Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Things one should never outgrow:

"tea."

Hint: if necessary, you can put anything you want in your cup and call it, tea. *winks*

May your cup never reach half empty. Happy Hogmanay!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Reads

"No two persons ever read the same book." ~Edmund Wilson

Absolutely. True.

Just one of the reasons why books are so powerful. Following (in no particular order) are my five favourite reading experiences this year.

Raw. Violent. Tender.
Exploitation. Colonialism. Pain.
Perseverance. It's everything my
country was founded on and
almost 400 years later
 these wounds remain unhealed.

Ever want to smash everything
because unfairness has ruined
everything? This cathartic
journey with a 13 year old boy
both smashes and soothes.

A clever little book especially
for creatives written in ABC
format (and I'm always a sucker for that).
Never forget: umbrellas
completely miss the point. 

I just love that Banksy exists
and he wants us to THINK
about art, about what we value,
about who we are. 



Quite simply it just felt
like unadulterated TRUTH
to me. So useful (especially
if you're human). Validates.
Inspires. Guides. Heals. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

?

Skor squares for breakfast? Yup. So what?

Plus I also ate that cookie in the upper left hand corner and some poppycock and a few other things too (heehee) but I'm not counting that one cookie I didn't like.

Isn't this what holidays are for? Why do people keep giving us delectable combinations of the four food groups: sugar, salt, fat and alcohol, if not to immediately commence enjoying it? Especially for breakfast? Don't people realize this is how eating works? Put food in front of me and I eat it and then I'm happy. It's just common hence. Right?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Aim them.

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What's the very last thing you said yesterday? And to whom? And why? And are you good with that?

Think about the hiccup-cure: "what did you have for supper last night?" Pondering that, oddly, the hiccups disappear. People think actions trump words. Often, they do. But besides magically curing hiccups, words work other wonders too. Remembering them though? It's tough. They have a casual way of escaping, floating away unnoticed. Yet we've all felt them like shrapnel too.  

I know a man who wakes every morning, shuffles into the bathroom, looks into the mirror and without sarcasm, declares, "I get better looking every day!" This man is neither arrogant nor inordinately good-looking. His words are only for his own ears. Well, mostly. One could say he models this for his kids too. And sure, it's his particular brand of Dad-humour, but there's a worthwhile lesson in there too. How many of us could say that our self-talk uses a uplifting tone? Joyful? Even remotely positive? Is your inner voice a cheerleader? A reverse cheerleader? (A drearleader?) This is why I think singing in the car is such a good practice. Car kinda-karaoke drowns out the negative little stowaway bastards inside that cardboard refrigerator box house we built inside ourselves when we were kids. 

Our words matter. They are powerful. And sometimes they mean everything (even move everything). To ourselves and to others. Equally.

I remember the last words I said to my mother...my father...my brother. Others too. Because I often feel compelled to say what I need to say, even when it's awkward, I am thankful for most of those last words. And the very last thing I said last night? Nothing special: "goodnight." At one time, those words were throw-aways, little intent. But usually I mean even those now. People tend to say, "you never know," but the truth is you do know. You do. So be selective. Especially those words given in love and respect and appreciation. And if you want them to stick, aim them. Intentionally. 

A strange thing, words. Once they're said, it's hard to imagine they're untrue.” ~Sharon Biggs Waller

Friday, December 19, 2014

Problem Solving

My poor wife. She did it again. Some people struggle to learn and that’s why they repeat the same mistakes. What grievous error now you ask? She bought the Christmas baking much much too early again. Plus, she “hid” those sugary bonbons in the freezer where ANYONE can find them. And by anyone, I mean my teens. And since they moved away, by my teens I mean me. But none of this is my fault. I blame the washing machine.

The washing machine said it needed five more minutes before I could transfer my clothing to the dryer. So I looked in the freezer. And that’s when I spotted a Tupperware container of home-made cookies of various shapes, sizes, and delicious-es. What’s a guy to think and what’s a guy to do when confronted with such a conundrum? This:
  1. She won’t notice if I eat just one.
  2. Hmm. Now there’s an empty spot in the container. I better eat one more, make it an even number again.
  3. Uh oh, now there’s only one left in this row.
  4. I better eat the last one in this row.
  5. Uh oh. The entire row is gone.
  6. I will rearrange them.
  7. Hmm. Still gaps. I will arrange them differently.
  8. It looks like I broke a few moving them around so I should probably eat those too.
  9. More gaps. Bummer.
  10. Hmm. If I eat all the cookies then hide the container, there is a 98% chance my wife will not remember purchasing them. Perfect.

Who says problem-solving is hard?

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Both

Surrender? Transition? Change? Flux? Letting go? Transformation? Giving in? Giving up? All endings.

And depending on how you look at them, they are all beginnings too. Both.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Wordfuse (Wordlers Edition)

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The world needs more literary ambassadors and the like, people who make us think and think again, people with thoughtful diction, keen word-sense, (wordlers?) people who can shift worldview through wordview, wordly people who specialize in word makeovers. Dare I call them dictionairdressers?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The answer?

Run Tortoise! Run!
source
What do all these things have in common?








  1. The weather. As Mark Twain said, “Everyone complains about the weather but no one does anything about it.”
  2. Drivers: some drive too slow, some too fast, some too recklessly, some too cautiously and that’s why they remind me of Goldilocks.
  3. Parenting. As the saying goes, “one characteristic of the normal child is that s/he doesn't act that way very often.”
  4. Waiting. Life can be like that spinning circle of dots on your computer screen: loading-loading-loading.
  5. Goals. Some may say this is poor word choice, but even turtles run.    
  6. Change. Turn the page or don’t: it’s your story. One thing though: who will want to read yours?
  7. Relationships. Listen carefully or you will miss the best parts.
  8. Peter Jackson movies. The longer the movie, the longer the movie.
  9. Being an Oilers fan. That awkward moment when someone is crying and it’s you.
  10. Fishing. As Steven Wright says, “there’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.
The answer? They all require extreme patience. Sometimes is seems like learning patience is taking forever.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Stumbling Sock

A sock turned inside-out is still a sock.
Even if it has a hole.
Even if the dryer ate the other one.
Even if it’s on your foot.
Even if you complain about it to anyone and everyone.

In other words, a thing is still a thing even if you don’t want it to be a thing.

This likely seems quite abstract and random but think about this, think carefully: what is it that you are not willing to face? Or what is holding you back? Or what do you finally need to do/try/adjust/admit/let go of/surrender to/stop/change to have the life you need? (Note that I said need, not necessarily want.) What?

A very wise woman once asked me to write down three scenarios:
1.      The worst-case scenario.
2.      The middle-of-the-road scenario.
3.      The best-case scenario.

What I learned from that task was that my worst fears probably don’t exist, and may never exist. Feeling stuck or helpless or whatever is just that, a feeling. It’s not a fact.

That sock might feel like a fact, an overwhelming fact but what if it isn’t? What if you CAN do something about it besides dwelling on it? Even if it takes a long time because 
1. Even though we all love quick fixes, great things take a long time.
2. We only really grow when we face and overcome tough challenges.
3. You were born with the ability to change someone's life. Even your own. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I guess.

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Sometimes I say to my wife, "Guess what?"

And she says, "What?"

I say "Guess."

And she says, "I don't know."

So I say, "Guess."

And she just looks at me.

And I say, "C'mon. Guess."

And she says, "No."

My wife can't guess. It's a real thing you know. Some people can't guess. Picture the support group for that eh? I, however, enjoy guessing. When people say to me, "Guess what?" I say random things like:
1. Whoa. It's like you just punched me in the frontal lobe.
2. They finally invented maple cough syrup? (Seriously, that should be a thing.)
3. Someone realized that the cure for world hunger is food?

Getting back to my wife. I don't know why she can't guess. She doesn't have time. She's like a broken toy. She's like a Jack in the box. Maybe a Jacklyn in the box? Or Jack Squat in the box?. Anyway, metaphorically speaking, instead of popping up she just opens the lid, stands, tilts her head to one side, and looks out the tops of her eyes at me.

I don't mean to say my wife isn't fun. She is. She's way more fun than I am. For example, she enjoys organized team sports. And people. She just can't guess, I guess. (See what I did there?)

(My wife doesn't much appreciate Phil Dunphy either. Can you believe it?)

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

authentic, greasy-awesome poutine in Montreal, Quebec.

(But I am in Alberta and can only dream about this and other stuff my daughter eats every day.)

Grr.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Depends

"For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are." ~C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Battle

Even for Canada, it's colder than normal, this November 11.

Winter is knocking on the other side of the door today. I can't ignore it much longer. Yet walking by our river there are pockets where water pushes through and up and over ice forms. And today, even though most of the leaves on our cut-leaf weeping birch (our biggest tree) are gone, a few still remain: yellowed, each one a shade of perseverance itself. It's that classic Autumn-Winter battle. One side advances, the other retreats. And then sides switch. Time and again.

I think Remembrance Day is somewhat like this push, this pull. It's a sign, a marker, a yearly waypost. It reminds us of what we've lost, what we've won, what we will endure and what we won't.

"You may encounter many defeats but you must not be defeated." Maya Angelou

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dear random people from today,

1. Um, hey stranger Dude. I walked by your house today and you were standing on your front step in only your housecoat and I just wanted to say kudos for smoking outdoors because I suspect you have a wife and kids and honestly they don't need that shit but I also have to say it was a little awkward because after I realized you were wearing surprisingly little clothing outdoors on a day when it was -10 C, I could not decide if it would be appropriate to wave and so I decided to pretend I didn't see you although we both know I did. Anyway, once again, um, kudos.

2. Uh, to the driver in the sporty black car that made a 360 on the icy snowy road in front of me, I want you to know that even though I was walking a short distance away you did not frighten me. Nor did I laugh at you. Truthfully, I wanted to yell WooHoo(!) but I didn't because well, let's face it, even though your behaviour was entertaining it wasn't exactly intentional like some Evel Knievel style made-for-television stunting event. This became abundantly clear when you finally skidded to a stop facing the opposite direction from whence you seemed intent on turning and yet decided to go in that direction instead. Nice recovery.

"I think there's just one kind of folks. Folks." ~Harper Lee

Friday, November 7, 2014

Is knitting the new poking?

Hey people. Have you heard? I read it somewhere. And I’m sure it was on TV, like, 61 times. It was a pretty big deal. And it sure freaked me out. And a bunch of people were talking about it. Um, I think it was something like this...

Sitting is, um dangerous. Um...I’m sure it was about sitting.

Sitting is the new drinking and driving. Nope, that’s not it.

Knitting? Maybe it was about knitting? Knitting is the new smoking. Nope. That can’t be it.

Breathing is the new smoking? No.

A sensational headline is the new substitute for not thinking rationally? Yes. That’s it. But wait.

Was it...salt is the new sugar?

Nope. Sugar is the new sugar substitute?

And meat is bad for you? Well duh. Except when it isn’t.

Maybe it was coughing? Coughing is the new sneezing? No, it had something to do with sitting.   

Sitting is the new smoking. What?! Nope. That can’t be it. Can it?

Wait a minute. That IS it. But smoking is the new smoking. It’s the old smoking too. Actually, smoking is still smoking. And it’s bad. Don’t do it. As for sitting, sit. Just don’t sit all day unless you’re a sloth in a coma. Albeit upside down, even sloths go for a walk.

I love a good headline as much as the next guy but here’s an idea: the new headline is the next new headline. Although that metaphor certainly did get everyone’s attention directed toward exercise for like a week, it seems a tad insulting to science and scientists (not to mention common sense) to declare sitting the new smoking. I suggest each one of us remembers to keep calm, look at that juicy headline on the plate, note its colour, shape, size and scrutinize its nutritional value before swallowing it whole. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

What They Said

About ten years ago, I asked my two kids this question: "what do you wish all parents understood better about what it's like being a kid?" This is what they said.

1. Stop taking things away as a punishment; send us to our rooms instead.
2. If you send us to our room to “think about what we’ve done wrong” it’s likely we aren’t actually thinking about what we’re supposed to be thinking about.
3. Don’t bother to tell us to “stop what we’re doing” (like jumping on the furniture) because we’re probably going to continue doing it when you leave the room.
4. There are things kids do that parents really shouldn’t know about like putting stuff on the ceiling fan and cranking it up to full speed just to see what happens.
5. We hide candy in our rooms.
6. Please don’t make us kiss you in public or try to give us a wedgie.
7. Don’t say things like “It’s time to go to bed” or “It’s time to do your homework” because as soon as a kid hears, “It’s time to [something]” they don’t want to hear it.
8. Please make our lunches for us.
9. We don’t usually want clothes for gifts; we want toys or money.
10. Don’t yell; it’s scary.
11. Please don’t ask “What did you learn at school today?”
12. We should have macaroni and cheese all the time.
13. Don’t ever stop saying I love you.
14. Give us three chances instead of one.
15. Play OUR games.
16. Let us be loud sometimes.
17. Trust us.
18. Give us more freedom sometimes.
19. Care for us and never leave us; always stay with us, especially when we’re sick.
20. No child’s life is complete without a trip to Disneyland
Disneyland
& Universal Studios,
eventually. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

My Barber's Story

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Just yesterday, my barber shared a story about one of his three boys, the one who plays hockey. I’ve never met his boys but I have a son so I can relate. I don’t know what compelled him to tell me the story because we are not exactly what one might typically define as friends. When I say that, I intend no disrespect whatsoever. I would be happy to be friends if our paths crossed more than once every six weeks for twenty minutes or so while, quite expertly, he cuts my hair. These are just the circumstances, the details. I believe everyone we encounter is a potential friend. I’m na├»ve this way but I don’t care. Given these circumstances, I was surprised by his story because it turned out to be about disillusionment, about heartbreak. Like all Canadians right now, maybe he was feeling a little fragile. When someone, basically a stranger, tells a story like that, it seems to me that it’s so very important I pay attention and listen.

As I mentioned, his son (not yet a teenager) plays hockey and is old enough now to attend tournaments in different communities. Only once, explained his Dad (and not since) did he ever allow his son permission to travel without him to a hockey tournament overnight with a family he trusted. But it was a mistake. His son returned and told his Dad that the kids spent hours in the hotel room by themselves while the family he trusted to supervise his son spent the evening in the bar getting drunk, one of them passing out later in the hotel room. Like his own father, my barber explained that alcohol has never touched his lips. He would never have acted this way, “My wife and I are Muslim.” And then he said,

“It seems to me that when you are caring for someone else’s kid you should be even more careful and cautious about that child’s well-being.”

Listening carefully, I let that sink in and agreed. Who could argue with that?

After I paid my barber and left, I reflected on what he said and listened to the radio news: “increasing exploitation and radicalization of our youth targeted by extremists…in their search for identity, acceptance and purpose, socially isolated, disenchanted young men turn to extremism…the stereotype of a terrorist as a foreigner striking out from a disadvantaged country is fading…”

Writing this, I’m still thinking about my barber, his kids, my kids, our community, our country. His story is my story too. Call me hokey but I bet that goes for every parent out there. Dads and sons and daughters and Moms all over Canada (all of us, everywhere) playing hockey, or soccer, or playing music, whatever, watching out for their own children, watching out for their neighbours’kids too. It’s simple really but perhaps the most important thing. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Things one should never outgrow:

whatever these things are.

I call them sprongies. I had forgotten about these spring-loaded toys until I discovered this Halloween-inspired example at the local Subway. Instant reminders of my childhood, whose day wouldn't be made instantly better by a sprongy or two?

Hmm. I think my inner child might be a dimwit.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The most? The best?

source
A 17-year-old won the Nobel Peace Prize.

I'm still thinking about that. 

Anyone discouraged by the today’s youth, think about that. Any discouraged youth, think about what you can actually accomplish.

And why did Malala Yousafzai win the Nobel Peace Prize?

1.      Was it because she is a girl?
2.      Was it because she is Pakistani?
3. Was it because her father encouraged her to go to school despite the danger, especially for girls?
4. Was it because she publicly criticized the Taliban for trying to prevent girls from attending school?
5. Was it because a Taliban gunman barged onto her bus one day and threatened to shoot everyone unless she identified herself?
6. Was it because she said I am Malala and was then shot in the head?
7. Was it because she recovered and explained to the world that what extremists fear most seems to be one girl with a book?
8. Was it because she had no desire for revenge, nor is she against anyone; instead she simply wants all children to have access to education including the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists?
9. Was it because leaders and organizations all over the world were inspired to support her cause?
10. Or was it because she says, “one child, one teacher, one pen, and one book can change the world”?

Boiled down, the criteria for the Nobel Peace Prize is simple: the prize goes to “whoever has done the most or the best work” to uphold and promote peace. Yet it's so incredibly vague to say, "do your best." Best must be defined. Enter Malala. Her most? Her best? It was her attitude. It sparked, it inspired, it elevated. 

Friends: it’s our attitude. That’s it right there. Define it and it will make the most and the best difference to everyone and everything, even yourself. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

"Is it, question mark?"

Walking down the street the other day, I was chatting with my cell phone when I looked up to discover some people with quizzical looks. But everyone does this, right?

Several times each day, I talk to my phone. For a writer, for any sort of creative, for anyone hoping to remember something, this is ideal. Thinking is productive. Thinking aloud is even more productive when those thoughts can be captured. That’s why I’ve trained my phone (or maybe it’s trained me?) to listen while I share my ideas and think aloud. I’ve programmed it to record, type and even repeat back to me what I’ve said. While driving, while walking, while at work, my phone is required to listen to me and take notes.

Mostly, I record this information privately. But then I forgot. And some boundaries became blurred. The tipping point occurred recently when I was in the midst of a real-life, in person, conversation with someone and this happened:

Me: “What do you mean, question mark?”
The other person: “What?”
Me: “Um, (clearing my throat) what do you mean?”

You see, when I speak to my phone it will even record my preferred punctuation so when I want it to record a question I end said question with “question mark.”

I should probably get out more.

It's probably true. My iPhone might own me. But I’m not like all those others; I’m not obsessed. Maybe you’ve heard of “nomophobia” (fear of no mobile phone)? That’s not me, is it, question mark?

Hmm. Maybe the saying is true: “life was much simpler when apple was just a fruit.”

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wordfuse (World Events Edition)

(noun) The opposite of mob mentality.

Undoubtedly, when there's enough broken glass, when the looting is over, when the threats go silent, when the same mistakes have been made again again, there is always a peaceful majority, a moral mob who will clean up the debris and they will also work one hundred ways to help their communities heal. Ways that are unselfish. Ways not motivated by greed. Or revenge. Ways that ripple.

Sure, it's fair to ask whose morality? But don't we all know what's truly right? Peace, love, respect for each other, for all. With that in mind, and despite all the complexities that could probably punch holes in my idealism here, it seems simple to me that whether we like it or not, there are really only two ways to be in life: you can help or you can hinder.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

Dear Hotel Marketing Team,

Huh? What does this mean? And why is sledgehammer in parenthesis? And why 86-ft exactly? Despite using the word radius, I'm questioning your math. And maybe just say we apologize for the inconvenience instead of attempting a playful tone because this notice only enhances the level of annoying here. Better yet, here's an idea: scrap the dorky signs and offer a discount instead.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

Um, I am the kind of guy who reads the directions but no thanks toilet seat instructions, I think I got this.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Shouldn't I?

My son made this toolbox in his Industrial Arts class back when he was still in high school. MADE THIS. Every single part of it. Inside there's even a tray that can be removed. He MADE this.

My kids are out of high school now and have both moved away, both pursuing further education, yet since their births they would do these things that amazed me and this question would pop into my head every time: who are you people?

They just did things. And could do things. Things that surprised me.

I'm not bragging. This is not about bragging. Parents who brag are annoying. This is about wonder. I've always been a wonder-junkie. I marvel at plenty of things and sometimes that includes my kids.

Now that they've moved out of our lives, I still wonder at who they are and what they do and why they do what they do: both their genius and their idiocy. As their father, someone who has been with them every step of the way, shouldn't I have some sort of key to every post office box inside their brains? Shouldn't I know them better than they know themselves? Shouldn't I be able to predict their choices? Shouldn't I...?

And that's my mistake right there, isn't it? Me, me, me. This isn't about me. This is my struggle, not theirs. I need to remember that happiness is an inside job. I'm sure I taught them that because that is exactly what they are off seeking. I only need to relearn this myself.

"We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it." Rainer Maria Rilke, poet

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wordfuse

Like morning breath, but my face. Just staring at me. Looking like I just smelled the worst fart ever. But no one farted. It's just the way my face wakes up in the morning now. All scrunched. The opposite of fresh. AKA get-off-my-lawn face. A total bummer. And it lasts all day. All. Day.

Sheesh.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Like trees.

Hollywood, Florida
"We pay for life with death, so shouldn't everything in between be free?" Bill Hicks

Yes. It should. But we all know nothing is free. There's a price to pay for all experiences. Sometimes the cost is steep, whether financial or more personally fraught and despite that, it's often quite worth it too.

My family and I vacationed in Florida this past Spring. Since my children are mostly grown (no one should ever finishing growing, right?), my wife and I agreed that we needed to book what could potentially be our last big family vacation together, just the nutty four of us. You know: celebrate those messy comfortable family dynamics that only the four of us could fully understand along with those inevitable Griswoldian moments (despite my wife's careful planning). And we mostly loved it. Some favourite moments:

1. An air-boat ride through the windy, raw and incomprehensibly vast everglades, with its blooming water lilies and poisonous trees ending with a sprinkling of alligator pee.
2. An evening beach concert with a slightly disturbing yet impressive number of joyful, free-spirited elderly people in varying states of dress and undress.
3. Young Circle Park in downtown Hollywood, Florida, a park dedicated to the arts with the most enormous trees I have ever seen: baobabs. Originating in Africa, each tree, sometimes called "the tree of life," can grow trunks more than 10 meters thick and stand strong for thousands of years.

Months later now, I'm still thinking about those huge trees, so permanent in a world so fleeting in many ways because while we were in Florida, my mother died. My Mom would have loved those trees. But Florida? Nope. Too urban, too crowded, too much traffic. My Mom preferred a simple quiet life. But those trees? She would have loved them.

My mother died about 24 hours after her diagnosis and I am told her characteristically positive attitude was completely intact. Once, a few years ago now, I believed there was a reason for everything. I make no judgment about that belief; I don't perceive that as foolish now. As far as beliefs go it's not a bad way to cope with life's struggles. I just don't believe that anymore. I find my comfort in other beliefs. Like trees. Trees make sense.

"A seed hidden in the heart of an apple is an orchard invisible." ~Welsh proverb
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