Of Piñatas and Justice, or: Why Teasing Isn’t Always Funny

It happened several years ago, at a Grade One class party. The students were gathered in the gym, the teacher had recruited a few of us parents to help out, and someone was hanging a piñata from a basketball hoop. Excitement was building as the kids lined up.

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Inktober: Faces Everywhere!

Inktober happens every October, it’s an online challenge to post a drawing every day for a month.

Now, I’m no artist, but I’m not afraid of drawing. I’m not one of the many people who decided “I can’t draw” at some point in childhood and except for Pictionary never doodle again. I can draw but I hardly ever draw. The only reason I even considered doing Inktober is that I have a daughter who is a dedicated/obsessive artist and loves online challenges. She jumped on the Inktober bandwagon so I did too. As other artists laboured over their work, composing, sketching, inking, colouring and shading, I sat on my bathroom floor for fifteen minutes every night drawing faces I saw in my floor tiles. Continue reading

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Why I Want to Live in a Wes Anderson Film


I don’t just love Wes Anderson’s imaginary world, I want to live in it. I want to live among his characters and, even better, work with them. I once had a conversation with a movie-loving Catalan couple, over a lingering late supper in a Barcelona restaurant, in which they expressed their utter bewilderment over The Royal Tenenbaums. I mimed swooning with love for that film; they shook their heads. “The characters… the way they talk… it’s not real,” they said. They were flummoxed by the deadpan expressions and laboured dialogue. I had to reassure them that the Tenenbaums did, in caricature, represent a certain, distinctive North American type: intellectually serious but emotionally immature WASPs. “They’re my people!” I enthused, only at that moment realizing it to be true.

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Ode to a Volvo: 4

International car of mystery

You were an enigma,
Full of surprises,
Like when I replaced the fuel pump and then a month later it failed again but NO
It was the second fuel pump… you had two!
Said the mechanic,
“Who knew?”

You gave me signs.
Two months before you passed on
you sang eeeeeeeeeeeeeee
Just eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
The mechanic was flummoxed.
“It’s an alarm,
An indicator for something, but what?”
Not undone seatbelt, not key in the ignition
Nor the Zen koan “the door is a jar”.
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee
I knew
I knew it was the “buy a new car” indicator.

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Pushing Daisies Around

I just want to know what the deal is with the damned daisies.

The summer heat came at last and they popped up, bright masses lolling all over my yard, so stupidly cheerful it made me giddy. I defy anyone to lie down in a sunny patch of daisies and not feel ecstatic.

So of course I wanted to pick some for my table. It was only when I tried to untangle them that I realized daisies have no structural integrity whatsoever. Unable to stand on their own, they lean drunkenly on their neighbours until everyone falls down.

Their lack of spinal fortitude is only enhanced in a vase: the stem flops, the head flops, each individual petal flops. My daisies were either engaged in some kind of work-to-rule strike or they are just naturally, intrinsically on vacation. Forever.

I kept pushing them around, to no avail. And I don’t think I was asking for too much, I wasn’t expecting the moral rectitude of a flipping Gerbera for heaven’s sake. All I wanted was a haphazard jumble of joyful blossoms, but they absolutely refused to cooperate. It was like trying to sculpt with pudding.

Does their uselessness make them happy? Or does being happy make them useless?

Is life just so good that they can’t stand up? Is succumbing to gravity the last surrender of the truly content?

If there was nothing to push against in the world – hardship, strife, pain – would we all just melt into a puddle of bliss?

Enough. I must go now and shake my finger at the flowers of the field, the birds of the air, and those irritating, dilly-dallying clouds…

“Shape up, everyone, do you hear me? Shape up!”

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Ode to a Volvo: 3

 

O Wise One!
Zen Master!

Teaching me patience and humility,
The slow lane to Enlightenment.
You were no voluptuous Buddha,
but sharp, stolid, angular, a slab of steel,
Impassive as I cursed.

Your lessons were many:

Doors won’t lock… Trust Strangers

Back windshield wipers inoperative… Don’t Look Back

No radio reception… Stay in the Here

Odometer stopped… Stay in the Now

Parts Falling Off… Simplify Your Life

Unexplained Noises… Accept What You Cannot Change

Door handle broken… Try Another Door

Passenger door handle broken… Don’t Pick up Hitchhikers

My worldview shaped to your windshield
And the rearview mirror that sank… slowly… down.
To see behind me I had to duck my head
Bowing bowing
bowing all the time like that has got to make you humble.

O Wise One!
Zen Master!

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Ode to a Volvo: 2

Voluminous Volvo!
Accommodating to a fault,
You swallowed up everything –
Couches, tables, Ikea flatpacks,
Hockey bags, camping gear,
Chairs, coolers, firewood,
Garbage and recycling,
Bikes, children, groceries.

Accepting all without question

Almighty Deliverer!

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Ode to a Volvo: 1

O handsome automobile!
Cross-country chariot
Sweat-box

Your AC was an unfounded rumour,
A mirage.
During the heatwave you blew hot air in my face and I had to spend seven hundred dollars to make you stop.

Cross-country trip with the windows rolled down,
So loud we couldn’t hear each other
Your loose bones rattling beneath us.

And yet we loved you.

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A Different Kind of Parenting Book

So here’s something I’m working on…

They always say you should write the book that you want to read yourself.

When my daughter was born I wanted to learn more about babies. I wanted to know how they perceive the world and how they learn. I wanted to know how her body was going to grow and develop. I wanted to know when her teeth would come in, and in what order, and what caused hiccups and if she would yawn if she saw me yawning right away or if that was something she had to learn. I wanted to know how she would figure out who the baby in the mirror was. I wanted to know about eye colour and hair colour and right- or left-handedness. I wanted to know what babies like and what they don’t like. I wanted to know what babies laugh at and why.

I wanted to know what was going on in that great big sweet-smelling head of hers.

So I searched through bookstores and libraries but couldn’t really find what I wanted. The parenting books I saw were all rather limited in scope. Continue reading

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Debate Club, Elementary School style!

The kids at my daughter’s elementary school are keen on starting clubs. Handwritten notices show up all the time on the main bulletin board.

Last fall a Debate Club started in this way. A group of grade 4 and 5 girls began meeting in the library during lunchtime recess. They were inspired by the CBC Radio show “The Debaters”, in which comedians debate topics for laughs. Not all the girls had heard the show, but the few who had were in possession of the basic format: you have a topic, you are assigned a position ‘for’ or ‘against’, and you take turns stating your views. At the end the audience applauds and picks a winner.

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