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Cake Therapy With CNN

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I am a CNN fan boy.

A few years ago, I’d catch the occasional minute or two of Wolf or Brianna or Anderson. On Blitzer… On Keilar… On Cooper… 

It was passerby TV viewing. Ho hum… take in a moment of toothy-grinned Obama speaking to the camera and merrily continue on with MY day.

ROUTINE World. Happy World.

Sadly today, I’m a full-fledged CNN addict.

They handcuffed my inner liberal bias and are holding me hostage. I’m in their grip and I can’t let go. HELP!!

I feel dirty.

Thanks Donald.

NON-ROUTINE World. Sad World.

In the old world, it used to be that “polite” Canadians genially crossed paths and discussed the changing weather patterns. Gonna be a hot one today eh Ginger Snap?…

Today, the passing eye-rolls of interchange revolve more and more around what shovelful (dump truck!) of nonsense hit Twitter overnight. OMG, Can you believe that sh*t?…

500+ days back, when the U.S. election results were shockingly finalized, I predicted we’d do a throwback to the Dark Ages for a few years.

But it’s become even darker than I could have pie-in-the-sky imagined.

It’s like the 50 Shades phenomenon a couple of years back. A huge portion of the population was swept into a surreal madness of worship of a man who merrily abuses and proudly dominates women.

My understanding sense was senseless. I didn’t/don’t get it.

Trump 50 shades.jpg

And now there’s this insanity sweeping a whole nation, a nation that has been a world power, the beacon of hope and possibility for a peaceful and tolerantly accepting world for 100 years.

Sure, every story has its dark sides and America has held a few snotty handkerchiefs in its back pocket, thanks in part to slavery and misogyny and treachery. Nobody’s perfect…

…oh yeah… cake. Don’t forget the cake.

I always buy too many bananas at my local Superstore.

It began as an accidental overbuy when I’d purchase a 6 banana bunch (… daylight come and me wanna go home…) and then always find myself with 2 or 3 extras at the end of the week when we’d head off again and buy 6 more bananas.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat… Buy. Blacken. Buy Again.

Maybe it’s an OCD thing. Maybe it’s a “don’t carry out the same action and expect different results” scenario.

Where was I going? oh yeah… cake.

I love banana chocolate chip cake (I love lots of cakes… almost any cake in fact).

Banana Chocolate Chip cake.jpg

The deliciously smooth moistness and combination of banana and chocolate builds a delectable ambrosia effect that piggybacks on my love of peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

It’s a relatively healthy addiction, unlike my desire to smoke one Cuban cigar per week during the gorgeously sunny summer months.

And it doesn’t involve me spying through my neighbour’s window while they’re having sex…. EWwwwwwww! See? Healthy!

Building a banana chocolate chip cake is my sugar-drenched passport, my freedom to exclude the gluten free, superfood, and paleo folks who buffet me with their winds from all sides almost every day.

Take this!… eggs… and this!... white flour…. and THAT! chocolate…

So almost once weekly, I turn up the volume to CNN and gorge on the fetid faeces that emanate from the cake-hole of the TRUMPster whilst mixing flour and eggs and brown-black bananas and sugar … baking a yummy sweet cake for MY cake-hole.

Soothing with food.

My mind wanders in loop-de-loo circles and twists… why would Butch and Sundance think they could ever shoot their way out of that little Bolivian town?… I miss watching my young kidlets at their end-of-the-year ballet concerts… will the fear be greater in my head or my stomach when I dive out of an airplane in the next couple of weeks? I hope the spy couple who escaped back to Russia in the TV show The Americans, will get to see their children again in their lifetime.

Butch and sundance.jpg

Weird random thoughts.

But anything to escape the CNN-Trump vortex for a few blessed minutes.

It’s a perplexing thing where I hate the impulse to watch Trump as he clumsily – spitefully – maliciously – twists and batters our 3rd rock world towards an unhappy ending.

Baking a cake is an antibody vest I can wear (and eat!) to protect myself against the nastiness and darkness coming from the south-of-Canada kingdom. It makes the world feel normal again somehow.

As written in DESIDERATA, I have to accept that there are some things I can’t change in the world.

It’s OK for me to be narcissistic in my own space, show up and focus on getting better in my own world today and not fret about the future.

We can’t always magically succeed. But we can get better.

My banana chocolate chip cake can always be better too, but it does take continuous practice. Weekly, in fact!

Oh… and here’s the simple recipe I use to anti-Trumpify myself while watching CNN … You’re Welcome!

LARRY’S BANANA CHOCOLATE CHIP CAKE

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup sour cream (low fat works fine)

3/4 cup chocolate chips

2 ripe, medium bananas, sliced or mushed.

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9×5 inch loaf or 8 inch cake pan.

In a large bowl, stir together the melted butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, mix well.

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt, stir into the butter mixture until smooth. Finally, fold in the sour cream, chocolate chips and bananas. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the loaf comes out clean. Cool loaf in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.

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EXERCISE!…

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comes in lots of forms

… they all hurt until they feel great.

 

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  • Writing this blog exercises my writing mind, pushing me to be as clear in my communication as possible.

I spend a good deal of time writing, rewriting, editing and re-editing these posts to make them as understandable and relevant as I can manage (you may think I fail terribly… oh well!).

It’s frustrating and sometimes hurts my head trying to finding new ideas and new approaches that fulfill my needs while also hopefully finding a message that occasionally intrigues you.

A satisfying payoff comes every 4 or 5 blog posts when I hit on a thought, maybe a metaphor or a way of thinking that sends a chill of thrill up my spine.

It’s like finding a hidden cinnamon bun in the freezer and no one is around to catch you eating it… 0 calories!!

  • Playing and practicing my guitar exercises a part of my brain that requires coordination and memory and nuance of tone, timing, and volume.

I rehearse and practice songs over and over, trying out different keys and styles of approach (is this better in country format, jazzy, or slow and soulful?).

Jackson Browne would sit at his piano practicing a song, or even just one line of a song for hours until he hit on just the right sound he wanted. I think the best musicians follow a similar pattern to Browne’s.

Tonight I’ll sing his song THESE DAYS at an Open Mic with my own interpretation that I’ve practiced over and over.

The hurt heals to delicious pleasure.

Jackson brown piano.jpg

  • Investing exercises another part of my brain.

It’s the numbers part, the analytical and decision-making areas that weigh and decipher and calculate risk vs reward.

There’s a large set of reality-based and psychological components that need assessment and a steady mindset to produce a High-5 satisfactory return on dollars invested.

The level-headedness required to persevere when bad stuff happens to good investments is challenging, but ultimately rewarding when good analysis turns into good returns.

  • Running and other physical activities like spin class, yoga, and boot camp exercise my body.

Physical exertion forces large volumes of oxygen-rich blood to the areas where it’s needed to perform and work hard.

I try to work myself hard for at least a small amount of time each day… sometimes as little as 20 minutes with high intensity stuff. Half marathon training can consume a 2 hour period for long runs in preparation for a race.

I don’t mind if my body screams and hurts a little. Sorry to disagree with the “experts”, but sometimes… a little pain does produce gains.

The best showers are the ones that rinse away a ton of salty sweat.

sweaty guy

Exercise of all kinds comes down to habit and focus. Yes?

Self- discipline. Yes?

We all know that exercise in all forms is important in our lives.

Wrong… MOST of us know.

Here’s what Donald Trump thinks about exercise.

In a book (Trump Revealed) by the Washington Post’s Mike Kranisch and Marc Fisher:

After college, after Trump mostly gave up his personal athletic interests, he came to view time spent playing sports as time wasted. Trump believed the human body was like a battery, with a finite amount of energy, which exercise only depleted. So he didn’t work out. When he learned that John O’Donnell, one of his top casino executives, was training for an Ironman triathlon, he admonished him, “You are going to die young because of this.”

And, like all things TRUMP, I disagree. Every reputable scientific study disagrees… but there I go off on an unfocused tangent. Bad Larry. Yes, I digress.

Exercise is about habit and focus and self-discipline. But we also know that exercise is usually hard, a challenge to body, mind and soul.

Sometimes to pocketbook. OUCH!

For me in my life the hardest exercise is the creative process.

creativity ocean

 

Being creative exercises my sub-conscious mind and my powers of observation and interpretation and Idea Sex.

I can procrastinate my life away when I become lazy and try to avoid the creative process that I both love and hate.

I love the end result. I hate the process that takes me there.

We went to see the movie DEADPOOL 2 this week. WTF, Another tangent?

It’s the kind of movie you either love or hate.

It’s the 21st century equivalent of those 80’s and 90’s movies like AIRPLANE! or NAKED GUN… a bit of silly slapstick, a bit of Monty Python, buckets of blood and comic “violence”, even a kiss of romance.

But OMG, its approach to the superhero genre is so irreverently abrasive and inventive and original and CREATIVE.

I am in awe of the thought process (plus the multi-millions of dollars spent in its production) and independent manner that led screenwriters down this path.

I must have had some exercise in watching the show because my laughter muscles hurt afterwards.

Laughter can be THE best exercise, right? Shower time!

deadpool 2.jpg

 

A Masterpiece… Am I Ready?

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Okanagan Lake.jpg

Ommmmmmmmmmm…..

When we take a deep yoga breath and open our eyes and senses to the world around us we can see the universe as a beautiful painting. The breezes flow like fairy sprites across the canvas blending colour and texture.

To truly appreciate an exquisite piece of art, we first have to stand back and absorb the totality before we hone in on the minuscule fine points that, brought together, produce a masterpiece.

Masterpieces are created one step, one brush stroke at a time, in the same way that a war is looked back upon as a series of battles that produced a final outcome. OK, maybe that’s not a pretty comparison, but you get the point.

Bob Ross painting.jpg

Life is made from science but is best appreciated as art…

In a few weeks I’ll become a granddad for the first time.

My baby is having a baby. I’m not sure I’m ready.

Am I ready?

I always ask myself, “Am I ready?

I’ll tell you my answer at the end of this.

Soon, a small genetic piece of me will usher himself into the world and hopefully live for 100 or more years as a fractional portion of my proof of existence.

He’ll grow and laugh and cry, living his life one heartbeat, one day at a time just like I have, just like my mother, my grandfathers and great-grandmothers did.

This isn’t light stuff. This comes down to the meaning of life and weighty philosophical thoughts.

Granddad. It’s a title that I can’t quite grasp.

grandfather painting

In reality, for my entire life, I’ve struggled with titles of all kinds … paperboy, burger flipper, laboratory technologist, husband, father, brother, gardener, hockey player, writer, triathlete, musician, tutor, cook, bartender, the list goes on and on.

Every time a new title presents itself I’ve sat and asked myself, “Am I ready?

I’ve shivered and trembled and worried. My first niece was born when I was 11. I shivered. I married when I was  24 years old. I trembled. My first child was born when I was 26. I worried.

My first grandchild will be born when I’m 60. I shiver and tremble and worry. The beautiful masterpiece, the fine details and curlicues of a perfect life might turn into tangles and knots. But that’s short-lived worry that is really a mirage.

I know it’s insecurity that makes me think this way. I know it has to do with self-esteem and confidence. Am I ready?

It’s silly really because we all find ourselves “titled” every day by the roles we play, the things we do.

Not one of these titles has sat well on me because they’ve all been challenges that defined me and encased me in shoes of concrete. I am this. Or I am that. To be or not to be… and most importantly… can I do it?

These titles in some way – and in my interpretation – suggest that I must have some sort of expertise that I feel uncomfortable claiming.

Yes, I am a musician… well actually I play a bit of guitar and sing but Sir Paul is truly a musician, not me.”

Sure, technically I’m your father, but I don’t bring all the wisdom and wonder to the role the way Atticus Finch did in To Kill A Mockingbird, or Charles Ingalls on Little House On The Prairie. Now those men were Dad’s.”

atticus finch.jpg

For many years I struggled with the sense of inferiority that often held me back through fear of failure. If I aim for this “title” and don’t quite make it, well, people will look down on me as a total failure.

The good news is that while in my 50’s, the fear of failure and insecurities that held hands with that fear slowly melted away like the globally-warmed ice glaciers in Alaska…

Titles don’t have the power to shape my view of myself the way they once did.

I don’t like failure any more than I ever have, but I accept that bastard failure as part of the process that carries me forward and gives me great satisfaction when I do overcome an obstacle.

And truthfully, I haven’t cleared every obstacle.

I took violin lessons for 4 years. I practiced and practiced. My family suffered the earfuls of pain. I never could coax a beautiful sound from that fiddle. Honestly, I sucked. OK, so violinist isn’t a title I hold; I’m good with that because I made a valiant attempt at learning. I grew in the process of sounding bad.

Today, although they still sound a bit foreign in my head, I’ve come to view titles as honours, accolades, recognition of what I’ve accomplished. Titles don’t define me, but they reflect the journey I’ve taken, the rivers I’ve crossed: some quiet babbling streams, some raging torrents.

Or in the case of the title Grandpa, a recognition of how far my children have come, an indirect reflection of the painting I began years ago when I was an intern in life (I’m still an intern).

Which brings me back around to the question I posed earlier… Am I ready?

I regret that I was never able to make a connection to any of my own grandparents as they were already gone or nearing their end when I arrived – the curse of being born to elder parents.

Now here I have an opportunity, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to carve out a connection as a grandparent.

It’s a title that requires nothing more of me than a loving presence.

There is excitement and newness in the beginning of a life, the anticipation of what-will-be. The joys and the worries.

OK…

My paintbrushes are cleaned and set to dab on the unvarnished canvas that awaits a brand new masterpiece.

Put me in Coach! I am ready.

……………………

And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and the man in the moon…

 

 

 

 

Is There A Right Way To “R”etire?

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rocking chair3

My “R” word. Retirement.

There. I said it.

For me, saying Retirement is akin to verbalizing “Voldemort”, you know, Harry Potter’s deadly nemesis… “he whose name shall not be spoken“.

Shits and giggles.

Last night, I “worked” again after 6 months time away.

Bartending.

Pouring Pinot Gris, popping Budweisers, mixing Lamb’s Navy Rum with Coke, concocting a pretty Caesar.

Paid work.

It was fun to be back in the alcoholic saddle once more.

Now technically, I’ve been retired for almost 4 years (how did that time go by?).

But really, gosh darn it, I’m not even close to being retired. I’ve rejigged and rebranded, but retired? Nope. I’ll delve into this a bit further on.

Most people I meet in my age category are either retired or thinking about pulling the plug soon’ish.

I love it when I come across a 70 or even 80 year-old who still gets up most days and journeys off to an office or whatever, where they continue plying their trade, working their knowledge and experience because they love and need that stimulation and enjoyment.

Retirement, Schretirement.

Hallelujah for them.

working 80 year old

I suppose that each of us at some point searches within, finding what retirement could mean in our own life.

Used to be that folks worked til 65 and then collapsed on a couch or a rocking chair and died a year or two later on. Now, not so much…

  • For some, the retirement ideal means a day filled with nothingness.
  • Others retire to a life of leisure and play.
  • For yet others, retiring is quitting the 9-5 aspect of work, but then taking on consulting work in their same field, scaling back the time input but not changing the focus of their efforts.
  • Some folks parlay a fun hobby or treasured interest into a new career more enjoyable than their lifelong vocation.
  • There are the ones like Linda at my gym who take a scattershot approach to each day; a hybrid blend of various pet interests, paid work, and volunteerism. Linda divides her days into about 4 or 5 segments where she exercises (gym, curling, golf), volunteers at the school, reads a library book, takes a yoga class, attends a local lecture in the evening.
  • And sadly, for some, the thought of retirement is an unattainable dream, at least along the lines of what marketing dreamcatchers would have us buy into. Either a lack of savings, or employment income that rarely soared above a minimum wage, leaves a gaping hole of cashlessness where a monthly cheque of passive income (dividends, company pension, dividends) would be desirable.

You may know that I have a few pet peeves… things like the totally subjective (might I say “fake”!) meaning of words like moderation, or middle class, or retirement.

When we say these words, every person has a different version of just what that means. You know, potato, potahto.

Example? I’m running in a half marathon race in two weeks. At this stage of my training, a 15k run is a moderate run distance. In your world, a 5k walk may be crazy big, or… if you’re crazy (in my mind) perhaps a 42.2 k run is your everyday. Moderate? Who knows… Same goes for retirement.

Moderation?…….         or ……        Moderation??

My personal definition of retirement means deciding what each day will look like because I have the freedom to chart my course. The point of leaving work isn’t so that I’ll will never earn money again because that’s somehow bad. The point of it all is to have control over my time. TIME, more valuable than BITCOIN or Gold.

I work most days but it’s a rare day when someone pays me to do something. There’s a different feeling, a different philosophy and approach to work when there’s a $$ figure attached.

I liked my job as a medical lab tech/database miner and reporter but I didn’t love it. Or at least I didn’t love it after doing it for 30+ years.

I enjoyed the people I worked alongside, but the work itself? Well, it lost its luster and uniqueness and excitement years ago. The adrenaline rush I would get when called in at 2 am to do blood tests and crossmatches on car crash victims had long passed.

I suffer from boredom anxiety. It’s a blessing and a curse.

I need newness and creative expression. I need to be doing something different on a regular basis. That’s just me.

My “retirement” story is a lot like Linda’s, above. I exercise daily. I cook and play guitar. I garden and tutor English. I chop vegetables at the soup kitchen, I read and write blog posts. I savour warm sunny days and feed the chickens. I puff a cigar from time to time and renovate bedrooms. I bartend.

The retirement story we’ve been hearing about in our society is still relatively new.

People haven’t been retiring in droves for much more than a century now, but that’s still plenty old in terms of our personal memories.

Our memories have strong mental pictures and associations with retirement that mostly have to do with people in their later years. People with lots of gray hair. Grandparents, elderly neighbours, aging parents. Those are the stories we know, so those are the stories we attach to retirement.

But, powerful as these stories may be, they don’t dictate what retirement is, or what retirement could be. Those stories are changing, and dramatically, for those who retire younger and healthier.

When your day comes, or if it has already come, you’ll need to decide what your retirement story will be. It’s your book, your story.

There’s no “r”ight way, no wrong way…

There are so many possible visions and choices… like playing some gentle music in a care home for the elderly…

I decided it would be a great retirement “gig” to play my guitar occasionally at seniors’ homes.

So first, I went online, looked up and practiced playing some of my parents’ and grandparents’ old tunes. 

Then, I was able to get myself hired by a Penticton nursing home to sing for patients by their bedsides.

After serenading one cute, bedridden older lady for a little while,  I got up to leave and said, “I hope you get better soon.”

She smiled sweetly at me and replied, “I hope you get better too.”

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K-Tel vs Amazon… and the Winner Is?

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Capitol record club

Those were the days my friend…

OK, dammit I’ll admit it… it really gets under my skin when people talk about the “good old days”.

Good old days… Did you mean those good old days of cruel slavery and gruesome world wars and where women were unable to vote or own property?

Hmmmm… are we talking about the REAL “Good Old Days” or “New Age Trump days”?

Good old days was one of my Dad’s favourite expressions and I often hear it today when I’m in the company of the elder generation (notice how I’m carefully avoiding placing myself in this category… you know… VANITY is my name!)

I’ll know I’ve crossed the Rubicon to advanced Seniordom (SeniorDUMB?) when I believe that ALL things in the world were better when I was younger. Canned peas definitely were NOT a positive feature of my childhood dinners.

C’mon, every day is fresh and new and has the wide-eyed capacity to be a good day, or sometimes bad. Let’s face it, there are days of exhausting trial.

There are so many exceptionally positive things about the world of 2018 compared to, say, the world of 1918 (speaking of world wars).

Under the category of not better but different makes me search through my inner hard drive for some stuff that was popular in my young days and is now defunct, non-visible, like, gone… gone… gone.

I cast back in my memory banks wondering whatever happened to Capital Record Company, or K-Tel, or Book-of-the-Month Club.

In my 1960’s and ’70’s early youth, I loved all of those companies.

What a delight I’d feel, almost like a Christmas morn awakening, when I opened a cardboard mailing package containing a monthly LP record by Three Dog Night (“One is the loneliest number….), or peeling the plastic covering off K-Tel’s 40 Greatest Beach Hits of 1969… or a brand new shiny hardcover edition of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood.

three dog night

It felt like the planet had delivered the Science-Fiction model of humanity that Montreal’s Expo 67 promised visitors with its motto, Man and His World.

The Jetson’s maybe wasn’t just a cartoon. Good dog Astro!

Further, whatever happened to daily milk truck delivery or eggs, or potato chip or soda pop or orange juice deliveries, all brought by separate delivery truck?

It was crazy the stuff that could be trundled up my street by some middle-aged family man (or woman, we had an egg lady) in an old delivery truck. We never locked our house so they could deposit their goods inside the door.

These were iconic entities of my youth along with the one-armed Fuller Brush man who’d regularly appear at our door, or the knife-sharpening guy who walked up the road ringing a handbell and dragging a pull cart.

But best of all for us kids, was the Good Humor Truck, more affectionately known as the YUMMY MAN.

Yup, the ice cream truck with its sing-song jingle and its heavy insulated doors that hid the delectable Strawberry Shortcakes and Buried Treasures and Tiger Stripes.

He’d open one of those doors and big wafts of ice-cold clouds poured out while he reached in for our precious jewels of creamy sweetness.

good humor truck.jpg

Over the decades we lost these services as bigger and bigger grocery chains took control over the shopping experience with lower and lower prices and the convenience factor that put most of our daily needs and wants in one spot.

Gone was the need to traipse from the baker to the butcher to the dairy, the megastore had them all.

Truck-to-door delivery service wilted away like autumn frostbitten flowers… but much like clothing fashion that circles back around… the Phoenix has arisen from the ashes and we now have…

… a return to the past with home delivery of millions of products by the likes of Amazon and Best Buy and grocery stores and hundreds of others online.

The good old days we hear about have returned with steroidal gusto…

The crazy busy, the telecommuters and agoraphobics of the world have found a sweet spot where they really never need leave their safe houses.

Want to watch a movie tonight? Easy-peasy, just order from Apple or Netflix. You can lie back in bed, wireless iPad linked in, while the pizza boy delivers your intermission snack right to your comfy bedside.

The world will once again come to you with low prices and free delivery. Eggs and milk and books and music (oh, did someone mention PORN?) are available in a flash and a click.

Soon enough the Gen X’ers and Gen Y’ers and Millennials will be looking back in their rearview memory mirrors and reflecting fondly on their good old days just as every generation before has done.

It’s the Circle of Life where everything old becomes new again and the world wakes up from its humble slumber and forges off to work newly dressed in a shiny tech-happy wrapper.

From time to time in my nostalgic moments, I find myself wondering why songwriters and musicians don’t make music of the quality they used to, you know, like in the good old days?

But know what? I’m kidding myself even there. I’ve paused at the edge of the Rubicon, not quite ready to make the crossing.

In my youth there was only one Three Dog Night.

Today, there are dozens, hundreds… thousands of musicians and songwriters as good as or better than Three Dog Night…

Yes, these ARE the good days my friend…

Good-old-days

I’m In The Mood For A Little TeeHee…

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Love to laugh

… I love to laugh …

Remember that little ditty from Mary Poopins?teehee… I mean Poppins

Some people laugh through their noses
Sounding something like this, dreadful
Some people laugh through their teeth goodness sake
Hissing and fizzing like snakes
Not at all attractive to my way of thinking

I love to laugh
Loud and long and clear
I love to laugh
It’s getting worse every year

When was the last time I laughed so hard that I shot a nostrilful of milk across the table?

I’ll bet my Grade 13 lunch mates at Sir Wilfrid Laurier School in Hamilton still remember…

Probably the only thing worse than being vomited on (I g-g-gag just thinking…)…. is having recycled cow squeezings snorted over you in a misty white shower while trying to wolf back an egg salad sandwich that your Mom so lovingly prepared.

Hmmmm…. and I wonder why my old buddies Larry or Renato won’t befriend me on FB…. oh yeah, the milk snort shower.

The world has been a shadowy, humourless place in the last 14 or 15 months with DJT (Da Jaundiced Twerp) running our planetary schoolyard. Maybe Orange(head) truly is the New Black.

Ha ha… AR-15’s. Ha ha… #MeToo marches. Ha ha Nuclear threats.  Ha ha Slow WiFi… where is the laughter?

First world problem

Another great Third world problem…

OMG, a great vacuum has sucked up the milk snorting Teehee’s.

Of course I can’t grouse too much because I can’t tell a joke (at least a funny one) if my life depends on it. My punchlines need some IV-administered Viagra…

Yes, it’s difficult sometimes to unearth a good laugh when living in the current version of the dark ages…. I wonder how many standup comedians traipsed the countryside during the Black Death Plague (courtesy of my old Microbiology lab friend Yersinia pestis) that ravaged Europe for 4 years in the 1300’s? So… do all curses come in 4 year stints?

Could Jerry Seinfeld, Tina Fey or Rita Rudner have made a livelihood while surrounded by the stench of rotting bodies in the streets? It’s hard to hear the giggles over the corpse crowd, the dead silence …”Smoking will kill you… Bacon will kill you… But smoking bacon will cure it.” Cue laughter.

It’s crucial to find humour in the dingy, dreariest of times. Haven’t most of us laughed through our tears at a funeral or at the bedside of a dying loved one as a way to cope with the inner anguish?

I have to find humour in any place that isn’t a mirror ’cause it’s so damned hard to laugh through the crevasses and white hair that accost me like a time thief when I see THAT reflection. All I can say is, “Thank God my eye colour hasn’t changed.

FUN FUN FUN… today I’ll risk my foolish pride by telling you the longest, best bout of laughter I’ve had in 2018 was at the local movie theatre watching…

Peter Rabbit.

Yup, a kids’ cartoon.

I laughed and snorted the whole way through.

I hope the couple sitting in front of me didn’t mind picking semi-chewed specks of popcorn out of their hair when they arrived home after the flick. Hey, it isn’t milk snort!

Peter Rabbit… a beautifully computer-animated version of the classic Beatrix Potter story with some not-so-classic silly voices of Peter, and his triplet sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail (aka James Corden, Daisy Ridley, Margot Robbie, and Elizabeth Debicki).

 

It was clever, and irreverent, often silly but never totally jumped the garden fence into slapstick. It had drama and heartwarming moments, terrific animation, and a gentle love story to complete a great screenplay.

Benjamin Bunny: I’m still so out of shape.

Peter Rabbit: How’s it working with the putting the dressing on the side?

Benjamin Bunny: Good. But, I don’t understand why it’s healthier to drink it all at once.

OK, maybe it was the mood I was in.

Yes, our mood.

I recall gasping in laughter watching Woody Allen’s neurotic-laced Annie Hall the first time through.

On second viewing a few years later, I shook my head, wondering if I was watching the same movie. Where was the incredible humour that had me rolling in the aisle the first time?

Decades back I peed myself through the triad of Monty Python movies (Monty Python and The Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life). I can watch them today and come away with contradictory sensations of laughter and absurdity.

Yes, our mood.

Humour isn’t always what is given to us in the moment. Laughter affects our taste buds differently with each serving.

Often, it’s what we bring to the moment in our own mood… where is our tipping point? Today, is our funny bone right at the surface or deeply submerged?

I love it that I can watch CNN in 2018 and shake my head in laughter more often than I frown. Absurdity is such great comedy.

Perhaps the next time I view Peter Rabbit, my mood may be different. I’ll wonder what the hell was so funny.

But today I’m still giggling the same way I did when I was 7 years old and good ole Mary Poppins gave me that first spoonful of sugar laughter….

spoonful

 

 

The FOCUS of My Love and Hate

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OMG… could I be more distracted?

Don’t answer that. Of course I could.

I love this new world. I hate this new world.

I love… I hate… I love… I hate…

  • I love that I can learn about anything or nothing at all at the drop of a hat because I have access to almost every brilliant (or demented) mind that has breathed air on this earth.
  • I love that I can read every poetic line penned, listen to every musical song written, the original artist or a dozen cover versions…
  • I love that I can book a trip, buy a book, sell a stuffed moose, give away a cat, check my APPLE stock dividend payment, order a pizza, study screenwriting with Aaron Sorkin, download a detailed guitar tab for Please Come to Boston.
  • And yes, I love that I can see Hillary Clinton naked (those photos aren’t Photoshopped, are they?), if I feel my carnal desire arising.

… all from the very spot where I sit writing this blog post… in total comfort, with a steaming hot latte at my right elbow, Cali cat warmly schnoozing at my feet (I have a cat to give away if you’re interested! Sorry Cali…)

How many historic kings would have deliriously surrendered their castles for such indulgence?

  • I hate that I’m able to do all of the things above because it keeps me from working away for 1,000 or 10,000 hours on the stuff that’s key to my inner thrive, my need for productivity, my drive towards goals and desires. The internet well has no bottom, no end, it defines infinity in our everyday more vividly than contemplating the cosmos with a telescope. It’s a rogue thief that I don’t lock my doors against.
  • I hate that I struggle to finish reading a book… hell, I often struggle to finish a chapter in a book because my ADHD mind goes off like crazed fireworks in all directions and before I know it I’m scanning a web recipe for Penne alla Vodka or The World’s Best Chocolate Cake.

Throughout history, the world has been filled with artisans and specialists who dedicated their brief mortal lifetimes to mastering their craft, whether it was writing, or masonry, or ballet, basically any form of technical or creative endeavour that struck a chord.

Today this is hugely challenging.

And yes, we all know the answer why…

It takes a uniquely special and focused person to tune out the myriad distractions that fill us up with Facebook videos/messages and Instagram posts and e-mail memes, games and puzzles and “forwards” and “cc”s.

FOCUS is unsentimental and stern, like a nun with a ruler in her hand. FOCUS doesn’t care if you love her.

I want to write songs badly (but not BAD songs!). Well-written songs are beautiful children that bring us smiles and deep warmth, comfort in the evening’s twilight.

songwriting

In my imagination I view myself, Walter Mitty-like, laser-focused, moving forward, writing songs based on inspirational ideas that come to me in the middle of the night, in that wonderful dark room inside my head where my dream life is less distracted.

Certainly, writing a blog post takes a moderate degree of focus. In fact, writing these posts is one exercise I crave to keep my head grounded in concentrated reality.

But composing a song is a different level of focus, the difference between simple arithmetic and challenging algebra.

Musical writing … composing… is a multitask activity that gathers the need for lyrical, poetic inspiration interbred with musical melody and harmony.

It links back to the idea of musical prosody… melody and rhythm and lyrics that embrace like young lovers in a masterpiece that makes us believe the words and music are as one… inseparable and shallow without the other.

But that’s my imagination.

My reality is less idealistic, more scattered, more ordinary and everyday… more in sync with the current technology schizophrenia that traps many of us.

There are lists all over magazine covers and the internet with apparently simple answers to the puzzle that is focus…. Live Your Legend- 11 Steps to Insane Focus: Do More of What Matters …  8 Ways To Improve Your Focus – Fast Company … 12 Ways To Be More Focused And Get More Things Done Quickly. 

But MY best answer to this faraway bewildered quandary is my plain old non-technical caffeine and a daily TO DO List. And if a messy, paper-cluttered desk is any indication of a genius mind, Einstein and I could be twins.

The bottom line is we know FOCUS is hard work. F-words have a way of getting under our skin and stirring us up.

So even though I occasionally grouse about distractions – our love/hate relationship – the truth is I love this time and place where technology is sometimes taxing but ultimately an amazing perk… a creative self-care gift basket.

computer kid

The Smartest Gal In The Room?… A Grand Fiction

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I’ve sat in the darkness and sobbed salty, wet tears… tears from knowing that no one has ever suggested I’m the Smartest Guy in the Room and … sigh … never will.

It’s all good and well though, cuz I know I’m not alone.

When I watch Sarah Huckabee-Sanders walk into the Press Briefing Room of the White House, I think much the same about her.

Intellect need not apply. Sarah is today’s Queen of Grand Fiction. We all know who the King is.

I feel humiliated and dirty like a well-worn diaper when I watch and listen to her, maybe even like a male rape victim… beat up and confused.

But c’mon, really, is that a fair assessment?

Sarah’s doing a job, paying the bills, makin’ the bacon. She has conviction and blind faith. She has more balls than Sean Spicer (Spicey) was ever endowed.

No one has ever accused her of sexually harassing the poor men and women of the press. There’s never a suspicion that she’s grabbed anyone by the pussy or penis. She’s just good folk.

So, is Huckabee-Sanders just a hard-working Mom who’s found a place in the world to bring in a few dollars to support her family? Is any level of bottom feeding acceptable when it comes to feeding Scarlett, Huck, and George? Does she peer into her morning mirror and smile at herself with satisfaction at an important job well-done?

My only answers must be… drumroll please… NO. NO. And please NO.

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Huckabee-Sanders is a propagandized parrot that grew up at the knee of ignorance who continues to chew and regurgitate beefy Washington Whoppers fed to her in the back rooms of Maniac Mansion.

She can’t help it. Her ignorant sneers of disgust and self-deception are built-in.

It’s in her genes. After all, her father Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas Governor, was interviewed by Canada’s Rick Mercer once, and asked this question:

Our capitol building in Canada is actually a downscale model of your Capitol building, except it’s made out of ice. It’s an igloo, you see. Now, we’re worried about global warming and the fact that it might, uh, melt, so we’re putting a dome over it but in order to pay for it we have to attract tourists. Would you be interested in visiting Canada’s National Igloo?”

Huckabee smiled into the camera, and looking the perfect politician, beamed congratulations to Canadians on the success of their campaign.

“Hi, I’m governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, wanting to say, congratulations, Canada, on preserving your National Igloo.”

The very same Mike Huckabee attempted runs at the presidency in both 2008 and 2016, proud daughter Sarah at his side. Warms my heart.

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Sarah and Dad Mike

Just like her boss, Sarah is totally fascinating to watch. She’s a 35 year old buzz bomb.

Normally, you know, I take a passing, ho-hum, interest in American politics.

But the past year’s fun and frolics in Washington have me mesmerized. I can’t help it. I’m totally entranced by the characters and plotlines that are moment-to-moment stunning in beauty and scope.

I’m in awe of this scenario playing out in much the same way I felt when I stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon and looked over the magnificence. It feels otherworldly and breathtaking and… dangerous.

Huckabee-Sanders is a Waste Management officer that collects all the foul, ugly “stuff” off the floor of Trump’s Oval Office and then gleefully returns to the Press Room with a disdainful curl of her lip. Once installed at the lectern, she opens the garbage bag and begins flinging the musty trash into the gobsmacked gathering.

It’s hilarious and fascinating… and yes, scary as all hell.

Here, let me put it another way.

In my musical world, I play with a little cool gadget called a looper.

The looper is a metal box, about the size of a cigarette package (do people still smoke cigarettes?) that sits on the floor with a button (my button is definitely smaller than yours!).

When I want to tape a short segment of my guitar playing, I press the button with my foot and the loop records my guitar licks until I press the button with my foot once again.

When I come back around to the same place in the song I just recorded, I press the looper button twice with my foot and it replays the section I recorded earlier.

This allows me to play another slice of music that adds a layer onto what I’ve already played. In effect, I become a one-man band as I play with myself (hmmm… maybe I should re-word that section! Fuhgettaboutit!).

Sarah Huckabee-Sanders often reminds me of my looper in the manner that she says something totally fabricated and ridiculous, and then when questioned further, loops back and adds another sonic layer of absurdity over the base line she’s already laid.

Sarah’s a press room virtuoso (a) with a southern drawl.

Each day, senselessness is produced anew.

As Frank Bruni wrote in the New York Times this November: “For some 20 minutes every afternoon, down is up, paralysis is progress, enmity is harmony, stupid is smart, villain is victim, disgrace is honor, plutocracy is populism and Hillary Clinton colluded with Russia if anyone would summon the nerve to investigate her (because, you know, that never, ever happens). I watch and listen with sheer awe.”

I could dish up innumerable strange utterances that have come from Huckabee-Sanders throat but I can’t type and giggle incessantly at the same time.

Sure, I normally abhor reality TV, but the real-life version is too intoxicating to ignore. If only Shakespeare had lived to write his comedies and tragedies in the 21st century. The source material is endless.

The cast and characters of this American tragi-comedy have given me something akin to ice cream brain-freeze. I love it and I hate it.

Just because reporters say something over and over and over again doesn’t start to make it true.”

Hopefully, one day Sarah Huckabee-Sanders will listen and take her own words to heart.

A bright, active imagination like hers could be put to productive use if she joined a club of writers and added her voice to the world of Grand Fiction.

In the meanwhile, Huckabee-Sanders brings bittersweet levity and laughter to millions like myself as we await the arrival of divinely perfumed spring.

I avidly look forward to Sarah’s next press conference and find myself pondering if maybe… maybe… sweet songsters Hall & Oates were prescient when writing their tunes in the 1970’s:

If you feel like leaving you know you can go
But why don’t you stay until tomorrow?
And if you want to be free
You know all you got to do is say so
Sarah, smile
Oh, won’t you smile awhile for me, Sarah?

Ghosts of Christmas 1957… God Save The Queen

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Christmas Singers

Sfffftttt pftttttttt clunnnkkk… The rambunctious sounds of children’s bare feet on chilly oakwood floors awoke Mom and Dad after their far-too-short sleep post-Santa preparations by the living room fireplace.

Wednesday, December 25, 1957.

Baby’s First Christmas… MY First Christmas…

My brothers and sisters rushed with visible excitement into the living room of our 2 storey brick-clad Pottruff Road house before the morning darkness had even considered dissipating.

Dreams of science books, 45 rpm records, meccano and train sets, transistor radios, and cushy borg-lined slippers around the Scotch Pine tree, ransacked the insides of my sibs’ young heads.

The skies outside that morn were sooty grey and misty; a cool, light rain drizzled down on our Hamilton, Ontario home. The red mercury-filled thermometer outside our backdoor teeter-tottered up and down around the freezing point throughout the day.

No, a soft, fluffy white Christmas wouldn’t grace our Steeltown this Christmas day.

Five months into my existence, I celebrated my first Christmas without teeth, without the use of words, without control over my bowels, without any idea of what the world I lived in would look like 60 years later.

My mother’s eyes were no doubt red-rimmed so early, her head groggy from Christmas gift buying and wrapping as she collapsed on the couch (we called it a chesterfield then) in the reflected light of the Christmas tree.

In her exhaustion from all the preparations for a family of 7, she still had yet to prepare the sage and onion-scented stuffing for the turkey.

Here she was a worn out 45 year old with a brood of 5, and one – ME – a newborn.

We were the standard WASP Canadian family of 1957 and the Queen’s Christmas message coming over our radio would have been a moment of collective calm.

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Queen Elizabeth’s 1957 Christmas Message

I’m not a staunch monarchist.

I guess in a fashion similar to my religious tastes, I don’t really believe in it, but I happily accept its meaning and power to others.

I barely notice the rumblings of the folks who rummage around inside Buckingham or Kensington Palace.

I don’t dislike the Royal clan. I even truly admire the royal pageantry and regal trappings just as I admire the awe-inspiring beauty of the inside of an historic cathedral. Beauty is beauty regardless of the philosophy or circumstance that brought it to be.

Harkening back to my first Christmas reminds me that Queen Elizabeth II broadcast her very first TV Christmas message this day. It wasn’t her first Christmas missive but it was the first where she could be seen in the flesh as she spoke.

Here’s a sampling of the words she spoke (listen to it in her own voice here)  on Christmas day 60 years ago:

… But it is not the new inventions which are the difficulty. The trouble is caused by unthinking people who carelessly throw away ageless ideals as if they were old and outworn machinery. 
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They would have religion thrown aside, morality in personal and public life made meaningless, honestly counted as foolishness and self-interest set up in place of self-restraint. 
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At this critical moment in our history we will certainly lose the trust and respect of the world if we just abandon those fundamental principles which guided the men and women who built the greatness of this country and Commonwealth.
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Today we need a special kind of courage, not the kind needed in battle but a kind which makes us stand up for everything that we know is right, everything that is true and honest.
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We need the kind of courage that can withstand the subtle corruption of the cynics so that we can show the world that we are not afraid of the future. 
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It has always been easy to hate and destroy. To build and to cherish is much more difficult. That is why we can take a pride in the new Commonwealth we are building.
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Last October I opened the new Canadian Parliament, and as you know this was the first time that any Sovereign had done so in Ottawa. Once again I was overwhelmed by the loyalty and enthusiasm of my Canadian people. 
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Also during 1957 my husband and I paid visits to Portugal, France, Denmark and the United States of America… 

 

Really? 60 years ago? No way….

Over the years, I’ve rarely plunked down and listened to the Queen’s short talk where she opined on the state of the world.

It was my late father-in-law’s routine to insist on hearing her each year and I would smile at the tradition that meant a great deal to him and so little to me.

However, this Christmas season, as I nostalgically listen to Johnny Mathis sing I’ll Be Home For Christmas or the Muppets and John Denver sing The Twelve Days of Christmas where Fozzie Bear forgets his line (“Seven swans a-swimming”) and Miss Piggy over-emphasizes hers (“Five gold rings, ba-dum, bum, bum.)… or as I hum along to some of the actual hits of Christmas 1957 : Sam Cook You Send Me… Elvis Jailhouse Rock… Buddy Holly Peggy Sue… Everly Brothers Wake Up Little Susie

… I may settle into a warm chair with an eggnog latte and listen in with interest to a few moments of the Queen’s Christmas message, 2017.

I guess I’ve forgotten in the last while how invigorating it can be to listen in when a true statesman or stateswoman speaks of bright, positive opportunities and choices.

This year – more than any other year I can recall in my lifetime – the desire to listen to someone of substance say a few gentle, wise words about the goodness in the world, someone who attempts to speak to unity of disparate and desperate people of the world, someone who attempts to raise the bar of what humanity is and can be… well, my good friends… this is a part of the Christmas spirit I may need reminding of …

And in four short words… here are two institutions you’ll rarely hear me speak of in such tones of full, true reverence and admiration:

God Save The Queen…

… and yes … Merry Christmas To All …

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BABY It’s Cold Outside…

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“This is my brother Larry, the BABY!!”
My baby pic

Most would cringe and cower at these words, thinking “Oh shit, here we go again…”, mortified.

Most would hear those as fighting words.

Most would shudder especially when they reach 20, 30, 40, 50 years of age. BABY?!

Not me…

I always blushed with humble pride, almost as if I had done something skillful and miraculous to attain such an honour.

“Yes, well, it was nothing really, anyone who put in the 10,000 hours of intense effort could be the baby too.

But no 10,000 hours of training or effort are required to be the “baby”, simply luck of the birth order lottery.

Birth order… I guess it just has to be all the talk of Christmas and swaddled babies that somehow has me thinking about our own non-virgin births (I don’t want to tattle on your Mom and Dad, but yup, they did the dirty!) and the glittering point on the constellation where we shine within our family galaxy.

Reading things into birth order is akin to being a tea leaf reader or apprenticing as a Zodiac or Chinese Horoscope disciple. There may be some tenuous and practical connections, but the level of hogwash skepticism and requirement for faith is higher than that of pure science. If nothing else, it’s fun and entertaining, yes?

birthorder

……….

1st child: When the first swallows a coin, you rush the child to the hospital and demand x-rays.

2nd child: When the second swallows a coin, you carefully watch for the coin to pass.

3rd child: When the third swallows a coin you deduct it from his allowance!!

……….

I was born the youngest i.e. the BABY… of 5.

Three or 4 years separated each of us, meaning that the range of eldest to youngest was about 15 years… 15 years and 13 days to be exact.

When you hit 60 years of age, the title “BABY” begins to feel ridiculous, almost an insult or joke on the bearer.

Even so, I’ve always kind of treasured my role, my spot as the youngest. Youngest has a cachet, a semblance of specialness and reverence.

To be introduced as the baby has been a high honour while at the same time one needing guarded vigilance and defence.

Vigilance because inevitably, introduction as the baby in the family also comes with a tag-on comment, “yeah, he has always gotten away with murder, he is so spoiled”. 

What the H…? My hockey-skilled pugnaciousness comes to the forefront when I’m described as “spoiled”.

Are you kidding me? Spoiled? Me? Spoiled? Screw you….

Spoiled?

I delivered newspapers and magazines door-to-door every day from the time I was enrolled in Mrs. Putns’ Grade 1 class all the way up til the day I got my first McJob at 15 … yeah, at McDonalds.

Spoiled?

I always felt left out and empty because my sibs could go see boobies and bums on the movie screen or sip Singapore Slings in the bar years before I could even attempt to sneak in.

Spoiled?!

I was never lavished with parental gifts of expensive bicycles or cars or lavish vacation trips to Mexico or Hawaii. My parents never paid a cent for my college education.

I’m sorry, do I sound defensive? Maybe just a tad?

OK, I’ll grant you that I coasted just a wee bit in elementary and high school when teachers recognized me as another “Green” kid.

Every one of my older siblings had skipped a grade in school, so it was naturally assumed I’d been bestowed with a heaping dollop of inherent intellect. No proof required. 2 + 2 = … 6?

Wrong!

Sometimes it took the whole school year for amiable Miss Taylor or Mr. French to realize that I had maggot brain and was the simpleton in the family group!

There’s even a 2007 study that shows a correlation between IQ and birth order: the more older siblings one has, the lower one’s IQ. Not my fault… Dummy’dom is my fate! Thanks Mom and Dad…

(ASIDE: A recent study at Brock University in Ontario noted: “… men may be more likely to be homosexual if they share their birth mother with older brothers. Each older brother increases a man’s odds of being homosexual by approximately 33%.”… so… dummy’dom but not gay’dom for me… life is like a 50/50 draw.)

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Now occasionally in school I was presented with Proof of Intelligence trials. Apparently, handing in one of my brother’s or sister’s previous year’s crumpled test sheets that they had aced wasn’t always accepted. WTF!?

One early testing trauma – my potential Waterloo – I encountered as the Baby was the Grade 6 Music Sight Reading Award. This was my opportunity to sink or swim in the family intellect pool.

Each of my 4 sibling elders had previously passed the challenging test of being capable of reading and singing music by sight from notation on the musical staff. The sight reading certificate was part of the Green family lore and pride.

Judgment day grew near… I spent sleepless juvenile nights awaiting my fate, a fate I felt certain would finally expose and recognize me as the “dunce” of the family.

The dreaded moment descended and Mrs. Brewer watched closely, her eyes burning into my sweaty-browed face, listening as I diligently sight read and sang the music sheet set in front of me…

… my most joyous childhood day was when I proudly received the Sight Singing certificate.

Now I’ve read that some qualities of a last born include being manipulative, charming, blames others, attention seeker, tenacious, people person, natural salesperson, precocious, engaging, affectionate, and… loves surprises.

The surprise of passing my Sight Reading Test was much more than a minor moment of crossing a tricky obstacle, a youthful Tough Mudder challenge.

I’d arrived. I truly belonged in the family, here was the proof!

I still possess and proudly admire the certificate to this day.

……….

Baby it’s cold outside. Christmas grows nearer and I love watching some TV Christmas classics like Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Isn’t it charming and captivating when Clarice tells young Rudolph that he’s cute ?

And on this bright mid-December morning, wouldn’t you agree that it’s equally charming when child and family therapist Meri Wallace, author of Birth Order Blues says:

“The youngest can be cute because of ‘forever being the baby.'”

I’m cute! I’m cuuuutttteeeee…

Last born

HOGWASH!

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