Words of wisdom for my son – On desire

Nature's Helping Hand


Learn to appreciate what you have, not to lust for that which you do not.

Hope is a wonderful thing, but don’t let it blind you to the value that lies forgotten at your feet.

Do not be quick to discard what once you loved in favor of newer, shiny things. They are not necessarily better.

Keep your eyes open for the unexpected. Small, fleeting opportunities may offer far more rewards than epic quests.

The Seven Steps to the Perfect Story

Any author worth her or his salt has probably laid eyes on Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth and is familiar with the concepts relating to the The Hero’s Journey, which one should incidentally avoid using as an excuse for writing a poor story, or risk the wrath of Autotelic.

The CMA (http://www.the-cma.com/images/openmagazine/201210/seven-steps.png) has distilled the work into a brilliant infographic and tossed a few more tidbits in to optimize helfulness:

The Seven Steps to the Perfect Story

I love it! I just wish my printer could cleanly pump this graphic out so I could pin it up on my wall.

Words of wisdom from my Grandfather

The Chief

Today, my Grandfather would have turned 100. He didn’t quite make it this far, having passed away this past Spring.  We say we each have heroes. For some, it is a sports icon. For others, it is a movie star. Occasionally, it is a scientist or teacher. One of my greatest heroes is my grandfather.

He was a kind and gentle man, wise beyond compare, and patient with the loving antics his extended family could foist upon him. He loved my grandmother, Bernadine, to the end of the world. They had never spent a day apart in their lives. That is a rare distinction.

Before he passed, my cousin had the opportunity to sit down with him to soak up some of his experience. I will share a short excerpt here, as they seem particularly pertinent today:

“Get along with other people, try to see their point of view”

“Be a gentleman; be honest; be kind to people; help people if you can, especially kids; don’t take the easy way every time; and play it fair. If you do that, it works out pretty well…”

Wise words.


Is that the Moon falling?

Yesterday evening, I took my son for a stroll to the local park. It’s still covered in thick layer of snow and ice, but that doesn’t stop the little one from loving taking the short walk down the hill to vent some energy there. Thanks to the lengthening days, the moon shone brightly in the still-bright sky.

One of his favorite things to do is to push the stroller along. He still isn’t very tall, but  seems to pack some serious strength in his little arms and legs, so he can really get it rolling quickly. He stopped suddenly and looked over his shoulder towards the sky.
“Moon! Tombé (fall!)” He shouted out in a bilingual mix of fevered excitement and mild concern.

With this, he turned his attention back to the stroller and took off at a brisk clip.

Thus began a prolonged stretch of running, stopping, looking at the sky and shouting “Moon! Tombé”  Surprise tinged his voice each time. I imagine he pictured himself running away from the falling Moon as Indiana Jones did from his giant boulder.

Being the great father that I am, I did not disabuse him from this notion. I want to see where his active imagination will take him. Eventually, we made it to the park where he had a grand old time playing in the snow-encrusted slides and tossing (well, carrying them over to my feet) snowballs at his old man. Some time later, it started getting dark and it was time to go home. As we were packing up to leave the park, he looked up to the sky once more and pointed. “Moon, Papa!” He smiled,  laughed, and hopped into his stroller.

I guess he knew the sky wasn’t falling after all.

On teamwork – Give me plumbers that work together rather than individualistic rock stars

A tight knit team.

A tightly-knit team can accomplish amazing things.

Over the last two days, we held a workplace hockey tournament. It is a longstanding tradition, and typically leads to cutthroat competitiveness on the ice. Bosses have the feeling that their careers can be made or broken with a puck’s resonant ping against the goalpost. The pressure downwards on the worker bees that make up the bulk of the team can be tremendous.

Many moons ago, our team was composed of valiant skaters, many of which had played at very respectable levels of amateur and university hockey. They showered our organization in glory. This year was not the case. Our best players would probably have been benched on the teams of yore. We even run the risk of making plumber leagues look like Gods of Ice. Overall, our prospects going into the tournament were pretty grim. Not nearly as skilled as the other teams going in, and without the numerous spares and extra shifts the other teams could bring to the rink, it was widely expected that we would be unable to win a single game.

Our traditional method of training for the event usually involved waking up ridiculously early, showing up to the ice, tossing a few pucks onto the ice and taking some potshots at the goalie as a warmup for ten minutes before immediately launching into a vigorous hour-long scrimmage. The new guys would try to survive learning to skate while the old pros would skate circles around them, scoring countless end-to-end goals, basking in the joy of believing they had something of the Great One coursing through their veins. Most of us eventually became pretty good at shooting a puck really hard from a relatively static position, but ran into problems when trying to combine skating with puck control and any sort of shooting. Skating backwards for defense? For most, it was a black art.

Then, some time earlier this year, one of our senior players decided to try something new. He flipped the paradigm on its head. We spent forty five minutes practicing, working on basic skills and drills. Then, we spent the last fifteen to twenty minutes scrimmaging, specifically trying to put into application what we had learned. New players were taken aside and taught to skate. It was all about fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.

This approach certainly was not as fun as going all out against each other for an hour. In fact, it even got a little repetitive for the more experienced players.

But you know what? We won every single game in that tournament. We even won the finals. We won them even if the other teams had even taken the time to phone up top notch players that had moved on to other jobs, and therefore technically weren’t supposed to be playing. We won them even after the other side started playing dirty. Why did we win? Because all of our plumbers were working together, as a team. The one or two rock star players on the opposing teams just didn’t jive with their compatriots. It just didn’t click. It also didn’t matter if the top players could do all kinds of fancy tricks with the puck, because the others just weren’t able to support them to finish the plays.

This serves to confirm a few invaluable lessons which have been voiced previously by far greater sports minds than mine:

1. Average Joes working as a team will almost always beat stars playing as individuals. That’s why teamwork is so important. A team full of star players that work together will be unstoppable.

2. If you don’t master the fundamentals, it doesn’t matter how much fancy stuff you know. If a strong foundation is not in place to support your fancy tricks, got back to the fundamentals. Otherwise, everything comes crashing down, and you’re not going to perform.

3. Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

4. Even if you have the basics mastered, and you’re a pro of the fancy stuff, if your fundamentals start suffering, drop the high level training. Get back to the foundation, and work at it until you’ve got it squared away. Then you can worry about being fancy again.

5. Even your weakest player can turn into an unexpected play maker or game winner. Don’t exclude anyone from contributing. They may win the game for you.

6. A good coach can make all the difference in the world.

7. Despite your unbelievable victory, stay polite and display unwavering sportsmanship. This will ensure that you truly reap all the rewards.

On toddlers and experimenting with food

My boy has been a fan of sushi since day one. Well, not quite day one, but he’s been eagerly munching down on sushi almost as long as he’s been eating solid food.

Mind you, we stick to the vegetarian or cooked tidbits for him so we can avoid any issues with parasites.

His tastes vary from being a veritable garbage compactor, capable of wolfing down any remotely-organic, and possibly otherwise repugnant material within reach, to princess-like daintiness, so fussy he can eat nothing more than a wafer cracker served on a platinum plate served with a side of Himalayan peach jam carried across the Atlantic on the back of a golden raft pulled by penguins. Bringing home a box of takeout inevitably leads to an excited dance, lots of jumping around, and a constant stream “SUSSI! SUSSI! SUSSI!” joyously blaring through the house.

Tonight, he noticed the bright green glob of grainy goo on the platter for the first time. We typically encourage him to try new things, but when he eagerly pointed to it and announced: “Ça! (That)”, we thought he might actually benefit from a little moderation. Wasabi is definitely an acquired taste, and goodness knows how potent it is to young taste buds. Heavens knows it packs enough of a kick for a grown up, never mind the firestorm it could unleash on sensitive papillae. He insisted on having a taste anyway.

Now, there are few moments in life where one can go about their business and truly regret not having been there to see it. I was up by the sink preparing a cloth with which to clean my boy up when my lovely spouse gave him a healthy dose of the green stuff. This was one of those moments. I wish I was five feet from where I was with a camera. Heck, a whole recording studio with James Cameron filming in 3D would probably have been appropriate for what has been reported to be one of the most memorable facial expressions to be produced by a human being in the past thousand years. And I missed it.

Apparently, it took about two seconds of happy chewing before he noticed something was wrong. Then, a little shudder, a faint but rapid quivering of the eyelids, followed rapidly by a slight flushing of the face. “Thbptbpt!” A quick spit to get rid of the offending condiment. Hands flailed hysterically for two to three seconds. He then frowned, pointed intently at the wad of wasabi waiting patiently on the tray and proclaimed:”Pas ça! (Not that!)” His cute short form for I don’t like that was unmistakable.

The wasabi sting rapidly faded into the background thanks to the timely arrival of a maple cookie for desert. Nothing but smiles and giggles from there on in.

The road to culinary appreciation is paved with failed experiments. Time will tell whether he’ll be back for the green goo of gasping any time soon.

On Toddlers’ Acting Abilities

My toddler, the apple of my eye, is quite an actor. I suspect he may already be in the running for an Academy Award.

The little bugger.

He used to be so good at letting us brush his teeth. Yet, in the past few months, his constant gagging and choking would inevitably lead my wife to frown and look at me pointedly as I dutifully tried to polish his pearly whites. “Be careful! You’re being too rough.” The admonishment soon became a refrain. I even began to feel guilty about my horrendous attempts at maintaining the little one’s oral hygiene.

“Gack! Hack! Cough! Cough! COUGHCOUGHCOUGH!” The wheezing, teary-eyed child squirmed and wriggled furiously.

“Just a little bit more, my boy, and then we’re done. Sit still! Come back here. Turn around. Look up. Look down. Not that far down!”

“Raaarh! Ahak! Blehbptptpttppppth! Waaaaaaah!” The screams resonated painfully in our small bathroom.

I must have earned the torturer of the month merit badge a few times over simply by holding up a tiny yellow and red toothbrush with a pixie-sized dollop of paste adorning its transparent bristles.

Then it happened. I moved the toothbrush to his mouth, but for some strange vagary of fate hesitated.

“Gahaheeek! Cough! Cough! Cou…” Teary eyes slowly widened, and his mouth widened into a beaming smile that shouted “you caught me, papa!”


We both broke out laughing.

I am certain this isn’t the first time I’ve been outsmarted by my boy. It certainly won’t be the last. Maybe I’ll put his skill to good use and toss him into acting school. Or maybe he’ll go for political studies. Such raw talent would make him a brilliant politician.