Friday, January 31, 2014

Coming Home...and Free Friday Tears

Have you ever missed someone this bad? Worried about someone this much? It seems impossible to imagine, and yet millions of kids, and spouses, and parents endure both all the time. Don't watch this on the bike at the gym 'cause dozens of people will watch you wiping the tears away as you pedal and that's just me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


If you haven't stumbled into Daniel Clarke Bouchard yet...go lookin'. He's a brilliant 13 year old phenom, and his new album "Scenes D'enfants" is so good your head will hurt. Actually, it might be quite the opposite. I triple dog dare you to spot up some Daniel Clarke Bouchard and not watch your stress dissipate in a fog from your very pores! Did I say brilliant yet? Un-freakin-believable.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


She's sitting on the couch, watching a movie...enraptured...wearing my much too large headphones, and occasionally playing with her dolls.  I can't stop staring at her. She's in her pink pyjamas, looking as fabulous as a five year old can look, and it strikes me, "oh how I wish she could stay like this forever." Then the tears come to my eyes and I have to stop typing.

It's Tuesday and Links Are Good's officially Tuesday and a few links to get us through to Wednesday would be awesome.

You can thank me later for making your day with this amazeballs hide and seek link.

Do you have any idea how hard it is being two?  Really hard, in case you were wondering.

Ever write a thesis?  Could you sum up an entire year's worth of your work in one sentence?  These guys can and it's awesome.

Read this because it's good.

I like wine, but I know nothing about wine. This is how a guy who knows nothing about wine buys the stuff.

I would like to own this pin. Does anyone want to buy it for me? I would say nice things about you ALL the time.

Whoa...I want this in my kitchen!

I'd do best to remember this sometimes. We all would.

I could do this...but I'd need more Lego.

This is such a very cool idea.

I'm pretty determined to wear stupid socks (translation= cool socks) from now on, or at least as often as I can.  Tips on any beauties you find will be supremely appreciated.

For The Record...I MUST See This...

I'm pretty sure that if you don't want to see this film you're a cinematic idiot and we can't be friends anymore.

Monday, January 27, 2014

She's Not Zoey...

 For months now she's killed me.  She's somehow managed to make me slip from confident and contented in my role as a father, to uncertain and often times unhappy.  She's tested us in ways that Zoey just didn't.  The two are so wildly incredibly opposite.  She gets upset when she doesn't get what she wants.  She screams.  She cries.  She likes to challenge us with frequent "no's" and likes to pull her arm away from your gentle grasp.  I've raised my voice more to Maggie in eighteen months than I have in five years with Zoey.  There are times where June and I retreat from her thinking as much about damage control as direction.   She's made this parenting deal a lot harder than in needs to be.

...and yet

I've never seen eyelashes so long, and her smile could melt mountains.  She says "please" and "thank you," and most frequently follows direction and aims to please us...She can be the sweetest child in the room, and I know that someday I won't have to worry about her.  No one will walk on one.

...and yet

That screaming...and those "no's"...those tears, and all of those "sit on the stairs" moments...

She's not Zoey, and someday, when she stops saying "no," and my shoulders feel strong enough to carry the weight of her uniqueness, and accept all of the challenges that she seems to relish laying at our feet...someday when I'm ready to be the Dad that I know that I can be, in every moment, with either child, in that instant I'll only recognize my own eyes in hers.

Just in Case You Forgot What Excited Looks Like...

Just in case you forgot what excited looks looks just like this. "A pancake is still a cake, right Daddy?"

You bet it is.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Five Years Ago

Five years ago you fit in your Mom's arms as though they were made for the sole chore of holding you.

Five years ago you made me realize that you can love more than just one girl.

Five years ago you helped us realize that we could be better than we imagined.

Five years ago you changed the way that I saw the world.

Five years ago you helped me love your Mom even more than I already did, and that seemed impossible.

Five years ago you were born and I learned that I could be so much better at being your Dad than at anything else I'd ever tried.

Happy Birthday Zo.  Five years is an awfully long time when every day you're changing our lives.

Hall of Fame Without the Plaques...

I had just met June in 1995.  We worked together.  We became friends.  Our lives became inextricably linked that year despite us both living in separate places, dating other people, and generally ignoring one another half of the time, but I think we knew then, as odd as it may sound, that our future would look much different.  We were different people, different ages, and headed in different directions...until one day we weren't any of those things.

In 1995 June and her pretty talented teammates won an Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations Senior Volleyball Championship.  I didn't know her then.  We met five months later, at summer camp.  She often wore a grey fleece jacket with OFSSA Champions stitched in maroon on the chest, and of course, everyone knew that those girls had won.  I knew a few of them, some were friends sisters, some friends from camp, or friends of friends, all were stellar places. Flash forward to 2014 and this past weekend's Hall of Fame Induction and it's safe to say that they're better versions of their already awesome younger selves...still nice...still smart...each of them landing someplace solid, from Arizona to British Columbia... teachers, moms, designers, police officers...solid places indeed.

Winning an OFSSA Championship is an impressive accomplishment, but not half as impressive as who these girls were then and what they've become now. All nice...all smart...all landing someplace impressive.  They were Hall of Fame calibre before anyone put a medal around their neck, and would be even if they weren't inducted.

Congratulations June...and Kelly, Tylene, Jen, Boutsy, Tina, Leanne, Lara, Deirdre, Judith, Katrina, and Jessie.  I was late to the party, but no less impressed.  I didn't know many of you until 1995 or after, and so my version of you doesn't involve OFSSA medals at all, just the occasional path crossed, or kindness offered, and that says more about you than any induction ever can.

All nice...all smart...all going places.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Quality Time

Before technology I don't know what Dads and Daughters did together.  Now we can ignore each other...together.

If You Could Do This...What Else Could You Do?

The news came as such a surprise that I didn't even recognize the name right away...I had to look through my notes, and then look up her picture...and when my suspicions were made clear, my heart sank.  I knew her.  She was one of my kids from two years earlier.  She was dead.  Nothing beyond that was clear, but the unconfirmed felt pretty damn certain.  Suicide.  That was two weeks ago.  I didn't talk much about it, but it bothered me...a lot.

Last week it was a young man who had suddenly lost a parent...he was pretending as though it wasn't happening...smiling...joking with friends...only to find me and then fall apart, then pick himself back up and smile for his friends.  That one was hard to take.

This week is too hard to talk about, so I won't...I should, I mean, I've gone as far as typing it here, but the details too fresh, the sound of a screaming, hysterical parent still echoing in my already crowded head.

There are days that i worry that this job will be my undoing...and then something touches me, like warm sun on my face through a winter window.

If I can do this...what else am I capable of?  What else could I do?

This week, without uncertainty, I saved a life.  Sometimes you don't know what you've done, but this week I saved a life.  I know this because the police arrived before the phone call was over.  I know this because it's what I was told.  It rattled me...not the near loss of life, but the enormity of what I've willingly allowed myself to be burdened by...the responsibility.  I don't often think about the responsibility, but today I did.

If I can do this...what else could I do?

I'm not worried about who I am any longer...about where I fit, or what people might think of me.  I'm certainly a different person than I was even as little as seven or eight years ago.  I don't think in terms of what I can't do, but feel comfortable with the knowledge that I can do whatever I want...that I'm lucky to live this life so unlike so many others, and that there isn't a single thing I can't manage.  Oh, I'm regularly undone...spun in dangerous circles...knocked down...but getting up is never the challenge it was when I was younger.  Getting up is easy.  I see terrible things, not unlike many others, but the difference is in the intimacy with which I get to see them...up close...without filters or traditional professional protections...badges, titles, appointments and distance...I see how things affect people according to those very people. I get let inside of their heads and hearts, which I sometimes wonder if that's more damaging than watching the actual events themselves?  The fall out can often be so much uglier.

Again, it strikes me...if I can do this...what else could I do?

Then I feel the warmth and comfort of the answer...I don't want to do anything else.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Day Late...But Never a Wasted Gesture...

Oddly, when I was a young man my biggest influences were, well...somewhat unique?

As a boy I once dressed up as Mark Twain for Halloween... I read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn over, and over, and over again.  I begged my parents to see the Mississippi River, and my 6th Grade teacher once commented on my report card, "if Brian could study Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn every day he'd be a straight A student." I was obviously moved by, uhmmm...uncommon curiosities.

It didn't take long before Huck Finn wasn't the only quality literature that I ingested.  Two of the most life changing moments of my then young life occurred when I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and The Trumpet of Conscience.  The latter being a compilation of three Martin Luther King lectures from Massey Hall in Toronto in 1967.  Heady reading for a young man, but important, I think.  Soon after I discovered an Angela Davis speech in which she spoke about the legacy of Dr. King and I was even further smitten.  The struggle for civil rights soon fascinated me, and I spent an enormous chunk of high school chasing information, and understanding.  To look back now it seems impossible that those years, and all of that chasing didn't shape me profoundly.  To this day I am embarrassingly moved by any written or recorded words by Dr. King.  I am moved to an awestruck place of quiet reverence.  I was convinced then, just as I am now, that his ideas were quite impossible to ingest and then remain unchanged.  His impact on my young life, less than fifteen years after his death, was profound.

Strange perhaps for a young white male from rural Ontario to somehow latch himself on to some pretty heady ideas and values at such a young age, I'm sure.  It was enough to confuse my mother...her teenage son with a copy of The Trumpet of Conscience on his bedstand, amidst tattered copies of The Hockey News and Sports Illustrated, but prominent nonetheless.  That kind of fascination changes a person, and you don't forget the ideas that change your life.  Dr. Martin Luther King changed mine.

Flash forward to my freshman year of college.  I was a long way from home...Missouri, and I was alone...homesick...unfamiliar with the workings of that part of the planet.  I was at school early, to meet with coaches, and begin workouts, in a place I had never been before in my life, with a coach I had only spoken with on the telephone.  I was the lone white face amidst many black ones.  My friends looked very different from me, and grew up in a very different world...I was naive.  I thought nothing of who it was that I made friends say that I was color blind would have been an understatement...and then came the slow realizations...there were white fraternities and black fraternities...there were moments in the company of others that my new friends faded away and disappeared. I was largely oblivious, until one half-drunken night when race became impossible to ignore and I found myself in a fight alongside a friend that looked very different than I. I punched and took punches all because of who I chose to call friend and it changed me.  I called home that night, in tears, begging to come home.  I just wanted to go home.  Never before had race been an issue in my life.  In Missouri it was, and I was unprepared for it.  In the long, empty months that followed I worked through my feelings about it.  It was difficult, and may have been something that a lot of other young men brushed away and moved on from.  I could not.  It lingered and affected me in significant ways.  Shortly afterward  I was home and mired in regret and confusion and uncertainty, and do you know what was waiting for me on my night stand?  The Trumpet of Conscience.

It's difficult to fathom what Dr. King meant to many people, and how his death impacted the world, but in the Fall of 1991 I was as close as I've ever been to understanding.

This Is Why You Should Watch College Sports...

It's not just college football that should draw your undivided attention if you're any kind of true sports fan, it's all college sports...they're fantastic...but to be perfectly honest, this clip of the Auburn Band reacting to this year's thrilling last second win against behemoth Alabama is tough to beat.

In case you missed it here are the details that lead up to this amazing video.

What an amazing clip.  Goosebumps.

One of These Things is Not Like The Other...

This was the last thing that I saw before leaving for work this morning...which is awesome.  One of these two little girls has a little more "damn the torpedoes" in her, and it just happens to be the one standing naked in my kitchen wearing her sisters winter boots.

The Re-Post

I'm certain it's not a "thing" unique to me can't be, but very we'll could be. I understand that I am fortunate enough to have earned a pretty unique vantage point to watch the world go by. I mean, it would make sense if I were to see things just a little differently, but the irony of the phenomenon mustn't be lost on the people around can't be.

The re-post.

It may be the most current version of self-deception and ignorance in this age of connectivity. The Facebook or Twitter fool who posts the video, or quote, or inspirational image that flat out contradicts everything they do every day...the person with no integrity posting a quote about integrity...the out of control Hockey Mom posting the video of the out of control Hockey Mom...the liar posting endless missives about honesty...

The re-post. Ugh.

I could forevermore do without the parenting re-posts from poor parents...the healthy living links posted by the sickly...the advice, or inspirational quotes from the disappointing. It's equal parts offensive and depressing. Are we really that out of touch...I mean collectively? I think we are.  That's frightening, I mean at least Nazi's knew that they were Nazi's....wait, too much of a leap, I think...sorry.  The fact is that crazy people don't often understand that they're crazy. That's dangerous. The Friday Night Tykes father that tweets endlessly about what it takes to raise boys into men....oy vey. We're dangerously close to a tipping point where our own disillusionment outweighs our grasp on reality.

Your son will not play in the National Hockey League.

You're not even a good husband, let alone   good man.

You don't know how to raise a man any better than any other coach, or with any more insight than any other parent.

You're doing this as much for you as for them.

Define integrity for me, and give me no less than ten examples from your own life, 'cause one or two is easy. Even a blind man finds his cane in a pile of sticks every once in awhile.

The re-post is killing's killing us, but it's like a car accident that I can't drag my eyes from. Disillusionment...that's our social dilemma...whatever most of us see in the mirror is not what is real.

Re-post that.

What I Wanted To Be When I Grew Up...

He literally just walked out of my office...just now, and with lunch hour in full swing I've found a moment to type. These people and this work never fails to astound humble make sense of a planet so impossible to make sense of...The young man left my borrowed office space and as the squeak of his sneakers disappeared into the crowd it struck me that I may very we'll have just been part of a conversation that would "make things different." Sometimes you don't know. Sometimes you have no idea if an exchange of words and ideas even matters all that much...and then you have this...what just happened, and you're certain.  Then the text message comes...subtle...very quiet, almost muted but sincere (that's how boys do it)..."thanks"...and you can't imagine doing any other thing, in any other moment, ever.

Some days it's so paralyzingly obvious that I'm the most fortunate person on planet earth. No discussion. Some days it strikes me that everything that has happened up 'till now was supposed to happen so that he and I could have that specific conversation.  Sometimes it's clear that the things that you believe in, the messages that you glean from this or that, from everything you've ever "gleaned" any message from ever (just what the Hell "gleaned" means mattering little in this profound moment)...were all exactly as they were meant to I interpreted something, just what I learned from this, or what struck me as memorable about that...ALL of that happened so that I could say what I said today, and understand what I heard. All of it happened so that Kyle, let's say his name is Kyle, could walk away from our conversation and feel better.  There isn't a better affirmation on the planet, I don't think.

He left and it struck me that maybe, just maybe, this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing.  I suspect that I'd have a hard time convincing him that I benefit a lot more from knowing him than him from me...or that this moment, this conversation that just happened will help someone tomorrow, or next year, or that I will never, ever forget it...that it helps me, but perhaps that's not important. What is important is that he left here feeling normal...lighter...hopeful.

"What do you do," the stranger asks.

"Me," the smiling man gestures to his chest, "Me? Oh, I sell hope."

Take that high school guidance counselor.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Listen to This... or Damn Your Stubborn Musical Inclinations

I really can't stop listening to Jason Isbell's latest release, "Southeastern." It's a mesmerizing mix of alt-country angst and wishful thinking that leaves you both lonely and all filled up at the same time.  It's well worth stealing from your favorite torrent thievery hole.

Lately there's been less time for music, but I've promised myself something new each week. It's a start, I mean, it's something.

Week 1 - Jason Isbell

It's complicated.

She's grown so much in fifteen, so much.  She's getting to be pretty fun.  To be perfectly honest  I'm no championship Dad for the first twelve or so months. I'm just not.  The crying kills me.  The screaming undoes me. The lack of meaningful back and forth communication is frustrating.  I'm just no good until we can give and take mutually.  These last few months have become just that.

I'm not proud to say that I sucked through infancy, and got no better in early toddlerdom, but it's the truth.  These days, however, the going has gotten easier.  Maggie is starting to talk.  She understands us and can answer our questions simply.  We know what she wants, and can articulate what we want.  It's brilliant.  Now I might be able to get down to being a good Dad, not just surviving fatherhood. Now I'm gathering up reason after reason to love her...before I just did.  Now I'm starting to better understand all of the complicated reasons why.

She's so smart, and funny.  She has a pretty outsized sense of humour.  She's bold.  Much bolder than Zoey ever was, and stubborn, but in the way that eases your mind.  I don't think people will take advantage of Maggie Aoi DeWagner, and if they do...pity them.  She understands things.  She's a gamer.  She eats well, and sleeps...well, she could sleep better.  She can be alone, but she loves her sister very much.  It's an entirely new experience this second child.  So much is the same and so much is entirely different.

All I really know for sure is that the smiles can still knock you down dead.

Falling Asleep at Hogwarts

As a grown man I have few wishes that can approach the child-like purity of wishing that Hogwarts was real...of wishing I could be whisked off and sorted, chucked into a house, and share a room in a castle with my own Ron Weasley and Harry Potter.  If I ever found a genie in a lamp...

Alas, all we get to do is read more, watch the films, and project shadows on walls.

At Zed's eager request we made a new shadow cut out for her wall.  It's pretty awesome.

Little Man Syndrome

To paraphrase a line from Paul Simon, our lives can be so common that they practically disappear, and in that notion is the sad momentum that adds the weight to almost all of our most desperate quixotic gestures (whoa, that sounded heavy).  We hurl ourselves towards meaning and individuality, like some giant NFL receiver, clawing for separation from everything that renders us quietly the same as everyone else. It's what I do.  It's what most of us do.  We can distill our lives down into other, more ambitious motivations, but in the end we just want to be different...we just want to do something different, and if it can have value, even better.

When I first started typing this blog I thought it would be great to just have a place to put building extra storage space in a cramped house, but it quickly turned into something else.  It quickly transformed into a therapeutic roadmap that helped me navigate fatherhood, and husbandry...if I was totally honest with myself I'd say my own approach to humility and humanity.  It was a tangible, visual expression of most everything that was happening in my life, well, a lot of what was happening in my life, but has since changed yet again.  Since Maggie was born time has been more scarce, my exhausted mind has had much less overflow...all of it's creative surges being siphoned off to survive a crazier life of earlier mornings and later nights, of louder evenings and never ending, not good enoughs...not clean enough, not organized enough, not quiet enough, not fast enough, not...not...not...since Maggie was born there have been no second helpings of inspiration or creative energy...or perhaps whatever there has been has gone to new enterprises, like our Jimmy Twohander endeavour, and both of our constantly changing challenges at work.  It feels as though I have just as much to say, and need just as much cupboard space, but haven't the time to manage it.  In an ironic twist, it's a turn of events that most closely mirrors the cleanliness of our home...always the ambition to make things look nice, to accomplish things, but never the time or energy.

This new version of blogging takes so much more energy, and so much more creative use of time, and more than anything else, so many larger bursts of inspiration timed with quiet moments to manage it.  It's not much different from cleaning house.  I try, and there's a billion unfinished drafts of posts lying about in ruin here and there, but whatever manages to make it online is often less than I'd wish.  Kind of like how we've gone as far as buying the paint for the kitchen, but haven't come any closer to painting it than hiding the cans away in the closet.

I listen to less music...sigh...I watch less television...shrug...I read less.  I exercise less. I accomplish less.  It's just how it is I suppose, for many of us, but the quiet pain of it all lies firmly in Paul Simon's lyrical life often feels so common that it might as well disappear.  That's a tough pill to swallow, even if I know it's not true.  It just feels that way.  I'm still far busier than most, far more active and engaged.  We still find tonnes of adventure and discover new things embarrassingly regularly.  In comparison to the masses I think we do alright.  Still, Friday nights spent on exercise bikes and Saturdays spent re-organizing daughter's rooms feels less and less like living.  It's called reality, we know, but sometimes we like to bust free from Ikea daydreams to charge hard at some windmills.  Sometimes blogging the less glamourous feels, well, less than glamourous.

Still...(audible sigh inducing, smile producing however)...we watch two girls grow, and a relationship grow. I've never danced as much in my life, or sang as many songs.  I've never invented more with just scissors and excitement, or created more, using just hope and scraps of discarded inspiration.  I've never been hugged more, or appreciated more.  I've never found as much purpose or cultivated more motivation.  We find ourselves awestruck more frequently than any round-the-world trip could ever offer us...find more photo opps, more smiles.  It is no longer a search for meaning, our lives have meaning...more than they've ever had before...and Paul Simon can suck it.  I never liked that short little man without Art Garfunkel anyway.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Mom Has a Camera

I love the fact that Mom has a camera, and she uses it.

I love the moments she catches and how their authenticity can't be matched by mere memories. You need the photos.

I love how she doesn't take it too seriously...she just takes pictures, and too often, really great pictures.

I love how she sees things that I don't see.

I love how the girls are growing up comfortable with their every cute moment being documented, sometimes quite artistically.

I love that her camera has inadvertently chased shyness away.

I love that Mom has a camera and so I don't need one.

I love how we will just be able to flip though the thousands of photos one day when these girls are grown and gone and they will suddenly be 4 and 1 again.

I love that other people acknowledge how good June is at this.

I love that she loves it.

I really love that Mom has a camera...a lot.

A Canadian Christmas Vacation

This year I swore that Christmas vacation was going to feel like Christmas two day drives to chaining myself to my phone or the, I was going to chill the @#$% out and do something easy peasy and Canadian for once.  So we went to -24 degree temps, and horrifying road conditions.  Meh...we wanted Canadian.

We stopped by and visited our old Brooklyn buddies, the Cowgerellis, in Ottawa...we ate food, drank copious amounts of wine, shuffled the odd beer into the mix...even jammed a maple-bacon doughnut in our faces...'twas a beauty time.  Of course, an enormous part of what makes it always such a beauty time is that the girls pretty much occupy themselves, which leaves us grown ups to enjoy, well...whatever the hell we want to.  The only trouble with letting the girls loose on each other is that we typically discover that 48 hrs is about the window where intelligent and audacious little five year old girls can get along without a hitch...anything after that and every half hour something is someone else's fault and f#$%ing everyone wants to be "Elsa."  The girls love each other but lack the skills to set each other straight once in awhile, and have no idea how to take the absolute minimal amount of one another's crap...but for 48 blissful hours, these girls are pretty much standing up in each other's wedding parties, and going to Cabo together.  It's sweet...and then it's trying on parents still trying to sleep while their first born feisty females try to decide who woke who up and why.  So we separate to them...try to interject some f@#$ing perspective, and then watch them slip from pissing one another off to cuddling.  It's insane...but the photo ops can be brilliant.

If you don't have yourself some Mel and Jeff Cowger I highly recommend you get some...just not ours.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Missing The Message

Apparently Dad didn't get the "act like a freak" memo...or maybe he was just so disengaged after Christmas #3 that he didn't have the ambition to act a fool, which is weird 'cause who needs ambition for that?

Christmas on the 28th always feels like, well, Christmas on the 28th.  Such is the way of things...but we don't much like having our people schedule Christmas with your people, and have started to really wish more family were around.  I think next year we might find ourselves as good as gone too.  Christmas under palm trees sounds nice...or maybe ski lifts and fireplaces?  Either/or...we're not picky.  WAit, yeah we are.