our precautions getting in and out. That wasn’t enough, and we became a cluster of COVID positive cases, including myself. My symptoms have been mild, aside from exhaustion. That was not the case for others. Fevers, loss of senses, difficulty breathing, aches. The worst off was my grandfather, near 90, who ended up in the ICU a week ago on an O2 feed.

He passed away peacefully this Saturday. The nurses did all they could, and this crazy pandemic meant that only my sister was able to visit him during his final moments. We were able to video chat during the day, where he could hear us but not respond verbally. Myself, wife ands kids were all able to say our goodbyes and most importantly, our thank you for the live he lived and lessons he shared.

He was a driven man, busier during his retirement than most people would be with work and a kids to keep them going. He was in great shape, walking hours a day regardless of the weather. Last year he fell from a 12 foot ladder, hit his head, drove 6hours, was hospitalized and drilled 2 holes to drain the blood, and was walking within a week. He had pride in what he had, what he could share, and more so with his family. He’d often mention how he was happy we were all successful in our own measures, that he had passed on good values.

He was my godfather, and I don’t know a time without him in my life. He came to my hockey games when I was a kid, I spend summers with him and my grandmother at the cottage. He always welcomed us with open arms, and a full fridge. He read multiple papers every day, always wanting to stay current with events. He’d read piles of books and love to debate any item you could think of. But he was different, he would accept other information and change his perspective. He adapted to every challenge, always pushed forward.

He kept things orderly and neat without it being obsessive. He was collected, and thought things through without reacting. He would recall stories from 40 years ago like they were yesterday, and he was always a meeting new people and striking up conversations. He liked pretty much everybody, as long as they treated others with respect. Something we learned at a young age (and being French, there’s a nuance to this in addressing elders and strangers).

I’m full of memories of my childhood. BBQs at his place. Shooting balls against his garage door. Going fishing our on the river. Collecting blueberries. Mowing the lawn. The stories. The cribbage games. The summers at the cottage. The dance at my uncle’s wedding. A trip to the family’s sugar bush. Long rides up to the cottage and getting busted for speeding. Lunch along the river. Country music. The Christmas parties with more presents than floor space. Watching hockey games on Saturday nights. Miles of memories for me alone. There are hundreds more with my kids, who were more than fortunate enough to have met their great grandfather.

A bit more than a year ago he put all his affairs in order. He sold his house, transferred the cottage to my dad, gave us all pieces of art or dishes from his home. He had said repeatedly that he had done all he wanted to do, that everything from then on was just extra time to enjoy. When my cousin got married last year, he was the best man, and I could not have imagined a bigger smile. He was content that all his grandkids were in a good space, and life goals were complete – no worries left.

My grandfather was a great man. Without question he taught me values through his actions that have made me a better person. He enriched the lives of everyone who knew him. He lived a full life, without regret. I can only hope to honour that memory.

I love my grandfather. I miss my grandfather.