Somber Day

Today was not a feel good kind of day. I could sense the heaviness in everyone I spoke with. The change in their voice, the look in their eyes, their posture dropping. All of it a reminder of what a tragedy can do to all of those around.

Dealing with the loss of a coworker who is close to you or a person you’ve met periodically can feel brutal. It’s still a loss. It’s still able to affect you. Talking about it changes the atmosphere of a room almost instantly. Seeking emotional help is all that I can suggest to people.

I may not be in the union any more, but I know where my roots stem from in the railroad and respect the difficulty of each and every situation. There’s no happy ending today. No joking or laughing. Rather a sobering reminder that where we work can be devastating and take a good person’s life without warning.

Thank You Carroll Spinney

At age 85, the world lost a great puppeteer-Caroll Spinney. A friend of mine shared an amazing photo on social media today. Caroll Spinney is performing Oscar the Grouch and still wearing Big Bird’s legs:

Everything about this image makes me happy and sad at the same time. It brings back memories of my childhood sitting in front of the television. As well as the magic behind those moments. This special person was able to bring to life two very different and iconic characters. They may have been puppets, but there’s a sense of life behind them, as well as a connection drawn between the audience and the actor.

As children, we could relate to these cartoony characters- our wonder and amazement were portrayed through Big Bird; our frustration and anger through Oscar the Grouch. How to cope and deal with life were shared through the Muppets, and Carroll made it feel like family.

Just like most families, we grow apart from those we care about and think they will always be there. Until one day they aren’t. All that’s left are memories.

But Carroll Spinney left behind a legacy. Years of puppetry immortalized in film and television. And for that, we thank you Carroll Spinney.

Parenting Nightmares

Over the past few nights I’ve had a tough time falling asleep. It’s rare for my mind to keep racing as I lay in bed. But the last few nights are different. I’ve been trying to come to terms with how to work in some preventative parenting towards our teenagers. It all stems from situations that have happened to other parents in my community.

I don’t usually share an opinion on emotional topics, nor do I usually discuss similar situations in my blog. Today is different. In Langley there were two recent loses of teenager life in two different ways. The kids were 14 and 15.

The first loss was a teen girl who took her own life. As many know, depression can hit hard to a great many people. It’s how we help others, or seek out help ourselves, that can be a changing point in this. I don’t have a magic fix to offer here. I have had friends battle depression. Some have lost that battle (such as my friend Jeremy) but many have tackled it successfully in a variety of ways. Suicide is a tragic answer and I always feel terrible hearing about it. Both for the loss of the life and for the friends and family that have to come to term with it and questioning whether they should’ve done more. Those questions are the hardest to find an answer to.

The other lose of life was a young boy at a skate park. I don’t know much about his life, but it sounded like he was a well loved kid and whose father treated him like a best friend. All the boy wanted to do was fit in, like many teenagers. Sadly he overdosed on narcotics. But what makes this story that much more saddening is that his “friends” were Snap Chatting his finally moments laughing about how he was tripping out. From what I understand, of those who saw the videos- no one did anything to help.

What I take away from this last situation is two things:

First- Drugs really are bad. I grew up as a kid hearing to “Say NO to drugs.” As a teenager, I lived right next door to where this teen lost his life. I’m not saying I was a smart teen/young adult living in that neighborhood. I think I felt pretty untouchable and indestructible like many teens. But I knew that it wasn’t the lifestyle I wanted and eventually left those “friends” behind. I was lucky, or smart, or unsure, but somehow I have gotten to this point in my life. I have seen and heard too many stories of drug use and overdoses and how it rips a family apart.

Second- Social media can be destructive. People hiding behind a cellphone sharing videos thinking it’s amusing. How are these teens going to deal with the loss of someone so young? A vigil was a great place to start for the grieving process. But again those questions come up, “why didn’t someone help sooner?” In today’s society we hear of far too many people thinking someone else will do something.

So as a parent, I talk to my kids on a regular basis. But when their eyes glaze over and they just nod and say, “yes dad” I just hope that my message is getting through to them. My wife and I can monitor every move they make. But we hope that they are willing to talk to us or help someone in need. Not to be the coward who thinks someone else will do something. Or fear of reprisals from their peers. The loss of a child’s life is the most tragic to bestow upon a family and community.

So stay vigilant out there. Try and help those who need it. Please share with me how you talk to your teenagers about suicide, drugs and social media. I’m sure I’m not the only parent trying to get through those hard talks. We could all use a little help.

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.