Sunday, December 02, 2012


I posted on Facebook yesterday that Google maps showed that I had walked 9km last night.  Now, not that it matters that much but in all efforts to be transparent with my new exercise regime I must admit that Google appears to have led me astray.

I wore my Nike+ gear for my walk tonight and even after adding a new path on my tour my iPod touch showed that I only did 7.7km over 1.5 hours.  This included walking up and down all the streets in the Belle-Aire Beach area, and looping back to the darkened streets of Belle Ewart.

I'm taking advantage of the weather we've had to try to get myself back into a slightly better shape.  With the winter coming, I know there will soon be days ahead where I won't want to do as much outdoors exercise as I've been doing lately so might as well enjoy it when I can.   

I do find walking to be very therapeutic, and not only physically.  I remember the early days of moving out on my own.  I was living in a completely trashy location and had very little money to invest on indoor entertainment so I would spend hours walking up and down the streets of the town I was in.  I was a little depressed then about my situation so being able to just focus on the geography of the streets while pumping great travelling music through my walkman would cheer me up.

I am in a much better place these days mentally, but the stagnation of just ending my evenings in my office working away sometimes gets to me.  Sure, I still ended up here but at least I know I'm rewarding myself for doing something fulfilling.  I also get ideas for the multitide of projects I have on my plate, whether that be writing, Toastmasters and even my day job at DAC.

As to that...I'm going to spend a few minutes on some of that.  Here's hoping the weather holds up for tomorrow!

Podcast of the day: Tech Stuff

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Contests and more

I took a couple weeks off to concentrate on some other projects.  This includes helping my wife with a fundraising effort for my kids school that involved some letter writing projects, so I'll include those as my own writing.  I didn't break the chain, as many of the podcasting writers I look up to, such as Mur Lafferty say not to that feels good.

Let me start tonight by filling you in on the details of the Division Humorous Speech Contest I competed in earlier in the month.  I have to say, this was probably the most relaxed I've ever been while delivering a speech.  I had spent the week or so prior looking over the structure of "Vivid"; trying to find spots where I can draw out some extra humour and create some choreography in my staging so I can time out the spots I anticipated laughs or to create some extra physical gestures.

Then I reached a point about two days prior to the contest where I just said screw it.  I realized I didn't care that much anymore about actually winning this particular contest, I just wanted to have fun and do as much justice to my source material as possible.  With that I showed up and found I that I could socialize with my fellow Toastmasters from both my own and other clubs and prepare to laugh and hope to gain some laughs myself.

I felt really good during the speech.  I was relaxed, made lots of natural eye contact and got a lot of great laughs.  It felt good and seemed the perfect length.  The other competitors, all six of them also delivered great speeches, and I knew that the judges would have a tough time choosing the winner.

Then the table topics contest began.  There were eight of us this time, and I drew the first lot so I got to watch all of the other competitors.  The topic given was "Surprise!", and the first though that popped into my head as I reached the stage to shake the Chairpersons hand was to base it on deciding not to find out beforehand whether Melanie and I were having a boy or girl during pregancy.  It felt good, I got my opening, body and conclusion out solidly, and I saw the heads bobbing in the audience so I knew they liked my speech.  I wrapped it up about 20 seconds after seeing the green light come on. 

This is where I'm glad I was able to watch the rest compete.  I noticed something some of them did that I neglected to do.  They fit in more material and pushed the time they had right up until they reached the red light (30 seconds after red is a disqualification).  I'm going to work on that for next time. 

I did not place at all for Table Topics.  The winner for that was Eric Solowka from the Bolton Banter Toastmasters group.  He made it

For the speech contest...I took third place, which I'm quite happy with.  The winner was Mireille McNeil from Midland Toastmasters, who delivered a hilarious speech about a womans monthly cycle.

I had no qualms with the judging, and it was a very friendly, well organized contest.  I now have some extra techniques that I will use for the next time...because oh yes, there will be a next time; and now I just have to enjoy the next couple of months before the International Speech Contest cranks up in February.  I already have my idea, and I just need to start writing it.

I have seven, yes that's right, seven writing projects on the go right I may not blog as consistantly as I would like...but the writing is progressing, and that's what really matters in the end.

See you next time....

Music Playing While I Wrote: John Lennon - Acoustic

Podcast of the day: The Pod F. Tompkast

Friday, November 09, 2012

Poetry Friday: Dizzy


Running through the leaves

Photo by christiane wilke
Arms akimboA delicate display
Of Red, Yellow and Orange
Falling back we stare up
At the brilliant blues
The world spins around us
With glee we jump up
And create our own spin
Blurring reality
All the colours meshing together
We feel dizzy
On this special autumn day
Laughing and tumbling down
We rise again shakily
Uncertain yet uncaring
Of our balance

November 9, 2012

Music Playing While I Wrote This: Angel Julian -  Paris CafĂ©

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Thursday Distraction: Small

Photo by Daniel Cheong

The wheels of the giant train squealed, bringing him out of his wondering thoughts.  With giddy glee he looked up at the map and saw that the next station was the one they were getting off at.  The pressure he exerted on his mothers hand tightened.  She turned to look down, wondering if anything was wrong, but at seeing the joy on his face she just smiled gently and said nothing.

They were almost there.

The train soon enough began to slow and the station came into view.  Everything suddenly seemed to be a blur of sounds and lights  The packed subway car, filled with more people than he had ever seen in one place seemingly rose together as if on command and began shuffling towards the door.  His mother squeezed his hand and then stood, guiding him towards the opening door and out into the new world beyond.

They followed the massive rush of people down a long tunnel towards the turnstile exit, stopping only to watch the train head off towards its next destination.  It was loud, almost too loud, but he didn't care.  It was just so cool to watch this snakelike thing driving away into the tunnel beyond and then to see the hole it exited into darkening as the red lights of the rear of the train disappearing into the distance.  He wanted to look longer but his mother guided him to the station exit and what lay beyond.  He suddenly remembered again why they were here and all thoughts of the train popped out of his head.

There was an escalator, but he asked if they could take the stairs so he could count them.  He lost count at fifty.  There were a lot of them, and he was almost out of breath when they reached the top.  Down one last corridor they walked, coming to a set of doors than shone brightly with the sunlit sky beyond.  He pushed hard on the door so that he could hold it open for his mother and a couple others who had braved the stairs behind them, as his father told him he should always do. An older lady, about his grandma's age patted him on the head and called him a proper young gentleman.  He smiled up at her and thanked her.

Soon enough they were standing on the sidewalk beyond the door, his mother and him.  There were all kinds of people around but he didn't notice a single one of them otherwise.  His breath caught and his eyes opened wide in astonishment at the sight around them.  Most particularly above them.  He stared upwards to the tops of giant buildings that seemingly were hanging out in the clouds a million miles away. They made him feel so small. 

'No, not small', his stubborn little mind reminded him.  'You're big and getting bigger all the time.  Grandma says so.  One day you're going to be on top of those buildings, hanging out in the sky with those clouds.'  The thought made him smile and he stretched his arms upwards, tracing the tops of the buildings with his fingers as if that would bring them to him.

His mothers touch brought him out of his thoughts.  She gently took his hand and steered them down the street to all new adventure. 

"Best day ever", he announced to everyone who could hear.  Today, he was on top of the world.

Music Playing While Writing This: Ultravox - Brilliant
Podcast of the day: The Moth

Friday, November 02, 2012

Poetry Friday: Denied


Entrenched in our expectations
We anticipate a result
Positive to our want
Anything less is defied

The world can have other plans
An outcome unmatched
Shock and terror tear us
When we are denied

Broken of our hubris
We must go with the flow
Not allow a challenge to rout us
Our fate is ours to decide

November 2, 2012

Podcast of the day: Stuff You Missed In History Class

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Thursday Distraction: Swing

I was thinking of taking the night off as my brain is pretty much focused on my speech this weekend, but then a random search of my pics came across something that fired me up.


We all can fly.

It takes only a small plank of wood, or a plastic strap, suspended by chains to a pole.  Pushing off with your feet, you lift off.  You stretch outwards and sail forward, awaiting the feel of the backwords drift.  You tense the muscles in your small legs and pump them in and back out again to break your rudimentary grasp of gravity.

The wind asails your small face.  Gasping with the pleasure of the sudden coolness you laugh at this amazing superhuman ability you have developed.  Your eyes squeeze shut and you throw your head back, feeling the hair on your head spinning outwards.  The sun flits across your eyelids, the vivid colours of blue, yellow and orange rainbowing across your vision.

Higher and higher you reach, a dance across the heavens.  The thought of reaching the very top of the sky excites you; the clouds seem within your reach.  Seemingly for hours you drift back and forth, the squeak of the chains and the joyous giggle within your only companions.

Soon enough though, you hear the sound of your mother calling you, it's time to land.  Descending to a safe altitude, you brace yourself and at the best possible time you let go of the chains and push outwards, welcoming gravity to bring you back home again.

Walking back towards your home you take one last look back at the solitary device that brought you so much triumph and you tell yourself that you will be back.  It'll soon be time to brave the skies one more time.


Music playing while I wrote: Cake - Fashion Nugget
Podcast of the day: Stuff You Should Know

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Taking time

This week has been focused on preparing for the speech contest this coming weekend...though I did take some time last night to move one step further towards receiving my Advanced Communicator Bronze level in Toastmasters by delivering a reading of my story "Companion" for my Storyteller series (Project #4).  I have recently finally gotten around to getting my qualifications submitted for my Competent Leader certification so this is a great Toastmasters year for me.  As I expect to get my ACB by Spring 2013 at the very latest it means I'm back on track with my own expectations.

I did learn one thing last week.  I did a final test run of "Vivid" for my club before I go on to the Division contest and I received some great feedback, including some from the winner of last years District 86 contest as well as a winner of the District winner of the International Speech Contest last spring.  I know I need to up my game if I want to move on.  "Vivid" is a good speech, but I need to look at it as if I was doing a play.  So, two of my stage mentalities have truly combined.  I will be taking further time to break down each nuance of the speech, maybe re-write a few more pieces to bring out more funny and give it an entirely new life.

This does not mean I'm not planning on writing something for tomorrow or Friday...but they may not get as much of my complete attention as they deserve.  "Vivid" needs to come first...and then we'll see where we are after that.  Next week, I plan to write the next chapter of "Out of the Comfort Zone" if no surprises occur in my schedule.

Talking about schedule, I've recently added a whole bunch of new podcasts to my playlist that are all based on creative writing.  Some of them even have writing challenges as part of them and I'm truly looking forward to bringing some of them here.  I love writing challenges...they truly bring my best work to light.  I have a product called "The Writers Block" that I bought several years back but never really's a small book in the shape of a cube that has writing ideas on each page.  I'm going to dig it out and have some fun with that too.

Talking about challenges, I had originally thought of joining NaNoWriMo as that is pretty much the ultimate challenge. With the speech contest as well as my other obligations (Work, Toastmasters, Beavers, uh...Family, etc;) I realized there was no way I could devote the time to complete the set task of 50,000 words in one month.  My hat goes off to everybody else out there who will be involved with that...I just refuse to burn myself out.  My time is valuable to me, and so is my health.

Well, I hope everybody had a fantastic Halloween.  We're left with a whole box of chocolate as we received practically no kids.  I'll try not to eat them all.  That wouldn't be so great for my health either.

Podcast of the day: Stuff To Blow Your Mind

Friday, October 26, 2012

Poetry Friday: Rhythm Inside

If you are the artist, please contact me regarding permissions.
Rhythm Inside

The heart sings a ballad
Passionate and verbose
Experience and contemplation
Write the melody
Echoes of tears long shed
Rage and triumph
Mixed with peaceful joy
Create harmonies within
A toe tap, a finger snap
Drawn into a powerful beat
Shrugging away the numbness
You dance with your own mind

October 26, 2012

Music Playing While I Wrote This: Ah Nee Mah - Ancient Voices
Podcast of the Day - Stuff From the B Side

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Distraction: The Trail

Thursdays are reserved for an original piece...I take a random photo from various sources and write something spontaneous about it in less than two hours.  Could be fiction or non-fiction...depends on the mood I'm in.  Anything resembling a polished work is by incredible coincidence.

This week I present to you:

The Trail

The silence was the first thing he noticed.

For the last several hours, the buzzing of insects and random birdsong had been a constant companion.  That and the terrified voice in his head driving him onwards.  The sun was slowly heading into the west and he knew that meant nightfall wasn't too far away.  That was something he didn't want to experience again. Not here anyway.

This was not where he was supposed to be.  He knew it.  The GPS unit he salvaged from the wreckage had shown that he was supposed to head directly west if he wanted to find people.  It died though...died just like...

No, he didn't want to think about that anymore.  All he knew was after trying to navigate his way through a densely packed forest he found that he came out facing east.  That made him sit down and cry.  He had lost hours of precious time and there was no way he was going back into the woods again.  One night, huddled for warmth in the pitch black was quite enough, thank you very much. 

So, he headed south, walking through the tall grasses along the razor straight line of trees.  From time to time he would stop and peer upwards, hoping to catch a glimpse of a plane or better yet a helicopter zooming along.  Maybe they'd even be looking for him.  But he was continually disappointed.  Maybe the same thing that caused their motor to suddenly stop was affecting everyone.

Just as he was about to give up hope; dirty, tired, hungry and very, very thirsty, he found the tall grasses fell away at the exact time that the trees to his right did.  Before him was a trail.  Heading west. At first it appeared to be a road, completely straight and seemingly stretching forever.  He looked closer at it though and realized it was way too narrow for cars and it was composed of millions of rocks of assorted shapes and colours.  It was like a rainbow had just dropped straight out of the sky and fell into pieces here. 

There was something else odd.  The air in this area seemed to have a slight shimmer to it, as if there was water evaporating.  However there was no water in sight.  Furthermore, he suddenly realized that the closer he got to the edge of the trail, the quieter the sounds around him were, like the volume control on a television set being turned down.

His brain started to tell him to turn around and go back the way he came from, but his stomach shouted it down.  The hunger and exhaustion were getting to him and this road. as disquieting as it was, looked to be a far better sight than the darkness of the forest, that was for sure. 

What does he do next?  That and more questions will be answered soon!

Music Playing While I Wrote: Tony O'Connor - Pisces
Podcast Of The Day: Stuff You Should Know

Monday, October 22, 2012

Where do I go from here (Part Two)

When it comes to writing, my creative energies shifted after I met my wife.  I think this started largely in part to being in a happier state of mind however a larger component was due to becoming a more disciplined worker in my day jobs.  I had someone more than myself to think of so I threw myself into taking on more and more responsibilities trying to build an established career.  If looked at in a micro scale I've had a pretty balanced win/loss ratio over the last ten years when it comes to employment.  Sure I've had some great opportunities, playing in some pretty cool technical sandboxes but I've also endured plenty of long hours and sleepless nights while mentally taking on way too much extra work for not enough compensation or credit.  The mental and physical toll these were taking on me were not helping me or my family.

Things began to shift after joining Toastmasters.

Before that I had stopped doing any kind of meaningful writing.  The last poem I wrote was almost ten years old.  I was blogging for awhile, the evidence of which is on this very blog going back to 2004 but if you look at the dates you'll see them slowly drop off.  Any self-contemplation I experienced was during long daily commutes and the occasional sanity break when I would go for a short walk...all stuck within my head and unable to get out. 

My goal when I joined Toastmasters was to learn to be a better speaker and leader.  However I now realize it had a more important influence.  I was forced to sit down and write again.  Many of my earlier speeches were mostly improvised, however even those small sections of notes and writing that I pushed myself into started to loosen the jumble of noise in my head.  I realized that though I had matured physically and perhaps was a lot stronger socially than I had been back in my high school and college days, I still had a long way to go before I was truly happy with myself.  Writing was helping me get there.

As my writing has progressed, I've changed my outlooks and my commitments.  I've slowed down my pace to see situations and people in different lights.  I am still a dedicated employee but I'm an even more dedicated father and husband.  I've pretty much decided that I don't care as much about how long I live on this earth, I'm more concerned with enjoying and learning from as many moments as I can in the time I have.  The scenic route is always more fun.

When I decided to re-ignite the blog, it was in a time of positivity.  My wife was working hard to tranform the energies in our house to remain positive all the time and so I decided to do my part to maintain that.

So, The Acting Artist v2, which kicked off at the end of September with the poem Recreate is my answer, and I expect it to grow.  My plan is to write at least five posts a week.  I'm creating schedules and developing a new discipline to see that happen. 

So far I have Distraction Thursday, which is where I will write a bit (either blog or story) about a picture.
Friday Poetry is, well...about poetry.  'nuff said.
I am also planning on a dedicated story night, and a dedicated night where I take one song and write from the inspiration it offers.

More importantly though, I will be writing stuff you won't see.  I am excited to say I have three major writing projects that are in draft phase right now.  I've been inspired by authors like Scott Sigler who have a project management mentality around their books.  They don't try cramming a bunch in all at once...they focus on them one at a time, and are unafraid to tell you that a potential sequel you may be looking for isn't coming out for a couple years.  I have a whole world of teachers out there who are giving me new inspiration every day....and I'm loving every minute of it.

I can high-five my inner-child now...that eight year old who knew he wanted to be a writer.  He got lost out in the cold wilderness for awhile but then in a shocking change of metaphors passed the baton on to his older self.  It's my time to run with it.


Podcast of the day: Scott Sigler - The MVP#2
Music playing while I wrote this: Ulrich Schnauss - Far Away Trains Passing By

Friday, October 19, 2012

Poetry Friday: Oriole

A little haiku for today.  The timing may seem odd as we're just in Autumn when the little buggers have all flown south for the winter, but the name of the poem was stuck in my head all day so here we go....


A piping whistle
Golden flecks delight the eyes
Spring is now calling

October 19, 2012

Song playing while I wrote this: Kraftwerk's Kometenmelodie 2 (from the album Autobahn )
Podcast of the day: Skepticality

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday Distraction: Out Of The Comfort Zone

Jonathon Marcus, Private Investigator
Out Of The Comfort Zone

It was eleven in the morning when the telephone rang.  Startled somewhat by a sound I had not yet become accustomed to; the contraption having only been installed the week before, it took me a moment to work out exactly what was happening.  Finally remembering that Gracie had talked me into "getting with the times" and that this could help business I rescued the shrilling beast from its cries and placed it to my ear.

"Hello?", I grunted.  The idea of speaking to something I couldn't see was disconcerting.  I just hoped I was speaking into the right end.

"Is this Marcus?", came the sound of hesitant voice on the other end.  Apparently I had it right.

"It's Jonathon Marcus, actually.  Don't worry, lot's of people get that wrong."  Actually, I hated it when people called me by my surname but in my line of work you get used to that kind of thing.  Also, since I hadn't actually worked a case in a few weeks it likely wouldn't pay to snap at a potential customer.

"Ah, yes.  My apologies, Mr. Marcus."  There was a pause on the other end where perhaps he was waiting for me to accept the apology but I wasn't going that far.  It's wasn't THAT alright, after all.  After a embarrased sounding cough he continued.  "I wish to hire your services for a very special case.  One that you come highly recommended for."

My eyebrows raised at that.  Last I heard, my name wasn't worth a can of beans to those that could make a difference to my career.  Most certainly not from somebody who could give me enough cash to keep this shoebox of an office going and buy dinner at the same time.  However, something in his voice sounded sincere so I didn't think it was McGuverly and his buddies having one over on me.  Not this time, anyway.  Trying to keep any sense of desperation out of my voice, I told him that he had my attention and invited him to continue.

"Unfortunately, I am unable to give you details over the phone.  But please be assured that you will be paid your usual rate plus bonus and additional travelling expenses."

That statement gave me pause.  Bonus!  Here was a client in a hurry to get a job done.  But then something else he said hit me.  "Travelling expenses?", I inquired.  "How much of the city do you expect me to travel?"

"Oh no, Mr. Marcus.  This case is not in the city."

No longer left simply to pause, I was completely speechless.  Not in the city?  I had never left the city my entire life.  Born, raised, educated and employed all within its boundaries.  Never saw any need to leave, and as a matter of fact the idea of going any farther north than the 401 always kind of gave me the creeps.  However, moneys money and if I ever wanted to take Gracie back out for a nice night on the town It would be a bad idea to turn down a client.

"So, up in one of the outlying towns, is it?"

"No sir.  I require you to come up to Lake Papineau."

Papi..where?  Something about the name seemed familiar, but otherwise I had never heard of the place.  "Sorry, my sense of geography may be a little weak.  Could you expand upon that please?"

"It is just under 200 miles from where you now sit.  I will arrange for a float plane to bring you up so you don't need to drive."

A plane?  Never been in one.  Kind of redundant when you had no need to travel.  The aspect of being in one of those set my nerves on edge, and I realized my mouth had gone very dry.  Attempting to clear my throat, I croaked out, "Excuse me sir, are you quite certain you have the correct private investigator?"

The voice gave an unusual slight giggle but then went stone cold serious.  "I am most certain that you are exactly the kind of man we need for this job."  He then provided some travel details (how I shuddered at that word) which I wrote down diligently and said with a sense of finality, "Good luck, Mr. Marcus.  I am counting on you."

I wanted to ask him for what exactly, but the line had gone dead.

I sat at my desk for about an hour, just looking at the details the voice had provided.  No name, no background, just information about where to catch my plane and the value of my potential bonus.  Highly unusual on so many levels.  To be honest, I was scared out of my skin more than any gangland shootout could ever affect me.  200 miles away?  What exactly was it about me that he needed.

I was sorely tempted to just ignore the case.  Grab my last few dollars and head down to the bar for a couple drinks...but the kind of dollar figures that I found my pen circling over and over again was far more than I had made in the last five years combined.  It could set me up for life, maybe even be able to convince Gracie to settle down with me.

Coming to a decision, I locked up the office, worked my way down the stairs and hailed a cab.  I had a plane to catch.

To be continued.

Music playing while I wrote: Robert Plant/Alison Krauss - Raising Sand
Podcast of the day: Skepticality

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where do I go from here? (Part One)

As a young child of eight, I remember having one ambition.  That was to be a writer.  I was an early reader for the time, going through all of the Enid Blyton books to be followed quickly by the Hardy Boys and pretty much every other book I could get my hands on.  I remember even being teased in grade two for checking out one of the later Mary Poppins books from the library.  Then one day my mother brought home a few books from the The Investigators series (originally titled Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators) and my path was set.

I wrote some early stories back then that were praised by the school administration...they even suggested to me they be published.  Potentially this was just to bolster the bruised ego of an emotionally weak child but whether that was true or not it worked.  I was excited about writing and I took to it like a fish to water.  My father obtained for me an ancient Underwood typewriter and I spent hours in my room typing away.  This was soon replaced by a slightly more modern version.
I have no memory of anything I wrote on either machine, except for one story that I submitted to my grade six teacher in Kleinburg the week prior to moving away.  I was so proud of that piece.  It came to me in a dream a couple weeks beforehand.  All I remember of it was that it involved a special magic diskette that two boys and two girls were searching for.  There was a sewer tunnel with some kind of monster that was likewise seeking it out.  It was inspired by the anticipation of getting my very first computer.  It was forgotten all about in my excitement to move, and I regretted it's loss for a long time.

There are only a couple mementos that I kept from all of my days at Kleinburg and that includes my grade three workbook that includes the stories that were praised.  One of these days I will bring them out to show to my sons.

After settling into life in a new town and new school, I focused more on computers than writing.  I still kept up the occasional story, but my patience for detail was narrowed.  My chapters tended to be too short and I remember having my ego bruised by a friend I asked to critique due to that.  My last youthful kick at the can I had was a horror novel I was writing called "Life as we don't know it" which was pretty much inspired by Stephen King's The Stand.  I rewrote the first three chapters at least seven times, twice because I lost the source files and the other times because I wanted to try to change character perspective.  I was pretty proud of it, but it only made it to five chapters before I lost interest altogether.  My life and priority was changing quickly, and writing took a back burner.  I wish I could see that story again, but as with the Commodore 64 it was written on, it's long gone.  I may revisit what I remember of it one day with my adult eyes, and take it in an original direction.

I didn't write anything new until after I left college.  My friend Greg was an aspiring poet and he inspired me to write my own.  I loved the feeling of writing again, and once I worked out that poetry had a rhythm and tempo that I could experiment with I threw myself into it.  I started by keeping a notepad on me while working at Canada's Wonderland and in between the Great Canadian Minebuster cars being loaded and unloaded I would lean against a post and write.  I worked through the majority of my depression and anger in this method.  Most of these poems were dark.  Answers to ex-girlfriends, loneliness and an angry rebuttal to Kurt Cobain's death are part of those.  However, there were shining moments of positivity and hope don't get the idea I was some angry beatnik.  The poetry did exactly what I needed it to do.  It focused my thoughts so I could get on with life.  Because there was a lot of living to do.

I'll continue this on Saturday.

Tomorrow night will see the return of Thursday Distraction followed by Poetry Friday.

Music I was listening to while writing this: The Dandy Warhols - Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia
Podcast Of The Day: Stuff To Blow Your Mind

Monday, October 15, 2012

Artistic Stress

Even with years of stage experience I still find that I experience a certain level of stress before performing a speech.  It was one of the main reasons why I joined Toastmasters to begin with.  I had little problems handling someone else's material, and did quite well in Improvisation when working with a group that I could bounce ideas off of, however I had not perfected the art of relying on myself for all the materials involved before.

I had written monologues back in high school and tried my hand as a disc jockey in college, but these didn't count in the same way to me as standing in a room with adults and entertaining them with my own words.  It's one of the reasons I never pursued stand-up comedy up to this point.  I was advised to by a number of people as I've been known to come up with quite a few zingers in my time, but it wasn't a place I felt ready to go.

The interesting thing is, this has nothing to do with speaking in public.  One, Fifty, Five Thousand, it doesn't matter. I am quite comfortable being in front of people.  Where my anxieties always lie is in the material.  When I am in improv mode, I'm not that worried about making mistakes.  I can always change tactic and make up something to make my phrasing sound coherent.  However with a prepared speech things are completely different.

Ironically, the more that I prepare my material the more nervous I feel in the hours leading up to my performance.  As the writer of said speech I have an artistic pride in doing it exactly right...and my pride can be pretty big sometimes.  Like most artists out there, I am my own worst critic and I hate being mad at myself.  So, I stress the entire day away, working out the best methods to not allow that to happen.

It has served me well, I guess.  My energy and enthusaism tend to be at their peak when I speak.  I've been told by some I make it look easy.  But what my audience doesn't see if that the entire day leading up to that moment has usually been laid to waste.  I can't concentrate on anything else, I'm withdrawn into my own thoughts half the time and I pace around like a crazed tower guard.

Those of you out there who think they are no good at public speaking because they get nervous...take heart. Even the most experienced of us have our nerves and stresses.  It's all part of the learning experience of being a public speaker or actor or even a comedian.  My own education is in going easier on myself, allowing the natural side of delivering my speech to flow better and to take more pleasure in what I do.

If I can't have fun, why do it at all?


Music I'm listening to right now: Dean Evenson - Dreamstreams
Podcast of the day: The Thrilling Adventure Hour

Sunday, October 14, 2012


As a child born in the 1970's, I can only imagine what the the atmosphere was like in the homes of North American families on July 20, 1969.  I've heard stories about the neighbourhood parties; everybody crowding into the homes of those who owned televisions at that time to catch of glimpse of Neil Armstrong taking those ground breaking first steps on the surface of the moon.  The most vivid recollections seem to be from children.  Unhindered for the most part by the constant barrage of news about the tensions surrounding the Vietnam War, their imaginations were left to soar.  To picture themselves right there alongside the brave astronauts of Apollo 11, picking up moon rocks and seeing if any bits of it had the consistency of cheese.  Their wonder was pure.

My own personal love of the space program was with me throughout my childhood.  I don't personally remember any kind of launches before the first manned shuttle, Columbia, launched in April 1981.  I seem to remember watching it live early in the morning, or perhaps I saw a replay of it later in the day but that didn't matter.  I loved the shuttle.  I dreamed of flying in one myself.  My grandparents picked up a small toy version and I played with it everywhere.

When my mother and I moved to Virginia, Ontario (between Sutton and Pefferlaw) to move in with my mom's boyfriend (who is now my step-father) on December 24, 1985 I was given an extraordinary gift.  They had wall-papered one side of my bedroom with a massive mural of Space Shuttle Columbia, and I could remember staring at it for hours (when I wasn't staring at my Commodore 64 on the other side of the room).

When the horrific Challenger explosion occurred in 1986, I remember being relieved that my beloved Columbia hadn't been the one to go.  Could you imagine having such a massive reminder of a tragedy like that on your bedroom wall as a youth?  However, my own sense of wonder was tarnished by the incident.  Perhaps that was combined with my own frustrations surrounding my school experiences or perhaps from the death of one of my friends, but when we moved from that house into a larger one in the same town I had no real regret of leaving that mural behind.  My enthusiasm for the space program had faded.

That's not to say I wasn't sad of course when Columbia did end up having its own tragedy in 2003...but that was more from the loss of life than from a childhood attachment.

I don't believe my story is uncommon.  Whether it's from the evolution of the internet or from 24 hour television or from reality television stars being treated with more fame than astronauts, the average children of today seem to have lost their facination with space.  Even the landing of the rovers on the Mars surface doesn't seem to have as much impact on the kiddies than the next episode of I Carly.  They seem to see it as something monotonous, too scientific and not flashy enough.  They need something to excite their hearts again.

Enter Felix Baumgartner and Red Bull.

When I first read about the Red Bull Stratos program, I was slightly skeptical at first.  It sounded like something from a Simpsons episode.  Was Felix going to pop out of the craft with a big keg of red bull feeding into his suit, acting as his sustinance? How would a pressurized beverage act at 38km up?  Thankfully these weren't questions I needed to delve into as they didn't become important.  Sure, the name was plastered everywhere so the corporation will certainly do well, but this was all about Felix and the jump.

If you've been living in a cave, most of the information on this jump can be found at Red Bull Stratos.  But basically, we've got a very brave and experienced base jumper, who's noticable achievements include jumping from the Christ Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro (and he used a crossbow to set the line up that he used to climb it in the first place) and the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan.  This is a guy who's just got massive cahones and uses that to his advantage.  He doesn't have a doctorate in astrophysics and didn't spend time at MIT.  His credentials are from the Austrian military practicing parachute's all about airtime.  High altitude airtime.

In this world where extreme sports has crossed over into the entertainment world, from Jackass to Tony Hawk to probably a hundred thousand Youtube videos of kids trying the dumbest things for a laugh, what better way to re-ignite some facination back into our youth from this incredibly brave guy who's seemingly unafraid to try something new.

I watched the video today with facination.  My internet feed grew worse and worse as the time progressed.  I guess more and more of the world was surfing over to watch.  Nathaniel would join me for awhile and then go back to playing Angry Birds on the laptop.  I tried to explain to Kyle that the little dot at the bottom of the huge balloon was a man but he didn't quite get it.  Eventually I had to go turn the television on and find a channel that was showing it as the video online froze completely.  I momentarily thought that if this had been 1969, I wouldn't have had to channel-surf past religious programming and golf channels.  It would have been only the one thing on at that time...anywhere.  We would have been sitting on the floor until our bottoms ached, brought to wonder by difficult to see images.

I hope we find that wonder again.  Thanks to Felix, there may be some hope.


Music Playing: Kraftwerk's Autobahn (Rm) and Kraftwerk 2 albums
Podcast of the day: Stuff You Missed in History Class

Friday, October 12, 2012

Poetry Friday: Illuminate


As children we danced to the light
A sparkling joy
Unfettered by ill-begotten principles
Attempting to ignore the tendancies
Of our adult kin

Forgotten or treated as naivete
We've grown to find despondance
We shuffle along the edge
Of darkness
Doing harm to ourselves
To others
To our young kin

A growing vicious circle
At war with ourselves
We ignore our own beseechments
We wonder where does it end?

Twisting from our dim state
We stretch out our arms
Seeking guidance
From the strong
But small, gentle hands
Guide you back to the light
Remind you of your joy within
And whispers softly,
"Dance with me again"

 October 12, 2012

 Music Playing: Bernward Koch - Flowing

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday Distraction: Pool

As part of my current writing regimen, one project I've added in is to take a random photograph or image from my extensive collection and write a short bit around it.  These will be released every Thursday.  Sometimes I will write about what really happened; other times I'll have some fun and fictionalize it.  Hope you enjoy.
"Let's get rid of the pool".

I was at work when I was first informed of this "idea" by my wife.  It took me completely off guard and honestly I was initially rather upset at the idea.  I liked having a house with a pool.  It was a status symbol to me.  A sign that I had a "respectable house" (whatever that means).  I told Melanie that I would think about it and then get back to her.
What was really bothering me was change.  From our first moments as home owners, it's felt to me like we were constantly changing the structure involved.  Literally dozens if not hundreds of home improvements have occurred, in both of our properties.  You can look back at some of my earlier blog posts to see the history of that.  I was concerned that this particular request was just another change and I didn't see the value of it.

Then I received another call, and this one filled in what was really going on.
"I've talked to my mother about it, and she doesn't have the heart to maintain it anymore".
Even before Melanie's parents moved in with us in the latter half of 2011, my mother-in-law Doris had shown that she really enjoyed cleaning the pool.  She seemed to find it relaxing; a good way for her to deal with the stresses that affected her life.  My father-in-law Stefan, having an incredible engineering mind, took it upon himself to handle all mechanical and handyman aspects, many of which centered around the pool.
We did work together to close up the pool in the fall of 2011, but the reality is that he did most of the thinking work...I was just grunt labour who unsuccessfully tried to memorize as many details as possible.  He knew there was a good chance he wouldn't be around to see it's opening again and that I would need to be ready.  I didn't have the heart to listen.
When we lost Stefan to cancer in the first half of 2012 it hit everybody hard on many levels.  We all tried to regroup and help each other but nerves were frayed and sensitive.  I was pretty numb for a lot of it and just wanted to be able to keep calm so that I could attempt to keep everyone else calm.  Taking on a new major project seemed contrary to this. 
When Melanie explained what she meant about her mother not wanting to maintain it anymore I almost cried.  My brave face was cracking.  The reality was, a pool takes a lot of work to maintain.  My commuting lifestyle; being out of the house from 7am to 6pm leaves only a small window of opportunity for chlorination, vacuuming, backwashing and a variety of other tasks.  It was too much.  I couldn't do it, and I had been leaning on the idea of Doris keeping it going.  That in hindsight was rather unfair of me, but as I mentioned before I was feeling rather numb at the time.

I realized that holding onto the pool made no sense.  We didn't have the budget to hire somebody to take care of it.  Plus we live only a short walk from Lake Simcoe so we have access to a beach.  It was time to let the pool go.
Melanie posted a message on Kajiji stating that the pool was free to take away, only we would ask for some soil in return as the pool was partially sunk into the ground.  We got a taker the very same day that the message went in and that weekend saw the work begin.  The pools new owner, Dave, was a biker and truckdriver who had an astonishing similarity to my own father (also named Dave).  He showed up with his truck and really not enough landfill, but that wasn't his fault...we had miscalculated how much was needed.
It took two days to get it all out.  Then another month to get the land around it all flattened out.  We've planted a couple apple trees and have placed the kids trampoline in the area where the pool was.  I'm still taking apart the deck.  It's now an unsafe structure for our kids so I want to cut back its dimensions to end where the trampoline starts.

As 2012 draws closer to a close I can be thankful for this particular project.  The idea of closing the pool now, after everything that has happened would have been dreadful for everyone.  One less project for less heartache for all.

October 11, 2012 11:58pm

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Double Win!

I am feeling really good tonight after a very long day. Just came back from the Area 14 Humorous Speech and Table Topics contest where I placed 1st for both.  I had performance anxiety all day...not because I was speaking but because I was worried I may not get the speech done right.

"Vivid" came to me at just the right time.  It actually kickstarted my need to write again, so I have a lot of pride in it.  Between the Club contest and the Area contest there have been subtle tweaks, but the majority of the speech is exactly how I originally wrote it.  Now it's time to look it over, crack it open in a few spots and see where it could be improved upon.  The Division contest ups the game that much more.  Like me, my fellow contestants will have worked their material through two different contests, so I need to bring my best work if I want to move onto the finals at District.

I'm giving myself a night-off from my current writing project...I just wanted to leave this entry to keep everyone informed.   

I'll next be competing at the Division M contest on November 3rd at Innisfil Community Church. 

But first, rest....and dreams....

Monday, October 08, 2012

Next Step

Tomorrow night will find me back at Speak for Success Toastmasters in Bradford for the Area 14 Humorous Speech and Table Topics Contests.

Bradford West Gwillimbury Leisure Centre 471 West Park Ave.
East End, 2nd Floor
Bradford, ON
The contest starts at 7:30 - get there early to grab a seat.

I will be competing against the winners from four other clubs in the area, the winner of which will be moving onto the Division M contest on Saturday, November the 3rd.

No matter what happens, I am proud of the work I've put into my speech, entitled Vivid.  Once my journey with that speech is completed I will post it here.

A short blog tonight....I'm going to spend more time practicing.  I'll be back tomorrow.

Podcast of the day: We're Alive

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Thanksgiving 2012

As we age and move on towards our own plans, the times of getting together with our extended families grows thin.  Weeks, even months can go by without seeing them.  For some, it's even years.
The dynamics of how we live our lives, from the ways we raise our children to how we prepare our meals often evolves away from how we were taught when we were young.  Now, for some this is meaningless when you return to your ancestral home.  You return to the same old patterns, the same old meals and the same old conversations as a feeling of comfort.  It's a feeling of safety.

For the longest time I held by this myself.  Returning to my mothers house for Thanksgiving was a great place to just kind of cocoon myself in the chemistry of old.  I'd relax, enjoy a traditional meal the way my grandmother taught my mother to do; Turkey, Stuffing, Potatoes and a dozen or so vegetables were always on the table...and I would indulge but do little to contribute myself.  There was never any pressure to do so.

For the last few years, I have been changing that.  Part of it is the involvement of my wife, herself a fantastic cook.  She has encouraged me to be more involved in the cooking process as a true partner and inventor.  It's given me a deeper respect for what goes on in the preparation of a large family meal (often 15+ people).  I'm no Alton Brown, but I can handle being in the kitchen just fine.  Most importantly though, when I'm at my mothers house, I want to spend time with my mother.  What better way then to be working side by side with her in the prep of the family meal.

Today, at one point it was my Grandmother, my mother, Melanie and I all working in tandem to get the food on the table.  Sharing the load allows each of us to learn, teach, chat and laugh without getting too stressed out.  Melanie and I have also injected some new life into the meal.  We introduced a brining method for the Turkey last year, which has stuck.  Melanie added a Hunter sauce (Mushroom and cream cheese gravy) to the menu this year which seemed to go over well for those who do try new things.  Myself, I work out better ways to carve the turkey.  It's a work in process.

Next meal we'll likely add something else new.  Or maybe we'll inspire somebody else to add something new.  It doesn't matter; new is exciting.  It creates new conversation and new memories.  It adds to the family dynamic, creating special little moments for all to share.

I hope you had as wonderful and safe a Thanksgiving as I did.


October 7, 2012 - 11:09pm

Podcast of the day: Superego Episode 3:12
Music playing while I wrote this: Tony O'Connor - Memento

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Couch Bound

As some of you may know, I have suffered from an unusual and degenerative version of arthritis in my knees (and other joints) for many years.  For those who didn't...well, now you know.  I've never really allowed it to stop me from living a normal life, though there has been a level of pain I've had to deal with.  However, in some ways it's been a good thing.  It has led me to where I am today, and that's a place I like to be.  I'll explain in due time....but first, current events...

I have recently begun seeing my rheumotologist again after many years.  It appears that osteoarthritis has decided to join the party, and my family doctor believes that without some additional intervention my mobility will decrease further.  I met him at the Southlake Regional Centre's Arthitis clinic on Thursday, Melanie in tow, and he suggested we try Cortisone injections in my knees to see if that helps.  These injections require one to stay off their feet for a couple days to allow for the full effect, so I was hesitant to proceed - mostly due to the proximity of Thanksgiving.  I knew there was stuff we needed to get done to prepare for a fabulous feast at my mothers house and the idea of being laid up wasn't really appealing.  However Melanie insisted that I do it; that she would take care of me and handle everything with the kids for the couple of days.  So, we went ahead with it.

Other than for some external issues that affected my stress levels (which I won't go into here) it was a productive couple of days.  Being confined to a couch for the day allowed me to do some writing amd to research my next steps for writing goals.  Most particular it allowed me to reflect.

I remembered the last time this happened.  It ended up being a pivotal moment in my life.  It was around ten years ago.  I was dealing with intense pain and a level of depression from nobody in the medical field having any idea what the hell was wrong with me.  I was willing to try anything to get answers.

I had recently returned to the GTA from a failed venture in Cambridge, almost pennyless and ready to start my career again with a company called Utility Reading & Billing as their IT Manager.  My father and stepmother were kind enough to give me a transition point while I found a place to stay and closed up details on my rental in Cambridge.  Then a couple of my friends invited me over to their house one evening and introduced me to their friend Melanie who was also just starting to rebuild again.  They recommended we share a rental townhouse together...strictly plutonic, of course (I had eyes in a different direction at that time)...that together the financial strain would be lestened.  She seemed nice enough of a person and after only a small bit of hesitation (perhaps more on her part than mine) we went to see a place and very quickly made it a done deal.

Everything went fine.  We got along together and respected each others space, so there was never a time of acrimony.  Then my doctor at the time recommended I start seeing a rheumotologist as she suspected I had some kind of arthritis, though I was asympomatic to any she had ever seen, especially for being in my late twenties.  So, I went.  After a couple visits, he decided to try this thing called Cortisone injections.  Being single and fairly self-reliant I wondered how I would handle the almost complete immobility aspect of the treatment.  I was allowed to do normal things like calls of nature of course, but other than that I was supposed to confine myself to a couch.  Our townhouse had seven flights of stairs (!), including one from the living room to the kitchen, never mind the additional one to my bedroom.

Then Melanie suggested she take care of me.  It took me by surprise.  I knew she was a good person from my conversations with her, but the idea that she would go out of her way like that for me was not something I had thought possible.  Very thankful to her, I accepted.

She made a meal on the first night that I still find myself salivating over.  Her chicken schnitzel was to die for.  This is when I not only discovered that she was a graduate of the George Brown culinary school but also that she had been making meals for her family since she was a teenager.  Most of all though, I could see from our conversations that she had a good heart, and my opinion of her raised quite a few levels.  I found feelings for her.  However, my eyes were still in a different direction then so I didn't act on them.  Too much honour in this brain.

It wasn't too long afterwards that the other person and I decided there was no future between us.  I found solice in talking to Melanie, and I think she took some solice talking to me.  This mutual solice eventually grew into a relationship...and here we are, ten years later with eight years of marriage under our belts.

Those cortisone shots, they lasted only a week.  But they assisted in creating an entirely new direction for myself.  One that has had some incredible highs and even some lows.  However, I've stuck to that path and where I am now is where I need to be.  I'm a stronger person now than I have ever been.  I have a great wife and wonderful children to thank for that.  But it could be said that my rheumotologist had a hand in this too, if not completely inadvertantly.

One day, I may tell him that.

October 6, 2012 - 11:50pm

Podcast of the day: The Ood cast - episode 0505
What I'm listening to: Enya - Amarantine


Michael walked along the mountain path, a gorgeous forested view to his left.  But he did not see it.  Eyes set on the ground, he trudged forward, taking in nothing of the remarkable beauty around him.  A simple phrase popped into his head. 

'With a brave face I journey alone'

This had been his motto for a year now.  After the 'incident', the ultimate betrayal that tore his spirits assunder, he had learned to trust in nobody.  There was only one person who he would listen to, and that was himself.  Society could be damned for all he cared.

Embarking on this journey alone was his own idea.  His family and what friends had stuck as close to him as he would allow had tried to talk him out of it, but he was far too stubborn to listen.  Seeking answers was all he cared about, and since he couldn't trust that another human being would give him what he needed he needed to find it through solo experiences.

Nothing seemed to work.  Kayaking in Algonquin park, hiking along the Bruce Trail; nothing brought him any solice.  So he travelled to the Rockie Mountains, hoping that the stories of majesty he read in pamphlets would give him what he needed.  He located a lesser used path and began to climb.

A sound brought him out of his thoughts.  It was clapping.  Frowning, Michael slowed his pace, wondering if he had come upon a group of people but upon rounding a bend in the path he found this was not so. Before him lay the edge of a large outcropping of rock that showed the mountain vistas for many kilometers.  Sitting on a boulder to the side was a upper-middle aged man, wearing simple hiking clothes and staring straight ahead.  He was alone.

The man turned his head to the younger man upon hearing his approach.  At that moment, Michael could see tears in the man's eyes, however that was mismatched with a wide smile.  "Greetings, fellow traveller", the man said.

"Hi", Michael grunted.  He meant to move on quickly, to get away from what could be a complete nuisance but something stopped him.  The incongruity on the mans face seemed important somehow.  A whisper in the back of his mind, perhaps a younger and less bitter version of himself said to stop.

"Are you...well, ok?", he said in a quiet voice.

"Ok?  My god, man.  Look at what is in front of you.  Isn't this the most magnificant thing you have ever seen?"  With that he threw his head back and gave a massive yell of joy and began clapping his hands frantically.

He then turned his head back to Michael and looked him over.  Then he slid off of the rock and approached him.  Ignoring the suddenly saucer shaped eyes on the younger mans face, he thrust his hand out and gripped Michaels hand in his with a mighty shake.  "I'm Bruce, and who are you, my fine fellow?"

Feeling awkward, Michael gave his name but pulled back from the crushing handshake.  Bruce sensed the discomfort and asserted, "Oh, c' can you feel down when you have all of this to greet you?"

Shrugging but disarmed somehow, Michael said, "I don't know.  It just doesn't mean anything.  I keep looking for something but don't know what it is."

With a kind expression on his face, Bruce replied, "Ah, the follies of youth.  Always looking for an answer to something big.  Let me tell you, I have experienced a lot of things alone in my time, but that didn't give me any answers.  That's a lot of nonsence, let me tell you."

Suddenly insensed, Michael shouted, "Bullshit!  There has to be something out there."

Bruce raised his hands in a placating gesture, "Relax my friend, I don't mean to impune your beliefs. And I didn't say there aren't answers out there.  The thing is, do you have a question?"

Backing off a step, Michael asked, "What do you mean?"

"A question.  What was it for you?  Parents divorce, job loss, girlfriend lost..."  Seeing the sudden anguish in Michael's face Bruce's own face showed sympathy.  "Ah, young love.  That always seems to hurt the worst."

"Well, what was it for you?", Michael shot back.

Bruce paused for a moment, looking unsure as to whether he should go on.  "I thought to look for a reason why I had to die."

Seeing the confusion suddenly etched on Michael's face, the older man continued, "Stage four cancer.  Pretty much spread everywhere...I've only got a couple months at the latest."  He then spread his arms, "But then I came here and everything changed.

"You came alone when you're this sick?"

"Alone?  No, no.  My family are just a bit farther up the trail.  I just needed to take a rest and when I saw this spot I knew it was perfect.  They'll be back in a little while.  So, I thought about it a bit and a bit of an epithany came to me.  My question was really 'Was my life worthwhile'.  And I thought about my beautiful wife and two children and realized I had fulfilled what I needed to be...I already had my answers in them."

Confused, Michael retorted, "So what you're saying is I have to just go get married, have two kids and that'll fix everything?"

"Nope.  That was my answer, and I'm proud I made it.  Yours could be different.  Maybe it's through your work, or volunteering, or even as a hermit...which apparently you are trying to be as I see no fellow traveller with you.  But it's not working, is it?"

"No", Michael agreed reluctantly.

"So then stop it.  Find somebody to talk to.  Find an echo for your feelings.  It doesn't need to be anybody specific, just start talking, like you and I are right now.  And most importantly, enjoy your moments.  For let me tell you, they are fleeting."  Bruce nodded towards the skyline.  "Just sit with me for awhile and enjoy this moment.  The shadows from those further mountains cast the most amazing shadows on the trees below from where the sun is's so amazing."

Michael helped Bruce back onto the boulder and then sat down beside him.  Together they sat in silence for many minutes until Bruce let out another long yell and clapped again.  Michael turned to him and asked, "Why the yell?"

"It's triumph, my friend.  You see, I was afraid of dying as a very personal thing.  Why me, me, me all the time.  I now know I'm not afraid.  Sure, I'm sad for my family, but it won't do to be depressed all the time.  They need me as I am for the amount of time I have left so living in negativity isn't going to do squat."

Michael was hit with a sudden feeling of anguish.  The looks on his mother and fathers faces when he scorned their advances of help.  His small group of friends, who did their best to be there for did they feel.  He had failed them.

Bruce noticed the change of expression on his companions face and seemed to somehow understand what he was thinking.  He then whispered, "It's never too late to accept help, or simply to say I love you to somebody.  If people stick with you they are part of your questions AND answers.  You should go to them.

Michael nodded weakly, afraid he may break into tears.

Suddenly a trio of voices echoed off of the rocks soon their owners rounded a bend.  Bruce slid off of the rock again and embraced his wife, a petite woman with silvering hair.  "Did you have a great time?"

"We did", enthused his son, who appeared to be around twenty.  The views were incredible.

Bruce then turned to Michael and introduced him.  "This young man was kind enough to let me be his company for a little while before moving on down the trail."

"No, I've seen enough today, and the pleasure was mine." Michael found himself saying almost to his surprise.  And then he caught the eye of the third traveller, Bruce's daughter, who appeared to be closer to his own age.  She smiled shyly up at him.  He did so in turn, likely his first genuine smile in months.

Bruce noticed, cleared his throat audibly and then introduced his family.  His wife was Sylvia, his son was Robert and his daughter was Samantha.  He took one last look at the vista and turned to his now four companions, "So, shall we walk back together then?"

He led the way back down the trail, and this time Michael noticed a lot more than when he came up.  The colour of the trees against the mountains, the sparkling water in the river running below.  Furthermore, the company of others really meant something.  He felt a tear running down his eye and realized it, like Bruce's was a tear of joy.  He had found some kind of answer for himself, even though he didn't exactly know what question it was for.  It was a start.

As they came up to their cars, Bruce turned to Michael, looked him over again and smiled.  "Listen, there is a great little diner up the road, why don't you join us for dinner?  I'm sure you've got some travelling to do still but you've still got to eat.  And Robert does tell some of the best dirty jokes.  Sylvia smacked his arm with a tut but they all laughed.

Michael accepted.

October 6, 2012 - 1:28am

Tim Norton

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

Podcast of the day: Superego
Music playing while I wrote this: A lot of Enya.  Four hours worth.  I'm chill.

Authors note.  This story grew spontaneously from a poem I was writing.  I felt like I didn't have the time to get it right so I wrote a short story for the next few hours instead.  I may return to it in the future and tweak a couple things, but for the most part I think I got the message right.

Constructive comments would be wonderful!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012


The following piece is inspired by something that Henry Rollins said to Chris Hardwick on an episode of the Nerdist.  I had a different plan tonight but my creative energies were mostly sucked up by something that came up.  I'll revisit that tomorrow.

Curiority moves me
To shed entrapments
To move beyond
What I'm told to believe

A wide world awaits
Open mind
Open heart
Open arms
New ideas embraced

Pieces missing
They must be found
Connections made

The big picture
Not important
The moments
Are all there are

October 3, 2012

Podcast of the day: The Nerdist Epidode 255 with Henry Rollins
Music playing while I write this: A Perfect Circle and Roger Hodgson (not together, but that would be cool, wouldn't it?)

Tuesday, October 02, 2012


As I have just restarted the blog, there have been a lot of changes in my life that isn't common knowledge.  I will slowly introduce them as I'll help with my newly renewed ambition to write for a living.  Between my poems, planned media reviews, speeches and stories you'll find them interspersed throughout.

One of those is I am now a Beaver Leader for Scouts Canada.  This is Nathaniel's second year in Scouting, and as I typically leave the time of his meetings open anyway I decided it was time to step up and help out.  It's a return to me for Scouting, twenty two years since I left as Past President of the Venturer company I helped found in Sutton West.  Nathaniel moves onto cubs next year, but I'll likely stay on to get Kyle involved when he starts.

Tonight our colony was invited to join the local cub pack for an outdoors event on a gorgeous multi-acre property near Alcona.  A giant bonfire was roaring away when we got there, and the kids were all excited to see that much fire in one place.  Following our customary group openings, we were led by the cubs leader (Akela) onto an amazing private trail system where we all spoke about the trees, the stars, forest safety and safe drinking water methods.  I even had an opportunty to speak up and talk about The Lifestraw, an amazing device that everybody who loves hiking or survival should learn about.  I was surprised that Akela, who was obviously a far superior woodsman to myself had never heard of it.  It felt good to be more than just the rookie leader...I had something valuable to contribute.

Each child received a small glowstick to wear around their neck, which kept most of them enthralled and illuminated in what was otherwise a very dark walk.  I loved it, but I could tell some of the younger kids were getting quite nervous.  Nathaniel even came up and held my hand during some of the darker portions.  I'm sure that was just to keep me safe.  We collected some leaves that Nathaniel may use in an art project and soon returned to the fire.  The cubs were playing some nighttime tag game and we figured that our kids would get crushed in all the chaos.

After I fulfilled my duties as leader, I packed up our gear and we started heading home.  Almost immediately while driving down Innisfil Beach Road I noticed that there was an amazing moon rising on the horizon.  I pointed it out to Nathaniel and gave him a bit to let the image sink in.  The conversation started off apocalyptic.

"Dad, what would happen if the moon split in two?"

I trust in my sons brain, so I gave him the straight answer.  "It would be catastrophic, bud.  Our planet and the moon are tied together in a way.  Where the moon is right now affects a lot things, like our oceans.  If it moved, we would suffer horrible storms and stuff like that possibly for thousands of years.  It would suck for every living thing on the planet."

Nathaniel moved the conversation to something more pleasant.

"Dad, wouldn't it be cool to be on the moon?"

"Maybe, bud.  But without the right equipment it's not safe.  It's too cold at one point of the day and two hot at others.  Besides, there's no air to breathe."

"Well, I'm going to the moon, 'cause it's awesome."

Suddenly, I was hit by a bit of inspiration...the moment that drove me to tell this particular story tonight.

"Sure, it sounds awesome...but you know what's even more awesome?  What we did tonight.  We have beautiful forests to walk through, trees and leaves to sketch, friends to laugh with and learn from.  I need you to understand, Nathaniel that we shouldn't take for granted what treasures we have right here.  It's important to really think about that, and to be able to pass that knowledge down to your kids and grandkids and so on."

I'm not certain if he really thought about that or not, but he was quiet for the majority of the rest of the drive home.  Even if he didn't, that wasn't important.  You see, I wasn't just talking to him.  Much of it was for my own benefit.  I too have been guilty of taking for granted many of the treasures I have had access to.  I'm sure most of us do.  Running from one activity to another while not truly absorbing the life lessons available to us.

It's sychronicity at play.  I started writing to prove something to my wife.  That I was ready, willing and able to contribute to a more positive message we're spreading in our own household.  If I wasn't in that mindset, I would have just seen a ball in the sky and been unable to reflect on the beauty around me.  I didn't need to wait for my kids or future grandkids to be able to tell cool stories.  To give meaningful advice.  I was merely waiting for myself.

October 2, 2012 - 11:47pm

Podcast of the day: The Nerdist with Alton Brown
Music Playing While I'm Writing: Ah*Nee*Mah


Turn around
Envision what you know
Is it enough?
Do you follow a set pattern?
Handed down?
Are you fulfilled?
Imagine a new mindset
Shake up the protocol
Be what you need

October 1, 2012

Monday, October 01, 2012

My Son Wears Mismatched Socks

This is an edit on a speech I gave for the Toastmasters International Speech contest early in 2012.  I came in second for the Area contest.

Growing up can be a painful event in the world we live in.  We deal with so many expectations that are thrust upon us as children.  "Don’t do this."  "Don’t say that."  "Be what we want you to be."

I have to say I struggled for so many years because many of the things expected of me did not jive with how my mind processed the world.  It was torture sometimes, both literally and figuratively.  Especially when I was young.  Now, years later I’ve been looking backwards to every growing pain I experienced with a sense of pride that I’ve overcame them, but something still seemed amiss.  And it took my eldest son’s personality to show me what I almost lost.  Something that I should provide him the opportunity to preserve at all costs.

I come from a long line of jesters.  It’s in my blood.  Silliness and imagination are my stock in trade.  I was meant to be an entertainer.  My youngest memories included being the class clown in Kindergarten – making up incredibly detailed and ridiculous stories to keep my classmates in stitches.  I was a walking foley machine, creating detailed sound effects.  I had found a niche that I excelled in.  And then the other shoe dropped.
Mrs. Norton, There’s something wrong with your son.

 Timmy, stop doing that, it’s annoying. 
With these not-so-subtle cues that what I was doing didn’t fit in, I lost my confidence.  Oh, I continued to be silly, but my peers seemed to sense that it was half-hearted and they pounced upon me like a cat on a young bird that fell out it’s nest.  My perception of the world was strained.  So, in a need for self-preservation I broke my world in two.  Silliness was meant for the stage, but off of the stage I became withdrawn and quiet.  This continued for many years until I found new inspiration.

My eldest son, from the youngest age found love in wearing his socks mix-matched.  Different flashy colours too, so they stood out.  You can really pick this kid out in the park.  He loves to be silly, makes all kinds of sound effects and he delights in telling stories.  Sound familiar?  Yes, my son is a jester too.  But because of what I went through, my knee-jerk reaction was to get him to stop.  You see, I remember what the world did to me, and I wanted to shield him from it.  Then one day I did what nobody did for me.  I listened to him.  I really, really listened to him.  It was just him and I in the car, me driving along and him without a care in the world singing away to a tune of his own devices.  It suddenly clicked for me, and I realized just how smart he really is.  Surely a lot smarter than I was.  Smart enough to survive with his jester-personality intact.  So, I’ve decided to try to give him the guidance I never had...and that is to be how and who he wants to be.  To embrace how he sees the world and to strengthen it with his own passion and resolve.  To be ready if I stray from my path to look me in the eye and tell me “The world needs to laugh with you, not mourn who you should have been”
Society seems to be on a direct, unyielding, careening path, with a conformed set of rules and leaders guiding us there.  I’ve thought about it a lot and that path doesn’t always feel right.  So, perhaps what we need is less leaders and more jesters to steer us down a more adventurous and exciting road of enlightenment.   Certainly my son would be amongst those to help keep the world laughing, bright multi-hued coloured socks acting like a beacon in the darkness.  And where will I be, you ask?  Well, I may not have the flashy colours...yet...but give me time and I’ll find my way back to the royal court to entertain and delight all with silliness.