Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hard Choices

The writing has been on the wall for some time now.  After last night's game, a loss for the birds, Munenori Kawasaki was optioned to Toronto's AAA affiliate, the Buffalo Bisons.  Everyone knew that, barring injury to another player, when Jose Reyes returned to the big club it would be Munenori that would go the other way.  There was just no room to keep him around without taking a hit elsewhere to the talent on the team.

But what a loss it is to the players, coaches and fans to see him go.  Kawasaki was a spark plug for the team.  He was a fan favourite.  He bubbled with personality.  In a stretch of bad baseball that could have seen many walk away from the 2013 edition of the Blue Jays, he helped keep it fun to watch.  If you haven't seen it, here is some vintage Munenori, courtesy of

The guy has been a joy to watch as a fan; I can only imagine what he is like to be around day to day.  He's got a positive attitude and is always upbeat.  My kids LOVE him.  My youngest has even taken to doing the deep knee bend and hop before he approaches the plate that is part of Munenori's routine.

And that's the lesson for my boys.  In life you will at times face hard choices; you need to look at the situation and make the best decision possible.  From a baseball perspective, the Blue Jays didn't have much by way of options.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Today is a strange day.  The younger of my two sons graduates from Kindergarten today.  It's exciting. It's a thing to celebrate.  I'm proud of him.  He's so pleased and full of joy and I love him for it.

But today is also the anniversary of the death of one of my dearest friends.  Ten years.  And still I struggle with it.  Not everyday.  And not in a way even remotely similar to what his family must bear.  But still.  I miss him.  And I think what I struggle with the most is the absence of his influence.  Not on me so much, but on those who were closest to him.  He left behind a family.  Children.  Parents.  Friends he had known since childhood.  Co-workers.  And he's just...gone.

Don't get me wrong - his wife has done a spectacular job of keeping his memory alive for her children, their family and everyone who knew him.  More than I've ever seen anyone do it.  She constantly celebrates his life.  And the children aren't suffering.  She's remarried to another good friend.  They are living a happy life and providing all of the support, love and opportunity those kids could want.  It is beauty from tragedy.  Hollywood even.  Not in the fake collagen filled smiles way of the people who live there but rather the 2 boxes of Kleenex® stories they often create for us.

And I don't know why I struggle with this so much.  As I said, he was a dear friend.  We were roomies for a time, went to University together, did the wedding party thing, each playing a part in the other's wedding.  All the usual stuff.  But after we finished school he went his way and I went mine.  We stayed in touch and got together when we could but never as much as we said we would.  I had tremendous respect for him.  He was generous.  Funny.  Really funny actually.  A musician.  Bright.  Clever.  Caring and empathetic.  In short, one of the good ones.  So it makes sense that his absence hurts.

But still.  I'm a grown man.  Halfway (I hope!) through my run.  I've lost people.  I've seen other people  lose people.  But for some reason, even ten years gone, this one still guts me every time.  Even now as I type this, I have to pause to pull myself together.

One of the things his wife does a great job of is reminding everyone, whenever an important anniversary (like today) arrives, to remember him for the joy he brought to the world.  She asks people to remember something fun or silly or special that he did.  She encourages everyone to do something he would have done.  She urges us to celebrate the time we had with him.

So today, when my boy graduates I'm going to hug him, kiss him, tell him how proud I am of him.  And then I'll probably give him a wedgie.

I miss you Jason - the world is a lesser place without you.

June  25, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


OK, so as Blue Jays fans, opportunities to teach my boys about handling disappointment abound.  The same can be said for any team a fan chooses to support; each year, no matter the sport, generally at the end, there is only one victor.  That leaves the fans of every other team feeling some degree of disappointment.  The additional hype that came with the overhaul to the team during the offseason simply made every loss that much more pronounced.

But we're beyond that now.  Losing, just as winning is a part of the day in and day out rhythm of sports and in particular baseball, with it's 162 game season.  So we've had time to talk about that.  Especially since, so far this season anyway, we had only attended games that the Jays coughed up.  So we've been working on that lesson.  A lot.  But again, this past weekend we had a new opportunity to address the idea of disappointment.  And we combined it with some other tangential issues.

We headed down to the park early to catch batting practice.  We've done this before and it's always a bit of fun for the boys (and me).  We're hanging out in left field right above the Toronto bullpen.  There are a couple of Texas players fielding balls and they will occasionally toss one of the balls into the crowd of fans trying to catch the balls that the batters inevitably crush into the stands.  That's us.  My two young sons and I.  We're front and centre against the rail above the pen.  Nobody in front of us.

One of the players, I think it may have been Tanner Scheppers, points to my kids and double pumps a ball to indicate he's going to throw it to me.  So I nod to him that, yes, he has my attention and I'm ready for it.  He uncorks and sails it over my head.  I extend and the ball deflects off my fingertip, ricochets of the seats two rows back and rolls down the row.  A young girl quickly scoops it up and dashes off with it.  The people around me put up a small fuss but I don't chase the girl down for the ball.  What am I going to do, pry it from her hands and tell her it's my ball?

My boys are disappointed but they take it well.  We talk a bit about it at the time but not more than a couple of quick words.  There's no pouting.  We move on.  After ten minutes or so the same player makes eye contact again.  I nod.  He throws it straight to me.  I reach straight ahead.  I don't need to lean over the rail or reach up or to the side.  It's coming straight on.  And then a glove slides in from the side and snatches the ball just before it reaches my hand.  The guy beside me shouts triumphantly and passes the ball to his daughter who is at his side and probably the same age as my youngest.  More disapproving murmuring from the crowd.  The guy turns and looks at me, sheepishly smiles and tells me the rest are for me.  He takes his daughter by the hand and quickly leaves the area.

So now the conversation I have with my boys goes beyond straight disappointment and we begin to explore the idea of fair play.  We discuss the fact that not everyone choses to play by the same rules as us but that in the end we have to be comfortable with the choices we make.  And we are.  I don't begrudge that guy the ball.  He's there with his daughter and for them that was a moment.  I get that.  I do question the example he is setting for her.  But I also know that there are plenty of people out there that live that way.  You get what you go after.  You look out for yourself.  But that's not my style.  And so that's what I'm teaching my boys.

We didn't let that episode bring us down.  We had fun at the game.  And we learned some lessons too.  The first one is that we won't be going to batting practice again unless I have my glove.  I would have had that first ball.  The second was that not everybody plays fair; the key is to not let that change the way we act ourselves.  And last, the Blue Jays bullpen is pretty solid - they held it together and got us the win.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"...while I've been putting off and putting off, the trees have been growing..." - George Eliot, Silas Marner

The above line has stuck with me for somewhere around twenty years.  That was when, as a young, fresh-faced twenty-something I read Silas Marner as part of my university curriculum.  It's funny actually.  But not in the ha ha way.  The idea behind the line was that life keeps moving forward and we can't make up for the time that passes.  I won't write a book review here; the book is a classic and that's why it was on my course curriculum.  If you haven't read it, I encourage you to give it a shot.  But again, that's not my point here.

Time passes.  There is nothing we can do about that.  We can't stop it.  We can't get more.  We can't go back.  We use it as it comes.  The question is, how do we use it?  Do we use it well or poorly?  Do we waste it?  As I mentioned above, I read that book twenty years ago.  And the thing that stuck with me through all of these years was that image of time passing and the regret that can come with not using that time well.  And yet, how do I use my time?  There is a reason we use the phrase "spending time".  Like money, time comes and goes.  The difference is that we can always find ways to get more money. Not so with time.

So then, how have I been spending my time?  As the date stamp makes clear, not by writing reflections on this blog.  Does that mean I have wasted the past two years of my life?  Certainly not.  But do I regret not following through with the posts that I had set out to create?  Yes.  I do.  Don't get me wrong.  I have spent the past two years doing lots of excellent things.  I continue to teach my boys about life and sports.  But I haven't formalized it.  I haven't captured my thoughts to share with the good peoples of the internets.  I haven't been deliberate about it.

I read an article yesterday and the author mentioned that his life changed when he decided to create something new every day.  That is a bold move.  But it induces a need for deliberate living.  It's so easy to get into a rut.  Life is busy.  There are bills to pay.  There are so many things that tug at our time, competing for it.  Cut the grass.  Take the kids to their sporting events.  Finish the big project at work.  Get the groceries.  And on it goes.  Nothing new here - we all live this.  The question is, how do we change it?  We have to be deliberate.

Here's an example.  My wife saw a picture of a patio table online that she really liked.   I agreed to build it.  I'm no carpenter.  But my father is and I spent a large portion of my youth at his side so I can find my way around the wood shop.  Until this project came along and we decided to do it I wouldn't have said I had time for an undertaking like this.  But guess what?  I'm enjoying it, I care about it and so I'm finding the time.  I'm making time for it.  It has become a priority.  I still have to cut the grass.  I still go to work.  But somehow I am finding the time to do something extra that is bringing me a little bit of joy.

And that's the key.  Again, there is nothing new here.  Nike® boils it down to be about as simple as possible with their "Just do it.®" slogan.  It really is that simple.  The toughest part is choosing to live your life deliberately, rather than letting life just happen.  The truth is that everyone lives their lives in fits and starts.  We have setbacks.  We get sidetracked.  We change course.  But if we always approach our life deliberately, we won't ever look up and see that while we've "been putting off and putting off, the trees have grown."  So I'm going to work at it again.  I won't make any empty promises about posting everyday.  But I will try to live each day deliberately and find a way to create something each day.  Wish me luck.