2017 Top 10 ~ The Courage to Make Change (#1)

To say my life was flipped upside down last year would be an understatement.  From where I started 2017 and where I ended 2018 couldn’t have been more different, and in the course of that year I had more experiences than some might have in several years.  Last year felt, to me that it was 10 years long in terms of what I’ve learned and how much I’ve grown.  Looking at my recent blog post, 2017 A Year in Pictures reminds me of just much has changed. Here’s a quick recap…

I started 2017 living at the house I owned in Barrie, I had already separated from my 2nd wife (we decided to end our marriage in September 2016)and due to logistics, I was just waiting to list and sell our house to complete the physical separation.  Those 9 months of living in my basement, feeling sorry for myself I developed some very bad habits.  I had an addiction to marijuana, I started to drink more and I became miserable at work.  I was the kitchen manager at a very busy Keg location, but was transferred to a much slower location due to my attitude at work.

It wasn’t until May that I was finally able to move out and into my own place along with my four children.  I lived like a king for several months spending too much of the profit that I had made on my house trying to fill my life with material possessions as opposed to being fiscally responsible and purchasing another home, or investing the profits.  It was towards the end of the summer I pulled my head out of the sand long enough to realize two things…

First all this spending, and living the high life didn’t do a single thing to make me any happier in my life.  I was still miserable at work, I wasn’t any happier in my personal and I would even suggest that my kids were slowly slipping away from me due to my continued use of drugs and alcohol to escape reality.  This directly affected my oldest daughter the most and I saw her starting to emulate some of my behaviours.  That was the second and eye opening things that I realized, my actions were directly impacting my children.

I knew I wasn’t happy at work, I knew I needed to leave and had been given the chance to work a part time schedule at work.  They were overly generous to me, however due to some other work related issues that don’t really need to be explain I walked away from my job of 21 years in mid September.  I have been a stay at home Dad ever since.  This decision, this leap of faith, this tremendous amount of courage it took to simply walk away changed my life in so many unexpected ways.

The last three months of 2017 have seen me grow so much as a man, as a father, both emotionally, spiritually and physically.  I first started to journal a lot.  I would write pages and pages every single day, this was a long process that allowed me accept my past, forgive myself for the decisions I had made up to this point in my life.  I came to the understanding that I couldn’t change ANYTHING about my past, I had to accept it and where it had lead me.  It was a very sobering experience to understand where my path had led me, and now what I needed to do moving forward.

Spending all this additional time with my children has been life changing, having the time and energy and mindset to get down on the floor and wrestle around with them is a daily exercise that I so look forward to.  Living life again through my kids eyes has given me a different perspective on life and allowed me to a small degree to relive my own childhood in many ways.  I only need to say Star Wars for you to understand, I was 5 when the first movie came out, and as I type this my youngest, Austin is wearing his Star Wars pjs playing with his lightsaber.

I made lots of progress in my family life to end the year, learning about what it truly important and I so look forward to 2018 and the continuing chance to expanded upon and apply what I’ve learned.

I can very happily say that I’ve gotten over my chemical addiction issues through desire, hard work, stripping away many of my friends that I knew were a poor influence on me and pure will power.  Today would be day 54 since I last smoked, it had been a gradual weening off process through the end of last year, but I know deep down that in my heart that lifestyle is a thing of the past and those days will never return.  Part of that is the people that I have chosen to surround myself with and include in my life, getting help through various men’s support groups have also helped keep me on the correct path.

The greatest lesson I’ve learned this past year is being vulnerable, to open up and share what is going on in my life (at times to my own detriment) and more importantly my head and my heart.  To start to share myself with the world, I have found such a strength in sharing and connecting with other people I never knew existed before.  I so look forward to taking that to the next level this year, to transforming my emotional and spiritual life like I have never done before.

And I continue to look forward to sharing those thoughts and feelings with anyone that cares to read about them, you.  So thank you.  I will continue my physical transformation as I train for several triathlons this summer, to complete my 100 day running challenge, today being day 12.  I hope to expand and grow the startup business venture I am currently working on, and if successful will allow me to remain at home until at the very least Austin heads off to school full time in September.  And I want to continue to grow my own and my families happiness and appreciation for life in the outside world, as I am going to camping, hiking, fishing and spending as much time as I possibly can in the great outdoors.

So buckle up for an awesome 2018 that is going to be the best year yet!

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 ~ The Endless Summer of Golf (#5)

Last summer I rediscovered my love for the game of golf, and I had forgotten just how much fun it really was.  My parents introduced me to the game in my teen years, and I played a lot of golf in my twenties.  Golf in those days was and is much different than the game I played this past spring, summer and fall.  As a young man, these games would often get super competitive and would often also be for braggin rights and often money.  Rules were strictly enforced, and at times feeling got hurt.

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Golfing 10 years ago.

These afternoons in and around my Oakville Keg days were enjoyable, but were just a bit too aggressive for my tastes.  I will always be a player that will move their ball out of the woods, use the foot wedge if I am behind a tree and don’t really concern myself with every single rule that golf has to offer.  My goal this summer was to improve my game in all areas and to have fun, as much fun as possible.

Towards the end of my first marriage I had given up the game almost entirely, only playing once a year in the annual Keg manager’s golf tournament, and maybe another best ball tournament at some point in the year.  In other words, not much at all.  I discovered the sport of triathlon in my late 30’s and golf became something of the past, that once a year I would dust off my clubs, have a lot to drink and hope I didn’t end of crashing the cart somewhere along the way.

This spring I started playing at an executive course in Barrie called The Wilds.  It is a par 62 executive course with no hole longer than 250 yards, and no par 5’s in sight.  The price was also excellent, having a fall special of a round and cart for $30, and if you wanted to walk then $17 for the round.  There is a strong possibility of getting a membership there next summer, but perhaps it is time to graduate to a larger course…

Always liked to be the first one on the course, just as the sun was rising.

This course also turned a blind eye if you wanted to have some extra fun while out of the course, and it was never busy at all.  A nice little family owned operation on the outskirts of Barrie, that if you didn’t know where the course was you might never know there is a golf course there at all as there is another public golf course right in front of it.

If I had to guess, I’d say I played between 40 and 50 rounds on that course over the last nine months and every single time was an adventure.  My golf partner of choice was my buddy Ryan, and over the summer we had some deep theological discussions about life, and the changes that we wanted to see happen in the future.  We played almost religiously every Wednesday afternoon and would often find ourselves back in my recreation room afterwards for several rounds of pool.

A few memorable rounds on the year included the time I challenged Ryan to a bowl a hole, back when I was stick smoking marijuana.  We made it to the 15th hole before we had run out but both of us managed to survive the round, and even played a little better on the last few holes.  The cab ride home that day was a lot of fun indeed!  It’s a shame that our pool games were quite off that night.

Another favorite round of the summer was actually two rounds I played back to back, you see I’ve learned this summer that Ryan keeps his own timetable.  I especially learned this lesson on this particular day, as I grew tired of waiting for Ryan and decided to head out for a round as I had gotten to the course early that day and after a few holes I ran into an elderly gentlemen we had met earlier in the summer.  He had offered us some tips during that meeting and suggested we play a round together at some point.

When I saw him that afternoon I skipped over a few holes and asked to join him.  We spent the next few hours talking about life and I learned a lot from Stu that afternoon.  He basically told me his life story, talked about his kids, his trouble with alcohol and overcoming his addictive and what his retirement plans where.  He played golf there almost everyday weather permitting and when the round was finished I said to myself if I could be in my 70’s still playing golf on a daily basis then I had done something right.

Ryan’s timing was excellent as just as I was finishing up he arrived for our round, and off we went.  We caught up to another old timer, Len in his 80’s at the 4th hole and we politely asked if we may play through, and he surprised us by asking if he could join us.  Ha ha, so for the second time today I played a round of golf with a complete stranger.  Len wasn’t as talkative as Stu had been but also shared his views on life and golf throughout the afternoon.  By the time I had finished my two rounds for the day I realized that I had been very blessed that day as it taught me a very valuable lesson.

I would always fear going to social events, and not having anyone to talk with.  These rounds of golf with two relative strangers taught me that I could do just that.  Both of their outlooks on life, and the fact they were still playing golf into their retirement years was great to see.  Both gentlemen had a great outlook on life, and generally nice positive men.  I felt very lucky that afternoon.

Another great thing I really enjoyed about The Wilds golf course was both the beauty of the course, especially first thing in the morning.  There was always flowers in bloom throughout the year and we were quite surprised to see Trilliums early in the season, and almost every round Ryan and I would go turtle hunting.  Often finding the little guys laying out on logs floating in the water warming themselves in the sun.  Above is perhaps the largest turtle we found on the course, and the picture doesn’t quite do it justice.

Towards the end of the summer and into the fall seasons, I didn’t have my younger kids on the weekends.  I started to play on Saturday and Sunday mornings as soon as the sun would rise making sure that I was the first one on the course and would generally end of playing two rounds in a row for several weeks.  My goal towards the end of the season was to break 70 on that course, and I was never quite able to do it.  I scored a 71 on three separate occasions and the goal will be to crack 70 at some point next year.

I believe that the recent mental clarity I’ve found will be the last piece of the puzzle to putting it all together.  Today marks 40 days since I last smoked marijuana and over the past few weeks I’ve have noticed a remarkable improvement in my pool game, and I suspect that I will find similar results the next time that I play golf.

Golf is a game that I look forward to introducing my children to, any of them that show any interest towards it.  I really hope that Austin becomes a fan as I can envision many great father and son games over the years.  I will take no mercy on him just like my own father would do when we played together.  It too many tries and many years to finally beat my Dad but that is a story for another time.

That Girl’s Got Moxie!

I have mentioned my 20 year Keg career a few times, and well that isn’t entirely true.  I had a short six month sabatical from The Keg when I went and worked for Moxie’s restaurant for more money, the promise of a better schedule, much closer to home and as the owner said, the chance to be a Rock Star!  Figuratively speaking of course.

I found the systems in place, and the strict weekly schedule and the additional hours expecting to go above and beyond the required 50 hour work week, I quickly realized that I had been sold a bill of goods.  Meaning I had been promised one thing, and was given something completely different.  I didn’t last long there and quickly returned to The Keg a mere six months later.  Other than learning that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, there was only one good thing that came from my time there, her name was Dani.

Starting a new restaurant and getting to know all the staff isn’t always easy when you have work to do, and the role of the Chef is very hands on.  There was never much time to have any kind of personal conversations, wearing a headset, listening to the chatter, running the kitchen and having a hand on every dish that left the kitchen keep me very busy.  Add to that my usual business first attitude towards work, that professional front I had in place I kept everyone on a professional level.

Dani saw right through that charade immediately.  She could see that there was more than meets the eye and set out on a mission at first just to make me smile, and then beyond that to get to know me on a personal level.  She was determined to get to know the real me. dani

You see Dani had Moxie.  Defined as sass, courage, spunk, determination, attitude and she has all of these attributes along with many others.  I found her to be funny, charming, genuine and very beautiful.

She ended up being the only person during that six month period that I socialized with outside of work.  And in the few months that we worked together we became very close.  She would eventually leave Moxie’s to go on a trip to South America, Brazil if I remember correctly.  I have given her one of Lance Armstrong’s books with lots of notes and messages written to her in the margins.  Notes about living life and chasing your dreams, and she has done that ever since to this day.  We did talk via FaceTime during her trip a few times and kept in touch every once in awhile.

Right before I left Moxie’s I was married to Danielle, has Jennifer shortly thereafter and we lost touch with each other for awhile.  In essence she went her way and I went mine.  One of the good things about social media is the ability to both find and keep in touch  with friends from our past and for many years we would silently and at times not so silently observe each other’s lives.  During these years I watched her grow into a beautiful strong independant woman.


Recently the comments and interactions increased and we keep saying that we needed to get together and see each other again.  Well that finally happened yesterday!  We met in Milton and went hiking at Hilton Falls, one of my favorite places to visit.  What had been forecasted as an overcast potentially rainy day turned into a warm afternoon filled with sunshine.

We spent the next several hours hiking through the woods and not only catching up on old times, reliving some great memories of our past.  There is a fire pit overlooking the falls where we had lunch and talked about the last seven years of our lives, the time that had past seen we last saw each other in person.

We walked about 15 km that afternoon through the woods and got to know each other all over again.  We talked about Emily and she was able to offer me another unique perspective from her own life about the difficult situation that I am dealing with in regards to Emily.  I was also able to listen and offer advice and suggestions with some of the issues that are going on currently in her life.

We have shared similar issues in our past both overcoming similar problems recently, passing through fire and emerging stronger on the other side as a result of these experiences.  We are both clean and clear of the restaurant industry and talked about the pitfalls, and rewards of that line of work.  She has a very bright future in front of her indeed currently working the promotions field and has lengthy trips planned to South Korea and Russia in the new year.  Those are going to be some amazing adventures to experience and I look forward to my silent FaceBook stalking of these adventures.

She is one of my favorite people for this very reason.  She went above and beyond to get to know the real me, to fight through the outer layer of defense that a lot of us have in place to protect ourselves.  She has an ability to opening share and listen at the same time, and has always been there for me with messages of love and support over the years.  I feel fortunate to have as part of my life, even in the small way that she is.  I wish her nothing but peace, love and happiness as both continue to navigate this thing called life.

We both have the month of December off from work and have promised to see each other again before 2018 hits and she is off an another amazing adventure.  We will make that happen.

Thank you for listening to me and sharing just a wonderful walk through the woods.

The Power of Running

As if yesterday wasn’t already a fun filled adventure on it’s own, I decided that I needed to take advantage of the beautiful December day that we had been gifted.  It was warm for December and the sun was shining brightly.  The house was empty this afternoon as Emily was out with her friends and Megan was off during her own thing.  I knew I had an intense evening on deck, developing and drafting a very detailed version of some house rules that I expect all of my children to follow, and hope to help Emily get her life back on track.

I grabbed my trail shoes, layered up with my run gear (breathable yet warm) put in my ear buds and cranked the workout playlist, set my watch and off we went.

Running for me has always allowed me the chance to clear my head and have moments of mindfulness.  It allows my sub conscious mind to do what it needs to do, and in this case it was think about how I wanted to approach this situation with Emily and the recent events stealing and lying directly to my face.

Run Course, Ironman Kentucky


There are a series of trails throughout Barrie, and exist in most towns that I have lived in all throughout Ontario.  None better and more well maintained than the several years that I lived in Mississauga, thank you former Mayor Hazel McCallion who did a fantastic job for so many years maintaining and expanding the trail systems throughout that city.  Often times in the winter these run trails would salted and sanded before I would head out on my early morning runs during my days of training for the Ironman race.

Where I live in Barrie there is only one real trail that snakes in and out of the subdivision near where I live passing by the school my children go and right down to the waterfront and expands from there dependent on which direction that you want to head in.

And of course there is a great trail all the way around the Bay into the old section of town…  I digress as I am a bit off topic.

Running, while great for the cardiovascular condition and overall general health it is something I have enjoyed all my life.  Except maybe during that period where I forgot how to run?!?  Growing up I was an active participant in cross country racing all the way through grade school but lost touch with running until I was into my 30’s and getting involved in the sport of triathlon.

Today running is a big part of my overall fitness plan and today’s run was an out and back through these trails down to the water, with a sharp right for a few kilometers through the woods.  I absolutely love running during the fall/autumn season when the leaves have changed colors or have fallen and covered the ground.

It was great today to see many families out today enjoying the beautiful weather, walking and holding hands, walking dogs and just enjoying nature.  While running these are the things that I like to focus on, the smell in the air, the sights and sounds of the forest, listening to the sound of my breathing, barking dogs, the scampering of squirrels as I run by and the comments of folks that I pass on the trail.


It was my longest run in a good long while, covering 11.97 kilometers when it was all said and done.  I was able to connect and appreciate nature, the waterfront for the second time today, the beauty and feeling of the sun on my face.  It was a euphoric experience sometimes referred to as a runner’s high and boy did I feel it today.  There comes a point during a long run, when your body is all warmed up, your muscles are giving effort, but all of a sudden the breathing becomes just a bit easier and your heart rate drops slightly making the run feel easier.  It’s like setting the cruise control on car…

It’s next to impossible to get that feeling while running on the treadmill at the gym, which I had been doing for the last several weeks and today’s run just felt great.  It’s much easier on your knees and joints than running on roads and sidewalks, there is much more of an elevation change and bends and twists in the trails forcing your body to use more of it’s muscle base to navigate these trails.

My favorite part of the run today was watching a family that included grandma, mom and dad, and three little girls laughing and giggling and having a good time.  They kept calling for the youngest daughter to slow down so the rest of the family could catch up as she kept running ahead of everyone without a care in the world.  It brought a huge smile to my face watching this child just be a child without a care in the world.  I gave her a five high as I was passing by and got a nice big smile from on on my return trip back down the trail on my way back home.

After a good stretch and hot shower I felt amazing.  And that my friends is the power of running.