Posts from the ‘Unsolicited advice’ Category

ASF’s The Coronary Chronicles – The Final Act


I was lying in critical care.

After five hours under the cardiac surgeon’s care, I have to say it was bliss in intensive care. The pain drugs flowed freely though the multiple number of lines entering into

Let's see...this one leads to the...ummm.....ummmm

Let’s see…this one leads to the…ummm…..ummmm

my neck and wrist.  Forget that my bed space and the area around my body looked the back of my High Definition TV set and home theatre. There were cables and lines and diodes everywhere…pain killers and beta-blockers and blood thinners and catheters and heart telemetry and blood pressure cuffs and pace maker wires and saline drips and chest drainage tubes, and who knows what else, were exiting and entering my body through a Medusa-like tangle.

I was wired for sound and without exaggeration, it took my nurse almost 20 minutes to untangle and create order from the plastic and rubber kitten’s ball of hoses and tubes. And honestly, I could care less,  I was as high as a  red-faced Metropolitan Mayor!

But eventually, Nurse Judy fought through the tangled mass and treated me to a wonderful bird bath, getting rid of the pinkish disinfectant – and the odd dried blood spot – that I was slathered with during the op.  I took stock of the 35 cm incision from collarbone to sternum and the 25cm incision down my left forearm, the IV in my neck and I chilled – a kind of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds chill – which was okay, because as you remember, Ringo Starr was supposed to be one of my surgeons (see Act VI).

babel_fish_diagramI had visitors…my wife, my brother, and my Mom and Dad came to see me and spent some time chatting. At least that is what it sounded like in my brain. I have no idea what came out of my lips…gobbledygook for all I know. But it’s okay, they had a babel fish with them – or at least they smiled at the right times. I think I lasted about 7 minutes before I was too tired to form any semblance of words. My body was telling me to shut up. And rest. So I did.

But don’t worry; even after everyone left I was never alone.  I had a new friend that I had to carry 24 and 7, and that I never wanted to be without.

No – not morphine or other opiates

I was Linus van Pelt. I had my new security blanket. It was (and still is) my chest pillow.  I hugged my “chest pillow”… a heavy flannel sheet that was folded and folded and folded and folded like an origami swan, and then tucked into a pillow case. Hugging that pillow with every ounce of my strength was the only thing that stopped me from feeling like my chest was splitting wide open when I moved, which was rare, or when I coughed – which unfortunately wasn’t as rare as I would hope.  Moving I could control. But the cough…unexpectedly and inconveniently, I coughed the weak cough of the injured, as my lungs tried to take over responsibility for providing me air and getting rid of the phlegm in my lungs – an unfortunate side

I love my pillow...

I love my pillow…

effect of intubation and having a machine breathe for you for over 5 hours.

I enjoyed my private room and around-the-clock care. I even had a great chat with one of the Veterans of the Battle of the Bypass… a blue vested cardiac volunteer (obviously wearing the smock prepares one for a future career as a Walmart Greeter).  Funnily enough, we had served together in the past and he had just recently celebrated his Depart with Dignity ceremony from the Canadian Forces – a medical release due to the operation. I had not even considered how this whole episode would likely end my Army career. Eeeek!

We talked briefly, once he overcame his shock over the fact I was a fellow member for the Zipper Club at 48 years of age. As I would find out later, once you become part of the Club, it is like you learn the “secret handshake” – there are just so many of “The Bypassed” out there. Every time I turned around, there was someone else telling me how they had blocked arteries and that a bypass had changed their lives.

Great news.  I just wish I wasn’t 20 years younger than them.

I was pretty content in my little drug-infused hamster ball.  But, sadly, nothing lasts forever – not even the super-drugged up nirvana of post-surgery opiates. And despite the wisps of hope that I would stay in Intensive Care because the cardiac post –op ward was full, it was not to be. A bed came free in “general population”’; I hope it was because someone was discharged, but no one could tell me.

So I was moved from my deluxe single accommodation to a semi-private room.

Now I have not written much about the several room-mates I had over the course of my almost two weeks in the hospital. For the record, I had five with a joint age of 324…the youngest at 45 and the oldest clocking in at 84. And save for one, the average stay together was for almost three days at a time.

I tell you, if you want to learn about people – hang around with someone who is scared to death but tries not to show it. I learned a lot about the human condition of those who face the prospect of open heart surgery. Yes it is routine – but it is complex and there are risks. And apparently you want to get a lot of your chest (no pun intended)

Firstly, there are no inhibitions or privacy…the flimsy little cotton curtain between bed spaces is not very sound proof. Whether you want to or not, you learn a lot about bodily functions, diagnoses, prognoses, family, lifestyle and a host of other things that you would never, ever, ever care to share with a stranger – unless you are a stranger sharing a hospital room and something critical in your body is not working properly.

I learned about my roomies’ relationships – as couples, with their children, with their families, with their friends. I learned about regrets and a few things that would change when the operation was all over.  I might have even shared a few thoughts myself…though I am more of a listener than a talker. It is amazing how a few well placed “tsks, tsks” and some reflective listening will calm the soul.

But back to post-operative care…

Being in general population sucked. I went from one-on-one care to one nurse caring for 8-12 patients. And at night, the ratio got worse. Funnily enough, CBC carried a



news-piece just after I was discharged reporting on the noise levels in a hospital ward. They reported it was terrible; hardly conducive to rest or sleep or recovery.  I can tell you it is brutal – day or night. Between alarms, call buttons, PA announcements, jovial staff, the food carts, cleaning staff, patients in pain, it was a wonder I slept at all. Add to that the sad and unnerving coughing of the post-operative smoker trying to rid their lungs of cigarette goo in their lungs, it was absolutely hellish.


I slept on and off – more a series of three-hour cat naps between the oral doses of pain killers. Unfortunately the pain killers came every four hours. It is funny – actually, sad – how your body knows it is time for another dose. I can only imagine the pain of the junkie as the glow wears off; I became a clock-watcher – especially at night. For the last hour, I slept in fifteen minute bursts hoping for the nurse to magically appear with the little plastic pill cup that contained another three hours of pain-free sleep. During that last 45 minutes of hell, I tried shifting into a comfortable position, by raising my back, or lowering my legs, or shifting on to my side, or arching  – but as I was weak and in pain, I could not even manage that to get relief. Several times I had to call the nurses to untangle me from the absolutely tortuous positions I had managed to slide into.  I tried to be brave, but I have to tell you, it pushed me to the limit. I tried to hold out as long as I could and wait for the nurses to help me, but more often I gave in, and pushed the call-button forl help and relief. I did not feel empowered or healthier or stronger. I felt weak and vulnerable and unhappy.  And I was a young, fit, robust fellow. I can only imagine how my elder room mates were fairing.But over time, things got better. My sense of humour never left me – it thought about being snarky and mean – but that is not me.  Plus, no sense in pissing off the pain relievers! As I got better, I learned to enjoy the little things in life: peeing without a catheter, orange Jell-O, a shower, clean socks, sweatpants and a hoodie. And I walked…first just to the toilet; then 10 m, then 40, and finally being able to walk to the nurses’ station to grab an apple juice and make toast.  Like I said, the simple things – smelling burnt toast without having a seizure – made every day better.

I often thought that I was not ready to go home – I had pain, my chest bone was still healing, coughing hurt like no one’s business, I had 60cm of stitches, and I had three holes in my diaphragm from various removed hoses that were trying to patch themselves up. I couldn’t imagine being without my meds and staff to move me.  But after 72 hours in general population, I was ready. I could not stand being there – eating steamed food that tasted like cardboard, sitting among the sick and injured, listening to the pain and agony, and trying to keep up a happy face. I wanted to be in my house, with my wife and my stuff. So after showing the staff that I could climb up and down and a flight of stairs, I was granted parole.

Hallelujah!  A quick visit by my Surgeon and I was sprung free. With discharge instructions that included restrictions on how much I could do, how much I could lift, how much I should eat, I was allowed to leave. My wife helped me out of the hospital, and as I waited in the hospital lobby while she went collect the car, I was dazzled by the sheer volume of noise and activity around me: conversations and food line ups and questions to the Info Desk; the smells of Tim Horton’s coffee and muffins. Though my life had been on hold for over two weeks, for everyone else the game of Life had gone on. I was like a country farm-hand in the Big City, marvelling at the chaos and cacophony. I was no longer a patient, I was just a guy.

And off we went into uncharted territory. Armed with only a few manuals, some well-intended verbal advice, a couple of 8.5×11 sheets on post-operative issues and pain 3x5fragile-largemanagement techniques, we headed off. The ride home was nerve-wracking for both my wife and me – I had the resiliency of a raw egg. The only thing between my breast bone and the seatbelt was my “issue heart pillow/security blanket” – a cheerful, red, overstuffed pillow the size of a kids’ rugby ball, snuggled firmly in place to absorb any jostling, bumps, sighs, sneezes or coughs. I hugged that pillow like it was toilet paper from the Carnival cruise-liner Triumph.

And that was the tone for the first few days of recovery: angst, hesitation, worry…every ache and palpitation, every heavy heart beat, every sharp pain, every perceived redness or soreness around an incision was a siren call to my internal hypochondriac. I imagined misaligned grafts and an over-taxed heart or rampant infection. I was not that strong mentally or physically, despite what my external face said.

But that did not last forever. With the strong support – physically and mentally and emotionally – of my wife, my kids, my parents, my brother and sister, and the multitude of friends far and wide who sent me positive energy, I moved through the yucky bit and beyond.

And now, here I am at Surgery plus 16 days: full of vim and vigour and appetite. The strength has returned and so has the humour. I walked almost 2km today. And I am getting better.

And with that, I will sum up the Coronary Chronicles.

It has been a wild ride. I hope that my exercise in self-indulgence has entertained you as much as it has helped me. I also hope that I have been a cautionary tale for some of you – especially for you guys out there who are in my age bracket. Alpha male or not, recognise we are not invincible and immortal. Many of us have been ridden hard and put away wet.

Listen to your body…get things tested…check for bumps and discoloured moles.  Early warning will increase the odds; go into hand with pocket Kings and show the House that it can be beaten.

And now on to bigger and better things…when I write again, I will be just be a regular simple fellow…albeit a little more battle-scarred.




ASF’s The Coronary Chronicles: I’m All In; Flop’em


(Note: First post-surgery blog. Your patience is requested today, I don’t really care how well I am spelling or using grammar; save for omitting the Oxford Comma – when it comes to that, “misuse is abuse”.)

Also, despite my personal story, Please spare a moment to remember on November 11th, and always.

At the end of the last installment of The Coronary Chronicles, (queue Newsworld Theme Music here…fade away from stock footage of Toronto’s Mayor’s latest media rant and inebriated stupor…), I had decided that I was All In. I had thrown all my chips against the House, holding a pair of Kings.  I am sure the more confident amongst you would say, “C’mon, it was Pocket Bullets” – taking into consideration my fitness, my age, a good surgeon, and how quickly we had caught the heart disease.

But, even Bullets can lose a hand of Texas Hold’em.  And, seriously, I was not a “poker-thlete”, playing for one of those bling WPT bracelets.

So after signing the permission papers for surgery, for transfusions, for medications, emergency measures AND donor card, etcetera, I left my fate to my very capable surgeon, the ironically named Dr. Payne, and the Hospital functionaries. And before long, I was scheduled for CABG on Friday 1 November.

My roommate, who despite his age, was holding a good pair of cards too, was also scheduled for Friday.

And with the practicalities now taken care, of, I entered in to the High Stakes World of Cardiac Arterial Bypass Surgery. Indulge me while I continue the sporty analogy –  the 1 and 2 of November (for those that have followed my case) were exactly like betting games.  Though this was 21st century medicine, my fears, my decisions, my concerns, my rationalisations were all like trying to figure out the best horses for the Trifecta, or figuring out the betting line on the NFL.

Let me explain:

So my roommate, aged 68, and I were both scheduled for Friday: one of us at 0800

OK gents, first one there gets new arteries...

OK gents, first one there gets new arteries…

and the other at 1300 hrs. So how do we, when asked by the Surgeon, decide who goes when? Do we arm wrestle, do we run to the operating room at the sound of the starter’s pistol, do we draw straws, cut a deck? There’s no real protocol in these instances.

My internal Good Samaritan said, “Do the right thing…”

Others, good Samaritans themselves, but more pragmatic than me, would say, “Go as early as you can, mate. Timetables change.”

Now the right thing and the smart thing are not necessarily exclusive, but I was loathe to lunge out with, “I’ll go at 8, thanks.” It seemed unsporting…

But more than that…was it smart?

Orb_kentuckyderby2013_615x400_origI mean, was the Doc at his best at 8am? Did he do better after a warm-up patient, like a baseball pitcher throwing a few fastballs before first inning, or a goalie after the pre-game warm up. I don’t know. Or would he be sharper, more fit, less tired at 8am? I needed a racing program to make an informed decision. I had no clue whether Dr. Payne was a “mudder” or “a sprinter.”



And while I knew that none of these points were relevant – as I already knew he was a brilliant surgeon with a great ability to blend fact and tact –  my mind was not there. It was in that “throw-salt-over-the shoulder”, is the “bogey-man-behind-me frame” kind of space.

Regardless of the Flop, it was decided that I would be first, with my roommate batting cleanup. For me, I’d be lying in Critical Care, sipping Demerol margaritas by noon on Friday.

It was like being told you were in the starting lineup for this week’s big game. Time for the psyche.

First went the calls to family, and then to friends, and then workmates – which in the military is like one big mixed up group. The jungle drums quickly passed the news. And as before, well wishes came from many corners of the globe – the benefits a military career.

And as  the operation marched closer, I prepared myself. I knew enough about the operation; I was not into watching You Tube videos or Google Images of actual operations. That was just too macabre. I’ll leave that to the Walking Dead fans,

I was preparing, by staying away. I did all the proper stuff – perhaps just as macabre – but necessary. I called the bank lady, and talked finances with my wife. It was unpleasant – the actual act of explaining where our money was, where it would come from if the pocket kings weren’t good enough, and how it should be dispensed so she wouldn’t be homeless or future-less – was accepting that I could lose. An unpleasant thought,  but far less unpleasant that the thought of her trying to sort it out by herself while grieving and dealing with frozen accounts as my Estate was dissolved and distributed.

And I relaxed – as best as I could knowing that I as soon going to look like a stunt-double for the movie Alien.

And then it was Friday. I was expecting to be collected at 0715hrs, so the family could make it in, congregated in my room to wish me luck. And we waited. How do you describe that feeling? Well for those in the military, it is the 4 hours you spend in the waiting area of the Base Gym or Training Facility, waiting for the bus to carry away your loved one to a deployment. For those in the military, it is the uneasy mix of wanting to spend as much time as you can with someone because sometimes Fate is cruel, and wanting it to start as soon as possible  – because it can’t end if it does not start.

And at 0800 hrs the doctor told me had an emergency case. I was not off the roster, but I was second. And my roommate third. Chances of two surgeries on Friday – good. Of three? Poor. I commiserated with him. That was a kick in the jewels – but at least he could mentally stand-down. I still had to maintain game form and keep the stiff upper lip. And I could see the strain on my loved one faces, despite the smiles and the positive words that it’ll be soon.

And the hours dragged on…1200. No word from the Operating Room. 1300 nothing. At 1330 hours, I was told that if it did not start by 1600 hrs, that my surgery would be cancelled. But this time, my sportsman’s mine started to kick in. If I was at 1600 hrs, my man would have completed almost 8 hours of complicated heart surgery. And if the surgery had been successful, he would have been lauding a couple of game –changers that he and his team executed – but he would have to have been exhausted, mentally and physically. And if it had gone poorly, would he be reliving The Sports’ Network Turning Point as he was executing mine. Rationally I knew that answer, but as a patient waiting to undergo what would probably be the biggest procedure of his life, I was not rational.


And disappointingly, but mercifully, at 1430 hrs, they waved me off. My surgery was postponed. To when, who knew. His next window was Thursday – six days away.

I was dashed, but after a chalk-talk with my family, I knew it was for the best. I want it done – but I wanted my Surgeon at his best too.

And so I waited to go through the whole thing again, when at about 2230 hrs that night, the Nurse walked into my room. “Dr. Payne” wants you to start fasting at midnight.”

I guess the game was back on…

End of Act V



ASF’s The Coronary Chronicles – Act One: It’s HRH’s fault…

Seriously, a heart attack? Seriously?

Seriously, a heart attack? Seriously?

I had a heart attack.

And as I think on it,  I don’t blame genetics, or an elevated cholesterol count. I am not mad at the few extra pounds I am packing or my penchant for BBQ and red meat, or tasty craft beers.

I blame the Royal Family for my heart attack. Them and the Royal Canadian Signals Corps…

As it happens, on a crisp, cool Friday afternoon when I should have been hoisting a few pints with my brothers-in-arm, I wasn’t.

Yes, Your Royal Highness, they were hoping you would join them for a pint..

Yes, Your Royal Highness, they were hoping you would join them for a pint..

The Worshippers of Mercury – the Spawn of the Sappers – had invited Her Royal Highness Princess Anne to Kingston to celebrate some kind of antenna raising or something. And on the very night when I should have been enjoying the comforting oak panelling and leather of the Keg Room, quaffing Paulaner and munching on potato chips and popcorn, recalling my exploits as a young dashing Sapper officer in faraway places, I wasn’t.

All because HRH was dining in the Officers’ Mess later that evening there was no Happy Hour.  Mesdames et messieurs, la messe des officiers, elle est fermée.


I suppose I could have gone elsewhere to imbibe. But I didn’t. I wanted the moral high ground and I did not need a pint really. So, I decided that I would take my faithful furry companion for a little joggle on the trails around the house and make room for a little weekend living.

And that’s when my royal pains really signalled their intent…and again, if I had  been to the mess, I would never had have an heart attack. If P then Q. (And for those that know, a small homage to Dr Ramkeesoon…)

Anyway, the run started nicely enough, confident strides, and an occasional stop to let Lola sniff the glandular calling cards left on the path by her canine neighbours. But after a steady 1500m, things went awry. I was no longer loping and enjoying. The run was harder than I thought it should be – even though I knew it had been a slog of a week. I was not enjoying it like I usually do. This time there was discomfort.

Not in my chest and not in my stomach, but in between.

In my diaphragm and lower sternum.

There was unhappiness around that barrier that protects me from the Scoville tsunami after a particularly challenging jambalaya or vindaloo. The barrier that says, “Hey man, smarten up! That capsaicin ain’t coming this way, but it sure is gonna sting coming out the other end.”

But I couldn’t really place it, I mean it’s not as if  it was like a finger at an awkward angle or a compound fracture. So, I sort of ignored it. Because that’s what guys do: “sort-of-do” stuff and “sort-of-ignore” stuff.

But after a few minutes, the discomfort moved from “this-is-just-a-shit-run-so-get-over-it-and-suck-it-up” to feeling funny. Not ha-ha funny. Funny in a “somebody-gonna-get-hurt-real- bad” kind of way. So, after slowing down, and then stopping all together, I did a mental inventory of the classic heart attack symptoms.

Now, let’s be clear. That I did an assessment in itself was an uncharacteristically mature reaction from me …nothing like the 18, 25, 35, or maybe even 45 year-old me – the one who would tell the rugby physiotherapist to add another layer of athletic tape on the disjointed pinkie, or tell his wife that a doctor is irrelevant as it has happened before and it would heal – eventually. You know the guy; the kind who would run a half-marathon with a pulled groin. (By the way, “ran” is bit of an optimistic term…)

And in hindsight, I think with that action,I have finally arrived at that age where I actually might be paying attention to my body’s flashing lights and warning indicators. I think Maslow called it “Stage 5A: Waking-the-F*ck-Up-ilization” which gladly is just mercifully short of Self-Actualization – which in this instance, unfortunately, would be reached with the exclamation of, “Oh, shit! That was a heart attack! Aaaaaaaaarghhh!”, clutching my chest as my essence headed towards the light.

I remember how, way back in 2007, I thought I was an Old Bull. Back then I felt as if I was tempering the actions of those young officers under my command. But really, I was still just a young bull myself – an older, young bull – but still a Young Bull.  But last week, on that Friday afternoon amongst the fading leaves and naked branches, as I forced myself to execute this self-triage, while bathed in the sickly unease that maybe I had jogged a step too far, I realised I may have finally earned entry into the Old Bull Club.

Sadly, however, the only cow in the lower pasture was me…

I did the run through of all the symptoms I remembered:

  • Sharp pain in the left arm – nope.
  • Radial pain in the back – nugatory.
  • Shortness of Breath – nada. All systems check.
  • Clamminess, sweating? Who knew, I had just “run”, and it was cool out.
  • And I just did a half marathon four weeks ago – really…you can’t be serious!!!

I then started rationalising. No, it couldn’t be heart attack. There just weren’t enough symptoms. But then again, it just wasn’t right.

It was not as if Sweet Daddy Siki was sitting on my chest, but it sure wasn’t that loose rack of man-boobies that it always was before. So I wimped out, screwed the run and

Bring it on Sweet Daddy!

walked the short way home (all the while carrying a plastic bag full of Lola’s doggy doo – because that is what responsible pet owners do). I fed the dog her little princess meal of Caeser’s (dog food, not cocktails) and Royal Canin – and then I thought briefly of making dinner.

And then it got weird, time sort of became elastic. I stood in my kitchen – staring at some Italian sausage that was supposed to form part of a delicious pasta for me and my beloved – and I thought to myself, I don’t feel well.  I don’t remember if it was a minute, or twenty…

And I debated with myself. There was no way I wanted to spend 8 hours in Emergency on a Friday Night, waiting for some Attending to tell me it was nothing but an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato….more gravy than grave. “Take your antacids and stool softener – don’t forget the fibre and drink lots of water. Cure thyself, kind Sir!”  I was not keen on that idea.

But then I looked at the other possible outcomes. What if it was having a heart attack? Did I want to laying in a heap on the kitchen floor, hoping that my dog would dial 911.

“911, Emergency, can I help you?”

What' s the number for 911?

What’ s the number for 911, again?

“Grrrrr woof, woof, woof. Bark, woof!”

“Right, got the address Lassie, your Master. Stuck in the well out back?…Oh sorry, heart attack on the kitchen floor? We’ll send an ambulance right over!”

Just the thought of my wife finding me on the floor, all useless and damaged in a puddle of sweat, foaming at the mouth, was enough to convince me that being told “it was nothing” was worth it. So I sent the text that tried to downplay and diffuse what I knew could only be received with panic.

“Feel funny. Going to hospital. Tightness in my chest. Can’t shake it.”

And so I drove myself to the hospital. Now, as an aside, I think there is a common law of relativity, alongside Einstein’s E=MC2 that:

Quantity(Red Lights, Assholes, and Sunday Drivers) ∝ Urgency (desire or need to reach the destination quickly) 2

I cannot believe how bad drivers are – the 30kph in the 50km zone, the light is not yellow yet, dammit! But even in a heightened state of concern, I was a courteous Canadian. Only three honks to get people moving when they were dillying instead of dallying. But I digress, car driving habits would take a whole blog in itself, and I am supposed to keep my heart rate down. So moving on…

Now, after parking the car in the lot that is far, far away from Emergency – because I knew my car would be staying where it was for an indefinite period, and I did not want to create any parking turmoil as that would be rude –  I walked the 300m to Emergency, plunked myself down at the Registration and said, “ I think I am in cardiac distress.”

Prompt attention.  Use that if you want to be seen quickly; but be prepared to stay for a while.

Paperwork started at quick time. And my wife arrived moments later, having had her Relative Physics moment of Asshole Drivers Theory en route. And after looking at her face and her demeanour, at that moment I was not so sure who was having the heart attack. Leaving her to finish off my registration, I walked into the very, very full emergency ward.

I stripped off all my top layers of running gear – in the public hallway – and put on the very fashionable, useful, and most modesty-protecting hospital gown. And after showing all my ink, and middle-aged man hairy back to the lovely elderly couple who shared hallway accommodations with me, I was given my supper – two orange flavoured baby aspirins . Surprisingly, those bad boys taste just as lovely as they did when I was a kid. Some blood was taken and then I lay me down to await the medical onslaught, amidst the cacophony of paramedics wheeling in drug overdoses, car accidents, university RUFFI victims, and the generally unlucky – it was a great way to relax my heart rate and share some tender moments as I contemplated life with the person who is closest to me.

And then, my wife and I waited.

End of Act I…



Bubble wrap and the Bogeyman….

Need more bubble wrap....

Need more bubble wrap….

I recently read an article in the Globe and Mail by Stephen Quinn.

In his blog, he recounts the adventures of his two lads as they try to make their way home via public transport from downtown Vancouver – with minimal help from  dad. The short piece has its funny bits – sometimes  “funny ha-ha”, but sometimes more  “funny-peculiar” –  like how the two boys were slightly perplexed and seemingly naïve to the perils around them. Well according to the author anyway; his lads seemed confused about the perils as assessed by a worldly man standing 5’11” . The world is probably a lot rosier when you are well protected boys standing only 4 foot plus…

The article took me back in time. No worries, I never  “abandoned” my kids downtown with only bus fare, phone money and a Hot Rod pepperoni stick each. But rather, I remember being a kid in Toronto at a time when parental overwatch was minimal.

Oh the things we did! Before grade six, I remember walking to soccer tournaments during the summer holidays, leaving the house at 7.30 am, walking what seemed a hundred miles to Riverdale Park at Broadview. Funnily enough, I “Google-Mapped” it a little while ago (I think that is a verb); surprisingly, it was really a simple walk through the side streets of the Danforth, across Greenwood then Pape and finally to Broadview – but each walk had Stand By Me proportions. A simpler time, each day Mom would pack me a ham sandwich, an apple and a can of RC cola – and if I was really lucky, a two-pack of Dad’s Brand oatmeal cookies.  That and a hug on the way out the door was all the motherly attention I needed. Heaven!  And at Riverdale Park,  I played soccer all day – no worries of sunscreen, no bottles of water, no sun hat – and ran around crazily all day. I would get home about 10 hours later – dirty, banged up and really happy –  just in time to hear my Dad’s favorite greeting as he walked in the door from work, “…’Jinder, what’s for eating?”

Streetcars on Queen Street c 1970

Streetcars on Queen Street c 1970

Donwtown Toronto 1975...I have no clue who is in the middle of the road....

Downtown Toronto 1975…I have no clue who is in the middle of the road….

I also remember as the oldest child of three – and at the ripe old age of 12 years – leading my brother and sister (aged 10 and 8), right into the heart of Gotham, to Dundas and Yonge. We would see Black Beauty or the Shaggy D.A. or Star Wars at the Old Imperial Six theatre. It was great! And how many times did we jump on the subway or the bus or the streetcar to head to Ontario Place or the Ex’, or Maple Leaf

The Imperial Six....

The Imperial Six….

Gardens or the Royal Ontario Museum, or the Planetarium, or the Science Centre (which even today is not a TTC-friendly destination…)? A kids’ adventure…

And where were my parents during all this?  At home or at work – who knows?  I didn’t care; I had a dime for a phone call – there were lots of phone booths around.  Who needed a smart phone or a GPS or a child tracker? Not us…

I remember those days – we all reminisce about sitting untethered in the back of the station wagon, people smoking everywhere, when biking or skating without a helmet was okay. Parenting today is so different; so many things that we do and things that we buy to keep them safe. Comparatively, we lived a relative Darwinian existence.

I remember being doing things on my own: buying stuff, and making change and generally being aware of things when they just did not feel right. I remember looking both ways and crossing with the green, and reading a map and asking for directions from complete strangers. I never felt threatened nor scared.

But I can’t ever remember letting my kids do that. Why not? Is it because I felt that the world was not a safe place, that the risks were too high? Probably.  And by not letting them, did I do really do them a favour?

Everyone knows that parenting has changed. Even the big corporations. I mean, look at the Chevy car ad…the parents fawning  over their poor lad Tonito!  Okay, what is that all about? That kid is gonna be scarred and look to Mommy and Daddy for everything. He will never learn the life lesson of forgetting your indoor shoes in the winter, or why idiot strings on mittens aren’t such a bad idea or the thrill of swimming to the far side of the pool without water wings and with that slightly terrifying panic of “I’m gonna drown…” – of realising that yes, yes he can do it on his own without mom or dad holding him up – or back.

Lucas the Forever Scarred... See the vid at

Tonito, the Forever Scarred… See the vid at

So why are we so different from our parents? I know – the world has changed… rapists and molesters, murderers and abusers, drug pushers and pimps and slave traders all abound in droves now. But sadly, statistically speaking – and counter intuitively – our kids are probably in more peril being with those in positions of trust than with complete strangers. But still,  I had the same fears as all parents, and I had to fight the urge to be over-protective. Hopefully I kept it in check to some degree – the scar on my daughter’s forehead is testimony to that.

But I am sure that, like all of my generation, I have imparted some of my anxieties and tics to my children. It’ll be interesting to see what their parenting style is like!

I think about what my parents did, or really, didn’t do. They never drove me anywhere unless they were going there too – I walked, rode my bike or took public transit. They rarely gave me money – I delivered papers, had summer jobs or did chores for money.  Don’t get me wrong.  I never wanted for anything. I had clean clothes (not necessarily the most fashionable). I had good food…though it took me until my 20s to realise that curry was something special. I had birthdays and presents and video games – Pong and Intellivision –  and the ever-present music.

But somewhere between my growing up and becoming a parent, I began to think that was not enough for my kids. I did not want my children to want for anything, or to get hurt or to be sad or tired or hungry or anxious. But in retrospect, I could have done better.  I now believe that independence and challenges are the very best teachers; a fishing pole instead of a fish.   As I look around, I am not sure that coddling or bubble-wrapping kids is working. Failure and rejection and disapproval are pretty good teachers, too.

I am who I am because Mom and Dad let me explore and experience and take risks and the occasional scolding.

Yes, my kids are confident and happy (I think). And they are independent: one living on her own and having spent a good chunk of last summer backpacking through Europe with friends, and the other just about to head off to residence and uni. Not bad, and even though they still do love Dad’s taxi and the occasional help from  Dad’s bank account, who wouldn’t!

But, thinking back, I wish I had released the reins a bit more. Think of all the other places they could have gone and the adventures they could have had.  And you know what, I am sure that if you giv’em a little age appropriate latitude as they grow, they will probably find out where the real bogeymen are all by themselves…



Slow down fer pete’s sake…there’s a foot of snow on the ground!

The white-out...aka The Squall

The white-out…aka The Squall

We were supposed to drive to Ottawa today, to have a nice reunion dinner with friends.  But as you are all aware, Eastern Canada – including sweet little Kingston – enjoyed a full dump from Old Man Winter’s icy bowels.  We had a nice deposit of 30 cm of snow over the past 24 hours. That pretty much choked our road network like an Occupy Wall Streeter hit with pepper spray.  The plows and sanders did an admirable job – most of the main arteries were passable – but I was required to bring out my best Swedish Snow Rally Driver skills as my little VW Golf churned through the piles of white stuff on our little side street. The Little-Car-That-Could did well.  But at the risk of being immodest, knowing how to drive in the snow helps too.

f**nuts, rhymes with duck-butts

f**nuts, rhymes with duck-butts

It is obvious that not everyone in our stretch of the woods does. Now I won’t call the drivers that are on the road the same lovely pet name  used by The City of Vaughan…which I believe rhymes with “duck-butts”…but over the past two weekends I have noticed that many people drive like morons when facing snow. It was just last week that we were caught in a surprise squall 20 km west of Kingston (and that last 20 km took 45 minutes to travel!), and this week I took a brief spin on the 401 to see if a drive to Ottawa was worth it. From what I saw, it wasn’t.

All I can say is that some people have no right to call themselves Canadian, or drivers for that matter, based on their skills, their etiquette, or their common sense.

What is going through their brains? I do not know if they have some sort of invisible force field, or Star Trekkian deflector shield.  How do they develop the audacity and boldness to drive like that? Do they have some sense of invincibility, of immortality, because they are driving shiny SUVs? Or are they  exempted from the laws of physics.

Doubt it.

I just think they are duck-butts.

Unless there is a dying person involved, I can think of no circumstances that create such urgency that rushing quickly to any place is more important than staying alive. They must have some logic or rationale, because driving the way they do creates life or death situations.

It is stunning.

how the heck....

how the heck….

To be honest, they piss me off. In the end, I do not care if their vehicles end up in the ditch or kissed against a guard rail.  Again, I wish I was a perfect human being, but I am not. I have to admit that I enjoy that wee bit of schadenfreude when the driver who sped past you ends up in the snow bank (uninjured of course). Or gets a speeding ticket. You know the one that I mean. That guy with the halogen headlights on high beam that cause those retinal burns; the one that violently splashes icky yucky salty slush across your windshield (leaving you vision-less as your windshield wipers fought valiantly and frantically to restore sight), or creates that snow rooster tail that obscures the road. We have all met him.  Truthfully, once you know all is alright and no one is injured, who amongst us hasn’t smirked to ourselves, “How’s that Porsche Cayenne working for you now, Ducky?”

And honestly, I could care less if they are waylaid. But you know what? These same morons are the ones that create the accidents. Lane hopping, tailgating, quick braking, they create confusion and mayhem, that inevitably ended up creating collision chain reactions.

By relying solely on their daytime running lights  they are invisible…duh…half the battle in not getting hit is taking action to be seen. Don’t people know that most rear vehicle lights are not on during the day? Turn-the-lights-on in bad lighting conditions!

And as the Classic Rock radio guy commented today…”What the hell, people?” There is a foot of snow on the ground. It is not August. You can’t go roaring around at 80 km per hour, and then expect to stop in 10 metres. You-are-going-to-slide!

Regardless of the energy you try to impart on your brakes – à la Fred Flintstone – the equation for momentum, P=Mass x Velocity, means that your car will keep moving when you are screaming for it to stop. Force=Mass x Acceleration, will decide how much of the car in front of you will be destroyed as you plough into it. The physics is easy…either you start driving around on a roller skate with no mass, or you slow the “duck” down.

And use your brain. To see snow physics in action – your hysterics will be twinged with incredulity, and at some stage in the video, just plain pity for their errors and consequences – check out the Utah drivers at this link… Snow Turns Utah Drivers Into Morons Too (Editorial Amendment – this video is a little more scary… )

Still from the Utah Drivers...

Still from the Utah Drivers…

That is in town. What about those highway drivers?

Their lack of snow plow etiquette is staggering . Yes they go slow. But they make the road safe. Let them do their job; follow them and take the cleared, sanded road. Why do people drag race them? The plow  will win the ensuing collision. An empty snow plow weighs 60,000 lbs and is armed with a 12 foot steel wing plow that can push tons and tons of snow. The average car weighs 4,000 lbs. I betcha it’ll just toss that car aside like an Emo kid brushing aside their bangs.

The Plows will always win!

The Plows will always win!

And, I also heard someone say that it took over 6 hours to get from Kingston to Brockville  – a distance of 83km. (I admit, it was second-hand, from the radio announcer who knows a guy who knew a guy who had a Timmy’s coffee with that couple who apparently took 6 hours).  They were waylaid by the accidents, the snow ploughs, the closed-off sections, and the

Near Montreal...

Near Montreal…

road conditions

white-outs…I can believe it. They must be living in a cave where there is no internet, or TV, or radio. Do you not have the Weather Channel so you can check the conditions when you drive? Oh yeah, the roads are bad, but man, I just need to get there …or my car can handle it…or I have snow tires…or I could do it. Maybe you can, but what about your fellow travellers?

People are so optimistic about car travel. We’ll get there.

Jeez…when do you give up and get a hotel room, grab a case of beer and hunker down eating a pizza watching Pay-per-view?  Or dig into your Facebook contacts list and refresh that acquaintance with your Grade Six BFF who lives in Gananoque?

And I would love to know how many of them have an emergency kit in their car. Oh right, their car coat and Esso ball cap will keep them warm in sub-zero temps. (If you need a steer on what to pack in your car for those unavoidable winter trips, check out Winsconsin’s link here…How to Make a Winter Car Survival Kit


I know friends who safely made the drive down from Ottawa today. At one point I was fairly confident in my ability to navigate the 401 and 416 to Ottawa. But as we moved down Highway 401 from our house to the West end of town (12 kilometres) to do some errands, both m y wife and I Iooked at the nasty and brutal end results of two spinouts and one multi-car collision. The vehicles were The Invincibles– pick-ups, SUVs and mini-vans. And I know that they are all safe and sturdy vehicles that if driven with care can get you anywhere.  Great vehicles really that should not crash with proper care. The only variable was the duck-butts who were driving them.

Multi-car accident north of Toronto.

Multi-car accident north of Toronto.

And that, in the end, the thought of sharing the slippery roads with people like that was enough to make me stay at home.  So we stayed home, all stress-free, and dug out the movies (and watched the Leafs pot 6 goals against the Canadiens – sorry I couldn’t resist).

It’s winter. If you have to drive, drive safe. If you don’t have to drive, crack a bottle and enjoy being warm and cozy – and safe.


Guns, Mental Illness and Infamy…

Innocence LostNothing but tears for the unfulfilled hopes, dreams and expectations of all the victims of yet another senseless act of violence. Condolences and wishes for peace to all those parents, families and a community tragically ripped apart by yet another unfathomable and inexplicable event…

The fourth US mass shooting in the past year with a total of 54 men, women and children dead.   Over the past few decades, there have been mass shootings in Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Norway, and the UK.  And not even China has been immune – though their issue is mass knifing instead of shootings.

The airwaves, television screens and internet are all abuzz with stories and theories and recriminations and calls for action. Hasty exploitive interviews with family and children and neighbours and academics and psychologists and sociologists and criminologists are everywhere – each with their own agenda to provide meaningful insight, analysis and coverage. Special theme music, a CNN phenomenon in the post-Gulf War I era, litter the media landscape – as if this sad event needed any more to stress the poignancy.

And as always in the aftermath, the pundits offer their solutions to forever end these debacles. Whatever the discussion, we need to discuss the issues in the right frame – not misappropriate them for purpose of unrelated arguments on whatever topic we champion.

The biggest argument is the persistent criticism of the US gun culture and their Second Amendment – “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  The sticking point is whether the person subscribes to the Individual Rights Theory or the Collective Rights Theory. Does it refer to the e individual’s right to own guns, or the State’s obligation to protect its citizens? There is no consensus.

Regardless, CNN reports that in 2009 there were over 310 million American non-military firearms for  305 million people – and shockingly, there were 11,500 “homicides by firearm” in the same year.

Using the 2009 ratios, proportionally Canada’s 33.7 million citizens would own 34.2 million firearms and commit 1270 firearm homicides.  But for some reason we didn’t… in 2011 there were 7.9 million firearms, and in 2009 we had 179 deaths by shooting. The numbers are much less, but sadly they are not zero.


I do not believe that today’s society, one that makes money – legally and illegally – from handguns and long barrel guns, will ever cut shooting deaths to zero.

For the record, I am not a gun owner – never have been one, never want to be one. But,  I do enjoy target shooting on occasion. I also understand that hunters love to hunt and do not begrudge them that. I am not against recreational shooting.

But I do believe that if you only have a hammer, then everything becomes a nail.  If you carry a gun, you probably view everyone as a potential target. And if by chance an intruder into my house has a gun, I’d bet the chance of someone dying probably escalates exponentially if I introduced a second gun into the equation. I am not arguing whether the intruder “deserves” to face a gun…I am talkng about potential outcomes. I can only conclude that if I put “his already-morally-compromised back” against the wall,  I just become a nail to be hammered.  I know lots will disagree – but that’s just me; I simply poin to the Trayvor Martin/George Zimmerman episode in Florida this past summer.

Anyway, it’s a moot point: the US of A will never give up its guns. I acknowledge that.

But as offered by Nick Kristof in the New York Times, “…shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?” Maybe that will be enough.

Enough about guns.

The other issue that needs to be addressed is the mental illness piece. There are so many viewpoints on this topic, too.

Here in Canada we have been trying hard to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is an uphill battle. And rightly or wrongly, we all jump to the issue of mental illness as “rationalisation” for the atrocity –  as if all mentally ill people will inevitably take up arms and slaughter innocents. That is not true.  But, if that is how we brand them, it is no wonder that no one wants to admit to mental issues. But even if we identify the issue, finding help  in this resource-constrained world is difficult.

The Anarchist Soccer Mom takes the issue head-on when she describes her son Michael. “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me. A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7- and 9-year-old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.”

She then goes on to discuss how her options are now limited after pharmaceuticals, therapy, psychiatry and law enforcement have been unable to control the problem effectively.  Her fear is that he is on the same awful trajectory as all those who have killed others.

Her story offers a new perspective. It is not just about guns – though I am sure that we all agree that a person with mental illness without a gun, or a knife for that matter, is unlikely to commit such a crime of the same proportion.

It is time for a serious look at how we educate ourselves about mental illnes, and how we diagnose, respond, and treat those affected. It should be a high public health priority…

And lastly… I ask what is the media’s role in all this?

In a strange internet hoax, Morgan Freeman, is wrongly attributed for a pointed citicism against the media. It wasn’t him. But I wish the anonymous author would come forward. Their is merit in their words. Sensationalization, voyeurism, instant fame. Anonymous writes on why the shootings continue:

You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine?

Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours.

Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”

Three different viewpoints on the same issue – all trying to learn from the Newtown shooting and to prevent the next one.

Just like we did after the Milwaukee Sikh Temple Shooting, Colorado’s Batman Cinema Shooting, the École Polytechqnique Shooting in Montréal, the Gifford Shooting Spree in Tucson, the Shooting at Fort Hood, the Virginia Tech Shooting, or the Columbine Massacre…and on and on.

Dozens killed or injured in mass shooting at Colorado cinema

Gun control? Mental Illness? The Media?

I don’t know which is to blame. And evidently people with a lot bigger brains are just as confused, otherwise this would be sorted. All I know is that we need to talk about all of them, how they interact, and then we need to sort it. Hearing and seeing adults, teenagers, children – male and female –  die needlessly at the hands of executioners armed to the teeth is not an acceptable option.  And I hope that our egos and our priorities can be altered to appropriately restrict a troubled person’s access to instruments that can kill – guns, knives, or whatever.

Some say, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. Okay, I can’t refute that. But surely we can also add a qualifier…”People with guns kill people.” A gun definitely makes it easier…

We have to take away the means (unregulated weapons), address the causes (mental illness, poverty…) and remove the incentive (infamy, notoriety, exposure…) for those who might be inclined to kill the innocent.  If not, we will just continue the same superficial conversations – gnashing our teeth and crying our tears – over another series of senseless deaths.

And while I hope we can all take a moment to think of all those who have been gunned down during the simple act of living their lives innocently, please take an extra moment to remember the little children lost forever, and their protectors who died trying to save them. Offer what strength you can to their families and friends as they deal with indescribable pain and a despair that no one should ever have to deal with…

  • Charlotte Bacon, 6;
  • Daniel Barden, 7;
  • Rachel Davino, 29;
  • Olivia Engel, 6;
  • Josephine Gay, 7;
  • Ana Marquez-Greene, 6;
  • Dylan Hockley, 6;
  • Dawn Hochsprung, 47;
  • Madeleine Hsu, 6;
  • Catherine Hubbard, 6;
  • Chase Kowalski, 7;
  • Jesse Lewis, 6;
  • James Mattioli, 6;
  • Grace McDonnell, 7;
  • Anne Marie Murphy, 52;
  • Emilie Parker, 6;
  • Jack Pinto, 6;
  • Noah Pozner, 6;
  • Caroline Previdi, 6;
  • Jessica Rekos, 6;
  • Avielle Richman, 6;
  • Lauren Rousseau, 30;
  • Mary Sherlach, 56;
  • Victoria Soto, 27;
  • Benjamin Wheeler, 6;
  • Allison Wyatt, 6



Kris Kringle to Kindergarten to Naps…a crazy ride through my brain on ways I can be nicer…(and other stuff)

” Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” 

“It doesn’t matter what you say you believe – it only matters what you do.” 

―    Robert Fulghum

Sitting about idly this morning, I had one of those 10-second thought-strings that sort  of went like this:

kris kringleI’m bored… I’ll watch TV. Oh look, an advertisement for “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”…”You better not cry. you better not pout.”… That’s right kids, you better behave or you’ll get coal for Christmas…

Hey wait a minute, kids are actually pretty good, I mean they learn good life skills at an early age and are usually pretty good at following them.

…..What? Is that really Brad Pitt doing a Chanel perfume commercial?…Seriously Brad….

Wait, what was I thinking about before?  Ummmm….Santa…manners.. Right.  You know, most kids behave well. The rest….well I guess they behave exactly the way we allow them too. What about us adults, do we only behave well at Christmas, too? What about the rest of the year ? Do we need to remember our manners, too?

Amazing aren’t they, those 10-second thought threads?

And then I went on to think about Sunday NFL games,  whether I should or shouldn’t go to the gym , and then ending up with the inevitable…”I’m hungry, I should eat.” So I made a sandwichsandwich.

And later, after I put away the sandwich things,  I thought about the behaviour thing again, and remembered that a few weeks ago I had rediscovered a list in my hard drive as I was cleaning up a few things on my computer (…and I was not deleting the cache history,  gentlemen!).  It is a list produced by Robert Fulghum (website , ) author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  It is a favorite theme of mine (as you know) and I also believe that when we were young, we learned every life and social skill we would ever need for our entire lives – pretty much. Some would say it is too simple. Perhaps. But it is a really good start.

Learned in Kindergareten

The following, a bit of Fulghum’s  list, is right from the days when we wiped our noses on our sleeves. played in the sandbox and complained about nap time…

  • Share everything. (Could use some of that in the Middle East, or Southwest Asia, or Canada for that matter…)
  • Play fair. (Ahem…Cartels, Organisations, Oligopolies…aspiring politicians…take note)
  • Don’t hit people. (How many people and countries need to remember one…)
  • Put things back where you found them.
  • Clean up your own mess. (Environmentalists love this one…)
  • Don’t take things that aren’t yours.  (Wow…remembering this one would save a lot of grief)
  • Say you’re sorry when you  hurt somebody. (Simple, practical and useful advice that never goes wrong….)
  • Wash your hands before you eat. (Trust me on this one…the Norwalk virus is unforgiving)
  • When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together. (All for one, one for all…not “me, me, me”)
  • Flush. (..and don’t forget a courtesy flush once in a while…)
  • Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. (at least mentally…if not waistline-ly)

That is simply the first slice of the advice – it deals more with protecting and respecting others alongside yourself.  But as Fulghum pointed out, we learned more…

What follows are the observations we made when we were younger – but I guess we only really start to appreciate them as we hit middle-aged (honestly, you never think about them when you are young and invincible…).   As Fulghum writes,

naptime  – Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes  up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

– Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die.  So do we.

– Take a nap every afternoon

– Live a balanced life – learn some, and think some, and work some, and draw and paint and sing and dance and play every day some

Not much more to add, I guess. And while it is not the answer 42, and  it did not need a trip up the mountain to ask a Yogi for his advice – I believe that list can help us with how we  treat each other and unlock a lot of mysteries..

So while we get ready for Christmas, and remind our kids that whether awake or asleep, someone is ALWAYS watching (which is kinda creepy..) – don’t forget to dot your own i’s and cross your own t’s…’coz in about three weeks, Santa Claus is coming to town.  And he is making a list.

As for my part, as I head to parties, and  spend time with a host of others, I will take advantage of the time of year when I rekindle my pre-Christmas excitement like a pre-schooler.  I will do my annual review of the Kindergarten list and see if I can do anything better…I am sure I can.

Gotta go…Time to see what Kris Kringle is up to…



Borrowed from the :)

What we should have learned in our senior year of high school

Laissez-faire or Beatings? The two Extremes of Fast-Food Parenting….

My wife and I were travelling by plane a while ago.  Just after the pilot extinguished the seat belt sign, the aisle and area near the front door became a children’s daycare.  Children of all sizes and shapes started running and crawling and jumping in the aisle, blocking passengers from getting to the restrooms. Now, some of you will say I was only distressed because the kids were preventing the attendants from dispensing the miniature bottles, but really…they created a totally unpleasant atmosphere for anyone in the cabin over 30. (Anyone under 30 was too busy with their iPads, iPods and other i-Ignore-U devices.)  Most of the passengers were really annoyed – sharing that beseeching look of “Please. Someone stop this!”  But no one did anything – especially not the parents. What was the parents’ reaction?  Incomprehensibly, it was support, encouragement and the annoying cluck, cluck of “Aren’t they precious?”  Shockingly and sadly, I have run into the same phenomenon at restaurants, cinemas, grocery stores, shopping malls – almost every place where children are allowed.  What the heck is going on?

But honestly, while I may be perturbed by the children’s behaviour, I really was dismayed and angry at the parents.  What were they thinking? How could they possibly believe it was okay  to have little Johnny spread-eagled across the airplane aisle, screeching at the top of his lungs for his soother? There were not enough 50ml bottles of airplane liquor (1.7 ounces for my Imperial-based friends) to deal with this!

I ask myself, why does this happen – especially when I am in a confined space with no escape route?  I read an article in the UK Telegraph (Children out of Control: Britain’s new brat pack by Kate Mulvey) and thought – Bang on, Kate!  She contends that the issue is not the kids; kids act within the boundaries, or lack thereof, set by the parents. She blames the Me Generation’s mommies and daddies. Parents focused on self; parents who allow children to set the boundaries to compensate for their inattention and poor parenting skills; as if treating their children as peers equals good parenting.

Sometimes I wonder who is calling the shots – the three-year old or the 30-year-old. When I was a kid there was absolutely no doubt who called the shots in our house!  And, though it was a long time ago that my kids were that age, I can’t ever recall letting them run around like savage children  – annoying other passengers or patrons with the antithesis of “seen but not heard”.  No, my kids were socialised to the world and understood there were places that were playgrounds, and places that were not.

My kids fit into the dominant culture and adapted – not vice versa.

Lately, the issue of children’s behaviour has become a hot topic in   the UK. The “iffy” Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) mixed with last summer’s riots (particularly as the majority of the violators were hoodie-wearing minors) produce an intense bonfire of emotions centred on effective parenting.

The argument underway now whirls around Britain’s law that limits corporal punishment, and how it prevents parents from controlling their children.

From Wikipedia (and yes, I know it is not authoritative – but the dictionary definitions make me swallow my tongue),

Corporal punishment involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable. The term usually refers to methodically striking the offender with an implement

(You can imagine how bad the dictionary definitions were!)

And the UK is not the only country thinking about corporal punishment for minors…tranquil New Zealand – the Home of the Hobbits and peaceful shepherds – held a referendum on the corporal punishment question – whether to slap or not to slap?

Seriously, what century is this?  What are we – in a Dickens’ novel?  Do we bring back the workhouses for unruly children? What happens when we bring the children home from the maternity ward – the Government issues all parents a leather strap and a rubber paddle?

I mean, is it ever alright to hit a child? Ever? Some will say that every rule has an exception, but this one is pretty absolute to me – forget corporal punishment.  I believe that effective tough love cuts out the need to train children like scared Pavlov’s dogs.  To me, corporal punishment is a cop-out. It lets a parent or guardian deploy the Bomb before they have even tried to use diplomacy.  With the “let them do whatever they want” technique at one end, corporal punishment is at the other end of the “I-want-parenting-to-be- easy” spectrum.

It’s ironic, that when my wife and I went to the SPCA to adopt our cats a couple of years ago, we had to fill out a lengthy, intrusive questionnaire that asked about our lifestyle, our care plan and our commitment to the cats. It was reviewed by the SPCA powers that be, and after a few days of anxiety, we were deemed trustworthy enough to care for cats.  And I know from friends that it is a much more intimate, intrusive and harrowing process for those who wish to adopt a child.

But, to have a child naturally demands no scrutiny.  All that is needed is the coupling of a complementary set of reproductive organs – no forethought, no plan, no education, no commitment. You need more than that to get a driver’s licence.  That isn’t right.   Many potential parents may not have what it takes to raise children with the care, affection and occasional tough love that is required. They need to prove they do. Why don’t “wannabe” parents need a child-raising licence? Wouldn’t a simple pre-conception education/certification process save a lot of grief for society, aid agencies, the prospective parents and the soon-to-be conceived child?  Aren’t the needs of the child just as important as the rights of the parents? Is it really too intrusive?

I admit that I was not a perfect parent – there was the occasional overindulgence, the extremely late bed time, one too many Happy Meals, the occasional missed bath and woefully, the Tooth Fairy fiasco.  But my kids always had my time and my love – including tough love. When they were little, they always knew when they had overstepped the bounds.   They knew it through a cross word or the”time-out”, always followed by an age-appropriate explanation when the time was right.  And now, they are well adjusted young adults, who I hope learned from my example. They learned what was acceptable and what wasn’t – with no need for smacks, backhands, switches or belts.  It wasn’t always easy, but it was never too hard.

So in the future, when you are suffering the hysterical cacophony or exasperating disruption of the wayward child, perhaps you should curb your desire to discipline the child.  Maybe, just maybe, it is the parents who would behave better after some corporal punishment…



A Babel Fish Primer for Venusians and Martians…or WTF just happened?

I was creeping a friend’s Facebook page today when I happened on to her link to “Shit Guys Don’t Say”.  The clip was funny and made me laugh – particularly because it is so true.  So, in a predictable and perhaps juvenile way, I had to search for a reply to even the score in The Battle of the Sexes.  I found it with “Shit Girls Don’t Say” – again equally funny.  The satire underlined a simple fact – men and women say the same things differently.

So, as idle hands are the Devil’s workshop and it is Saturday  and I rent instead of owning – I thought I would take a daring foray into the Yin and the Yang.  Now before I start, the disclaimer: I am not a licenced practitioner of anything and I am in no way a qualified expert. My insights are based on a few articles that I have read in Hustler and Cosmopolitan, as well as lessons identified as I have tried to analyse what just happened in the wake of the occasional “silent treatment” (much rarer as I get older!)

So here goes…

Women are from Venus, and yeah, Men are from Mars.   The Book is a light, but thought-provoking read – recommended for those who are inclined to claw a little closer to the summit of the hierarchical needs pyramid.  I admit, yes, I have read it and found it interesting – not quite life-changing, but periodically habit-changing. The Book provided a few insights that helped me understand how I and other XYs act, and it also showed me that I had only seen the tip of the female communication iceberg.  You know it; that beautifully dangerous thing that has torn the hull of many a male psyche, leaving poor sods isolated and afloat in the cold waters of confusion.

For my part, I believe it is really a simple comparison: men do not like to share thoughts until they have a solution…women like to talk about things until they feel better.  I am sure, however, that experts will tell you that miscommunications are never that that simple.  Undoubtedly, a psychology major, sexual therapist or relationship counsellor will tell you that it is more complicated – that the root cause is probably a subliminal power struggle, or something stoked by negative feelings of appreciation and respect. Who knows?

In the end, I think it is just much simpler to accept that the sexes think and talk differently, and try to bridge the gap. Half of us have penises and the other half have vaginas; we usually manage to get those to live together in harmony.  So, the verbal part can’t be that hard then, can it?

Now,  I and many of my male friends, have probably sat at the kitchen table asking, “What did I say?”, after being stunned by an emotional tsunami.  Why is that?  Well, The Book offers that it may be due to a woman’s “emotional waves” (and, by the way, that is superimposed on any monthly waves).  The “literature” says that these periods are when women realise they need “emotional cleansing and resolution” (wtf?…okay, I think that means that the emotional oil and filter need to be changed).  Reportedly during these wonderful moments, negativity and pessimism rule.  A woman’s problems – perceived, existing and previously resolved – all exit the woman’s orbit and enter the man-o-sphere.  And there they will stay until the wave passes. And when it passes,  lo and behold, life is good again – smiles, chats and general lovey-doveyness. No real rhyme or reason, perhaps some triggers; but, inevitable just the same. Accept it.

But to add to the confusion, these silent and sad waves are countered by what a man thinks is the other extreme… the “talk” zone. Evidently, Venusians use dramatic language and artistic licence – not necessarily to convey a message – but to express their feelings (hence Everyman’s silent subconscious plea, “please, get to the point before my eyes stray to your cleavage or I get distracted by my toenails.”) For a woman, talking likely makes everything better: her man is listening, he is attentive and he does care.  Seemingly for her, sharing a problem is good enough; she does not need a solution.

Unfortunately, men do not think that way. To a man, every action has an equal and opposite reaction: as caveman once said, “Ughh uggah uggh!” (Translation:  “Bring me problem, I give answer!”)

Now to the guy reading this blog, do not think that men are any less of an enigma. True, we hate flowery language.  Yes, we are bluntly to the point (unless running scared).  Apparently, we talk in a literal fashion, mostly to relay information – you know, the “You look hot in that flannel nightgown. I’m horny”, kind of thing.  99% of our thoughts are preoccupied with meat, sports, sex/porn, or whatever has crossed our line of sight in the last 30 seconds.  Despite that, and the fact that we mostly have relatively shallow thoughts (for example, why do the words “booby” or “fart” make us giggle?), we can “appear” to be deep in meaningful thought.  That is because when we are stressed, feel threatened or do not have an answer, we retreat into a “hull down” position into our Caves. (Caves are varied and can be a place or an activity, i.e. the Den, the Gym, a video game, the Internet, a bike ride).  Why do we retreat? The Book says it is because we feel shame – our armour is rusted, our cape is at the cleaners – because we are puzzled or confused; we are not self-sufficient and we are no longer The Protector. Simply put, we feel useless. And we will stay in that cave – sulky, broody and silent – until we find or solution, or something shiny comes along and distracts us (again, usually porn.) Wait, common thread – porn – is that the answer? No?…Okay.

So, you ask me – what does it all mean? Wow.  To be honest, I don’t have a friggin’ clue – I didn’t write the damn Book.  But if you indulge me, I offer four suggestions for Yin andYang conversations (keeping in mind that I have made, and will continue to make mistakes).  These would be:

  • Don’t offer a solution unless it is asked for – not even when you are positive one is needed.
  • A man needs space – and isolation – when he has an issue. When he’s ready, he will talk about it, or he will let it go.
  • A woman needs her guy to listen to her and to physically show that he cares.  No “multi-tasking” listening, put down the remote control, newspaper or game controller and listen to what she has to say (and, remember Suggestion number one – listen only)
  • Don’t be cheap with the hugs.  There are never enough hugs. A good hug says more than any words can say and is a great way to enter the Cave or to show jus thow much you do care.

And that’s all I have to say on that…the game is just starting.  Later…