Wednesday, May 28, 2003

remnants of the big cut

I promised I wouldn't say anything until after she has shown all of her buddies. This is one of the remnants of Banana's haircut this weekend. She went from having hair past the shoulders to hair above the ears within about twenty minutes. The hair stylist was pretty nervous about taking off so much in one go, but Banana new exactly what she wanted. It's a radical change and she seems to be enjoying the shock effect the new look has on everyone.

This week has also been a week of change in her motivation levels, especially when it comes to independent action. Banana negotiated with Jenn and I that she could do whatever she wanted in the morning with her time as long as she was dressed, had breakfast, had hair and teeth brushed, lunch in her backpack and all last-minute duties done, too. This evening, she told us she was starting (tomorrow morning) to make her own lunch.

I'll let you know what's causing the big shift as soon as I find out myself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2003

The Dangers of Instant Messaging

About four weeks ago, I was sitting at my computer when a notice popped up from Instant Messenger. It said that surfer_chic92 had asked to add me to (I'm assuming) her IM list, and was this alright?

My first thought was, "This is one of my relatives (I have lots of nieces) or one of my daughter's friends. Sure, let her see when I sign in or out. Maybe she'll even send me a message."

I've noticed as Surfer Chic has logged in and out (about three times a week, usually after suppertime in Calgary) for the past little while. I never heard a word from her. Finally, curiosity got the best of me. This evening when a message popped up that she had just logged in, I decided I was going to find out who she was. Here's a transcript of our session.

Sean says:
hey, surfer chic
Surfer Chic says:
Sean says:
This is Banana and McMonk's dad. Who is this?
Surfer Chic says:
Sean says:
do you know banana or mcmonk?
Surfer Chic says:
Sean says:
William Reid school or Banff Trail school? Ringette, maybe?
Surfer Chic says:
Sean says:
Hmmm, very strange. I wonder how I got on your list. Are you in Calgary? (last personal question, I promise).
Surfer Chic says:
nooooo and don't worry about the questions they are not that personal
Sean says:
This isn't Kristin, my niece, is it?
Surfer Chic says:
Sean says:
OK. Well, if you're not in Calgary and you don't know my daughters (and you're a school aged girl, I'm assuming from your e-mail address), then we probably shouldn't be on each others' lists.
Sean says:
Surfer Chic says:
i don't know
Sean says:
Did you ask to be on my Instant Messenger list?
Surfer Chic says:
i'm really not sure I am kind of confused right now
Sean says:
Yep, me too. Check on your instant messenger list, and see if you have a contact named "Sean".
Sean says:
Do you use Instant Messenger a lot?
Surfer Chic says:
yes I am on a lot.
Surfer Chic says:
and i can see a sean
Sean says:
do you have any friends named Sean?
Surfer Chic says:
Surfer Chic says:
ok i am very lost!
Sean says:
I got a message about four weeks ago saying you wanted to add me to your Instant Messenger list. I said OK, because I thought you were one of my daughter's friends (using a weird e-mail address).
Sean says:
I added you, thinking I'd figure out who you were sooner or later.
Surfer Chic says:
Sean says:
You may have been looking for someone else and added me by mistake.
Surfer Chic says:
Surfer Chic says:
i get what you are saying
Sean says:
Sean says:
You gotta be careful. I could have been a nut.
Surfer Chic says:
hahahahahahah lol
Sean says:
You can visit my blog at . I try to be funny. It's definitely rated "General", even though I swear sometimes.
Sean says:
Have a nice life, Surfer Chic, and browse carefully. Write me an e-mail if you'd like.
Surfer Chic says:
ok bye

So, I got to type to a sweet young innocent thing in some far away land.

No danger to me. Big danger to her. I really could have been a nut (some may argue that I am, but only dangerous to myself). I could have done more social engineering and picked up a whole lot of info about surfer chic. It could have led to all kinds of trouble. Stalking, a house break-in (if I figured out where she was and when she wasn't at home), identity theft, ... who knows? I wish her well in her use of the Internet, but this experience has made me wonder what my own daughters are experiencing as they surf, IM around, join Internet-based contests and subscribe to stuff on websites and services.

The moral of this episode is everyone needs to be careful about adding people to their IM list.

I should have been, but for the sake of this lesson, I'm glad I didn't.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

I am getting ready for what's sure to be the busiest seven days of my life. Sheets of 3/4 inch plywood are going up on the windows, sandbags are being placed around doors and ground-level windows, provisions that keep well without electricity have been purchased, that sort of thing. I have Geek clients that have been beating a path to my door (due to no encouragement by me); I have SIX new staff starting on Monday, servers to purchase and set up, workstations to put the finishing touches on, a phone system to connect to the real world, a tech support gig at an international conference (really!) and a Triathlon - if I have some extra time Saturday afternoon.

And how IS the triathlon training going? In a word, great.

I haven't felt this alive and full of energy since my early twenties. I am swimming better than I have for fifteen years, I'm back on my bike doing road rides (amazing in the fact that I've found time to do it) and I've lost over twenty pounds since Christmas. I've found some excellent training buddies and an fully enjoying getting together with them to work out. One bad thing is that I feel lethargic and drained if I miss a workout. I might be addicted!

Thursday, May 22, 2003

That's twice now in the last five minutes that I've heard the word "porn" associated with our photo collections.

Betcha can't wait for our next catalog, huh?

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Cacomixl bandied a good question around the Treehouse today. I pass it on to you because I had a really, really tough time thinking of an answer that suited me.

If you could only eat one dish, over and over, for the rest of your life, what would that one dish be?
Don't answer right away - think on it for a while. You have to consider nutrition, texture, seasonal appropriateness and of course, taste to name a few factors. When you've chewed on this for a while, come back and add your answer to the comments.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Happiness is writing a heartfelt e-mail to an old friend that you haven't heard from in ages. I feel so much better.

In case you haven't guessed, things are going well. If you need to borrow a couple of bucks, now's the time to ask.
Got a note from an old school chum today. It prompted me to follow a link to his blog, which I find very full of words. Obviously, he has too much time on his hands. If you find yourself with this strange affliction, you too can visit his ramble-a-thon. Especially if you've never been to China.

Without further ado, I give you Tall Caucasian with Overly Hearty Laugh in the Land of Short Polite People.

In other news, I found out one of the flowergirls from my wedding is getting married. I hope she has time to get into some good arguments before the big day.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

One of my favorite children's authors (Dav Pilkey) has a killer website. Full of good content and hardly commercialized at all.
- thanks to Jay for finding it and passing it along

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Seen at the Drugstore Checkout:

A short man in a oil company jacket and a bad combover buying two large bottles of Maalox, a kingsize package of Strawberry Twizzlers, a card that said "We're So Sorry to Hear of Your Loss" and a "punching nun" puppet.

I wonder if his blind date was waiting in the car or he was on his way to pick her up.
Last night I dreamt I was trying to hail a cab in a Mediterranean coastal village - I think it was Spain. The sun was hot, the buildings were all made out of sand-colored brick and the locals wore white cotton loose-fitting clothing. I was in a residential area and although I was on vacation (or in backpacker mode) there was some sort of urgency to my needing to get transporation out of this town.

It wasn't fear, just a need to get moving. Restlessness, perhaps.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Coaching McMonk's team is proving more of a challenge than I originally thought it was going to be. The challenge isn't getting the girls to do the drills - it's keeping my cool.

I am working hard to learn the girls names in practice. We've had only three practices due to crappy weather, so I haven't had as much time as I'd like to learn who's who. In our first game on Thursday, I ended up shouting at one of my players to come off for a line change. Only problem was that I was calling one player (who I thought was not hearing me), raising my voice louder and louder, while the whole time I was using the name of a player I had just sent on. To avoid having too many players on the field, Maggie, the person who's name I'd been using, came off the field and quickly burst into tears as soon as she was on the sidelines.

I felt terrible about it and quickly apologized, then got back to watching the game (I'm supposed to be coaching, after all). My intensity and eagerness to do a good job are getting ahead of my sensitivity to do a good job as a coach.

Next practice, I'll need to spend some extra time with Maggie.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Without even trying I've collected an obscene amount of Canadian Tire money in my wallet.

Time to go buy some gardening supplies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Soccer has started. Four evenings of every week gone. I'm having fun, though.

Sunday, May 11, 2003

The sun is shining as I pull into the parking lot, and I'd rather be doing other things. Tradition dictates that I make this annual trek, so I put on my best happy face and prepare for what seems like a pointless duty.

My grandfather married his second wife nearly ten years after the passing of my grandmother. I met Anne Walker (soon to be Anne Key) at the age of eleven, a time of awkward shyness for me. She, the new wife of my grandfather, was a schoolteacher living in rural Alberta - a forthright woman who had lived a demanding life. Age hadn't taken much from the striking beauty that Anne possessed. With grown children of her own, she had found a kindred spirit in the gentle man that was my granddad. Somehow, this short, balding, suspender-wearing man had managed to make his way through the seemingly impenetrable albeit polite shell that surrounded this impressive woman. Although not openly affectionate, an experienced eye could still see the love that flowed back and forth between these two.

Distance, age and rural-urban culture differences separated me from my new grandmother. Anne had been born and raised on a farm. She was now renting out the farmable portion of her 1/4 section of land to neighbors who were more than happy to include it in their planting and harvesting. Anne kept care of the house fulltime after retiring from her teaching position. My grandfather had sold his city house and moved in with her as soon as they were married and quickly adopted his new title of gentleman farmer and husband. Anne had run the place ever since her first husband (and then, eventually, her children) left the farm. I would accompany my parents when we went to visit, but there was always an uneasiness about being there. Years of dealing with four children by herself had taught her to be firm and an imposing figure when necessary. I never felt that I was able to get past the strict schoolteacher side that was always faced towards me.

Now, here I stand at the entrance to the nursing home. Anne, my step-grandmother, has become an aged woman. Multiple Sclerosis and eighty-some years meant that she needed constant attention - attention her children (with their own families and responsibilities) are unable to provide. Eight years ago she had left her family farm to come to this extended care facility in Calgary. Here, she is close to her youngest daughter who still visits regularly. Anne's memories are now elusive shadows. Names don't come easily to her - even those of her children and step-children. Grand- and even great-grandchildren are but pleasant faces that come and go in the immediacy of her present existence. You can tell that there is difficulty in comprehending and understanding who all these people are and what they are doing in the room with her.

I make my way down echoing, tiled hallways, past alcoves occasionally filled with bath-robed residents and sundy-best visitors having private conversations in loud voices. Two nursing stations' worth of directions later, I enter Anne's semi-private room and see her in the bed. A polite smile comes to her face as I enter and take her hand. She looks at me but I can tell she does not recognize my face. "Hello Anne," I say, "I'm Lester's grandson, Sean. How are you?" No recognition at all. She talks to me with gentle tones. I respond to her while I look at the guestbook her daughter has put in place to track the visitors. Most of her family are many hours of driving away. Looking through the pages show that sometimes weeks go by without a visitor. Living only minutes away, I try not to let guilt get the best of me.

I speak to her of trivialities that occuring in my life. I'll use names that she can't remember, speaking of places that she hasn't been. Certain words remind her of slippery memories and she speaks semi-coherently, putting into words what her inner eyes have seen. The names of people and places she asks me about are as confusing and unknown to me as mine are to her. I try to be supportive and answer with general replies but I doubt that I am reaching her. There is still a wall between us. More like stairs than a wall - stairs that can't be climbed up or down.

I get ready to go when, almost inperceptably, something about her look and voice changes.

"Can you take me home now?" she asks. Then, it hits me. Through the haze that is her present perception, she realizes that these people whom she cannot remember of the names and faces of, the people that now take care of her, are not her family. She no longer is able to pinpoint her location. She cannot place where this room she is in exists, but she somehow knows that the place where she spent most of her life is far away. Comfort of familiarity is what she is seeking. Through all the confusion and long days and nights, she has been patiently waiting for the fog to clear, the long dimly-lit dream to end and she expects to wake or be returned to her past life.

A deep, deep sadness comes over me. I go to her and gently wrap my arms around her thin, well-worn frame.

As I embrace her I softly say, "This is your home, Anne. We love you very much and you are dear to us. Happy Mother's Day. I need to go now, but I'll see you later." She accepts my answer and weakly hugs me back. At this moment I wish I was closer to her, a bigger part of her life so that my presence might be of more comfort to her.

I leave her sitting upright in her bed, supported by pillows in the dreaded industrial glow of the florescents. She looks away as I turn to go and I try to shake the heaviness in my heart and convince myself that my actions have made a difference.

Friday, May 09, 2003

Last weekend, Brian, Banana, Emily and McMonkwas a swim meet weekend for me. The team went to Edmonton for an afternoon in a lukewarm pool with loose lane ropes and poor meet organization. The real purpose for the trip became apparent the next day, as I was dragged by six little kids (and two big kids) to the waterpark. We all had a great time. I even got to try bungee jumping. 110 feet isn't bad for a first try.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Friday, May 02, 2003

When I was bombing around in my rented Ford F150 yesterday, I felt like ... like ...

... an Albertan.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Ever seen a pickup truck heading down the road with a big refrigerator in the back, lashed into an upright position and all kinds of junk piled all around it? Well, yesterday, that was me.

Except my 'fridge fell out of the truck when I went around a corner, smashing its all-glass door all over the road, badly denting the case and ruining the compressor.

Don't ever say that I lead a boring life.