Best Christmas Ever

I have said for a very long time that it is not what you receive but how graciously you give at this time of year that makes the season joyous. I will reiterate that, but offer you the caveat that you not presume that giving requires anything tangible or store bought.

It is this thought that was proven this year. I was given the best Christmas ever by some manner of adoptive family. I have a new brother, and this was my first Christmas with his family, his whole family as part of that family, though we've known each other for years.

I will jokingly suggest that I was in Breslau, Ontario, having Christmas in an evergreen forest. The family is the Wood family and my acceptance is that akin to adoption. I was witness to great family love and co-operation and to the idea that giving at Christmas while traditional and awesome for the children to experience, is tempered by the understanding of what Christmas is. It is a celebration of the birth of Jesus and we need to remember this by being a blessing to each other on a day-to-day basis. God, the father of Jesus Christ, gave his only son by sending him down from heaven to show us what it was to be good followers of God. His story is found in many books of the New Testament and it's worth a read, though admittedly I have yet to read any one in it's entirety.

Being a blessing to others is the greatest gift to God you can make, and I believe that forgiveness of others, loving others simply because they, we, are all children of Jesus Christ, and he loves us, so just as your mother or father will look kindly on your helping out a brother of sister, the Lord looks kindly on each of us offering love and support to one another. Just as Jesus pledges his love for us as an unwavering and everlasting love, not conditional on our actions, he must also consider it a gift to him when we show this love to others, our peers, or friends, and the strangers on the streets of our lives.

My friends, The Wood Family, they are a blessing to me. They gave me the best Christmas ever.


My daughters impress me...

I have two wonderful daughters, each with challenges I can related to, and they both have the strength and character to be remarkable individuals on a day-to-day basis. They have fears and follies that challenge them, they have trials and tribulations that make life scary, interesting, and wonderful. They are good young people with good hearts and sharp minds. And they both suffer as I have at times with various afflictions of mind and body, yet the seem better off than I was at that age, and yet not.

They are affected by the strife between their parents, they feel the tension, the angst that I cause their mother, and that their mother causes me, and they hate it. They want none of it and I both sympathize and am dumbfounded as to how to remove them from it. For the bulk of their years I would not speak ill of their mother, but I've resigned to the fact that their mother would put them in the middle. I do my best to encourage patience with their mother and re-enforce the notion that they need their mother, but I'm tired of being the nice-guy, walked on, again and again because I'm supposed to be positive.

I have been the one who defends the character of a person who seems to have no respect for others, no interest in anyone beyond herself, to my daughters. I have endured being financially raped by the courts by a system that is biased, stupid, or just plan ignorant to the pain and suffering that it has caused. me. A system that has stolen over $15,000 from me, and cause me no end of stress and frustration. And a system that would do it again in a heartbeat and because of that I'll give in again and again because it's safer than going before some idiot judge who may just tell me I'm at fault for having the brains to see my ex-wife is a vindictive...

I loved her once, but she never respected me for who I was. My relationship with her was a product of low self-esteem and I regret my own stupidity in marrying her. She is a person I cannot even contemplate trust in, and if I knew what I know now about her I would never have set foot in her world. I pray that God delivers me from this hell and I can just leave this behind. It's killing me.

I do NOT give up. I forge ahead, persisting in being a good person, trying to find hope and peace and doing EVERYTHING IN MY POWER to provide for my daughters, but I am beaten. I remain defeated and at a loss, rarely having a moment or opportunity for peace in my own being. This is why I believe in God.

My faith delivers me from evil, gives me peace and hope, and takes the burden of hate and jealousy from my shoulders. If you don't believe in Jesus Christ or God, you're missing something. No, not at the moment of this entry, but it will, soon as I get to that part of my day when I stand, naked before my God (and usually in the shower to be honest) and pray for his guidance and for His will to lead me where I need to go,  what I need to do. I release control of my fate, my destiny, to His will. This does not mean I give up. I pledge my support and my intent to live as I believe he would like me to live and beg him forgive me for my human flaws. I ask him to remind me as I do what I do, day-to-day, to ask myself, "What would Jesus do?"

Indeed, what would Jesus do?

I have been challenged recently with fears of job loss, which is like PTSD for the repeatedly downsized. Combine that with my experiences in courts over divorce and custody issues and I'm just burnt out. I want to realize some peace and my faith is truly my only out.

I refuse to feel guilt for my actions, I try, daily to be a good person and just like you, I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am thankful that those around me, my friends, my family, the people that love me for who I am, are there to re-assure me that I'm on the right track, or not. I believe a real friend will tell you when you're being an idiot. I have, and love, each of them and I appreciate them as much as I can. Many may see my life as blessed, and they are right. I count myself as truly blessed to have the friends and family I do, and I try to give back, not just to them, but to others through whatever means. I have been blessed with a personality, a desire, that begs me to help others, so I do.

I live by the motto, "Happy to help, any time."

I give what I can, when I can, to whomever needs it, I have plans to make a difference in bigger and bigger ways, and do what I can to show people that God is real and influences the tides of life. I have witnessed the good, and endured His challenges. I am thankful to my God for his graciousness, and can honestly say I have been rewarded by my faith.

I am at peace, and very thankful I have two wonderful daughters. I pray for them to find faith too, but I also pray for:

  • My ex-wife
  • People around me in trouble
  • Strangers I see as I go through my day that seem to be having trouble
  • Drivers who are frustrated in Traffic
  • My friends and family as they have their lives to contend with
  • You

Praying for someone is not a judgement, it is a request for God to look in on someone and help them find peace. So many feel confronted when being told of the Word of God, they feel accused of being bad people, of being judged, but that's not the intent. Admittedly it is how it can be perceived, but I assure you it is not the intent. This is something that Christians need to work on when they are trying to "save" others. Some people are offended that the person who is accosting them thinks they need to be "rescued" in the first place. I felt the same way.

I say this with all my heart and soul, as a gift to you:
God be with you today and always. Let him into your heart and allow him to guide you.  Do not judge, for that is not our burden, but His. Look for the good in people and pray for those that are embattled with sin and the burdens of life, that they may find peace. The Lord, Jesus Christ, loves each and every one of us and asks only one thing... love Him, trust in Him, believe in Him, and when you can do that, help others find their way as well. Peace is in the faith you have in God.

Bless you. I am now going to have my own conversation with God.


The High Cost of Living...

I'm not suggesting that you you reduce costs by not living, but that it's a fact of life that living costs a great deal day-to-day. This is why we work, but it also leaves us wondering about the choices we make in living our lives.

Living beyond your means is a bad thing. It's not just a question of "Can I afford this [today]?" but rather a question of whether I should incur an expense at all, what purpose does it serve and is the long-term benefit practical. This does not mean you need to be "practical" 24x7x365 (all the time), you simply need to budget the "mad money" that you have to do what's fun and a little frivolous from time-to-time.

That said... I'll quote ING and say "You need to save your money."

Saving... Reduce the cost of living to the point that you have a surplus, then don't spend that surplus. Why? because buying things on credit is a skill, a tightrope that you can very easily balance on, but you need to balance it. Tightrope? Maybe not a tightrope.

Picture a cliff... You have life and you can live on the edge, or over the edge, but living over the edge requires you to walk on a plank which is counter-balancing your life. For most of us this is normal, the job we have is the counter-balance and the life we have carefully ensures that job is there to support us. The problem is that we have two other tools to use as that counter-balance, savings, and credit. Yes, and in Canada we also have Employment Insurance.

Some people use credit while they have a job and that 10, 20, or 50K of credit is used to make their life "perfect," but they forget that a job is variable and it can disappear in a heartbeat. They are then left with debt, and no means by which to pay it off. This is a very bad place to be. One should NEVER assume they have a job-for-life. There are games you can play with money that can leverage credit, but you can lose games, you must be able to afford to lose the game.

Back to life on the plank, You can save money by living modestly, with less, accepting sacrifices and being at peace with not having all that Jane and Bob down the street have. You can build up savings is your frugal to the point that a job-loss can give you grace and a chance to get back to the edge of the cliff  before the counter-balance is gone. A lottery win, while not something to bet your life on, can give you a permanent counter-balance, $3 million in the bank should be enough to maintain a working man's lifestyle on the interest alone, but in real life your savings should be enough to cover a few months without work. If you make $50K in a year, your take home is approximately $30K, if you can build up $30K in savings you can technically take a year to find work, living without a paycheque, longer if you have support from a government program such as Canada's Employment Insurance. The key to survival is that you must save first.

You'll need to evaluate what's important and rather than having a 4-bedroom home that's 3500 square feet, look at the affordable 1600 sq. ft. townhome and enjoy the sense of community it offers. If you're on your own, single or a couple with no kids (expected in the next few years), look at a condo with in-suite laundry. Buying is always better than renting, unless you don't have a good credit rating. I rent.

In-suite laundry is critical. This is what separates apartment renters from condo. owners and it's a reward that's enviable. There's nothing cool about having to ride an elevator or walk down to the laundry room only to find that some individual has removed your clean laundry from the machine because you got stuck on a call with your Mom and simply couldn't get her to hang up and left you 5-minutes late. It gets worse when you discover that this was that hairy-smelly-chain-smoking guy from the 10th floor and he was a tad less than careful with his cigarette he shouldn't be smoking when he removed your clothes from the washer. Or, worse, that the retired mother of 3 on the 7th floor has folded your entire load including your leopard-skin patterned underwear that your girlfriend gave you, or if you are the girlfriend, that she attempted to fold your thongs!

When looking for the place to live, rental or otherwise, consider the places you need to be and the environment you need to be in. If you don't have a vehicle, plan to be on good, reliable transit and close to stores. Walking distance is preferred and living close to work is almost unheard of these days. You will pay a premium on "location, location, location," that a closet with a bed in it is 3 times more expensive than a house with a 1-2 hour commute. I am lucky, my commute is 35-40 minutes when I do it right. That's a blessing, in the past it's been as high as 2 hours. One job was 1 hour each way, I loved the job, but car-pooled with a very good friend. I tried the transit option, 3 hours, I hated those to weeks of the commute.

If you're a parent like me, you may be constrained by where your children are going to school. Yes, in the rare circumstance that the parents are together you can move the kids, but if your family is like mine, you want to be close to the school(s) so your place is accessible. My youngest daughter has a 45-minute walk home to either parent's house, that was not planned, just luck.

The cost of housing...
If your bank offers you a $350K mortgage, you do NOT need to buy a $349,990 house! You will be just as happy in a $200K house, or perhaps a $150K condominium depending on your real space requirements. If you have 7 kids you still do NOT need a 3500 sq. ft. house, but you will need to have patience and a non-violence rule in settling territory issues. You also do NOT need a big back yard, just enough space for a BBQ and picnic table.

A car is optional in an urban centre. I'm proof, but that doesn't make it easy. A car will cost you roughly $12,000 per year to operate/finance. Where you live can drastically affect your insurance rate, it's a consideration in the "where you live" discussion. The bigger the urban centre, the better the transit option is.

Live with less, happily.


A Trip begins with good food.

As I head off to K-W to see my brother Aaron and his family, I stopped in Brampton for Take-out Thai food. It's a nice little restaurant at Queen and George, just close enough to the Brampton GO/Bus Terminal for a 40-odd minute stop-over.

To Go... the bus leaves in 25 minutes.

... The food was very good, and even better with chopsticks. Done, and I know wish I'd bought a drink. The spice was perfectly medium as I'd asked, but a wash with water or Coke would finish nicely.

The 31 to Guelph is... due, I have my BlackBerry PlayBook tethered to my BlackBerry 9780 on Rogers, and tunes on that for the trip. See you soon brother.


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Thanksgiving Day Walk, Loafer's Lake

There are days best spent with family or friends, Thanksgiving is one of those days. This was a particularly warm (Thank you Lord) Thanksgiving, but there was much to be thankful for, I had my youngest daughter to hang with, friends on Saturday and Sunday, and Monday was a good day for recovery. Turkey Overload was too bad this year either.
I was missing one friend, but like true friends they may be far, but near at heart. It'll be that way many times as we get old, but we'll always be friends.
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The EXODUS begins...

My friends begin to pack for their move...
I get my driveway and garage back, but it's hardly a fair exchange. I would rather have these neighbours than a clear driveway or empty garage.
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I'm up at 3:46 AM because...

...at 1-something-AM my brain decided not to divert me from my PC when heading back to bed after a cool drink of water.

Since then I've posted on Facebook, Twitter, ranted about shark fins, and reviewed the Facebook world.

Oh, then I "bought" the eBook version of Forks over Knives (for Kindle) though I find it impossible to work with Amazon without using one of those pre-paid VISA cards. I do prefer the Kobo (in Canada) because of it's ties to Chapters and the ability to use Chapters/Indigo Gift Cards to buy eBooks. I have the Kobo eReader on my BlackBerry PlayBook and my 9780 Bold, but if you're looking to buy a gift for someone, their eReader (now with a touch screen) is a good buy.

The DVD for Forks Over Knives would be cool, and will be available soon at Chapters and Best Buy.

I was also contemplating my Video Game Purchases for the Fall: Halo CE: Ann. Edition, Forza Motorsport 4, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, and Need for Speed - The Run.

Now, I must say that the game I'm LEAST interested in is COD:MW3, I've become tired of being shot up in on-line play. I have become a fan of racing games thanks to my good friend and pseudo-brother Aaron. We race, period. We race Forza 3 right now, but Forza 4 is a compelling buy because aside from racing, we enjoy Top Gear (UK). NFS:TR is simply a personal challenge and I'll get that on PlayStation3, the rest is for my XBOX360.

Good night.


It's really bloddy annoying...

...to look back at your children's lives and realize that you missed most of those lives because [of life.]

It leaves you standing there praying you gave them enough insight and love to go forward and be a success and find happiness and you pray that they may actually appreciate what you tried to give them.

My number one priority, just as any parent should have, is the health and happiness of their child(ren). The number one fear is that we [fowled] it up.

The best made plans...

... can be unravelled without any effort.

I've had friends tell me I need to get out more. Well, I do try. I try to plan things, have fun, spend time with people, and ya know... plans change. I was supposed to be going to the air museum at Downsview Airforce Base today with my daughter, but plans changed. I was supposed to be downtown yesterday to see (even from the outside) Breakfast Television and go to a cool comic book store with my daughter, but plans changed. I role with the punches and I do this on a daily basis. It leaves me with one feeling at the end of it all, the feeling I do for others and not myself.

Now, there are people YOU MUST do for in life, daughters, wives, friends, family... the order is not important here. There are people who ask little of you, and they should be rewarded with good quality time. My youngest daughter is in the realm right now, not asking for much, the reward: Attending Fan Expo Canada this past Sunday with friends.

Then there's the family-based requests. This one starts Thursday, and is simple, but a huge effort. Get to Kingston, then get my parents to Northern Quebec for my brother's birthday (who plans a birthday on a Sunday?). Take a couple of days to visit, then head home Monday. Leaving at 5AM on Monday, arriving in leaving my parents with their car in Kingston, then heading to Brampton for ~10pm on Monday night.

I get to work the next morning, and I had hoped that my daughter would be along for the trip, but this has become an unknown.

I have come to the conclusion, and forgive my lack of nobility for saying so but, I do for others. So, if someone starts getting on my case for not being fit, not being something they expect of me, etc.... well. I reserve the right to be a complete ass and tell them where to go with all the detail required to find a particular town in Michigan.

Directions to Hell, MI


If your kids see one movie 1000 times...

My oldest daughter watched Jurassic Park and Toy Story so many times I started to (especially with Toy Story) be able to recite dialogue from any queued point in the film. These movies taught two things, be afraid of the impossible and newcomers are not necessarily enemies. Okay, so Toy Story had a better message.

The one film I've watched and enjoyed,  for kids (Jurassic Park was not a kids film) is "Meet the Robinsons." This film has the right elements to keep a kid engaged and teaching a valuable lesson for life, "Keep Moving Forward."

This is not going to affect their driving test at age 16, it means that you don't give up. Setbacks are part of life, failures are normal and we benefit from them by learning that something is not something to repeat, but not to give up a direction.

It needs balance, of course. You need to be able to assess whether a direction, in itself, is an error in judgement, but even if it is you don't need to give up. Pick a new path and keep moving forward.

Sure, this can be applied wrong and create financial stress on parents and partners alike. Some people start something good and are so afraid of success they give up. They are actually less afraid of the success they have as what they believe will be certain failure down the line.

I believe there are a few key qualities you need to instil in a child, a responsibility as a parent:

  • persistence and perseverance (tenacity) when confronted with a problem or challenge
  • self-worth and the knowledge that it matters most that you're a good person and that you know it.
  • self-respect and the ability to choose what is right or wrong for yourself regardless of what peers say.
  • respect others and treat them as you would be like to be treated, even if they don't return the favour.
  • independence through encouragement, helping them face fears head on, and letting them make it through on their own, with support, but on their own.
There may be more, but this is what I have in mind at the moment.


Workplace Life

Work is frantic these days, not alwyas for the right reasons, but it is frantic nonetheless. My workspace is simple, two main systems that help me help the business become more efficient. Sounds noble doesn't it.
Helping others is my purpose in life, technology is simply my methodology, and it doesn't always work. Sorry Brian.
You see I wiped out my brother's BlackBerry, but well perhaps I shouldn't have. Oops. "It'll run better."
It will, and it's no great loss, but oops.
At work, I make things better, easier, require less effort. That may eventually bite me in the butt.
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Saturday Morning Farmer's Market, by Bus!

I'm headed to the Brampton Farmer's Market. A special trip, and super-comfortable, on the ZUM... (Don't ask me how to make a u with umlats on my BlackBerry).
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Birthday cake for two...

...Before the movie.
My daughters and I dropped in to Casey's before the show for cake. Too much for the two of us. Happy Birthday to Me.
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On the 403 heading home after unloading a dive platform with my neighbour.
Dropping Aaron's friend Tom off to get his car then heading home.
Beautiful day.

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Fuzzy Wonders in Southern Ontario

Out in the back lot at Tom's place.

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UPDATE: I'm glad I didn't touch this little fellow! This would appear to be a "Hickory Tussock Moth (Family Arctiidae)" and they are venomous.


Breakfast: Salmon, Red Pepper, and Cheese Curd Omlette

This is the best (self-made) breakfast I've had in a while. I like being on vacation.
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The benefits of BlackBerry devices, er blackberries.

It seems Cora would think that these devices, er berries, are good for you. They feature vitamin C, magnesium and potassium!
Thanks for the tip Cora!
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Turning 44, soon.

Wearing a winner's circle yellow shirt as an ad for what once was "just an anti-virus company" in many respects. I'm heading out for brunch with a long-time friend to celebrate my existence. I'm conscious of my need to lose weight and my own challenges to not only eat healthier but consider that the content is as important battling my inclination to eat too much.

I do this out of boredom, frustration, stress, and depression. This is my coping method, and it needs to stop.

Wait, this it about turning 44. That is a reason to celebrate, to allow others to pat me on the back and suggest a "well done" is in order. It is. I've done okay considering the stupid things I've done, but... That's water over the dam.

Any way... The idea that I'll be 44 this Friday isn't a shock or concern, it's just another day. What's special is the people that choose to spend it with you, or at least honouring you with well wishings. In my case it may not be hundreds of people, but they are awesome people and I am very honoured.

A big thank you goes to my friends and family. They are how I got to fourty-four, and how I'll get to 45.

Happy Birthday to me!

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Working Out A Weekend Getaway

To control spending I keep limited funds available for impulse purchases, the down-side to that it that I generally need to plan ahead for big expenses. This means my hopes of getting away this weekend to see my parents will not happen this weekend as I had been pondering in the last 24-hours, but that's okay.

My brother, oldest brother, is having a birthday party on September 4th, a Sunday, at his place in "deepest, darkest, Quebec." While I would like to have made this weekend's trip, perhaps they will understand if I postpone until September 1st and go for a drive with them to my brother's place. I'd love a good drive in the mountains of Quebec.

So, here's the plan... We start off from Brampton, Ontario on September 1st catching the VIARAIL train to Union (this may change to reduce costs), but it offers a reasonable stop-over at Union for lunch (though the Harvey's is gone so you're left with McD's or Cinnebon). Then from Union to Kingston where we catch local transit to my parents' place in Amherstview, Ontario. Notably the bus service to their place [is lacking] but I'd rather keep the impact on them to a minimum. Then we sleep and prepare for a drive.

The Friday Might be best guided by a SatNav system, but we have something better... Multiple BlackBerry devices and my co-pilot and daughter, Ashley. The route to my brother's is a tad long. The Google estimate is 10h 49m and I'm sure we'll stop at least once or twice.I would like to afford the time to do two things... use my PlayBook to capture a place in Quebec City that my brother in arm chairs (friend and neighbour) used to race at (virtually, in Project Gotham Racing), and a couple of mountain stops. So... I'll need my power adapter to charge my devices. I don't think my parents' Ford Fusion has an AC Adapter/inverter.

Anyway, the trip will take me and my youngest daughter to places I'd been as a kid, but tragically not with enough time to explore them the way I could. The important thing is that my parents' get to see their son turn 60 in the awesomeness of Quebec. Needed for trip: Red Bull and entertainment for my daughter.

View Wes' Birthday Road Trip in a larger map


Test post from My BlackBerry 9780

This is a test.

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Open Source: You get what you pay for.

There's merit in the cause for open source software. It's noble to work as a team, often a very large team, to create something awesome and allow people to have that product for free. The unfortunate truth is that you are at the mercy of these programmers to have the interest and inspiration to resolve issues that are found, or even the users who may or may not report an issue.

I love open source software. It's cheap, usually works fairly well in general, and you can tell everyone about it and make them feel better too. The reality that I'm facing is that there's nothing like buying software that has a real owner, and real people behind the product because it's popular enough to generate its own revenue streams (i.e. authors of how-to books, etc.)

My point here can be demonstrated with OpenOffice.org vs. Microsoft Office. When you download and start to use OpenOffice products to notice a slight lack of polish, things are not as well integrated and the overall experience falls short. You tend to accept these issues as the short comings of the product, but you end up pleasantly surprised by how good the product is for the price, $0.00. Then you go back to work and use Microsoft Office. Microsoft Office is a well thought out and thoroughly tested application which does everything that OpenOffice.org does, but better. It has the polish and concerted effort put into the whole product, buffing and re-touching every nook and cranny of the tool to ensure their support costs are reduced.

Factor this in, you may pay $150 for the Home and Student version of Microsoft Office, but you'll blow $1000 in frustration when using OpenOffice.org. How do I measure that? $50 per hour, but damages for pain and suffering. I figured I'd put that in a manner most Americans would understand, they're the highly litigious neighbours to the south of us.

I'm not saying don't use open source software, I'm saying that you need to know there may be some extra effort, pain, and suffering involved in doing so.

I am more than meets the eye.

What meets the eye is, currently, 342 pounds of me. This must change, and it has... I was 352 pounds only a few weeks ago.

I have elected, for my own sake, to pursue a better manner of eating, and in turn (and due time) better physical activities to support my desire to regain a shape and create a better ratio of what I am versus what meets the eye. I am much more than meets the eye: I am not just a geek and gamer, I am a father, friend, and fan of life.

That said, this is a journey. While I enjoy video games and TV shows, and professional things that are generally sedentary (i.e. programming computers and such), I am embarking on a journey into health and I will not be alone. You're coming with me.

First step, get back to that new diet I started... the "Month of Hummus" July 24th-August 24th, 2011

What this means is that I'm going to eat significantly less junk food, and reduce my red meat (cow, pig, goat, etc.) intake. While trying to eliminate sugary foods. I had steak tonight, yummy-ish. It was pan fried and a crime in some manner, but I had steak and too much of it. Anyway, to get back on track, I'm going to 'blog my activities, and consumption. This may also feature some micro-'blogging (aka Twitter) and some other personal revelations.

I'm trying to be positive, but this is an effort for me. I'd like to be more like my neighbour and friend who has a pleasant and positive outlook, at least outwardly, 24/7. As for now. I try to enjoy life, but people, society, bothers me. I'd like to grow to get past that.

Anyway, welcome to my journey.