Craicmonkey’s Storytime Delight #2

I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen

This has fast become a favourite amongst MNJ staff… oh, and you can use it for storytime as well. Bear has lost his hat and he wants it back, desperately. No one knows where it is; or do they? Geared toward a slightly older crowd (the wee ones might not “get it”) this book has simple dialogue, minimal, yet intriguing illustrations, and just the right amount of tension make this a fun story to read.

Do Pigs Have Stripes? By Melanie Walsh

Everyone knows that birds have big black wet noses, right? Oh. Well, mice have green spiky tails, of course. No? Well then what is going on here? This is a great book for younger kids, but the older ones can get into is as well. Perfect for audience participation, it gives the reader a chance to ham it up as they bumble their way through a series of animal misidentifications.

From Head To Toe by Eric Carle

I am a penguin and I turn my head… well, I’m not really a penguin, but I can turn my head like one. Can you do it? A delightful classic for young ones just learning about animals and their own bodies, also great for getting groups up and participating in the story; this book combines Eric Carle’s distinctive art with simple motions that start at the head and go all the way down to the toes, all the while giving positive reinforcement. “I can do it!”

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Messages from a floundering swimmer

I swim like my mother.

Last Monday I went for what I hope to be my first regular swim. Now that I have, for the foreseeable future, hung up my running shoes (yes, it still pains me to think about it) I desperately needed to find something to fill the void. In the weeks since I stopped running I noticed a marked change in my emotional, psychological, and, of course, physical self. As my agitation and my weight continued to grow, I knew that I needed to find out outlet soon, or I might regress back to the version of me that I swore I would never again become; and so I decided on swimming. The thing is, I’ve never been a strong swimmer. Swimming has, in fact,  never been something that I overly enjoy doing. I can’t time my breathing well enough to do a front stroke, I’m paranoid of running into people and/or walls when I swim on my back, and my legs are forever pulling me to the bottom like some sort of lead weight. Yet, I own a pair of swim trunks, the pool has hours that accommodate my schedule, and I can get a discount as a City employee, and I did take lessons as a child and am capable of not drowning; therefore, I went swimming on Monday night.

Before I left for the pool, I was determined to spend 90 minutes in the water. I didn’t know if this was feasible, but I wanted something concrete and challenging to keep me going. The first half hour, I soon realized, was still in the midst of public swim time, and so I did my best to swim laps whilst dodging other swimmers, inflatable balls, and stray flutter boards. As 9:00 came round the pool started to clear out, the swim lanes were marked, and the serious swimmers took to the pool; and by serious swimmers I mean senior citizens, but I had no problem with my company as we all seemed to be equally focused and respectful of each other’s space.

I had been swimming for about 45 minutes and feeling good. Sure I wasn’t breaking any speed records and I was taking a moment between laps to rest, but for the most part I was feeling quite pleased with my progress, except for one area: my actual progress in the water, that is to say, my ability to propel myself forward in an effective manner. It was ay this point that I realized two things. First, the particular strokes I was using, a modified breast stroke and side stroke, were not very powerful; and secondly, these very strokes are the ones that my mom always used when she swam. Yes, I swim like my mother. For a half moment I was slightly mortified, but that quickly passed as I realized that it really didn’t matter what I looked like. In fact, as I was slowly gliding on my side I had a brief flash of nostalgia of being a kid again in the pool with my mom; so much so that when I got to the end of the pool I rested with my arms along the pool deck, slowly bicycling my legs in the water, just like my mother used to do (I also made a point of phoning my mother and telling her just that. She seemed pleased.)

With that, it was back to the lengths.

I finished up my 90 minutes and left the pool feeling satisfied with my effort, but with a singular, nagging notion. This was no replacement for running; a substitute, yes, but not a replacement. I’m not sure how long it will take for me to get passed this; how long it will take me to stop looking longingly at runners who pass me by; how long it will take for me to stop telling people how I used to run, but can’t any more. However, I am looking forward to my next swim, of that I am sure. I remember how awkward I felt when I started running, so I have to expect the same with my time in the water. Maybe I’ll add a couple of different strokes to my repertoire in the future, but until then I’ll just take it one pool length at a time, knowing that I will make it to the end; it just might take me a while…

… after all, I swim like my mother.

It seemed like such a simple thing…

This post was inspired by an hour-long session of me trying to fix a sink.

Four easy steps to removing my bollocks:

  1. Pick a seemingly straightforward household project
  2. Attempt seemingly straightforward household project
  3. Fail*
  4. Sulk away from project muttering, “Why does this have to be so fucking difficult? Why does this have to be so fucking difficult?…”

*In this case, fail can refer to anything from an utter and total cock-up to my not completing the project to my unrealistic standards (ie. a regular cock-up)

Today’s random neurosis deals with the wonderous world of DIY. If there is one thing that taps into my primal sense of masculinity and threatens it to its core, it’s do-it-yourself projects. Seriously. From constructing a back yard deck to hanging a shelf, I have yet to make it through a project without thinking to myself, at least once, “A real man would have finished this in half the time. What the hell is wrong with me?” Do I have any formal training in carpentry, plumbing, or electrical wiring? No. Does this make a difference? You’d think it does, and in the back of my mind I know it does, I really do; and yet this rather significant factor seems to always get pushed back into the recesses of my brain, somewhere beyond the spot where my anger likes to hang out and percolate, waiting for that moment; that special moment when I’ve already invested too much time for my liking and I realize that very little progress has been made; that special moment when my anger finally boils over as I clinch my fists, arch my back, flex my pectoral muscles, and a seething “goddamnit!” seeps forth through teeth fused together with enough force to produce diamonds. It is a special moment indeed.

It’s funny, really. After all those years assisting my dad with household projects; watching him react to his own shortcomings, listening to his cursing (“You bugger” was a standard) and self-abasement, and thinking to myself that I would not become my father; I have, essentially, become my father. You bugger! Now, I haven’t got around to asking my father what was going on in his head during these lovely father-son bonding sessions, so I don’t know exactly what was behind his ill feelings, but I am pretty sure what fuels my ire. For one reason or another, I have a list of criteria stamped into me head that, if not met, somehow, in my mind, reduces my status as a man. They are, in no particular order:

  1. Ability to build shit around the house
  2. Ability to fix shit around the house
  3. Ability to talk shit about motor vehicles
  4. Ability to fix shit on motor vehicles
  5. Ability to set up and maintain a proper camp site, and do basic survival shit.

Is this list archaic? Yes. Is this list sexist? Yes. Is this list irrational? Yes. Do I consider myself archaic, sexist, and/or irrational? No. So… what the hell? What the hell, indeed. I have no idea why I think this way. Wait, that’s a lie. I do know why I think this way, at least partially. I suppose I see these as some of the traditional bonding points for men, and I guess I find myself at a loss when I find myself in the company of men and these subject are brought up; I simply cannot hold up my end of the conversation. Keeping this in mind, when I attempt to take on a project, and I am unable to complete it to my satisfaction, it reinforces these feelings of inadequacy; only I tend to act out on them more when I’m on my own, because I realize how idiotic I’d seem if I started to tense up and mutter to myself while in a social situation; not that the private show is all that endearing (just ask my wife).

This, however, is not all that there is to it. No, this particular rabbit hole goes deeper. As it happens, even if I am able to finish a project, and even if it does turn out, I still find it difficult to take any pride in my work. It’s simply that, with every project, I know exactly where I had to fudge the job; I know where the mistakes were made; I know the spot where I had to perform a half-assed patch job in order for the final outcome to look half decent. All the while I’m thinking to myself, “Seriously, I wish I could figure out how to do this properly like all those other guys.” Let’s be clear, I have no idea who these other guys are. They are phantoms, shades, bullshit Jungian archetypes that may or may not exist; but to my pissed off self, at this very moment, they are real; and they are judging me, shears at the ready to remove my testicles as payment for my ineptness. It’s no small wonder that I have a list of projects that I am hesitant to start; Mr. Positivity I am not. Give me IKEA assembly any day; that I can do.

Ah, well. I suppose I should get back to the sink. It seemed like it would be such a simple thing. Why does it have to be so fucking difficult?

You bugger.