Every once in a while, I’m reminded of something that I used to do in my youth. Specifically, things I used to do in my home Province of New Brunswick. I’m originally from a small town called Dalhousie (not to be associated with Dalhousie University, which is in Nova Scotia) but I would frequently travel to a neighbouring town called Campbellton, which is about 25 kilometres away.
Given that Dalhousie was lacking most amenities throughout the late 80’s and early 90’s with the drop in the paper industry as the digital age started to kick in, my friends and I would often lean on Campbellton as it was designated as a city (despite only having about 5,000 people) and had plenty of commerce, restaurants and stores. It also had the only Tim Horton’s in the area at the time, if you can believe it.
So we used to travel up there a lot, and when I hit my teens I started using my bike to cycle from Dalhousie to Campbellton. It’s ironic to think that just at the beginning of this year, I considered 20 kilometres to be a milestone, when I used to bike 25 kilometres to reach Campbellton, THEN bike around town and make my way back to Dalhousie. Oh, how youth provides a certain little something…
In the late 90’s, I got into the habit of cycling to Campbellton quite frequently. Although once I got my driver’s licence and purchased a vehicle, my dynamic switched up and I started travelling up by car. I needed to find something to replace the exercise I was getting from cycling, so I chose to climb our local mountain, named Sugarloaf. Now, if you Google Sugarloaf you’ll find a number of different locations from around the world. But MY Sugarloaf is located on the southern side of Campbellton.
Just to keep things interesting, I’ll give you some basic stats on this tree-filled lump. Sugarloaf Mountain is an extinct volcano. It was formed some 420 million years ago when thinning of the Earth’s crust allowed it to peak its nosy face out of the ground. It’s about 922 feet from base to tip, and has a walking trail around its base as well as a ski resort and multiple downhill skiing trails on the west side of the mountain.
I started climbing the mountain by its designated hiking trail for the first couple of years. But as I got bolder, I started wearing protective gloves and solid shoes and scaling the vertical sides, as well. I got a few friends to join me on some of those climbs, but they usually ended up quitting within the first 30 minutes claiming that I was out of my mind. And probably with good reason.
I miss climbing. I obviously don’t get to do much of it (none) considering I live in the Prairies now. There aren’t a great number of mountains out here. But I definitely plan on trying to make an effort to reconquer the mountain on the next occasion that I visit my folks. It’ll be interesting to see how different in may be, considering the mountain likely hasn’t changed, but I definitely have!
I haven’t seen or spoken to Christopher or Kevin in over fifteen years. We didn’t have a falling out or anything; we simply got on with our respective lives. And sometimes, that’s the way of it. Friendships sometimes come and go. But the good and happy memories you make along the way are yours forever. ☯
Having children is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, they can provide a significant amount of reward in the way they grow, progress and develop into their own little people. As long as you have the strength and foresight to ensure that they don’t grow up to be little thugs or criminals, you get to pat yourself on the back on a job well-done and move on with life (and potentially enjoy some grandchildren).
On the other hand, kids can be little assholes. And while some are probably reading this and thinking how shocked they are that I would refer to children this way, they also know I’m right. And this is a story of why… First of all, let’s be clear on a universally-known but not always acknowledged fact: kids smell bad. This isn’t a judgement, it’s simply a reality. You see, kids go through a curve where at birth, they smell amazing. You ever smell a baby’s head? If you could find a way to bottle that scent, you’d give Giorgio Armani a run for his money.
Now, that “new baby smell” is a leftover biological defence mechanism that humans evolved to ensure bonding with their mothers. This was important during the existence of our prehistoric ancestors because, since babies are normally crying, shitting and eating everything in sight, our less-civilized ancestors may have said “Not today, Satan!” before leaving their little bundle to die in the wilderness. But this isn’t important to the story, so I should get back on track…
As kids get a bit older, they spend a few years where they care a bit less about hygiene. They need to be prompted to wash their hands, forced to bathe or shower, and don’t even get me started on the eternal battle for brushing one’s teeth! Once children get past the “kid” stage and slip into the adolescent and teenage years, they start to discover that staying clean and smelling nice are not only important aspects of health, they’re pretty important aspects of societal acceptance as well.
Anyone who’s a parent will recognize this phenomenon, simply from walking into their child’s room, trying to keep the family vehicle clean or even hugging their kid after a day of playing outside. But none of it was made any truer than after an incident that started almost two weeks ago with my 5-year old son, Nathan…
For the most part, Nathan is a catch-22 in the behavioural department. On certain days he’s like an angel of mercy, following every demand and instruction with total obedience and making for an almost peaceful day. On other days, he’s a walking nightmare who requires constant prodding or blackmailing in order to accomplish the simplest of tasks around the household.
We had recently started cleaning and using our universal air conditioner, and at one point I walked into my son’s room and commented on the fact that it smelled rather funky in there. I chalked it up to the possibility that his bedding needed to be changed (kids sometimes won’t QUITE make it to the washroom in the middle of the night) and made a mental note to change it up. We opened windows and aired out the house as we cleaned, especially since our home is up for sale.
Several days later, I remarked that the room still smelled a bit odd, almost like stale urine. Nathan was known for occasionally wetting himself and hiding the wet things behind his bed so he wouldn’t get in trouble, so I made a point of searching his room. Nothing. I stripped his bed (with his help), washed and disinfected all of his bedding with the hopes that this would eliminate whatever the mystery source of this odour may have been.
Flash forward to over an hour later, I felt the house starting to get a bit stuffy from the heat and asked my wife to turn on the air conditioning. Once Nathan’s bedding was dry, I walked upstairs with my arms full of blankets, sheets and a pillow cover, intent of remaking his bed in anticipation of bedtime in a few hours. When I walked into the room, the smell hit me! It was clear, pungent, and almost reminded me of some rather less-than-pleasant environments I had attended in the course of my job.
I gagged and retreated out of the room and told my wife there was a problem and she needed to come to Nathan’s room. Now, my wife has allergies and usually can’t smell things worth a damn, but even she was able to detect the strong odour of urine that permeated our every sense. Her next comment fed the suspicion that I was trying not to admit:
“Oh boy, what did he pour down the air vent…”
I kneeled down next to the A/C vent and inhaled. Sure enough, the source of the smell was coming from Nathan’s A/C vent. The I looked closely enough, I could see the telltale swirls of dried urine on the top surface of the vent cover. He was outside playing at that moment (which was probably better for his sake), so I investigated the only way I could think of. I removed the vent cover, carefully lowered my phone into the air duct and video recorded what was going on in there… (head’s up, the photo below IS disgusting!)
I apologize for how disgusting the above photo may appear, but it was even less pleasant to deal with, trust me! What you’re looking at is a screenshot of the video I took right at the elbow of his air vent. You can see various bits of Cheerios, wax crayons and what I can only assume are pieces of chocolate (I hope, although why would one waste chocolate???) sitting in a brackish quarter-inch of stagnant Nathan-pee!
Lucky for me, the vents are actually really level so the urine was sitting still within the first four feet of air duct and wasn’t crawling it’s way back to the furnace or beyond the immediate stretch that you can see in the photo. I was pissed (pun fully intended). My wife and I discussed whether we would need to have someone professional come in to clean out the air ducts when my precious first-born chose that moment to put his life in jeopardy and come in from outside.
I sat him down, controlled my breathing and showed him the video. I started by asking him why he would pee down his air vent and received the same answer every parent receives from a child trying to prevent further punishment: I don’t know. I moved on from the why long enough to explain to him that under no circumstances was there EVER a good reason to use one’s air vent as a toilet, and that all his needs MUST be done in the washroom, without exception.
I left him sitting on the landing with a pouting lip and set about the task of trying to clean the mess up myself. I removed the fifty-year old masking tape that the previous owner had used to seal with vents. I then loosened the four-foot stretch of air duct AFTER the pee-filled area and removed it. This ensured that there wouldn’t continue to be a rush of cold, urine-scented air filling the upstairs area.
Unfortunately, when I removed the second stretch of duct, the piece still connected to Nathan’s room dipped down and released its golden bounty… all over the laundry room floor and my legs. Lovely. I pulled the affected air duct free and brought it outside where I laboured using a pressure washer to scrub out the inside and get it clean. I also took advantage to clean out the excess crayons and food bits that were sitting at the base of the vent.
All in all, the whole thing took almost two hours by the time I removed everything, cleaned it all then put it all back in place and used actual duct tape. Yes, duct tape is ACTUALLY meant to seal joints in your air ducts. Take that, Red Green! (I’ll just let you newer generation Google who “Red Green” is…) While I was outside pressure washing, my wife managed to get some rudimentary explanation out of Nathan involving his laziness and not wanting to walk to the washroom in the middle of the night. Needless to say, it wasn’t the best evening.
The following morning, Nathan sought me out once he was out of bed and immediately asked me if I was still mad at him, complete with a hug and kiss. He can be such a good kid in some respects while being the reason we can’t nice things in others respects. And that’s the thing about kids: they may drive you crazy with some of their antics, but it usually only takes a show of affection to remind us how important they can be. ☯
As usual, I’ve been reserving my Sunday posts for people that have inspired me or motivated me in some way. While going through my Kobo with my wife, we came upon the autobiography of Ronda Rousey, entitled “My Fight/Your Fight.” I started talking about the autobiography and about everything Rousey has been through in her life (up to that point) to get to where she is today. My wife suggested that I seemed pretty inspired by Rousey and that perhaps I should write about her. And here we are…
Many people in martial arts circles and non-fitness circles alike have expressed a love/hate relationship with Rousey. Some believing her to be more of a passing fad than a genuine athlete, some idolizing her as a true martial artist and pioneer in the women’s division of one of the most male-dominated forms of sport entertainment currently in existence. But the truth of it is she’s accomplished many great things. Most of which were accomplished through sheer force of will and has beaten odds that would have crushed a lesser person.
Rousey was born in California in the late 80’s and was born with a condition known as apraxia, which is a particular childhood speech disorder that made it difficult for Rousey to speak in a coherent manner for the first years of her life. This would be one of the first obstacles she’d overcome as she would eventually go on to speak normally, as anyone who has heard her speak in recent years could attest.
Rousey suffered tragedy early in her life as her father broke his back while sledding with Rousey and her sisters. Rousey’s father became a paraplegic as a result and took his own life in 1995. Years later, Rousey would begin training in the martial art of Judo, as her mother had been an accomplished athlete in Judo, having been the first American to win the World Judo Championship in 1984.
Rousey progressed, promoted and moved up the ranks in Judo and won more medals and trophies than I could possibly list here (you should read her biography for deeper details) and never gave up along the way. She faced personal difficulties at home, which saw her leave her family to train elsewhere and injuries that made continued training and development difficult. But along the way, she never stopped fighting, in the physical and metaphorical sense. Rousey became an Olympian by winning a bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic games, becoming the first American to win an Olympic medal in women’s Judo since its creation.
After winning an Olympic medal, Rousey retired from Judo professionally, and sought some direction in her life. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of it, my impression was that she slipped off the rails a bit when she failed to find that direction in her own life. I can definitely relate to that, on a number of levels.
Rousey fell into the world of Mixed Martial Arts in 2010 as an amateur, a term that wouldn’t apply to her for very long. She trained with the same passion and fervour in MMA and she had in Judo, and quickly came to make her mark on the sport and ultimately, the world. Her signature move was submission by armbar, and it seemed that no opponent could best her.
Rousey stepped into professional MMA in the following year and became Strikeforce’s Women’s Bantamweight Champion in 2012. Rousey would go on to be the first female signed with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, after a great deal of debate whether women would ever be in the UFC. Once part of UFC, Rousey was named the UFC’s first Women’s Bantamweight Champion, a title she defended over and over until her loss to another fighter in 2015.
Rousey was away from MMA for about a year before she returned to reclaim her title. She ultimately suffered another loss and unofficially retired from the UFC in late 2016. She was, however, inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame in 2018. Rousey has since moved on to professional wrestling, and has continued to make an impact there, as well.
The thing about Ronda Rousey is that despite the obstacles, difficulties and losses she’s faced in life and career, she never stopped fighting. Even at her lowest, when she felt she had nothing more she could lose, she found ways to rise up and pick herself up like a proverbial phoenix. Rousey has gone on to author books, star in action films accomplish inspirational things despite said obstacles.
If you want to learn about Ronda Rousey the person, I would definitely recommend picking up her autobiography, My Fight/Your Fight. You can get it from your local bookstore or you can get it as an e-book for your Kobo, which is what I did. It’s definitely worth the read and will give you insight on her character and her development as a person, as opposed to an entertainer and athlete. But, what an athlete! If you need some proof, just Google her fight record… From Judo to MMA to professional wrestling, the scales definitely tip in her favour.
As most of you know, I’ve never been a great fan of MMA. To a traditional martial artist, the term “mixed martial arts” doesn’t ring true under any circumstance. So, for me to be inspired and motivated by an MMA athlete is a bit of a step out of my comfort zone. That being said, holding a 6th degree black belt in Judo definitely helps. She’s a good combination of traditional and modern, with a warrior spirit to back it up. ☯
The summer season is quickly descending upon us, and with it comes many of the activities that just feel significantly more fun during the summer. For example, I don’t know too many people who spend time sipping a beer on their back deck in January. The cold just tends to make it unpleasant, granted your beer would stay cold for longer periods… But I digress…
Friday afternoon, I stepped outside and did some work on the new bike. I inflated the tires (properly) after the lack of pressure from when I purchased it, then attached the remaining accessories that I hadn’t included before the maiden voyage on Thursday. Following that, I set up padded chairs and a coffee table in my garage in order to have a place to lounge and read.
Once I did a few errands around the yard (picked up some litter, cleaned some messes and retrieved umpteen summer toys from the roofs and gutters), I sat down to a cold beer and a Jack Reacher book. If you haven’t read any of Lee Child’s books about the retired US Military Policeman, Jack Reacher, you seriously need top pick one up and give it a read.
There are currently 24 books in the series and I’ve read nearly all of them. None of them are bad! Do you understand the significance of that? NONE OF THEM ARE BAD!!! I usually have difficulty enjoying every book in a ten-book series, but Lee Child hits it on the nose with every story. Anyway…
Nathan seemed concerned after a while, that my beer was nearly empty. So I did what every father has done since the dawn of time (okay, maybe not THAT long ago). I asked him to grab me another beer. I have to admit, he was smart about it; he asked what colour can and where it was. he should have known that it would be in my downstairs fridge, but otherwise I told him to grab the brown and white can.
It took almost ten minutes and I began o think he wasn’t coming back, which would have been fine as I was perfectly content to simply read and I didn’t NEED another beer. Then he strolls out of the side entrance and walks towards me. What is carrying, you ask? A full, unopened bottle of red wine… Yeah, no… Just, no!
I told him I couldn’t drink a bottle of wine and that I had wanted another beer. He tells me, “Oh well, just drink this now that it’s out, Daddy. I can’t go back inside…” I’m not sure if my sone was trying to get me day drunk, or if he was just lazy. The little voice inside my head tells me he’s just lazy.
I ask him if he knows what the colour brown is. He says yes. I ask him to show me the colour brown. He posts to our garbage bin, which is in fact brown. I tell him that what I needed is a small can that is the same colour as the garbage bin and that the wine needs to go back to the fridge. He complied and brought back the correct can, followed by a seemingly strong urge to watch me drink it.
That’s it! No intense philosophical lesson today! Just a brief, funny story about a guy and his goofy five-year old son grabbing him a beer to enjoy on the deck. Hopefully, you’re doing something to garner some peace and enjoyment in these uncertain times. ☯