Workplace Toys

Working in an office on a regular basis, one needs to add a bit of “flair” to make it more personalized. Since our work is a 24/7 operation- we share a workspace. As professional as we are, we still need a little break to show our humanity. So… we have toys scattered throughout the office.

Our fandoms get expressed in small doses. Just a friendly reminder of what we work towards- from gaming to movies. There’s a goal at the end of each day that keeps us laughing and going.

Even a missing ceiling tile gets a little buddy to watch over us. If it brings a even a brief smile to our workspace, it’s worth it.

Sometimes our doodles and artwork get put up. The moments of fun is what makes it all worthwhile. There is a plethora of talent here as well.

How do you decorate your workspace? What do you have that keeps you sane?

Bonus Money

Today my bank account was bigger than it’s been in quite some time. All because I received my work bonus!

I was excited to see it until I looked at my paystub statement and realized that nearly HALF disappeared in taxes. Ouch. No wonder they call it Gross Income. It’s gross to see how much I should’ve had. But money is money and I knew exactly what to do with my bonus this year.

I paid some bills.

With a few clicks of the mouse button, all that “extra” cash was gone. In part I am relieved. The washing machine that I threw on my credit card is paid off. As well as our trip to Disneyland from last October. I also set aside money for our property taxes this year instead of cashing out my shares. This last one is a game changer for me. It means that my shares will remain untouched for longer.

Financial freedom is getting closer. Our mortgage renewal is due in the next few months. Only 20 years left until that’s done. And only a couple years left on my car payments as well.

As they say, “Everything’s coming up Milhouse!” Or they don’t say that. Whatever. Things are starting to look up. Bye bye money…

Scarves or Scarfs

Scarves or scarfs, however you want to spell it- it’s cold lately so time to wear them. All with that “Polar Vortex” thing- and it finally hit us here in Vancouver. Let’s bundle up!

I love wearing winter scarves. It’s one of the fashion accessories I enjoy wearing. I usually wear it one of three ways. Yes- scarves can be worn in different styles.

First is the once around and drape. This is a basic style that many people choose to sport. I like it because it looks casual and keeps you warm. Depending how cold it is also changes how tight you wear the scarf. If it’s windy, you can also drape the scarf down your back instead.

My personal favorite is the Parisian Knot. This is easily achieved with a longer style scarf. You fold the scarf lengthwise in half. Put it over the back of your neck and tuck the loose ends into the loop. This look is stylish and classy.

Finally is the simple drape. This is great for when you want to show off some colour or team logo. Just put the scarf around the back of your neck and let the sides drape down your chest. Pretty simple.

That’s my “Fashion Tips” for men regarding scarves. As you can see, I also enjoy having fun scarves such as my Harry Potter one or my handmade fox scarf. I have a black knit one as well which is super warm. Something about wearing scarfs in the winter just adds to your look.

What’s your favorite winter fashion accessory? Do you like scarfs? Let me know in your comments.

Yule Be Wiggling

When I was younger, one of my favorite things about Christmas was decorating the tree. The tree in my childhood home was shiny. Lots of glittery ornaments, multi coloured lights, and an excessive amount of tinsel! The green plastic tree was almost silver by the end.

However, around the age of twelve, my sister and father decided to decorate the Christmas tree without me. I’m not gonna lie, that kinda stung me in the heart. Even though I told my family that what they did sucked, they did it a couple more times during my teenage years as well.

Fast forward to the family I have created. My wife and I always make sure that the kids are around on the day we decorate the trees. We’ve even created a tradition for it that we repeat each and every year.

We do all the normal things that families do. Such as put on a fire in the fireplace and drink eggnog while we put out decorations on our Christmas trees. (Yes, TREES- plural.) We have two trees that we decorate as our “Fun” trees and one as our “Elegant” tree.

During the decorating of our Fun trees, we like to have fun- obviously. Our tree decorating has an odd tradition. We have to watch Yule Be Wiggling by The Wiggles! Back in the early 2000’s our children loved watching The Wiggles. As a way of keeping them youthful- we added a viewing of this film while the ornaments get hung up as a part of our Christmas traditions.

And our children continue to love it. All of the songs are memorized. I even have the songs on a cd that gets requested to be played in the car during December! As much as our oldest tries to fight it, this tradition still brought a smile to her face last night as we decorated the Fun trees.

Later this weekend, we will decorate our Elegant tree. This tree has all of our fragile glass and keepsake ornaments. We decorate this one as a family as well. But no bouncing around watching “The Wiggles” for this. It’s the classic Rudolph that will be playing on our tv.

Do you have any out of the ordinary Christmas or Holiday traditions? Let me know in the comments below!

Rainfall Flooding

Today was one of the wettest days I have ever experienced. Besides me being soaked through to the bone and getting prune hands- there was massive pooling of water everywhere. It was pretty miserable out there as if the heavens were crying.

It didn’t matter that I was able to dry off briefly between having to go back out into the rain. The work needed to get done. The thing is, once you’re wet, you may as well stay wet and just power through it.

But the flooding everywhere was intense. Water pooling so bad that even the back doors of a bus going by our train was draining water. At one point, our taxi that was driving us to another train almost stalled out going through what seemed to be a small pond. The driver nearly filled his engine with water.

But as the day drew to an end, the rain eased up. Just in time for the coldness of the night to chill me to the core. I was looking forward to the warmth of my home. My drive home was a good start, with heated seats.

Working Outside

I’ve been at the railroad since 2007. From my conductor class of 30 students only ten people remain. A couple of them moved to work in Edmonton, some in Kamloops, some here in Vancouver and a couple of us went into management.

When I hired on back in November of 2007- they told us that if we can survive our first winter, we’d end up being “Lifers“. Most of my shifts lately have been working outdoors at night, just like when I hired on.

Last week I was Working in the Rain. This week has been dry, but dipping below freezing. You’d think that over a decade later, I wouldn’t be working on the ground. But we’ve been extra busy these days. My body isn’t used to the physical activity. Sometimes I miss being in the office.

Over the next few weeks it’ll remain busy. A lot of us are feeling overwhelmed. The mental strain is equally as bad as the physical strain. I’m not sure if there’s an end goal in sight. My current mood at work is a zombie like state. It carries over into the home life- and that’s tough. I think a good night’s rest and a recharge will help.

There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but I think it’s just another train…

Handmade Decorations

Christmas decorations have taken over our home. I love to decorate for the season. I even love piecing together decorations from the craft stores and dollar stores. Here are some of the house decorations we have that I’ve made over the years:

I love our garlands. The red, green and gold baubles are simple and elegant. (Even if the items are from the dollar store.) Here is this year’s Dollar Store decoration:

It’s our Nightmare Before Christmas themed wreath. This was easy to make. A few years ago I made some snowflakes that took me hours to cut out with an exacto knife:

Over the years, we also pick up items from craft fairs. I have a friend who makes awesome cards. Another couple who knit. One friend who makes winter houses. A friend of ours makes these neat flowers from sheet music, (we tend to leave it out all year because it’s awesome.)

My kids discovered some other crafts that they’d like to try. One includes molding old records, and we have quite a few of those around. So our kids want to make bowls as gifts:

There’s always more ideas floating around. More crafts to make and buy. More decorations to create. I’m worried that one day our home will turn into a Christmas house 365 days of the year at this rate.

What do you make at Christmas? Do you support local craft fairs as well? Let me know.

Life Lesson

My son is only twelve years old and in grade 7. But he learned a tough lesson this week at school. He got suspended because of a fight that broke out the other day.

He wasn’t physically fighting, but he became one of the students in the small crowd of thirteen kids who watched and did nothing. Four of the students pulled out phones and filmed the situation. The rest cheered. Including my son who was caught on camera by one of the four kids. I support the school district’s decision about the punishment for all fifteen kids.

Yesterday at the end of school, my son was told that he was suspended. He was so distraught that his tears became heavy sobs.

I’m glad he learned this lesson now before adulthood kicks in. We’ve had a good discussion about what he could’ve done differently and what he plans to do next time. I also explained that as he gets older, there can be real world consequences for similar offenses.

His suspension has him home from school today. So I will be putting him to work doing some manual labor around the home. He knows that he better not argue with me about it.

Normally he is a great and loving child. This time he got caught up in the moment and made a poor decision which he has since regretted. I hope he learns from this and makes better choices to help people out instead of sitting idly by.

Working in the Rain

Last night was a good night that turned ugly. As much as I could complain about working in the rain, it really wouldn’t be worth it. I kind of enjoyed it actually.

I worked as a train conductor last night, so I got to be out there in the elements with those hard working team members who do it on a regular basis. Note: I started as a switchman over eleven years ago, and I do enjoy going back to it from time to time. Even out in the rain, it’s sometimes nice to get away from being at a desk all the time.

I worked with a great engineer who was easy to get along with. We had an excellent start and delivered traffic quickly to our first destination. After lunch, we were sent off to rescue another train that had stalled. This turned out to be more challenging than expected. The extreme rain warning was in full effect and made it difficult to move our train.

Needless to say, to took longer than expected, but we succeeded by the end of the night. We had some extra help along the way and fantastic communication going on to make it work. My level of respect to those conductors and engineers who deal with troubleshooting on a daily basis keeps on growing. Especially as the winter is coming.

Working in the harsh elements always poses a challenge. I need to remember this when I get frustrated at my desk when trains aren’t moving. There’s more to it than just thinking it’s the human factors.

Invisible Box

Work can be a real struggle sometimes. It’s even worse when something doesn’t go right.

Recovering from an abnormal situation can require some unique thinking. Being creative in dealing with circumstances beyond your regular control can be tough when others don’t like to stray from the normal routine. Thinking outside the box is hard for some.

In the end, we’re all trying to just get along in our little sandbox. No need to kick each other while we’re down. It’d be nicer to get a helping hand to lift you up. I also think that people need to be willing to accept help when offered.

Working together towards a common goal benefits everyone in the end.

Laugh it Off

Man I’ve been complaining far too much in my blog lately. I don’t want that to be a regular occurrence. So I did something about it.

Today I chose to go into the world and smile more.

That’s it. Work on smiling and being nicer. There’s not much more to it.

A friend needed a ride today, so I happily obliged. Like Mr. Meeseeks would say- “CAN DO!” But thinking about Mr. Meeseeks made me think of something else I saw recently.

Have any of you seen the Toy Story 4 Teaser?

There’s a talking Spork in the Toy Story universe. How? What? Huh? A pipe cleaner on a plastic fork with googly eyes is alive? It does not make sense.

Help me understand this.

Help.

Shave And A Haircut

I grew some facial hair. Last year I grew it from September 19-November 25th in memory of my father. This year I began on the same date because I thought it was a good tradition and I wanted it for my Halloween costume. I was going to keep the facial hair until closer to the end of the month, like I did last year. But, my kids have been bugging me about having a beard. Like really mean about it.

Not only teasing and being downright nasty to me, but the other day, my son asked me a poignant question regarding my beard- “If you don’t have a lot of good memories of your father, why do you want to look like him?

Ouch.

He was right. And I don’t want to be like my father. So off came the beard today.

I also went for my quarterly haircut this afternoon. I look very different now than I did waking up. Back to the “Old Joe” I guess. So instead of my beard- the kids can make fun of my receding hairline instead.

Win-win?

Crafting on the Cheap

I went to the dollar store yesterday and walked out with a cheap Christmas wreath.

It is rather ugly on its own, but I had a vision for it. I wanted to make my own Nightmare Before Christmas decoration. Similar to the one found on the Haunted Mansion ride:

Obviously I wasn’t going to make it as large. But with the ugliness of the dollar store wreath, I figured it could look cartoon like when done.

I pulled out some old craft foam we had and my glue gun. Within a few minutes, I had pretty much completed my decoration. I am impressed with myself.

All that’s left is to dig out an old red bow for the bottom and presto- our wreath will be completed. Now to just find a good place to hang it in our home.

Costumes are Fun!

We love to make most of our costumes. On occasion we buy accessories that are obviously store bought for the purpose of our costumes. We also enjoy wearing matching outfits whenever possible.

I do prefer to create my own look. Usually I wear a different costume each year.

But I really liked last year’s costume that I am wearing it again this year.

I hope you all enjoy this time of year as much as I do!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Focus On Safety

Today was a different day at work for me. Usually I’m in an office running reports and moving trains. Today I got an opportunity to go out and talk with coworkers about safety concerns and open up some dialogue.

Safety is something extremely important that we all need to be a part of. I try and get out in the field for a bit every couple of days while at work. Today was an entire day instead. I enjoyed it.

While out I noticed a lot of excellent behaviors. Working at a railroad, people need to be kept aware of how unforgiving the work environment can be. We also need to look out for those that aren’t always on the railroad. Such as contractors and even the general public. If we can make a positive impact in each other’s lives, I’m satisfied.

I enjoyed talking to everyone. I’m also really happy with the discussions had. This aspect of my job is probably my favorite. Just an open dialogue trying to resolve issues.

Dungeons and Dragons

Recently my children were talking about joining the D&D club at school. So I brought out some of my old books for them to look through. Last night, my daughter had her friend sleep over. This young lady has also been playing D&D for a bit now and was able to help my kids set up character sheets.

This was the first time my daughters friend was able to be a DM and was really excited about it. She wrote up a quest for their first adventure. The saga sounded little a lot of fun and wackiness.

I would’ve joined them, but unfortunately I had an early morning at work today. They were at it until around midnight when they all became tired. They have agreed to continue the adventure at school durning a lunch break sometime this week.

Similar to how I remember playing D&D. You spend a ton of time creating a character sheet, then start an adventure only to have it be continued at a later date. I’m happy that my kids are utilizing their imagination and story telling talents to create new worlds.

I’m also happy that some of my stuff is getting a new lease on life with them as well. Maybe it’s time for me to get character made up to play.

Poetry

I need to read more poetry in my life.

Well written, upbeat poetry. Not the dark and gloomy style that seems to be prevalent everywhere. I don’t need to have the sense of a storm cloud hovering over me as I read. That being said, I am fond Edgar Allan Poe.

I’m looking for some good poets to be recommended. If you know of any, let me know- I’d love to read some.

But I don’t like picking up books entitled “The Complete Works Of…” That means everything: good and bad. And bad can be bad; or bad poetry can be humorous in its own way.

That can be fun, especially when the author isn’t intending it to be.

Mark Twain Volume 3

These past few years have done a great deal in changing our society’s mindset. But it’s not the first time. Looking back over one hundred years ago, Mark Twain dictated in his autobiography a similar occurrence that happened fifty years prior:

Isabella Beecher Hooker threw herself into the woman’s rights movement among the earliest, some sixty years ago, and she labored with all her splendid energies in that great cause all the rest of her life; as an able and efficient worker she ranks immediately after those great chiefs, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Mrs. Livermore.

When these powerful sisters entered the field in 1848 woman was what she had always been in all countries and under all religions, all savageries, all civilizations — a slave, and under contempt. The laws affecting women were a disgrace to our statute book.

Those brave women besieged the legislatures of the land, year after year, suffering and enduring all manner of reproach, rebuke, scorn and obloquy, yet never surrendering, never sounding a retreat; their wonderful campaign lasted a great many years, and is the most wonderful in history, for it achieved a revolution — the only one achieved in human history for the emancipation of half a nation that cost not a drop of blood.

They broke the chains of their sex and set it free.

– Autobiographical dictation, 1 March 1907. Published in Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 3

I, for one, want everyone to be offered the freedom to have equal rights and respect. If it means fighting for it- then so be it. But there is no need to shed blood or promote violence. We can use our voices to stand tall and form the world to be a better place. This is not the time to sit idly by.

We need to break the chains once more.

Havelka Hearse?

For a few decades now I’ve wanted to own a hearse.

What?

Ya, one of those vehicles that drive dead people around. I have a few specific models that I’m interested in. But I’m not really a “car guy” so I’d probably have to spend a good deal of money on a used one in great condition.

There’s something about the look that I just admire. From the curtains on the windows to the fake top and landau bars. There’s always a new design coming out that showcases both the elegance and the celebration of life that once was.

From a modern Tesla Hearse- Check out the windows. Simply stunning.

To traditional looking Funeral Coaches that more resemble a temple on wheels.

Hearses tell a story as much as those that ride inside.

I hope to not have my last ride in a hearse be my first. Of course with Halloween around the corner- it gets me thinking about owning one more often. It’d be a great Halloween decoration! Maybe my wife will buy me one for my 45th birthday? Hint-hint

Trust and Kindness

Trust is something that you can’t come by easily. But to have a complete stranger trust you is even more scarce. Especially when it comes to money. My story here is a simple one, but made my heart smile nonetheless.

Yesterday as I was driving home from the school with my kids, I stopped at a person selling flowers on the side of the road. She has set up in the same location for a couple of years now selling flowers out the back of her van. We often drive past without thinking twice. Yesterday I finally decided to stop and surprise my wife with a bouquet of flowers.

As I was talking to the lady, I realized I had no cash on me. So I asked if she takes debit or credit cards. Since I’ve worked conventions- many people set up a Square account to be able to make such transactions, which seems to be the trend nowadays. Unfortunately, this lady did not have a card reader. I was ready to thank her for her time…

Immediately she asked me which bouquet I wanted and told me to pay her back another time. Even with my repeated objections, she insisted. I chose a lovely full arrangement of flowers. The flowers looked great when put them on our table at home.

But it gets better.

My daughter this morning texted me that she put $20 in my wallet to cover the cost of the flowers. I was not expecting that from her. It seems that kindness can rub off on people. Seems like our parenting skills are paying off.

But wait there’s more!

I returned today to pay the flower lady the $20 for the bouquet (which is a good deal for the amount of flowers btw). She was smiling and thanked me for the payment. Before we walked away, she handed my son a large yellow daisy.

Just because.

Kindness is contagious. This stranger trusted me. I could have chosen to not pay her back. But the guilt would have eaten at me every time I drove past her. Because I’m not that type of person- I could never have done that.

Instead, I will have a smile in my heart when I see the back of her van propped open and buckets of flowers placed around her feet.

Oktoberfest in September

Yesterday, our favorite Craft Brewery- Trading Post– was having a limited ticket engagement of Oktoberfest. My wife bought us some tickets back in August for the afternoon portion of the event. When we arrived, I saw some of my other friends there. Hugs and handshakes and well wishing for a fun day were passed out.

Upon arrival, we were each given a couple of drink tickets and a large 1 Liter glass to fill with beer. Since I was the Designated Driver I gave my drink tickets to my wife and picked up a sugar cane cola for myself.

There was a good selection of German Food and beers from a few craft breweries: the Trading Post, Field House and Steel & Oak. My wife sampled a variety of beers over the course of a few hours. We also picked up some food to help absorb the beers.

We shared a Bratwurst with Sauerkraut and deli mustard. As well as the Lagenbretzel, which was a large dough pretzel served with beer sausage cheese dip. The Trading Post also gave out snack Pretzel necklaces on a string which I thought was a genius idea and may just do that in the future for other events.

Since this was a busy event, we shared a table with some fantastic people. Next to us sat a wonderful couple that was a few years older than us who we related to quite well. We shared stories of other breweries and distilleries that we have visited, or now need to visit. Across from us sat a quartet of university students ready to get their Oktoberfest drink on!

By the end of the afternoon we had made some great friends and I had some fun memories. My wife enjoyed 72 ounces of beers- essentially she drank a six pack to herself in under four hours. This is not her usual Modus Operandi which made it that much more entertaining for me. I was glad to see her let loose!

In the end it was a great experience and made me yearn for a chance to visit Germany for a true Oktoberfest venue. I’m glad The Trading Post put on such a successful event. There was laughter and smiles all around.

Designated Driver

Today we went out to an Oktoberfest party at The Trading Post in Fort Langley. I volunteered to be the designated driver to my wife and our friend since I am partaking in a personal Sober September. It made me realize that I have never really been a DD before. I did it once earlier in August for our Dinner Train. But usually, I am the one getting a safe ride home.

Today as everyone around was getting tipsy and drinking, I realized that when I was younger- I made many mistakes getting behind the wheel of a car after a few drinks. I’m embarrassed by my actions from my past. I got lucky in my life that I never injured or killed anyone. But those lapses in judgment could have come with terrible consequences. Even though nothing had ever happened in my past- I know that time would only catch up if I kept it up. Having a safe ride home has become part of the plans as I head out.

Being sober at a drinking function isn’t all that bad. In fact it’s sometimes more entertaining to see (and remember) the shenanigans that occur around you. At the end of the day/night getting your friends back home safely is probably the best feeling. Oftentimes you get thanked in a drunken love kinda way. Slurred speech and kindness comes out.

Obviously my advice is simple: Make sure you have a designated driver or a safe ride home planned out in advance. It’s much better to get home safely than not at all.

Work Is Busy

Work has been pretty busy lately. It also doesn’t look like it will slow down either. Which is a good thing in the long run because it keeps the paychecks coming in. Yay money!

The problem is that it’s too busy at work to think. That’s the challenging part. The shift can be so overwhelming, that by the end of the day I just want to get home and sleep. There’s almost no time or energy left to want to even eat. That’s what days off are for.

If only there was a way to recharge in the middle of the day. Socially it’s frowned upon to take a nap at work. So the polar opposite is called upon. Caffeine is my best friend. As long as it’s just enough to keep my mind going and not my body vibrating.

Anyways, days off are approaching and this will give me a good chance to clear my mind and catch up on my naps.

How I love my naps…

Olympic Oval Package Unboxing

On Thursday our middle child received a box from the Olympic Oval in Calgary. Well, mom and dad forked over a few hundred dollars and bought the stuff inside- but it was still exciting for her to open it up!

The top of the box was super taped shut with their logo tape on it. So our daughter grabbed a knife and sliced open the box.

Inside was a “Thank You” card from the University Of Calgary and a bunch of air packs protecting their inventory. Our daughter has been planning to go to this university for a while now, I think this makes her a bit more excited about the idea.

Inside the box was a brand new Speed Skating helmet and some skating boots. Now she doesn’t need to borrow our club’s used equipment anymore. This weekend, we will heat up the boots and form them around her ankles to create a better fit.

For my wife and I, these items are an investment into our children. Speed Skating promotes health, activeness and sportsmanship. Promoting these values in our children is important as the grow up. Since our children have been Speed Skating since 2010, I have no issues buying better equipment for them to use. Even when our daughters have taken time off in the past- they always want to come back to skating.

I’m excited for our daughter and her new equipment. I think she will get some good use out of it. Who knows, maybe she will attend the University of Calgary and skate for them while she does studies.

Early Morning Post

Usually I try and schedule my posts for the mornings. I like to have them out for the day- I find I get more traffic that way. But sometimes I just don’t get my thoughts out ahead of time and need to post later in the evening.

I wake up the next day and rush to stare at my phone to see if anyone has read or responded to my blog. Usually to be disappointed.

So I’m going to try and write my blogs and have them out during the early morning on the West Coast. This is where I need to discipline myself and hunker down during my free time.

Not going to fail myself this time. I can do it!