Happy Birthday Dad.

It would have been my father’s birthday today if he didn’t die from cancer back in the year 2000.  Actually, I don’t think it was the cancer that killed him, but the treatment.  Maybe if he had gone to the doctor sooner, he could have been helped, but not likely though.  He would still be dead today…  he wasn’t the healthiest of people.  He smoked since he was a child and drank nightly.  His career had caused him all sorts of stress throughout the years.

I have written many negative thoughts about my father.  But not everything was bad.  Everyone else seemed to like him, so why didn’t I?  Because… I had to live with him.  He often spoke negatively about my sister and I to my mother- just loud enough that we could hear what was said while we kept in our rooms.  

But, he also worked hard to keep a roof over our heads.  He enjoyed golfing with his buddies 2-3 times/week.  His sense of humor would best described as sarcastic and racist.  Every other word out of his mouth was a swear.  Have defected from Czechoslovakia in the late 60’s, he learned the English language on his own which may explain the use of profanity.

He tried his hand at many jobs in Canada before settling on his career.  He worked in a candy factory and once owned a deli.  He went to school and became skilled in building and selling computers in the early 80’s/90’s.  By the mid 90’s, things came to a halt.  He “retired” early and blasted through his pension and savings within half a year- mostly spent on golfing and beers. 

He moved out after some regular fights with my mother.  They never actually divorced.  He began a courier business on the Sunshine Coast and it ended up costing him more than he was making.  My mother still visited him or he would come visit us.  It was during this time that he finally became aware that he was sick.  He sold his business after only running it for a couple of years, moved back into our home and began chemotherapy.  The next three years, we witnessed his slow demise.

During this time, my mother and him “discovered” religion.  (I was raised Catholic by my mother until about grade four, when it became more of a hassle to do the church thing.  So we stopped attending church.)  My father was also becoming frail and was taking some pretty strong morphine for the pain before finally passing away.

For his last birthday we had purchased a small stereo for him so he could listen to his old Czech records and some tapes of Elvis he owned.  He sat in his recliner that had become his permanent spot over his final year, a place where he slept, ate and let the world pass him by.  As he sat there, I set up his stereo for him.  In his frail, whispered voice, it was the last time he told me “I love you.”  He rarely said it and hardly showed it.  Two months later, he would be dead.


My dad was an asshole. But he was still my father.  Every year since his passing, I visit his grave for his birthday.  I bring him a beer and then I head to the Fort Langley Golf Course and have a beer for myself. I sit there silently and drink it.  It is a time of reflection on my past year and where I need to fix things in my life so that I won’t end up like my father.  

It is my yearly reminder that I can be a better man.  

Happy Birthday Dad.  The gift you gave me is knowing I never have to be like you.  That I can be a great father in my own way.  I wish you were still here just so you can see how it is done.

Passionate

Today was the first day since I began my daily blog post that I was truly stumped with what to write about.  A bit of depression hit me at the end of this week, making it difficult to focus and come up with what to write about.  Yesterday’s blog post was one I had been working on for a while- so I just polished the edges and tweaked it to completion.

Today I decided to follow the advice from The Daily Post suggestion.  I often skimmed over these thinking, “what a good idea” for those days that I really don’t know what to write.  Today was that day.  The one word prompt PASSIONATE seemed like a great way to get me back on track.  Some people write poems, some write stories, I’m going to blog about why I am passionate about me.


Now you may be thinking, “Hey Josef, isn’t that a tad bit narcissistic?”  Believe me, I’m not saying I’m a God in any way.  What I want to portray is that I am passionate about my life.  I’ve always been a firm believer in the “Golden Rule” and that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I don’t need to be religious to understand that this is the right thing to do.  

Working hard towards a goal often brings out my passion for quality workmanship. Whether it’s cooking a meal for my family or twenty of my closest friends, I am passionate about creating a tasty meal.  The same goes for doing home improvements.  I may not be the best carpenter or plumber, but I do the best I can and love the final results.  

I would like to say I am passionate about movies, but my passion only falls towards movies that make me happy.  Many films from my childhood/teenage years are the ones I am most passionate about.  (Can anyone say Star Wars?)  The same goes for the shows and movies that make my children’s eyes light up.  If we can’t stop discussing a show, I know that it will end up in our movie library.


Because of the passion I have towards a sci-fi and anime, I have become passionate about making costumes, cosplay & props.  I have been known to get upset at myself for cutting corners just to finish a costume.  I try and make it as accurate as possible; that is the challenge.  Making cosplay for my children has become almost a full time job.  They want the details to shine through, and because of their commitment to the characters, I do my best to make their costumes as close to perfect as possible.  I am always learning new tricks and secrets to improve what I make.  

Because of my passion for cosplay and costumes, we have been traveling constantly over the past few years.  These trips have all been road trips, with added stops and experiences on the way.  I have been passionate about bringing new and one of a kind experiences into my family’s life.  All of these journeys have shown me that I am passionate about educating my children beyond just the textbooks.  

I took a wrong turn.


Finally, I am passionate about my writing.  I have been on a personal pilgrimage to discover “my inner voice” since the start of the year.  Some of the stories I share about my life or experiences are humorous.  However, I haven’t been able to portray humor in a way that feels right.  Sometimes it feels forced other times it feels predictable.  Some of the stories I share are my way of talking about how wonderful life is and how much I am enjoying the moments I have on this planet.  

But my most read stories that I have written are my saddest ones.  The ones that show a vulnerable side to me.  The ones that, even as I write them, I have brought myself to tears.  These are the stories that people can relate to.  These are the stories that I pour my soul into and work really hard to perfect.  These stories may be sad, but are passionate nonetheless.

Thus concludes today’s blog post.  PASSIONATE.

Social Standing

We all have a few circles of friends.  Work friends, old friends, school friends, bar friends, etc.  I have noticed that over the years, the people we hang out with fall into a few categories.  Kind of like the characters in a Dungeons and Dragons mission.  Only instead of a wizard, a cleric, a fighter, a rogue and a ranger you get a slightly more modern grouping of people.


The modern Wizard is more the person who shares old stories of an almost magical feel.  “Remember that time we got so wasted?  We thought we were bears and rummaged through that trash bin looking for pizza!”  This person lives far too often in the good old times.

Instead of a Cleric you have an individual who prays for everyone and they believe everything that happens is god’s will.  It’s a bit naive, but they are generally the nicest in the group who always have something awful happen to them.


A Rogue is more of a romantic.  They are often the ones dating and searching for “True Love”.  Every other month there is a new love interest that they are showing off.  These people also have the hardest break ups.


A Fighter is still a fighter. Oftentimes they are starting a fight among the group or with other groups. These people are the ones who enjoy creating drama and being confrontational. More commonly known as an asshole. Every group needs an asshole- they often say what everybody else is thinking.


Then there is the Ranger.  The leader that the friends look up to in order to find out what’s going on or what the plans will entail.  


In each group there is an individual (or two) that just doesn’t quite fit in.  These people are like the lost sheep just following the herd.  But there they are making things all awkward and stuff.  Trying to be the funny one, or the asshole, or the romantic.  But not quite hitting the mark, kind of like the tv show ALF.

In each of the groups of friends that I have, I am often showing off a different personality.  More often than not, I think I’m the awkward one.  Sitting on the sidelines trying to be humorous or offering ideas of what we should do.  “What?  No one wants to do laser tag?  I guess that’s ok.”  Only to have the idea mentioned a few weeks later by the Ranger and everyone jumps on board.  


God I hate that guy.

Jeremy 

I lost a friend this week.  We are the same age and share many of the same friends.  He had a charisma about him that made everyone happy.

He was passionate about his children, his dog, baking, zombies, Halloween and his Jeep.  He was nicknamed Rambo or sometimes Jeremy The Jeep Guy.

He loved his Jeep. It was often parked at odd angles or shown off in his pictures.


I met him as a teenager back in high school.  He was a strong tall guy.  At age 19-20, I would run into him at China Beach (the local nightclub) because he was a bouncer/waiter there.  The first time I went there, he came running up to me and lifted me up and put me across his shoulders.  He walked around the club introducing me to everyone who worked there.

Zombie walk with his puppy Bud.


Throughout my early 20’s, I would meet up with him at Denny’s for late night coffee and food.  Jokes and smokes every time we met up.

At one point, his children and mine both attended the same elementary school.  At drop off we would talk about school and parenting.

A day on the lake enjoying life.


Summer 2015, he came out with me and some friends for a day on the lake.  Tubing, beers and good times.  It was the last time I saw him in person.  This August he turned 40.  Much like I did when I turned 40, he was taking stock of his life.  He shared pictures and memories on Facebook over the past month.

One of the many images Jeremy would share over the years.


Over the years, we were always in contact with each other.  Back in the day of emails and MSN Messenger, we often spoke.  With Facebook, we often commented on one another’s posts.  We even messaged each other fairly regularly.  I even sent him a message on Thursday afternoon asking his opinion on buying a Jeep.  I found out later that night that he had passed away.

Maybe we only saw what he wanted to show the world.


The pictures I shared here are from his Facebook.  It showed a man with a kind heart and a struggle that not everyone saw.  We are all too busy with our own lives that we miss moments that could make a difference in someone else’s life.

He was there whenever I needed a laugh. He entertained me with his philosophy. He was a great parent and a good friend. He will be sorely missed by the hundreds of people whose lives he had touched over the years.


May you be at peace Jeremy Erlandsen.

Can I finish this time?

The other day, I decided to start painting the doors to our bedroom closet and ensuite bathroom.  Not a big deal, right?  We don’t exactly have a large bedroom.

Almost 9 years ago, we began to renovate our master bedroom.  Doing a little bit at a time.  Ripping out the shag carpet (that went into the bathroom as well.  Um, gross) and tearing down the plastic beige blinds.  Years later, we removed the closet that ran the length of the wall and moved out bed to that location instead.  I then began building a closet beside the ensuite bathroom on the wall opposite our bed.  That way, our tv and my wife’s dresser would have a place to go.

Three years ago, my wife left for a Convention in Edmonton, so I told her I was going to install the flooring that we had purchased years prior while she was away.  She was gone for four days, so I chose to paint our room as well and finish her closet.  I was hoping to complete the bathroom, but I was pushing myself too much and became sick with a cold.  So I had to call it quits sooner than I wanted.  That’s where it remained.  

Next week my wife leaves for the same Convention in Edmonton with our daughter.  I am hoping to finish the bathroom and the baseboards in our bedroom.  Last night I decided to take the unfinished doors off and paint them.  I also cut out the spot for the handles.  My ambition is strong.  My drive is there.  My wife hates leaving the house to me because she returns and I have managed to change something without her knowledge or input.  She knows that I am finishing the ensuite this time around and nothing should surprise her.

This may be the first home renovation that gets completed 100%.  That is my goal.  I don’t want to go an entire decade trying to compete it.  Time and money have been major factors in the incompletion.  This month, neither of those should affect me.  All I need is the drive and the passion to get the job done.


Why do I keep old paint cans?

VS

Everyone has an opinion on things.  Some of the best discussions I have had with people is when they can discuss rationally their point of view.  Here are my opinions.  No facts or info backing up what I prefer.  Just my opinion on which is better.  Feel free to discuss.

Bad Movie….


Dogs are better than cats.  My dog is super loyal and just plain amazing.


Coffee is better than tea.  Coffee is the go to wake up beverage in my household.


Toilet paper needs to go over towards the front.  Not flap behind.


Star Wars is better than Star Trek.  (Simply a more action packed universe.)


I’m not even going to begin this debate on man vs woman.

There are plenty of other things that people fight over.  Beer vs wine.  Hot dogs vs hamburgers.  Or stronger opinions that have caused riots: Anti-vax vs Vaccination.  Hillary vs Trump.  Home school vs classrooms.  Or even hands on learning vs textbook learning.  God vs everyone else’s God(s) vs Atheists.  Evolution vs Creationism.  

All of us have an opinion on something.  Sometimes our opinions are so strong that we don’t ever accept that we may be wrong.  I am willing to have a healthy debate with friends or family as long as there isn’t animosity being brought into the talks.  


Unless we are talking about Lord of the Rings.  Harry Potter is far superior.  End of discussion.

First Aid

Today I was re-certified in my First Aid Level C.  It’s something that my work requires of me to have valid every three years, just like my rules.  Besides needing it for work, I feel that it’s kind of important to just have it as well.


I don’t ever want to have to use it.  But if it is required in an emergency, I will gladly step up to help.  I’m not the kind of person who enjoys someone else’s suffering.  Nor am I the type of person who could sit idly by and pretend it isn’t happening.  Helping others just seems like the right thing to do.

Today I found the class to be very informative.  I also learned some things that I had either missed the last time, or the info completely dissolved from my brain.  It also seemed that there were changes over the past couple of years about how we should react in an emergency.  When it comes to retaining knowledge, they say if you don’t use it, you lose it.  Not using my First Aid skills is ok with me.  Like I said, I really don’t ever want to have to use them.

At any rate, I feel confident in my skills.  I passed the final test quickly with 100%.  I almost feel like going out into the world and announcing to everyone, “Don’t worry!  I know First Aid.”  I guess I kind of am since I’m blogging about it.


Learning First Aid, recognizing emergencies, and how to deal with situations has been ingrained in my life since I was a child.  My mother was a nurse by trade, so we often had medical books around the house.  During elementary school swimming lessons, we learned some lifesaving basics.  Most of my jobs had the basics of First Aid taught, or allowed people to take a course on behalf of the company.  I always took advantage of any schooling or courses that would be offered up.  (I also know a ton about doors & windows, lawn care & BBQs thanks to Home Depot’s extensive training that they offer.)   

Having my First Aid up to date is important to me.  If my work didn’t offer it to us, I would likely still keep it up to date.  I’m also very proud of my friends who have chosen the path to be First Responders, paramedics, firefighters or police.  It’s not an easy line of work, but I am glad they are choosing to be there when needed.

Do you hear that?


Do you hear that?  That is the sound of the inevitable back to school.  It is the sound of Silence.

My home.  My neighborhood.  My tranquility.  All of it peacefully existing.

No sounds of children playing.  No tv or videogames.  Just…. Silence.


The children are only just beginning their school year.  They will return home each afternoon with new knowledge and homework.  Some days they will moan and groan claiming a horrible disservice is happening to them.  They are suffering the hardship of being educated.


Today, at home, I am enjoying The Silence.  Even the animals have calmed down.  No birds chirping.  No dogs barking.  Everything is at peace with the world.  Like a sigh of relief has passed through the neighborhoods as children pause for the day in their desks.  With the teachers preparing for the year ahead, they keep the classrooms calm.

Time to relax.  Who needs summer vacation when you can enjoy the autumn peace?

So you hear that?  It is the minutes slipping by to the next summer vacation…

Proud of where I work…

I have a pretty darn good job.  It’s a fun job.  It’s a well paying job.  It’s a job that my family is proud to say that I do.  Every year my work puts on “CN Family Day”.  Today the sun was out and it was a beautiful day for hanging out in the train yard.


We have gone every year since 2008.  My children love going.  The company offers up free swag, door prizes, candy, popcorn and catered lunch.  There are balloon animals, face painting, bouncy castles and train rides.  The train rides are on small trains and a full size passenger train that goes up and down the yard.  There is an engine on display for people to walk through and learn about how it works.  The diesel shops are open for people to see.  Also at the CN Family Day are police, fire and ambulances on display.  Even the local model train clubs come out and everyone gets to play with trainsets.

Taking a tour of the locomotive.

Look at those smiles!

Bouncy Castles!


Every year- one or two of my family members walk away with a door prize.  My son even won a mountain bike one year.  My kids brought some friends with them today.  It was neat to hear my children talk about the rail yard and trains.  It seems that my children honestly like my job and have paid attention to what I do.  Their knowledge is pretty accurate and they are proud of their dad.  That makes me happy.

I was a conductor on the Royal Hudson back in 2010.

I’ve even had some one of a kind moments that I would never have experienced elsewhere.  One day I was called to be a conductor for a steam train because no one else was available.  I jumped out of bed and was so excited.  It was the one and only time I have been the conductor on a steam engine.  Even the supervisors all wanted to ride in the passenger car that day.  It was a special run specifically brought down to Vancouver for a photo shoot.

Our ticket to ride the Lilly Belle in Disneyland.

Since becoming a railroader, my family has taken many trips to see rail museums and ride on trains.  Even in Disneyland, the engineer on the Monorail was more interested in my job than I was with his.  He made us stay up front for two trips just to talk trains.  That same visit to Disneyland, my son mentioned that I worked for a railroad so we got to ride in the Lilly Belle passenger car.  The Disneyland employee gave us a private tour around the park and discussed the history of the passenger car.  In Edmonton, we were given a private trip in an exclusive remodeled passenger car because I talked railroad with the fellow running the train.

Full size Thomas.

To say my job has perks is an understatement.  I love what I do.  My kids love what I do.  CN has become family to me since the beginning of my hiring on.  

Today was another successful CN Family Day.

Arenas

The smell of the atmosphere inside the arena.  The sound of skates clacking and screeching on ice.  The laughter and screams from the children echo around the building.  Welcome to Friday Night Speedskating.


This is the first of many evenings spent at the arena.  The building isn’t like the ones I remember going to for skating.  Those old arenas had a strange ammonia scent that filled the air as the zamboni cleaned the ice.  I miss those old buildings of cedar wood with large ceiling heaters covered in dust.  The smell of sweat and cigarettes lingered in the air.  The arenas often found in the industrial parts of town.  In fact, one of our favorite Speed Skating meets is in such a place.  


But this building is far superior.  There are numerous rinks, a couple of viewing areas on the second floor.  Plenty of televisions on the walls and extremely well maintained.  It’s located on the edge of a well established suburb with nice homes nearby.  Close to the industrial part, but not in the middle like they once were.  I will be spending many Wednesdays and Fridays here with my son until Springbreak.

My son loves to Speed Skate.  I wrote about him a few months ago in My son- The Future Olympian.  Speed skating gives him exercise and keeps him active.  It’s a supportive but also competitive environment.  There are lots of other local skating clubs.  My son has made friends at many of the skating meets as they cheer each other on.  It’s a great feeling to hear your son’s name chanted through the stands.  He may not always get first place, but he sure doesn’t give up.

Here I sit writing my blog in between his warm ups, drills and practice races.  I suspect I will write more about speed skating as the days go on.  

So, as long as he loves it, my wife and I will continue to support him.

Go Theory!