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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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.

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.

On Aunts and Uncles

The following post was inspired by Writing 101: Post-a-Day Writing Prompts.

With Father’s Day now past, the idea here is to figure out which relative I would dedicate a day to, and why? Now the first thought is grandparents, but really they are just an extension of moms and dads, who have their days (Who doesn’t wish their grandpa or grandma happy Father’s/Mother’s day?), but I am also reasonably confident that there is a grandparents day already in existence.

So why not Aunts and Uncles? I may be biased, in the sense that my dad worked a lot growing up, and my uncle Greg had no kids, and so he was sort of an impromptu father figure. Not out of a want to displace my dad in that position, or that it was forced on him at all, but he lived nearby to my brothers, sister, and I, and his schedule allowed more downtime than my dad’s did, so we did things. From seeing movies, to learning to wrench on cars, to road trips to Florida (From Ontario, Canada, for anyone who cares about the distance involved). You can’t not give credit to a guy who is willing to put his three 13-15-year-old nephews in the back of a rented PT Cruiser and drive for a day and a half, only stopping for food and one overnight stay, each way.

That gets me thinking, even, that I have a lot of friends who are aunts or uncles, and treat their nephews and neices like they are their own. To me, that’s the way it should be. I want kids one day, but I am not ready quite now, and so I am hoping that a brother or sister pulls through for me. The thing is that we celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and for the sake of argument, grandparent’s day (But, again, grandparents are still mothers and fathers), and all throughout these days, as with Valentine’s Day, we remind one another that we should always take time to tell or show our moms and dads what we love them and care about them. 

Nobody remembers the aunts and uncles, though.

So even though this day will more than likely never happen, if you have an aunt or uncle who has taken time out of their day to pick you up from school, drive you to exams, pick you and a friend up in another town because you got on the wrong bus on your first day of high school, road tripped, or otherwise treated you like their own child, take a minute and just remind them how grateful you are.

If We Could Only See Us Now

I’ve been trying to come up with a title – a unique name for this blog – all week. I landed with this while listening to some old Thrice albums, and that lyric came out and spoke to me.

And so, “If We Could Only See Us Now” is it. The way I see it, my whole goal in writing this is to A) practice some writing by publishing things as I go, and B) Get more in touch with myself and what I’m about. It occurs to me, after reading the title, that perhaps I am not alone in the sense that I picture myself a certain way (if you read my last post, about being uncommitted), and that may not be how it is (Not having found the right motivation)

Self-Perception is central to how you live your life: if you think you’re ugly, you aren’t going to approach that gorgeous girl/guy; if you think you’re too shy, it becomes your crutch; if you believe yourself to be smooth, you maybe will approach that girl or guy, and if they walk away, they’re just a bitch/dick.

I’m going with the idea that everyone should carve out some time to learn who they really are. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? And then look at how you see yourself? Are you a better person than you think? Do you have some opportunities? You can always make yourself better; that’s why I chose the Hemingway quote.

Hello, World

My name is Scott, and I figure I should take some time on here to make my first blog post a little summary of who I am, and why I am here.

I think maybe I am a bit of a Jack-of-all-Trades, for one. I even chose “Hello, World” because that is the first thing any guide on computer programming teaches you to output. I’m a nerd like that (and no, I have not done any programming in a long time — I should get back to that).

I am an out-of-practice programmer, web designer, and general computer nerd. At 16 years old I was building computers and websites from scratch, for fun. I would spend hours, days, and weeks programming in any language I could get my hands on — from scripting in a then-popular game known as Graal, to Turing, to C++. I learned to work in PHP and loved the similarities and differences in these languages. My grade 11 computer science final project was a 2-level zelda game (I drew the maps in paint, but the collision detection and shitty AI was all done on my own).

And then I graduated, and fell out of practising.

I am also a mediocre musician, in a sense. I love music. I have played guitar since I was 16 years old, and also played Saxophone, and have even picked up a little keyboard (the similarities between guitar and keyboard/piano definitely helped). I peaked in high school when I played in a band, writing lyrics and tunes, harmonizing, and I grew in skill rapidly.

And then I graduated, and fell out of practice. In fact, it was probably 4 or 5 years that I barely even touched my guitars. I play again now, but I feel like I’m more or less the same skill level.

I also used to be a really good writer. I don’t say that from a necessarily egotistical point of view, either. I have loved reading and writing for as long as I can remember (which for the most part, is about the 3rd grade). If we were assigned to write a 3-page story, I would turn in 10. In our reading hours (Yes, we used to have those — an hour dedicated to reading silently), I read books on Napoleon and other historical figures, as well as fantasy and science fiction. I was truly passionate about reading, and I loved to write. I think maybe my wild imagination as a child could only ever be truly realized when I wrote it out. Hell, I would even act out the things I was writing. Sword fights? Check. Flying? Double check. Dying and coming to life in the classic “Oh no, the hero is dying, but wait he actually isn’t!” way? Triple check. In my bedroom, in the living room (when nobody was home, of course), even in the bathtub. My life was another world, and I loved it. My dreams and my imagination existed on the same plane, it seemed.

But I digress. The thing is, again, as I got into high school and busy with work, and computers, and everything else, my writing changed shapes. Instead of fantasy stories I wrote songs. Awful songs, mind you. I believe the first one was called “Might and Magic” (after the video game series from the 90’s), and the chorus was basically “M-m-m-might and magic, yeah”. Not encouraging, I’ll admit. But I grew from that.

In the 8th grade I wrote a survival journal for a final project (Our assignment was a survival journal) that earned me an award, a comment on  report card saying “I hope you try to get published one day” (not verbatim, by the way — this was 12+ years ago), and a general sense of pride and accomplishment. Perhaps the only downside here was I was so shy, I didn’t know how to even take a compliment other than turn red.

But as high school carried on, I changed my style more to poetry. I really grew as a lyricist, and as a poet, I think. I joined something called the Songwriter’s guild, and online community, and made some good friends who helped motivate me, as well as criticizing me when I needed it, and praising me when I did well. I searched for my old works on there recently, but came up empty-handed. I would love to look back and follow my own growth.

But then, as is the theme here, I graduated, and fell out of practising. I even stopped reading books. I read shorter articles on the internet, about health and such. I went to college, where I quickly became bored of my classes in Pre Health Science and didn’t even bother to graduate.

 

To let you in on a secret, when I began this article, I meant to make it short. As well, my own opinion of myself was that I didn’t commit to things. I would do something, show promise in it, and then abandon it. I even do this in my own career. My regional manager constantly tells me how much potential I have, and how quickly I learn and retain information, but I just have no drive anymore, despite wanting to do better.

But I think, now after writing this and reflecting, that I just have found things I enjoy, but am not passionate about. That all these creative things I did were just outlets – me trying to figure out who I was and what I was about – and that at the end of the day, I like to be creative.

I started dating someone recently, who I feel so comfortable with, I have started acting like my old little kid self again. I picture this and that, and act out these scenes from the comfort of my own home (Because at 27 years old, despite getting over being shy, I am still too old to do this in public).

 

So I will conclude with this: My name is Scott, and I am soul-searching. Why make a blog, though, instead of a personal journal? Maybe a bit of a sense that someone else will read this and connect, or find something similar, and maybe a little bit so that one day in the future, someone might stumble by and give a “good luck” or “keep it up”, which might be just what I need to keep going. Let’s consider this blog a public writing practice.

My intent is to partake in some writing challenges, share my own thoughts on different subjects, and just generally be heard.

 

Cheers!

-Scott