All I Really Needed To Know I Learned While Watching Hockey With My Papa

Boston won. The post-game ceremonies started. This was important stuff, so I made Ruby pay attention. We watched them award the Conn Smythe to Thomas, and she noted the maple leaf adorning it. Then they carried out the Stanley Cup and called Zdeno Chara over. The moment came, and he hoisted it over his head in pure triumphant joy:

As he held it aloft I leaned over and whispered into Ruby’s ear:

Do you see that, Ruby? See how happy he is? That’s winning. He won and he’s happy. Winning is important. And I want you to be a winner.

He worked hard and tried hard and he didn’t cheat, and he won, and it feels good. Don’t forget that, Ruby. Winning feels good and I want you to win.

We’re not supposed to say stuff like that to our kids. We’re supposed to tell them that it’s important to try, to have fun, to participate and play and that winning doesn’t matter. And mostly, that’s what I say because mostly, that’s right — because most of the time most of us can’t win, so it’s an important life skill to learn how to enjoy the game.

But take a look at Chara’s face up there. I can probably say without a doubt that right there — that moment when he as captain hoisted his team’s trophy — that moment is probably the single best moment of his entire life.

Sure, playing feels good. And playing well feels even better. But winning feels the best.

 

Vancouver Riots

My brother has posted his thoughts on last night’s rioting in Vancouver.

#vancouver2010 olympics hockey party by rocketcandy

I think we’re mostly on the same page about how this mess came about: the riots happened because people expected a riot to happen. The anarchists and the assholes showed up, dragged a few fence-sitting drunkards in with them, and the party was on.

The people who gathered to watch bear some of the guilt too: their presence was encouraging, even if they remained silent (although some did speak up, and I applaud them). The presence of the silent witnesses provided the cover which made it possible for those without conscience to do their looting and violence.

But even though I condemn these actions, I’m not embarrassed by them. Living in a free society means embracing a certain amount of risk. Eliminating all crime necessarily requires the elimination of all freedom and privacy. Other Western nations are turning increasingly towards a police-state mentality: the USA has its obscene airline security. The UK has more surveillance cameras per capita than anywhere else in the world. France has proposed arbitrary censorship of any website.

I’m hopeful that Canadians will accept that this event — an extremely rare, and, relatively speaking, minor one — is an acceptable price to pay for living in a truly great culture.

Standing in the Rubble

Two months ago, near the start of the Libyan revolution, I read this paragraph:

Gaddafi, clad in brown robes and a turban, spoke on Tuesday evening from a podium set up in the entrance of a bombed-out building that appeared to be his Tripoli residence hit by US air raids in the 1980s and left unrepaired as a monument of defiance.

And I immediately thought to myself: No, that’s not right at all.

I was considering the image of all that rubble, all that damage left on display, and I understood that there is nothing defiant about flaunting your damage. Maintaining that rubble was an act of blame, not “defiance”.

That rubble could have been bulldozed; a park could have been built. The stones and space could have become a new thing. But taking away the damage takes away the memory of the act of destruction; if there is no wound, then the impact of the original strike is diminished.

Rebuilding is the defiant act. It shows that the damage was inconsequential and that we remain unfettered. We are still growing. Your act did not make us stumble. What you did, did not matter.

To maintain our damage is to maintain blame; it says to the aggressor, “Look! Look what you have done! You are guilty, and here is the proof, and I will never let you forget it.”

The only persons we are defying are ourselves.

Passionate Wisdom

UPDATE (June 13, 2011): The author of this story has come forward admitting that it is a hoax. Although the story loses some of its appeal without the lustrous shine of a “based on a true story” tag, I hope that the underlying message of my commentary still stands.


An out lesbian in Syria is visited by goons in the middle of the night, and her father stands by her, defends her, and ultimately sends them away in shame:

 

“And my daughter? Let me tell you this about her; she has done many things that, if I had been her, I would not have done. But she has never once stopped being my daughter and I will never once let you do any harm to her. You will not take her from here.”

All of us, as good parents, would share the same sentiment; we will defend our children with ferocity.  But this father goes a step further: he defends her with passionate, lucid eloquence:

So you come here to take Amina. Let me tell you something though. She is not the one you should fear; you should be heaping praises on her and on people like her. They are the ones saying alawi, sunni, arabi, kurdi, duruzi, christian, everyone is the same and will be equal in the new Syria; they are the ones who, if the revolution comes, will be saving Your mother and your sisters. They are the ones fighting the wahhabi most seriously. You idiots are, though, serving them by saying ‘every sunni is salafi, every protester is salafi, every one of them is an enemy’ because when you do that you make it so.

“Your Bashar and your Maher, they will not live forever, they will not rule forever, and you both know that. So, if you want good things for yourselves in the future, you will leave and you will not take Amina with you. You will go back and you will tell the rest of yours that the people like her are the best friends the Alawi could ever have and you will not come for her again.”

When our children are threatened or hurt or bullied it is our instinct to be warriors. We will fight others to save our own. But this intelligent man modeled a different parenting path: calm, passionate wisdom saved his daughter’s life.

My Advice to My Sister on the Night Before She Wed

“Don’t be so in love with the idea of your marriage that you forget to fight.”

My sister and her fiance ... fighting.

That’s right, fight. Fighting is certainly an exercise in communication (although, granted, perhaps not the most efficient or effective communication). But even more importantly, fighting is an exercise in trust and honesty.

It takes trust to show someone your ugliness, your disappointment, your envy and frustration and annoyance. Just taking the step to reveal this says to your partner: “look, what I’m about to say is going to piss you off. But it’s important and I trust you to handle this message”.

No couple is perfectly aligned. Not every feeling is going to be appreciated. But if you’re afraid to express your feelings honestly because of conflict, then what kind of relationship do you have? If you don’t trust your partner enough to be angry at each other, what does the future hold for you?

So fight! Trust your partner enough to communicate honestly, no matter where the discussion leads. It just might save your marriage.

Plus, I hear that make-up sex is amazing.

On Poppies

I spotted a poppy pin lying on the ground today.  Serendipitous!  Poppies are a Canadian tradition — nobody wears them here — and the pin was probably accidentally dropped by a Canadian shopper taking advantage of the exchange rate.  I’m excited to be able to celebrate Remembrance Day properly.

In the US it’s Veteran’s Day; in Canada it’s Remembrance Day.  They’re both on the same day and nominally celebrate the same thing (the end of WWI), but they have slightly different flavors.  I can’t comment too much about the US since, not having grown up here, I don’t really know what happens at school assemblies and various memorials.  I do get a sense that there’s a mix of honoring veterans and general patriotism.
At home in Canada it’s about honoring veterans, but also tinged with regret and shame.  Not shame for the people or the country, but shame for all of us, all of humanity, that such a horrible thing as war should ever exist.  It’s called Remembrance Day because we should never forget the horror of war, and we should never forget that war is, fundamentally, a failure of that which makes us human.

Procrastination

I’m a decent procrastinator.  In fact, I’m procrastinating right now by writing this blog entry.

I’m trying to develop a different mindset about some of the things I procrastinate about.   For most of those things, there’s a lot of pleasure to be had after (but not necessarily during) the activity.  For example: I went for a run today, and it was kind of cold and drizzly while I was running, and I’m out of shape so it was slow and generally sucky.  But, now I’ve got that pleasant, warm, glow inside my body that I get after a run.  It lasts all day.  It feels good after, but not before or during.

The same thing goes for organizing your physical space.  It sucks to do the filing or clean the house, but when those things are done the sense of satisfaction afterwards far outweighs the grief of the actual task.

Unloading the dishwasher is another one.  Is there anything more awesome than putting dishes into a completely empty dishwasher?

The alternate (procrastinating) choices I make generally don’t have anywhere near the level of satisfaction when they’re complete.  Who feels pumped after watching an hour of television?  (Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares, a truly inspirational program, notwithstanding).  It just doesn’t compare to an hour spent working in the garden, or fixing that squeaky cupboard door that’s been nagging at me for months.
I’m trying to keep that feeling of satisfaction in mind when considering what to do with myself.  I’m hoping to use it as a motivator to get more exercise and be more organized.  It’s tricky, though, especially after spending all day at work, then coming home to cook dinner and spend some quality time with Ruby.  After she’s in bed, the most appealing thing I can think of is to stretch out on the couch, remote control in hand.

10 out of 10

An article in today’s paper discussed your carbon footprint. They talk about some cars, and how each one gets an EPA “greenhouse gas score” out of 10 (higher is better). A GMC Yukon gets a 3 out of 10; a Prius gets 10 out of 10.

A perfect score? For a car which only reduces greenhouse gas emissions by a 1/3 compared to a behemoth SUV?

A bicycle should be 10/10. Walking should be 10/10. A fuel-cell car with hydrogen generated from a solar source should be 10/10. But the Prius is far from perfect, and it’s doing us all a disservice to pretend that’s the best we can do.

Landfill vs Clean Water

Today our first deployment of cotton diapers arrived.  We’ve signed up with a diaper service that will drop off fresh diapers twice each week and take away the soiled ones, never to be seen again.  Or so I like to think.

I’ve actually been fairly happy with disposal diapers, but being the conscientious earth lovers that we are, we went with what is purportedly the more environmentally-friendly choice.  Frankly, I’m not sure if all the hot water and bleach that is needed to get the cotton diapers white every week is less than the landfill costs of a disposable diaper.

Here is one perspective.  Her point about the relative amount of water used (about 6% of household usage, by her estimates) is a good one.  Dirty disposables currently make up about 30% of our trash by volume, and more than 50% by weight.  Living in a region that, in general, has a decent water supply and fairly eco-friendly power (hydroelectricity), I think it’s safe to aim towards washing cotton diapers as the better choice for the environment.

The cotton diapers are certainly more esthetically pleasing, and I’m happy to be rid of the cartoon branding on the disposables we use.  The biggest downside, though, is that the cotton diapers soak through really quickly — meaning Ruby needs to be changed more often.  The disposables would absorb a ton of liquid without ever feeling wet.  I’ll be doing more frequent diaper duty, it seems.  Also, because the cotton diapers soak all the way through, one needs to use a waterproof cover to keep the baby’s clothes dry.

We’re not sure if we’re going to use the cotton diapers overnight.  Kate and I are extremely lucky that Ruby has been sleeping through the night consistently since she was about six weeks old.  I’d hate to mess that up with a diaper that irritates her when it gets wet.  We’ll probably try one for a few nights and see what happens.

Finally, on to costs. The diaper service costs about $75 month, and that includes everything we need except wipes, which would cost another $5.  Disposables are actually much cheaper — around $50/month, I’d estimate.  But if you add in the extra $12/month we pay for a bigger garbage can (to handle the disposables), the costs come out close enough to make me satisfied with our choice.  For now.