2017 Top 10 ~ Camping Trip to Ottawa (#3)

To start July I celebrated my 45th birthday, and shortly afterwards I had 10 days scheduled off from work for a nice long vacation.  One I felt was sorely overdue after the events of the previous 11 months and the experience of separating, selling my house and moving on with my life.  I spent a lot of my down time trying to plan the perfect road trip with my kids…

One of my biggest fears was seeing this trip turn into something from the movie Vacation, where is something can go wrong will go wrong.  I also feared extended hours in the car with two teenage girls and the potential issues that might arise.  I had talked to the girls about what they wanted to do and the things that they wanted to see, and to be honest I didn’t quite get the reaction that I was hoping for from them.  They didn’t seem super excited as I was for this trip…

That being said I have learned so much about me, and my relationship(s) with these girls that next summer the trip of a lifetime will happen and it will become an annual tradition.  I was a different person back then as opposed to the man that sits here today.  At some point I decided to break this road trip into two seperate ones… a trip with my buddies (as I was planning on draggin my daughters to some US ballparks) and one with Emily and Megan.

So upon returning from the States (more on that later) I unpacked, and then repacked the Jeep and we were off.  The plan was to head towards Ottawa as I had booked a KOA campground for several nights, on all the back roads to explore this great country that we have.  One of the things the boys and I had talked about just a few days before was saving turtles when you would see one trying to cross the road, Ryan was telling the story about he rescues turtles and turns to me and says, “I am sure your the same Ed?”  I nodded politely and the conversation carried on.  In my head I was thinking that one I’ve never rescued a turtle, and two I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a turtle crossing the road.

Well wouldn’t you know it after only a few hours on the road, there right in the middle was the poor little turtle trying to make it across the road.

Hmmm, I love turtles.  Thanks for the rescue?  Nope I pee on you instead!

We immediately pulled over and ran out into the middle of the road to rescue the poor little guy, when I bent over to pick him up by the edges of his shell he did what all good turtles tend to do.  Pull his head inside of his shell and then proceeded to piss all over my left.  Thankfully my dexterity was up to the challenge and I was able to Tennessee two step my way out of the stream just in time.  We placed the turtle onto the side of the road, and facing in the same direction he was already headed, jumped back in the Jeep and we continued on the way.

Rescuing turtles will always be something that I will now be on the lookout for!

We continued to head North, stopping at not only the Candy Shoppe on the 400 North, we also hit up the Kawartha Dairy for a delicious ice cream cone and pulled over at several national parks to stretch our legs and have bathroom breaks as needed.

Once we got to our campsite in Ottawa and settled in, it was time for dinner.  Over the first few months of the this summer I learned how to cook over an open campfire.  Not the easiest thing to do as every single campfire will be different in terms of its intensity and distance from fire to food.  It requires constant supervision and adjustments throughout the cooking process as too not too burn anything.  Yes I’ve ruined a few hot dogs in my day but I pretty much have gotten the hang of it, and not once did I have to break out the Coleman stove that I bought as backup.

Nights around the campfire are my favorite.  Sitting there listening to good music, talking and sharing stories, roasting marshmallows and making smores.

My only disappointment with this trip was my inability to get Emily to re-engage with some family time each night.  She would retreat into the cabin with her headphones in, listening to her music and sending out an endless parade of SnapChats to her friends.  Megan was all in and I had just the best time with her playing frisbee, catch and other games around the campsite.  Emily was reluctant to join in on any of this family fun, she wouldn’t even go swimming with us at the pool and the lake.

The next day the weather was not the best and we did some shopping at the Tanger outlet mall in Ottawa and had some lunch while in town.  We did a lot of shopping over the summer, getting the girls some fun things along the way and I basically replaced my entire wardrobe and shoe collection this year.  I think this shopping trip was my last of this year in terms of clothing as my perception on money and how best to spend it was already starting to change… (more on the that in my #1 post for 2017.

I has asked the girls what they wanted to do while up in Ottawa and two common things come from this conversation, one was to go Zip Lining and the other was the chance to drive the Jeep.  Both of these were crossed off the list the next day!  I have a healthy respect for heights and was a little afraid of what the day might bring, but it was a beautiful drive over and across a large river dividing Ontario and Quebec that was a delight to see.

The zip lining course was at the top of a mountain and it was a long and winding road up to the top through some beautiful summer views.

We arrived on time, got all geared up and had the chance to watch the group ahead of us finish up with the final zipline back to the base camp.  We walked out into the woods, had our orientation and away we went.  My only other ziplining experience was in Jamaica and it was much different than what I experienced in Ottawa.  I figured it would be a guided tour through the trees with instructors in front and behind us, travelling in a large group.  Well that was not the case at all, we were pretty much on our own as the instructors kept watch from the safety of the ground.  Being the first three on the course we were able to go at our own pace, and with two adventurous girls leading the way we quickly were ahead of everyone else and having just the best time imaginable.

The course started off with several climbing in and around type obstacles to orientate one from being off the ground and to get more comfortable with the zipline to come.  It was actually a really fun time for me and I quickly got over my fear of heights to the point where it wasn’t even a factor.  Watching my girls hit each line ahead of me allowed me to see what I was in store for, how fast the line might move and to prepare for each landing.  The difference between an 80 lb girl and a 180 lb man are quite different in terms of speed and impact on each landing.  I was able to generate a lot more speed across the ziplines than either of the girls were able to do so.

We had so much fun this day, I was able to conquer some of my own fears and felt that I grew closer to each girl throughout the afternoon.

Up next on the agenda was some off road driving in the Jeep after searching for the right road to drive on.  With Emily turning 16 later in the year I knew that she would want to get some experience behind the wheel.  I didn’t want to just trespass in an open field or on private property so while drive around the water I simply followed a sign for an empty lot for sale.  The road turned from paved to gravel, and then eventually to no road at all and we ended up on an abandoned lot down on the Ottawa River.  It was perfect!

I drove the Jeep right up to the edge of the water and enjoyed a few minutes of sheer beauty and some peace and quiet.  Right up until the girls were attacked by a few wasps… hilarity ensued!

I was able to do some off roading across this lot and back up and down the “road” that led down to this cottage, and I even allowed the girls a chance to get behind the wheel of the Jeep for a trip themselves.  Both girls showed no fear and had a blast driving the Jeep with not another soul around.

After several trips up and down and back again we headed back to the campgrounds for another fire roasted dinner of deliciousness.  We would spend one more day in Ottawa before returning to the real world back here in Barrie.  I know personally I had a wonderful time and learned a lot about myself and what is truly important in life and spending time with my girls.  We would go camping several more times throughout the summer as I shared the wonderful world that is mother nature.

It was during this trip that I started to realize just what was important to me, the Summer of George has started with the idea of having the time of my life and doing a lot of crazy things that money could buy you.  Sitting in the best seats if you will, replacing a wardrobe, buying countless baseball jersey and matching ball caps, Star Wars battle drones, and many other things…  This extended road trip was the beginning of my understanding of what truly is important in life, my family, my friends.  Spending time with them, having fun, creating memories.  One that last a lifetime and are not easily forgotten or replaced, this thought process I would chase for the remainder of this year and wouldn’t fully understand until mid September.

2017 Top 10 ~ Canada Day, My 45th Birthday (#6)

I have always been a very proud Canadian, especially due to the fact that my birthday falls on Canada Day, July 1st our National holiday.  The running joke in my family was always about all the fireworks and celebrations all for little ol me.  There is something very cool about always having fireworks to celebrate your birthday.  My favorite may have been my 39th or 40th birthday when I was still living on Autumnleaf Cres in Mississauga, as we backed right onto a park with tennis courts, soccer fields, and a playground.  That year some local fireworks companies pooled their resources and did a rather amazing fireworks display that we were able to watch from the comfort of our deck.

This past year Canada was celebrating its 150th birthday, I was celebrating my 45th birthday and with the Summer of George mentality still going strong something extra special needed to be done.   (Side Note: I am currently watching this game I PVR’d back in July for the 1st time).

Most years the Toronto Blue Jays play a home game on Canada Day and as a big of a baseball fan that I am, I’ve never actually been to that game.  Well this year was the year that I was going to go, and if I was going it was going to be in style.  There is sitting in the front row and then there is sitting right on the field.  I think you can guess where I was going to be sitting, I cannot with a clean conscience ever tell anyone how much those tickets cost but it was worth every penny.


I decided to take my oldest daughter Emily with me, as she has been through one tough year herself.  My hope was that we would be able to reconnect during the afternoon and I could share my appreciation and knowledge of baseball with her.  I also had an longshot goal of acquiring foul ball number three that afternoon.

Toronto was playing division rival Boston Red Sox and strikeout machine Chris Sale was pitching for the enemy.  Final score of the game was Boston 15, Toronto 1 not even close… but that was just fine with me.  I had so much fun that afternoon with everything else going on around me, most of all spending the afternoon with Emily.  And yes we even got our foul ball # 3 not for lack of trying.

Early in the game Xander Bogaerts who plays for Boston and was a player on my fantasy team this year (I am a big fan of fantasy baseball) hit a grounder right off the wall, at the time I was busy eating a hot dog and totally unprepared to catch the ball as it rolled down the line foul into the outfield.  I immediately thought well there goes my chance for the day… later in the game Bogaerts was up again and hit another screamer down the line in the exact same spot, and this time I was ready.

With catlike reflexes and glove in hand I dove from my seat up and almost over the railing to nimbly snag the hot shot grounder screaming down the line.  Great story eh?  Well that’s not quite what happened… I actually dove a little too intensely and landing promptly on the field of play and had to scramble back to my seat.  Security doesn’t mess around with fans on the field and I was promptly ejected from the park for my error!  Well that didn’t quite happen either, but would have also made for a great story.

What actually happened was I made a swipe at the ball, felt it bounce off the tip of my glove and rolled down the line into the outfield.  I had my chance, I had two of them in fact but I didn’t come up with either ball.  I ended up being the recipient of a foul ball courtesy of the kind elderly lady who handed it to my daughter after it had been tossed to her from former Blue Jays manager John Butterfield, now a third base coach for Boston and actually talked to and interacted with the fans quite a bit.  Twice in fact tossing balls to the fans in the general area where we were sitting, the first time he came back after a half inning break and handed the ball personally to a young fan sitting right behind us.


End of day, mission accomplished and everyone left happy despite the Blue Jays getting blown out of the place.

This was a great way to spend my birthday, and I know I most likely won’t ever get the chance to sit in these seats again so I made sure to enjoy every second of it.  The company was also great and may just have been the start of Emily and I’s improved relationship.  I hope that she appreciated the events going on around her that day as I know I did.  I have seen some magical things happen at the Skydome over the years, today ranked right up on my list of favorites.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Today was another fantastic day continuing the trend of yesterday, and last night and I kept the adventure going this morning and into this afternoon.  I don’t normally ask complete strangers to go out for breakfast but I did last night and it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made.  Please allow me to explain.

fxLYm7x0My neighbor Jodi invited me over for a chat last night with her husband and another lady that she has been helping, we shall refer to her as Tiffany.  I have no issue openly sharing my life and I will certainly respect the privacy of others as much as I can.  Tiffany is dealing with her own issues in life, Jodi thought she would offer a different and unique perspective on the issues that I am having with Emily as there were some similarities in their stories.

AS the evening progressed and the conversation bounced around from topic to topic I found myself intrigued by her openness and willing to share her story with us.  As the night wound down and I said my good-byes I went home and started to think to myself that I wanted to talk with Tiffany more but in a one of one setting.  So I sent over a quick email asking if she wanted to have breakfast with me this morning.  And she accepted.

So two things of note right away, it’s not something that I have ever done before asking a relative stranger out for breakfast and I would quickly find out she had not done anything like this as well.  So up this morning, shower and away we go.  It was a quick 10 second walk to knock on the front door 🙂 and off we went.  There is a restaurant here in Barrie called the Farmhouse, which is an old converted farmhouse right on the shore of Kempenfelt Bay with a great view of the water.  We were seated on the upper level and in the corner table which gave us the best view of the water on a beautiful Sunday morning.  You could still see the fog lifting off the bay even with the bright sunshine all around.

The Farmhouse Restaurant in Barrie, photo from this past summer.  I highly recommend it.

Social anxiety, meeting new people, worrying about being able to carry and have a conversation with someone I didn’t know always caused me a great amount of stress.  I would often go out of my way to avoid situations like these, or make up excuses to back out at the last-minute.  Those thoughts and feeling didn’t once enter my mind last night or this morning and every time that I have challenged myself recently I have been initially surprised at how easy it actually is.

On the drive down I inquired about she met Jodi, we chatted about dinner the night before and when we arrived we were seated, ordered some coffee and got into some deep and heavy topics of conversation right away.  It was a blessing that we were seated along on the upper level and it was almost an hour? maybe before another table was seated.  I don’t recall how long, we were there for almost three hours but it didn’t feel nearly that long at all.

Your perception of time is always an amazing thing, sitting in class as a kid waiting for school to end the second-hand on the clock seemed to take forever.  The exact opposite seems to happen when you are in great company and having a good time.

facial-quotes-5Having the room to ourselves, Tiffany was able to tell me her story, about the issues that she was dealing with.  I sat there sipping my coffee listening to this beautiful woman open up and reveal intimate details of not only her past but her present situation as well, again to a complete stranger.  Personally I have learned the power of sharing, the power of talking with another person about what is going on in your own life, and I suspect that Tiffany feels exactly the same way.

I asked questions at breaks in the conversation, I dug a little deeper on certain things and in the course of sharing her story with me I felt that I was able to get to know her much better and have a deep understanding of the events in her life that had shaped her into the person sitting across from me today.  Seeing up close another person completely open up and be honest gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

As the morning progressed, the menus remained untouched and it was my turn to share my story.  Just as Tiffany had done, I didn’t hold back and shared the events of the last 20 years of my life going over both marriages, why I got married to each lady (topics for future posts indeed!) and ultimately the reasons these relationships would end in failure.  I talked about all of my children and the conversation eventually ended up with Emily.

The secret (well maybe not) reason that I wanted to talk with Tiffany in the first place was to get a female perspective on the thoughts and feelings that may be swirling around in Emily’s head.  What a young lady thinks about their Dad who wasn’t there at a period of time when she perhaps needed me the most, and what actions could be taken next and possible reactions I might receive from Emily.

If you would like to know more of the back story between my daughter Emily and me, I’ve written about our situation in our last several posts.

We would eventually order and have breakfast but over our three-hour conversation I was presented with thoughts and options that I would not have been able to come up with on my own.  I have spent my afternoon preparing a much more detailed and written version of what the expectations are for any child under my roof and have planned a date with Emily tomorrow evening after school to review these options with her and talk about her life moving forward.

Several of the key points came from my Breakfast with Tiffany.

The talk won’t be easy but it might be the most important conversation that I have had with any of my children to date.  I so desperately want her to get some help, despite her repeated plea to me that she is fine.  I can see her struggling with a lot of the same issue that I was as well.

We finished out breakfast and stepped outside shortly after noon and marveled at the beautiful December weather that we were having.  The summer was not a hot one here in Canada by any stretch of the imagination and on December 3rd it was nicer than a lot of the days this past year.  Certainly a lot more sunny!  It felt like God had open up a small piece of heaven and it was shining down on us.

When we got home I thanked her so much for sharing with me, letting her know what a great time that I had and I sincerely hope we get the chance to do it again really soon.  I made a new friend today, and added another peice to my ever expanding circle of support.  I hope she looks at me in the same way.

You honestly never know what tomorrow may bring, and you need to open to all possibilities.  Life will surprise you when you least expect it, we remember the bad but often close ourselves to all the good out there.

Thank you Tiffany, breakfast was lovely.

All of my Children are HERE!

I am very happy to write that Emily is currently upstairs sleeping in her bed, in fact all four of my children and sleeping soundly under my roof for the first time in several weeks.  It has been one heck of an emotional day that started at 6:30am this morning with tears running down my face as I listened to a very powerful song from Simple Plan called This Song Saved My Life.  I instantly started to think of Emily and how much I missed her..

The first stanza is as follows…

I wanna start letting you know this
Because of you my life has a purpose
You helped me be who I am today
I see myself in every word you say
Sometimes it feels like nobody gets me
Trapped in a world where everyone hates me
There’s so much that I’m going through
I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you
I was broken
I was choking
I was lost
This song saved my life
I was bleeding
Stopped believing
Could have died
This song saved my life
I was down
I was drowning
But it came on just in time
This song saved my life


When I picked up Emily today we had a long talk about the last few weeks, I (as nicely as I could without turning it into a lecture) about the expectations of coming home and what I expected of her in terms of behaviour and life goals moving forward.  I will get to those in a second.  I was as open and honest with her, which isn’t easy for me as I have been here with this blog.


I told Emily that she was my catalyst for change.  She was the reason that I wanted to change my life, to get better, to be a better father and dad.  Through her actions, and at times her words she was screaming out loud for a Dad that would be there for her.  I had spent too many years wrapped up in my own world, focusing on career and personal gains, wrapped up in addiction to both drugs and stupid iPad games.


July 2005 018.jpgWhen in front of me the whole time was this little girl, slowly growing up in front of me and I was too wrapped up in my own shit that I couldn’t see it.  Emily inspired me to make change in my life, to get better not only for her but for me as well.  I have really enjoyed reading about other people’s rise out of the darkness, we all share similar stories of overcoming the darkness in our lives.  The issues may be different, but we all share something in common, that there is something that triggers the change.

To me this was a father bearing his soul to his daughter.  I wanted her to know the power that a child can have.  Any person can have to inspire another to be better than the sum of their parts.  I hope to do that for others one day.

I wanted Emily to have a clear understanding of that, and what I expected from her coming home.  I explained to her that we are in this together, and that running away is just running away from your problems, and that I would always be here for her, that she wasn’t alone, and help comes when you least expect it.  It sure did for me.  In many different ways and many different forms, in places that I never expected as soon as I opened myself up to it.

I would love your thoughts in the 11 House Rules if you will for Emily, Megan, Jennifer, Austin and myself to follow moving forward.  In no particular order…

  1. Have a simple schedule in the morning, getting up with enough time to do what you need to get ready for school, including having breakfast.
  2. Get a minimum of  hours of sleep at night to get the proper amount of rest, phone turned off and put away at least 1/2 hour before bed.
  3. Go to school.  Complete projects and assignments on time.
  4. No drugs or alcohol period.  I’ve done too much research on the damaging effects on a developing brain.
  5. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you, respect others property.
  6. Weekly chore list, including bedroom tidy and laundry done before going back to mom’s house.
  7. We will talk out our problems, anger hostility and disrespect don’t have a place in our life anymore.  Be honest with yourself and others.
  8. Ask for help when you needed.  Don’t be afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to need it.  I was and resisted for too long, we all need help from time to time.  You don’t have to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders.
  9. Eat dinner and help clean up afterwards.  Your body needs fuel and if you’re not hungry you most likely filled up on junk before dinner.
  10. Exercise, very important for long-term feelings of wellness.  Something as simple as going for a walk will do the trick.
  11. Be happy, enjoy life.

That’s my list.  I also mentioned that I was not going to force family time upon her, and that she was free to choose to do what she wanted as long as the above guidelines were being followed.  I did suggest that spending time with her brother and sisters playing would take her mind off any stress or anxiety in her life.  I know I do…

I ended our conversation asking her what she needed or wanted from me, mentioning that I didn’t need an answer right away and wanted her to think about it.  Tomorrow we will talk about consequences as opposed to punishments.  Everyday moving forward I hope to learn more and more about being an effective, loving and awesome Dad.

Emily Just Asked to Come Home

Emily turned 16 on November 15th and told me the next day that she was moving out and didn’t come home after school.  She spent the next two weeks at a couple of friends houses and she had very little contact with her mother and sister, and even less with me.  Just over two weeks had gone by and in that time I have done a tremendous amount of research on parenting, mental health, the effects of drugs and alcohol on the teen-aged body and a host of reading on legal issues with regards to a 16 year old leaving, rights, financial responsibilities etc…

It has been a very tough few weeks.

I could see the effects on her mother, she was crushed.  I have full time custody of my girls but Mom has remained close and talks to them everyday.  This experience has drawn us closer together in terms of a united parenting team even though our marriage ended many years ago.  And seeing first hand the effects on her younger sister Megan as she has been struggling to understand why her sister left in the first place.  Megan asked to come home from school early this past Friday as she had been sitting in the bathroom crying.  Both are beautiful young ladies, raised in similar environments but have turned out completely differently.

I’ve written a few blogs posts so far about the experiences I have had over the last few years that have led me on a path of self discovery, and also recently realized that the mental seeds to this journey were planted before I even realized it.  In the post, A Letter to Emily I actually foreshadowed what exactly happened a year and bit later when I stepped back from work to re-establish my relationship with her.

The other post of note, The Power of the Nothing I knew I needed to fix me and the way I reacted to and dealt with any and all issues that life would throw my way.  Emily leaving derailed all the progress I’ve made at the gym in the last month, the nothing had me!  It’s been an amazing journey so far, but I am just getting started as I have so much that I want to write about and share with whomever is interested.

I had hoped and prayed that Emily, when she was ready would want to come home and as hard as it was to watch her walk away, I gave her the time and the space she needed to come to that decision on her own.  There were perhaps some legal way to force her home, and force her to get the help she needed, but I feared it wouldn’t last and would only cause further distance between us.IMG_3148.png

So as hard as it was, I patiently waited…

This morning I received this text message from her, and instantly started to cry.  It wasn’t the first time that I cried today.  That happened this morning around 6:30am when I was down in my basement hitting my heavy bag, and dancing around like no one was watching.  A song came on and within seconds I started to cry…

This Song Saved My Life by Simple Plan.

I was dancing around with tears streaming down my face and in truth I’ve never felt more alive.  I missed my Emily terribly but connected with the lyrics in a very powerful way.  Emily was the main motivating factor for me to change my life, she doesn’t know it yet but she saved me.  She really did, you only ever will have one first child and I could see my beautiful baby girl slipping away from me right before my very eyes.

The life choices that I had made, and the things (at the time) that I thought were important to me were the very thing(s) that were pushing her away.  The older she got the faster the divide started to grow, and she was already gone long before I realized that she was gone.  Her leaving the house forced me into old habits and inaction and I started second guessing all my reasons for wanting change.  This kind of thinking in the past has led to long term disastrous result for me, and thankfully a lot of the things I have learned recently kicked in and I was able to get back on track.

No the pain of Emily never went away or lessen in intensity, but I was able to live with it. 

I have so much to live for, three other amazing children who were getting the short end of the stick as their fun loving father has been emotionally crippled and they deserved so much better.  Pain, emotional turmoil and other negatives emotions will always enter our lives, it is how we deal with it determines our strength of character.

IMG_3151.pngI will have setbacks along the way, hopefully minor in nature but I continue to move forward to grow as a father and a man.  To gain a better understanding of how to unconditionally love everyone in this world, to grow spiritually and emotionally and intellectually.  To show my children to do the same.

Emily comes home tonight, I am a little nervous but I am ready to talk about her experience, and to let her know what my expectations are, I need to be to her parent and her friend.

Ready to love her unconditionally, to parent her to the best of my ability, to get her any and all the help that she wants or needs.

To rebuild our relationship and revel in the love between a father and his daughter, the road may be hard and bumpy at times but I know now that I have the strength to stay the course.