Dad@Home is FIVE YEARS OLD! So… Happy Bloggaversary to Me?

During my first ten years of stay-at-home fatherhood, I never once had any intention of starting a “Dad” blog. The thought simply never crossed my mind.

Yes, I was always intent on writing a book to share my story, but it wasn’t until I had already finished Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated when a publishing agent that told me I had to rapidly expand my online profile if I wanted to secure a book deal. So, on April 11, 2016 I dove headfirst into the wide world of online writing with my very first blog post:

The original point of Dad@Home was to introduce myself to the world and prepare the general public for the “much anticipated” launch of my masterwork of non-fiction, set to be published by late 2016.

Well, as a tool to push sales, this blog would have to be considered a colossal failure.

The three articles that specifically advertised my book are quite literally my least read posts by a huge margin – with 14, 16 and 18 total views respectively. I learned pretty quickly that people who followed my blog weren’t looking for a salesman…

They Were Looking For a Storyteller

Over time, Dad@Home has transformed into a very effective forum to share stories that are actually relevant to my life. So, in the months that followed my book release, I abandoned the blatant sales tactics and started writing about issues that mattered to me, funny anecdotes about my life at home, and sometimes… articles that had absolutely nothing to do with being a stay-at-home Dad.

I’d write about my big day in traffic court taking on the “system”, or how I gained too much weight and need a new workout regime. Other times, I’d pen a sad goodbye to my longtime “companion” – my Subaru. And then you might see a truly random post about how I now need a hearing aid. Ultimately, the subject matter of my stories truly has been all over the map.

There were also multiple articles that simply mirrored my social media accounts. Those were the posts about our fun-filled family vacations, my annual Christmas letter or personal milestones like me turning 50-years-old and officially entering my senior years. At times I’d struggle to find content to fill my monthly quota, so I’d ask my faithful readers for story ideas. But quite often, stuff happened… or rather, LIFE HAPPENED and voilà – the next story would almost write itself.

Some of my Most Popular Posts Were About Stuff That Happened With My Kids

Being a stay-at-home Dad for the past 17+ years has meant I’ve spent considerably more time with my kids than the average father. That’s been great for our relationship, but the major fringe benefit is: MORE CONTENT for my book and blog!

When I look at the total clicks of my 74 published articles, some of the most viewed were stories about the trials and tribulations of raising kids. Other popular ones included the more offbeat parenting tales, like the day Daniel shadowed me for “take your kid to work” day, or the story of Abby’s bumpy road to getting a driver’s license.

Two of my most popular posts in the last five years are stories of my failings as a father. The remarkably similarly named “Was I a Bad Dad?” and “Am I a Bad Dad?” both got a boatload of views and I think I know why. I truly believe parents want to know they’re not alone when they occasionally screw up. Personally, the last thing I want to read about is some braggart telling the world how great his life is… or how great a parent he is… or how perfect his kids are. What are people supposed to take away from that? Life is messy. I am far from perfect. I think my blog that reflects that.

I tend to shy away from the truly emotional or sad moments we have shared as a family, but I have made an exception. We’ve had some bad luck with losing our beloved family pets over the past few years, and I still get a little choked up when I read “A Tail of Two Kitties“, where I detail how we all dealt with a very unexpected farewell to Duff the cat. That story was actually very difficult to write!

Surprise, Surprise! Over the Past Year, I’ve Been Writing A LOT About Living With COVID-19

In fact, since the first lockdown hit over 13 months ago, I’ve written five articles on how the pandemic has affected our happy little household. Is that overkill? Maybe, but as a good citizen who has actually been following the guidelines and protocols set by the various levels of government, there were long stretches of time when I rarely left the house! What else was I supposed to write about? And besides, people were actually reading those stories! “Dad-No-Longer@Home: How Our World Has Changed Four Months After The Lockdown!” is my third most popular post with almost 500 views.

And speaking of views, I am completely floored as to how many countries around the world Dad@Home has reached. Yes, a VAST majority of the clicks come from Canada and the United States, but whenever I check out the stats that wordpress provides on where my readership comes from, I find that another obscure country pops up in the map! Hello Guernsey!

When I wrote a post about the one-year anniversary of Dad@Home, I marveled that I had readers in 27 countries. Well, as of today I have views from 76 countries from all four corners of the globe… from Chile, to Switzerland, to Malaysia, to Kenya, to New Zealand. Is that actually five corners? Sorry. In any event, I’m proud to have a “global reach“, even if my total all-time views are less than 12,000 clicks over the past five years. Hey! Nobody said my blog was well read. I just hope it’s well written.

I Always Hoped One of my Articles Would go VIRAL! Well, One of Them Finally Did… (Kind of)

Just a couple of months ago, I posted a story about how one of my very ordinary, not particularly well-read articles from two years ago suddenly became an overnight sensation. “Are Stay-at-Home Dads HAPPIER Than Stay-at-Home Moms?” had only 78 views in the month it was published back in April 2019. Fast-forward to today and it has over 650 views (and counting). I literally get multiple clicks on this article every day of the week and I still have no idea why.

Last month it overtook my previous number one article of all time “If I can do it…” which was just the second blog post I published WAY back in April 2016 (and the first one that I really pushed online for views). I’m not complaining, as every blogger craves that “evergreen” content that brings in new views from old posts. But again… if anyone has any idea why my two-year old story is now the number one Google result when people type in, “are stay-at-home dads happy?” I’d love to hear your theories.

What is the FUTURE for Dad@Home?

When I launched this wordpress website, I didn’t know how long I would keep it going after I published my book. I thought I’d maybe utilize it for half a year to sell a few more copies and try to keep the excitement of the launch at a fever pitch. When sales of Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated fizzled almost immediately, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to pen another book… EVER. But after a few months, I found that writing this monthly blog became something that I actually looked forward to. It became an outlet for my creativity. It became a place to vent and a place to make people laugh. It became a part of my routine. It became a part of me.

Once my kids have both graduated high school and are out of the house, will I still be “Dad@Home”?

I’ve already started working part-time and there will come a time when I’ll be looking for full-time employment. That will mean significantly less time for me to maintain this blog. That will also mean my primary source of new material: ME BEING AT HOME – will vanish! So, I don’t really know what the long-term future of this particular online writing space holds, but I do know this:

I will always find a way to keep writing, creating and publishing my stories in some way, shape or form. In the past five years, I’ve written well over 120,000 words and if I’ve learned anything – it’s that once you start blogging, it can be really hard to stop.

A Full Year into COVID-19 Restrictions, “Normal” Still Seems Frustratingly Out of Reach

By now, I thought we would be getting back to normal… or at least a “new normal”. By now, I thought we would be ready to enjoy a summer filled with theatre tickets, CFL games complete with tailgate parties, and big family BBQs featuring grandparents, siblings, and all of the crazy cousins. Instead, after a full calendar year of pandemic protocols, it sometimes feels like we’re never going to get there.

If you had asked me how I was feeling in mid-February, I would have had a very different outlook. COVID-19 cases were in free-fall, hospitalizations and deaths were way down, and vaccine distribution was starting to ramp up. Could we see the easing of more restrictions? Were we on the path to our new normal? YES and YES! And then… we were hit with yet another roadblock – the dreaded variants.

Oh, wait a minute – do those daily case numbers look like we are headed for a THIRD WAVE in Alberta? Yep.

Back in mid-February, when these new variants of COVID-19 were less than 5% of our total cases, I really wasn’t all that worried about them. The daily numbers were dropping all over the country, so surely we had a handle on this thing! Surely we wouldn’t let our guard down! Surely we will be REWARDED for a year of personal sacrifices, cancelled vacations and precious lost time with loved ones!

As it turns out, we most certainly were NOT rewarded (and by the way, don’t call me Shirley).

A full twelve months after we were all forced to turn our lives upside down, I think a lot of us are still feeling very discombobulated, and it’s all because this pesky coronavirus decided to reinvent itself. I guess it’s simply not ready to let go of its infuriating, vice-like grip on our society. Not only are these series of new variants more easily transmissible, it appears they are also more deadly as well.

I Kept Telling Myself – “Just Wait Until Next Year”!

So, what has this past calendar year cost us? Actually, quite a lot. Both Lianne and I celebrated our 50th birthdays, and had big travel plans thrown out the window. We cancelled our season’s tickets to the theatre and multiple pro sports teams, thus cancelling our social lives. Abby’s senior basketball season and grade 12 trip to Italy/France were both canned, along with high school graduation ceremonies. Our big, traditional family gatherings at Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas were also punted. Even the smaller stuff, like our kids’ birthday parties were downsized to only our immediate family as of March 2020.

I specifically remember telling Abby on the day of their 17th birthday on March 24th, 2020: “Don’t worry! There is NO WAY we will have to cancel your party next year. We’ll have a big bash… you just wait.” Well, fast forward twelve months and once again we had an intimate gathering, with immediate family only.

To make matters worse, we had planned a weekend getaway at the Banff Springs Hotel to celebrate Abby’s first birthday as an ADULT, but just days before we were supposed to leave, we found out Abby was a close contact of a COVID-19 case at school, and now the newly minted 18-year-old is stuck at home for a 14-day quarantine. That blows.

Different year… same quiet party. I also think that could even be the same ice cream cake from Dairy Queen.

Luckily, we did have a small reprieve from the drudgery of pandemic life in 2020. When cases dropped significantly last summer, Lianne and I managed to escape the city for a few fun-filled days in Waterton Lakes, and then the whole family spent a week cavorting around Jasper National Park in mid-August. Those two Alberta staycations helped keep us sane, but with a variant-filled third wave about to hit, will we get the same chance to recharge our batteries in summer 2021? God, I hope so but I’m not counting on it.

Vaccinations Have Begun! Will September Really be the Turning Point?

Now that enjoying all that summer has to offer is probably off the table, where do we go from here? For starters, I will feel a lot better about life in general after I get jabbed with that all-important vaccine. And I don’t care which one it is – I’ll take whatever is available! I’m not fussy, and you shouldn’t be either. The sooner we can all get that shot, the sooner we can beat back this pandemic and RESET our lives. My parents and my mother-in-law are about a week away from getting their second shot, and I should be about two months away from getting my first one… fingers crossed.

If we can all just hang on for a few more months without losing our collective minds, our new normal will soon be within our grasp. We just have to make it to the fall, when we can take in dinner and a show, host a big ole BBQ, and hug all of the grandparents we want. There IS hope on the horizon, even though it sometimes feels like we’re never going to get there.

The Blog Post That KEEPS ON GIVING

In the past five years, I’ve written over 70 articles for Dad@Home, covering a myriad of topics – from my zany adventures in stay-at-home parenting, to my struggles recording an audiobook, to family pet tragedies, to multiple stories about navigating the current COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve also used this forum to blatantly plug and advertise my book, but in the end… no matter what the subject matter was, I have always found my blog posts had very little “staying power”.

A typical Dad@Home post has a shelf life of a less than a week. 95% of all clicks come within the first few days after publishing, and then I might see a few random views trickle in weeks, months or even years later.

All of That Changed in the Final Few Months of 2020

One of the great features of my wordpress website is that I have access to very detailed stats, so naturally I check my blog’s viewership on a regular basis. It’s completely normal for me to see a few random clicks of my older stories, but in late 2020, I started to witness something that was completely abnormal.

Right about now, some of you might be asking: “why is Greg writing a blog post about… another blog post?”

Allow me to explain. Out of the blue, I was seeing rapidly increasing NEW views of one particular piece that I wrote way back in April 2019: Are Stay-at-Home Dads HAPPIER Than Stay-at-Home Moms? When I first published the article it failed to set the world on fire, garnering only 74 views – which is well below my average of 130 clicks per post.

The brand new views started about one full year after the original publication. April 2020 was the beginning of this phenomenon, as the article was getting a handful of fresh looks each month, and it stayed that way right through spring and summer. Then something really weird happened in October. That’s when the numbers for Are Stay-at-Home Dads HAPPIER Than Stay-at-Home Moms? REALLY spiked.

The clicks suddenly saw an incredible 788% increase and since then, I’ve been getting a lot of new eyeballs on a very old blog post. So, what gives? WHAT’S HAPPENING?

This Two-Year-Old Post is Now Tracking to Become my Most Successful Article of All Time

I started to wonder if maybe the COVID-19 pandemic had something to do with all of this sudden interest in the question: “are stay-at-home Dads happier than stay-at-home Moms?” The timing actually works out, as spring 2020 is when societies around the world started to get locked down, people started working from home, school children began online learning, and sadly… a lot of people started losing their jobs.

Was it possible a bunch of fathers who had never considered being a stay-at-home Dad suddenly had the proposition thrust upon them – perhaps against their will?

Were these dads using the Google machine to do some research into what a life at home could mean for them? Could they actually be HAPPY staying home full time to raise kids? Maybe a lot of dads who were forced to work from home took on more child rearing duties and asked themselves: “could I see myself doing this for a living”? It finally dawned on me to actually type in the headline of my old blog post into the Google search bar, and you can probably guess what happened.

Before I could even finish keying in the entire title, I saw my blog article pop up as the number one search result.

I have to admit, I’ve often hoped one of my articles would someday go VIRAL, and while I am certainly receiving “record” traffic on this particular post, the overall numbers are still small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. If this current trend continues, I’ll likely pass 500 total views in less than a month, which would make this two-year-old post my most successful article to date.

I know it’s a far cry from the thousands or even millions of clicks a news story from a major media outlet would receive, but for me this is a pretty big deal. It’s also a very strange mystery that I have yet to fully solve. I still have no idea why my humble little blog post is now the first search result to appear – years after it was first published.

Nevertheless, I am tickled pink to have produced online content that just might stand the test of time, and is now the go-to answer for anyone asking the internet if stay-at-home Dads are happy. It truly is the blog post that keeps on giving… and that makes this particular stay-at-home Dad quite happy. It also makes me think that after writing over 70 articles in five years, keeping up this blog was probably worth it.

Dad is FAT? Time to get FIT in 2021!

Like a lot of people, I struggle with my weight and overall fitness. I tend to fall into repetitive cycles of desperately trying to lose fat, followed by months of laziness and half-measures to try and eat right and stay active. One might think that living through months and months of this dreaded COVID-19 lockdown would have prompted me to turn over a new leaf! But alas, the ongoing pandemic has left me in a hazy malaise, achieving the exact opposite effect. Don’t get me wrong, I do exercise but I would classify it as “semi-regular” at best. A typical week might see me work out two or three times… with four sessions being a real banner effort.

No More Excuses! The Belt Has Spoken

There’s been a lot written about how the sudden lifestyle change the pandemic thrust upon all of us has led to an epidemic of added pounds – a.k.a. “The Quarantine 15”. Now, I don’t think I’ve put on THAT much weight, but to be honest with you, I have no way of knowing for sure. After many years of meticulous measurement, I stopped weighing myself in the middle of 2020, and I don’t think I’ll restart any time soon. Instead, my brown leather belt has become my barometer for when I need to shed a few pounds. After a calorie-filled holiday season, my trusty old belt was CINCHING and PINCHING my belly fat like nobody’s business!

Here’s how my system works. The sixth notch in signifies I’m actually going through a SKINNY PHASE. The fifth notch in tells me I’m probably about 10 pounds over my TARGET WEIGHT of 185 pounds. If an incessant, uncomfortable pinching has forced me to move to the dreaded fourth notch in, that means I’m very likely pushing 200+, and I’ve officially entered another PHAT PHASE! Any move farther in would be completely catastrophic.

As you can tell by the stretching and incredible stress put on that fifth notch, my belt was digging into my midriff something fierce. But did I move to the fourth notch to alleviate my suffering? NO I DID NOT. That would admit defeat! That would put me on a slippery slope to excessive weight gain! That would mean I had completely given up! I needed that constant pressure on my mid-section as a reminder to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

So, I finally devised a MASTER PLAN to flatten my belly and get in the best shape my creaky 50-year-old body would allow. Before I divulge it, I must offer up full disclosure: I am no stranger to losing a lot of weight – SUPER FAST! I am also no stranger to putting all of that weight back on – EVEN FASTER! You see, I have mastered the art of yo-yo dieting, a cyclical pattern of losing pounds, regaining them and then dieting again. Back when I was closely monitoring my weight, I was using an electronic scale that linked to a health app that I could access from my iPhone. As you can see from this screenshot, the fluctuations were WILD.

My weight has fluctuated from a technically obese 214 pounds in early 2013 to a low of 180 pounds THREE SEPARATE TIMES – 2014, 2015 and 2016 (as shown with the yellow dots). I have managed to get back to the mid-to-high 180s in 2017 and 2018. That is a CRAZY swing of almost 35 pounds! Is this healthy? Is this practical? Is this sustainable?

It Was Time For a Different Approach

During the three times when I lost a boatload of weight, my wife Lianne and I were on a very restrictive regime called the Dukan Diet. In a nutshell, the first couple of weeks were very high in protein and then you slowly add more and more vegetables into the mix after that. In the meantime, carbs of any kind are pretty much forbidden… and alcohol is also a big NO-NO.

I will say this: that dumb diet worked like gangbusters for me but I HATED every minute I was on it.

I remember a particular dieting “incident” that completely enraged me. We have been season ticket holders to the Calgary Stampeders for over 20 years and a few years ago, we started tailgating before the football games in the stadium parking lot. Every home game, I’d park the SUV, pull out my mini-BBQ and get the party started. The menu was simple: burgers, beers, potato chips and sweets… and it never disappointed.

During one of our very restrictive diet phases, Lianne and I made damn sure we didn’t cheat during our tailgate party. Instead of hamburger buns, Lianne baked these weird egg white-based “loafs” as a substitute for our usual carb-laden buns and I bought a six pack of low-carb, low-alcohol beer. I recall watching my kids wolf down REAL burgers, with chips and cookies (while I was eating my egg white burger and choking down a god-awful beer that tasted like dishwater) and then thinking to myself: “WHY THE HELL AM I DOING THIS!”

I Want to Drink! I Want to Eat Chips! I Want to LIVE!

I know for a fact that I can drop plenty of pounds by starting a restrictive diet. I’ve done it multiple times. I also know that I absolutely hate it and never ever want to do it again. As a side note, I must add that during all of these cycles of extreme weight loss, I never stepped up my standard workout regimen. I was exercising two, three or maybe four days a week and my sessions were always limited to half an hour.

All of the rapid weight loss I’ve experienced in these past years came almost exclusively from a painfully low caloric intake, so how am I supposed to lose inches from my waistline without living my life in a constant rage? What was my MASTER PLAN?

Fortunately, I stumbled across an online article that gave me inspiration and finally spurred me into action. It suggested that working out an hour every day (along with a sensible diet) could go a long way to reduce weight over the long term. This approach appeals to be greatly, as it means that I don’t have to eat like a bird to shed pounds. It means I can still have a couple pints of beer after I play hockey. It means I can eat chips when I tailgate. It means NO MORE EGG WHITE LOAFS. I’m also well aware this DOESN’T mean I get to eat like a pig. I’m no dummy… I know will still have to watch what I eat. Regardless, on January 9th, I pulled the trigger on my MASTER PLAN.

I’ve Been Working Out an Hour a Day For Over Three Weeks

They say it takes doing something 17 times in a row before it starts to feel like a habit. Well, I can tell you that three weeks into my new exercise program, working out an hour each and every day isn’t something I ever look forward to, but it is something I am committed to. So, I guess it is starting to feel a bit like my normal routine. Let me walk you through my world-renowned “Dad@Home” weight loss and strength training program.

STEP ONE consists of 30 minutes on the TREAD CLIMBER, which is a cross between a treadmill, stepper and elliptical trainer. I subscribe to the High Intensity Interval Training mantra, so I alternate between a lower and higher pace three times at five minutes a pop to really get that heart PUMPING. It’s a pretty good cardio workout without the stress that running causes on my elderly knees. After a few minutes of cool down at a minimal speed, I’m ready for the next step in my world-renowned “Dad@Home” weight loss and strength training program.

STEP TWO starts when I hit the WEIGHTS! “Do you even lift, bro?” To be honest, I’m not pumping very much iron, but I do cycle through six different sets that target multiple muscle groups. I run through these sets three times, doing 10-20 reps each cycle. The whole process takes about 20-25 minutes and just like the tread climber, it keeps my heart rate up and my sweat glands gushing. It all adds up to a full hour of exercise, but wait – we don’t want to miss the final step in my world-renowned “Dad@Home” weight loss and strength training program.

STEP THREE is very simple – STRETCHING! I struggle through four or five stretches after all the crying is over, and I’ve found that I’m getting 1.9% more flexible as a result. So, what can I report after 23 consecutive days of exercise? Actually, quite a bit!

For starters, I feel like I have way more energy than before. Secondly, I find that I sleep considerably better, with fewer “old man who has to get up three times a night to pee” incidents. Thirdly, I have witnessed my man boobs slowly receding and being replaced by something resembling pectoral muscles. And lastly, I can tell by my trusty old belt that my waistline is slowly but surely shrinking. I dare say that living at that fifth notch in feels almost… comfortable, which I haven’t been able to say in quite a while.

What Are My Long Term Goals?

I used to desperately strive to look SKINNY, but with turning 50 last year and a slowing metabolism, I know that’s probably not in the cards. My target weight has always been about 185 pounds, but I’m not so laser-focused on achieving that lofty goal anymore.

You know what? I simply want to be healthy. I want to be active. I want to eat and drink whatever I want (in moderation). I want to LIVE!

I don’t ever want to step on that scale and be subject to it’s daily fluctuations… and feel stressed out when the number creeps up two pounds in one week. So, I think I’ll simply stick with my trusty old belt, and if I ever get back to that coveted sixth notch in, I’ll know that I’m LOOKING great. But if I never get there, it’s not the end of the world.

As long as I’m FEELING great, that will be good enough for me.

Merry Christmas from the Tysowskis! 2020: The Year in Review

Family photo taken during my wonderful 50th birthday celebration.

Well, here we are again. I know we are fast approaching the end of another calendar year when I sit down to write…  OK,  um, let’s stop this charade. Let’s stop pretending this is simply another silly Tysowski Christmas letter and address the huge elephant in the room. We all know 2020 will go down in history as very  memorable, but for all of the wrong reasons.

But, now that this wretched year is almost over, I want to highlight some of the POSITIVE things that happened. Come on, we still did some cool stuff! Right? It wasn’t all doom and gloom!

Almost too sad for words…

2020 actually started off with a sad goodbye. In January, I bid adieu to my beloved Subaru Tribeca after ten wonderful years together, and started a bright, new romance with a Subaru Crosstrek. This is my third Subaru in a row – so, I guess I have a type? Later that month, Abby also said farewell to a faithful companion of almost two years: invisalign braces! I don’t think they will be missed as much as my Tribeca. 

How could we possibly have two kids in HIGH SCHOOL?

Spring arrived with a couple of March birthdays. Daniel’s slow transformation into a fine young man continues, as he turned 15, while Abby turned 17 and continues to be the edgy teen we all know and love. But wait, there’s something else that happened in March… something big… something happened that I should really remember. What am I forgetting? Oh yeah. THE WORLD WAS TURNED UPSIDE DOWN.

Daniel’s Bantam Rec team was favoured to WIN IT ALL!

When the coronavirus arrived, the lockdown was swift and merciless. Daniel’s hockey team missed out on playing in the city finals and both Abby’s club basketball season and Daniel’s rec volleyball were cancelled. But, the most significant development was that all four of us were forced into close quarters! Lianne’s office closed, so our dining room was transformed into her makeshift workstation. Schools were shuttered, classes moved online and the kids have never slept so much in their life.

This also meant that the blissfully empty house I used to enjoy was now constantly buzzing! I started to lose my mind, so I completely shaved my head. Can anyone blame me?

I know what you’re all thinking… “could Greg get any more handsome?”

May was supposed to feature a fun couples getaway to Nashville for my big 50th birthday trip with James and Anu. Obviously, COVID made sure that didn’t happen but there were ominous signs that the trip was never meant to be in the first place. A couple of months before we were supposed to leave, a tornado touched down in Nashville and destroyed the hotel we were supposed to stay in. Go figure. Instead, I marked the milestone with a fun round of golf with Mark and Jack and enjoyed a wonderful family dinner prepared by Lianne.

Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

Later that month, Daniel joined the ranks of vehicular drivers by obtaining his learner’s license. Stay off the roads everyone! Oh yeah. Nobody was even on the roads anyways due to the ongoing pandemic… so, never mind. 

The arrival of summer featured something brand new for Abby and something very familiar for Daniel. Abby kept on learning online and enrolled in summer school to complete English 30 and Religious Studies 35 early. And, for the third summer in a row, Daniel enrolled in his musical theatre camp and once again sang and danced his heart out for two weeks… albeit through a mask.

Beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park

We were fortunate that the downward trend in cases allowed us to enjoy a couple of epic Alberta summer stay-cations! At the end of July, Lianne and I hit the open road and drove a couple of hours due south to savour a few days in beautiful Waterton Lakes National Park. We stayed at the historic Prince of Wales hotel and had perfectly hot weather as we hiked to Cameron Falls, took a boat tour of the lake, climbed to the top of Bear’s Hump, drove to Red Rock Canyon and trekked to Blakiston Falls. It was an action packed (and much needed) getaway.

Those afraid of heights need not try the SKYWALK! It’s only 918 feet to the bottom.

Part two of our Alberta summer stay-cation saw our family gain another teenager for our weeklong adventure in Jasper at the end of August. Abby’s girlfriend Amber joined our crew and our holiday could not have gone better. After making a pit stop to hike beautiful Marble Canyon, we checked into the hotel at the Columbia Icefields and enjoyed an amazing evening tour of the breathtaking SKYWALK. The next morning, we hiked to the base of the Athabasca Glacier where we survived the cold and rain! Our next stop was a soggy trek to the beautiful Sunwapta Falls, followed by a significantly dryer visit to the equally spectacular Athabasca Falls.

The breathtaking views at Maligne Lake.

We then checked into our cozy cabin at Tekarra Lodge in Jasper for four more days of sightseeing. We started by riding the Skytram and hiking up to Whistlers Summit to enjoy the gorgeous vistas. In the afternoon, we drove to Maligne Lake and took the boat tour, which offered equally spectacular mountain views. The next day, we whitewater rafted down the scenic Athabasca River for 15 km, and it did not disappoint. After that, we hiked Maligne Canyon and enjoyed even more extraordinary views.

Plenty of whitewater made us plenty wet on the Athabasca River.

We actually had nice enough weather the following afternoon to enjoy a beach day at Lake Annette, where the water was barely warm enough to swim in. Our final day saw us check out of our rustic cabin and really take our time driving back to Calgary. Our first stop was the spectacular Edith Cavell Mountain, where we hiked right up to a glacier fed pond, complete with ICEBERGS that break off at the base of the glacier. So cool. Then, we visited beautiful Bow Lake, where we took in the fabulous lakeside views before we finally (and begrudgingly) made our way home. 

The beauty of Jasper National Park never failed to impress and amaze us during our stay and I must say, this was very likely the most scenic vacation we’ve ever taken.

We hope we’ll see our big galoot again some day.

August also saw the disappearance of our beloved furry friend, Domino. Our big galoot vanished just before we left for our vacation in Jasper, and despite my best efforts to find our cat, he remains missing in action. I’ve tried the “new school” method of constant social media posts, and the “old school” method of hand delivering almost a thousand flyers to neighbouring homes. While we’ve had many leads, we’ve had no luck. We miss him dearly.

Abby is hoping for the return of HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL in the New Year.

With the arrival of fall, we all turned our attention to the beginning of a brand new school year, especially because SCHOOLS WERE OPEN ONCE AGAIN! Abby was extra eager to get back to Bishop Carroll High for grade 12 to continue self-directed learning. Unfortunately for Abby, we don’t know if the high school basketball program will be back this year… fingers crossed! Meanwhile, Daniel was beyond excited to start grade 10 and a much anticipated fashion course at Central Memorial High School’s Performing and Visual Arts program. 

Believe it or not, we actually had a very pleasant fall in Calgary this year.

In November, I had some significant news on the work front. I started a new position as a part-time sports writer covering the Calgary Flames for www.thehockeywriters.com. I’m actually quite jazzed up to be working again! That brings us full-circle to December where current COVID restrictions are promising a very small Christmas gathering, which will feel incredibly different.

All right people, that’s enough yammering from me. We hope you had an almost bearable 2020 and look forward to hearing from you in 2021. All the best this holiday season!

Love, Greg, Lianne, Abby, Daniel & Sasha (the G.L.A.D.S. family)

“Dome dining” was a safe way to share a nice family meal in 2020! Everyone stay safe in 2021 – WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS!

Is Dad Back@Work? Well, Kind of…

About a year-and-a-half ago, I posted a story about how I was ready to inch my way back into the traditional workforce, and away from my current, sole occupation of stay-at-home dad. You may have noticed that I always use the particular term “traditional work force” – that’s not by accident.

My current untraditional job earns me exactly zero dollars and zero cents a year, it doesn’t offer dental coverage or a pension plan, but I’ve always considered it to be a REAL job and I’ve been honoured to have it. For years, it ran me ragged, but my recent experience has certainly changed. Over the past couple of years, life with two fairly independent teenagers has given me the gift of more time, and more FREEDOM. So, I have some big news:

I’ve just started a part-time writing gig covering the Calgary Flames for a hockey news website called www.thehockeywriters.com

I tried my very best not to look like an old man in this photo. I don’t know if I succeeded.

Now, I don’t want anyone to get too damn excited about this… as the job is only part-time and I expect I’ll publish one, maybe two articles a week. I just finished up my “trial period”, where the big-wigs allowed me to submit a few articles to make sure my writing is up to their standards. I must have passed the test, because they offered me a spot on their writing roster a couple of days ago. I wanted to wait until it was official before I announced it to anyone and everyone, as I didn’t want the embarrassment of boldly proclaiming I had a new writing gig… then completely backtrack if I didn’t actually get it!

I must say, I have been enjoying the process, as it has been a very long time since I’ve had a PAYING job. And no, I’m not counting the HUNDREDS of dollars I have made in royalties since publishing Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated in late 2016. In fact, I was just telling a friend that I recently received another “fat” royalty payment from Amazon deposited directly into my bank account… the amount? 46 cents.

Hey! Don’t laugh, because this new job won’t exactly be a huge money-maker either, but what it does do is get me back into the rat race. I now have a “real” job, with real responsibilities that will expand my writing portfolio significantly. It will also look great on a resume.

I’ll start looking for a full-time, salaried position sometime in the next one to two years to really supplement the family income. Lianne and I could be empty nesters soon, and while some people may see that as the time to start thinking about retirement, I’ll be doing just the opposite. I’m hoping this new job will be a solid stepping stone in that regard, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves… I just started two days ago!

For the record, writing about the Calgary Flames has been a wonderful change of pace from my Dad@Home blog, which has been my faithful go-to place to express myself these past five years. I will continue to write about my life and times as a stay-at-home dad, but in the meantime, please feel free to check out the first few stories I’ve posted with my new employer, The Hockey Writers.

Just click on the tweet to take you to that particular article.

My first article was an attempt to kick the hornet’s nest with a hot take on the Flames’ captaincy.
My next piece had me crossing my fingers that we get to see the Flames compete in an All-Canadian division.
I don’t know about you, but it always bugged me that the Flames have two very different ways to recognize their legendary players… so I’m telling it like it is!
I’m also hoping my latest story will stir the pot a bit with my take on those Flames fans who are happier seeing the Oilers lose than seeing the Flames win.

If you like what you see, don’t hesitate to share my articles on your preferred social media platform to spread the good word, as the more views they get, the better compensated I am! Also, if you’re a Flames fan and would like to suggest a story idea, I’d love to hear from you. You can leave a comment on this blog post, or hit me up on twitter by leaving a comment on my feed or sending me a direct message.

And don’t you worry, this isn’t the beginning of the end of my Dad@Home blog! I’ll continue to keep you posted on my ongoing adventures in stay-at-home fatherhood until the cows come home… or until the kids leave home.

Whichever comes first.

COVID-19 Has Totally Screwed Up My SPORTS! (And No, I Don’t Mean PRO Sports)

Back in early March, we could all see it coming. The Coronavirus was sweeping through Asia, and it had a serious foothold on Europe. It was only a matter of time before we had to go on lockdown here in North America.

As we all witnessed the various professional sports leagues start to shut down in mid-March, one by one… I only had ONE very selfish thought:

“PLEASE DON’T SHUT DOWN CALGARY MINOR HOCKEY UNTIL AFTER THE WEEKEND!”

Daniel makes a soft dump to get the puck in deep.

You see, my son Daniel had his final playoff games on the Saturday and Sunday, and if there were actual VEGAS ODDS on his Bantam B Rec Division, they would have had the HAWKS as the heavy betting favourites to win the City Championship!

This was one of the last known sightings of Daniel in uniform.

To make matters worse, Daniel had been playing hockey since he was five years old, but he wanted to hang up the skates before he entered high school. This was literally his FINAL hurrah and he really wanted to retire hoisting the CUP over his head. And, then it happened: they pulled the plug on his hockey season the DAY before he was supposed to suit up for his final two games.

DAMN YOU COVID-19!!!

Was this serve an ACE? I’m going to say YES.

Daniel’s other sport was volleyball, and his rec league was right in the middle of the season when the axe also fell on the program. To make matters worse, the pandemic actually killed the organization he was playing in, and it was no longer operating or available to sign up for this fall. Yet another casualty of the Coronavirus.

DAMN YOU COVID-19!!!

This was day one of tryouts for club season.

As for my OTHER kid in sports… by mid-March, Abby had just completed her high school basketball season and was smack dab in the middle of CLUB basketball tryouts. And, then… the axe fell on the club season. All of the tryouts were suspended, and eventually they simply cancelled the entire season.

This was last season in community ball. Abby has never jumped higher…

No worries. There was always the COMMUNITY basketball season that starts up in September… right? WRONG! Due to a shortage in gym rentals, they would not be offering a program in her age group. U18 Community basketball season: ALSO CANCELLED.

DAMN YOU COVID-19!!!

So, why am I so upset about all of this?

Well, I really enjoy watching my kids play sports! And no, it’s not about living vicariously through their success, as neither of them are star players on their respective teams, or play at an extremely high level. Trust me, nobody’s “going to the show” from our family.

I just liked being a FAN!

I simply liked cheering them on. I liked watching them compete and gain the valuable experience of being on a team. It also gave us something to do together as a family. It kept us all connected several times a week. Once the lockdown hit in March, and all schools and extra-curricular activities were shut down, it seemed like I barely saw my kids, or even talked to them… even though we were ALL LIVING UNDER ONE ROOF 24/7!

So, when I saw that a few club basketball teams were starting up “training programs” in October with the possibility of actual games, we jumped all over it and immediately signed up Abby.

MY SPORTS WERE BACK BABY!

Except, they were really weren’t… at least not for me. First of all, Abby has her driver’s license and has a car. She doesn’t need me to drive her anywhere. Secondly, there are NO SPECTATORS allowed at her games!

DAMN YOU COVID-19!!!

The only small saving grace has been the LIVE STREAMING of the games, and that has been an extremely poor substitute for watching the action live. At her first game, the person in charge of the live stream was simply terrible. The camera was posted at one end of the court so the players looked like ants for half of the game, the screen view was vertical instead of horizontal, and there was audio but NO VIDEO for at least 15 minutes or the game. It was a debacle.

This is about as good as it gets for a live stream.

Fortunately, the streaming experience for her second game was much better, but it was still hard to make out who was who. When I saw a player make a basket who “kinda-sorta” looked like Abby, I asked Lianne if that was OUR kid who made that bucket? But, then I saw the player make a dramatic fist pump, and I had my answer. Like her father, Abby actually CELEBRATES after scoring. (You should see some of my epic beer league cellys!)

Abby went 1 for 2 from the line.

Fortunately, we were treated to seeing Abby at the free-throw line near the end of the game, and we were 100% sure it was actually her. Yay. I guess my point is… huddling together over a small screen is no way to watch your kid play sports.

I desperately miss cheering them on IN PERSON.

I miss the car ride home talking about what they did right, and what they need to work on. I miss bringing grandparents to the games. I miss chatting up other parents. I miss going to out of town tournaments and getting drunk with other parents.

I miss the entire experience!

And, with one kid in grade 10 who thinks he’s officially retired from organized sports and another in grade 12 who will be graduating in less than seven months, I feel my final year of being a hockey dad and a basketball dad has been completely snatched away from me and I feel totally screwed over.

Oh, and here’s the icing on the cake. We just found out that Abby’s high school basketball season has been put on hold… with no word if they will even have a season.

I guess there’s only one thing left to say… just one more time:

Hopes Raised & Hopes Dashed: The Tale Of Our Missing Cat

If you happen to find this in your mailbox, READ IT!

Domino couldn’t have picked a worse possible time to go missing.

It was the night before our weeklong family summer vacation, and our big galoot was not coming inside the house. It was getting late, I was too tired to go looking for him, and Domino had spent the night outside a few times before. This was no biggie. I wasn’t worried. He will be back in the morning… meowing at our back patio doors. He’s an outdoor cat. He always comes back.

Except this time, he didn’t. He wasn’t waiting for me at the patio doors first thing in the morning and all of a sudden, it WAS a big deal. We were leaving at NOON! As the clock ticked away, I feverishly searched all of his favourite haunts within his one block “circuit” around our house. No sign of him.

I warned our next-door neighbour that he would only have to feed our other cat, Sasha, and that he would have to keep an eye out for our big galoot. He assured me that Domino would be home before we knew it, and we took off for a weeklong adventure in the mountains of Jasper National Park hoping for the best.

A couple of days into our getaway, there was still no sign of Domino, but then my phone rang! My hopes were momentarily raised when the voice on the other end began with: “Hi there, I just found…”

My mind immediately raced to cut him off as he spoke – Yes? YES? YESSSSS?? FOUND WHAT? WHAT!!!

“I just found your dog’s collar in the middle of a school field and was wondering where I could drop it off?”

A sad reminder of our missing pal.

My hopes were dashed and my heart sank as I gave him our address so he could drop our “dog’s” collar in our mailbox. Now, Domino was out there, with no identification. And, to make matters worse, the fact that he had lost his breakaway collar could mean he was in some kind of a scrap!

OK, this was getting serious. I needed to get the word out that Domino was missing! So, I posted a notice on my neighbourhood social media app called “Nextdoor” and was advised to also post on a very well viewed missing pet Facebook page called YYC Pet Recovery. I immediately received multiple shares and many pledges to keep an eye out for our big galoot.

As soon as we came back from our vacation, I really ramped up my efforts.

  • I printed off hundreds of missing cat flyers and hit the streets, delivering them to homes and local businesses.
  • I had my neighbour place Domino’s litter box and my old shoes outside the house before we came home.
  • I registered Domino as lost with the City Pound, Humane Society, and local vet clinics.
  • I contacted several other Animal Rescue Organizations.
  • I visited the city pound, just in case the microchip wasn’t working. I even looked through their “dead cat binder” to see if any of the dead animals brought in was our big galoot. (That was unpleasant)
  • I alerted the microchip company and updated Domino’s status as LOST.
  • I talked to neighbours and complete strangers to get the word out.
  • I checked the photos of cats impounded at the City and Humane Society every day.
  • Most importantly, I hit the streets, multiple times, both during the day and LATE at night… like 2:00 AM, calling for him, clanging his food bowl and shaking a bag of his cat treats.

After several fruitless days of absolutely nothing happening, the floodgates finally opened, and a barrage of HOT TIPS came my way!

HOT TIP #1: A man just a few blocks from our house called me up about a week after Domino’s disappearance. He seemed pretty damn sure he spotted our cat just a couple doors down from his house. On the third night of looking around, Lianne and I finally stumbled upon this guy two doors down from the alleged Domino sighting:

This couldn’t be the cat he thought was Domino??? Could it?

We texted this photo to the man, and sure enough… this was the cat he thought was our big galoot. Really, it wasn’t even close. But, I did appreciate the effort. Hopes: dashed.

HOT TIP #2: A woman who saw my missing cat post on the Facebook page seemed pretty POSITIVE that she saw Domino in her neighbourhood! The problem was, the sighting was a 20 minute drive from our house. How could Domino possibly trek over 20 kilometres from our home? Well, we thought perhaps he was catnapped, and then dumped far, far away! I decided we needed to check it out. Not only was the “hot tip” a dead end, Abby and I nervously walked one of the sketchiest streets in the entire city and felt lucky to escape in one piece. Hopes: double dashed.

It seemed like a hot tip at the time?

HOT TIP #3: I had put my missing cat posters in a few local businesses, including the local pet food store. Just a couple of days later, the store called me saying that a customer JUST SAW OUR CAT 30 MINUTES AGO! Wow, this was a scorching hot tip, and the sighting was only five blocks from our house! Once again, Lianne and I hit the streets, and there was a cat… exactly where the tipster said he would be. For a split second, Lianne told me her heart jumped out of her chest… but alas; it was just a lookalike, and a pretty darn good one. Hopes: triple dashed.

This guy even had a stripe on his face, albeit a bit smaller. He was actually so darn friendly that we briefly thought about picking him up, and hoping the kids wouldn’t notice that it wasn’t Domino!

(NOT SO) HOT TIP #4: This time, a woman who saw my flyer in her mailbox called me directly on my cell phone and excitedly texted me a photo of cat on her front step that she was quite sure was Domino. I didn’t even have time to get my hopes up, as even a cursory glance at the photo revealed this guy was ALL BLACK! I politely told her that the cat wasn’t mine, and what she said next surprised me:

“Well, do you know whose cat it is?”

Um… no? Does she think all lost cat owners somehow all know each other? In any event, there were no raised hopes to dash this time… just a well-meaning elderly lady. Hopes: I have no idea what just happened here?

Did the woman even LOOK at the photo of Domino???

“KINDA” HOT TIP #5: My missing cat post on the Nextdoor app was getting a lot of activity and one day, a man replied that a cat in a back yard next to his was Domino! He seemed so sure of himself, so I was very intrigued to see the photo. Again, I am questioning how closely people are inspecting the image I have provided of a black and white cat with a distinctive white stripe on his face. I politely thanked him for alerting me of this cat, but advised him he wasn’t mine. Hopes: only kinda dashed.

Hey buddy! Do you see a STRIPE on this guy’s face? Me neither.

“KINDA DUMB” HOT TIP #6: I really have to remind myself that people are always well meaning when they reach out to me with a potential sighting of our big galoot. One night while watching TV, I got another text from a man who saw my lost pet post on Facebook. Wow, I am truly amazed by how unobservant some people can be. This picture did NOT get my heart racing, as it appears this cat is more white than black! Hopes: they were NEVER up on this one.

PEOPLE! TRY HARDER!!!

HOT TIP #7: This next hot tip actually came from ME! I check the impounded cats on the City of Calgary and Calgary Humane Society websites on a daily basis, and a couple of weeks ago I saw this handsome guy on the Humane Society page, and my jaw dropped! Wow! If that’s not Domino, then it’s the best doppelgänger yet! I immediately called them up, only to find out this guy couldn’t possibly be our big galoot. This cat was still endowed with his… manhood. Unless Domino magically regrew a “pair”, this was just another lookalike. And, on a side note, what’s the deal with calling him an “Animal in Custody”? What did this cat do? Is he a criminal? Is he currently awaiting trial? Does he need representation? In any event, when I saw this photo, my heart skipped a beat, thinking our search for Domino was finally over. It wasn’t. Hopes: painfully dashed.

Damn, this one had me excited…

HOT TIP #8: It had been several days since I had any hot tips, so I reposted my missing cat notices on both Nextdoor and YYC Pet Recovery. I immediately got a message from a woman who lived eight blocks from me. She had seen a cat fitting Domino’s description in her back lane and on her fence several times within the past week. My spirits were suddenly rejuvenated! I decided to print up a couple hundred more flyers and distribute them in the area of the sighting… and BOOM! Within a few days, I had THREE more calls from people saying they’ve seen my cat, and all of the sightings were on the SAME STREET or the one right next to it! The fact I was getting multiple sightings within a couple of blocks had us all very excited. This HAD to be Domino. Everyone I talked to seemed pretty certain it was him. I walked that area twice a day, and even went out late at night several times, calling for Domino, clanging his food bowl and shaking a bag of his favourite cat treats.

But, WHY wasn’t I finding him? Why wouldn’t he come out from his hiding spot? He knows me. He knows the sound of his bowl. I’ve used that method to bring him inside from our own back lane a million times. WHAT GIVES? Then, just a few days ago, exactly where the woman who contacted me said he would be… I found “him”. No, it wasn’t our big galoot, but yet ANOTHER lookalike. This one hit me especially hard. It had been over a month since we last saw Domino, and I had convinced myself these multiple sightings HAD to be him. It wasn’t him. Hopes: I’m pretty much done with hoping now.

He even has a stripe on his face…

Despite none of the HOT TIPS panning out, I must say I have been very impressed and almost overwhelmed by the response from complete strangers. There must be a lot of animal lovers out there. People really do care when a family pet goes missing. My Facebook post alone must have been shared over 40 times. I was not expecting this level of engagement and I am truly thankful for the advice, encouragement and notifications of potential Domino sightings.

So, where does this leave our search for Domino?

Well, in the last four weeks, I’ve delivered over 855 flyers to houses in our neighbourhood but I don’t plan on expanding my search area. However, I will continue to repost the lost cat notice on social media every week and I will keep on checking the impounded cats online… but I don’t know what else I can really do at this point.

That leaves me with the burning question: WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR BIG GALOOT?

I’m really hoping that someone has taken him in, and that he’s living his best life with a new family, because the alternative to that narrative is not pretty.

Because I’ve been closely watching social media for signs of my cat, I’ve also been reading about multiple sightings in my neighbourhood of both coyotes and bobcats. To make matters worse, some of these sightings are just a couple of blocks from my house! Add in the fact that Domino’s collar was found in the middle of a field near our house, and we fear he may have met an untimely death.

Domino has been in many catfights… but these creatures are definitely out of his weight class.

Everyone keeps saying: “Don’t give up hope”! And while it’s hard to keep the faith, all you have to do to lift your spirits is browse the pet recovery Facebook page to see just how many of those missing cats find their way home. I’ve recently seen a post about a cat that came home after 50 days!

But this particular one has to take the cake:

EIGHTEEN MONTHS??? That is incredible, but cats in general… are pretty incredible. They can certainly survive in the great outdoors on their own and fend for themselves. My childhood cat, Duchess, is a prime example of this.

WAY back in the summer of 1984, Duchess escaped from our trailer while we were camping at a provincial park near our hometown. We couldn’t find her and we were forced to leave her behind. Over the course of the summer we searched for her a few times, but she was lost in the woods and the odds of us ever seeing her again seemed insurmountable.

Then, in the middle of October, there were sightings of a Siamese cat wandering around the park. That HAD to be her, so we all made the sixteen mile drive and started our latest search. After several hours, it was already dark and we were about to give up. Then, we stopped a truck full of hunters who said they just saw a cat cross the road in front of them. WHAT! We started calling for Duchess, and low and behold, she came running out of the bushes and back into our lives… over THREE MONTHS after she went missing. It seemed like a miracle!

So yes, maybe our current situation is not as hopeless as it may seem.

No, this isn’t me. It’s my brother David holding the ultimate survivalist… Duchess.

So, now we are all stuck in this weird limbo – where we don’t know if we should mourn Domino, or keep on hoping for that miracle reunion.

Having one’s hopes constantly raised, then constantly dashed has certainly taken its toll. My heart is heavy, but we have endured worse pet tragedies. Domino was a replacement cat for Duff, who died over three years ago after somehow ingesting antifreeze.

That was a heartbreaking loss for our household, and if you want a good, old-fashioned cry, you can read all about it here. Having a beloved family pet slowly slip away in your very arms is incredibly sad and I wouldn’t wish the experience on my worst enemy, but at least it gave all of us closure.

Will we ever find out what happened to our big galoot? Will we ever get closure? Will we remain in this weird limbo for months? Years? It’s been forty days since we last saw Domino, but we haven’t completely given up just yet.

I’m still hoping we’ll see him again, and maybe I’ll get to experience two miracle cat reunions… 36 years apart.

Domino, if you can read this… please come home. We miss you.

Dad@Home Asks: Do You Feel Your Kids Are SAFE Going Back To School?

Our first born had her very first day of pre-school in the fall of 2006. That means I’ve been getting all jazzed-up and proudly taking yearly BACK TO SCHOOL photos for fourteen years.

Usually, this time of year has my two kids nervous and excited, and me MORE than eager to punt them out the door so I can have my solitary stay-at-home dad life back!

But this year… well… is different.

So VERY different.

Like, EXPONENTIALLY different.

Attachment-1
Depending on where you live, the back to school experience can vary dramatically.

The start of this particular school year has us (still) dealing with the first worldwide pandemic in over one hundred years. It as me worried, confused and ready for all of it to collapse, forcing us backwards into at-home, online learning… again.

I know some of you will NOT be sending your kids back into schools where they will be exposed to hundreds, if not THOUSANDS of other students who may or may not be carrying coronavirus. I don’t blame you.

I know some of you have young kids, and require two household incomes, making it impossible for one parent to stay home and supervise at-home learning. I know you WILL be sending your kids to school. I don’t blame you.

I am very fortunate that my kids are both heading into high school. They are old enough to realize how serious this situation really is. They are responsible enough to wear a mask when required. They are smart enough to keep a mini-bottle of hand sanitizer in their pocket and use it repeatedly during the day. I’m trusting them both to do the right thing, and act like others are not. I’m trusting them to do their very best to stay safe.

So, my kids are going back to school this week. I’m certainly not judging others who have a different point of view, so I would appreciate the same courtesy.

What I would like, is to start an open, honest discussion with any parents or educators reading this blog. What are YOUR THOUGHTS on schools reopening their doors?

I know this blog is read primarily in Canada and the United States, but I also know from my wordpress and social media stats that I have readership in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, Europe… and beyond.

What is happening in your neck of the woods?

Do you feel your kids are safe going back to school? Are you satisfied with the safety protocols put in place? Are there limits to class sizes? Are masks required at all times? Here in Calgary, I am well aware that local teachers are NOT satisfied with the measures taken by the government to ensure safety in our schools and to limit the spread of COVID-19. Do you share their concerns?

In some jurisdictions, school as already BEGUN! How is it going where you live? Are cases spiking? Has it been smooth sailing? Has it been a complete dumpster fire?

I will be the first to admit that I have no idea what is about to happen.

I am very concerned about a massive spike in cases this fall. I am very worried that schools will close their doors again, and we will be back to where we started in March. However, I am willing to send my teenagers back to school and see how all of his plays out. I am willing to give this a shot. We all know that NONE of this is normal, and I don’t think we can even call it a NEW normal.

It’s just… EXPONENTIALLY different.

Nothing about this back to school season feels right, but for the fifteenth consecutive year, I will be proudly taking those annual back to school photos, crossing my fingers, and eagerly watching to see what happens next.

Again, please feel free to comment and share your thoughts on this unprecedented scenario where we are deliberately congregating MILLIONS and MILLIONS of children together… after almost a half a year of deliberately keeping them apart.

GOOD LUCK AND STAY SAFE EVERYONE!

 

Dad-No-Longer@Home: How Our World Has Changed Four Months After The Lockdown!

The last time I wrote about the Coronavirus pandemic, it was mid-March, and the world was in the midst of a major shutdown.

Non-essential businesses were ordered to shut down, grocery store and pharmacy shelves were cleaned out, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer became impossible to procure, the stock market tanked, all schools shut their doors and every professional sports league went on a “pause”.

But, here’s the most disturbing and ridiculous thing that happened:

PEOPLE HOARDED TOILET PAPER!  WHAT?

Yes, they really did and to this day, I’m still not sure why they did it. I would REALLY love to hear from all of those dummies that still have 10 jumbo packs of Purex T.P. stacked up in their garage.

toilet-paper-shortage-virus.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smart
Hey buddy, be honest with me. Looking back, don’t you feel a little silly about this? No? How about a LOT silly.

On the home front, all of our lives changed quite dramatically.

I loaded up on non-perishable foods in case we had to quarantine, the kids began online schooling, Lianne started working from home, all extra-curricular sports and activities were cancelled, and for about a full month, none of us left the house… except to buy groceries. Driving around the city felt SUPER weird, as the normally busy freeways and roads were eerily quiet, even during rush hour.

My weekly sit-downs with my 85-year-old parents morphed into a quick grocery drop-off and a ten minute “garage” visit.

For the first time in history, socializing became 100% virtual.

Before COVID-19, I had never even heard of ZOOM, but suddenly I had a subscription to the app and video calls became the NORM… and when I mean the NORM, I mean we did a LOT of them. Zoom drinks with friends, Zoom calls with childhood buddies, Zoom check-ins with parents, Zoom parties with siblings… the list went on and on and on.

IMG_9945
From March 25th to April 30th, I participated in approximately 2,867 Zoom video calls.

Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the shutdown was the cancellation of my beloved beer league with only three games left in the regular season. How would I survive? When would I drink my beer? Fortunately, we found a way for the team to meet up in the arena parking lot, maintain our physical distance from one another… and most importantly… DRINK THE BEER. All that was missing was the actual hockey.

IMG_9168
From April 25th to May 30th, I consumed approximately 2,867 beers with my beer league team.

As the weeks dragged on, things began to change.

By mid-May, our ZOOM fad had completely played itself out. We were tired of the virtual hook-ups and noticed more and more people meeting up on front lawns, parks and porches.

People craved the face-to-face contact, and who could blame them? We had all been cooped up in our homes for weeks without seeing family and friends.

Slowly, but surely, the traffic began to trickle back onto the roads, and it no longer looked like we were living in the apocalypse. I was still washing my hands frequently, but not to the extreme level of sterilization that I had been. Early on in the pandemic, my hands were dry and cracking, but clean enough to perform brain surgery. But, a couple of months in, I became a tad lax about my washing regiment (and my super-soft hands thanked me for it).

Despite people popping up their collective heads from their hunkered-bunkers, we were actually doing what all levels of government were asking us to do, and that was FLATTENING THE CURVE.

Cases in Canada dropped steadily, and in June, the provinces began to outline their re-opening plans.

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One of the first things to re-open in Alberta was our golf courses. While I am admittedly crappy at golf, I jumped at the opportunity to play some crappy golf. It was a relief to get outside and whack and hack the ball around the links.

While certainly not perfect, Canada’s overall response to the coronavirus has been successful enough for cities and provinces to gradually re-open most businesses (with restrictions) and allow people to adopt a new normal.

As a family, we really enjoyed going out for dinners and until a week ago, we hadn’t stepped inside a restaurant since early March. While we are still wary of eating indoors, we did enjoy a lovely meal on a patio and it seemed surreal. For about an hour, we all felt almost normal… like none of the past four-and-a-half months had happened.

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It had been almost five months since we last did this.

Another milestone in the ongoing quest to feeling “normal” is the resumption of HOCKEY!

And by hockey, I don’t just mean the NHL coming back… I mean my beloved BEER LEAGUE hockey! There are some pretty annoying restrictions in place, but being able to get back out on the ice has been a lot of fun.

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This was my GAME FACE just before we took to the ice last week to play our first game back. Unfortunately, this excellent GAME FACE wasn’t near enough for us to win… as we fell 9-5 in our summer season opener. So much for the power of my GAME FACE.

However, there is a definite DOWNSIDE to all of this newfound, pseudo-normalcy.

With more and more people behaving like this pandemic is behind us, the flattening of the curve that we all worked so hard to achieve is not quite as FLAT as it used to be! Here in Alberta, daily new cases were holding steady in the 35-50 range for weeks, only to spike to 100-140 daily new cases in recent days. We have also seen other parts of Canada with increased cases.

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Is it me, or is that curve going back up?

So, it comes as no surprise that starting tomorrow, my hometown of Calgary is joining other jurisdictions in Canada by making the wearing of MASKS mandatory inside all public places.

I don’t have a problem with this, as studies have shown that countries with high mask usage have been very successful in beating back COVID-19. Just look at Japan. Unfortunately, our neighbours to the south have NOT been onboard the mask train. In fact, they have been the exact opposite of successful in their fight to beat the coronavirus.

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This much I know… that ain’t flat.

So, yes… despite the recent uptick in new cases, we are no longer all cooped up in our homes on full lockdown.

This Dad is NO LONGER STUCK@ Home!

But, that doesn’t mean we are DONE fighting this virus. No sir!

The pandemic is NOT over, not by a long shot!

A couple of days ago, Lianne and I came home from a few days vacationing in Waterton National Park. It was magical! It was beautiful! It was awesome to get out of the city and explore the great outdoors!

And guess what? We also managed to be as safe and mindful as possible.

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Mask up, people! This ain’t over until it’s over.

Let’s not go backwards!

Let’s keep this curve as flat as possible!

We’ve got this!

If society goes back into quarantine, then I’ll get bored… and you all remember the last time I was stuck at home with nothing to do!

DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN!

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I am basically back to where I started!!!