Sunday, March 29, 2020

I tell myself

source
It's snowing here. More snow is forecast. I tell myself Spring will come.

I have never felt a more empty nest in our home. Sentimental, I remind myself we are fortunate, that everyone is currently separated in some form, all for the common good. But I continue to wonder about my grown children's safety, and our own. I continue to wonder about the elderly, the sick, medical staff, grocery-store employees, the babies not yet held by their grandparents. Others. I remind myself to be grateful. For my health. For my job. Many have lost theirs, including some of my colleagues, callously informed via Twitter/Facebook this weekend, promised the opposite only days ago. I wonder how parents are coping, and their children, their mental health. Then I notice through the window two neighbourhood kids wrapped in colourful snowsuits playing in their backyard, simultaneously climbing and sinking into a snow-hill, and I tell myself, they are strong.

I tell myself I can learn a lot from childrenan educator, they have been my constant teachers. Buoyed by their inspiring ability to adapt, I tell myself to get focused, get creative, seize opportunities, persist, and learn everything I can from this. Meaning is more found in the bad times, right? I'm reading Sapiens: a Brief History of Mankind. Confident and wise, Yuval Noah Harari attempts to answer life's biggest questions. Couldn't we all use some answers right now? I wonder if Harari's answers still resonate with him, in this new season of history, weighty and charged with us all thinking the same questions. And it continues to snow.

Yet I know for sure that the writersthe storytellers, the philosophers, the filmmakers, the poetsthey have all asked these questions before, and so I tell myself Rilke's words: "Let everything happen to you, beauty and terror, just keep going: no feeling is final."

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Peanut Butter & Jam

As this pandemic unfolds, I notice curiously random brain behaviour both in dreamslooking into a stranger's eyes, and then the sinking gravity in our locked eyes as we realize we are shaking handsand awake. Most mental filing cabinets get accessed quickly, but navigating new (and often fraught) problem-solving at work and socially, some odd cabinets seem to pop open during daily tasks. What's in those? It surprises me every time: a memory of a word game we used to play with our kids on road trips (first letter, last letter); a staccato song lyric from the 1980s All for freedom and for pleasure, nothing ever lasts forever, everybody wants to rule the world...and my childhood cat Bigfoot, curled on the couch next to my Dad, and so on. Writing this, I detect a pattern I hadn't noticed earlier. Sigh.

But my most spine-tingly example involved toasting a bagel a few days ago. As an educator who works in multiple schools weekly, I take a bagged lunch, but much lunch fare is contraband. Some schools restrict peanut butter, some nuts in general, one used to restrict fish and eggs. It makes for few easy lunch choices. Thus, I hadn't eaten peanut butter for years. However, with students relegated to their homes, I realized I could take a peanut butter sandwich to work, a momentary woo-hoo. Soon I found some in the back of our pantry; we were together for lunch, once again! Then, to treat myself one evening, I decided I needed a peanut butter and jam bagel. But when I placed the peanut butter knife in the jam, a strong familiar voice popped into my head, "Never put the peanut butter knife in the jam!" My oldest brother LOVED jam but HATED peanut butter so this was a rule growing up. He's been dead since 2013; I hadn't heard his voice for so long. I laughed and then it nearly broke me. But I ate that damn PB&J bagel, determined. Friends, use those voices inside you now, the ones that summon courage.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

For Clarity

It may not look like it yet, but Spring is almost heremy favourite season. This Spring will be like none before, at least in my lifetime. Still, I am grateful for Spring. For conversations with my daughter. For a silly video from my son. For the way my wife looks at me sometimes. For friends. For my work colleagues and their dedication to all things education, even without students. For doctors and nurses and medical staff. For scientists and leaders who heed them. For surprise chocolate-chip cookies. For one last gift from my 96-year-old Grandmother. For wanting to write again. For another day. For clarity.

What we do for othersit's all that matters.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Fave Reads 2019

Paulo Freire said, "to speak a true word is to transform the world." I didn't realize it until now, but many of my favourite 2019 reads were about uncovering truths. Not an easy task; it requires adjusting and readjusting mindset. Some books hold truth like pebbles--gather enough and finally there comes an identity landslide. Some pebbles, some more, these were my favourite reads this year.

I re-read this short memoir this
year, probably for the third or
fourth time. It's just pure honesty.
I became fascinated with
artist Paul Klee, whom I studied
for a research project. Part
philosophy, part drawing
guide, this book is packed with
ideas that jolt us from a passive
view about art & design. 
The plot unfolds backwards
revealing a doctor's sickening
history, but the narrator's
confusion and despair
unfolds forwards, and
breaks his heart.
It's gripping, and despite
Atwood's eerie dystopia
firmly connected to our
modern times, it's hopeful. 
As a teen, I read almost everything
King wrote. This book made
me want to re-read those
and so many others I've missed.
Using magic-realism, King
asks us to reflect on what weighs
us down, what immobilizes us.
\not scary, this novella works like
 a companion to King's best books
because it shows us the good
inside his heart. 
I read this as part of a
creative nonfiction class.
A brave author who
holds nothing back. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Let's be honest:

we should all have the confidence of a miniature donkey.

They have mohawks. Long fuzzy ears. Beautiful down-cast eyes. Upon entering the fence, they just mosey on over and stand next to you, waiting to be petted. Don't try to move them though; they are tiny, but solid and, as advertised, stubborn. And I swear they are nervous system regulators.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Unexpected

My daughter got married last month. I've always told my children that the most important decision they'll ever make is whom they choose to marry. She chose well. But marriage is a choice too. I didn't expect this. Any of it.

I didn't expect my daughter would wear her mother's wedding dress. I didn't expect my daughter would ask me to read Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese." I didn't expect those vows, with hints of tender history and romance and humour. I didn't expect my wife's uncle to whisper this to me just before I went to the podium to speak, "Don't. Fuck. This. Up." I didn't expect to laugh so much, and cry, and laugh again. Or that they would sing that song, carefree and full-throated at times because that's what musicians do I guess. I didn't expect them to swing each other around in a circle during the first dance. As my sister-in-law remarked through joyful tears and laughter, "Who does that except L & P?" I didn't expect people from all over Canada, even the world. I didn't expect people to tell me how much our daughter means to them. I didn't even expect the father-daughter dance. I didn't expect to be the last one to leave the dance hall. I didn't expect that even though I've been a Dad for a long time, it will always be new, again.

I didn't expect to feel this content. Isn't it a wonder that we are always surprised by love? Forgive me: even though I've been parenting for 25 years, I've never done this before. And I'm grateful.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Fave Reads 2018

I know it's 2019, but I'm still working on another degree. Yet, the end is near [insert final scene of The Breakfast Club here]. Did you forget about me? I couldn't blame you. Today, I'm working on a bibliography and going through my good reads bookshelf, thus, I rediscovered some of the books I enjoyed last year in and between classes. I once shared my faves at year-end annually, but six months late is not so bad, right? And perchance you might enjoy some of these too? In no particular order:

A shocking memoir
that reads like a novel.
Literally, an education
can save
your life.
This is why we humans
can't have nice things
like rage and magic
fingers; although, we can
learn much from our
mistakes, or can we?
 This is not a
book for just kids. 
Quite often perplexed, I
needed this book, and I
will need it again and again.
Working on rethinking my
attractions and repulsions.


If you're reading this list you
probably love books. This storybook,
by Oliver Jeffers, will grip your
book-loving heart. 
I used to think I wasn't
smart enough for philosophy
but Diogenes would say,
"That's bullshit." Thanks
Astra Taylor (& my professor).

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

going through the wash.

If you blur your eyes, that's me in Grade 4. I went through the wash. No big deal, right? We've all been through the wash at one point or another and another and maybe another too. But we're still here. Faded. Or pixelated. A little worn, but still here.

After several months working on another course, I have some time off. And I'm nearing the end of this Master's degree. So, for about three weeks, I am going to read (what I want). And write. And sleep late. And watch movies. And talk. And talk to myself. And walk. And laugh. And ponder the sky. And ski? And be silent. And be thankful. And be.
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