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.

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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.

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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!

A Quick Poll: Which Phase Of Parenting Is The Hardest?

This past fall, I entered my seventeenth year as a stay-at-home dad. It always sounds crazy when I think about how long I’ve been doing this, and it always gets me thinking.

Whenever I stop for a moment to take stock of my many adventures in domestic life, I often ponder what I’ve found harder and what I’ve found easier about my years at home. For the longest time, I was convinced those first few years of being home alone with a baby and a toddler were the most difficult – bar none! I used to think:

“THOSE were the days when I earned my keep around these parts!”

But now? I’m not so sure and I’m curious as to what other people think about which phase of parenting is the hardest.

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Babies and toddlers? This looks like hard work.

PHASE ONE: Babies, Toddlers, and the Pre-School Years

When Lianne and I brought our daughter Abby into this world, I was still a 9 to 5 working man with no idea what I was getting myself into. When my wife went back to her law career after six months at home and I quit my job, I had no idea what the hell I was doing! However, I quickly learned that the fastest way to get up to speed was to dive in headfirst and just keep swimming.

When Daniel came along, I was once again treated to a much appreciated six month reprieve with Lianne staying home from work.

Then it all got real… REAL FAST!

A bouncing baby boy and rambunctious two-year-old girl were my daily SOLO responsibility. Those years with two very young kids ran me ragged. The diaper changes, the potty training, the fussy eaters, the constant looking over your shoulder to make sure one of them wasn’t tumbling down an open elevator shaft. It was always GO-GO-GO!

But was it HARD?

Looking back, I would say not really.

I would more accurately describe it as busy… EXTREMELY busy. Some of it was kind of mindless, like changing diapers and cleaning up after them. Some of it was fun, like playing games with them. Some of it was worrisome, like when they both started projectile vomiting. But in the end, it wasn’t all that stressful. When I was still a working stiff, looming deadlines and work stress would keep me up at night. Taking care of crazy kids certainly wore me out, but I slept like a baby.

So, was PHASE ONE the hardest? Maybe not.

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Elementary school aged kids? How hard could this be?

PHASE TWO: The Elementary School Years

Once both Abby and Daniel reached grade one and grade three respectively, I had it made in the shade.

Dropping the kids off at school at 8:30 AM and having the day completely to myself seemed like a miracle after seven years of having at least one kid underfoot at all times. I was completely amazed how quickly 3:30 rolled around, because there was always stuff to do, but at least I could have a cup of coffee (or two) in peace.

Sure, the MANY after-school activities, making dinner and getting kids to bed always made sure the rest of my day was absolutely crazy-town, but I always look back at these as the GOLDEN YEARS. The kids were still kids, but not little kids. The danger of them tumbling down an open elevator shaft was practically non-existent.

I think the age of TEN would be my all-time favourite age. By then, Abby and Daniel were very much their own person, with very distinct and dynamic personalities. They were both chock-full of confidence and seemed to have such a positive outlook on the future. Sure, they weren’t perfect – they misbehaved and fought, but for the most part they got along great with each other and with their parents.

But was it HARD?

I’d say no.

Again, it was always busy, but not particularly stressful. I can safely say elementary school was the easiest phase, which was a very good thing, because it would prove to be the calm before the storm.

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Teenagers? This looks like hard work.

PHASE THREE: The Junior High & High School Years

Something happens to kids when they enter the ages of eleven and twelve… just before they burst into the very different world of junior high. All of that potent confidence is somehow slowly sapped from their psyche. The joys of simply playing with toys or running around in a park become replaced with the stresses of “friend-drama” and bullying.

Junior high girls can be very mean. Junior high boys can be very mean. Social media completely distorts self-image. Teens can go from having six great friends to zero friends. They can suffer from anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Siblings that seemed so tight now barely interact. They suddenly close themselves off and the lines of communication to parents are severed. I found it very difficult to figure out what was really happening inside their teenage heads.

But is it HARD?

YES! Absolutely it is hard!

As a parent, feeling this helpless can be very frustrating and exceedingly stressful. Thankfully, Abby and Daniel still had all of the usual extra-curricular activities that kept us all busy. At times, it seemed like those were the only things that tied the parent and child together during this phase.

Junior High was definitely the hardest time for both of my kids, but thankfully things got better. High School was a fresh start. Situations changed, relationships changed, attitudes changed and our teenagers started opening up to having conversations. The constant fights between siblings have taped off and a new type of friendship is taking shape.

But now, there are NEW things to stress about, like getting good grades, boyfriends/girlfriends, finishing high school and applying for post-secondary education. That positive outlook so prevalent in a ten-year-old is replaced by a fatalistic teenage view of a world with dwindling job prospects and a climate emergency that young people are taking VERY seriously. The future has never been scarier.

So yeah, it’s definitely the hardest phase.

All of a sudden those long days of caring for toddlers don’t seem nearly as bad. But, here’s my next question for those “more experienced” parents out there:

“Is the NEXT phase any easier?”

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I’d like to think that when I’m an old Asian man, Abby and Daniel will give me free shoulder rubs as my reward for being a great dad. BRING ON PHASE FOUR!

PHASE FOUR: Parenting Adult Children 18+

In less than a month, we will be parents of a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old. I am nearing the end of my time as a stay-at-home dad. Soon, I’ll just be… a DAD. I don’t know if either kid will stay home for post-secondary education or move far, far away. I also don’t know if either of them will be the type to call home twice a day, twice a month or twice a year!

It’s all very uncertain, but I don’t see any scenario where I will stop worrying about them. When visiting my 85-year-old parents, my mom will seem very concerned for my health and safety if I am suffering from even a mild cold. I guess one never stops being a parent in this next phase… the question is:

But is it HARD?

I would REALLY like to think that once the kids fly the coop, it gets exponentially easier, but I’m not going to assume anything when it comes to parenting. So, I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts on this very important query.

“Which phase of parenting is the hardest?”

After Ten Great Years… It’s Hard To Say Goodbye

Outside of my marriage, this has been the longest relationship I’ve ever had.

She’s been reliable, steady as a she goes, and has never let me down. Sure, maybe she “drinks” a little too much, but that’s because she’s a six cylinder kind of gal. She’s been my constant, my rock, my touchstone, and my faithful companion for a good chunk of my time as a stay-at-home dad. I see her every day. EVERY DAMN DAY. What can I say… I am really going to miss her.

“She” is my 2010 Subaru Tribeca.

How did we get here? Allow me to explain. It was spring 2010 and our silver 2004 Forester simply wasn’t cutting it anymore. The kids were growing. I was growing. The car simply seemed – cramped. One day, while getting service for the Forester, I casually asked  about the Tribeca, Subaru’s new entry into the seven passenger SUV market. The guy behind the counter told me:

“You know, we’re selling our Tribeca demo right now.”

WHAT! They were selling the car they let people test drive? Unreal! I had to have her. I just HAD to have her. We came back to the dealership on the weekend. After a quick test drive and and even quicker trade in, that gorgeous graphite grey gas guzzler was mine… ALL MINE.

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She already had 8,000 clicks on the odometer… but she was beautiful. My God, she was beautiful.

The kids loved her right off the bat, all because of one special feature: the DVD entertainment system, complete with headphones. On any ride over four minutes long, they begged me to play them a movie. At the time, Daniel and Abby were aged five and seven, and anything I could use to keep them quiet and calm during traffic was an absolute godsend.

This was my golden age of car travel.

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Looking at this photo, two things really stick out. A) Ten years ago, I still had hair! B) Based on my horrified face, I seem to have made a gruesome discovery in the back seat of my new car.

As a stay-at-home dad, I volunteered A LOT to drive my kids and their classmates on school field trips. With third row seating that could seat seven, my Tribeca was a very practical choice to cart these little monsters all over Calgary. And trust me, when things got crazy in the car, that entertainment system saved the day more than once.

When you drive as much as I do, it’s important to have a car that you like. It’s also important the kids you constantly drive around also like your car, and for those first few years, they most certainly did. But, as kids get older, interests change. The DVD entertainment system no longer seemed magical, and the numerous complaints began in earnest.

“Why does this car not have heated rear seats? Mom’s car does! Why is this dumb car so bumpy? Mom’s car is smooth! Why doesn’t the heat blow in the back? It only blows cold! Mom’s car blows hot air in the back!”

Yes, my kids finally realized… like anyone with a brain, that Lianne’s car (an Audi Q5) was a much, much, much, much, much nicer car than my Subaru Tribeca. Now, it seemed everyone had turned their backs on my precious Tribeca… everyone but ME.

I still loved her. I still washed her. I still faithfully serviced her every six months or 8,000 km. She was still my baby, despite her many faults.

And yes, I had to agree with the kids on some of her shortcomings. Yes, the ventilation system in the back only blows the air conditioning through the vents, and not the heat. That really blows! On icy-cold days, I could turn on the seat warmers in the front, while the kids (literally) froze their butts off in the back. Yes, that WOULD be annoying. And yes, after driving Lianne’s Audi from time to time, I certainly noticed a big difference. The silky-smooth, German-engineered ride was a treat compared to the constant light jostling I got when I drove my car.

And don’t get me started on GAS MILAGE! Our previous cars, a VW Jetta and Subaru Forester were both great on gas. The Tribeca was a bigger car with a bigger engine but with the same size of gas tank. It seemed like I was ALWAYS fuelling up. ALWAYS!

Another annoying thing about my car was the length. It was significantly longer than my previous vehicles, and for that reason, I could never quite replicate my savant-like ability to parallel park. Yes, I’m proud to say, that back in the day, I could parallel park with the BEST of them. THE BEST OF THEM I TELL YOU!

I remember Lianne would say: “There’s no WAY you’ll fit in that spot!” I’d just look over at her with a wry smile and say: “Just watch me.”

Could I do that with the Tribeca? Nope. No dice. I just didn’t have the “gift” anymore.

Now, you might be thinking that with all of these shortcomings, I’d be chomping at the bit to unload this 10-year-old hunk of junk… but I’m not. I’m really not. This car has safely transported our family on countless road trips over the years. From numerous adventures to the Rocky Mountains, Saskatchewan, Edmonton, Vancouver Island and back… the list goes on.

Unlike Lianne’s car (which she basically drives to work and back home) my car was the true FAMILY car. If the four of us had to go somewhere, it was in my Tribeca.

There are so many reasons why it’s so hard to let her go.

1) My kids grew up in this car!

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Ah, those were the days… when the kids were still so very happy in my Tribeca.

My kids spent a lot of time in this car from 2010 to 2020. They ate countless drive-through meals on the way to and from gymnastics, soccer, piano, basketball, hockey, volleyball, rugby and many other activities. I think the back seat still smells like old french fries!

At times, my car was their dining room, bedroom and living room.

Thank God it was never their bathroom! But, full disclosure… my kids have definitely puked in it… more than once.

2) My daughter learned to drive in this car!

Abby also scraped the side of it when she cut it too close while parking in the garage, but that just added to the legend… the lustre… the loveable character of my Tribeca.

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Looking at this photo still sends shivers down my spine when I think about Abby driving my precious for the first time.

3) I could haul LOTS of stuff in this car! And I mean LOTS.

This car has made multiple trips to the DUMP, and never let me down. Sure, there have been plenty of times when I couldn’t see anything out of my rear window… but that’s just how I roll.

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No, it’s not the bed of a pick-up truck, but after dropping the seats down, I can pack a boatload of stuff in this car… which I did when my parents moved houses last spring.

4) My body has flattened and shaped the driver seat to the exact contours and specifications of my ass!

Never underestimate the importance of a comfortable seat… especially if you’ve spent thousands of hours in it.

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Over the course of ten years, my big bum has cracked the once fine pleather upholstery. But those cracks are a forever reminder of my love…

So if this car is so damn awesome, WHY AM I GETTING RID OF IT???

Sigh. I hate to be ageist but my beautiful Tribeca isn’t exactly a spring chicken.

She just hit 180,000 km on the odometer. I know that’s not a crazy amount of clicks, but that’s not the only thing to consider. In the next six months, she probably needs new brakes, new tires, a new timing belt… the list goes on. And guess what? A quick Google search shows 2010 Tribecas are being sold for $5,000 to $10,000. She’s just not worth all that much anymore!

I really don’t know what I could get for her… as she’s not in pristine condition, but I do know I have several thousand dollars of maintenance coming up soon. Very soon.

And, please don’t tell her… but I have my eye on a much younger model.

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The Subaru Crosstrek looks like they simply shrunk down my Tribeca… and I’m very OK with that.

I’m not carting around a whole whack of kids on field trips anymore. I don’t want to fill up my tank twice a week. I don’t need all of that extra cargo space. Abby is now driving her own car. Next year, I’ll have two kids in high school… and after that, we could be empty nesters before you know it. My Tribeca may feel like a part of the family, but she is simply too much car for the next phase of my life!

It pains me to say it, but it’s time to say goodbye.

People always say you never forget your first car.

For me, that’s simply not the case. I never really liked my first car: a 1988 Ford Mustang. It had weird pink and purple accent striping, it was only a 4-banger, and it was kind of a lemon.

I’d actually like to forget it.

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When I got the Mustang in the fall of 1991, I thought this car would make me cool. I thought this car would be the one I would always love. I was wrong on both fronts.

Driving an unremarkable family SUV for ten years did not make me cool, but it faithfully served as my sidekick as I performed my daily duties as a dad. I jokingly tell people that being a stay-at-home father is like being an Uber driver. But all kidding aside, with the amount of time I’ve spent driving my kids all over town, it actually rings quite true.

As I say goodbye to her, I know in my heart there’s no other car I would have wanted along for the ride on this crazy journey called parenthood.

My 2010 Subaru Tribeca is the car I will never forget.

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“She” is the only car I will always love.

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Merry Christmas From The Tysowskis! 2019: The Year In Review

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Gotta make sure SNOOP is represented in the family Christmas card.

Well, here we are again. I know we are fast approaching the end of another calendar year when I sit down to write the annual Tysowski Christmas letter. This is the 14th anniversary edition, which means absolutely nothing to anyone.

2019 started off with a much needed winter getaway in mid-January for Greg and Lianne. We hooked up with friends Jennifer and Sean for a weekend trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, where we took in a hot car show, a cool hockey game and also played some golf. Oh, and we also drank booze. February started off with BIG NEWS with the birth of our newest niece, little Everly Grace Tysowski! Gaeil and David have combined to create a real cutie-patootie! (FYI, she gets 99.9% of that cutie-patootieness from her mother.)

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I don’t want to be rude to Abby and Daniel, but cutie-patootie Everly makes both of them look downright ordinary. Sure, they’re still cute but… come on! Just look at this baby!

Spring arrived, and with it a couple of March birthdays. Daniel’s slow transformation into a fine young man continues, as he turned 14. As for Abby, she turned SWEET 16 and has already become a lovely, young (edgy) woman. In late March, I made a quick trip to the left coast to visit Patrick and Mia, and hit the slopes at Whistler for some excellent spring skiing.

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Simply gorgeous… and the scenery ain’t so bad either!

The rest of spring 2019 was filled with Abby’s club basketball and rugby seasons, Daniel’s rec volleyball and another school play, where he played a flying monkey (among other parts) in the Wizard of OZ.

In late May, Lianne and Daniel went on a special mother/son trip to sunny Los Angeles, where the highlight was attending RuPaul’s DragCon!

On the same weekend, Abby and I flew to the equally glamorous metropolis of Kamloops, BC for a basketball tournament. We stayed at the Travelodge. I’m not sure which duo came out on top?

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SO FIERCE!!!

With the arrival of summer came a couple of major milestones. In July, my parents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with a lovely family dinner and a fancy hotel sleepover in downtown Calgary. The next landmark achievement featured Abby, who joined the ranks of licensed drivers, and could not have been more pleased to gain her “freedom”. Little did she know that I was just as excited to be free from driving her around all the damn time.

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Do yourself a favour. Stay off the sidewalks.

Next up, another epic family vacation, where we reunited with Mark, Dona and family and also added our niece Erika to the mix. This time, we journeyed to sunny, beautiful and HOT Punta de Mita, Mexico in early August!

Yes, it was scorching, but on the upside, we rented a huge beach house with a pool for super cheap… and the price wasn’t even the best part. The place came complete with STAFF: a cook to prepare your meals, maids to clean up, and a driver (who also doubled as a bartender/BBQ griller.)

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Did Daniel suffer an epic sunburn on his back just two days into our trip? All signs point to yes.

All we had to do was stock the beer fridge, which would suspiciously be missing several cans every morning. I guess that’s what happens when you vacation with five teenagers.

To say this vacation was LAZY would be a massive understatement.

Usually, the dynamic duo of Dona and Lianne would plan a holiday itinerary that bordered on exhausting. On this particular vacation, I STILL felt exhausted all of the time, but for no good reason. Was it because I was sleeping until noon and then crushing multiple Coronas poolside all afternoon in the extreme heat? It’s a mystery that may never get solved.

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Sunset at Punta de Mita, Mexico. That’s-a-nice.

Just days after coming home from Mexico, Lianne and Abby had their own special mother/daughter adventure. This was a belated SWEET 16th birthday trip, where they joined Dona and fellow SWEET 16-year-old Evan for six days in the Big Apple.

They all had a super-fun and action-packed time sightseeing in New York City, while Daniel and I watched five horror movies in five nights on Netflix back home in Calgary. I wonder which duo came out on top? I also wonder when it will be MY turn to go on a fancy trip with one of my kids? Whenever I ask Abby and Daniel about it, they either quickly change the subject or abruptly leave the room.

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A couple of raven-haired beauties in NYC.

August also was marked with some extremely sad news as Lianne’s father, Ralph Ecker, passed away suddenly at the age of 79. He had been living in a nursing home and was suffering from dementia but it still came as quite a shock. The entire family certainly appreciated the love, support and prayers we received.

With the arrival of fall, we all turned our attention to the beginning of a brand new school year. Abby was eager to get back to Bishop Carroll High to continue her self-directed learning. Meanwhile, Daniel was beyond excited to start grade nine at Willow Park School for some Arts-Centred learning. He really needed a change.

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Abby tried community basketball for the first time this fall and had a blast. Who knew she could JUMP?

Another round of piano, volleyball, basketball and hockey made sure our kids are well rounded, and also totally exhausted by the weekend. OK I’m making the call. This will be the final time this tired, recycled line will be included in this letter, even though it is still considered a Tysowski Christmas letter “classic”.

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I bet you have no idea who this handsome couple is…

In November, Lianne’s law firm had a retreat in super-fun New Orleans, and it did not disappoint. Great parties, cool music and awesome food made sure we had a super-fun time. Speaking of SUPER, we checked out the Superdome to catch our first ever NFL game! It was so very, very loud, which made life difficult for yours truly, who was so very, very hungover. Oh, did I mention that we also drank booze on this trip?

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My eyes tell the tale of how I was feeling at that exact moment.

For those very, very few of you looking for an update on my beer league hockey team, here it is: as I write this, we are stuck in a huge rut… yes, we are experiencing an epic losing streak so severe my brother Mark and I could soon be fired as co-General Managers of the team! Pray for us. Pray for our survival. (UPDATE: we recently snapped a losing skid that started back in OCTOBER! Mark and I will live to see another day.)

And that brings us full-circle to December where we already have the mid-winter blues and are desperately waiting for Christmas holidays to save us all. Unfortunately for us, there will be no winter escape this year but we are already looking forward to another summer adventure… we just don’t know where it will be. I guess you will all have to read my blog at dadathome1970.wordpress.com to find where we go this year.

And while you’re visiting my blog, you might as well buy my book on paperback, kindle or audiobook. OK, I apologize for the shameless plug, but it’s still the only book I’ve ever written! All right people, that’s enough yammering from me. We hope you had a wonderful 2019 and look forward to hearing from you in 2020. All the best this holiday season!

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

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That’s Domino to the left and Sasha on the right. Did Domino attack Sasha shortly after this photo was taken? All signs point to yes.