Happy Halloween!

I love Halloween.  Always have.  We don’t have any Halloween traditions, so every year is something different.  Since having kids, locations for trick or treating has changed yearly.  We’ve been through local neighborhoods, Disneyland a few times, and even a couple of Comic Conventions in Los Angeles.  Each and every one of these times has been so much fun.

Stranger Things pumpkin. My last minute decision to carve yesterday.


The only thing that stays the same is dressing up.  Since my childhood I think there has only been once that I didn’t dress up for Halloween.  I was really sick and more cowbell couldn’t cure my fever. Every year I put on a different costume.

This year is no different.  My kids love dressing up as well.  We dress up in our cosplay because we take the time and effort to really play the part as well.  This year, my kids enjoyed dressing up and going to school with their friends.  It’s the first time in about five years that they have been able to do that.

I’ve loved seeing all the fun costumes at their school today.  I’ve also enjoyed all the great costumes that my friends and their children have shared on social media this past weekend.

As the night draws towards an end, I hope everyone out there had a safe and fun Halloween!

Plumbing

I love my home.  It’s an original custom built brick house from the early 1970’s.  It has a lot of character and I couldn’t imagine living anyplace else.  But with its uniqueness comes its flaws.  Most notably- the plumbing.

I hate plumbing.  Always have.  I hated doing it in my last house.  We had issues with the water to the home there as well as drainage issues.  But I hate doing plumbing here.  Hate.  Hate.  Hate.


Every couple of months, we spring a leak.  After the first couple times of having to rush out and pick up repair pieces- I now have a collection of clamps, pipes, and adhesives for the next leak.  Most of the leaks occur at the joints because of the corrosion caused from our well water.

About three years into owning this home, our pump stopped working.  So we installed a new one only to find the pipe from the well to the house had collapsed. Almost a week without running water… we resorted to heading over to the in laws and I was showering at work.  Pipe fixed.  Pump works.  But our driveway got ripped up to do this.

Broke because of plumbing repairs.


A year after that- our holding tank in the house couldn’t keep the pressure.  So we had a new one installed.  Yay!  Flowing water once more.  Two years later- our hot water tank died.  My favorite part about that?  We had to buy a smaller hot water tank because a standard sized one would not fit in the place where the old one stood.  Plus something about “building codes”…

As I said- since then there are constant leaks popping up every few months.  We also have a toilet that needs plunging every couple of weeks.  The little quirks of the plumbing make me want to pack up and move.

Adding insult to injury-  we also have radiant hot water being used to heat our home.  Besides the occasional relay/switch stopping from working, we haven’t run into any major issues… yet.

Leaks and plumbing are my nemesis.  I could never be a plumber by trade.  If I could live without water I would.  Except to shower.  I like showering.

New High Score

I remember being excited when I would break a high score on a video game.  Getting a personal best was always an achievement.  However, in the early stages of home video game entertainment systems, the score was lost when the system was shut off.  Proving your worth to your peers was difficult.


I loved playing on my ColecoVision and Intellivision. Because games of yesteryear just kept repeating and getting faster making them more difficult. There was never really an end, just repetition. 

Just repetition.

Just repetition.

And I played for hours. Usually giving up to have dinner or go to bed.


Of course, in the 80’s the technology was so advanced at all it took was connecting the RF switch to a VCR and you could record your high score to share with your friends!  Now I could have proof of how cool I was and would share with my one or two friends… who showed little to no interest in my accomplishments… but I was excited.

Mortal Kombat 4. My personal arcade machine.


Then there were arcade games.  Every kid I knew in the 80’s wanted their own arcade game.  We all had personal favorites.  But not always having an arcade to go to, we were limited to what the local convenience store/mall had readily available.  I played “Burger Time” when living in Edmonton at a pizza place whenever I could.

The early 80’s had bred arcade playing rockstars.  All shooting for a high score or a “kill screen”.  Two of my favorite documentaries on the subject are:

King of Kong: A Fistfull of Quarters

Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler


Moving on from the 80’s arcades and as home video game console got better, so did the sharing of high scores.  By the early 90’s, magazines were now devoted to the gaming industry and went hand in hand to a young teen like myself. My personal favorite magazine for gaming info was “Gamepro”.


I had a two year subscription to it.  Every month I’d flip to the back to see alphabetically, the high scores of many games.  My vested interest was in Tetris and Columns.  I played those as much as possible.  I never hit the scores that were posted, but it gave me a goal. (As sad as that goal might have been back then…)

But there were also arcades with more selections now.  From Altered Beast to Street Fighter 2- games took up my free time when away from home.  There were a place to go to and hang out with friends.  As new games came in, I was still drawn to the classics- Centipede, Pac Man, Frogger.  Those were my “go-to” games.  Heck, I’d love to get those in my home one day…  I was close to buying a Frogger machine at an auction once, but the price jumped too high for me.  Pun intended.

Aw look, matching Astrosmash shirts.


Playing videogames that have no ending are my way of unwinding sometimes.  I’ll play Pac Man or Astrosmash until I’ve had my fill, then shut it off.  Re-playing games with a goal, such as Super Mario World or Zelda, doesn’t appeal to me.  If I finished it once, why do it again?  The goal was achieved.

The games I enjoy are much like life.  Life just goes by faster and faster getting harder and harder with no real end goal in site.  All I’m doing is trying to reach a high score before “Game Over” happens.

Late Nights and Long Days

The regular routine of life often leaves me exhausted.  Nightshift spills over into daytime appointments and attempts at sleep.  Our children lead busy lives with regular school, as well as activities before school & after school (held at the school), and piano lessons.  One of our kids is doing the yearbook,  one is in cheerleading and the youngest in speed skating.  On Monday, our eldest in grade nine is at her school for nearly twelve hours.

As parents, we want the best for our children.  So we encourage them to search out their interests.  But we don’t want them to give up on their talents.  It’s a fine line between being persuasive vs being bossy when it comes to parenting.  It’s exhausting.  Period.


So here we are on a Friday night.  I’m about to head to work and the kids are getting much needed time to relax.  Pizza, sodas and vegging out.

My middle child is out at a costume party.  While my youngest will be playing videogames to his heart’s content.  And our eldest has decided she wants to teach herself guitar.


She is a music major at school, so I’m pretty sure she will do just fine learning to shred.  The only issue is, she wants to use her sister’s guitar.  Without permission.  This has caused a few fights between them.  Ah sibling rivalry.  So tonight while her sister is out, she is sneaking some play time.

So my Friday nights have changed over the years.  I’m passing on the fun times to my children.  Perhaps one day they will appreciate it.

#TBT Work

Yesterday marked the ninth anniversary of my last shift as a manager at Chuck E. Cheese’s.  I left behind many people whom I had grown fond of that showed great potential.  I’m talking about the teenage employees that worked for me.  Since that time I have remained Facebook friends with many of them.  I was correct- all of them have succeeded in their journey into adulthood.  

Writing a new beginning.


Each of them took different paths.  Some finished university, some got married and started families, some moved far away, and some started their own businesses.  I’m really proud of them, as if they were my own family.  In a way- maybe they were.  I spent up to five years with some of them while working there.

I left that job to pursue a drastically different change of career- working as a switchman for a railroad.  Most of the employees were excited for me.  But there were the naysayers who didn’t want to see me succeed.  This was my district manager, my general manager and a fellow manager.  For some reason, none of them wanted to see me try something new to better my life.  They assumed I’d fail.  Nine years later…  They were still wrong.

I made the choice to leave the restaurant/entertainment business to better my life and the lives of my family.  Nearly every decision I have made since meeting my wife and starting a family has been to better our lives.  Quitting jobs and exploring new paths is just one way I’ve put my family first.  I was comfortable at the movie theater, Home Depot and the Chuck.  But comfortable wasn’t moving my life forward or the lives of my family.

Working for a railroad has allowed my family to enjoy real vacations.  It has affored my children the luxury of entering a choice fine arts school.  It has paid for a roof over our heads (literally a new roof).  Plus many more experiences and lifestyle improvements.  None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t taken a chance on doing something completely out of my comfort zone.

In our lives there will always be naysayers.  There will always be the ones who don’t want to see you succeed.  There will always be the people who think that it’s only luck that has gotten you to where you are.  Or that it’s not fair that you are enjoying life.  Those are the voices you need to ignore.  These are the people who would be happier in smirking at your misery than offer you support to reach your goals.  Whenever someone has tried to push me down with negativity, I look at their life.  Guaranteed it’s almost exactly not the life I want.

Years after leaving CEC, I’m still supporting many of my younger friends I made there.  I have given references for their career paths, I have gone out to watch their performances, I have even made an effort to go to their places of work to offer congratulations in person.  I have cheered them on through social media & offered my support during each of their journeys in life.

I am but one voice.  But I have done my best to be that voice that offers encouragement.  


This is the same voice that many of my former employees offered me when I left Chuck E. Cheese’s.  Many of them may not have realized how encouraging it was to hear their opinions as I spent my final few days with them.  It didn’t matter that most of them were a decade or more younger than I was.  I had grown fond of them and valued each of them as a human being.  As I left, it hurt.  But it was for the betterment of my family.

A big thanks to my young supporters from nine years ago.  My last bit of advice today- Don’t let other people prevent you from pursuing your dreams and goals.  Keep up the good work!

#tbt

Just spit it out already 

At my age (yes, I’m actually going to use that phrase-leave me alone) I don’t have time to play mind games.  Those manipulative types of games that people think they should use to get what they want.  I’m pretty perceptive when it comes to noticing that game.  Like I said, I don’t have time for it.  

Unless I do have time for it…

Meaning- I’ll string people along for a while until they either outright ask for what they want or give up.  I’ll play dumb for ages to get a rise out of someone.  Pleasantries and greetings are fine and all- those are totally acceptable to start a conversation. But the next few moments can really irk me.  Don’t try and make small talk about what my plans are or some bs about needing to get together.

Need a ride somewhere?  Ask.

Need help moving stuff?  Ask.

Need us to look after your kids for a night?  Ask.

Need to borrow money?  Don’t ask.

That’s right.  I don’t “lend money” to friends.  It’s the quickest way to find out how much your “friendship” is worth.  I’ve lost friends over a loan of $15.  It’s amazing how quickly people forget to pay back even the smallest of loans.  If I see someone close to me in dire need of financial assistance, I will give them money without expecting remuneration.

Don’t even get me started on rumors about people.  Rumors about movies?  Ok.  People?  Not ok.

“Did you hear about so-and-so?” Nope.  Don’t care.

“I can’t believe so-and-so did this…” Good for them.  How did it affect you?  It didn’t?  Then who cares.

“So-and-so said this about you…” Why are you telling me?  Does it make you feel bigger than me to put me down?

Old Gregg wants you to just spit it out.


At the end of it all, just like me for who I am.  Not what I can offer you or what you feel you can take from me.

I dislike posting rants. But sometimes you just need to get stuff off your chest. I promise to be more uplifting next time.

Sweaters

Fall is rolling in slowly around the West Coast.  Filled with chilly, rainy days but still well above the zero Celsius mark.  Autumn brings forth my favorite look for this time the year.

Sweaters.


I never liked wearing sweaters as a kid/teen.  It was seriously uncool.  But over the past decade and a bit, I’ve been growing fond of the look.  I once had a sweater vest I was really proud of that was donated to me by my father in-law.  That’s when I realized, I enjoy rocking the “old man” look in the winter.  It’s cozy and in a sense- regal.  It’s the look of a man who strives for comfort, and in many cases, not fashion.

The most influential sweaters of my life ranked in order of ascending greatness:

What good feeling.


5. Mr Rogers:  Why?  Because he was the father figure/tv teacher of my childhood generation.  The first thing he did every episode was put on a sweater while he sang.  He was a happy, sweater wearing badass.

The stuff of nightmares.


4. Freddy Krueger:  Why?  His iconic look was completed with a rather ordinary sweater.  It symbolizes my love of schlock gore films.

Lew plays through.


3. Lew Hayward:  Why? Scrooged is one of my favorite Christmas films.  It is filled with some fantastic lines.  Lew is what I picture my father to be like nowadays- dead and still playing golf.

But what would I wear?


2. The Grinch:  Why?  It’s the most iconic of ugly Christmas sweaters.  Christmas time screams sweaters to me & this sweater screams the loudest.


1. Lebowski:  Why?  Because he’s the Dude, man.  No other explanation other than it really tied the room together.

Now to dust off my old sweaters and break out the cocoa.  Old Man Winter is on his way.

Shopping.  Not shopping.

This evening my wife and I had about an hour to kill while we were out.  So we decided to “go shopping”.  We didn’t need to buy anything in particular.  Food was fairly stocked up in our home, so groceries were off the list.  Thank goodness.  That’s when we usually run into people we know… 


Hitting Costco is like dropping a mortgage payment inadvertently while wandering around browsing- so we avoided that place as well.  We decided to look around at a Home/Bath/Bedroom place since we don’t normally go to those places.


We weren’t really looking to spend money.  It was more a way for us to discuss what changes to our home we’d like to do.  Maybe some new dishes?  Perhaps some hand towels?  Serving sets or small appliances?  We walked and talked for a nearly an hour in an empty large box retail store.  We noticed one sales associate kept following us, but never made contact.  It was eerie after a while.  Then it dawned on me, we didn’t have a shopping cart, we were constantly picking up items and putting them down.  At one point, my wife and I were “testing pillows” by laying down our heads on them while they were in the bin.  This lady following us must think we are trying to shoplift.  

My wife in her leggings, purse, and comfortable hoodie & me all clean cut in nice pants and a sweater were clearly there for a “five finger discount” at 8pm on a Monday night.  It was strange being stalked by an employee.  Needless to say we weren’t stealing, nor did we want to buy anything after that.  So we left.  We then headed over to the worst place for shopping ever- Walmart.

It was a wonderful sensation going in there.  We didn’t fit in.  I’m not saying we’re better off than other people, but, we’re better off than most Walmart shoppers.  Heck, the website People of Walmart is pretty dang accurate.  Especially in that odd time of day before closing…  Again, we just wandered around and as usual, just didn’t feel the need to spend money.


Walking away from a store without spending money really isn’t that tough.  But it made me realize that I don’t like “window shopping” anymore.  Everything I want, I can search out online.  Even the prices can be drastically lower.  Unfortunately, we spend way more now online…

So for me, the general shopping experience isn’t fun.  I don’t get a euphoric feeling spending money.  I don’t like to clutter my home with stuff (even though my home is cluttered with stuff).  In desperate times, my wife and I are usually “Pro Shoppers”.  Get in, get the goods, get out.  Wandering aimlessly isn’t our thing.  I’m cool with that.  More money in the bank for the important things in life.  

Like vacations!  Boy do I want to travel more.  That gives me a euphoric sensation, but that’s for a different post.

Pumpkin Carving 2016

Today was pumpkin carving day in our home.  


My children each chose a pumpkin and a stencil.  They scooped out the innards and marked up the images.  I ended up carving two of them for my youngest children.  My oldest was still working on hers three hours later…


I love pumpkin carving.  I have spent numerous hours creating art in the past.  Here are a collection of my previous pumpkins:

Jack 2004. 4 hours of carving to create the dim outline.

Coraline. 2011. Took about 3 hours to carve.

Simple Jack 2007.

Minnie 2010. Just before we left to Disneyland.

2009 collection. My oldest carved the smiley face one.


This year’s collection is almost complete. I enjoyed having my children help.  They chose some easier designs that allowed them to help in the carving.  Plus it showed their fandoms off.

Totoro face, leaf shape cut out for the top.

Mudkip. My son’s favorite Pokémon.

 

Besides my daughter who just finished up her Tardis pumpkin, I have one for myself still to carve.  

My oldest daughter’s carving skills have improved drastically.  She takes after her father and is quite the perfectionist.  She took her time and calmly cut away the image she wanted to come to life.

Mr. Short Term Memory

I often forget what I have written about in previous blog posts.  Not because my musings are boring- far from it.  I think what I write is pretty dang awesome and totally worth reading- you should think so too.  (Shameless self promotion.)  So keep supporting me.  I almost forgot, now back to what I was saying…

Future posts

For days on end, ideas float around in my head.  A title or the first few lines get quickly jotted down as they pop into my mind.  When I am ready, or the time is right, the post comes to life.  I subsequently take the time to perfect my musings, often re-writing sentences & editing paragraphs.  My brain focuses intensely on getting the words just right.


Periodically I start on a blog post only to realize part way through that I’ve already written about it.  The beginning may be different, but the content is abruptly repetitious.  Ugh.  TABLE FLIP FRUSTRATION kicks in and I delete entire passages.  The feeling of all those minutes and hours wasted typing overwhelms me.

SNL funny/not funny…

Only, they’re not wasted and I shouldn’t think like that.  The synaptic activity causing a relapse is beneficial to my health.  It means my brain is functioning normally.  It means I am getting more and more comfortable writing & sharing.  

More SNL? I should just quit writing now.

This week, I drew from the depths of my memory what made me laugh as a young teen.  That brought me back to Saturday Night Live skits.  Some of the humor is dated.  Some of it isn’t as easily accepted as it once was back in the 70’s and 80’s.  Some of the skits just don’t hold up upon reflection.  The majority of my blog posts won’t hold up over time.  But even the greatest writers had some bombs.  Just because you can find a “Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe” doesn’t mean it’s the “Greatest Works of Edgar Allan Poe”.

Forgive me if it seems as if you’ve read this before.  You’re probably going to read it again.  Unless you stop following me.  Then you won’t.