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Monday, May 16, 2022

Let's be honest...













babies like wheels! Also, pancakes, and kitties, and Mom's water bottle, and the piano, and hanging upside-down (thanks Dad), and pulling things out of cupboards, and bubbles, and climbing the stairs and peek-a-boo, and stuffed bunnies that light up, and swinging, and picking tiny things off the floor, and bath time, and going outside, but let's be honest, not socks. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Cradles

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Remember cat's cradle? One pair of hands constructs the string cradle, then someone else gathers it from those original hands and reconstructs it, pulling it together at the end, hoping the cradle reforms, altered, perhaps even transformed; its new composition surprises. Isn't this essentially the relationship between writer and reader? I construct these words and yet you, the reader, reconstruct them based on your thoughts, experiences, and feelings.   

Writer Sarah Manguso said, "the purpose of being a serious writer is to keep people from despair." These words were new to me, and welcome wisdom. Cradles, indeed. 

Despair. It's in everything lately, especially ongoing news about Russia's war crimes in Ukraine. What words could I hope to construct to keep you (& me) from despair? I know a few that dispel despair: trees, sunrises, ice-cream, music, children. Words can seem fleeting though, can't they? Many are not so impermanent though. Which words do you return to when you need them? I think about tattoos featuring words including gratitude, dream, worrier warrior, continue, and so on. 

Anne Frank apparently said, "I have often been downcast, but never in despair." I thought about Anne Frank a lot in 2020 as the pandemic raged on and on; she isolated for 761 days. That's some perspective, isn't it? I continue to think about her legacy: her words continue to resonate, anything but temporary. Think of Anne, friends: be downcast if you need to, but do not despair. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Things that deserve the stink-eye:


Sure AI, proof of humanity is something you know all about. But I get it. In 2022, humanity does indeed need to be verified. Sigh. 

However, if today you seek a fine example of humanity, an example for us all, read about Gabriel Clark

Friday, April 1, 2022

Grateful

 

Before our granddaughter was born, I asked my last Grade 9 class for advice on grandparenting. Their suggestions made me emotional and reminded me again how meaningful grandparents can be. As my granddaughter celebrates her first birthday, I wanted to share two of my favourites. I will say that my former students would be proud of me (except for the clothes...but my wife excelled at that one). Today I am grateful for youth, for my daughter and her husband, and for the opportunity to be Grandpops to one special girl

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

 

My wife likes to toss her gloves on the desk near the back door. So, what's the problem? Notice that security camera behind them? Sigh. 

Monday, March 28, 2022

Let's be Honest

Heather Buchanan, artist
My daughter's fridge-magnet makes me laugh. Let's be honest: we all feel this way periodically whether the stress is motivated by work nonsense, frustrating obligations, social strife, when the cat barfs, and so on.... 

What I find especially clever about this tiny art-piece is its display of chaos in a mundane formall typically overlooked objects like fridge magnets should be so incendiary, pun intended haha. It's just so honest; we all have those moments when too many suppressed annoyances threaten to surface. Anyone who claims to be mostly serene isn't paying attention or lying in service to perfection, or perhaps shallow? Sorry to be judgy but consistently Zen types confuse me. They are unicorns and I am glad for them but I personally don't know anyone with an entirely passive amygdala. This story-in-a-fridge-magnet is a nod to authenticity. It echoes Thoreau's astute conclusion that many "lead lives of quiet desperation." Similar to Prufrock, it asks, "should I disturb the universe?"

My daughter is nearing the end of her first year as a Mom and she and her partner learned to be parents IN A FREAKING PANDEMIC. So among the toys and the diapers and her job and the weighty emotional labour and countless other things, I am glad she can have this devious cathartic moment at the fridge everyday and then carry on. 

Monday, February 28, 2022

No reason for it.

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Ukraine was invaded around the same time I streamed Kenneth Branagh's film Belfast. Conflation tends toward error, but whatever fusion and alchemy I experienced continues to weigh on my heart and linger. Perhaps too, as a Gen Xer, Russian aggression feels a bit triggering, and absolutely deja vu. 

Set in 1969, the autobiographical film emphasizes Branagh's most formative "fork in the road" when his Protestant family grapples with deciding whether to stay in an increasingly dangerous and violent Northern Irelandthe only home they have ever knownor escape to Britain. Told from the perspective of Buddy, a composite of Branagh's childhood perspective, the film is like reexperiencing innocence lost. Pure time-travel, the story plots his early life in childhood fragments and memories and each squeezes the heart. It evoked my own parents and grandparents, young and vibrant againalso my childhood traditions, friends, and first crushes; it illustrated well that childhood confusion we all experience when the people we want to trust most make decisions, or are forced to make decisions, that will reverberate in our lives in expected and unexpected ways, forever. It is a universal story, told and retold. I was rapt. 

Likewise, I was glued to breaking news reports in Eastern Europe; I imagined those children in Ukraine, their slow-motion escape toward the border with Poland, compelled by fear, confusion, anger, disillusionment, many leaving their fathers behind. There is no reason for it. 

History has revealed that Northern Ireland's "troubles" are no longer so troubling. But what will history say about Ukraine and Russia, and the selfish ideology that enabled a conflict currently trending as WW3? No matter what the books written about this someday say, I have to ask again, when will we ever learn from history? Why must we repeat it? And what will our children remember? 

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Her Words

I have been waiting for her words. They're here! Ten months old now, my granddaughter says, "Dada" & "Kitty" and perhaps a few other things too.

She also loves to point us toward whatever she is interested in: the artwork above the kitchen table, creatures within the book, her nightlight bunny, the window. Her basic receptive ASL is developing too: all done makes her laugh, and likely this is why she verbalized kitty so early. I think her cat is impressed too. 

Dear friends, before we have words (and after), our hands are voices too. Use them to love. 

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Things one should never outgrow:

I own a snowmobile now. WHAT?

For ChristmasI'm still flabbergastedmy wife surprised me with a GD snowmobile! I literally bawled. It's a dream come true.

It's used. It's not fancy. It has duct-tape on the seat. It's the skidoo brand, and yellow, but I forget the number, or whatever? My son explained it all but, shrug, unlike him, I can't seem to store vehicle information in my brain. Anyway, it's perfect. 

But this particular dream was moved to storage many years ago. Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, we had old "putt-putt" snowmobiles which my Dad mostly obtained through bartering over unpaid mechanics bills. This coupled with 1970s-style adult supervisionaka absolutely nonemy childhood obsession was born. (Read here for an example of no supervision whatsoever style snowmobiling.) Later, my Dad gave my young son a miniature snowmobile which kickstarted his obsession, and now he has his own. Sure, we borrowed snowmobiles from family members over the years and made some great memories, yet own one? That seemed like a complete luxury; I could never seem to justify spending the money. Admittedly, my vibe is 100% cheap bastard. (My wife's vibe is 100% not.)

Bitterly cold in Alberta this December/January, my son and I finally spent last Saturday zipping along the local river up and down the trails and hills and through the thick spruce trees and swamps. (Insert contented sigh here.) Afterwards, my son and I were talking. 

I asked him, "What does snowmobiling feel like for you?"

"Freedom. Happiness. How would you describe it?"

I had not stopped smiling the entire trip; I thought back to the constant elevation changes, squeezing through narrow tree-lined trails, getting stuck on the side of a hill that felt like about 110 degrees (my son knew what to do), admiring my son's intentional launch stunts, and likewise all my unintentional launches...I replied,

"In the best possible way, it feels like being a ball gently tossed back and forth, but you're not just the ball, you're also the person tossing." 

We laughed, both recognizing the delightful chaos. And although my description was a bit silly, I later checked my iPhone's health app; despite little walking during our trip, my app indicated I had climbed 34 floors.

Friends, I wish for you all a dream come true (and a snowmobile ride here and there), plus, most importantly, a son or daughter or anyone really who loves what you love.

Friday, January 7, 2022

New Tooth

Words. They're everything. Once you know the word, you begin to understand. Take "neo" for example; the standard definition is "new," yet it also means "a new or revived form" of something. There's an interesting space between those two definitions, a space for complexity and deep contemplation.

Consider neophobia (fear of the new) and neophilia (love of the new). A recent NYT article proposed that disgust is at the core of human behavior—we are oriented by what we can and cannot tolerate, what attracts or repulses us. It's not a stretch to see how this is reflected in all aspects of society from eating habits to racism. We can see how neophobia and neophilia become mindsets; we can consider how this impacts progress. In between these two words is an entire philosophy that asks, what would we prefer to embrace and what would we prefer to turn away from? Essentially, what are we afraid of and why? How do we find a way to love what we think we should ignore, dismiss, or worse: actively hate? Pondering this mindset might be a key to open what's locked, shift what's stuck, or heal what's broken. 

My granddaughter has a new tooth, her first oneone might say a "neo-tooth." Ultimately, everything about my granddaughter is both neo and in new or revived form. She evolves each month, and she's an absolute delight and inspiration. My granddaughter embodies neophilia. She's also the human prototype: both the teacher and the lesson. Dear friends: think about that. 

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