Of Feta and Pennies

25 12 2012

I really struggle with Christmas.

I used to be able to “go with the flow” when the kids were smaller, yet, ironically, longer in name. Back then they were kiddies, kidlings, sprogletts or other things longer and more intricate than mere kids. Now they’re proto-adults though, the mystique has evaporated. They’re just as materialistic now as their peers – lost to the tidal wave of marketing and consumerism we wallow in, in the West.

But every now and then, I see little peeks of the great human beings they really are (despite my hand in their parenting!). The things they unexpectedly do that bucks the accepted trend of “me, me, me”. Like First-born the devout vegetarian being more than happy to take on turkey-cooking duties to give her mum a break. (I have a sneaky suspicion that her 4-month stint in Switzerland has brought her back from the Dark Side… she ate bacon yesterday!) Like second-born giving me a hug. Rare, unexpected, but so very obviously heartfelt. And third-born. Well… at least he’s not making more mess just now while he plays his festive gave of Shoot-em-up.

Second-born shared an interesting little dish with us in that never-never time between “normal lunchtime” and “Christmas lunchtime” which can be any time up to and including 6pm, on past experience. This is created by taking  slabs of Feta cheese and baking them in olive oil in the oven for 8-10minutes, then pouring a little honey on the top and grilling them for a little while to brown slightly. Eat when hot (It’s perfect for removing the roof of your mouth before the real meal begins…) with some crackers. Très yummy.

So you may recall I mentioned a local wag leaving pennies around on the park benches yesterday. I was out in the Christmas Day snow this morning, walking the dog again. I have no idea of their motivation for placing them, but today I felt a little saddened that about half of the pennies were no longer there. Then I remembered that one potential motivation was to place them there for some poor soul to whom a mere penny or two might make a difference. If that really was the motivation, then it was totally fine for the pennies to be gone. That indeed was potentially the point. Ignoring my more base instinct that some thieving sod had simply run off with them, I chose to add the few pennies in my own pocket to the missing slots as I negotiated the pathways of our little park, occasionally engaging other people in brief exchanges of potentially sincere goodwill as I did so.

It just seemed appropriate.

Us weirdos need to support each other. Even if we don’t know why. Just because it’s different. A stand against homogeneity. And especially because ultimately, it’s Quite Irrelevant.

The clatter of serving spoons on pans and dishes is beckoning me to the annual festival of gluttony. I wish you all a healthy New Year, and commend “The Random Act of Kindness” to you. Smile at a stranger. Put a tin of food in the food bank. Whatever you feel like. Something that makes a positive difference to someone else. Unexpected. And ideally anonymous.

Bugger Christmas – we should do it every day.

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A penny for your thoughts

24 12 2012

Transitions are great times to be reflective. And no – that wasn’t a geek joke. OK – perhaps it was… sometimes I think physics would have been so much more fun at school if I was teaching it.

Whether it’s leaving high school; getting married; getting divorced even; having a child; losing a friend or relative; the end of a millennium… or even the drawing to a close of a “normal” year – the perceived leaving behind of one state and the contemplation of the opportunities ahead seems to be a natural time for us to be a little introspective and contemplative. But Auld Land Syne is just an excuse to drink – let’s be fair! And while we’re at it – what’s that iPhone bagpipes App all about FFS?!

As I walked the dog this morning, in the rainy We(s)t Coast of BC, I was in quite a good mood. A great friend and ex-colleague always quipped that I wasn’t truly happy unless I was miserable, so this good mood was worthy of self-exploration as the rain dripped off my nose.

2012 was certainly an eventful year. I changed jobs – leaving my old employer only a few weeks before the annual bonus was awarded. I like to think I do things because it’s right, not because it’s necessarily advantageous to me. I recently watched a TED talk about the shame question around abortion. Worth a few minutes of your life, no matter which side of the debate you stand on: http://bit.ly/WBoCwb

Anyway, it taught me a couple of things: (i) even great thinkers can over-simplify and (ii) the wartime king of Denmark was my kind of person!

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out– Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Ms Cannold is very careful to show nothing but respect for Niemöller in her TED talk, but points out that though the self-preservation argument is sound (if I don’t stand up for you, why would you stand up for me?) it is not enough. She points to Pricess Di’s stance in the early days of AIDS awareness. Making a public, positive stance and embracing (literally) people who were suffering from HIV and full-blown AIDS. De-stigmatising the disease and making it acceptable to talk about. De-shaming it. Allowing sensible debate and research available to everyone.

Source BBC: 1989: Diana opens Landmark Aids Centre

And then Cannold mentioned the king of Denmark, who allegedly took a moral stance during the war. (Funny, don’t you think? “The” war! There have been so many before and since…). When Hitler demanded the Danes should force Jews to wear yellow stars, he is alleged to have said “sure – along with me and every other Dane”. According to Snopes – the myth busters, this isn’t actually true, but it is true that King Christian X of Denmark and Denmark as a nation did indeed protect many Jews during this particularly loathsome era of European history. Can you imagine the cojones it would take to do that? With no way of knowing what the reaction might be? Just because it was the right thing to do. Now that, dear reader gets my attention.

So – this walk in the park I was mentioning. It was wet and miserable this morning – hence my good mood, I suppose. The local park has several benches overlooking the duck ponds. On less damp occasions, or when people just don’t give a shit and need a rest, they are occupied by the gentle folk of White Rock watching the world go by. My dog on the other hand likes to pee up them. As she performed this doggy version of Twitter (I just went to the park – sniff me sometime!) I noticed that someone had left two pennies on the lower brace of the bench. Sure enough there were two on the other side too. I prodded with a finger to make sure they weren’t glued on (the difference between a statement and a prank).

Ha – so this got me thinking. What was the statement? I have too many coins in my pocket? If you really need a penny take it? Art? Interesting…

As I walked around the ponds I found the same “installation” on every bench but one. Here’s Spiketta the devil-dog guarding the last but one bench…

What're you looking' at?

Anyway, I returned home in fine spirits, ultimately pleased that I felt loved by those I love, and satisfied with most if not strictly all the choices I had made in 2012. And someone out there was doing weird, unexplained stuff in my manor because they felt like it. I like it that I’m not the only one.

Here’s wishing you a great 2013, and comfort in the choices you’ll make, still ahead of you…