• SAFETY IS EVERYONE'S RESPONSIBILITY

    Blowing snow and icy roads slowed travel times in southwestern Ontario yesterday. It was reassuring to see many drivers reducing their speed and exercising patience. Big thanks to all who slowed their pace for safety's sake.

    "Safety is everyone's responsibility."

    Photo taken on Seventh Line East near Chatham, Ontario, January 12.

  • YOUR LIFE IS YOUR MESSAGE TO THE WORLD. MAKE SURE IT'S INSPIRING.

    In celebration of his 80th birthday, Richard Day decided to go skydiving. This wasn't his first jump, however. He also went skydiving on his 70th birthday, and plans to do it again on his 90th birthday.

    Richard's birthday jump serves as a great reminder that it's never too late to do what you might've done. Your life is your message to the world. Make sure it's inspiring.

    Photo taken on September 6, 2015 near Memphis, Tennessee.

  • JIM SAYS, "SEE YOU THERE!"

    My superhero alter-ego, Jim, will be at the William Street Cafe in Chatham tomorrow from 10am until noon and 3pm until 5pm. I'll be there as well, selling and signing copies of my new book, "Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends." Drop by if you're in the area. T-shirts and 12" x 18" prints will also be on sale. (William Street Cafe, 28 William Street South, Chatham, Ontario.)

    I'm happy to report that "Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends" is now available at Book Brothers bookstore in Chatham. $20. No tax. Get your copy today! (Or perhaps tomorrow...) (Book Brothers, 25 King Street East, Chatham, Ontario.)

  • GET YOUR CROW ON!

    Get your crow on!

    My 82-year-old father is seen here sporting a Crowlogue t-shirt, one of four t-shirt designs available tomorrow from my publishing company, Crow Books. The shirt’s artwork is one of 27 illustrations featured in my new book, “Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends.” Shirts and books go on sale Friday, July 3 at 9:00am EST. Signed paperbacks, print-on-demand paperbacks, and eBook versions will be available, as well as other book related merchandise (including some very cool 12” x 18” prints). I will post purchase information on Friday morning. Thanks in advance for your support. :)

  • COMING SOON!

    Book update!

    My new book, "Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends," goes on sale Friday, July 3 at 9:00am EST. Signed paperbacks, print-on-demand paperbacks, and eBook versions will be available, as well as other book related merchandise (including some very cool t-shirts). I will post purchase information on Friday morning. Thanks in advance for your support. :)

    Book synopsis:

    At first glance, the small town of Chatham, Ontario would seem an unlikely place to produce a pair of adventurous superheroes. But where better to find dreamers, risk-takers, rule breakers, and peacemakers than in a small town wracked long with bad luck and economic hardship?

    Rod Wellington and Scott McFarlane are two such dreamers. From their basement rock star beginnings to their cross-country jaunts and big city missteps, these two lifelong friends have supported each other through thick and thin. However, when Rod asks Scott to join him on a source to sea journey down the Mississippi River in a small boat, a rising tide of sunken resentment threatens to end not only their river voyage, but their friendship as well. Can their well-intentioned alter-egos, Action Man and Jim, save the day?

    Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends is a courageously candid and insightfully emotional journey through the uneven and unpredictable landscape of a soul-searching mind. One part memoir and one part adventure travel story, this cathartic quest for identity in a world of anonymity is sure to have you examining your own engrained perceptions of the word “friendship.”

  • RURAL SUNSET

    A recent rural sunset.

    Chatham, Ontario

  • "POINT YOUR PEN AT THE STORY"

    This is Part 5 of “Lead with Your Heart,” a week-long series about letting go and moving forward.

    ~~~

    Yesterday, I wrote about emergence, transformation, and the cathartic aspect of writing. Today, I will expand a little more on the latter of those three important subjects and how its presence is deeply woven into the storyline of my upcoming book, “Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends.”

    Initially, “Part-Time Superheroes…” was to be a detailed account of a source to sea descent of the Mississippi River that I undertook with my best mate and muse, Scott McFarlane, in the summer of 2001. The manuscript was revised several times before I handed it off to a writer friend for critique. He came back with two simple comments that would change the whole storyline of the book, in good way.

    “I want to know more about Scott,” he said. “And try pointing your pen at the story. If you haven’t figured it out already, this ‘story’ is about you and Scott. Focus on that. Write about that.”

    “But I’m sick of writing about Scott,” I replied. “I don’t even like the guy. He irritates the hell out of me.”

    “Well, you better get used to him,” said my friend,” because he’s going to be with you for the rest of your life.”

    He was right. And I hated admitting it.

    Dredging up teenage memories fraught with drunken angst and questionable resentments was incredibly painful. I discovered that I had disliked Scott for as long as I’d known him, and those angry feelings had been carried forward into my adult years. The deeper I waded into this cesspool of animosity, the more curious I became. I needed to know how this burden had manifested itself, and what steps were needed to purge it from my life.

    This cathartic quest stretched on for years. I became obsessed with the concept, devoting hundreds of hours to its analytic dissection. I viewed it as an unwanted cancer, a blight upon my conscience. Bloody hands clawed at its blackened mass. Shredded flesh hung limp from the gaping wound. I reached deep inside, desperate in my attempts to extract its gnawing malignancy.

    Days turned dark and nights turned endless. My anger raged. Keyboards were smashed. Plans were dashed. Mental collapse was imminent. (Yes, it was that intense.)

    And then, a new idea emerged. A light-hearted approach to the milieu revealed itself. I grasped its good intention and flew in a new direction, a simultaneous duality that perfectly complimented the book’s storyline.

    An excerpt from “Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends”:

    “Lastly, there remained one very important detail to see to. If I was going to spend three months travelling the entire length of the Mississippi River with Scott McFarlane, and remain sane enough to write about it when finished, then I would need to do one significant thing: create an alternate personality—a personality that could not only tolerate the intense volume of physical and mental stress I would encounter and create along the way, but also a personality that could tolerate Scott’s enormously voracious ego which, once engaged, would stop at nothing to get the job done. Lucky for me, creating such a personality would not prove to be a difficult task. The difficult part would be staying in character.”

    And so emerged Action Man and Jim—two alter-ego superhero personalities not unlike Batman and Robin, minus the costumes, gadgets, and Gotham City skyline. Designed as exaggerations of our already over-inflated egos, Scott became the larger-than-life, muscle-bound Action Man, while I became his trusty (if somewhat reluctant) sidekick, Jim.

    For the first time in years, I laughed while I wrote. I allowed myself to mock my friendship with Scott, to poke fun at the absurdity of its dark side, and to cast new light on my acceptance of its presence in my life. I struck a balance between fiction and non-, and was happy to walk the blurry line between the two. Laughter, as they say, is indeed the best medicine. Through perseverance, I found a way to heal, to move forward, to let go. And in the process, I found me.

    “For two full days, the Duo scoured the shelves of hardware stores and big box retailers for pieces to complete their pontoon puzzle. Each night they dragged themselves back to Watergate Marina and tiredly pitched their tents behind the dry-docked Little Brown Misfit. Their pile of supplies grew as they readied themselves for the boat’s transformation. With only a few key purchases left to procure, they were directed by marina staff to the outdoorsmen’s Mecca of the Mid-West: Fleet Farm.

    Action Man sped maniacally through the aisles, plucking items from the Fleet Farm shelves and flinging them into his over-sized Action Cart.

    “And we’ll need one of these!” shouted Action Man.

    “What is it, Action Man?” asked Jim.

    “It’s a duckbill attachment!” shouted Action Man. “A truly glorious wonder of the boating world!”

    Action Man removed the duckbill slowly from the shelf and cradled it gently in his powerful hands. He carefully squeezed the ends of its springy jaws together. A crazy grin formed upon his leathery face. Suddenly, the green metal duckbill emitted a radiant, comforting, prophetic glow that penetrated the Duo’s very core. Action Man spoke in a hushed tone.

    “If by chance, Jim, our luck takes a turn for the worst—which it won’t, of course—but if it should, and we find ourselves stuck in muddy shallows unable to use our mighty Evinrude to free us from the mucky grip of the river, this blessedly divine piece of practicality, this miraculous invention, when attached to a generous length of PVC pipe, will act as a rod of God, enabling us to pole our way out of any dire predicament we may find ourselves in. Do you understand the incredible significance of this otherworldly device, Jim? Do you understand its prominent and necessary place in our boating equipment arsenal? Do you understand what this duckbill represents to us, Jim?”

    Action Man clutched the duckbill and thrust it heavenward.

    “It represents release! It represents unlimited freedom of the utmost kind! A freedom bound only by our imagination! This duckbill, Jim, represents a divine assurance that we shall, against any obstacles viewed insurmountable by others, purposefully persevere and achieve our incredible goal of reaching the Gulf of Mexico! With this duckbill in our possession, nothing can stop us!!”

    Action Man brought the duckbill back down to eye level and rotated it in his hands. There, on its backside was a price sticker.

    “Whoa!” he exclaimed. “They’re not cheap!”

    Illustration by Jeremy Bruneel, one of 26 illustrations featured in Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends (available mid-June through Crow Books).

  • EMERGENCE

    This is Part 4 of “Lead with Your Heart,” a week-long series about letting go and moving forward.

    ~~~

    Yesterday, I wrote about sacrifices and the act of “letting go.” Today, I will focus on emergence and transformation.

    There is perhaps no better place to experience transformation than on a long river journey, especially one that spans several seasons. During such a journey, one witnesses the slow, sometimes silent, maturation of the river. Along its banks, lush, leafy forests emerge from wooden skeletons. Birdlife returns, and their songs fill the spring air with a symphonic soundtrack missing from our urban lives. The searing heat of an August afternoon draws ample beads of sweat from our pores, while the stinging numbness of a January morning makes the act of leaving a cozy sleeping bag a reluctant challenge.

    But leave we do. Onward we travel on a twisting, winding ribbon of water. Our periphery is filled with pleasurable sights, and we are coaxed downstream by an unrestrained curiosity to discover what lies beyond the next bend. We grow, as does the river. We learn, love, and laugh, with the river as our silent witness; a witness that never judges, discriminates, or rejects us. Thanks to the river’s teachings, we become more accepting, more intimate, more empathic, more REAL. And as we emerge from the river and return to our urban lives, we generously share the gifts we’ve received, instilling in others the regenerative powers of rivers, and nature as a whole.

    At the heart of my upcoming book, “Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends,” is a transformative river journey undertaken by myself and good friend, Scott McFarlane, in the summer of 2001. In the excerpt below, we witness transformation firsthand and are deeply moved by the experience.

    ~~~

    Mississippi River, Brainerd, Minnesota

    “Laundry, emails, and grocery shopping ate up our morning. It had been our intention to spend a few leisurely hours lounging on the peaceful riverbank at Kiwanis Park, but upon arriving we found policemen engaged in a search and rescue operation. They were dragging the river for the body of a 10-year-old boy. Two friends had come to the river to beat the heat with a refreshing swim. One made it to the opposite bank. One did not. The scene was a sobering reminder of the unknown power of the river. Unseen obstacles that lurked in its depths created surging boils and strange currents. Were these boys aware of the hazards when they dove headfirst into the river’s muddy flow? We may never know.

    Firmly affixed to my daypack was an odd-looking insect that caught and held our attention. It was two inches long with a light brown scaly exterior. I nudged it slightly with my finger, but it refused to move. Then, to our amazement, the skin on the back of its head cracked open and a glistening creature began to emerge. It pushed up and out, elongating the crack in its shell as more of its body emerged. A long, semi-transparent abdomen slowly slid out from the shell in one motion. We watched transfixed as its wings, stored in four little compartments, began to protrude out along the length of its body. Only then did we recognize it as a dragonfly.

    Scott commented on its vulnerability as our little friend held fast to its shell, its fragile body hardening in the warm breeze. With a few testing flaps of its wings it was soon airborne, flying 20 feet and landing on a small bush.

    As our attention switched back to the rescue effort, Scott spied a white shoe washed up on the bank.

    “Hey, maybe it belongs to the kid that drowned,” said Scott. “I’m gonna take it down to the police.”

    Scott’s inquiries about the drowned boy were rudely dismissed by one of the officers, but the police kept the shoe as evidence. As Scott made his way back along the riverbank, I heard him shout, “Look who I found!”

    A familiar-looking, brownish green dragonfly was attached to Scott’s left shoulder.

    “Do you think it recognizes us?” I asked.

    “Of course!” laughed Scott. “We’re his papas!”

    Scott named the dragonfly Meta, short for Metamorphosis. 

    Like our little green friend, our impenetrable shells were slowly cracking and fragile new beings were emerging. These were vulnerable days indeed. We too were spreading our newly found wings and testing the gentle breezes that blew our way. Soon, we would take to the water in search of new adventures, new experiences, and new stories to hear and share and revel in. We had intentions to not only fly, but to soar.”

    Illustration by Jeremy Bruneel, one of 26 illustrations featured in Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends (available mid-June through Crow Books).

  • A CATHARTIC CLEANSING

    This is Part 3 of “Lead with Your Heart,” a week-long series about letting go and moving forward.

    ~~~

    Yesterday, I wrote about the risks of starting a new publishing company. I’ll admit, it’s been overwhelming at times just laying the foundation. But etched into that foundation is a solid commitment to press onward and upward. I’ve had to sacrifice plenty to arrive at this point, and no doubt the sacrifices will continue as Crow Books moves forward.

    Whether welcomed or not, sacrifices, as well as the act of “letting go,” are part of life. Learning how to “let go” is certainly one of the keys to maturation. Understanding the fears that surround the act of letting go is key to moving forward in life. This concept gets a thorough workout in Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends (Crow Books’ first release). Writing the book was exhausting, but very freeing. It was a huge purge, a cathartic cleansing that stripped away the mask of ignorance I’d grown fond of wearing. Insights arose at every keystroke, expanding awareness through divulgence and acceptance. The act of letting go was present in every step of the book’s evolution, culminating in the editing process. Arriving at the decision to remove passages that had taken days to write proved difficult and, at times, frightening. Inevitably, a new concept emerged as the old one was being discarded, and the resulting passages stood stronger than previous.

    “Part-Time Superheroes…” boldly examines everything from saying goodbye to friends and failed relationships to purging unwanted jobs and a myriad of material possessions. There are farewells to loved ones, parental issues, and substance abuse issues. Successes that led to failures and failures that led to successes both get thoroughly explored. And because the heart of the book chronicles a river journey, saying farewell to the idea of getting anywhere quickly also surfaces. When you paddle a long river, you do so on river time, not human time. You learn that any attempts to control anything are completely futile. You can’t control a river (or a travel partner) any more than you can control the weather. Dams and channelization methods are constructed with crossed fingers and thin hopes. In time, those obstructions too will fall. Rivers will heal and flow as they did long before we silly humans arrived on the scene to screw things up. No worries, though—wrongs will be righted. Nature has a knack for balancing things out, usually at the expense of the troublemakers.

    “Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends” has now gone to print. A pallet piled high with boxes is due to arrive on my doorstep next week. Soon, this writing project will enter its next phase: public consumption. I sincerely hope you will take time to read my story. It is a tale worth telling, and sharing. Thanks for your interest.

  • CROW BOOKS

    This is Part 2 of “Lead with Your Heart,” a week-long series about letting go and moving forward.

    ~~~

    Yesterday, I wrote about casting aside the past and moving forward. Doing so is inherently risky. The tendency to shy away from what is uncomfortable and unfamiliar is something all of us can relate to. And yet, confronting those entrenched fears—particularly the fear of letting go—is something we have done multiple times in our lives. We are where we are because we assumed risks and accepted the inherent consequences. Our actions helped reinforce our resiliency and strengthened our problem-solving capabilities. As an added payoff, our experiences helped make us more empathic toward those who are struggling around us. We were presented with opportunities to give back, and we accepted the responsibility to do so. Simply put, we led with our heart.

    Three months ago, I started a publishing company called Crow Books. I am the sole owner and operator. This is my first business venture, and I must admit, I entered into the decision with no trepidation—not because I have a ton of confidence in my abilities as a business person, but because it felt like the right thing to do. Simply put, I led with my heart.

    I love the challenges of writing and book design. As much as it sometimes pains me to work collaboratively with other creatives, the sheer amount of satisfaction I’ve experienced in the past five years while working on my first book has been immensely rewarding. Freed from the burden of slaving away for 40 hours a week at a job I hated, I have quadrupled my creative output and feel like I have uncovered only the tiny tip of a giant iceberg. There is so much more to come!

    Sure, my income has dwindled to a fraction of what I used to make at my old landscape maintenance job, but every day I am reminded that time is far more important than money. That’s not to say I don’t work hard. I spend far more hours per week doing what I do now (getting a business off the ground) than I ever did in any full-time position I’ve held. The funny thing is—and you’ve likely heard this from others many times before—what I do now does not seem like work. I’m doing what I love, and I love what I do. I am good at it, and no one can do it like I can—and that’s a good thing, because I don’t want anyone to do it like me. I want them to do it THEIR way. I want them to take risks, to address the things that currently suck in their world, and take the time to create solutions that will lead them in a more positive direction, a direction that leads not to job satisfaction, but to life satisfaction. (There’s a big difference, people!)

    I know the path ahead will be fraught with obstacles, but I am ready to meet those obstacles head-on. I have persevered many times in my life. I have assumed risks and I have been successful in many ventures. Crow Books is the key to my future. It is the cornerstone of a new adventure. It will become part of my legacy, and I will be a better person for having taken the risk of launching it.

    The first Crow Books release will be “Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends,” a 288-page journey I embarked on 14 years ago. The story chronicles my 35-year-long friendship with my best mate and muse, Scott McFarlane, and courageously navigates the numerous peaks and valleys of friendship while descending the Mississippi River in a small boat. The storyline is highly relatable and is sure to have you examining your own engrained perceptions of the word “friendship.”

    To coincide with the book’s release, I have designed six t-shirts, each related to the book in some way. All of the artwork featured in “Part-Time Superheroes…” (over 20 illustrations, including the cover art) has been reproduced as 12” x 18” high quality prints. Friend and artist, Jeremy Bruneel, has done a wonderful job interpreting the book’s characters and themes, and it my distinct pleasure to feature his amazing art at more than twice the size of how it appears in the book.

    “Part-Time Superheroes, Full-Time Friends” will be available in paperback and eBook versions, and you will be able to purchase the book (as well as the above-mentioned merchandise) via an online store at the Crow Books website (coming mid-June).

    My financial livelihood will primarily revolve around items sold through the Crow Books website as well as at speaking engagements, trade shows, and book signings/readings. I sincerely hope I can count on your generous support as Crow Books continues to grow in new and exciting directions. Running a small, independent publishing company will not be easy, but with your help, I hope to provide a positive example to the world that success—however you choose to define it—is not only possible when reinforced with hard work and dedication, but also immensely rewarding when led from the heart.

    Thanks, in advance, for your interest and involvement in my exciting new pursuit.