Craicmonkey’s Storytime Delight #3

The Mixed Up Chameleon by Eric Carle

Chameleon has a pretty simple life; maybe a little too simple. An encounter with animals at the zoo has the chameleon thinking about how much better off he would be if he were more like a polar bear, or maybe a giraffe, or maybe even a fox. Careful what you wish for, Chameleon. This story, beautifully illustrated by Carle, teaches children to appreciate themselves for who they are. Sure it’s neat to dream about being someone else, but never forget who you really are, or you may not be able to catch the fly.

Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha

Mr. Gilly is a trashman and he loves to clean up Trashy Town. Join Mr. Gilly as he drives around picking up trash cans. Have the children help you and Mr. Gilly as he adds more and more trash into his trash truck, “dump it in, smash it down, drive around the Trashy Town.” Hey, everyone, “Is the trash truck full yet?” Fun, simple illustrations and phrase repetition help to keep the children involved.

Mortimer by Robert Munsch

It’s bedtime for Mortimer, but how can a boy keep quiet in bed when all he wants to do is sing? One of Munsch’s shorter stories, it works well as a last minute addition to a storytime that otherwise may not be going so well; but be prepared to belt out a song as the children join in by stomping up the stairs, opening the door and yelling, “MORTIMER! BE QUIET!”

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Messages from a floundering swimmer. Part 2, The company I keep.

I’ve gone swimming a few times now. Monday nights are my swimming nights. I go to a smaller facility, one that doesn’t seem to be too busy around 8:30 PM, which is when I tend to pull up. By the time I get to the pool, the water toys have been put away, the families are gone, and the lanes have been marked off: Slow, Medium, Fast. I hop in the slow lane and survey my fellow waterborne humans. There are a few faces that I’ve already come to recognize. There’s the Asian woman whose side stroke rivals mine; the Asian man who wears the flotation device around his torso; the 6 ft.-something Caucasian who swims effortlessly in the fast lane; the Saddam Hussein look-alike who stays propped up in the corner of the deep end all evening; the Polish guy who flirts with the lifeguard and looks like a Cold War era Bond villain; and his friend, the Spanish guy who wears biking shorts and is convinced of Barcelona’s superiority in football. There are others, but they spend so much of their time actually swimming that I see only their moving limbs and bobbing heads. There are also the extras; the group of men who don’t actually seem to get into the pool, but rather migrate back and forth between the steam room and the whirlpool. Then there’s me, the short, hairy guy who still hasn’t got around to buying a proper lock and so has an orange locker key pinned to his trunks. Occasionally others come and go from the water, but other than a very few, I am the youngest occupant by quite a bit; and I’m fine with that. I must admit that I did feel a bit odd at first, sharing the sparsely populated pool with a group of middle- and senior-aged folks, but the more I thought about it, the more I came to accept their company.

A couple of weeks back I went to the gym to exercise. I hated it. I hated the feeling I had being there. The moment I set foot amongst the myriad of devises and the fit specimens that occupied them, I felt completely out-of-place. I felt inadequate, embarrassed, and awkward. I’ve always had the feeling that I have no business being in a gym unless I’m already in phenomenal shape. Yes, I know that one of the purposes of the gym is so that people can get into shape; it rarely seems that way to me. Looking across the floor at the guys lifting weights only served to reinforce this.

“What’s that?” you say, “Yet another instance of low self-esteem? Surely not you?”

Ha ha. Very funny. Shut up.

Yet here, in the pool during the evening lane swim, I fell relaxed. I won’t say that I don’t still feel awkward or inadequate, because the truth still remains that I am a shit swimmer; but these feelings are not debilitating or prohibiting the way they are in the gym environment. Rather, I take a breather when I need one and look around to notice that most of the others in the pool are doing the same thing. I stay to the slow lane and leave the fast lane to those who are able to utilize it the best. I eavesdrop occasionally as the Polish guy and the lifeguard compare differences of the Slavonic languages. I focus on completing one pool length at a time, at my own pace; all the while taking delight in the fact that my fellow poolmates have made the effort to get out and spend some time this evening and do some swimming, or at the very least, some floating.

I still have not reached the point where I can say I enjoy swimming, but I can say that at least I found a place that I can exercise and feel at least somewhat comfortable in my own skin; which is good, because I just happen to have a lot of skin showing.

Circulations of a pedestrian cyclist, Part 2. In which I start out…

My first ride of the season was a success… sort of.

The morning starts out with me scrambling to get my gear together, which, for anyone who knows me, is typical. The morning is crisp, but comfortable as I set out for work. As I had said in my previous post, I was determined to ride on the roadway as much as possible and so to the shoulder of 97th Street I venture. Very quickly I discover something that I hadn’t really thought about; the roads had yet to be visited by the street sweepers and so there was a winter’s worth of sand and grit lining the roads. As I skid and slog through the man-made sand bank, churning up an irritating dust cloud, I realize I have to venture further into the drive lane to escape these sand traps. I am not wholly comfortable with this, but I know that, ultimately, this is what I had set out to do.

Well, this isn’t that bad, I think to myself as I move quite harmoniously with the morning rush hour traffic. However, as I pass 137th Avenue, there is a marked change in the quality of road. I am traveling in the curb lane, the very same lane that buses travel in. As a result, the surface has become a ragged path of cracks, ruts, and potholes, as the soft asphalt presents itself in varying stages of age and decay. Speaking of age, my bike is old. My bike is cheap. My bike is not equipped with shocks of any kind. I notice that my jaw is becoming sore as I have been instinctively clinching my teeth for the past three blocks. Each imperfection in the road, it may go without saying, is being mapped on my arse.

I am about halfway to work; teeth clenched, arse assaulted, quads burning, breathing heavy, as I do my best to keep a quick pace so as to not hinder traffic, though I must say my fellow travelers are being most kind to me, if not indifferent when I think to myself, this seems to working out quite nicely… oh, shit! What was that? What just happened?

With a metallic ping, and my body quickly sliding backwards, I get across 118th Avenue and swerve to the curb just as my seat falls away from its post and drops to the ground.

Brilliant.

Surprisingly, especially for me, I am not upset at this turn of events, even as I stare at the naked post protruding from the frame of by bike and ponder whether or not I could make it the rest of the way sans seat. I quickly disregard the idea as I snap back to reality and scan the road for debris. There, in the middle of the road, is the missing half of the bracket that, up to a moment ago, had been securing my seat to the sadistic looking pike that remains. I wait for a break in the traffic and then run out to collect the hardware. As I examine it I see that the bolt that secures the seat and bracket to the post has snapped. This firmly dashes any thoughts of a quick roadside mend and off again. I will not ride and walking will take too long, but lo! what is that on yonder horizon? ‘Tis a bus, and yea what foresight that I did pack my transit pass! I secure my bike to the front of the bus and I am on my way to work.

Over the lunch hour I go to the Sport Chek downtown to see what I can find in the way of seats. They have quite a few seats; only seats. Seats with no brackets, no posts, no hardware; just seats. Fortunately, one of the bike techs on duty is able to wrangle up a spare bolt, “from a pair of roller blades” in a box behind the desk. At this point I’ll try anything. I thank the young man and return to work to try out my find. I am delighted to see that the bolt, though different in design from the original, nonetheless fits. I am fairly confident I’ll be able to ride home.

My work day ends and I straddle my bike, once more ready to take on the streets. Seriously, if it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic about this aspect, it’s probably because I am; but it’s also because, up to this point, I didn’t think I had the attitude, the confidence, essentially, the balls, to properly ride on the road. I exit the loading dock and head out, strangely confident in my lunch time fix-up job. My handy work is quickly tested as the roads are just as rough on the way home. Add to this a perpetual wind blowing out of the north into my face, an unending pileup of sand that threatens to push me further and further into traffic, quads that once again are alight with lactic acid, and I am presenting the passing motorists with a puzzle: am I smiling, or am I grimacing with pain?

As I approach 137th Avenue, I can see the traffic start to get muddled as vehicles are entering and exiting from various positions. I take this opportunity to cheat and ride up on the curb and take a breather at the light. I figure I can ride for a bit on the sidewalk until I get past the bus terminal and the road opens up a bit more. As I make my way across the intersection and then the adjoining cross walk I’m met by a young family crossing the road, the father calling out to me, “Hey! Why don’t you try riding on the road!” Gah! He’s right, of course, and yet there is that part of me who really wants to say, “Piss off! I’m getting there!” That’s what I get for cheating. I immediately get back onto the road and press on, muttering to myself as I fight against the wind and sand blowing against my face. The remainder of the ride is trying, if uneventful. It will take a while for me to get into better shape, so I can’t get too discouraged with my first ride of the season.

That was Wednesday. I awoke Thursday to find the city smothered under a blanket of heavy wet snow.

Yeah, no. I’m not even going to try that…

Circulations of a pedestrian cyclist. Part 1, In which I make a commitment

April 1st and the snow is coming down. Not the most original April Fools joke, but I will give points for execution. Nicely done, Nature. As the snow falls I am thinking about cycling. Truthfully, I was thinking about cycling before I woke up to a white blanket covering the city. In fact, I have been thinking about cycling since Thursday, at least. I have been feeling particularly fidgety this week. Even with a good swim on Monday, I nevertheless have been itching to get out and be active. Problem is that I haven’t been able to motivate myself to pick something and go for it. Then I figured, the weather has been so nice as of late, present day excluded, I should start cycling to work. Suddenly I found myself making an on-the-spot commitment to cycle to work at least three times a week. There. Done.

Although it may seem hasty, I really do plan to stick to this commitment…

Fine. Is everyone finished rolling their eyes? Then I’ll continue…

Of course I’ve made commitments to myself in the past; many that have fallen by the wayside. This time, however, I am feeling a bit more determined; the reason being, pain. I am not unfamiliar with pain. There was a time when I was in some kind of pain almost every day, but it was a pain that was the result of physical activity. It was a pain that I was proud of, because it told me that my body had been working. No, this is a new kind of pain; a pain that I am not fond of. I find myself to be suffering from the pain of inactivity. Stiff muscles and joints, a ball of pure evil in my lower back, the absurd amount of effort it takes to produce some sort of momentum; I am becoming inactive and I don’t like it at all. What adds insult to the injury, of course, is that I am totally aware of what’s happening. I know I should be more active. I know I should get out there and move. Once again I’ve come to the startling realisation of how important running was to my life. I had forgotten how long it took me to get comfortable with running, all the time and effort I put into it, and the feeling I got from participating. I took my running for granted, and now I am dealing with the consequences of not having it.

With this in mind, I am going to dedicate myself to becoming active again. I started with swimming on Mondays, and I will continue by cycling to work. This will be crucial because, just like my lunch hour runs in the past, it will help to develop a routine. Without the routine this will just be another commitment that dissolves into nothing. Without the routine, I will fail.

Therefore, starting next week I will take to the streets; and streets it will be. To the pedestrians, you will no longer have to worry about be buzzing you along the sidewalks as I am determined to travel by road alone. To the other cyclists out there, who have long braved the roads of our fair city, I thank you for inspiring me to grab a set of balls and actually ride on the road. To the motorists of Edmonton, especially those who travel 97th Street, I ask for your patience and consideration; I’m pedaling as fast as I can.

One more thought. Someone asked me a while ago if I would ever consider training for a triathlon. I said no, because I’m not that interesting in cycling and I’m a crap swimmer. Funny how it seems to have come about that I am now attempting to swim and cycle now that the running is done. It will be interesting to see where I take this. Who knows, maybe one day…

… but first, I’ll need to inflate my tires.