Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Oops, I did it again...

Okay, I've never really done it before, but the Brittany Spears reference was too much to pass up. I mistakenly showed up for a shift at my Carlingwood Mall kiosk 24 hours early. >|*-D

But it got me thinking about honest mistakes and what to do when you find you've made one.

First, you have to allow for the possibility you might be in the wrong! In my case, all we all had to do is consult the schedule! It seems I had transposed a day because there are times it seems I am unable to read English. (I'd still rather be early than late!)

Second, you need to admit your mistake, first to yourself, and then to anyone else involved. If you don't you look very dumb. This was easy to do for me, especially after the last 7 days. (See entry for last Thursday.)

Third, you need to be gracious (especially if you get a bit of a ribbing). Again, easy in this case, as the lady who actually had the shift is a friend and colleague I value.

Finally, have a plan B to occupy your time. Depending on the actual booboo, that can take different forms, but it helps to be prepared for the eventuality you will err. In my case, again, very easy - I wrote this blog entry.

So what would have happened if I would have been an idiot and bullied my way into a shift? In the first case, I would have had egg on my face, because the schedule is recorded for all to see. This is what we learned in our debates in high school and university as an indefensible position. The more you dig in, the more stupid you appear.

In the second case, to not admit the mistake to myself would have been pointless and filled with that bad kind of pride that people get beat up over. To not admit my mistake to the other person involved would have been idiotic - again, the schedule is written down. Although it is easy to explain the mistake, that doesn't make it right to push other around because I couldn't read.

Third, if I had not been gracious, what kind of friend and colleague would I be? The avoided and talked-about-behind-my-back kind. You might say that might be unjustified, and you might even be right, but that's human nature according to my observations over about 30 years. I prefer to remain on speaking terms with folks if I at all can.

Finally, if I had no plan B, I might have felt slighted, put out, or otherwise hard done by. As it was, I had been wondering what the lesson I would learn today would be, and now I had the chance to solidify it by writing it down, and hopefully you found it encouraging or at least useful for yourself, which is my goal with this blog.

In the words of one of my heroes, thanks for watching, and keep your stick on the ice.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Location:Carling Ave, Ottawa, Canada

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


We see this word a lot these days bandied about as an inspirational slogan for the cause-du-jour. As annoying as it can be at times to be told to "believe" in the latest cell phone plan or diet gadget, there is some real truth to believing in something. The question is what do you believe?

The greek root of the word Believe is the word "Pistis," and is also translated as the word Faith throughout the Christian New Testament. In fact, it is the verb form of it, "Pisteo." To believe is to trust in, cling to, or rely on something. To have faith is to hold a firm opinion or persuasion. The concept is really very easy to understand. It is not some worked-up feeling or some nebulous emotion, it is a firmly held opinion that you can trust something as factual.

So what do you believe?

Some people believe in themselves. That's not a bad thing, but it places some limits on you based on your own talents and abilities, which, let's face it, are finite and limited. Others believe in some nebulous concept of a higher power. That's not a bad thing either, it allows that there is something greater than oneself. However, this too can be limiting because the higher power itself is undefined and unknown. The Greeks practiced this one in Athens - Acts 17 tells us that they had a statue to "an unknown God," just in case they missed anybody, I suppose.

Some people believe a lie. That's not so good, is it. Lies by nature are not factual, although I've told some pretty convincing whoppers in my day. Lies are in direct contrast and opposition to the truth, the facts, reality. Some suggest that truth is subjective. I find that argument specious at best. How can you say concrete reality is relative? Sure, my perception of it might be, but the facts are still the facts. So-called Personal Truth must have some relation to reality, or it's just some idea some guy made up trying to explain something he doesn't understand (oh, and we all do it). An example: My friend walks up to me and tells me he has had a life-altering encounter that has made a huge difference in his life. That's great, right? That's his personal truth! Really? Friend, that's encouraging! Tell me about the experience! Turns out, someone put a stewed tomato in his left tennis shoe, which he discovered just before his squash match (no pun intended). He played the game of his life! He could jump like Jordan! (Okay, I'm dating myself a bit.) Now I ask you seriously - was this the result of the tomato, or was my friend kidding himself? I'd opt for the latter in this case.

Belief in something is not by itself bad. But we need to believe in reality - the Truth. What truth? The ABSOLUTE TRUTH. (I hear you pundits out there screaming there is no absolute truth - really? Except for that little tidbit, itself an absolute truth, right? Sit back down, you're annoying the heck out of the rest of us.) Jesus said in John 8:32 that we can know the Truth, and that that Truth will set us free. He then went on to tell everyone around Him whether they agreed with it or not that HE was that Truth. Not A Truth, but THE Truth. (Pay attention to the definite article. It's important.)

To wrap it up, what we put our trust in matters a great deal. The BASIS for our belief is what will motivate us and keep us together when our world starts falling apart. (Like mine did last week.) Once you have determined what the basis of your faith is, then you are free to rest in it like a comfy easy chair. Jesus is standing at the door of your heart and knocking. If you open the door to Him, He promises he will enter into a real, factual, concrete relationship with you. All you have to do is Believe...

"You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free."
-John 8:32 (NASB)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Something new for an old blog...

For those of you that know me and have followed this blog (there aren't that many, but I know I've seen a few in the last week that I didn't think were following on facebook), many of you know that my father passed away last Wednesday, on August 24th, 2011. It has been a few days of rather intense emotion, and activity, and even some real soul-searching, laregly because of my relationship with my dad. To be honest, it wasn't always rosy, and sometimes it was abusive and violent, but it ended in reconciliation, and love between a father and a son. But it left me with a need - something I saw in him - a need to make a difference in things that I do.

This is one of the reasons I became a fianancial planner. According to Statistics Canada, 85% of Canadians know nothing about money, how it works, how to use it to make more money, or even how to draw up a basic budget. These are things I've learned the hard way, and thus I can make a real difference in peoples' lives. A more mundane example? Yesterday, had a news article about how people don't really understand how to use Tax Free Savings Accounts, and as a result, the Canada Revenue Agency has had to send out letters explaining why people will have to pay more tax because of over-contributions. After I shared that article on Facebook, I fellow I knew from school (and I mean GRADE SCHOOL, and he's a pretty intelligent sort) responded, and said HE didn't know anything about some of that, and how it would change what he is doing. To me, that is a task well done, and I made a difference.

Many of that do know me also know that I am a committed Christian. Oh, I don't stand up on soap boxes down in market squares shouting at the top of my lungs (tried that, doesn't work) how Jesus saves, but I share it as often as I can in whatever way I can so that people can see the difference Jesus has made in my own life. Oh, I hear you out there snickering and cat-calling. Go ahead, make fun of it Him and me for following Him. Never mind the fact that He has made all the difference in my life. I know that he can make all the difference in your life if you'll give him the opportunity. He said, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." (Rev. 3:20) That's the biggest difference that anyone could ever make - a true friend, to be beside you when times are good, and especially when times are bad. I can personally attest to that in the last week.

Essentially, what I am trying to say is that I want to use this blog as a way to make a difference for people. I can do that in more than one way on more than one topic, but to show you things that God shows me about life is one really great place to start. I draw your attention to my signature line. Consider it one of a number of new mottos that will grace this blog.

"Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching."
-2 Timothy 4:2 (NASB)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Perspective is everything...

Many times, I can get bogged down in the details of what goes on in my life. And there has been plenty detail this week, boy. From having house guests to the loss of my dad, there has been no shortage of head-spinning activity and detail. In the middle if it, I had to just keep going, like a soldier with shells going off all around them.

Then today happened. I must confess that all I wanted to do this morning was sleep in and be a bit selfish and indulgent. After all, it was a hard week, right? But I took sides against myself and went to church this morning, where I heard a message that changed how I was looking at things. God called us to suffer. He called Moses to suffer. Jesus said that we needed to take up our cross (suffer) and follow Him. I'll put the sermon up on the church website later today and link back to it here. It makes a lot more sense if you can hear it for yourself. [Follow-up: Here is the direct link to the sermon -]

Now really, who wants to suffer? We (me included) spend the vast majority of our time trying to avoid suffering! It's nasty, un-fun, dirty, not pleasing, and a real drag! However, consider its end result in our lives if we will but allow it: maturity of character. Suffering defines our human existence. So as an author named Billheimer once titled a book, "Don't waste your sorrows." That is don't let them go to waste...let them create a resilient and mature character in you, and when it has, you will be able to be a real comfort to others that are going through the exact same thing. (You didn't think your experience was unique, did you? See yesterday's tongue-in-cheek attempt at humor called "The more things change, the more they stay the same.")

What is required here is a change in perspective. Maybe if we could focus more on the result of our suffering, it would be much easier to bear.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Carling Ave,Ottawa,Canada

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The more things change, the more they stay the same...

You know, I got out of retail to get away from mall settings and the retail hours...

However, it's just a great way to meet new contacts, so I guess it isn't so bad. I have to admit I like what I do, and that's a good thing. I don't like everything about it, but the stuff I don't like is stuff I've been doing for years anyway so I'm used to it.

The French have a saying - "Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose." But that in itself isn't something to complain about, as it turns out. That knowledge have helped me see patterns in things that baffle some. Think about it for a moment. If something is always changing, if you pay attention to how it changes over time, patterns will begin to emerge (unless you're talking about the numerical value Pi).

Okay, I hear you, you want an example. Please refer to the chart below. More to be said underneath.

This is called an Andex chart, and it records the value of various investments over time, from bonds and GICs to various equities. Although there are some downturns, the general pattern you see over time is one of growth. Even adding the performance in from 2008-2010 shows a general upward trend. (This is what I do for a living.)

I have come to realize that this kind of pattern can be used to predict things on occasion as well. Life follows a general pattern. Generally speaking, most people fall in love, get married, and produce children. That leads to them growing up, falling in love, getting married, and producing more children. Enough of that kind of behaviour goes on, and you have population growth. Those people need ice cream! So that leads to more dairy farms producing more milk, which is sold to Laura Secord and turned into ice cream! That causes a rise in the population of diabetics, including myself! So why is that I can only get diabetic ice cream from Laura Secord in Vanilla?!? Okay, I haven't figured that out completely. (Actually I have, market forces called supply and demand have something to do with it. Most diabetics don't eat a lot of ice cream, creating less demand.)

Anyway, my (belaboured) point is this - the more things change, the more they stay the same. It's a principle of life that can't be argued. Hey, I know - I'm going home after work and watching movies. For a change... ;)

The True Samurai has only one judge of honour, and this is himself.
Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you really are.
You cannot Hide from yourself.
-The Bushido Code, Meiyo (Honour)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Dogs and kids - a comparison

Have you ever stopped to consider how much alike dogs and kids are? I have both, and I honestly think that they can be dealt with in the same way sometimes. I have three areas in which my own observations show my hypothesis and its accuracy.

1. You can train a dog to listen to you with praise and punishment.
You can also train a child with the same combination, though the punishments for kids get a little more complex. When my dogs misbehaves, he's told "bad dog" and made to sit still for a few minutes. You could say I took away his moving privileges. When my child misbehaves, they are told that they misbehaved, and given a timeout, which amounts to the same thing. Where children differ here is that you need to do followup to make sure the lesson stuck. (Depending on how you define intelligence, this might indicate that the dogs are smarter, having got it right the first time! ;) Hee!)

2. Kids and dogs eat each others' food.
Seriously! The dogs always want to eat the kids' food, and I caught my kids eating Milk Bone. Is this an opportunity for saving some grocery money or what? I mean, dog food is a lot cheaper than kid food these days! Added bonus in my house: The kids don't want to eat the people food anyway, so everyone gets what they want!

3. All kids and dogs want to do is eat, sleep, and play.
The concept of work, responsibility, and even bathing seems foreign to both dogs and children. I know for a fact that my beagle Bruno hates baths (from experience), and little Nicky the retriever, though yet untested in the tub, is showing early signs of hating the water (against breeding characteristics). And if you want to clear a room fast at my place, just shout out something like "Kids! Bath time!" The very next thought to cross your mind will be something like "Where did everybody go?"

I could probably go on, the above observations are just for starters. I won't get into how they all like to run around without clothing, play with their privates, seek approval of the head of the house, and cost a lot of money. But there is something about them that inspires me to keep them around in both cases.

With my dogs, it's because of their unique and loving personalities, and all their traits, notwithstanding the occasional accident on the floor. Wait a minute, I have to say the same thing about the kids...oh brother, there's a can of worms...

The True Samurai has only one judge of honour, and this is himself.
Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you really are.
You cannot Hide from yourself.
-The Bushido Code, Meiyo (Honour)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Remembering my father

My father passed away yesterday morning from complications of the radiation therapy he was undergoing to treat his throat cancer.

The picture on the left is of my dad, no kidding. The beard is real, as are the belly and glasses. He and his partner dressed up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus every year for the local retirement home. I thought you'd enjoy this like I do. After all, how many kids can say their dad actually IS Santa Claus?

While I was writing this, I had to really think about what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it. I have seen a lot of tribute pages that speak to the person as if he was still here trying to put into words the things they regret not saying. I don't suffer from that particular syndrome, I had the opportunity to say what I wanted - no, make that what I needed to say to my dad before he passed.

Many people I know have heard the story of how I didn't speak with my dad for 20 years because of the pain involved in being raised in an abusive home, To be blatantly honest, I have some very bad memories of my father. I won't go into details, but it was the reason I got as far away as I could when I went to university. I stopped in Ottawa because I still kept all my funding options open, even though I didn't have to exercise the OSAP loan option. My dad was undoubtedly a very angry man.

But there was another side to my father, and not all of my memories of the man are bad. My dad taught me woodcraft, how to fish, how to hunt, how to shoot a rifle, how to shoot a bow, how to make a camp, how to plant a garden, how to clean a fish or game I had brought down, how to drink, how to do what I said I was going to do, how to pay my bills on time, how to run a business, and the meaning of words like faithfulness, loyalty, and honour. He was an example of them in good and bad ways. In short, he taght me everything I needed to know about life and how to survive it.

Some of my best and dearest memories of him are the time we went moose hunting about 80 miles north of Kenora, Ontario. Or deer hunting through Adams River country with our bows. Or the fishing trip to Zippermouth Lake (not its real name) where the four of us in the boat each caught our limit of 6 Walleye in a total of 6 minutes. Although I wasn't thankful he drank all the beer on the trip up there. I mean he could have saved some for his brother Julius and me. (My tongue is planted firmly in my left cheek as I type this sentence.) I remember the night we got drunk together in my first year of university (he came to visit me on a Friday night in residence on campus, where he was promptly voted coolest parent ever).

One of my greatest joys happened this year when after 20 years of silence, we both agreed it was time to reconcile, forget the past and move on. We got to talk about a lot of stuff, and he apologized to me. He took responsibility for the things he had done to cause those silent years, and I forgave him. After that, we moved past it together. He came to visit me in May of this year, and got to meet my wife and children. What is important to me is that we did it because we wanted to, not because he had cancer and was dying. He hadn't been diagnosed at that point, and we were making plans for my family to visit with him at his home.

However, with the finality of these situations, that came to an end yesterday.

I will remember my father for the rest of my life, and all of the lessons he taught me. I can take comfort in knowing he approved of what I do for a living, and that he had great confidence in me to succeed. I don't know if he is "looking down on me from heaven" or anything like that, but I can feel some of his strength and character flowing through me to face life and meet whatever comes head-on with courage and boldness. I can't lie to myself and say that I know he is helping me, but I can say with absolute clarity and certainty that he has helped me already. Most of all, I will remember our last day together. We spent it in the quiet joy of each others' company, and we both could say after many years of silence that we loved each other. Our parting was after an ardent embrace, a final expression of the love we shared as father and son.

People have asked me if there will be a funeral. According to his wishes, no, there won't be one. However, I'm told that his partner Nora wants to have a celebration of his life in a month or so, and I plan to be there. I plan to bring my family if at all possible. It's what I think he would have wanted.

So I go on from this point, saddened by the loss of the greatest influence in my life, for good or ill. But I find comfort in that sadness in knowing that I can move forward in liberty of the spirit of reconciliation that we shared, and in the strength of the character that he helped put in me. And now, if you will indulge me just for a sentence or three, I have to say this.

Goodbye, dad. I don't know if we will meet again on some other plane of existence, or if you are even aware of what I have wrtten here. Even if we never do and you are not, thank you for everything. I love you.

Your son, Gerry.

[PS to you readers: Pay attention to the signature below. My dad is the reason it is there.]

The True Samurai has only one judge of honour, and this is himself.
Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you really are.
You cannot Hide from yourself.
-The Bushido Code, Meiyo (Honour)

Location:Viewmount Dr,Nepean,Canada

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The ebb and flow of life...

It's been a while since my last post. I'm feeling a little philosophical and a little depressed. I suppose that's part of what I think of as the ebb and flow of life. Everyone goes through these experiences without exception, and I realized that some years ago when my wife's mother was diagnosed with cancer. Ultimately, that disease took Mary's life, and it hurt. It was awful, and it was disorienting for a while. Then my mom's partner Don was diagnosed with stomach cancer, and it was a little closer to home. It hurt, I cried, I made a special donation to Relay for Life, I got my head shaved to raise money, and other things.

Now it's my dad. Dad is fighting throat cancer (tonsils), and has turned down the surgical option. At first I didn't understand why, but then I found out what it entailed - They would have to remove all of his teeth, possibly his lower jaw, and he would never eat or speak with his mouth again - all with only a 30% chance of success. He chose to not go out like that, and I respect that. They offered him instead what they are referring to as a palliative care only option, which is 20 radiation treatments (he's had 12 as of today). The way the doctor explained it to his partner, this might give him a few months at best.

Some necessary backstory here: before February of this year, my dad and I hadn't spoken in 20 years, by mutual choice. Without going into the details, it wasn't a great thing. So when he agreed to speak with me, I was elated (and so was he!). One thing I am glad of here - this was before this cancer diagnosis - and that means we reconciled because we wanted to, not because of this disease, and no one can take that away from us. In May, he came to visit with his partner, and they met my wife and children for the first time. To be fair, I think he thought there might be something wrong then, just from something he did, but I don't know I'll ever know that for sure (and I can't make myself ask). But I knew there was something wrong then, and encouraged him to seek a diagnosis. He was snoring while he was awake and watching TV.

So now I have precious little time to get ready for what will be a great tragedy, barring some kind of miracle. I do believe in them, but if I think about it, I already got one when he came to visit me and meet his grandchildren, who adopted him immediately! They adopted his partner too as another grandma! It was really neat to watch.

I just can't let the situation pass without comment. Sometimes, it just helps to write it down. I don't know that I feel better, but I do feel at peace with whatever happens. I've been here before. I'll be here again. Like the tides of the ocean, I see the ebb and flow of life.

--The True Samurai has only one judge of honour, and this is himself.
Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you really are.
You cannot Hide from yourself.
-The Bushido Code, Meiyo (Honour)