Some thoughts on life in a divorced family.

Today, I took a snapchat of my venture through the automatic car wash at Canadian Tire, and at the end thought it’d be funny to suddenly pop my face in and scream – You know, like the old pranks Newgrounds.com used to make – and send it to my girlfriend.

She loved it, obviously, because I’m awesome and it was hilarious. But as I thought about that on my way home, I remembered a time when my dad would disappear in the house, and I’d go searching for him, just to have him jump out of a closet with a “Boo!” and give me the tickle attack. It scared the hell out of me, but it also made me happy and was a favourite game of mine as a kid.

Even as I write this now, I think back at all the other good times we had: Staying up watching X-Files and playing SNES together, me passing off the controller for those bosses I just didn’t have the timing to beat at my age (Final Fantasy 2 Demon Wall, anyone?); even watching Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The truth is, we did a lot together and even though there were those times he was busy with working at home, I could always shoot the shit with him or game or watch TV in his office while he worked. I was happy in those times, and never felt unloved.

As I got older and needed braces, my dad would be the one to take me to my appointments, and I always remember the best parts being a pizza hut lunch, where we would both tackle our own Hawaiian pizzas, while my dad made dad jokes and I laughed. I also remember the times he’d run into the store for something and tell me to keep the doors locked while I waited in the car (I was at least 12 here, so don’t panic), and me unlocking the door only to lock it again as soon as he’d try and pull the handle. He must have been really annoyed then, but I don’t ever remember being yelled at for that.

I remember spankings, when I did something bad, and him always saying it hurt him more than me. As a kid, you don’t get it, but now in my 20’s I know that must have been the truth. I never was a repeat offender.

In fact, I was a good kid. I went to school, did my homework, hung out with my friends and played video games and with action figures, envisioning my own final fantasy-style rpg with my spider man and superman and batman figures. I created character sheets and story lines and special moves and everything.

As I got into my teens I started learning to program, and my dad bought me a starter kit for C++ that I still have. I remember I first made a game with a fish head weapon that shot fireballs.

When I was fifteen, just finishing grade 9, my mom told me she was going to leave my dad, and I broke down. I was skipping a school dance that day, playing Star craft at my grandma’s house. I remember it crystal clear. Everything changed, then.

First, it was the fighting. At the time, it was “your dad has another woman”, and then it was my dad’s defense of “I wanted to leave a long time ago, but I couldn’t while your brother and sister were so young”. Be sure, I am not defending or condemning either side, because something like that is a life altering event, and so-called experts will tell you all about the psyche of a child in different stages of divorce, but how often do they deal with that of the parents? The people who have to make a choice between their own happiness and their children’s “familar” (in that, I mean the only lifestyle they know).

The problem is partly in timing. Not the specific date and time this occurred to me, or to anyone else, but the generational timing. In the 80’s,when my parents married, if you were with a girl and got her pregnant, you married her. Disclaimer here: I know I was born before my parents were married, but I can’t say if they planned to marry before or not, because I never had the courage to ask. But as the 90’s progressed and the world came a little further away from moral right and wrong and religious right and wrong being the same, people divorced. Any statistic will tell you that in the 2000’s divorce rates were the highest ever, and it’s because it was no longer seen as this heinous crime.

We children suffered in our own way, sure, and there’s certainly some merit to losing that kind of structure in life. Would I be a different person had they never married,or had they stayed together? Certainly. I cannot, however, say whether I would be better off.

Be clear that I do not regret the path I was thrust upon, and while there are things I would do differently, there are things in my life now I would never give up.

However, writing this all out, I remember the tough times so much clearer than the best. When asked about my parents, my mind instantly fills with the fighting, the back and forth, the not knowing who’s “side” to be on. The rest comes much later.

I will say this: I had good parents. Hell, I still have good parents. Most of the time, I feel awkward trying to approach my dad just to say “hey”, and shoot the shit. And I don’t often hear from him just because, and as I have written this out, I have concluded that maybe the reason is because he feels the same too. Sometimes I’ve felt like my dad didn’t care to have anything to do with me, but maybe he felt that I wanted nothing to do with him, and trying to force it would be upsetting. However, my dad has always been consistent in being a rock, and someone I’ve always admired as a person and role model, even if I’ve never said it.

I’m not writing this to talk about whether divorce is ok or not, or the nifty gritty about that. I’m writing this to say that everyone is affected by it, including the parents, and perhaps we should not judge so hastily when divorce creates a distance, and instead lean on each other and help each other bridge the gap.

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It’s a bright sky tonight.
Some candle behind a paper wall
Is burning just a bit too bright,
So the words on the page end up
Burned inside his eyes.

A cool breeze blows,
Sending a chill rushing down
His spine.

A deep breath brings in the cool
Flavours of a quiet fall night:
No rush of traffic.
No sirens.

A lone cricket plays, it’s song is
A bell, tolling the midnight hour

I’m Going to Write A Novel

That’s right. I have been jotting and writing for years: ideas, blurbs, quotes, thoughts, geographical ideas, plot lines, and characters. Now, it is time to blend them together, and to create something.

Now, I’m no longer a student, and this is not a classroom assignment.

The rules have changed. 

Gone, are the days where brainstorm webs (or whatever they were called, you all know what I’m talking about) are mandatory and worth marks. Gone, too, are word and page length requirements, along with formatting guidelines (I would say, “Good-bye, double-spaced!” but I have come to appreciate that spacing, now that I not longer have to budget how many sheets of paper I have left). Along with these, however, we also lose deadlines (unless you are a professional, but I am speaking more to the hobbyist or first-timer right now) and dedicated time to work.

Now, maybe some find this list perfectly true. Certainly, some will find pros where I see cons, and vice versa, and some may even think I am 100% wrong (I’d be interested to hear why — strictly out of curiosity). For me, though, these are true — well, deadlines is iffy, and actually the loss of them is both a blessing and a curse, since I operate extremely well under pressure and have turned out some of my best school work after waiting until it was almost too late to get really working — and provide a unique set of challenges.

My approach here is what I consider free-form: I have a plot idea, I have a setting, and I have some characters. Now, I have a general idea of where I want the plot to go, and I have some key character development points plotted out. The rest, though, will write itself, with me as more of the man recording what is happening. I have said before that I have an active imagination, and I don’t foresee this to be a problem. What may be a problem, is continuity. With a free-form approach like this, the risk is always there that you will screw up something you created. I really should buy a giant white board and write down the major things as they go, but likely what will happen is I will have fifteen different documents in a folder on my laptop detailing what key events have happened, who is who (especially when introducing other characters on the fly, so to speak), etc.

The other concern I have with this, is that since there is no deadline, other than what I set for myself — and let’s be honest, who doesn’t set a deadline for something that carries no consequence for failure, and push that deadline back when it seems impossible to meet? That said, in writing, sometimes deadlines are detrimental and lead to rushed work that isn’t as good as it could be (Thank you, George R.R. Martin, for taking your time and producing gold). We shall see, I suppose, which end of the spectrum I land on.

Finally, and quite honestly the most major cause of concern, is that there is no dedicated time set for this. That means, it is up to me to decide to sit down, and write. Sometimes I will spend an hour or two of writing, and the next session, throw it all away because I no longer like it. I suppose this is an artist’s issue in general, but all the same, as a 27-year-old adult with a job and other obligations, time becomes ever more valuable (luckily for me, I have no children, and therefore actually have some free time). To waste it is a little discouraging, and even then, my average day contains much less free time than I would like.

The true challenge here, I suppose, will be to actually sit down and write. It is my hope that blogging about this as I go, will keep me motivated, and my novel more front-of-mind.

Wish me luck.

Some Things Should Not Be Donated

Recently I had decided to involve myself in some volunteer work. Without getting into the details, I landed myself at the Salvation Army. For anyone unaware, it is a non-profit organization that operates by selling items donated by other people, using the moneys to fund various social programs (soup kitchens, shelters, etc). These range from things people don’t want, don’t use, can’t sell, old estate clearings, etc. In two days there, I have already seen a lot of interesting and nostalgic items come through. Neat!

However, today especially, I saw a ton of junk.

For Salvation Army to operate, they have to pay for the costs of their store (lease/rent, taxes, hydro, heat, security cameras, and those giant garbage bins in the back). That stuff is not cheap. More specifically, those giant bins are very pricey to swap out, and for a place selling items at prices between $0.25-4 for most items, it gets tough to pay for sometimes. From 9am until 1pm today, we filled almost half of a bin (these are the large, 25′ long bins)

Firstly, let me just say, that nobody expects you to be the judge of what may or may not sell. That is not the point of this post. Sometimes a store will such have too much of a certain type of item, and it has to get tossed. That’s what the bins are for, after all, and I am not trying to get that into it. It is much better to donate your used clothes, toys, etc. instead of just chucking it in the garbage… give your used things a chance at a new home!

However, I have a few guidelines that should be (but are not) common sense:

1. If It’s Broken, Throw It Out

Let’s be honest here: Nobody is going to take time to try and glue together your old plates and cups, or try and find the missing ear to that ceramic bear. That stuff just gets tossed, and certainly some things break in transport. However, any Salvation Army will happily provide you with packing paper (to wrap breakable items in) at no charge (since when it comes back, it will get unwrapped and the paper re-used). That Barbie without a head? Nope, can’t sell that. Sometimes it is easier to grab a whole box and donate it without looking — we all know it happens.

2. If It Is Stained, Throw It Out

Salvation Army does not keep washing machines. If you bring in a bag of old clothes covered in stains, it goes right into the dumpster. Nobody cares if it is wrinkly, or musty smelling from sitting in your dresser. When you’re only paying $2 for a shirt, you can afford to toss it in your next load of laundry before wearing. However, one of the biggest things are children’s stuff toys — they come in stained and covered in who knows what, and we have to toss them out because they can be bacterial cesspools and it’s just not worth the risk.

3. Brand Name Stuff

Now, this one sort of struck me by surprise, and the rule scored me a Bud Light Beer Glass. Salvation Army cannot sell brand name things (ie: Bud Light Beer Glasses). I assume this has to do with the fact that they operate as a business, and there are liability issues associated with Brands (for example, if every Salvation Army carried Bud Light beer glasses, people might start to wonder A) why they should buy at full retail if they can get them so cheap anywhere else, and B) Why are all of these things ending up in thrift shops, instead of people keeping them?). Kind of a weird thing, but you’re better to yard sale that kind of thing.

4. Books Are Touch-And-Go.

As a bookworm and someone who writes a lot, it pains me to see a book meet an ill fate. However, people are getting less and less interested in books. I’m not saying don’t donate them, but rather, I suggest this: Walk into the store and look at the for sale books. If it is full to bursting, please do something else with the books — take them somewhere else, donate them to a library (if they will take them), yard sale, etc. When the book shelves are full, all the extra books that come in get thrown out. This saddens me, and while yes, as a volunteer I get free reign over anything that would be otherwise thrown out (why waste, right?), nobody can take every book. Save the books!

These aren’t hard guidelines, and I’m not suggesting you shy away from donating because you aren’t sure if they’ll take it — they will take almost everything (mattresses and car seats are always a NO — too much liability). Simply, take a couple seconds: That white golf bag that is now brown and green because it’s been so used? Maybe just toss that out. Nobody has the time to clean it, when they will get 5 more black ones in, that can go right out on the floor. The exception is clothes: If they are in decent repair, clothes are always excepted. They make up the bulk of sales.

Something for thought.

On Career Changes

It is finally happening. Or beginning to happen, I should say.

I have been employed with my company for 7 years – 6 of those as a manager. I work in the quick service industry, and to be honest it has never really been fulfilling.

There have been pros, and things I enjoy, of course. There are, however, just as many things I do not enjoy. First and foremost is rotating shifts. Working 9-5 one day, 4am-12pm the next, and then a midnight shift the day after that wreaks havoc on your body, and I truly do make a strong effort to treat my body as well as I can.

That said, over the past few years I have looked here and there for jobs. I have gone to a few interviews, even. One I was not offered the job, although given that it was a factory position I can’t say for sure I would have taken it even if I had been. I have worked in factories before, and it just isn’t for me, despite offering a bit more regularity to my life. Most interviews I either did not attend the second interview, or turned down the job after getting all the details.

Most of my applications, however, did not result in interviews. I can’t say I’m surprised. I have half a college education in Pre-Health Science (basically an unrelated field to everything I’ve applied for — it just wasn’t the course for me). Thus, I have kind of poked my nose into a few doors, or peered through the glass, but have been hesitant to open them.

In June, I may have mentioned that I attended a convention where the guest speaker was a former head of training for Disney. Something he said was that the number one thing that holds people back is themselves. Too scared to take the risk, or too stuck in a routine, or whatever reason suited.

Last month, I commented on a post on Facebook, about a friend of mine who’s wife was taking her course to become a real estate agent. I simply asked what was involved, as I was curious. Lo and behold, the owner of a very strong (albeit new) real estate firm replied to me (as well as others) stating that if we were interested, we could contact him for some info.

I did so immediately, and was invited to a career night. Due to my work schedule, I was unable to attend, however I was offered a 1-on-1 information session, which I agreed to. Today, I almost decided not to attend, but figured I had committed to it, and what was the worst that could happen?

As it turns out, it was a good meeting. We got along very well right off the bat, and were able to bat around some questions and information. I learned a lot about how the business was formed, the market share, and more importantly, asked where it was headed.

I left the interview more excited than anything I have ever done. Ever.

So with that, I have decided to take the real estate course (at a whopping $4000, but that is small compared to not only the earning potential (it is potential, after all), but the satisfaction of building a business and doing something I can be proud of.

So over the coming weeks, expect to see more of a focus in content. I know myself well enough that I will have some struggles with security and taking such a risk at 27 years old, but I have decided to sink my teeth in, and I may as well write about the experience of a career change, and sinking both feet in.

I am starting to understand the meaning of the phrase “burn the fleet”. If you have no escape route, the only option is success. This will be my credo moving forward.

This Is An Escape

Tree-topped ridges.

Morning blood boils up over the horizon,

painting the sky in pink and orange.

The lake lays calm, still half trapped in sleep,

its slow breath fogging as it greets the morning air.

This is not the world.

This is a transition.

A dream:

Existing in vivid colour and detail,

where an hour exists inside of a second,

This is an escape.

Strike a Chord!

Or two, or three? Why stop there?

The Daily Post put forth a daily writing challenge that really struck a chord (not even a little bit sorry about the pun) with me.

I have been pretty passionate about music since I was a kid. From “no, don’t turn the car off yet I wanna hear the rest of this song”, to banging pots and pans in the kitchen, there was rarely anything I wouldn’t try to make music with.

My first instrument, as many of you I’m sure can relate, was the Recorder – that god-forsaken, high-pitched ear-crushing thing. My poor parents. If you don’t know what I am speaking of, than perhaps this was a measure of torture reserved for families in Ontario, Canada schools. Essentially it is some half-hearted instrument that might technically be considered a woodwind, but more likely just called a children’s toy (like the toy pianos you buy for toddlers). Believe me, you are not missing anything. I actually caught on to the recorder very quickly, mastering such classics as “Hot Cross Buns”, and “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, and of course “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. And all the other nursery songs that are just those three with different words. Today, I hear kids playing this thing, and it drives me nuts.

Through my youth I also had a harmonica, which I was only just beginning to really understand before my dad ran it over with a lawnmower (now that I’m older, I wonder if perhaps that was not done on purpose… I may never know). I have always meant to pick up another, just for the hell for the hell of it, but have never gotten around to it.

I should back-step a second here, just to say that the recorder was a 4th grade instrument, and after that we never went back to them (perhaps the volunteer school board voted that one year was more than enough punishment). It was in the 4th grade as well that I joined the school choir. I made it almost the full year, before my teacher did not let us leave class to attend a music meeting, and 6 of us were then kicked out of the group. Oh well.

In the 7th grade, music class stepped up a notch, and we got to play real instruments. We got to vote for what we wanted to play. I chose drums, but as it turns out, they are expensive and nobody was allowed, except for a kid in my class named Aaron, who had taken drum lessons. I was so jealous of that. I got the saxophone, and I wasn’t really a fan. I think this was due one part to having braces (which makes learning a woodwind very difficult — stupid reeds), and complicated further by shyness and general insecurity, so that when I received criticism (or feedback, but from my perspective it was just criticism) in front of the class, I got embarrassed and discouraged. I don’t think I ever took it home to practice, and had a tough time with that class.

I found solace that summer, however, when I started to learn to play the guitar. I wanted to play, so my dad took me to a pawn shop where I spent $100 of my saved-up allowance to buy a 3/4 size nylon-string guitar. I practised day in and day out, and it hurt my hands and fingers like no other, yet I persisted. The next year, my uncle bought me my very first electric guitar (which, 13 years later, I still have and use on the regular).

Thinking back now, I would love to get my hands on a saxophone again. It’s making a comeback, and I love the sound (I played Alto, maybe should have mentioned that before, but it didn’t seem important I suppose).

This past Christmas, I also bought myself a Casio keyboard, and have been self-teaching myself piano (knowing the essentials of guitar helps a lot, I suppose, in chord structuring). Despite similarities to the guitar, it is a challenging instrument to learn, maybe partly due to not learning the proper flow and fingerings, but I am keeping at it, and getting somewhere! Woo-hoo.

Lastly, I have a banjo. It is missing a string, and wildly out of tune, but one day I will buy new strings, figure out what the hell to tune it to, and learn to play. Just so I can play “Dueling Banjos”, haha.