Sunday, January 3, 2010

The joys of dog collars

While watching our new puppy terrorize the kids I came to a decision - too strong of a word you think, terrorize I mean, then you haven’t witnessed Gimli pull Lily down the hall by her leggings in an attempt to tear them off and eat them. Phone bill be damned, we were going to buy a training collar. About two hundred dollars lighter and flushed with the heady sensation of, um, I mean relief, we returned home and placed the collar. Now, I’m not going to lie, I really enjoyed the first few zaps. Watching the little, um, a, bugger jump and stop raiding the recycling in the blink of and eye was way too rewarding.

A few days have passed and while far from perfect there has been a notable change in Gimli’s behaviour and I know this to be true because my throat is finally healing after three months straight of screaming 'no' and I can’t remember the last time Jen put him out on the deck - where he would immediately take a large dump - try to forget that bit before I serve you a hamburger cooked on said deck this coming summer. Given this wee and welcomed respite from puppy terror - complete with irrational fear of the future and general and pervasive and continual dread - a new and potentially disturbing idea has begun to ferment (disturbing only for folks without toddlers and puppies or memories of same). Developmentally Gimli and Lily are pretty darn close, and often on the wrong side of the family law. The collar worked on Gimli, so... The following pictorial will serve to provide you with an understanding of the perfect bliss the parental units inside 1 Cornerstone Drive are now experiencing. Illegal shmalegal I say. Who knew the almost perfect big boys could be improved upon? 2010 is going to be the best year ever!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Moon Shadows

The things you forget, eh? Epiphanists like Wordsworth and many others have long espoused an interesting Christian philosophy; one where we are perfect and in the hands of God prior to birth. We are in the universal. We have perfect knowledge. At birth, we are ripped from the bosom of the eternal and thrust into this mortal and bizarre world. (We are coming back, those of us there in the before will be there also in the after – I love the Calvinists and there fixation on predestination). As children, Wordsworth and the rest would opine, we are closest to that perfect state. As we age we fall farther and farther from grace. We experiences snatches, or epiphanies, of universal knowing less as we age. These moments of epiphany, more likely in youth, are god-ly moments and provide glimpses of pure truth. An aware adult, reflecting on the loss of the likelihood for these epiphanies and aware of the experiences of youth gleans truth vicariously through observing children, or, and this is really a more modern variation, through living more child-like in the hopes of not losing connection from truth – falling from grace. Just a lovely and intuitive bit of mind trickery. Certainly an idea easily deranged by the, ‘Everything I learned, I learned in Kindergarten,’ hip-pocket self-help pseudo-psychiatrists - infantile charlatans really, sellers of snake oil. But as a basic human truth, this one is a hard one to refute by those of us sensitive to these kinds of things.

Tonight I rushed home from work, and dashed past family and out the door on my snowshoes – I have a lovely wife, understanding to the extreme. It was not an easy or comfortable transition. I left work frustrated by the typical mélange of millennial wage earner grief. Nothing like the trauma associated with watching a coworker eaten by a loom or broken after hours toiling in the field, just a lovely daily soul sucking torture in the times of enlightened management in a socialist country. Entry to the garage was barred by a pernicious prevailing wind that blows a nearly omnipresent drift in front of our garage door. Shovel. Shovel. Eventually I find myself stumbling towards the brilliant fire of the sky at sunset across the backyard on my snowshoes, mind a-buzz with work garbage, anger with weather and shovels, and a fair helping of guilt to have not seen the family all day and now to be walking away from them on said snowshoes. And I don’t have gaiters and snow has found its way inside my fancy pants, around my nifty long underwear and past my highly technical outdoorsy socks and is currently freezing my 40-year-old ankles.

This silliness continues pretty much unassailed by the beauty of the sky, the perfect-ness of the snow and magic of the movement for almost 3/4 of an hour; mind moving even faster then my feet and the snow whipping across the snow. Then, Moon Shadows. When did I forget that on crystal clear nights with nice big moons (not full tonight but big and bright none the same) you cast absolutely perfect shadows? There I was silhouetted, in my perfection, on the crisp clean canvas of the snow. It was like those awful TV movies, as we the viewer, from the bandaged actor perspective, wait for the world to be re-revealed as the bandages unravel before our eyes and off the camera lens. It was like seeing the world anew. The sky lit by moon and distant planet and suns, heavenly. Trees and farmers fences catching the light and dancing, waiting for the artists fingers to capture the obvious beauty. Snow crunching and heart singing I chase my moon shadow home. To warmth and love and riches beyond measure. Winter can mean cloister, and SAD. Or ya take snow and darkness at 5 pm and stolen moments and make health – physical and metaphysical if you are lucky.

We send love


Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Years 2008 09

Grand Celtic New Year tradition be damned. I could mumble sheepishly about the storm beginning and suspected difficulty with fire-starting. In fact, I had no intention of living up to last year’s New Years resolution of ushering in the coming year with a glorious old-world bon fire. The impending storm sealed the deal. Like most boys, I need a coconspirator to pursue in any seriousness a venture of such fine silliness. I still think that a monstrous bonfire roaring in the backyard is probably the most perfect way to celebrate the magical moment of transition from one year to the next. And it is magical – I know, I know, all of us who have spent way too much money, dressed to the nines, and built up expectations just to have them dashed at some pathetic New Year’s Eve celebration would question that assertion. There is undeniably, however, something powerful about the thirty-first of December. I think birthdays are too personal, inducing only selfish introspection at best. New Years, rapped in the universal, connecting us all, just has more gravitas, more guts, is more profound. And knowing how rare we modern humans feel anything it is just plain obvious – a fire, and a damned big one, harkening back time immemorial, just seems required – silly and juvenile, surely, none the less required.

New Years passed quietly in our house this year. Having just returned from the traditional Nova Scotia Christmas Journey and expecting the aforementioned big winter blow – wailing outside this January first morning – we elected to batten down the hatches. Following a great supper and a family movie, the adults watched their own movie and then the night wound down like numerous previous nights. At bed time while shutting-down the house, in the perfect quiet of your house at sleep, I found myself thinking of last year's Blog post about resolutions. Prompted by this unexpected chance remembrance and staring at the ceiling in our bedroom with Jen asleep on my shoulder the year just passed rolled by, documentary style, in my minds eye – I think it was Sir Richard Attenborough’s voice doing the narration.

How’d you do this year? I hope you look fondly back on ’08. Naïve I ain’t – so given that we all can’t have had a grand old time - I wish for you that you retain hope for the coming year. As mentioned in a previous post, we’ve had a mixed bag this year. If this was a ledger and I was balancing the books, in some weird life economic construct, I’m profitable beyond measure. Going bankrupt in the here and now, the more concrete world of money in and money out, but if the measure of life being led is not all related to cold hard numbers, then I’m pretty happy with this year. We are healthy, surrounded by loving and caring people, and have had a couple of great adventures. I did not get a big afro, I did not get fitter. And I didn’t freak out the neighbourhood with an uncontrollable fire in the back yard. I fell more deeply in love with my wife; I worked hard and marveled as my kids continued growing up just way too damn fast. I supported and was supported by family and friends. And I look forward to the coming year with hope a plenty. So for next year? Simple stuff really. Obvious stuff. Sentimental crap I guess. Be a good dad. Support Jen in everyway. Work hard. Make family proud. Oh, and to cycle from PEI to Kentville. No really. I am not going to issue another bold personal challenge to usher in 2010 with a fire. I am looking for a coconspirator if anyone out there is moved to start a new tradition. You know how to reach me if interested. Have a great ’09 and we send love.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Storm Days

Gleeful and attentive the whole family stands leaning towards the radio in the kitchen. Small town radio stations serve their purpose. And their purpose during the morning bustle on most days in the homes peopled with combinations of toddlers, school age kids and harried parents is to provide a hum. White noise - competing with the clammer of Dads looking for gym gear, kids yelling, Moms gently marshaling all - sing song DJ’s voices and overproduced machined pop-crap adding to and miraculously softening the din. Given the state of todays music, very, very occasionally said radio station will play an actual song, written by someone with talent and sung with feeling and backed by honest to goodness musicianship. During those rare moments families may sing along, or even, and hopefully, dance. But mostly it’s noise emanating from the mini stereo, Bose under-counter, or oddly shaped ghetto blaster that does radio duty in the kitchen. On days, however, in winter, when winds blow and snow falls, then local radio stations have a far greater purpose. They announce school and work storm closures.

Not sure what transpired in your varied worlds today weather-wise but we awoke to a full on Maritime winter blow. Wind whipping the snow blindingly across the road in front of the house was a good sign. Now all hope in the house rested on the weather forecast at 7 AM. Yup, worsening weather throughout the day deepened wishes and finally and triumphantly the announcement - Storm Day for all. Admittedly, this meant little to two young boys already on Christmas Break, but to a Dad still required at work and a Mom hoping for adult company, well this was a heraldic moment of great joy. An interesting thing about jigs even if you have never been taught how to dance one, certain occurrences bring ability, and a jig you will dance. Storms are two-edged swords in this instance (of course we are excepting outright storms in any way truly dangerous, or heaven forbid, mortal) in that they may leave you home, then lift, leaving the day to be enjoyed out of doors, or settle in and continue to pummel, locking all inside. The shack wacky inducing variety beset us today.

Lest we forget that good fortune befell our home today, being locked in is never a good thing for the Nicholson family. We are at our best outside and later, kinder and happier with rosy cheeks, warm, wasted and resting under blankets. This is true, but what is also true is that we are adaptable. So today blocks were stacked and recitals given, books read, naps had and Potter marathons begun. What a great and unexpected way to begin the holiday season. Nothing to do, really, nothing. No where to go. No email, no phone calls, no work commitments, no rinks and piano lessons. Nothing to do but rest and keep moderately busy. I hope all of you had or will have just such a day. Our world is a very busy, very bustle inducing world. Wheels spin constantly and the whir is enough to blind us to what is really important. Cuddles at 2 PM. Towers that reach to the sky. Brothers and sisters that laugh till they can’t breathe. These things matter as much as whether or not GM is rescued or if the credit markets loosen. Or at least they should. And today, locked in watching the world turn white, safe and sound, they did.

Love B

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Happy Holidays and an Update...really

‘Goin’ down the road,’ now that’s a good movie and even better SCTV sketch. This classic movie, if you haven’t seen it -and it should be considered mandatory viewing as part of citizenship, is about two Caper Bretoner’s heading west to ‘Toranta’ to find work. Tragedy eventually ensues and much is learned about place and people in troubled times. Very soon my little family will be, ‘goin’ down the road,’ but in reverse and for far better reasons. Yet, and maybe it’s because we are again facing tough economic times, I find myself thinking about this seminal Canadian movie and the seemingly inherent pull of the road for Maritimers - the need to leave and the greater call to return home. In days we’ll be loading up our little Mazda with 2 adults, 3 kids, and enough stuff to clothe and entertain a small nation. Loaded to the gunnels, we’ll brave weather, cranky two year old out-bursts and fried food as we head home for Christmas spent with family.

I won’t bore you overly with a long essay about the year that is passing into night as I type. It’s been a big year. A monster of a global economic crisis and an American Election of no smaller import than one that may have just changed the world I offer up as evidence for, ‘the big year’ designation. Lots to talk about in our small personal world as well – as equally a big a year, using of course the accepted calculus of self-centered myopia. I should have updated this blog way back in April with a heartwarming tale of another road trip – this one to Boston. You should have already read about all of us traveling via borrowed van to Boston to watch Jennifer run the Boston Marathon. Well watch is kind of a sticking point, because we, in fact, didn’t get to watch her – long story involving overcrowded public transport and over crowded father brains. But, run she did, and amazingly well. I remain my gorgeous wife’s biggest fan. She won this year’s PEI marathon by running sub 3 hours if conquering Boston wasn’t enough for one year.

Our three kids continue to grow and dazzle. JT, nine now if you can believe it, is blazing through grade 4 French immersion, with only an occasional stumble around neatness, forgetfulness and organization – wonder who we can blame for that combo of traits. Otherwise he is well liked, and respected, and found by his teacher to be talented student. A true renaissance man he keeps very busy with hockey and piano and just recently purchased a guitar with his own money. Already he is playing cords and learning songs – truly remarkable. Matt is as strong a student as his big brother, and the consummate charmer. He actually can come home tired because of the demands of his being so well liked, as he deals with near constant demands for his time among his classmates. I detect his teacher may have actually fallen in love with him, which will surprise none of you. His brother is his hero and following in JT’s footsteps Matt is playing hockey and taking piano lessons. Lily is our ball of fire. What a force of nature. Already exhibiting her brother’s wonderful sense of humour, she is independent and single-minded. ‘Princess Lily,’ typically prevails in all matters at present. She’s just too damn cute for her own good. She’s my rink buddy every Saturday morning while Jennifer typically gets a run in and I cherish those moments.

Mom and Dad have settled into life in their new house in Kentville and travel over often to stay with us. Ang and Loc remain, for now, in Vietnam and we use Skype to video chat with them as often as we can. Jen’s Mom and Dad moved back to Halifax this year after many years in Sydney. It is nice to have them closer and renewed reason to visit my favorite city in the world. We will see both sets of grandparents and the Dill’s new abode in the coming days as we split Christmas between the families as per usual. We all can’t wait.

Sadness comes in all lives and this year Dad’s brother Shelby died after a battle with cancer and my maternal grandmother Hannah died. Hannah was my last living grandparent and she was special. She had been my roommate for a short time after university and I will always remember my time spent with her in her Sydney Mines’ apartment overlooking the Brown St. ball field. And very recently our second dog, Willow, got very sick, unexpectedly, and died as well. She was such a great little dog. Perfect really. But life soldiers on. And for every moment of forehead rubbing as I contemplate how to pay the next oil bill or prepare to head away again for extra Northern work, for every one of those stress filled moments there are ten of pure joy. Through hard work and the love and support of family, the bills all seem to get paid and only a fool would become so rapped up in the tiny day-to-day struggles that they miss living the life they’ve been blessed with. And I am blessed. Jennifer is the best person I know, a wonderful mother, devoted and caring friend, loving sister and daughter – drop dead beautiful to boot. My kids are perfect – I know many of us say it – but I mean it, perfect, lights of my light. Our extended families thoughtful and generous, we couldn’t ask for better. We all have close friends that brighten our days and enhance our lives. As we get ready to head off on our Christmas 08 excursion we wish you health and happiness in the coming year. Drop back for a trip report and who knows I may even keep this damn thing active all year in 09.



Monday, February 11, 2008

It's been awhile...

Never tried this before - so I thought I'd give it a try - uploading video that is. A hard fought loss tonight, 7-3, but the kids didn't seem to notice and the parents cheered as loud as ever. As usual, watching hockey turns out to be a great way to end the day or start the evening. JT gets better every time out, and if he ever truly gets 'this' he'll be a menace. Already a pretty big guy for his age, he carries himself even larger and when focused on and going for the puck he can wreak his fair share of destruction. He remains content to take it easy and is, to term it positively, a calming influence on his team. He'll shock his Dad someday and move his feet as fast as he does while running laps of the house for no other reason then he likes to run laps of his house.

Lily continues to make us giggle and shake our heads. She is something special. Now, if only we could get her to talk. We haven't truly begun to worry about her - she is just so well adjusted, so smart and freakishly cute - still, we will all breathe easier as soon as words start to tumble from that perfect little mouth. Matt is reading up a storm and skating great. He still loves school and is proving to be a caring and intuitive big brother. He and Lily just have this very special little relationship that Jen and I hope will survive the travails of growing up.

Jennifer continues apace to be flying in Boston in April. Jen and Allie braved a typical (for this winter anyway) Saturday in February and busted out a sixteen miler (for all of us sane humans, that translates into two hours and ten minutes on a cold and blustery day). I am continually impressed by my wife's running ability. What an engine. Without a doubt she has potential to be a world class runner. And the ease with which she integrates her running into her crazily busy life is breathtaking. She cares for us all, and still manages to kick the butts of folks half her age - she is my hero.

I got the buzz to start playing guitar again. And I thought I might like to play acoustically so that I could also annoy the family. The problem was twofold, I hated my acoustic guitar and family finances are such that with one income and three kids, one does not go out and buy another guitar. But one can barter two very good guitars for one very good guitar and come away only $29.00 cheaper. And that is what I did.  I bid a fond farewell to my electric and good riddance to my acoustic and I am now the proud owner of a lovely new acoustic - called the Big-Baby - kids love that.  I am loving it even more and not just because of the weird name.  Jen is so tolerant, as I play almost constantly now, strolling around the kitchen strumming away while she prepares supper. I'm having a blast and the kids even think it's cool. So if I haven't been updating the blog regularly you now have my excuse - I have been pursuing another creative muse.

Well that is it for now. We really miss you all and cannot wait to see all of you again soon - either here in PEI or in your neck of the woods. We send love.


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Years

The season of renewal, of rebirth, or of regret, guilt, of seasonal affected crumbling or jaw setting perseverance, the New Year season is upon us. As long as humans have been on the planet in northern climes this time has brought celebration and introspection. There is a renewal of an ancient celtic New Year tradition, the Hogmanay. Some have translated this to be, ‘Old Year’s Night.’ Hogmanay died out for the most part around the time of the reformation, originating in pagan celt times and heretical given the puritanical zeal of that age. I love the idea of Hogmanay as it is practiced now in Scotland and on such a large scale. Fire and loud revelry greet the New Year and then the night remains very social, with ‘First Footing,’ a lovely tradition of visiting your neighbours. You pop by, bearing a small gift and are rewarded with a whiskey and hospitality. If a tall, dark and handsome stranger crosses your threshold, then luck awaits in the coming year. The fire is thought to represent the light of knowledge and it is to burn large and brightly into the New Year symbolically bringing the old years lessons into the the new but also firing away last year. How very wonderful. A night to reflect on the fact that we are one year closer to wisdom, that mistakes can be burned away, and that community and celebration are an essential part of being human.

Hogmanay was not practiced this year in the Nicholson household. Three young children and a couple of tuckered parents kept revelry to a minimum and, though we’ve been here three years, we still feel a little isolated from community in PEI. No likelihood of neighbours popping in at ten after twelve laden with tupperware and smiles. I guess this leads naturally to another New Year’s tradition, the making of lists, of resolutions. What did Mark Twain say about resolutions? Something about good intentions quickly being used as paving stones on the way to hell - old curmudgeon - lets ignore him and soldier on.

1. To start, next year we shall celebrate in the finest of Hogmanay tradition - I’ll bring the camera to capture the priceless, startled faces of the neighbours who probably still aren’t quite sure of our names. Can’t you see them peeking out from their blinds at the monstrous bonfire in our backyard - and then the whispered, “holy smokes, Myrtle, it looks like those folks from away are heading for the front door, for the love of mike put on your house coat.’

Lets call the next few the ubiquitous resolutions:

2. To be kinder.

3. To be thinner.

4. To be fitter.

There, now back to more likely resolutions:

5. I resolve to grow out my bald spot - and then get a perm. Every dad should do this and I’ve been waiting for JT to get old enough to be able to really experience this to the fullest - I mean, to really be embarrassed. It is what Dad’s do.

6. I resolve to see my wife finish the Boston Marathon prior to turning 40. She’s my hero and inspiration.

7. I resolve to learn how to play and sing at least two Glen Hansard songs - if you haven’t seen the movie, Once, then do so - it is grand.
And while I know that ten seems to be the cherry number for lists, including New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve always been a rebel - stop laughing - so:

8. I resolve to cherish my family and be true to myself, no arsing around.

Well that’s it. Hope all of you have a wonderful 2008. We send love.