Tag Archives: anecdotes

It Was Sooo Cold…

Leave it to Ottawa to be a city of extremes when it comes to weather. As I am writing this, we are digging out from a fresh snowfall of 46 cm (18 inches) of snow in a 15 hour period… and still counting. And this is two days after a weekend that wasn’t just chilly… It wasn’t just cold… It was spine-tingling, bone chillingly frigid at -28 degrees Celsius, but with the wind, was said to feel like -42.

Having grown up in Ottawa, one of the coldest world capitals, I will admit that weather events like these are not much of a shock to the system anymore, but it warms my heart to think of the possibilities of ways that we can joke about it.

This past weekend, it was sooo cold…

– Even teenagers were wearing long pants.
– My chattering teeth destroyed my night guard.
– I vacuum just to warm up.
– My Microsoft Windows are frosted.
– I sweat icicles.
– My long underwear needs long underwear.
– Popsicles aren’t that cool anymore.
– Every birthday cake is an ice cream cake.
– My windows are shivering.
– I have to factor in an extra 10 minutes before any departure, for all the extra layers of clothing.
– Even my prayer plant is rubbing its hands. Continue reading

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I Should Have Wished for Longer Arms

Eye GlassesWhen I was told to make a wish before blowing out the candles on the cake for my 50th birthday, I have to admit that nothing ran through my mind at the time. I am very lucky in so many respects and have so much for which to be grateful. What could I possibly wish for that I did not have already?

The answer came a few days later: longer arms!

When it comes to my eyesight, here is the long and the short of it: while I can really see fine (without glasses) for a three to four foot radius, anything beyond that, I turn into Mr. Magoo and require glasses. This has been the case since around Grade 10, and with the exception of a token increase in my glasses prescription every few years, there has not been much change there.

The winds of change started blowing about 6 years ago, as the gap between my short range and long range vision started getting wider. My ophthalmologist couldn’t have been sweeter or more sensitive in gently discussing the “B” word (…bifocals) or the “P” word (…progressives) without ever shocking me into realizing that I wasn’t 21 anymore. She dropped hints and explained the options, never forcing the issue on me and she always concluded our little chat about the facts of life with, “You’ll know when it is a problem and you need that correction.”

Up until now, it really has not been a bother. If I wanted to read, or do something on the iPad or iPhone, I would usually just flip my glasses up on top of my head and do what I needed, and flip the glasses back down onto my nose when I was done.

Also, because the frames on my last few pair of glasses were a bit smaller, I got used to cheating a little and just looking down, below the frame. It worked, especially for quick little things like signing a document or looking at the time.

However, last year, Continue reading

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I’ve Been Waiting In Line So Long…

Just before our trip to New Orleans, I was waiting in a long line at the currency exchange office for a good 35-40 minutes. Of course, that was not a problem in itself, that is part of the fun of getting ready for a trip. But had the office not been so warm while I was wearing my winter coat, I might not have been drifting off into my own little writing world thinking of punchlines for “I’ve been waiting so long in line… (blank)

(For my fellow game show fans, it’s a little like Match Game)

I’ve been waiting in line so long…

– My skip-a-day deodorant needs to be reapplied
– I need to take my next one-a-day vitamin
– A mortgage payment just went through
– I’ve completed all levels in Candy Crush
– I’ve watched YouTube… All of it.
– My “daily defence” moisturizer surrendered.
– My iPhone says I am missing 91 app updates
– I am ready for my next haircut
– My outfit is now considered retro
– My passport has expired
– My library books are overdue
– My Blockbuster movies are overdue… waaaay overdue
– Scientists have found two more planets, and Pluto is really pissed! Continue reading

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Deleting Without Watching – The Madness and the Guilt

Remote A couple of weeks ago I did the unthinkable… I deleted 25 shows from my personal video recorder (PVR), without even watching them!

It is not because the shows weren’t good. In fact, some of them were shows I enjoyed quite a bit. Unfortunately, it came down to one simple fact: there just aren’t enough hours in a day.

The sad part is that I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to binge watching: game show marathons, “Bewitched” marathons, “The Nanny” marathons, “Dallas” marathons, watching an entire 24 hour rotation of MuchMusic (once, back in University, …I dared myself), and the list goes on. Television has been a passion since I was very young, as well as a good companion to a “latch key” kid (who also happened to be an only child).

I was one of those kids who pushed up the national average for the number of hours that kids watched TV. I could have easily put in 3 hours per evening during the week and on the weekends, cartoons in the morning and family programming in the evening. It is probably no surprise that the first book I learned to read was the TV Guide.

However, my conundrum is this: I seem to have the willpower to not fall into the time trap of hours of video games on my iPad, cute cat pictures on Instagram or chain watching YouTube videos (unless they are vintage Price is Right episodes, in which case all bets are off). However I really have to exercise tough love with myself when it comes to watching television. A few endearing characters, clever writing, a storyline to make me laugh or think… I can easily get hooked.

September and October brought us a new raft of shows to watch and even though I thought I made careful choices to ensure I wasn’t painted into a corner, I still seemed to be drowning in programming. Continue reading

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Top 10 Things About the Cat That Make Me Laugh

IvyAndMeSince the arrival of Ivy the cat in my life last June, there has not been a shortage of good times and good laughs shared in her company… and dare I say, at her expense (just don’t tell her that!)

Here they are, the Top 10 things about the cat that make me laugh.

10-The above picture
It must be just the angle of the picture, but this one really adds validity to what they say about “the camera adds 10 pounds”, which must be a real bitch when you only weigh 9 pounds to begin with.

9-The look she gives me when I eat a can of tuna

I secretly admit that when NO ONE is looking, every once in a while, I will eat tuna right of the can. It saves on dishes and is awfully expedient and efficient in the delivery of quick protein. However, I can appreciate how much it looks like Miss Ivy’s smaller cans of food and can understand the glare she gives me when she catches me in the act, when she goes into that cat stealth mode that she does so well. The loud meow of “AHA! GOTCHA!” is enough to make your blood freeze. I may have to stop that.

8-Blocking the sandbag
When I picked her up from the pet store, they gave me one of the toys that she played with, a little cat-sized sandbag that is the perfect size for playing “catch” (or at least her version, run after it and walk away). What has blown me away is her vertical jump to block a throw and then kick it off her hind leg… someday I will get it on film and post it as it is a stunning athletic feat. Clearly she does not get that eye-hand coordination from her adoptive Dad. Continue reading

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Where Did the Little Voice Go?

Pool chairs, Tropicana Hotel, Las Vegas 2007 As any diligent writer would do, whether I am away from home for a weekend or a week, part of my packing routine includes gathering drafts of unfinished blogs, up-to-date outlines of stories I am working on, office supplies to keep the drafts and side notes organized and a reliable little notebook and pen, in case a moment of brilliance strikes when the airplane seat belt sign is on. In a nutshell, my carry-on becomes a mobile Staples store.

When traveling, one never knows when one might be spending unplanned time in the airplane terminal, on the tarmac or on a long layover. By the same token, one never knows when a shift in time zones might lead to a sleepless night. It is with the best of intentions that I ensure I am ready to make the best use of any free time that presents itself to capture the stories and ideas floating around in my head.

However, in the last three major trips, something happened: I did not write. I did not review unfinished blog drafts, I did not scribble any notes, I don’t even think I added more than 10 words to the Notes app on my iPad. What happened?

It is like that little narrator voice that speaks to me and is constantly bombarding me with ideas, phrases and puzzle pieces of dialogue (and often at inconvenient times too, I might add) suddenly disappeared.

It was when I was unpacking from our most recent trip to New Orleans that I realized Continue reading

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My Grown-Up Christmas List

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAs we get into the home stretch for holiday and Christmas preparations, one cannot help but notice the Christmas music playing in shopping malls, in stores, on the radio and in every television commercial. One in particular that I have been really enjoying is “My Grown-Up Christmas List”. Composed in 1990 by David Foster and Linda Thompson, the tune is a timely reminder that Christmas is not just about consumerism but it is about kindness, good will, respect and generosity of spirit. Check out the lyrics, it really is a pretty song!

However, on a much less serious note, I find myself reinterpreting the song, time and time again, thinking how life would be so perfect if life’s minor annoyances were eradicated. This my friends, is my grown up Christmas list:

-Perforated products such as paper towels and toilet paper that will actually tear off on the provided perforations.

-For tissues to not explode in the washing machine.

-For the safe return of socks that have gone missing from the laundry.

-For TV networks to not conspire and load up Sunday evenings with some of the week’s best television shows and create a scheduling nightmare for my PVR.

-Football games that run long and exacerbate the problem of recording the multitude of programs I need to record on Sunday evenings.

-Cling wrap that actually clings to what you want it to cling to, not everything else… including itself. Continue reading

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Digital Amnesia

It was perhaps just one month ago that I heard the expression “digital amnesia” for the first time. Well, there is a chance I may have read about it or heard about it before, but I probably forgot.

After a bit of digital research, it would seem that digital amnesia can be interpreted four ways:
– Forgetting things that used to get committed to memory, such as telephone numbers, when technology removes the need for us to remember and use them on a regular basis;
– An increasing challenge in performing functions that technology can do for us more efficiently but that were previously done manually, such as math;
– Not relying or trusting our memory and reaching for the phone to remember or prove something; or
– Forgetfulness when it comes to details, due to the constant influx of information from so many sources that our brains do not have enough time to process, digest and retain.

While I quite appreciate the idea of the unlimited potential of the brain and the theory that we are only harnessing a fraction of what it is capable of doing, it does seem like a bit of a departure from conventional thinking to consider that the brain does have its limits and that we are there when it comes to information overload.

For example, when it comes to details, I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in a conversation and stumbling to try to accurately quote something I heard on TV, on the radio, or through one of the social media platforms I read regularly. When combined with the flood of emails I receive daily at work and in my personal accounts, as well as my friends’ Facebook posts and tweets from my fellow writers and runners, it’s a wonder that with that quantity of factoids in my head I am able to recall anything.

Or worse yet, God forbid I should start mixing up stories such as things I read about products to keep the cat off my kitchen counter with solutions to help deal with unwanted body hair. That could be disastrous on many levels.

At first, I just thought that Continue reading

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A Taste of Retirement

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Andrew Haydon Park, September 2015

Just before turning 50, I decided that my birthday present to myself was to take two weeks off from work for an easy-going staycation.

Originally, my partner and I had kicked around the idea of a trip to California to celebrate the big occasion, but a lower Canadian dollar made our trip to New York City in the spring a little more expensive than expected. Combined with a special assessment from my condominium corporation, there was a little dent in my cash flow which made California a little pricey at that point in time. After tossing around a few other more affordable ideas, just chilling close to home seemed to be the option that resonated most with me.

It did not take long to find the benefits of two weeks off to take life at a gentle pace, away from the commuting, the meetings and the deadlines. Also, given that I did not have a pressing list of appointments or major home maintenance projects ahead of me, a fairly quiet two weeks increasingly appealed to me. Reconnecting with life’s simple pleasures would be good for the soul: good sleep, good food, time to write, fresh air and exercise.

Vacation time kicked off with an exciting overnight trip to Toronto for a chance to see Janet Jackson in concert. I could not say no to the idea of crossing “Miss-Jackson,-if-you’re-nasty” off my bucket list of concerts, especially since I had never seen one of her live shows before but was always a huge fan of her music and videos.

The opportunity to see Janet worked out beautifully as a way of launching the vacation in style while quickly transitioning my mind away from the office. It was a fantastic show, sure to appeal to all loyal fans, in offering a set list of all of her hits and a few new songs from her latest album “Unbreakable”, packaged together in a high energy concert of brilliant dancing, staging and light show. For me, this Janet Jackson concert was definitely worth the wait.

Not long after returning home, the realization that I was on vacation quickly set in. The problem for me is that this sensation usually heralds a nervous energy spurt to start cleaning in the corners I don’t usually have time to get into on a week-to-week basis. But this time, it felt different. Because I wasn’t trying to wedge in a lengthy to-do list in a matter of a few days, I had the luxury of time to just try attacking one or two items per day. This allowed me to keep the rest of the day to myself and to decide in the moment how to spend it.

However, the recent arrival of Ivy the cat Continue reading

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The Graveyard of Blog Posts

Typewriter
In recent months, I seem to be in a weird loop of starting blog posts but not finishing them which seems to be turning my laptop into a graveyard of incomplete blog posts.

I find myself succumbing to the little voice in my head pitching at rapid fire pace, “Hey!… What about this for a blog topic?” I start outlining the idea, populating the outline and then before you know it, the little voice pitches another one at me. Sad to say that my enthusiastic little inner voice sometimes has attention span issues too.

Where it becomes a bit of a problem is that the idea seems to run out of steam anywhere between the 300 to 600 word range, when my target for a complete post is between 800 to 1000 words.

Would I be content with a shorter blog post? Of course I would, provided that the post succeeded in saying something meaningful or significant in fewer words. But sadly that is not always the case.

Or, on the other hand, when the post hits my targeted word count, it sometimes lacks a certain “oomph”, a certain je ne sais quoi that I think will have people smiling, giggling or nodding through the post as if they can relate.

In some ways, it is a little like dating, with blog post waiting for the right wording to come along to see if they work well together. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t, and in some cases we’re still waiting.

It really is an exciting time when the “a-ha” moment arrives and a blog post that was started several weeks or months ago finally marries up to that magic idea, phrasing or common thread to tie the idea together and wrap it up in a nice neat bow.

But in some cases, I have to cut myself some slack because in developing a post, I ride that train of thought as far as it goes but sometimes the train only seems to go so far. I then find myself at the end of the line with not much more to say.

Then there are times when I find myself painted in the corner of a blog post and unable to get out to wrap it up with a half decent conclusion (closure is very important to me in a blog post… and in life!)

And sometimes, an idea that seemed to work in my head, once actually translated to the computer screen or to paper, sometimes just doesn’t work. It’s not for a lack of trying, but when I take a step back, draft after draft and think to myself who’s going to read this? For whom will this resonate? What point am I making with this? What am I saying and will anyone care if even I don’t find this compelling?

Surprisingly, I am OK with that. Each blog post holds its own learning experience. So I park it and wait for inspiration to come along.

I guess that is probably how certain artists must feel when they spent years on a work of art, like when we see a classic painting in a gallery saying it was created from this year to that year. (Oh Lord, does that mean some posts will be lingering on my laptop for years?) I guess in my case, that is the way it goes when you have a day job and writing is the second career.

Even though I have roughly 40 incomplete blog posts waiting in the wings, I hope that inspiration will strike when I least expect it and bring me the right words at the right time to complete them. I fervently believe that creativity works that way and that we cannot always control the exact moment when a piece comes to fruition.

Either way, I try not to worry much about it. As long as I publish one quality post per week, I am very happy because I know I am learning and honing my craft every week. In addition, the note taking never ends and a couple of novels are getting written one or two sentences at a time. (I can just imagine the process of putting the jigsaw pieces together in early retirement and eventually forming a manuscript out of them.)

All I can do in the meantime is just keep capturing the ideas as they flow and commit them to paper or computer. I don’t really need to think too hard about what works, my job is just to write it, try to make it work, and hope the piece reaches maturity. If it doesn’t work, park it and try again another day.

After all, if recording artists can spend months in the recording studio to produce 60 minutes of music, or create 40-50 songs but narrow down the selection to 12 on an album, maybe these partial blog posts are like understudies waiting for their big break too.

Maybe I should not regard the “graveyard of blog posts” as a problem but rather a great repository of ideas in development, waiting for the perfect words to come along. At some point they will, it is just a matter of time.

Fellow bloggers, does this happen to you? Is every blog post a winner right out of the gate or do you sometimes need to work at them over time… a lot of time?

Did you enjoy this post? If you did, please know that there are plenty more where that came from! If you haven’t already, you can check out the rest of my blog at andrebegin.net. From there, you can click on the “Follow” button to receive future posts directly in your inbox.
Also, don’t be shy, feel free to tell a friend or to share the link.
Sincere thanks for reading!
Happy Halloween
André

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