Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Things one should never outgrow:

Happy birthday Donny. Miss ya.
If you're a Canadian, you know about these. And how they are basically their own food group. Or they should be.

My wife loves them. So did my brother.

Friday, March 18, 2016


I think most people have experienced deja-vu. Defined as “the illusion of remembering scenes and events when experienced for the first time only,” deja-vu happens randomly without explanation. An odd sensation, it may feel confusing and difficult to describe or defend. And in my experience, it’s fleeting and quickly forgotten. It’s sort of a throwaway experience.

Consider instead vuja-de. There’s nothing throwaway about it and that’s why I love it.

Vuja-de is deja-vu reversed. In other words, it’s knowing the experience has happened many times before and yet it’s seeing that experience in new ways as if it were the “first time” with newly wide-open fresh eyes. Think about that. Think about how it would add value to every single day.

Perhaps it seems that there are few novel experiences in day-to-day life. Most days could quite possibly be described as repetitive and inconsequential. How many days are particularly noteworthy? Vuja-de dispels wearisomeness because it embraces the notion that each day is potential, each day is opportunity, each day is imaginable. Vuja-de is about choosing the better perspective.

Recently, I had the privilege to listen to a holocaust survivor, Dr. Eva Olsson. Her life-experiences are raw and disturbing, yet enlightening and inspiring too. Her message is simple, (yet an enormous task): she aims to banish hate. I’m thankful for her words and even more thankful many young people heard her truth because there’s precious little time left to learn first-person from veterans and survivors. One particular story stood out and it wasn’t one of hers. Instead it was about her. The teacher who introduced her to the crowd described the two of them walking out into the sunshine earlier that day when Dr. Eva, 92-year-old holocaust survivor, stopped and stated, “Oh this sunshine is so beautiful.”

Of course it is. And given her harrowing experiences, of course she would know how precious it is. Yet how many times do we walk into the light each day and notice nothing remarkable about it? That’s why I believe we all need a little vuja-de.

Friday, March 11, 2016

#1 Rule?

Recently, I thoroughly enjoyed a man's speech about mental health issues. He described his struggles and his successes and how they shaped him. He made me laugh and cry. One particular moment I recall during his speech is when he said, “The #1 rule in my household is talk.” He said, “No matter what, we talk about it.”

This struck me. What is the #1 rule in my household? What’s yours?

No matter the size and shape of any family, there are rules established to maintain its function. And yet, how many of us have articulated those rules? Oh sure, rules like make your bed, don’t leave the lights on, and clean up after yourself get lots of airplay in many homes. There’s nothing wrong with these rules but now they seem like missed opportunities to me. Let’s be honest, they’re not that important. 

When I contemplate this now, I realize I’d like a do-over. Instead of those consistently verbalized rules structured around chores, I’m wishing I had stressed the more valuable household rules I believe:
1.       I get 25% of all Halloween candy. (Okay, maybe not this one.)
2.       You can be yourself here.
3.       There will be no bullying here.
4.       We can talk about anything.
5.       No shame.

I regret not consistently articulating these rules more than the menial rules. Because, like that speaker said, when it comes to mental health issues, it’s shame and fear that prevents people from sharing their pain and seeking help. They don’t want to upset their families. They suffer alone. They’re afraid to talk. That’s stigma, and stigma can kill someone you love. Dear friends: it’s not too late to make better rules in your household. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Things one should outgrow?

Do the math people. Chances are 1 in a really big number in the millions. Chances are even better that this practice makes our old math teachers very, very sad. Why not buy happiness this way instead?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Which ones might you read?

A wise woman I know once introduced me to something I’ve thought about many times: the human library. Think about this concept. I am always fascinated by people and I love to learn. I truly believe that I can learn something from every person I encounter. But there are so many people in the world. And I have so much to learn. What might we all learn from a human “book” and how might it change us? 

The Human Library “is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.” It’s a “place where real people are on loan to readers.”

Whose life experience might be “borrowed” and shared for an afternoon and what would one gain from “reading” his or her life? Organized in libraries all over the world, human library events are held where the public is invited to “borrow a book” and speak one-on-one or in small groups with remarkable people who share their unique true-life stories and perspectives. Imagine that. It sounds both intimidating and exhilarating. Perhaps that’s why it has such a weighty effect on those who dare “read” these stories. Although I have never visited a human library, I do feel like I have had the awesome experience of encountering human books, most notably Ray Charles, Wab Kinew, and when I was a teenager, a Hiroshima survivor. They challenged and changed my worldview. I’ve heard about other “Books” rich with stories. Which ones might you “read?” A deaf blind man? A soldier with PTSD? A gay single father? An Olympic coach? An alcoholic? An abuse survivor? Someone with ADHD? A Muslim? A homeless person? A paramedic? A recovering addict? A farmer who lost his farm? A cancer survivor? A parent whose baby lived for 21 days? A person with cerebral palsy? A Hutterite? A female police office? The possibilities are as endless as, well, books.

In my opinion, there is something profound in our human make-up, our human curiosity, our human nature to overcome our differences when we encounter in each other a fascinatingly good story. In my perfect world, we would live with and respect our fellow human beings like we are human books in a world that is a human library, and despite our inevitable differences, we would at least “read” each other’s stories. 
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