Labour Day

Growing up in Hamilton, Labour Day was always about two things: the Labour Day Parade, and the Labour Day Classic.

I went to the Labour Day Parade with my father many times.  He’s a proud lifelong USW member, and he was a Chief Steward at Stelco for a number of years.  When I also became a Hamilton Steelworker years later, I was too busy getting ready for school to go to the parade and my father stopped going when I was a teenager because, by that time, I’d grown out of that sort of thing.  Thinking back on it now, I imagine he was probably hurt by that – at least a little bit, though I’m sure he’d never admit it – but, at the same time, he was a teenager himself once, and I think he’d understand how selfish they can often be.  Through my own experiences in the rollercoaster world of parenting, I’ve come to realize many things I didn’t even consider back then, and the experience has made me a different, better person – albeit an exhausted one.

Today, my friend took his son to the Labour Day Parade in Toronto.  He invited me along, and suggested I bring Daughter Number One with us, but I passed up the opportunity to go because I just didn’t feel like spending the last day of summer wandering the scorching streets of Hogtown with my four-year-old.  In retrospect, I certainly feel guilty about not going, but we also had a good day just sticking around the house, so that makes it easier to take.

He brought back a parade t-shirt for Daughter Number One, and it’s perfectly suited to our family tree.



It’s even Oskee Wee Wee black and yellow.  Can you get a more Hamilton shirt than that?  A special addition to her wardrobe, and one that we’ll definitely keep in a safe place when she grows out of it.

On the Steeltown front, the Tiger-Cats were busy today hosting the Labour Day Classic at their new home – Tim Hortons Field.  I’m not a fan of corporate-named stadiums, but, as you probably know, the very first Tim Hortons store – on Ottawa Street – is just down the road from the new field, so, as far as this one goes, appropriate is the best adjective I can use to describe how I feel about it.  The city’s synonymous with “Canada’s favourite coffee”, but even though it’s certainly not my favourite coffee, it is a fitting name for the place.

The Tabbies won today – by a slim margin – and the text messages were pouring in from everybody back in the Steel City.  My brother and one of my friends were at the game – sending pictures of their seats and the field – and one of my other friends lives in the same neighbourhood as the stadium, and he told me “the city exploded when they scored.”

I’m not really a rabid – bad pun intended – Tiger-Cats fan, but it’s good to see the home team win for a change.  They’ve had a hard season – switching stadiums, losing quarterbacks, battling injuries – so I’m sure today’s win against the hated team from Toronto was a good shot in the arm for the team and the city.

Today, Labour Day means something else to me.  It means that I start labouring again tomorrow.  I’m not fishing for sympathy, believe me.  I know I’m lucky in that respect.

But since I do have to work in the morning . . .

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Mixed Bag, Volume Eight.

It’s been a long time since my last mixed bag post, so I figure a new one’s well overdue.

- – -

Today’s the last day I’ll be home with my kids by myself this summer.  I’m going to make it count – somehow – by doing something I haven’t figured out yet, but will as the morning unfolds.  My plan-in-progress at the moment is our routine park morning, followed by a post-naptime trip to the nearby splash pad, and topped off by a visit to our favourite ice cream shop.  One of my friends is coming over for a visit while the kids are napping, and I’m looking forward to sharing a few cans of my favourite Ontario beer with him.

- – -

Don’t judge me as a writer by the things that appear here.  I’m truly much better than this.  You’re just going to have to take my word for it.  I try to squeeze in some (almost) daily observations whenever I can.  I rarely have to time to reread and edit what I hastily write, and, when I do, I doubt many of you have come back to notice.  I can’t much blame you for that.  But, I’m going to make an increased effort to avoid typos and grammatical wows for the next little while.  I’ll still use too many adjectives, and I’ll probably continue to write long sentences that leave you lost and wondering why you even bother showing up to read my (almost) daily rambling rambles.   I started this blog by writing short essays on (almost) daily topics – pretty much about anything I came across.  Then it morphed into more of a journal, and now it rarely has shape or form of any kind.  This doesn’t bother me very much.  It’s an (almost) daily record of whatever I feel like documenting.  I’m enjoying it, and as far as cheap, nerdy, harmless hobbies go, there are probably few better.

- – -

I’m begging you here, and speaking on behalf of literally millions of people.  Please try to give every possible benefit of the doubt to the appearance/cleanliness/hygiene of parents with young kids.  I often go through two shirts a day before I leave the house.  Inevitably, the second I put a clean shirt on, it’s stained by any combination of things: rice cookie remnants, snot, drool, sidewalk chalk, park sand – or, in a rare instance, a delightful slurry of all of these.  As many of you know, parents with young kids rarely sleep through an entire night, and, if they do, they rarely sleep well.  They worry about things, or think about things, and they wake up with dark lines under their eyes and creases on their faces that weren’t there before, but that go away – most of the time – by mid-morning.  I’ve heard it said that it’s kind of like you’ve come to inhabit Tom Berenger’s skin for a few minutes, which is fairly accurate I think.  (Most) dads don’t wear makeup to cover up these things, and, in my own unique case, I rarely make time to shave.  I’m concerned my house might be set ablaze or destroyed in some other equally expensive way by the time I’m done – or that the kids will find incredible new ways to hurt themselves, or each other – so it’s often days and days before a razor meets my face.  When it does, it usually leaves huge swaths of unshaved territory behind it.  The combination of all these things I’ve previously described – in an early blog from the way back when – as the Ted Kaczynski look.  I don’t think it’s too far off.  Not to worry, Unabomber getups will be the new black before you know it.

- – -

A few days ago, and many times before that, I’ve written about Tim Hortons offering sorta-coffee-flavoured water to their customers and making a ridiculous fortune doing it.  Immediately after my last post about this, the “coffee” conglomerate announced they were rolling out a brand new dark roast blend as a tasty alternative to their traditional dishwater delight.  It’s a significant improvement.  You’re welcome, Canada.  You know who to thank.  Yes.  Me.  It was nothing, really.  Be the change you wish to see in the world and all that.  I will still continue to make and enjoy my own freshly ground coffee whenever possible, which proves how selfless I really am.  I did it for you.

- – -

And the kids are up.

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First Day.

On my first day on the job – my current one – I met a person who changed my life in a lot of different ways. He’s retired now, which means I don’t work with him anymore, although we keep in touch from time to time.  He’s still the same wonderful person – thoughtful, quiet, and hilarious.  I miss working with him, but I’m happy we’ve stayed friends and that we see each other when we can.

One of the other people I met on my first day was the complete opposite – or at least I thought so at the time, but I miss working with him too.  He’d been through a rough patch in his life.  He was the cause of most of his misfortunes – through a series of horribly bad life decisions that I won’t get into here – and, at the time, I thought he was a selfish madman – to be completely honest.  In fact, I’m fairly certain he was mad for a while there.

He’d piled so many things on his plate, his mind just couldn’t handle it anymore.

Eventually, he pulled himself out of it.  He got some help.  His friends – the few close ones he had – offered whatever assistance they could, and, thankfully, he came around.

One step at a time.

He was a different person afterwards.  I can’t say he was the “same old guy” he was before, because I never knew that guy.  I just had my first impression of him, and it wasn’t very good.

But, when he became the newer person he was, I realized I liked him a fair bit.  He had a good sense of humour, and, generally, a good outlook on life’s slings and arrows.  He ended up helping me out with a lot of things – keeping things in perspective, realizing what’s really important, and even replacing some rotting fence posts in my backyard for a case of our favourite imported green cans.

We played many rounds of golf together – always sharing a few cans of that same beer and, most of the time, a lot of fun too.

I went to visit him and his grandkids today – he’d been in touch with me a little while ago, when we made “eventual” plans to get together – and I was so happy to see him living his new life in his new role: a happy, retired grandfather with a loving family.

Today was the first day I’d made it out to his new place for an extended visit – a friend and I stopped by once for a quick beer after golf a few years ago – and I know we’ll get together again soon.

But back to today.

We left the house early this morning.  Daughter Number One helped by carrying the diaper bag and my travel mug of coffee.  Daughter Number Two followed quickly behind her – as she always does – and chewed on her shirt, as she often does.


We got in the car, and made the short drive pretty quickly.  Mercifully, we were headed against the typical, maddening, morning volume – not into it – and we were there in record time – without speeding.


When we got there, we went around to the backyard.


Yeah, it’s a pretty good one, and much larger than what you see in the picture.

The pool was heated to a ridiculously tepid temperature, considering today’s relative coolness, and the kids had a ball playing and “swimming”.

When they were done, they played up on the deck.


Until it was time for lunch.


My friend and I sat around, talked, shared two of our favourite imported green cans, and discussed our golf games – his is coming along quite nicely, mine is on pause.  We traded home renovation experiences – his are coming along quite nicely, mine are done for the moment, thankfully, I hope.

He knocks on the wood table.

We didn’t talk about work.  We didn’t rehash times of old.

It was a great way to spend a sunny, summer morning.

I’m glad we took advantage of it.

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The Routine.

Rather than boring all of you with a daily account of my Dadventures this summer – most of them have been rather routine this year – I thought I’d save them up for one entry.

And, well, today’s your lucky day, I suppose.

Most mornings have begun with a few episodes of our favourite morning cartoons – Curious George and Daniel Tiger deserve special recognition here, I think – and then we sit down to our breakfast.

After breakfast, we’re immediately outside to the patio and the front yard.

Typically, Daughters One and Two will amuse themselves with drawing sidewalk chalk masterpieces and blowing bubbles.


I’ll drink my coffee and supervise their creative efforts.


Daughters One and Two have become very accomplished sidewalk chalk artists.  You’d be amazed at how quickly they can fill up an entire driveway.


When they tire of their water-soluble artistry – usually after half an hour or so – we’ll saddle up and make our way to the park.  We take our bikes most of the time, but we’ve also used the wagon a lot this summer.  They take their pick, and I’m happy with either choice.  Note the sweaters in the picture.  It’s definitely been that kind of summer, hasn’t it?


I rigged up a little radio for our park walks, and that’s made the whole park experience a little bit more interesting for me.  It’s a good opportunity to listen to music in a relatively quiet atmosphere – something that’s fairly rare around here a lot of the time.  Anyway, the radio’s small and it can easily be stowed in the wagon bins, or even in Daughter Number Two’s fancy bike/trike/stroller pouch.  I’d highly recommend it to any parent.


And, depending on what time we leave for our park adventure, I might bring another beverage along for the ride/walk.  Something I’d also recommend for parents.


We often stop by and see Mr. Froggy.  Longtime readers will remember him.


After we pay our favourite painted concrete amphibian our respects, we usually make another stop by the creek to look for ducks or other waterfowl.


Then we have to see the bridge, of course.


When we’re done there, we finally get to the park.

Daughter Number Two loves the swings.  That’s her park activity of choice.  She’s perfectly content to hang around and swing to and fro most of the time we’re there.  Daughter Number One will take a shot at the swing for a little while, but usually she just runs and around and plays with the other kids.  We started bringing sand toys with us, and that’s helped us make friends with pretty much everyone.  It’s also forced both of them to learn to share, which I’m sure their teachers will be pleased with.



While they’re playing, I’ll talk to the other parents but, more often, the grandparents.

When it’s time for lunch, we head home, eat, and then it’s naptime.

And, usually, that’s when I find time to do this.

Just like today.

But, sometimes, I take a nap too, or read a book, and that’s usually when nothing shows up on here.

As always, thanks for reading, writing, and stopping by.

Enjoy the rest of the summer.  It’s going way too quickly for my liking.  There’s been a comfortable familiarity to this routine that I’m not particularly looking forward to giving up.

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Gas, Pain.

DISCLAIMER: Not to worry, despite today’s title, this entry isn’t about the other type of gas pain I’ve already spent enough of your time on.

We were up North last week at a charming, wonderful farmhouse built in the 1850s, with its own little nine hole golf course, and a nice above ground pool.  It’s located only minutes away from scenic, beautiful Bon Echo Provincial Park, and we enjoyed ourselves immensely.

When we came home, we unpacked the car, gathered our mail from our neighbours, and ate the pickup special pizza we’d grabbed on the way back.  I cracked open a cold beer, and I started to look forward to a warm shower and an earlier than usual bedtime.

As we were finishing the dinner cleanup – folding up the pizza box, filling it with the complimentary paper plates we’d used, and hauling it out to the recycling box in the garage – I starting going through the mail only to find a kind notice from the folks at Enbridge Gas telling us they’d decided to deprive us of our service while we were away.

I thought it was really nice of them to let us know.

Courteous, even.

No warm shower needed, thank you very much.  I’ll just settle for my very own in-house Ice Bucket Shower.  No additional help required!  Enbridge already took care of it!

Won’t be needing those pesky testicles either, I guess.


We found the loss of our gas service particularly intriguing because we routinely pay our gas bill.  In fact, we routinely pay all our bills.  We pay everything on time every month and we have perfect, spotless credit.  We’ve never been late with anything, and we’ve never let our huge companies down.  They know to expect our money – bags and bags of it each and every month – on time, and without interest charges or penalties.


So, we were wondering, why the f-word can’t we have hot water?

Puzzling, to be sure.

Thankfully, they turned it off in the summer.

For no f-wording reason. 

Other than bathing ourselves and the kids, we didn’t really need the paid-for-on-time hot water for very much at all.

Sure, boiling water in pots and running upstairs with them is pretty dangerous.  And sure, it’s also pretty pointless because the water in the tub’s nearly cooled down by the time you make it up with the subsequent pots, but the kids can take it, they get clean enough, and your wife tolerates the Ice Bucket Shower the same way you did.

Except she has hair to wash, which slows her down a bit.

She also cares about how clean she is – another delayer.

I knew being mostly bald and routinely slovenly would come in handy someday.

Turns out it was four days, actually: Friday-Monday.  That’s the soonest they could come and turn our gas back on.

Great old-fashioned service four days after you really need it.

Pretty good if you’re a contractor coming by horse and buggy along dirt/mud roads through tricky mountain passes, and if I had to contact you via homing pigeon or through a series of blanket-made smoke signals, but an absolute f-wording disgrace otherwise.

He pauses to take a breath here.

Soooo, dear readers, you can add Enbridge to the big pile of big corporations we’ve had trouble with, along with the clowns at Rogers Cable, and the people at Bell Canada that seem to equally piss everyone off.


If we ran our household the way these companies conduct their “customer service”, we’d be penniless and potless in a matter of months.

But they’ll happily continue to provide shoddy service and awful rates, and we’ll continue to pay because we’re slaves to their products and what the hell else are we supposed to do?

They’ll show up whenever they please, they’ll charge you whatever they want, they’ll provide their products sometimes – or maybe they won’t bother at all – and we’ll keep bending over and taking it – and paying the bills on time – because, because, because of the wonderful things they do.

Still with me?

Yeah.  You’ve been in this position yourself.  You know how it feels.

You just don’t have a blog.

But you’ve probably got warm water and a working air conditioner.

Lucky you.

P.S.  It was all a mistake, on their part, by the way.  They have no idea how or why it happened, and they were semi-apologetic about it.  If you’re anything like me, you’re getting tired of hearing apologies and excuses.  I think I’d like to start hitting these people with a ball-peen hammer and hoping an apology after the fact will do, but I don’t expect I’ll get away with it.  Things like that just aren’t done these days.  We live in civilization, after all.  With things like hot water.  Oh.  Right.  Sometimes.

P.P.S.  When cold water hits a testicle, it sort of feels like the sensation one would experience if one was hit in that rather sensitive spot with a ball-peen hammer.  And I bet that’s how that particular style of hammer got its name.  Ball-peen.  Look into it.  No, wait, don’t look into it.  I’m right.  And I’m going to start using the thing.  An apology after the fact will just have to do, damn it.  How do you like your ball-peen now?  Shut up.  Don’t answer.  Put some ice on it and walk it off.  That’s what I had to do.


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After Lance Armstrong appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show and admitted he was a drug using fraud, I pulled all my Lance books off the shelf.  Naively, I didn’t want to believe that he’d cheated his way through all those Tour stages, so when he confessed on the show, I felt stupid for spending all those wonderful July mornings watching him ride through beautiful France.

Anyway . . . it got my blood boiling that I’d spent all this money on his books – telling fabricated stories and talking about how he’d been tested so many times and that there was absolutely no way he could have passed all those tests and used drugs to cheat his way to fame and fortune.

Well, yeah, there was a way.

I remember trying to figure out what to do with all those books.  It was a pretty hefty stack.


When the Liberals passed Bill 115, I was also pretty pissed off, so I thought it would be funny to box them all up and drop them off at one of the Liberal MPP offices.

Digressionary Note:  The court challenge for Bill 115 is still underway, so who knows what will ever come of that, if anything – but it’ll be years from now before we find out I’m sure.

I had a particular MPP in mind, because I can’t stand the guy, and, since I’ve moved out of his riding, I thankfully didn’t have to vote for him this time around, nor would I need him for anything.

My letter accompanying the box of yellow-themed books was going to describe how let down I was when Lance Armstrong betrayed his sport, his cancer organization, and all of his fans and followers by lying and cheating to get what he wanted – throwing people under the bus who worked for him when they got in the way of his goals.

Since the Liberals – particularly ex-Premier Daulton McGuinty – had been riding the coattails of education workers, with McGuinty even coming to be known as the “Education Premier” – because he, and not the thousands of hard-working teachers in Ontario – improved education in our province – I figured it was a fairly fitting comparison.

But, with two kids, work, and everything else that life throws at me from time to time, I didn’t get around to it.

I’ve been reading a series of blogs about somebody getting back into cycling lately – something I did last winter, albeit a different type of cycling – and it reminded me of the stack of books in the upstairs office.

I have no idea what to do with them.

I considered throwing them in a cottage campfire over the summer, but the last time a German fellow got involved with burning books, things got out of hand pretty quickly, and I don’t want to be associated with anything even remotely like that, so, alas the Lance pile still remains, festering like a boil that needs to be . . . well, you get where I was going there.

I’m going to send this to Mr. Armstrong via his Twitter account and hope he’ll refund my $160.00 investment.  That’s about what the stack cost, I figure.  But lots of people are after his money these days, so I won’t hold my breath.

Any suggestions about what else I can do with these books, folks?

I’m looking for something a tad funnier than plain old recycling.

P.S.  A friend of mine was not too seriously injured in a cycling accident yesterday, so if I do get my money back, I’ll buy something nice to help speed her recovery.  And a case of beer for me.  But definitely not watery, used-to-be-Lance-endorsed Michelob Ultra.

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This is the first summer I haven’t worked.

That means I’ve worked for eleven straight summers.  I used the money to pay for my wedding, to go on trips, to do renovations on our houses, but I promised I’d never depend on that additional income as part of our household budget.

I worked all those summers because I knew the time would come when I wouldn’t be able to work, or I simply wouldn’t want to.  I didn’t expect that both of those potential scenarios would come to fruition at the same time, but that was precisely the case this year.

That said, this summer’s been a different one.

It started off a bit rocky – pun intended – with my surgery, but it’s progressed and improved from there.

We were generously invited to friends’ cottages – we’ve been tremendously spoiled in this regard the last few years – and we spent Canada Day weekend up in Sauble Beach.

When we’ve been home, my wife’s been at work, and I’ve been home with Daughters One and Two.

Our days have been fairly routine – perhaps a blog topic for another day – and we’ve spent a lot of time at the neighbourhood park.

When I was working in the summer, the only time I’d make it to the park with the girls was after dinner.  The park’s a busy place then – kids and their parents trying to cram some fun in before bedtime – but it’s different during the day.

Sometimes we’re the only ones there.

I suppose the neighbourhood kids are off at daycare, or summer school, or day camps – maybe they’re away on vacation, or maybe their families simply prefer to stay indoors – and it feels strange to be the sole park players.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice having the place to ourselves, but what’s been interesting this year is the amount of grandparents at the park with their kids.

Since we’re there about the same time every day – sometimes twice a day – we’ve gotten to know the other park regulars, and I’ve had some pretty incredible conversations.

One of the older park regulars answers to Oma, a name near and dear to me and my family, and the German word for grandmother.

She immigrated to Canada from Germany in the 60s, and, of all places, she originally settled in Hamilton.  Eventually, she moved her family to Mississauga, and she watches her son’s two children during the day while he and his wife work.

She brings her big brown dog to the park with her and the kids – Daughters One and Two love that – and we often talk about our kids and their days while we push them on the swings or guide them down the slides.

I told her that I have an Oma of my own, and she was pleased to hear that. We’ve talked about the tremendous success of Germany in the World Cup, we discussed some German writers, shared stories about places in Europe we’ve visited – all sorts of different things – and it’s been a great way to spend the mornings.

There’s been a younger grandfather at the park a few times who helps his daughter and son-in-law by watching their kids from time to time.

He’s got a lot of energy – obviously one of the benefits of having kids when you’re quite young – and he struck up a conversation with me about Ontario microbreweries, having noticed my Mill Street t-shirt.  We talked about all things various and sundry and enjoyed ourselves.

There’s a comradery in these cases.

We’re there for the kids, doing things to make their days better, and we’ve also found a way to improve our own.

Everybody has interesting stories to tell, and the park’s as good a place as any to listen to them – particularly when there’s only a few people there.

I’ve enjoyed these visits this summer, and I know I’m going to miss them when I go back to work.

The kids will too, for different reasons.

But at this point, I’m not sure who’ll miss them more.


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