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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!

 

Dad is DEAF! Wait, What Did You Say?

I’ve got a big decision to make.

A little over a year ago, I had a very thorough physical examination at one of those executive health clinics. I am pleased to report that I am a fairly healthy human being. Well, perhaps I’m a tad overweight, and perhaps my blood pressure is a tad high… but it’s nothing too serious.

Except there was something serious that came out of that physical examination. Well… it’s kinda serious.

A routine hearing test revealed something that I never would have guessed. I have significant hearing loss in my left ear, and my right ear ain’t no bargain either!

WHAT! How could I have missed this? I could not BELIEVE that I had a problem! But, once the audiologist gave me the straight goods, and I really started to think about it… everything suddenly made perfect sense.

I would often mishear stuff Lianne and the kids would say to me. Sure, I could hear them, but I wasn’t properly processing the words I they were actually saying. I was hearing something else, which prompted numerous misunderstandings and annoying requests to repeat what they had just said.

I also noticed that I would listen to TV and music at a much higher volume than anyone else in my household, prompting my kids to yell at me in the car: “Dad! Why is this music so loud!” I’d get the same anger directed my way when I’d crank up the volume in the basement home theatre while watching a movie.

I had always chalked this up to me getting older, and it’s true… I did just TURN 50 YEARS OLD last month. Isn’t hearing loss simply a normal part of the aging process? Well, in my case… no.

THIS much hearing loss is not normal.

So, the recommendation given to me last spring was indeed startling but ultimately, not all that surprising:

I NEED A DAMN HEARING AID!

My diagnosis isn’t exactly situation critical, so I was asked to think about it for a year and then come back for another hearing test. Well, here we are one year later, and my hearing is slightly worse than it was twelve months ago.

Knowing that it’s only going to keep deteriorating over time, do I feel like I am somehow disabled or at a serious disadvantage? No, I don’t think so. Do I feel that I am truly missing out on hearing EVERYTHING I’m supposed to hear in the whole wide world? Not really. But, that’s not what is holding me back from taking the plunge and getting that hearing aid.

I’m not proud of it, but to be 100% honest… what’s truly holding me back is VANITY, pure and simple.

I’ve already LOST most of my hair! And, what’s left of it is starting to go grey… and now I’m supposed to throw a hearing aid into this winning look? Really? I might as well start wearing my pants REALLY high and use a walker while I’m at it!

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Is THIS the first thing that comes to mind when you think of hearing aids? Well, is it?

I know there’s a real stigma to wearing a hearing aid… which I know isn’t fair. People wear glasses to correct their vision, so how is this any different? Listen, I don’t know WHY it’s different; I just know that it IS different. Some people actually wear fake glasses as a fashion accessory, or to make them look smarter. Have you ever heard of ANYONE wearing a fake hearing aid to improve his or her image? Oh, you haven’t? ME NEITHER!

OK, I’ll admit the old-timey photos I’ve posted are grossly misrepresenting the actual reality of what hearing aids are… but it’s all in the name of comedy! Yes, we all know that GIANT CONES are no longer the primary device to correct hearing loss. But now, I’d like to get serious.

I know many of you probably think of THIS when you think of hearing aids.

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I know I said I was going grey, but no… this is NOT me trying on a hearing aid.

I readily admit that I wrongly assumed any hearing aid they would try and push on me would be some super-clunky unit that would squeak feedback into my hear and pick up ham radio frequencies from Germany.

That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see THIS when I was fitted a couple of weeks ago.

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Yes, I will admit that this is indeed my ear with a hearing aid in it.

When I tried one on for size, I was shocked to see how small and light it was, and how it neatly snuck behind my ear, virtually out of sight and out of mind. And, forget getting those ham radio signals from Germany… the latest models connect to your phone via Bluetooth, allowing you to hear your phone calls and listen to music through them.

That is actually pretty damn cool.

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Did I mention this bad boy is rechargeable so it doesn’t require changing batteries?

My audiologist told me that most people take five to seven YEARS to finally make the decision to get a hearing aid after being diagnosed with hearing loss.

I’ve already been mulling it over for twelve months, but I don’t think I’ll need half a decade to make the call.

I’ve got a big decision to make… and I’m pretty sure I’ve just talked myself into taking the plunge, and dramatically improving my hearing.

And, I’m 99.9% sure I won’t need to purchase a GIANT CONE to do so.

 

Dad@50! How Did That Happen?

Let’s travel back in time to the early 80’s. I was just a dumb kid and remember seeing funny signs on front lawns jokingly drawing attention to a certain “milestone” birthday:

“LORDY, LORDY LOOK WHO’S FORTY!”

At that time, the thought of someone being FORTY meant they were absolutely ancient. Forty years old? Ha! These people deserved to be made fun of with silly lawn signs! They practically had one foot in the grave!

Back then, I couldn’t imagine being THAT OLD.

Wow. Looking back, I can’t imagine how I could have been so shortsighted. But hey, I was just a dumb kid and didn’t know any better.

Now, let’s fast forward to 2020.

OH, LORDY! WHAT I WOULD GIVE TO BE ONLY FORTY!

These days, I most certainly know better. FIFTY IS NOT OLD! How do I know this? Well, I’M not old, so how could FIFTY be old?

It’s really that simple.

But, seriously folks… while I may not be absolutely ancient, reaching the half century mark this week has made me look back on how my life has changed these past fifty years, and what I can look forward to in the future.

Now, let’s take it back to the start.

Dad@0: The Early Years

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This is an iconic picture from my family photo archives: the classic “Baby Greg in a Jolly Jumper”, circa 1970. I was neither JOLLY, nor would I JUMP! Rumour has it; the sheer weight of my chubby cheeks was more than enough to keep me grounded indefinitely.

1970-1980!

A friend of mine challenged me to write about my top five LIFE MOMENTS – one for each decade I’ve been alive on this earth. Now, I don’t know about you, but I can’t really remember much from the first four years of my life… who can? However, one of my first great memories, or LIFE MOMENTS, happened when I was only five years old.

Because both of my parents were teachers, they had every summer off. So, we always went on a fun family road trip, usually pulling our Scamper camper trailer. I don’t know what possessed my folks to even try this, but in the summer of 1975, we pulled off the most EPIC road trip in Tysowski family history! Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan to Prince Edward Island, and back… pulling a trailer.

That round trip is over 8,000 km! That’s over 5,000 miles! That’s two adults, three boys under the age of six, my sister, and her friend – THAT’S SEVEN HUMANS – all living, eating and sleeping together in a relatively small trailer!

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Starting in Saskatchewan, we drove through Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia before reaching our final destination of Prince Edward Island. The route home took us through the USA – Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and last and most certainly least: North Dakota.

We all piled into the family station wagon, hit the open road and never looked back. The adventure took up most of the summer, and because it’s the first major life event I can truly remember, it has totally stayed with me. It has been seared in my memory, and for good reason. What five-year-old kid wouldn’t want to spend the summer in a Scamper camper on an 8,000 kilometre road trip?

Dad@10: Just A Dumb Kid

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Is it just me, or does my shirt kinda look like it says ARSEBALL instead of BASEBALL? Maybe it’s just me…

1980-1990!

Once a kid hits double-digits, they seem to think they know EVERYTHING. I remember that decade well, and looking back, I can only take away one thing: I really didn’t know ANYTHING. Because I’m currently raising teenagers, my memories from this time in my life have all come flooding back to me. I remember feeling how they feel, and I also recall thinking I didn’t need much parental guidance! Like I said… I was just a dumb kid.

I struggled a bit with coming up with a major life moment, but when I really thought about it, there was really only one option. During this formative decade, SCHOOL dominates your entire life. It’s where you spend most of your time, it’s where you meet friends, it’s where you get slotted into your category, your social order, your clique: jock, nerd, class clown, loner, stoner… the list goes on.

School is where you begin to think about your pending ADULT life! So, after twelve long years, your high school graduation feels like a really big deal. It feels like a right of passage. It feels like freedom.

It feels like a top five LIFE MOMENT.

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I can’t believe everyone is ignoring me. Don’t they know this is a really BIG DEAL? Turn around people! Look at what I have ACHIEVED!!!

Dad@20: Massive Hair And Massive Change

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I would just like everyone to take a good, long look at this massive, luxurious, thick mane of hair! JUST LOOK AT IT.

1990-2000!

By the age of twenty, I was already in my second year of university, and I had a MASTER PLAN for the rest of my life! I would keep growing my hair indefinitely, get my bachelors degree in English, transfer to Journalism school and then I’d become the next Walter Cronkite. (Just Google it)

My time in University was a lot of fun, but success in my chosen field didn’t come easy, or early. By the fall of 1993, I moved my jobless ass to Calgary to join my brother and sister. There, I crashed on their couch, ate their groceries and smoked plenty of cigarettes.

After a year-and-a-half of odd jobs, unemployment insurance and zero dollars in my bank account, I met my next LIFE MOMENT at a Christmas party in late 1994. After meeting Lianne, everything immediately changed for the better.

I got my first job in broadcasting, I asked Lianne for her hand in marriage, (she said yes) and in the summer of 1996… THIS happened.

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I know what you’re all thinking: I should have never cut my hair.

Dad@30: From Working Stiff To Stay-At-Home Dad

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I would just like everyone to look away. JUST LOOK AWAY. My 30’s were not kind to my waistline, my hairline or my fashion sense.

2000-2010!

If you thought the previous decade was one of massive change, then your head might literally explode when you see how much MORE massive the change was in this particular decade!

By the time I reached the age of thirty, I had just changed careers. After five years of working in television broadcasting, I began a new job in advertising at Canada’s largest sporting goods chain. Goodbye Walter Cronkite, hello Don Draper. (Just Google it)

Lianne and I had only been married for a few years, so having kids wasn’t really on our radar… yet. We were just living and loving our lives! Travelling the world! Growing our careers! Why would we mess with a good thing? Well, we decided our neat little lives needed to get REALLY MESSY in 2003 and then again in 2005. I know it’s technically two moments, but let’s mash them together into ONE GIANT LIFE MOMENT!

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That’s Abby on the right and Daniel on the left. Yes, they make our lives messy. but who needs order? We’ve got a couple of really good eggs, even if they seem scrambled from time to time…

By the fall of 2004, Lianne had finished six months of maternity leave and then it was my turn! I took six months of parental leave… and then… never went back to work.

After five years of working in advertising, I began my new job as Dad@Home. Goodbye Don Draper, hello Michael Keaton from Mr. Mom. (Just Google it)

Dad@40: The Golden Years

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How is it possible that I looked better at 40 than I did at 30? Oh, that’s right… men just keep getting better looking with age. Sorry ladies.

2010-2020!

By the age of forty, I knew exactly what my life was and what it would be for the next decade. I had been a stay-at-home dad for almost six years and life was good! I survived the crazy years of babies and toddlers, and both Abby and Daniel were in school full time. The increased freedom felt incredible. I had the routines down pat. I had school and extra-curricular schedules down pat. I had family meals down pat. I had laundry… well… sorry… but I still hate doing laundry and will NEVER have it down pat. Laundry sucks. But I digress.

This was a decade where there was no truly obvious LIFE MOMENT to highlight, but there were several very good candidates.

The summer of 2010 will go down as the most epic family vacation since… well… 1975. Lianne took a three-month sabbatical from her job and the four of us spent SEVEN WEEKS exploring France. I don’t remember any of us being that happy before or after that particular holiday. It’s our GOLD STANDARD of happiness.

Another candidate for this decade’s LIFE MOMENT would be writing Dad@Home: Fully Domesticated. Publishing a book about my life and times as a stay-at-home dad was a big goal of mine the second I decided to quit the rat race and become the primary caregiver. I launched the book in December 2016, and it led to me writing this monthly blog and recording the audiobook version. It has given me back a semblance of a “profession” outside of my work in the home and it keeps my writing skills kinda-sorta sharp.

But, if we’re talking about a true LIFE MOMENT, nothing beats WINNING A CHAMPIONSHIP.

Nothing.

That’s right, even if you played in Division 11. Even if it’s only beer league. Even if the opposing team decided to forfeit the final and deciding game three of the series… a win is a win.

A championship is a championship.

And so, in the spring of 2016, a rag-tag group of middle-aged men (with a couple of young guys) did the impossible. We won the CUP!  We won the NCHL Division 11 City Championship! What a LIFE MOMENT!

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We also won the NCHL Provincial Championship by default when the team from Edmonton forfeited the game. That’s TWO championships in one season! Did we get fancy custom championship rings, even though we didn’t have to step on the ice for either victory? DAMN RIGHTS WE DID!

Dad@50: Now What?

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Unfortunately for me, fifty is the exact age men once again begin to look terrible.

2020-???

And, that takes us to the here and now. On May 11th, 2020, I turned fifty years old.

As certain of what my life was at age forty, I am equally uncertain of what my life will become now that I am fifty. This current pandemic lockdown has given me a real glimpse of what my life will look like once the kids have graduated and are out of the house! Ever since school has shifted to online learning, and all sports and extra-curricular actives have been shelved, a lot of my stay-at-home dad duties have grounded to a halt!

I’m not waking up at 7:00 to make breakfast and drive Daniel to the bus stop. I’m not driving him to volleyball, piano lessons, or hockey. There are no club basketball games or tournaments to watch. There are no dentist appointments. There are no trips to the mall to pick up Daniel.

I used to fill up my gas tank once a week – now it’s once every five weeks!

Last year, I wrote a blog post about potentially going back to the traditional workforce once the kids both fly the coup. Now that I’ve tasted a life with very little stay-at-home dad responsibilities, I am more ready than ever to get back out there. I am ready for my next big LIFE MOMENT.

Remember, I’m ONLY FIFTY!

FIFTY IS NOT OLD! How do I know this? Well, I’M not old, so how could FIFTY be old?

It’s really that simple.

 

BORED@Home: This Is What Happens When a Stay-at-Home Dad Spends TOO MUCH TIME AT HOME!

Like the rest of the world, my life is upside down. I used to have responsibilities! I used to have routines! I used to have stuff to do! I used to have purpose!

I USED TO LEAVE THE DAMN HOUSE!

Well, thanks to coronavirus, all of that is just a faded memory.

#ThanksCoronavirus

Just a few short weeks ago, I was still dropping off Daniel at his school bus stop, driving him to hockey… or volleyball… or piano lessons… or to a friend’s house… or picking him up at his school bus stop. There were also Abby’s basketball tryouts to watch and future basketball and rugby games to attend.

There were errands to run, movies (in an actual movie theatre) to see, friends and family to visit, live theatre and concerts to attend, coffee shops to loiter in, stores and malls to stroll through, and restaurants to sit down and linger at.

Perhaps most importantly, a few weeks ago I was wrapping up winter beer league hockey and I was already thinking about summer beer league hockey.

Those beers weren’t going to drink themselves!

And now, there’s NOTHING!  THAT’S RIGHT… NOTHING TO DO!

So, let me tell you what happened about a week ago when I looked in the mirror and noticed that the terrible salad sitting on top of my head needed a serious trim.

Well, I would have gone to my local barbershop… but I think we all know that ship has sailed.

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Be honest. Was this a good look for me? I didn’t think so either.

It was time to take matters into my own hands.

I HAD TO BECOME MY OWN BARBER!

I asked myself if I had the skill set to “taper and trim” my hair the way my barber does it. Could I keep it short on the sides, and then blend it to leave a finger length on the top?

I thought about it for about two seconds.

NOPE!

There’s only ONE OPTION for a man with my particular set of skills:

LET’S GO DOWN TO THE WOOD!!!

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Once you buzz off that first bit… you’re committed. YOU ARE ALL IN. And YES, I know my already huge schnoz looks extra-gargantuan in this photo. No need to remind me. Just keep it to yourself.

I have to be honest with you.

Buzzing off your own hair is actually a lot of fun!

It feels so liberating while you do it. It’s like you’re doing something outrageous, or even illegal. You feel a bit like Britney Spears.

The dramatic transformation unfolding before your very eyes is shocking… and in this age of boring quarantine, it has been the most exciting thing to happen in my household in MONTHS!

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There was a brief moment when I thought maybe I should have stopped right here.

When I was a young lad with a full, flowing mop of long, reddish-brown hair… I used to stand in front of the bathroom mirror for HOURS and experiment with funny hairstyles: the classic comb over, the 70s middle part, the slick-back look, the list went on.

Sure, it was a super weird way for a 16-year-old boy to spend a Friday night, but dammit, it was fun!

Now, my obvious (and tragic) male pattern baldness has made that kind of tomfoolery impossible, but trimming down my dome to various stages of baldness was the closest thing I’ve had to that silly, youthful practice in a very long time.

Dammit, it was FUN!

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Would a single side “tuft” be a good look? Perhaps.

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I also thought about leaving a piece of hair in the back, and then growing out a super long, braided pony tail.

After my self-inflicted buzz job was complete, I asked myself if that was ENOUGH.

Should I STOP?

The electric shears had shaved my head clean, but there was still plenty of visible stubble. Did I want to lather up with shaving cream and COMPLETELY REMOVE every vestige… every remaining bit of follicle evidence from my head?

DAMN RIGHTS I DID!

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This was a first for me. How many people can say they have lathered up their head and went to town with a Gillette Fusion 5?

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I found shaving the front of my head shockingly easy… but what about the back?

I wanted to accomplish this Herculean feat all by myself, but I had no idea how to shave the back of my head without A) missing a bunch of spots, or B) cutting my skin to shreds with the razor.

So, I busted into Daniel’s room and woke his lazy ass up.

Initially, he was not receptive to helping me out, so I had to ORDER him to do it. Non-compliance meant me taking away his laptop, and thus, his ability to play Minecraft. He complied. Did I mention it was 1:12 in the afternoon and he was still sleeping when I asked for his help?

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You might remember my son Daniel from November’s groundbreaking blog where he shadowed me for “Bring your kid to work day”. I think this is the only household chore he has done since that fateful day.

NOW CHECK OUT THE FINISHED PRODUCT!!!

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NOT. TOO. SHABBY.   But, if you zoom to the top of my head, you’ll see that I missed a straggler… a single, solitary grey hair. Oh well, nobody is perfect.

After Daniel finished shaving the back of my head, I immediately ordered him out of my bathroom, and I assume he went back to bed. Lazy teenagers, WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?

After wiping off the remaining bits of shaving cream, I absolutely revelled in the sheer smoothness of my freshly-shaven melon!

So smooth! So shiny! So KOJAK!

(Anyone under 45-years-old can feel free to Google that… as I’m not going to explain the reference.)

I simply couldn’t keep my damn hands off my silky head! I COULD NOT.

I pretended it was a genie’s lamp and rubbing it would bring good luck!

Unfortunately, that wonderful feeling was fleeting.

By the next morning, the dream was over. My head felt like SANDPAPER.

I was tempted to rub it against the rough corners of my dining room table to smooth them down! Even pulling a tee shirt over my head was like rubbing two pieces of Velcro together!

It would be WAY too much work to shave my head each and every day to keep that “smooth as a baby’s bottom” feeling, so I decided this little experiment would end right here, right now.

The GREAT 2020 PANDEMIC HEAD SHAVE SHOW had concluded it’s short but memorable run. My hair will now re-grow, unabated, for the next couple of months with little or no maintenance required. It’s almost sad. It all happened so quickly.

So, why did I do it?

The answer is simple. WHY THE HELL NOT?

What else do I have to do?

We’re all stuck at home, and even for a stay-at-home dad who’s job title literally has “STAY AT HOME” in it…  I’ll freely admit that BOREDOM has overtaken me.

I guess I’ll have to think of some other infinitely entertaining self-grooming practices to help pass the time.

However, in the meantime I will promise you this.

I shaved my head on March 29th. If we are still stuck in our homes by May 29th, I’m going to do it all over again.

Why the hell not? What else do I have to do?

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I finally know what they mean when they say BALD IS BEAUTIFUL.

 

 

Dad@Home: WORRIED About Coronavirus, But READY To Save Lives!

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Like many of you, I have been glued to every screen available to me… watching the entire world being brought to it’s knees by a deadly microscopic bug.

As the crisis unfolded in Asia in January and February, it definitely scared me, but only in an abstract kind of way. The infected masses were half a world away! Yes, the spread of COVID-19 to every corner of the globe seemed inevitable, but I truly believed it couldn’t get that bad in my backyard.

SARS, MERS, H1N1, ZIKA – ALL of these of these viruses came and went without disrupting our lives.

By late February, I knew some people here in Calgary who were starting to stock up on non-perishable food and I thought they were CRAZY. At that particular time, the threat of COVID-19 still didn’t directly impact my life. I thought to myself:

“I’m sure I’ll be able to get groceries, disinfectant wipes and Advil any time I want. This is no time to panic!”

By the end of February, the entire country only had 20 confirmed cases. Maybe we could stop or significantly slow down this outbreak? Wishful thinking. A few days into March and that number jumped to 47, but fortunately there were still no cases in my home province of Alberta.

Then, the inevitable happened.

Thursday March 5th:  This was the day the Alberta government announced the first case of coronavirus in the province. I happened to be out shopping at Safeway when I heard the news, and I already noticed some unusual activity. There were definitely more people in the store than usual, and there were a lot of shopping carts filled to CAPACITY at checkout. So, that unsettled me a bit.

My immediate reaction was to buy a couple of jumbo tubs of disinfectant wipes, more Advil and Tylenol, and because I collect AirMiles Reward miles, I secured 20 bonus points for purchasing a 30 pack of toilet paper!  (Little did I know how fortunate I was to get it.)

The weekend came, and our lives went on as usual. Daniel had a volleyball tournament, Abby had club basketball tryouts, and then we went out for a family dinner at a nice restaurant.

Coronavirus was here, but the threat of COVID-19 still didn’t impact my life. I thought to myself:

“I’m sure the government will be able to keep a lid on this. This is no time to panic!”

With the weekend behind us, a new workweek began for Lianne at her downtown office, Abby drove herself to school and I drove Daniel to his bus stop. Everything was… normal.

I had no idea how much our world would change in a single week.

Monday March 9th:  Abby came home from school with a friend who was killing time at our house before they both went to rugby practice.  As they made themselves ham and cheese sandwiches, Abby’s friend casually mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well, and at first I didn’t really think much of it.

However, after she left I quickly cracked open my new tub of disinfectant wipes and completely sanitized the kitchen.  This was also the day I that I started to really wash my hands… like REALLY wash them! Like… RELIGIOUSLY follow the detailed instructions of the World Health Organization.

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I think I do this 10-15 times a day now!

Tuesday March 10th: By now, there were multiple news reports of a mad rush to secure TOILET PAPER! What? Costco, Superstore, Wall-Mart…  ALL SOLD OUT! What were people thinking? This isn’t the zombie apocalypse we’re talking about here! Sure, I bought one pack at Safeway but many people were HOARDING them, and loading up their cars with 5, 6, or 7 JUMBO packs. Idiots.

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This is where the TOILET PAPER was… and still should be.

Wednesday March 11: This was the day when two very big things happened that suddenly made the Coronavirus outbreak very real for a LOT of people.

First, the NBA very unexpectedly SUSPENDED THEIR SEASON! What? There was talk of playing in empty stadiums, but this was downright shocking! Then, TOM HANKS! Yes, national treasure and everyone’s favourite NICE GUY actor Tom Hanks (and wife Rita Wilson) tested POSITIVE for COVID-19.

Why does it take someone REALLY FAMOUS getting infected to suddenly make this crisis HIT HOME? It’s difficult to explain… but somehow, Tom Hanks getting sick was a REALLY big deal.

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Somehow, this unlikely combination made North Americans finally take this shit seriously.

Thursday March 12: The sudden suspension of the NBA led to a domino effect of professional sports leagues following suit. The NHL, MLS, MLB, NLL, PGA, ATP…  you name it, it was shelved! The NCAA March Madness tournament also joined the parade of sports shutting down indefinitely. All of this uncertainty also affected the stock markets, as every index completely TANKED! Financial panic had started to set in.

For over fifteen years, I have been visiting my parents every Thursday. It’s tradition! I rarely miss it, but on this particular visit, my behaviour was noticeably altered. NO HUGS! NO KISSES! I also sat on the opposite side of the room from my Mom and Dad. I secretly wonder if this will be my last visit for a while. Maybe I could wear a mask? Rubber gloves?

More cancellations roll in. My son’s hockey season is DONE, which was really disappointing as his team was all set to play in the league championship game on the weekend! Next up, my daughter’s club basketball tryouts are suspended. My gut suddenly tied up in KNOTS as I contemplated life without my beloved BEER LEAGUE HOCKEY! Please Lord, let me play just one more time!

Friday, March 13: For whatever reason, the STOCK MARKET RALLIES! The Dow had its best day since 2008, which calms a lot of people down who have their retirement savings invested in the markets. Maybe things won’t get that bad after all?

This was also the day I decided we should be prepared for a potential 14-day self-quarantine. A quick inventory of our frozen and dry goods showed we were woefully underprepared to be holed-up for an extended period of time.

Was this panic buying? No it was not!

I bought an amount of food that I felt was appropriate and I now feel confident we won’t have to venture outside if one (or all) of us tests positive for COVID-19. I did NOT buy a flat of bread, stacks and stacks of chicken breasts or a dozen bags of frozen peas. I managed to get most of what was on my list, but frozen vegetables, pasta and canned soups were in very low supply at my neighbourhood Safeway.

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Yes, our freezer is pretty jammed now…

Saturday, March 14: We wake up to the news of more cancelations. Daniel’s upcoming volleyball and Abby’s basketball tournaments are either cancelled or postponed. The usually BUSY weekend is upon us and all of a sudden we have nothing to do! There are no kids sports, no professional sports on TV… and perhaps most importantly, my scheduled Saturday night beer league hockey game, and the remainder of the season, has been shelved indefinitely. My hockey career is over… for now.

That news hit me especially hard, as I was on a 1-game point streak.

We were cooped up in the house all damn day, so we decided to go out for dinner to a neighbourhood Italian restaurant – WHILE WE WERE STILL ABLE TO! Some countries are now on full lockdown, with all eating and drinking establishments completely shut down.

We decided to take full advantage of one of the last remaining vestiges of a normal life, and it was delicious.

Were we putting ourselves at risk by eating in a public space?

Perhaps, but we tried our best to be as careful and sanitary as possible. Was this lovely sit down meal our LAST ONE in a restaurant for MONTHS? Most likely… yes.

Sunday, March 15: Our life continues to slow down with no signs of returning to normal any time soon. Lianne is informed that her office may be asking everyone to work from home within a week. More provinces in Canada are shutting down schools! Could Alberta be that far behind? To make matters even more uncertain, the provincial government suggests that IF they decide to close schools, they would likely stay closed for the remainder of the school year.  WHAT!

We are now looking at the very real possibility that ALL FOUR OF US will be under the same roof… ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, for possibly months on end.

NOW CAN I PANIC?

As a stay-at-home dad, I’ve had the entire house to myself during the weekdays for a very long time – like, for almost a DECADE. How would we cope with a FULL HOUSE 24/7?

I’m not sure, but I think we’re about to find out.

UPDATE! Sunday, March 15:

ALL SCHOOLS K-12 IN ALBERTA ARE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE!

It’s still unclear what the plan is for online instruction, but Abby’s school sent us a letter telling her not to burn her textbooks just yet, and to keep doing homework. She was crushed that her grade 11 school year wasn’t completely finished.

Then, another big announcement comes just hours later:

THE CITY OF CALGARY DECLARES A STATE OF EMERGENCY!

A whole whack of city facilities like recreation centres, pools, arenas and public libraries are now shuttered. We went to bed wondering what the next day would bring. With even more countries and cities going on FULL LOCKDOWN, I don’t think any drastic measure could surprise us now.  Speaking to CTV News, the Prime Minister says:

“NOTHING IS OFF THE TABLE.”

Monday, March 16th: We turn on the news and witness another EPIC CRASH on the stock market, as the yo-yo continues. Actually, the term yo-yo makes it sound almost fun, but in reality, the stock market suffered it’s biggest loss in HISTORY. So yeah, not so much fun. We’ve decided we won’t even look at our investment statements for a few months. It would simply be too depressing right now.

Lianne’s firm has instructed her to pick up any materials she needs, as the plan to work from home plan has been ACCELERATED TO BEGIN TODAY! Starting immediately, we will be seeing a lot of each other. Yup, that “close-quarters” scenario I was so worried about has dramatically come to fruition.

OUR FAMILY OF FOUR IS ABOUT TO BECOME REACQUAINTED… VERY REACQUAINTED.

Scanning the news feeds has now become my favourite, nerve-wracking past-time, and I just ran across another “sign of the time”: Tim Horton has closed all dining seating, and becomes take-out, drive-thru and delivery ONLY.  You can’t even sit down and have a coffee at Timmys any more. Hours later, Starbucks follows suit.

Another bombshell! Canada shuts down the border to all non-Canadian citizens, with the exception of permanent residents, their immediate families, diplomats and U.S. citizens.

That last exception… U.S. citizens, worries me.

I really don’t believe they have a great handle on the crisis south of the border and feel they could UNDO all of the good work being done to protect Canadians from infection.

The underwhelming leadership style of Donald J. Trump has not inspired a whole lot of confidence in the rest of the world. 90% of Canadians live within 300 miles of the U.S. border. If THEY get overwhelmed by this, chances are WE will get overwhelmed by this… no matter what we do.

Exhausted from the wall-to-wall Coronavirus coverage, we all go to bed Monday night, bewildered by the events of the past week and wondering what extraordinary new social distancing measures are coming next.

What I have just described to you is how Canadian life has been turned upside down in only seven days. SEVEN DAYS. Our lives went from normal to something completely unheard of… seemingly in the blink of an eye.

So, now what? All joking aside about me panicking over the thought of actually spending time with my family… WHAT SHOULD WE ALL DO? Is all of this personal sacrifice worth it? Is the catastrophic damage to the world’s economy worth it?

WILL ALL OF THESE UNPRECEDENTED SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE AT ALL?

The unequivocal answer is:

YES!     ABSOLUTELY YES!!     100% YES!!!

I know there are those who inexplicably believe we are all overreacting to this virus. They say nothing will happen, or it won’t be that bad, or that this is all overblown by some “liberal” media with a nefarious agenda.

And here’s the thing… if we all band together, and do the right thing, we WILL reduce the number of cases, it WON’T be as bad as we thought, and those idiots who preach doing nothing will actually think they were right!

“You see, we did all of this dumb stuff to disrupt our lives and in the end, it wasn’t that bad!!!”

Hey dummy… it’s BECAUSE of these drastic measures, these unprecedented displays of social distancing that it may not be that bad. It’s BECAUSE of this incredible inconvenience that we WILL save lives, and ultimately that is what this is all about:

SAVING LIVES!

We all know and love people who are the most at risk. I have not one, but TWO parents who are in their mid-80’s. I have aunts and uncles in the same boat. Lianne’s mother is almost 80. But, the elderly are not the only people at risk! Those with chronic health conditions are not safe either. And lastly… let’s not forget that even vital, young, healthy, strong people could still die from this. There are always those outliers that we never see coming.

The infected are dying by the thousands in Italy right now, and Spain could be right behind them. All we have to do is take a hard look at the countries that did NOT react quickly enough to curtail the damage of this deadly virus.

Two weeks ago, Italy was not in crisis. But today? COVID-19 has completely overrun the health care system, and doctors are having to CHOOSE WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES because of a lack of medical resources.

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A makeshift emergency unit  at the Brescia hospital, in northern Italy.

Let that sink in. People who desperately need saving will not be saved.

Think about what that would look like here in Canada. It seems unfathomable… but we could be a couple of weeks away from that exact scenario.

We are all shutting down our normal lives TO SAVE THE LIVES OF OUR LOVED ONES.

We are all shutting down our normal lives TO SAVE THE LIVES OF COMPLETE STRANGERS.

Don’t forget, these “strangers” are all someone’s son, daughter, brother, sister, cousin, aunt, uncle, father, mother, grandfather or grandmother.  They are letter carriers, chiropractors, sandwich artists at Subway, school teachers, UPS drivers, yoga instructors, firefighters… or homeless people who have no one else to look out for them.

They are us. We are them.

So, let me leave you with a graph that many of you have already seen on the news, or in your social media feed, or in an email from your great uncle Walter:

It’s called FLATTENING THE CURVE.

The radical social distancing measures implemented by our government must be followed! If we all comply like good soldiers, we WILL slow the rate of infections and give the Canadian health care system a fighting chance to save everyone who needs saving.

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Everyone stay safe, stay healthy, help those in need, keep washing your hands and remember:

WE ARE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER!