Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Things that are most likely the devil:

Dear Trail Mix,

How I love you. Plus I want to punch you in the face.

Sure sure. You are a convenient, healthy snack to take while hiking blah blah blah BUT there's this too:

1. I don't hike. And I'm 99% sure that 93% of the people who buy or make trail mix do not hike.
2. Bears like trail mix too. See #1.
3. Whoa. I just had a moment: when bears eat trail mix am I the not-so-secret added ingredient?
4. You are not healthy. In all your deliciousness and apparent abundance of good cholesterol or whatever Dr. Oz is bullshitting about this week, why oh WHY are you like 6,349 calories per handful? WHY? (4.1 The real reason you are unhealthy: I can eat 17 handfuls before I even realize it.)
5. I always eat the M&Ms / Smarties first. You KNOW this yet those pesky geriatric raisins you insist on including get in the way and I accidentally ingest one or two so why oh WHY aren't you easier to eat?
6. Raisins are crap.
7. You need more chocolate. (I have heard some describe you as "M&M's with obstacles.")
8. You're so hipster. What's next: quinoa?
9. I just googled you and "surprise," quinoa trail mix balls are a thing now. My reaction: NO. And by no I mean I would probably try them.
10. Trail mix balls? Ha. Seriously? Let's leave Bear Grylls out of this. Anyway, new versions of trail mix are unnecessary: just omit raisins.

Oh Trail mix, I just realized something else. Maybe I'm projecting my dislike of raisins onto you?

Wow. Thanks for the eating disorder too trail mix.

Monday, July 28, 2014


“Nothing surprises me anymore.” We've all heard this statement. Maybe we've even used it to summarize something difficult to fathom. Just watch the news. Never-ending conflicts. Never-ending greed. Never-ending mixed-up priorities. A whole lot of stupidity. That sort of thing can turn a person into a cynic, a cynic who says things like “nothing surprises me anymore.” But be honest: is that really the truth?

A few days ago, my bee-keeper (don't you have one?) told me that one honeybee makes less than a teaspoon of honey in its entire lifetime. Mind = blown. Honestly, I’m still quite surprised by so many things:

1.      That someone is reading this.
2.      Pancakes; I’m always delightfully surprised when someone makes pancakes.
3.      Syrup: it’s basically tree barf, isn't it?
4.      How much food I can shove down my throat in one go.
5.      Inner strength. (It’s like we all have a surprisingly deep well somewhere when needed.)
6.      Acceptance.
7.      Forgiveness.
8.      Pure compassion.
9.      What people wear (or don’t wear) at the beach.
10.  The weather.
11.  How moving a beautiful voice can be.
12.  New words. Latest favourite: carpe noctem. (It’s Latin for “seize the night.”)
13.  Technology. I very nearly walked into the back of a truck while texting the other day.
14.  The things we all obsess about, like shoes or cars or bacon or emojis or whatever.
15.  How complicated coffee is now.
16.  How much I've accomplished in my life.
17.  How much I haven’t.
18.  Spiders.
19.  Hugs. (Definitely not spider hugs although that’s a surprise I can live without.)
20.  How just a few happy words can sometimes change the way everything feels.

Thursday, July 24, 2014


They say it's the glue that holds a family together. It's quite a familiar phrase to me, but what is the glue? What actually cements us together in families?

Surely love. Absolutely. But what sorts of love? What actions? Conversations? Promises? What moments activate the glue?

I appreciate the glue metaphor but I think it's more like maps. Maps connect us. And like pushpin markers on a map, events, experiences, choices, celebrations, traditions, even tragedies identify the routes, the commutes, the detours. Those pushpins mark the construction zones, the places we stopped for snacks, the roadside attractions, the plus ones (2s, 3s, 4s?) who became family, even where the blanket was left behind.

Throughout a lifetime, there are many roads that families travel together. Everyone experiences the journey differently but we were all there. Once. Twice maybe? And perhaps one hundred times in our dreams. And maybe just once more sometime yet to come? We'll see. The togetherness doesn't last though. I'd like to say no one gets left behind but it happens. Sometimes, whether by choice or circumstance, we travel on alone yet we are still connected through our maps even when we cannot or choose not to return. Families might be together for decades but hardly long enough when some elsewhere journeys begin or end, heart-wrenching either way.

Maps are meant to revisit, to reaffirm, and to make the journey easier. We can unfold our memories across the kitchen table and talk and laugh and cry a bit too. Maps can remain hidden in our pockets too, folded and protected, places we no longer choose to visit: treacherous roads or car crashes or dead ends. And maps can be neglected too, even forgotten because life interferes: distractions, work, beauty, change, everything.

But in every family shouldn't there be at least one person waiting for your return? Someone so easy to find because the map is so clear, so familiar, so compelling that when you get close enough you have no choice but to run? I know these maps and I know this waiting.

Who waits for you?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Some Give.

Door's wide open.
“Giving in is not the same as giving up.”

Think about that. Like me, it may help you sort something out.

I interpret these phrases several ways.
      1.Giving in is to compromise or surrender.
      2.Giving up is to abandon or to release.

I know, I know. Some might say we should never give up. But is giving up always negative?

Giving in is a way to continue momentum in another direction. Giving up is a way to discontinue momentum. And yet sometimes giving up might also lead to a new solution, a new outlook, a new path. Depending on the situation, I see value in both reactions.

For example, one lesson I learned early was to give up my need to be right. Marriage teaches this to us all doesn't it? However, as the youngest in my family I developed this essential skill fairly early, just to manage conflict during my youth. Yet beyond family, it taught me well in life that giving in, compromising, is a way to forge relationships and build bridges. And I am proud to say that I try to seek to learn something from everyone regardless of gender, education, age, religion, culture, past or present, whatever. This learning inspires me; the listening does too. So do great leaders. I feel this has helped me determine what I agree with and what I don’t. In this sense, giving in and giving up has given me so much more.

But there’s another lesson I still haven’t mastered yet: give up focusing on what’s wrong instead of what’s right. This lesson can make all the difference in moving forward and achieving happiness. Why? Give in or give up; either way, something will give. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things one should outgrow...

What exactly did I seed here?
Sometimes things make us so angry we could punch butterflies. I get that. Yet unlike some others I know, as I've aged, my angry-young-man rage seems easier to manage, to contain. Thus, despite occasional lapses, I am actively seeking this goal: do not become a grumpy old man.

Years ago, a young person asked me this: when exactly do people get old? I love this question. It’s a tough one. Although hormones do play a big part in aging, the inquiry was not about biology: not about sagging skin and aging cells. Instead the question was more like this: what’s the tipping point between youthful exuberance and “get off my lawn?”  

Don’t get me wrong. I have a certain appreciation for grumpy old men. All elders have wisdom. All experience lends itself to reflection and contemplation and should be valued. I also understand grumpy old men. We’ve all been punched in the egos by life’s unfairness and grumpy old men have been doing it even longer. Plus our bodies fail us in a variety of ways. Since we men spend much of our youth arm-wrestling and play-punching each other, fading strength is extremely irritating. Plus, grumpy old men can be unintentionally hilarious.  

So how does one avoid becoming a grumpy old man? I think the answer has something to do with pie. All flavours help. But more specifically, a pie graph. Researchers have determined the science behind happiness. Picture a pie graph divided into three sections: 50% of happiness is genetic, 10% is circumstances (career, wealth, age, etc.) and 40% is intent. In other words, genetics and simply CHOOSING happiness is how one actively seeks to avoid grumpiness.

In conclusion, I will tread onto your lawn long enough to say only one more thing: if you want people to get off your lawn, maybe it’s because you've seeded too much crabgrass? 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Wedding Cup

Makeshift Quaich
I couldn't find a genuine quaich in time for my nephew's wedding. But this cup will do as a nod to our Scottish heritage. Sure, maybe it's a gravy boat (?) but it will hold scotch whiskey and really we aren't that fancy so wouldn't any cup with two handles do?

My interpretation of the quaich is that it symbolizes what marriage is all about: peace, unity, and friendship. And it should be shared and given and enjoyed and offered in big ways (like a wedding) and especially in those littlest everyday ways.

Happy days to Mason & Melissa. Let's drink to your Dad and to all our Scottish family, old and new and not so Scottish too.

Friday, July 4, 2014


Happy birthday USA.

As a Canadian I feel like I know you the same way I would know a step-brother who was already an adult when I was born plus you lived with your mother and became famous and now I just see you on TV.

I hope that doesn't sound negative. That is not my intention. There's a nearness and a farness about us. A nearness because I am fascinated with you and yet a farness because you scare me a little bit too.

I have been to Los Angeles, to Detroit, to Miami, a diverse triangle of climate and culture and all were great experiences. And I have so many favourite Americans, their influence immeasurable: ee cummings, Martin Luther King, Jr, Keith Haring, Ray Charles, Cormac McCarthy, Alfred Hitchcock, Maya Angelou, and so on. Be proud America.

But growing up next to you, it was Evel Knievel who really had my attention. During those formative years, I felt he personified the USA. And even now, with all due respect, I feel that if our countries were a game, we Canadians might be truth and you might be dare. And that makes me wonder, what will you do next?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Catch Flies

I have a new friend. He lives in my car.

Well, to be more accurate, he lives next to my car, inside the driver’s side mirror. Almost every day he literally makes his home between that mirror and the door handle. My new friend is a spider.

Think about this. My spider friend is either exceptionally foolish or a total hero. Fool would likely be the easy choice but I’m choosing hero. Despite the fact that I drive over 100 km/hr down a bumpy highway most days and thus his web is very nearly destroyed every single time, that spider rebuilds every single time. That’s stick-to-it-ness. That’s grit. That’s perseverance. That’s determination. Meanwhile, I get annoyed when I have hiccups.

Let’s think for a moment about my insect friend. What else is that spider building besides a web? Character.

How is it that a spider seems to know more about character, especially character gained through discipline, than I do? And it’s not just spiders. Think about other examples in nature: beavers, rats, uh Wily Coyote. I even heard about a parrot that knows three languages. I mean p-uh-lease. Some days I have to text someone to walk me through various remote control functions. It all seems to beg the question: why are we humans such pathetic overgrown babies by comparison?

Truth is we aren’t. We just forget sometimes. There are plenty of human “true-gritters:” My go-to absolute-inspiration example is always, always, always Terry Fox. Mark Twain said, “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Terry Fox certainly started something, didn’t he? And despite not finishing, his momentum still has continuing ripple effects on Canadian health, perspective, and pride. That’s impressive. Therefore spiders, er I mean people, don’t stop building and rebuilding your webs. Catch those flies.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Things one should never outgrow:

expecting great things whether you catch them or not.

"I love fishing. You put that line in the water and you don't know what's on the other end. Your imagination is under there." ~Robert Altman

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