Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

"Don't Know."

Lynda Barry
Lately I've been reading books about art and the creative process. They're rebuilding me. I need to do this sometimes. (Don't you?) A little art therapy I guess.

One of the books is a graphic non-linear autobiography. The narrator tells her own story through a series of drawings and doodles and collages framed by thoughts. In one section she's doodling and there are ghosts behind her yelling "Don't Know!"  The girl is the book's author struggling with her desire to become an artist. The problem is she doesn't know if her work is any good. She's already experienced that inevitable turning point we all undergo at some point regarding self-expression and art: someone judged her work negatively. Now she is followed by ghosts whose lingering presence forces her to question the value of her work. And she just can't determine anymore what's good. Before, it didn't matter.

So how does one know if something is truly good?

"Don't know."

Every child experiences this. Every artist experiences this. Really anyone who creates anything. I very clearly recall winning an art contest in Grade 3. There was an assembly and I was presented with a book. The man reached out to shake my hand but I didn't know what he was doing so I stood there until finally I reached up and held his hand for a while. He laughed. For years after that I wondered, am I an artist? Art class, for me, was my school safe place. I enjoyed most things about school but Art class felt more like home than my own home. I never felt stupid there. And honestly I don't ever remember being criticized there but I do remember one useless lesson I learned at some point in junior high: real boys don't do art. And that's when the critic appeared: me.

I just finished my first year in a new job. Despite the many challenges, I almost entirely loved the job. Especially the creativity. The risk-taking. The problem-solving. Testing hypotheses. The play. Never the same day twice. Researching. Collaborating. Designing. Learning. Developing the art of it. Practicing. It was hard. But it rarely felt like work. But I wonder, was it good? I truly think it was and yet....

"Don't know?"

Some things just cannot be judged at least not in quantifiable ways. I believe, once again, that what's most valuable is not measurable. Like art. So I say: "ghosts, go away."

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Than You

Everyone has a father. Or had one. You might look just like him. You might have his eyebrows or his cleft chin. Or his eyes. Or maybe not. Maybe he isn't even related to you. Maybe your Mom found a better one for you. Maybe you had to pick him.

You can honor him one way: by becoming the best person you can be. (You can also give him chocolate chips, hugs, a back-scratcher and an ice-cream cake from Dairy Queen, or you can insert your own idea here, but mostly just become a good person.) Show some respect. A little goes a long way. Believe me.

You can also honor him by thinking about him because if he's a good father he thinks about you. All. The. Time. Even and especially when you wish he wouldn't, when you wish he would just cut you some slack. Because fathers can be annoying. Or demanding. Or disappointing. Or unreasonable at times. We aren't perfect. We're human. But the majority of us are doing the best we can, so shouldn't you too?

So think about your father. Think about the good moments. Those were the moments he was investing in you. (There were many moments behind the scenes you may never even know about.) Sure, maybe he didn't always invest in the ways you wanted, maybe he invested more money than time, maybe he invested more in demands than in diversions. Maybe this, maybe that. Someday you'll know things you don't know now and someday you'll know just how complicated life can be. Try to forgive him for the mistakes he made. Try. If he's a good father, he's forgiven you at least once for every sunset you've shared.

Think gratitude. Collage it in your mind. Or write it down. Or better yet, make art in all the things that you do. Thank him. Kiss him on the cheek. Engage him in a talk. Ask his advice. Invite him to walk by the river. Make him laugh. Come home when he told you to. Do something without being asked. Listen. Make your words match your actions. But above all this: become the best person you can. And then say, "Look at me Dad" because he loves that. Believe me. There's nothing more beautiful for his eyes than you. Than you.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Things that deserve the stink-eye:

my new "never-iron shirt" needs ironing.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Boat Safety Test

My wife is taking an online boating safety course right now. For her father. Yeah. Maybe don't tell anyone that part.

Anyway, some of the questions are a little extreme unless you have a reality show and you wrangle sharks for immunity idols. By contrast, our boating activities this summer include pretty much floating. And we also might do some floating too. Therefore the gale-force wind question seems somewhat irrelevant. So in the spirit of hyperbole, these questions incite in me the creative need to devise the ultimate perfectly ridiculous boat-safety test question possible and then it all became a freak-family brainstorming session. Here our the top three so far:

1. You are in the middle of the ocean and a Yeti speeds by on a sea-doo. Do you
a. return to the dock?
b. alert the coast guard?
c. return to TMZ headquarters with actual news?
d. pull out your bag-pipes and join the parade?

2. Someone has dropped a flaming buoy from a helicopter into your yacht. Do you
a. scream CUT and various obscenities then storm off the movie set (right Christian Bale)?
b. just let Jim Cameron have his way yet again?
c. eat carbs and wait to die?
d. get out the s'more fixins.

3. You are 13 nautical nautbits from the square of the hypotenuse of the shore. Someone in the boat has to go poop. Like right now. Like. IMMEDIATELY. And it's Grandpa. And he has gastrointestinal issues. Serious. Serious. Issues. Do you
a. watch in horror as he yanks down his pants and squats over the side of the boat?
b. avert your eyes.
c. avert your eyes.
d. avert your eyes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Until the Rain Comes

It's been raining all day. Driving through rain today felt right. Finally. We all needed a rain. Not just to nourish the plants and crops around here but also to amplify the spring green from jade to something more like kelly. Only rain seems to do that. We can pour water on things repeatedly but they just don't flourish the same way until the rain comes.

I think sometimes that being a parent is like that. Like pouring water on things. It seems we parents are either pouring water on fires or watering potential. Planting a few seeds from an unmarked package, and trying to decide just how much water they need. How much warmth. Hoping we got it right. Doting. And doubting. And yet beyond what we do is this world, this baffling sublime life waters like nothing else. Right when we least expect it. Or exactly when it's needed.

I guess I'm talking about life experience. Impossible to control, life rains down sometimes in much needed showers or even a deluge on those we're raising. Either way the sun comes out after. And it still surprises me every time.

Friday, June 1, 2012


yum + pumped = yumped (adjective) aka hyped/eager to eat/consume something yummy such as cheesecake, poutine, fish & chips, waffles with maple syrup, pumpkin pie, Stewart's root-beer, a big veggie burger, a deep-fried chocolate bar, ice cream, my Grandma's chocolate cupcakes or fill-in-your-own-blank here. Which foods get you yumped?
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