I Love You, Man!

love Yesterday at Costco, a place I visit far too often, the cashier handed me the receipt and said “Love Ya..“.

My wife had to take a step back.  Did she just say what I thought she said?

I know I’m not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but hey – beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, right?  Maybe I have that endearing look that made her blurt out that precious and coveted word, ‘Love’.  Maybe she was just from Newfoundland, where everyone calls everyone ‘Love‘.

I suppose in the big picture, I shouldn’t be surprised.  Aren’t we taught to ‘Love our fellow man’, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’, and ‘Give love freely’?  Okay, maybe that last one could get you in a bit of trouble. But what is it about this simple little word that scares the bajeebers out of young men, and makes young women swoon?  I guess it’s pretty much the same for not-so-young men and women, too. The three word combination, ‘I Love You’ has to be one of the most powerful phrases in the English language.

Growing up in a house of boys, you can imagine that the ‘L’ word wasn’t thrown around very much, other than in the context of general comments like; ‘I love spaghetti night‘, or ‘I’d love it if this house could stay clean for 5 minutes‘.

Love was shown, it’s its unique testosterone-soaked way, just not spoken a lot. We do say it to each other now and again when we talk on the phone, but I suspect that we all find it a bit strange – like when you go to do a hand shake, and the other one tries a fist bump, and you end up grabbing his fist awkwardly.

“I Love You” can be expected and natural at times, like a mother might say to their child in a tender moment, or in a romantic comedy movie, where the ‘best friend’ of the opposite sex says it as he crashes an impending wedding….what a jerk! BECKY He couldn’t declare his love before she booked the caterer and sent out the invitations?

Couples say it to each other – sometimes even during a fight that gets out of hand.  It can be a peace offering of sorts, or used as a form of preface before you say something negative; “I love you, but you make me crazy the way you squeeze the toothpaste”.

I’ve even heard people say it to total strangers, much like my admirer from Costco.  At a restaurant, the waitress brings you a big glass of water just as you start to choke on a dried out piece of chicken; “I Love You” seems totally acceptable in that situation, because we all see it as a ‘thank you’ when their timing is perfect.

I guess the most awkward ‘Love You’ is between guy friends who aren’t romantically connected to each other.  Typically, we like to qualify it with ‘Man’ at the end, so as to not imply any weird secret affection. “I Love You, Man!” – usually followed by a guy hug – pull him in really hard, bear-hug style, and pat him on the back.

Of course, you better reply in kind, right? You can’t just leave that hanging out there without an appropriate response.  That’s even more awkward than the failed hand shake. Proper responses may go as follows, in descending order of acceptability:

  • “I love you, too”
  • “I love you too, man!”
  • “Me too”
  • “Same…”
  • “Word!”
  • “Uh, yeah”
  • “Oh…um, yeah”
  • “Well, good seeing you…”

…and you have like a nano-second to come up with your reply.  Dead air is deadly.  The length of hesitation directly corresponds to the unwillingness to respond properly.  That’s not a ‘guy to guy’ rule either….in fact, with a spouse or other romantically connected person, you better be like Quick-draw McGraw with the ‘I love you, too’, or else!

I think that too often though, the ‘Love’ word is thrown around a little too liberally. I mean, it should be meaningful, right?  It should be a sought-after expression.  So, when people say “I LOVE this show”, it diminishes the word ‘Love’ a bit doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we look at ‘Love’ like we approach the old supply and demand rule?  The less you hear it, the more important and valued it is?  Maybe we should reserve using it for only those things that truly move us spiritually and emotionally.

No more “I (heart) NY”.  That in itself is demonstration enough to argue the point, isn’t it? Have we become so casual with the word ‘Love’ that we can’t even be bothered to say it? Now we just make this weird shape with our hands…swift Should I really believe that when the adorable Taylor Swift looks at the camera and makes that contorted hand gesture, that she loves ‘me‘?  We haven’t even met!  Maybe she secretly follows my blog….hey, you never know! See what I mean?

It’s such a beautiful word, but it’s been cheapened somehow. But then again, maybe we need to say it as a way to fight off all that negativity in the world. God knows, we could stand to love each other a bit more. Am I being cynical about reserving the word ‘Love’ for only the most important moments in life?  Should I seize every moment to tell all of God’s children that as brothers and sisters, I love them?

Maybe Taylor Swift really does love everyone – who am I to judge her?  She’s happy, rich, and has thousands of fans – what’s not be loving about?

I think maybe I should stop being embarrassed in sharing my true feelings for my friends and family.  Maybe I should tell them all that I love them.

I’m gonna start by heading back to Costco first thing tomorrow!

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Yin and Yang – the glue of marriage

Yin YangAfter 28 years of marriage, I think I might just have finally started to begin to think I maybe kinda understand a tiny bit about my lovely bride.  I think she had me down on day 2.

I don’t mean to suggest that I’ve been completely assimilated to her thinking though.  My clay isn’t quiet as malleable as she’d like it to be.

It’s amazing how we ever ‘hooked up’ as the kids say (or do they say that any more?).  I was a city boy, and she was a country girl.  We met in college which, I guess by default, was the great equalizer.  Nothing drives people together faster than hunger and loneliness.

I think there’s real truth to the adage that ‘opposites attract’.  Maybe it’s a core desire to coax the other to your way of thinking, or if I was a romantic, I might say it’s the different way they gaze at the moon, but I think our differences might be more basic than that.  I think we’re just intrigued by a different lens through which they see the world.

I love surprises – the good kind at least.  No one likes the surprises you get in a hospital…”Surprise, we’re gonna have to go ahead and remove that digit after all”.  Not a balloon and cheer kind of surprise.

No, I like birthday surprises.  I really like surprising people!  Maybe it’s a morbid fascination of watching the confusion and disbelief on their unsuspecting faces, but surprising people gives me great joy.

My wife?  Not so much.  In fact, since we first started dating, she regularly reminded me how much she doesn’t like surprises.  She wants to see what’s coming, buster! There was and never will be any confusion about this.  DO NOT SURPRISE HER!

But like those two bumbling guards in Monty Python’s The Holy Grail, simple instructions are completely lost on me, since surprises are fun…..for me.  So, what did I do?

swamp castle

 

 

 

 

For my wife’s 40th birthday, I organized, with the help of a team of scheming friends, the most elaborate ruse ever concocted.  It involved multiple levels of deception, fake parties, hotel bookings, real ‘parties’ to throw her off the scent, even included pseudo-friends that may have never existed, all in the name of….’SURPRISE’!

I’ll save you the gory details – the shock, the tears.  It wasn’t a ‘happy surprise’.

But that’s the stuff of relationships.  Our differences keep it exciting.  Admittedly, sometimes horrible and regrettable differences, but exciting none the less.

We can even watch the exact same program and have totally divergent responses.  Take ‘The Biggest Loser’ for example.  We sit and watch the show.  My lovely suggests we need to take out the bikes and get into shape.  I watch the same show and think ‘Gee, I’m in awesome shape compared to these guys – I’m gonna make some popcorn to celebrate my superb health’.

I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, I guess – fun first!  If we have a busy day lined up, and the weather is nice, I’ll always say ‘fun first’! Lets get outside and enjoy the beautiful day – the work can wait.

While this sounds very ‘in the moment’ and cheery, there’s a big downside to always eating the dessert first.  It means that nothing important really gets done.  Housework; laundry, cleaning, getting groceries, etc., get pushed back, and you end up living in a crazy, chaotic world that just might end up on a TLC show.hoardersSo, me being the ‘surprise me’ guy, needs an adult around to remind me to pay the bills, change the dryer lint trap, and put my clothes away.  That’s my wife’s role, and she’s good at it.

It’s a terrible job to have – at least it seems like it to me – always being the voice of reason.  The practical one. The huge payoff of practicality is almost never fully appreciated, is it?  Our house is mostly tidy, we can find stuff like wallets, keys, and phones, and there’s usually enough food in the fridge to make a meal with.

You don’t notice if your keys are where you left them, but you sure do if they’re not!

Lists! My sweet bride makes lists.  Grocery lists, ‘honey-do’ lists, reminder lists.  For big upcoming events, I’ve even seen her make lists of lists.  Sometimes they’re disguised as sweet notes, but they’re still lists:  ‘Kids, don’t forget to walk the dog, put on your laundry, and put your dirty dishes in the sink.  Love, Mommy – xoxo’.

I’m big enough to acknowledge that those lists are helpful – they keep us on track. And I have to admit, they help me to figure out what needs to be done so I can go and play…a touch of order in my chaos.

It’s those opposing forces that create this weird and beautiful balance in our marriage.  Mix a little salt in the chocolate milk and you get an unexpectedly great taste. Those contrasting flavours bring out something more delicious than the ingredients would be on their own.

Now, don’t misunderstand me.  My darling loves having fun, too!  She can party and laugh with the best of them.  Few things please her more than relaxing by the pool with a glass of wine. It just needs to be prioritized amongst the ‘must do’s’, or it won’t be enjoyable for her.  I get that.

And that’s exactly what this goofball needs.  The Yang to my Yin.

Maybe trying to figure each other out is part of the joy and mystery of our marriage. Maybe we aren’t supposed to be able to correctly predict what the other is thinking.  We should, at least, love and respect our partner for what they bring to this dance we call marriage. We should thank God for giving us the strength to bare our souls in trust to another human being, even if that other human being doesn’t understand us.

My Yang is exactly what this Yin needs.  And that surprise party?  Well, in the end, we had an awesome time with our friends.  I also had to swear on my life never to pull a stunt like that again!  Sweet Yang!

Out of the nest

Out of the nestI’m not very nostalgic.  Purging old stuff from my basement and garage is usually only difficult because of the work involved, not because of the sentimental value of the treasures buried in dust and cobwebs.

I don’t attach much emotion to things – which is good from a hording standpoint, but probably not when it comes to kids artwork.  I remember getting caught by one of my kids once when I threw out one of their masterpieces from Kindergarten.  They were mortified that I didn’t want to treasure every object they came in contact with.  I’m just not wired that way.

The same ideology applied to how I raised my kids – there was never a time that I sat up late at night, rocking one my precious, fevered little darlings back to sleep where I thought ‘I wish this feeling would never end’.  In fact, I couldn’t wait to see what great adventures were laid before us – what these smelly little diaper destroyers would eventually become.

I also wished I remembered what a full nights sleep felt like.

When we brought our first-born home from the hospital, I remember sitting in the living room after the whole birth ordeal, wondering ‘what do we do with him now?’.  For me, it was far more exciting to see what would happen next, than clinging to things past.

I guess I just associate more with the here and now, than the days gone by.  I’m pretty sure all the Facebook psychologists will have a field day with these thoughts.

I don’t want to suggest that I’m not the proudest Dad in the world at how they’ve turned out.  I am!  Heck, based on how I saw my parenting skills, I’m actually surprised that they beat the odds!  I guess my wife was the tipping point factor for them.

We’ve been dealing with our Son’s transition to adulthood for the past couple of years as he’s been living in another city while going to University. This fall, our daughter will be doing the same.

Our ground school lessons are over – now it’s time for the kids to fly.  Amazing, exciting times.

We’ve been frantically completing all her applications, payments, etc., with a mix of frustration and excitement for the past few months.  These are incredible times for her and for us.  It’s also been hectic enough that we haven’t (okay, I haven’t) really stopped to think about what this means.

Yesterday though, it hit me.

We were at the store, getting some kitchen supplies for her new home on campus.  As we filled the cart with dishes and tea towels, the sudden weight of what was coming hit me like a school bus.  Our baby will be leaving home.

It actually surprised me, feeling like I did.  Maybe it shouldn’t have, but there I was, staring down at this pile of independence; cutlery, dishes, a can opener.  I think it was the stupid can opener that got me.  That’s the clear sign that she’s leaving.  You can mentally quantify the other stuff, but a kitchen gadget like a can opener means they’ll be doing things on their own from now on.

Again, I’m not nostalgic, so I’m trying to think of all the upsides of not having a kid in the house.

No more checking in to see that she’s up in the morning, or cleaning up the kitchen after you’re pretty damn sure you cleaned it up before you went to bed last night.  No more of your stuff being moved from where you left it.

No more lights left on all night, or having to close the bedroom door because the ‘night owls’ don’t sleep like normal people do, and they wake you up with their stomping around all night.

We’ll be able to eat dinner where we want, when we want, and what we want.  We won’t have to think about anyone else (except the dog, of course).  GROCERY BILLS CUT IN HALF!

So, why am I so stuck on that stupid can opener?  Have I suddenly tapped the nostalgic emotion, hidden away all these years? Will I suddenly find myself digging through old pictures and trophies, recalling how I felt at the time, creating a shrine of what my kids used to be?

That can opener, I think, is a metaphor for where we are with our kids.  They will use the tools we’ve given them to leave the ‘can’ and set out to start their own lives.  It’s out of our hands now.  They’re turning the crank, not us.

Like I was almost 2 decades ago, anticipating what will come next, I’ll be cheering on my kids and underestimating just how awesome they’ll turn out, but those 2 decades left a legacy.  You can’t ignore how profoundly your life changed because of them.  For the better.

Maybe I am getting a bit nostalgic.  Maybe I’ll spend a little time looking through old pictures, remembering how I felt at the time.  Maybe that’s what I’ve learned from my kids.  That time we spent together, figuring out life as we went along, was the stuff of life.  Those crafts from Kindergarten weren’t just construction paper and glue – they were the milestones that I kept looking for – those ‘next great things’ that I couldn’t wait to see.

Sure, having the house to ourselves will be great in many ways, but I figure it’ll be about a week before we wish they were back home again.  Maybe the can opener won’t work, and we’ll have to swoop in and save her from her independence.

As much as I might wish that, I sure hope it doesn’t happen.  Leaving the nest is just another step for kids.  A painful, thrilling, sad, exhilaratingly huge step.

And I couldn’t be more proud.

The Bus Ride

This blog is a departure from my usual style, but I felt compelled to write it.  I hope you enjoy it, or at least see the metaphors in your own ‘bus ride’.

When you’re young and just starting out, you begin a long journey that will last the better part of your lifetime.  Everything you learned up to now was designed to prepare you for a long bus trip, and almost all of us will take that ride.

You stand, excited and scared at the same time, with thousands of other people, young and old alike, waiting to get on a bus.  Buses of all sizes, shapes, and colours, numbering in the hundreds, rev their engines and vie for a spot on the road, or are parked to let people on or off.  You wonder which bus you should try to board, or perhaps more importantly, which bus will let you on.

You stand at the doorway to a bus you seem to like, and the driver may talk to you.  If they like you, they may ask you to board, and travel with them, hopefully to your destination, although that destination hasn’t been determined yet – at least not for you.

You may have to talk to a lot of bus drivers.  Some will close the door without acknowledging you were even standing there.  Others say they have to make a stop first, but will come back for you, but never show up again.

In time, you will find a seat on a bus that will take you.  The bus is crowded, but you locate a seat at the back that you will share with a total stranger for some time.  The air is thick and hot back there.  No windows – at least not clean enough or near enough to see out of – and no air conditioning.  It’s not pleasant, but the promise of a journey into the future keeps you smiling, or at least tolerating it.

The bus begins to move, and you watch as the busy streets blur around you.  Any sense of direction is lost to you, but you put your trust in the driver, and know that wherever you’re going, it’s better than where you were.

There are buses everywhere, big and small – some slow and broken, others shiny and fast.  Most are just like any other bus, though, and that’s the kind you’re on – conservative and consistent.  Just like you.

The bus makes frequent stops, and some people are escorted off, crying or yelling.  Others jump off as soon as it slows down, and run to another bus.  No explanation is given, and you likely will never see them again.  An empty seat becomes a semi-civilized battle with the other passengers, especially those at the back with little air and no space.

If they’re fortunate enough, someone will move up to the vacant seat, leaving a bit more room for you to stretch out and maybe become known as a good passenger to the few around you.  Often, though, the seat is stolen by someone picked up along the way that the bus stopped for.

Not fair!

On the bus, you get to know the other passengers around you.  Everyone has a different reason to be on the bus, but in the end, they are all  looking for their own destination somewhere down that long road.

Some might become friends, although most will remain ‘that guy’ who says hello to you every morning but you still don’t know his name. Such is life when you are traveling on a great journey, and you begin to realize that the expedition itself is as relevant as the destination you were looking for.

If you’re lucky, seats will become empty further to the front on this very, very long trip, and as you move forward on the bus, you become more well-known and liked.  You try to keep in touch with those at the back, but its tough. The air is cleaner up here, and you can actually see out the side windows, although the path ahead is still not fully in view.

You feel glad you got on a bus that could go so long without any breakdowns or getting lost.  You praise the drivers’ skills and work with the other passengers to make sure the bus keeps on the road, straight and true.  Life is good.

Eventually, after a long time, you realize that your destination, although still an extremely long way off, is actually closer to you now than your starting point, and everything you dreamed of for yourself is coming to fruition.  You have moved a long way forward on the bus, and can even talk to the driver occasionally.

The bus still stops, and people get on and off – either voluntarily or by force.  You don’t make contact with most of them, but a few promise to keep in touch.  Most don’t, though.

The bus has become home.  In fact, you realize you’ve spent more time on the bus than anywhere else as long as you’ve lived.

Some people have changed buses many times, but you, with the exception of a few quick transfers early on, have remained on this bus the whole time.  Even the driver has changed over the years, but the bus has stayed, more or less, on the same path the whole time.

At some point, you notice, however, that the bus has begun to move more slowly.  Other newer, faster buses are better equipped for the road ahead, and pass you quickly.  The destination is not approaching at the rate it once was, and more and more seats are now empty.  Fewer passengers are picked up to fill them. The driver isn’t talking as much as they used to, either.

The bus slows even more, despite the lighter load, and people start to whisper about what the driver is going to do about it.  You all trust him – you have to!  He’ll figure things out and you’ll continue on our route like you always have.  You got on the right bus.

Then one day it happens.  The bus stops, and as you look out the window to see why, you find that you are the next one to be escorted off, along with a few others.  No explanation, or forewarning.  Just a somber handshake and some tips on how to find another bus somewhere else.

So there you are.  Standing on the side of the road, watching the bus amble along without you, shakily heading to the destination that you were sure it would take you to. Shock, sadness, and yes, even anger fill you, and for a while, you can’t even think about getting on another bus.  Even if you did, where would you sit?  Where would the bus be going?  Can you trust the driver and the other passengers?  No – just sit a while and think.

You decide to stay and play for a time – stretch your legs and smell the flowers around you that you sped past all those years.  If feels good to do this, but in the back of your mind, you recall just how much further you still need to travel to reach your destination.  That thought is always there, lurking in the recesses of your brain, like a sinister shadow, threatening to step into full view.

The thought of the long path ahead becomes overwhelming, so you make up a little sign “Great Passenger. Hard Working. Respectful. Loyal. Will take any seat”, and you stand on the side of the road, forcing a smile, waiting for a bus to see you and stop.

Buses pass by so fast that you’re sure they can’t even read the sign.  A few slow down and give you a quick glance, but speed off without stopping.  You stand on the side of the road for a long time, wondering how some people get buses to stop and pick them up, but you can’t.  Is the the sign wrong?  Do you look intimidating? Are you too old……?

A few buses stop, and even let you look inside.  They have an empty seat, and need someone to fill it.  You’re dressed well, and are groomed to give a great impression, but the seat they have is pretty far back, and it might not be a good thing for someone so well groomed to sit back there.

The bus leaves without picking you up.  This happens a lot.

Down the side of the road, you see one of the old passengers from your bus, pushing a motorcycle along the soft shoulder of the road towards you.

They stop when they reach you, and show you the motorcycle they have.  It’s not working, but maybe, with the two of you together, you can get it running and zoom right past all those stinky, noisy buses to your destination in record time.  No more bus drivers deciding who gets on or off, and when.  You’re the drivers now!

You have nothing to lose, but as you both push the old machine along in the soft sand, you tape the sign to your back – just in case.

The hope of getting that motorcycle running keeps your energy up for a while, but the tires don’t roll in the sand very well, and for some reason the engine just won’t start.  You keep watching over your shoulder, hoping another bus might just stop and pick you up.  It’s a tactic that’s mixed with wishful thinking and guilt, but one that you hope will pay off.

Others on motorcycles pass along the way.  You are conflicted with desire for yourself, and jealousy that they got theirs working while you still push yours along in the hot sun.  Still, the thought of being in the drivers seat brings new hope, and you push on, despite the odds.

At times, when you’re alone on the road, those dark shadows flow into the light like a river breaking its protective banks.  It wasn’t supposed to be like this.  The bus was supposed to carry you all the way to your destination.  How will you get there now?  It’s way to far to walk, the motorcycle idea doesn’t seem to be working, and despite a few stops, no bus has made a seat available to you.  How did this happen to a good person? It’s not fair.  But, as they say, life isn’t fair.  No one was out to get you.  No malicious intent was a part of anyone’s agenda. S**t happens sometimes.

In the end, there’s no guarantees.  You may never get on a bus to begin with, and even if you do, it might be a short trip.  You were luckier than most.  You had a good ride – and a long one.  Time to stop the pity party, and do what you’ve done before.  You’re smarter now than you were back then.  You know which buses to stay away from and which ones can get you all the way to your destination.

This is nothing more than another new adventure.  A bump in the road, and you should be excited like you were when you stepped foot on that first bus so long ago.

Except this time, the stakes are a lot higher.  You have more skin in the game, and more people are expecting big things out of you. Failure is not an option, and the bus drivers have a lot more questions now than they did back then.

Where will you end up?  Will you ever get that motorcycle running, or will you have to take a few buses to get there?  You’ll never know.  The only thing to do is to know that everyone you’ve ever met is rooting for you, and wants to see you get there, and that somehow, it will happen.

Leap and the net will appear.  Keep those dark shadows behind the banks as much as possible, and when you feel like they’re seeping in, run for the high ground of friends and family.  They’ll always carry you.

Have faith in God.  He has big plans for you.  This change is a chance to reassess your path and to listen to what he’s calling you to.  There’s a purpose for everything, even, if like that first part of your bus trip, you can’t see it yet.

I wish for your bus ride to be full of adventure, great friends, deep faith, and an awesome destination.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

Safe travels, my friend.

 

 

 

 

…’With a little help from my friends’…

min·ion
ˈminyən/
noun
plural noun: minions
1.
a follower or underling of a powerful person, esp. a servile or unimportant one.
synonyms: underling, henchman, flunky, lackey, hanger-on, follower, servant, hireling, vassal, stooge, toady, sycophant;

I wish I’d thought of it years ago, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say.  I need some minions.  I need unquestioning followers who will do my bidding without reservation, complaint, or hesitation.

Imagine a world where all you had to do was ask, and whatever you requested would be granted; where obedient subjects blindly take all orders and execute them without delay.

Oh sure, I had kids who I could order around for a while, but eventually you see that look in their suspicious little faces, questioning simple requests;

“Go get Daddy another beer.”

“Hold this while I start up the chainsaw”

“Don’t tell Mom I broke it.  It’ll be our little secret.”

You know, the usual stuff. That’s when you know that they know something isn’t quite right with this symbiotic relationship, and your hope of having a permanent underling to do your dirty work is done.  They’re so ungrateful, those kids!

I have lots of friends…well, a few friends, but they’re all too smart to go along with any wild world domination plans I might have.  I need to wear dark sunglasses when I ask them to get me the necessary parts to make a death-ray.  They can see the crazy in my eyes which is a giveaway that I might not be quite right.

I’m too broke to hire a personal assistant, like they do in Hollywood.  That looks like a pretty sweet gig!  Imagine having someone walk the dog, pick up laundry, cook supper, clean the pool and massage your tired feet after a long day of shouting ridiculous orders at them.

I have a dog, who I guess would be a good minion since she has unwavering loyalty to me, except that it kind of works in reverse for us.  I feed her, carry her down the stairs, walk her, pick up after her, brush her fur….hmmm.

I might have looked at interns, but big business has ruined that sweet little free labour pool for the common man.

Even Dr. Frankenstein had Igor, but you could tell that the poor hunchback would shiv the bad doctor at his first chance, given the way he was treated.

The only thing left for guys like me are ‘minions’, but where do you start?  Is there a ‘Minion Mail Order’ website?  Where do these minions come from anyway?  How do you know that they’ll stupidly accommodate every insane request you make without hesitation?  Is there a vetting or interview process?

There’s lots I need to research, to be sure.

How many do I need?  Do I start with a half-dozen and see how things are going?  Do I have to give them names?  Maybe they all get the same name and somehow can just figure out who I’m talking to, kind of like George Foreman did.

What about feeding?  Do they need a special minion diet, and if so, do I get a minion to serve it to himself?

I know they’re all ‘him’s’ because no girl minion would be dumb enough to blindly follow me around all day.

What if they unionize? I’d hate for them to be carrying me over to the treadmill then stopping halfway because of a negotiated coffee break.  I’d be stuck there for 15 minutes!

Where do they sleep?  Do they sleep?

If one gets away, do I go after it like a lost sheep, or just call up my minion supplier and order a replacement?

Wow.  This is getting to be a lot of work!  Maybe this whole minion thing needs a rethink.  Maybe I should just depend on me to do my dastardly deeds.  At least I know I would do things exactly the way I wanted them done.

Maybe that’s the fatal flaw with minions.  The movies prove it.  Every time a super villain (not suggesting I want to be one) has minions do his dirty work, something goes wrong and they end up failing in their bid to blow up the moon or detach California from the rest of the continent.

I think villains should aim a little lower, at least to start.  Pretty sure that if you want to vaporize a planet, a lot of people are going to try to stop you, but if you wanted to take a shopping cart past the store parking lot, you might go unnoticed.

That’s a job even the simplest of minions could handle.

My insidious little plan?  Why do I really need minions?  I haven’t figured that one out yet, and it would spoil the surprise, but you have know that being the master of a bunch of mindless followers has it’s appeal.

Regardless, I’d start out small, maybe washing the car if the weather gets above freezing.

I won’t work them up to continental annihilation until I’m sure they can follow basic direction.  There’s nothing worse than commandeering every television station in the world to give the nations notice that if they don’t comply with my demands, I’ll blow up Iceland, only to find out that the minions forgot to plug in my death ray.

Or, maybe I just need to stop watching sci-fi reruns and go outside…it’s been a loooong winter!

Yeah, forget the minions.  I’m the only one who can do things my way.  I’ll be my own master, and serve my dog mindlessly.

P.S. – I tried to warn you about winter in my last blog, but nooo!  You all thought my little petition was a hoax, and now we’re stuck digging out of another lousy storm.  Well, you can’t complain if you didn’t vote.

The Red Suit Conspiracy – believing in Santa

WARNING:  THIS BLOG MAY MAKE FOR AN UNCOMFORTABLE CHAT IF LITTLE ONES READ IT.

As a kid, I was pretty gullible.  I tended to think that what anyone told me was the truth, otherwise, why would they say it?

I also spent a lot of time getting sucked in to things.  Maybe that’s why I hate gambling so much.  Not that I have a moral stance on it, but just because I’m lousy at it.

When you’re really little, like pre-school or Kindergarten aged, Santa is like God to you.  What an incredible being, who rides around at night in a sleigh being pulled by flying reindeer, leaving presents under the tree for every kid in the world. It’s no wonder kids run screaming from him at the mall.  He’s super human!

Of course, toddlers don’t think in practical terms.  We are told about Santa, we see the gifts, so therefore, Santa is real.  Simple.

As you get a bit older, you start to see some cracks in the Santa story, though.  Mostly, it’s from older kids laughing or beating up some poor sucker who blathered that they still believe.  Who wants that kind of Christmas gift?

I remember when I lost my ‘Christmas Virginity’.  It took a while, much like my rea…..never mind.  Anyway, it started out with little things like opening the gifts with Santa’s signature on them, then going to our cousins house to see similar Santa gifts with different hand writing on the presents.  That sure seemed odd.

Then there would be Christmas Eve when we were tucked not so neatly into our beds, and I’d hear what sounded like Mom and Dad stumbling down the stairs with something big.

I spent some serious time contemplating this dilemma.  I mean, on one hand, for every Christmas up to now, the manifestation of the great and powerful Santa was clearly evident.  Shopping malls had him on display, Christmas specials confirmed his existence, and our parents and older family members assured us that he was very real.  Then, as sure as the sun would come up, presents were littered around the tree.

Being the gullible kid I was, and knowing I was gullible, meant that I had to take serious stock of things.  I didn’t want to be that kid getting beat up in the school yard for believing – especially if it wasn’t true.

So, I weighed the evidence before me.  The gifts showed up as promised every year, with no trace of them in the house before I went to bed, and all the television, radio, and adult conversation said he was real.  It’s what I was raised to believe.

On the other hand, the idea that one man could circumnavigate the entire globe in one night flying around with magic reindeer, stopping at virtually every house on the planet, and little elves making cool toys like etch-a-sketch and rock-em-sock-em robots didn’t seem very likely.

So, it came down to one key factor.  Was the Santa story a magical truth or an elaborate hoax?  When faced with this at the age of 8 or 9, I decided that the only logical explanation was that he must exist, simply because I concluded that there was no way an entire adult world could support such an elaborate ruse for that long.  Not a chance!

I was happily resolved with my results until one day when I was playing at a friends house, and he said to me, “I don’t believe in Santa.  Do you?“.  Gulp!  The acid test.  Could I stand behind my conviction?

No!  Of course not.  I blurted out, unconvincingly, “No, I don’t either.

Just then, my friend’s mother walked in and scolded us for telling the secret when his little sister was just in the other room.

Wait a minute.  I was lying when I said that I didn’t believe.  Now, this lady unwittingly confirmed my worst fear.  Santa didn’t exist after all.

I was quietly heart-broken.  All those dumb adults really could keep the secret.  So much for logical deduction!

Through adolescence and early adulthood, I was wise and smug about Santa.  I would mentally criticize parents who tried to convince their kids that the jolly old elf was working hard up at the North Pole, so they’d better be nice…..or else!

That is, until I had kids of my own.

When you have children, your cynicism about things starts to soften.  You start to immerse yourself into their wonderful little fantasy worlds.  And along with that, you begin to rethink your stance on the whole Santa conspiracy.

I took a logical approach to Santa, just like I did when I was 8. Putting aside for a moment, just who Santa is, lets look at things:

  • He still comes late at night, delivering gifts to children – CHECK
  • He works all year in his ‘workshop’ so the kids will have gifts under the tree by Christmas – CHECK
  • He brings joy and amazement to little children on Christmas morning – CHECK

I think that if you put a few details aside, like the little reindeer, and the North Pole, Santa is every bit as real as us.  I think we, in our smug, all-knowing youth, had it completely wrong.  The little kids were right after all.

Santa does exist.  There is no conspiracy after all.

Great, old St. Nickolaus, the Bishop of Myra in Turkey who is said to have given gifts to children at the time, was only the first in a very long line.

Now, those honoured enough, and who have a hint of that childhood belief, work all year long in their own ‘workshops’ (office), along side the ‘elves’ (co-workers), and deliver gifts on that magical night to their little children.

What an awesome job to have.  Being Santa Claus. If all those parents slogging away all year, then standing in line at the mall don’t believe in Santa, they are as lost to the magic as any child who stops believing at an early age.

Let me stress that Christmas is NOT about giving and getting presents, or going into debt while burning through your credit limit at the mall.  Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In that spirit, however, bringing joy to children seems like a pretty nice way to celebrate God’s love for us.

Don’t give up on Santa.  He’s real, and he’s in each of us.  The sleigh and red suit may be gone, but what he did, and what he represents is as real as ever.

Merry Christmas!

The Long Goodbye

I’ve been told that I’m not very good at saying goodbye.  It’s true.

In my younger High School and College years, when I was ready to leave a party, I would tell people that I was going to the bathroom or something, then slip away for the night.  I found this easier than having to deal with the awkwardness of justifying why I was leaving so early, being pressured into staying a bit longer, or feeling like I had to set up the next get together before I left.

Even now, I don’t have the leaving thing figured out.  I tend to linger too long at the door, or talk  too long with people with my jacket in hand.  I can’t just shake hands, say thank-you and goodnight, then leave.

It seems there’s a sense of urgency to cover all the ground you didn’t get to during your visit, and let’s face it, it’s a point in the get together when you have the hosts undivided attention.

I wish I could do it like they do in the movies.  Grab my coat and hat, open the door with a wide wave, and announce to the entire party, “Goodnight everyone!  Until we meet again”.  Then I’d take a deep bow, turn and leave.  That would be a classy thing to do, but it’s not very realistic, and my hosts would probably take away the car keys and call me a cab.

I feel like I have to tie up all the loose ends before I go – to reconcile my relationship, ensuring our next encounter starts on a good footing.

There’s a direct correlation between the length of the exit and the closeness of the people I’m with.  When meeting strangers, a simple ‘nice to meet you’ and a handshake is just fine.

For most other farewells, I stumble over the words, and linger too long.

Saying goodbye to our son when he went off to school last year was excruciating for all of us.  We all went with him and got his new dorm room set up, picked up some last minute things at a store, took him out for lunch, then headed back to ‘tuck him in’.

Standing in the lobby of his residence building, we hugged, and choked down our goodbyes, barely able to speak.  Finally, standing with tears in our eyes, I looked at him one last time and weakly squeaked out ‘Go’, then gestured for him to head back to his room.

It was a very quiet and somber drive home.  I can’t imagine what it will be like next year as we send our daughter away to school – our baby.

I know I’ll be seeing them again, but it still breaks my heart.  How do you say ‘goodbye’ when it will be the last one?

As my father’s health is stolen away from him, we visit him in the hospital, sitting next to his bed.  We talk to him, hopeful that he can hear us and knows we’re there for him.   We hold his hand, and feel the strength in his grip, even though he can’t really open his eyes or talk to us.

Dad is not a huge man, but was every bit a ‘man’s man’ when we were growing up.  He ruled our household as most fathers did back in the ’60’s, with authority and control.

With four sons and no daughters, our home was testosterone soaked, and Mom would do her best to balance things emotionally.  Family hugs were not part of the landscape, but we didn’t lack in connectedness.

Dad was tough on us, but he was also the first one to do almost anything for us.  Any sport we wanted to try, he would do his best to scrape together enough money to buy us the equipment, then stand, often in the freezing cold to watch us play.

Our house was loud and busy.  I was in our old neighbourhood a couple of weeks ago, and drove by the house we grew up in.  It’s still standing proudly, and has weathered the storm of 50 years of life and of us – a testament to the builder.

So many memories, both good and bad, came flooding back to me.  Playing in the yard, or on the street with our friends or getting into trouble with them.  I wonder what became of all of them? We’ve long lost touch.

One of the things that stands out for me, was how Dad was able to instill in us a sense of loyalty, pride and duty to our family.  We tried our best to stand up for each other, and were the first to call each other out when one of us went off the rails.  Nothing was more important than taking care of each other and keeping our good name.  One bad deed reflected on all of us.

We still have that instinct, many years later.

We come together, the ‘Pulchinski Boys’, to check in on him when we can, hoping that Dad will be awake and talking.  Those hopes are fading, and we know it.  I think the reality is that we are now gathering at Dad’s bedside, not so much to visit him, but to be together for him.  To show him that what he instilled in us so many years ago, about the importance of family, has not been lost or forgotten.

When words often fail us, actions speak.  We all probably wish we had that elegant speech or comforting word that you see in the movies, but the reality is, our most admirable, loving thing is to simply be there for him.

The word ‘goodbye’ will have to come soon enough.  For now, simply being present, either in person or keeping in touch with each other is about as noble an act as can be expected.

Until that time comes, I will linger at the door, trying to cover all that ground that I could not say during the party, making it a very long goodbye, indeed.