Monday, July 25, 2011

Old as dirt and twice as charming

There are a lot of things a preschooler doesn’t understand. They don’t seem to understand the value of money, time or vegetables. They don’t understand that things wear out.

TroubleMaker and I were in the car doing some errands the other day and he wanted his window rolled down. The car is 10 years old and the window by his car seat doesn’t work anymore. I explained the mechanism had broken. The window had worn out.

PhotobucketWhy did it wear out?

Everything wears out eventually.

He paused for a moment and thought about that. Then he asked me if I was going to wear out. Perceptive.

Right now I am 51 years old. I am quickly approaching my 52nd birthday. Rumour has it that after that is my 53rd birthday. Aging doesn't stop.

After a half century of good and bad decisions I am starting to wear out. Most of the hair has fallen out of my head; I don’t even want to talk about where it is growing instead. My teeth require more work than I thought possible. My right arm and shoulder are giving me problems. My cholesterol is climbing. I have chest pains. My hips are bothersome. My knees start to smart just thinking about climbing the stairs. My heels throb. At night my legs twitch. Even my bladder is becoming a nuisance.

Sleep has changed for me.  If I sleep in the wrong position I end up with a stiff neck. Sleep is not supposed to be a risky activity. Do I have to get in shape to sleep?

I have never been much of an athlete although I used to swim, cycle, cross country ski and play squash and racquetball. I wasn’t in great shape but I wasn’t completely pear shaped either.

Time and chocolate have a way of sneaking up on a person. They also have a way of wreaking havoc on your joints, ligaments and muscles.  So I did what any self respecting man would do, I ignored the symptoms.

Of course I couldn’t ignore them when I tried to stand or walk. Not completely. Not to the point of being able to hide them.  So my lovely wife noticed.

At this point I would like to stop for a moment and explore one of the differences between men and women. Men are about doing and women are about communicating. Science based television programming aimed at smart people always seems to get around to this topic. Anything about our own strengths and weaknesses is always popular.

My wife communicated to me what I should do and it had nothing to do perdition or traveling, so I did it. It has ended up being several trips to the doctor as well as a couple of trips to labs for testing.

In the end there was nothing terrible wrong. A couple of sports injuries, a lax attitude, a fondness for chocolate covered long johns and a love of scotch have taken their toll.  So far no one has indicated beer is a problem. I didn’t think I would ever have sports related injuries. Too bad they were football so I could at least brag about the glory days.

But all is not lost. Medications can help with some things. Pain cream and applying ice to the affected joints can help others. Proper fitting shoes can help. And exercise.

With a busy 3 year old son who just gets busier and busier I am left with one alternative. I have to get into shape. So we are hunting for a tread mill and I am visiting the fruit crisper in the refrigerator more often. I wonder though, if I end up with more energy, what will be the next thing on my list?

I would like to pass on a message to any young people reading this: Quite reading about the aches and pains of middle aged people and go get a life.

As an insightful nurse told me during all of this, aging is not for sissies.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fathers Day and the Zombie Vampire Invasion

Halfway through the year and here we are sitting in the middle of Father’s Day. It is a good for day for children, wives and families to shower the fathers in their lives with presents and barbeques. There are no vampires. I just noticed when I mention vampires a lot more people read my blog.

TroubleMaker gave me some books for Father’s Day. He got me a cook book we will be able to use together and a couple of story books we can read together. Then with the help of his mother, he made me a breakfast of waffles and bacon.

 This all got me thinking.

On Father’s Day and all the other days like it, we celebrate the named group. On this particular day we fathers can pat ourselves on the back when our families don’t do it enough and relax with whatever family friendly pursuits appeal to us. And that is what we always do. We celebrate ourselves.

After we have finished the celebration we are no wiser or happier than we were before the celebration. So as TroubleMaker and my lovely wife prepared my breakfast I started to consider what being a father meant.

If my hair line hadn't deserted me years ago it would certainly have been frightened off by TroubleMaker.  There are days when I wonder if TroubleMaker is my reward or my punishment. And almost every chore would be easier if I didn’t have the input of a preschooler.

I think Father’s Day is really a day when we fathers should be taken a few moments to consider the circumstances that cause us to lose our hair and try our patience. To celebrate the fact I get to play dinosaurs and monster trucks. And how he has taught me so much.  He has taught me how important it is for me to be healthy for his sake. He has taught me there are more questions than there are seconds in a day. He has taught me I need a nap every day. He has taught me we all need to read, every day, together. And he has taught me (this is where it gets sappy) how much I can love someone.

So today I will accept the gifts and love of my family and I will try very hard to hang on to the lessons my son has worked so hard to teach me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

If you don't like it here...

Edmonton, Alberta. It is at 53° 33” 0’ N and 113° 30' 0" W, approximately. The average high for the month of March is 1° C. There is still the possibility of snow.

This is where I currently live. This morning it has been snowing. The wind was blowing a little bit. It is -5° C and with the wind it feels about 6 degrees colder. We have seen more snow this winter than we normally do, so we like to think, but that is not true. This part of the globe is cold and snowy in the winter time. Sometimes it is cold and snowy in the summer time. It gives us a break from the mosquitoes.

To go along with all of that cold and snow is the complaining. People love to hate winter. I used to enjoy winter, and still do sometimes but as I age my patience with the frosty season is growing shorter and shorter while the season seems to grow longer and longer. I am not alone in that feeling. People around me, in my family, my social circles, and neighborhood all seem to feel that winter is getting to be too much. I agree.

So why are there so many people in Edmonton? Why are there so many people in Alberta? We are here because of history. We are here because of stupidity. We are here because of jobs.

Our ancestors decided they needed to be somewhere other than where they were. So for some reason they selected this country. I understand the need for people to escape persecution, to look for freedom. So why did they settle here? A couple of seasons living in this country should have told them it is just not nice. And even now, we have to spend more to stay warm, eat and generally get around than the people who live in tropical climates. We are using more resources to get at resources we need in order to live in an environment where we need more resources to live.

There were the greedy. This land seems to have a surplus of resources and if we had kept our appetites holstered we might not have need all those resources. So now, here we live in the dark and the cold extracting those resources so a few of the smarter people can get rich and live in warmer climates.

When you look at the planet you quickly realize there is a band that runs around the centre where the weather is warm. Warm is not cold. How do I know this? There is some supposition but did you ever hear Bob Marley sing about block heaters, snow shovels or frost bite? As you move north and south from this band of warmth and livability the climate get colder and colder until all you have left is a frozen waste land.

Sure people talk of the beauty of the north, and it may exist, but in the end miles and miles of ice and snow are still just miles and miles of ice and snow. Beauty lies in trees, grass and tropical seas; things with colour. Snow is white. White is not a colour. It is an absence of all colours.

So people go south for their vacations. They feel they need to get away to somewhere warm to relax for a couple of weeks. Might it not make more sense to live in a warm climate where you can stay relaxed and then come up to a cold climate to play in the snow for a couple of weeks. It is not like if we all left the snow would just disappear.

What is the solution? Simple, move everyone to a climate that does not have snow. Now you are thinking there is simple problem with that plan, there are too many people on the globe. You are right. There wouldn’t be room. The first thing to do is find me a suitable place in the sun, with appropriate living accommodations. This means a steady income (don’t confuse this with a job), a nice home with furnishings, and all the other things I need to enjoy my life. Then we, as a species, need reduce our population.

There are a couple of plans for that. We could simply eliminate the stupid people but that would lead to too much arguing about who qualifies. I could draw up the specifications for such a qualification but not everyone sees from my point of view yet. As an alternative we slow down the breeding. Limit every couple to half a child. That is a statistically derived value and any one who thought otherwise would qualify for the ‘stupid’ category I am not allowed to specify.

People in Canada, the United States and other countries around the world worry about human rights. It is a valid concern but I have the solution. Get over it! We could use a means test to determine who can breed. We set the bar high enough that the majority of people cannot pass. Problem solved.

Dealing with people who float through multiple relationships would require stipulating that if they have bred once they will not be allowed to breed again. Problem solved.

There are many other problems that could come from this kind of solution but we are well enough equipped to deal with them. As you read this right now you may be voicing all sorts of objections. Shut up.

The best part of this is that within a couple of generations the population would be reduced to a size the lands around the equator would be able to support. As a side benefit it would also mean less pollution and a generally cleaner world.

We also might have to reevaluate our own attitudes towards commerce, industry, the environment and our fellow man (and woman), but that probably wouldn’t hurt. After all a system that keeps encouraging growth on a planet with dwindling resources doesn’t sound like a system we should be all that proud of.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It is still -20

It wasn’t the gutting of the Alberta Health Care. It wasn’t making quality education an option only for Alberta’s elite. Nor was it the idea of selling his fellow citizens to the lowest bidding oil company. Even the idea of being the prophet for a corrupt and obsolete philosophy didn’t seem to bother him. Once Ed Stelmach realized that, contrary to what Ralph Klein said, being premier of Alberta gave him no control over the weather, there was nothing left to do but resign.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A monster by any other name

One night when, I had lots of better things to do but was too lazy to do any of them I was struck by similarities between Count von Count and Edward Cullen, and I am not just talking about their chiseled good looks. The Count was developed for Sesame Street in order to teach simple mathematics to children. Edward Cullen was created as a character in a tale of romance and sanitized sexuality largely aimed at teenagers.

Both Edward and the Count are fictional characters although I will grant that some of Edward’s fans seem to have lost sight of that little fact. They are both aimed at children. It is true that the majority of the Count’s fans are much younger children and a lot of Edward’s fans are merely young at heart. In both cases however the concepts of death and evil have been stripped of anything that might offend a sensitive heart. When you are three years old, this is great.

The count seems to suffer from arithmomania which is closely related to lore about vampires being unable to resist counting. Throw a handful of grain in the dear departed’s coffin and when they break out of the grave they will be bound to the spot counting kernels until the sun comes up. This doesn’t seem to bother Edward the whole thing about the sun is something of an issue here.

In fact there is little of the traditional vampire in either of them. Despite how much Edward and his cohorts claim to love blood they don’t seem to take much of it, but then the Count doesn’t take any. The Count is meant for children; Edward’s character has simply been castrated. Watching the Count you notice something interesting about his skin. It is fuzzy. Edward sparkles? What is he, the cubic zirconium of the monster world? If it were a competition everyone knows the cuddly pet wins out over the shiny one every time.

Neither the Count nor Edward seem to have a problem with garlic although other than anecdotal evidence it has never been proven that garlic will repel vampires. Both Edward and the Count have no need for mirrors as neither of them has a reflection. It is a good thing neither of them needs to shave. This could also explain why Edward always has the tousled hair women find so attractive these days. The Count also has some hypnotic powers which are kept under wraps these days. Edward just has that creepy weird connection with Bella.

In researching their histories I found they were both created for or through acts of kindness. The Count was created as a teaching aid for children and Edward was turned into a vampire to avoid death from an influenza epidemic. I also found myself getting a bit uneasy with the idea of researching the histories of fictitious creatures.

Edward Cullen is about as scary as a Sesame Street monster. The Count is a Sesame Street monster. On the Street the Count annoys people and other muppets with his constant counting. Edward is just annoying, once you get past his scary stalking Bella thing.

Both the Count and Edward are much loved by their fans although some of Edward’s fans seem scarier than he is.

Edward Cullen is a gifted musician and can play classical, jazz or what ever else he would like. When ever the Count sings it sounds like Romani music, regardless of what he is singing. That is sort of a gift.

Interestingly it turns out that Edward Cullen is number 5 on Forbes list of the 10 Most Powerful Vampires. Count von Count is number 8. Angel and Spike beat both of them.

The Count drives a silly car called the Countmobile. Edward drives a silly car called a Volvo.

Count von Count has had a few girlfriends. Edward may have had other girlfriends besides Bella but it is hard for me to gage how attractive that dark sullen brooding countenance has been to women in the past.

So as I have shown here there are quite a lot of similarities between Count von Count and Edward Cullen which explains why it is so easy to laugh off Mr. Cullen’s appearance on the popular culture landscape. Vampires really shouldn’t be neutered school boys.

Of course now that I have proven that point I can move on to other more worthwhile endeavours, but first I have to watch Dr. Phil. Now he is COOL!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Like Father, Like Scotch

It has been almost 3 years since TroubleMaker appeared on the scene. It has been an interesting time full of surprises. I had never changed a diaper before TroubleMaker. Not one! I knew nothing about them and I liked it that way.

Since TroubleMaker came into our lives things I have changed an estimated 2,400 diapers. It was really only a few dozen because we cloth diapered, so we reused a few of them. That means I washed about 800 loads of diapers.

These are only estimates and don’t take into account what my wife did in the baby sanitary department. So why am I suddenly so preoccupied with diapers? It isn’t because there is any sort of monetary reward, although if there were I believe, based on the numbers presented here, $1.5 million would be a fair amount. Just saying.

The point of the diaper story is to show things have changed in my life. I got married, acquired TWO mothers-in-law, became a father and have not had a decent scotch since TroubleMaker was born. Two mothers-in-law and no scotch; I have become a stronger person than I realized.

But this morning I found something else. I heard TroubleMaker talking to my wife about breakfast and he told her “I want cornflakes with my daddy.” He said it like it was the most natural thing in the world. His daddy! That’s me. Unexpectedly I found my reward.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

It's snowing today....

It snowed today. Actually it snowed yesterday afternoon, last night, this morning and this afternoon. It is supposed to snow more tonight and tomorrow. It has dumped about 15 cm. of snow on us, a fair amount but not enough to trap us in our homes and businesses. Too bad. We’re prepared. We have lots of hot chocolate, ginger cookies, pizza fixings, a couple of sleighs, a toboggan, and a couple of Jeeps. That doesn’t even include the shovels and other implements of wintery destruction.

With a population of approximately 782,439 warm souls in Edmonton, it seems like 782,000 are complaining about the snow. That seems odd you consider it has snowed here for probably the last 20,000 years. We should be at least a little prepared for it. I know we, as a species, are not great for planning ahead. Heck, morning always takes me by surprise, but collectively we have known about the coming snow since last summer. The snow tire ads on television should have been enough to alert us to the coming catastrophe. And we did have a several hours warning of this latest snow fall.

Maybe it is because I have come under the preternatural influence of a gregarious 2 year old, but I am finding snow to be a lot of fun. A small pile of snow in the back yard and away we go, sliding for the morning. Then after the morning of shoveling and playing it is time for hot chocolate and a snack. Now that our naps are done, it is time to consider the pizza party for tonight.

Tomorrow morning, it will be back outside to clear more snow, play with some cheap sleds, and then run and fall in the snow. TroubleMaker likes winter, and I can understand why. He makes it fun.

Now if someone would just dig the car out of the snow bank, I would be grateful. There is a steaming cup of hot chocolate as a reward! Any takers?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The dreaded Monster-In-Law

The other day it came to light that one of my mother’s-in-law was reading my blog.

I know what you are thinking, “Multiple mothers-in-law? How did you manage to get more than one woman to marry you? Why haven’t you been arrested?”

This is not the utopian fantasy of multiple wives to serve my every whim and want. It is one of the outcomes of the changing nature of the family. Marriage, divorce, remarriage, re-divorce, drunken indiscretions have all combined to create a new family structure. In my case, it has resulted in two mothers-in-law, and I now know that at least one of them has been reading this blog. Now I have to watch what I say.

I did a bit of research about the concept of the mother-in-law. There appears to be only 10 clean jokes about them. There are lots of other jokes but they aren’t nice. The clean jokes aren’t funny.

Most of the axioms, aphorisms and proverbs about mothers-in-law are not nice, except maybe the biblical ones, but it is hard to tell if those are about mothers-in-law or sin. Surprisingly mothers-in-law are not universally respected. I don’t understand why. About the only ones who didn’t have anything bad to say about mothers-in-law were Adam and Oscar Wilde. Neither of my mothers-in-law seems overtly evil.

In fact they can be quite nice. One mother-in-law is always grateful when I carry her bags to her car after one of her stays with us. I guess the question is: What son-in-law wouldn’t assist his mother-in-law with getting her baggage to the curb?

The phenomenon of the mother-in-law is closely associated with interference. That means my mothers-in-law should be interfering with my family. I know, from my research, that this can be an insidious process that makes itself known within weeks of the wedding. While I haven’t seen anything like this in the four years of our marriage I know what to look for now.

One of the other hallmarks of the typical mother-in-law is the ‘imposition’. We all know the types of impositions. Invitations to dinner! Babysitting TroubleMaker so we can go out! Help with household chores when they visit! The list is endless! Okay, so it is not a great list, still, you get the idea!

Through all of this trial and turmoil I have learned that the grandchild is the great equalizer. He is no longer just my son. He will be my pawn. I can ransom his time with his grandparents, my mothers-in-law, for what ever I desire; a new car, a new motorhome, even a roof for the house (just to show I am not completely selfish). And as soon as I can get him and his mother, my wife, in line with my scheme to combat the mother-in-law problem we will start to see positive results. Someday they will come around to my way of thinking

So while it may look to the casual observer that I am pretty lucky to have the mothers-in-law I do have, I also know looks can be deceiving. I am just not sure how that applies to this case. Remember, you can’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.