Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Master Key

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On my facebook profile, there's a picture right now that might look a little... incomplete. Folks who have taken a look at my profile before know that that's only about 1/4 of the original picture, which is my grade 1 Queen E photo taken in 1971. I'm a not-very-ripe 5 years old in that picture. This is a rather indulgent post in my blog here because that's what I'm gonna talk about. By now anybody who's only a passive blog reader of Ragnar here has probably bailed right about by now.

In 1971, cigarette ads were banned on TV, School House Rock was born (remember "I'm Just a Bill"? "Conjunction Junction"? "A Noun Can Be, A Noun Can Be, A Person Place or Thing"?), Disney World opened, DB Cooper skyjacked a plane to Seattle (and more recently starred on Prison Break... j/k), Charles Manson was convicted of his monsterisms, "Dirty Harry", "The French Connection" and "A Clockwork Orange" hit theatres, John Lennon's "Imagine" - the Bee Gees "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" - and Three Dog Night's "Joy To the World" hit AM airwaves everywhere. Good old Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister of our fine country at the time, and Nixon was busy doing his best to bury the U.S. reputation worldwide.

I remember my mom bringing me to school for the first time. I'd never been to kindergarten, I'm not even sure there was a kindergarten back then. But I do know that I was very young to be in grade 1. I was always the youngest kid in my class, at least until I began failing grades 7 and 8, and later 12. I cried when Mom brought me to school and left me there. Mrs. Touche (pronounced too-shay) was my teacher, an older lady whom I have to think didn't like kids a whole lot. That seemed to be accepted as the norm back then. Mrs. Touche tested my very young patience throughout the year, and halfway through, when I asked to go to the washroom one day.... "Mrs. Touche..." --she ignored me. My hand was up. A long time. My arm was getting tired and my bladder was beginning to wonder what it did to have it deserve the overload it was experiencing. I know other kids in the class would have been answered a whole lot sooner. Eventually.... "What do you want?" she would snap.

"Can I use the bathroom?" My knees were knocking together because I felt like an overloaded water balloon flirting with a porcupine. "NO you may not!" No pun intended, but boy, that pissed me off. A couple of minutes later, my hand went up again. "Put your hand down, you're not going to the bathroom!" "Alright..." I said. So I let 'er rip right there in my pants all over the floor. "Michael Cook! What are you doing!" "Mrs. Touche, you said I couldn't use the bathroom." The whole class erupted in laughter as the spreading yellowness across the classroom floor invaded everyone's space. Man, I had to go alright! Talk about flooding the ice.

Anyway, my point being here, that I wasn't entirely well liked by my teacher that year. From the getgo. I felt rejected from my first day in school. I didn't have a whole lot of friends, but I did have some. Mostly, those kids were others who were like me, quiet and timid, looking for acceptance. And you know what? That continues to this day. But there's always something going on behind the curtains, right?

When I was that young, my hair wasn't brown. I was a platinum blonde kid, preschool, and it took on other colors as I grew older. In this grade 1 picture, it appeared strawberry blonde. Later, it would morph to dark brown. In this grade 1 picture, here I am, a strawberry blonde youngster, the youngest in his class, and somewhat bewildered at why this man was taking my picture. I didn't get a whole lot of pictures taken of me. I'm the youngest of 7 kids in my family, and judging by the utter lack of pictures of me that young, perhaps taking snapshots of kids was passe in my family. It was more expensive then, too, not like today where you can snap a gazillion pictures on a digital camera for practically nothing. But nonetheless, somebody was taking my picture! That alone is exciting to a kid. Especially me at the time.

My dad was a drinker, from all I can remember. A lot of things happened in his life that seemed to push him to the brink. His brother getting killed in the second world war maybe being the biggest. Recently I learned about another brother of his, Jerry, in Miramichi (then Chatham), losing one of his kids in a fire at home. He tried and failed to save his son, waiting for rescue from his daddy at his bedroom window, only to be thwarted by a ladder that didn't reach high enough. Jerry himself underwent personal turmoil throughout the rest of his life as a result of psychological damage from an event so traumatic. Dad losing his parents, perhaps especially his mother, from natural causes, probably didn't help. He turned to the bottle for comfort, and the bottle caused a lot of trouble at 136 Emmerson Street in Moncton. Dad was loud and obnoxious at times, at all hours of the night. It was not uncommon for us to dwell through the days like zombies because we hadn't gotten any sleep. Money was tight, because Dad drank a lot of it away. At the time, there were probably five or six kids still in that little house. That's a lot of mouths to feed, clothe and take care of on one salary. Take a look at my hair in that picture. It's shaggy and very unkept looking. Probably in need of attention from a barber. It probably wasn't brushed that morning or washed in a bit. This isn't because Mom was negligent, it's because she was overworked. I was cared for, but my mother was spread very thin in those days. She was the toughest, most caring loving person I will ever know or know of. In spite of all the adversity, she never left us, or Dad. She held fast to the vows she took upon marriage. Add to what's going on in the little boy's head in that picture that he's likely very, very tired, somewhat bewildered, a little bit afraid, yet kind of happy that somebody's taking his picture. At that very instant, I let my guard down, until it was time to return to the classroom.

I cropped that picture for my profile on facebook. It closes in on my right eye. The eyes, they say, rather a cliche... are the windows to the soul. True, isn't it? Especially when you hear the stories behind the eyes. Those were big, big brown ones on me. My mom loved my eyes. Always remarked how big and brown and beautiful she thought they were. She always bought me brown shirts, brown sweaters, brown corduroys, all to match my eyes. I grew to hate brown clothes back then, because it's mostly all I had. Today, I see brown very differently. I see my Mom's heart in that color, because that's how she always saw mine, through the windows of my eyes. Interesting to note is, that everyone's eyes are as big when they're born as they are the rest of their lives. I closed in on that one eye because I wanted to also point out that, in light of that fact, the eyes on that kid - the same eyes, same color, same size - are the same eyes that are looking at the MacBook screen that I type this on right now. Those windows never change. They might get a bit more blurry! But that same kid is still me. I have the same qualities, the same hangups, the same vision and outlook. And, everyone is that kid. We all have those pictures. We were all there, and are here, if we're lucky enough. Every pair of eyes carries with them a history that can hint to everyone where they've been. The stories they tell are vast, and endless. And, perhaps, they carry answers and keys as to why someone is the way they are. Maybe considering that, they can act as a sort of perpetual handbook as to how to treat those people. Or why they do what they do.

But the master key to opening someone's heart and getting past those windows, a key we all own and maybe don't use as much as we should, ALL of us, is Love. We shouldn't forget that we have that key in our pockets at all times. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, every year, for all of our lives.

Have you used your master key lately?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The More Things Change......

Alexandra's just getting over the formidable Pig Flu, but right now she's over on the PC playing Webkinz at the moment.  The doc gave her a free pass from school for a week last weekend, and she didn't suffer a heck of a lot, more like a really bad cold more than anything.

There's an awful lot of alarmist rhetoric going around about this H1N1 thing.  I know some people have died from it.  I also know some people die of the flu every single year.  A whole lot more people die of car accidents they're not expecting to be in either, or of heart attacks they never saw coming, and I bet every minute someone somewhere dies falling out of bed somewhere in the world.  Fact of the matter is, if your time is up, you're going.  If some kind of flu doesn't nail you, something will someday, so relax and enjoy they ride.  It doesn't last forever.  Neither does the flu.

The three of us just got back from the Y after a pretty good round of exercise in the gym.  We've been going very steadily now since April, and speaking for myself, I've never been in better shape than I am now.  I know if you're a guy reading this, there's a fair chance that you're wondering if you could beat me in an arm wrestle now, or if your arms are bigger than mine, or you're thinking "I bet I could bench press more than you".  Now most guys don't think that.  But to those who do, I have this to say:  You're right.  You would beat me in an arm wrestle.  Your arms ARE bigger and you CAN bench press more.  I bet you can piss farther than me too.  In other words, I don't care.  I'm doing this for me, not to measure my penis up against the other guys.  And if Janice likes what she sees, then bonus.  She's the one who sees me more than anyone else.  And she truly is the only one I want to impress.  God forbid, if  we're ever apart, I'll be done with relationships and I'll walk alone.

But, there's nothing like that on the radar that I can see.  We're doing quite well thank you.  Janice is kickin' some serious ass at the gym, going just about every day, pumping up the cardio and also going to taekwondo classes.  She and Alexandra are now working toward their 3rd degree black belts, and maybe with a little luck they'll be able to test in the springtime for it.  She's doing well at the post office that she's managing, save for a bit of employee trouble and growing pains with a new computer setup.

We were at church this morning and saw my brother Rick, but he skipped out quite promptly after mass was over.  Alexandra served on the altar, Janice subbed for someone serving Host and I read second reading.  I'm hoping I'll be on the Christmas mass list of lectors.  I really enjoy doing readings, and it was nice seeing at least one of my family members out there.  Rick's a good friggin' guy, the guardian of the Cook clan, and I think everyone in the family would agree with that.

As of November 3rd, I've been with Vail's Laundry Care for a whole year.  It's had its ups and downs, but I've kind of settled in there.  The money's not super, but the Monday-Friday day shifts definitely are. It's probably most stressful when holidays come around, then we have to work extra hard to get ahead to make up for the time we won't be at the plant.  That's what's happening right now, with Remembrance Day coming up.  Christmas will be even trickier, but we'll get through it.  A Christmas staff party is coming up December 12, which I won't be attending.  I'm not big on those.  Last time I was at a staff party was for the Shoppers Drug Mart I last worked for, and I even had to be prodded a fair bit to go to that one.  Before that, it was years since I'd been to a staff party.  I don't my guard down around a lot of people.  Janice and Alexandra of course, my buddy Pete, some family members (not all though), and my pal Marshall at work, but not really hardly anyone else.  If you're reading this and I didn't mention you, don't be offended.  It doesn't mean I don't value you immensely.

Yesterday we took a little day trip to the Calais, Maine, for one of our fun little trips to get a bunch of treats we can't find here in Canada.  Holy crap, what haul we got!  We actually might've overdone it.  But, we'll have lots of fun knocking down the quantities of stuff that we got.  We gave Lex some American cash to get some things that would interest her, so we all did some shopping to get stuff that tickled our fancies.  But I was disappointed in not finding any KISS stuff that was supposed to be made available at Wal Marts everywhere with the release of their "Sonic Boom" CD.  There was nothing at all.  There was supposed to be Mr. Potato Heads, M&Ms, fleece blankets, t-shirts, trading cards and lots of other stuff, but there was nothing.  What a disappointment.  Still, we got lots of other stuff.  We stopped at Rotten Ronnie's for a bite, and Janice and me got a bacon cheese Angus burger.  Wow, was that great!  In a blind taste test, I bet no one would guess that it was a Micky D's burger.  Lex got a hot chocolate after her meal that I tried and it nearly melted my lip right off my face.  Holy shit-- they looking for another lawsuit or something?  I thought I'd just put a branding iron to my mouth.  Anyway, on the way out of Calais at the border, we made sure Janice was at the wheel because we had a lot of booty.  She put the charm on with the border guard, offering him the receipts we had, joked with him a bit and we got through without paying any duty.  A note to any families going south for any reason via land... get the wife behind the wheel to do the talking on the way back.

I was at the doctor's this week to follow up on my kidney stone problems.  He kindly informed me that I have four (4) stones in my left kidney.  FOUR stones!!!  "Are you kidding me?  Seriously?"  "Afraid so.  But hey, look," he assured me, "people can have stones in their kidneys all their lives and they may never pass them.  They may be so small that you'd never know it."  Ultimately, I've got four time bombs in my kidneys ready to wreak havoc on my sanity, possibly.  In any case, he's sending me to a urologist to figure out a plan of action and figure out what I might be able to do about it.  Honestly, I'm not worried.  I've got my Oxycodone and Percocets if I need them and I'll just have to deal with it if/when the time comes.

I am looking forward tomorrow (Nov. 9) to getting a car starter installed.  With installation it came in at under $200 and it's gonna be plenty worth it when the sub zero temperatures start becoming commonplace.  Speaking of November dates, it's my friend Michelle's birthday at the time I type this.  And she's celebrating with her own bout with the H1N1 virus.  Michelle, if you're reading, get better soon and keep staying in touch via your status lines on facebook.  Also in November, on the 28th exactly, is our anniversary.  Eleven years!  That's quite freaky really.  But when things are going good, time flies.  I have to say that time's going at warp speed.  But, we enjoy every minute.  We go out to eat somewhere every year, and since on the evening we got married at the Wesleyan Church back in 1998 there was a Santa Claus parade on an icy frigid Saturday night, this year there it's also on a Saturday night with a Santa Claus parade.  That night we got married (by surprise, at least for her), I'd planned on bringing her to Swiss Chalet.  No dice, it was packed.  How about Ponderosa?  Closed.  Boomerangs?  Forget it.  With time ticking, we were all decked out for the Nutcracker at the Capitol Theatre (which was non-existant and just a rouse to get Janice dressed up to get married... again, unbeknownst to her), we opted for Wendy's!  We had to have been quite a site, all decked out for the end of the world chowing down on burgers and fries with root beer.  We joked yesterday... only halfways really... that we should return to Wendy's in memory of the occasion.  This time with Alexandra, who when we got married that night was actually waiting at the church for us to arrive.  Little 2 year old Lexy even did a little burlesque dance at the reception reciting the Barney "I Love You" song.

I am, as of right now, 186 lbs.  I told Janice if I got down to 175, I'd wear a Speedo and go swimming at the Y with it.  That would scare most people, but she's chomping at the bit to get that to happen.  Problem there is, I think I'm gaining muscle and losing fat, so.... could be tricky.  Janice herself is doing amazingly well along with Lex, with both of them going to TOPS.  Janice is down something like ten pounds or something, maybe more, and Lex is down around five or so.  I'm really, really proud of both of them.

We saw an old friend we haven't seen in ages in Sara Carter, who visited us here at the house on Friday night as we had some fun with Wii games.  That girl plays a mean guitar on Rock Band, let me tell you! And funny, holy frig... there's a Wii Fit game that she brought over, and the motions and body movements you have have to make with some of those things--- it's pretty hilarious.  But the vibe that we had that evening was like we never skipped a beat hanging out, even though Sara hadn't been around in years.  But things kind of reverted back to happier times and now it feels as if though things are as they were.  I would hope Sara would agree.  She's such a sweetheart, and there's such a sweet connection between her and Alexandra.

I guess that's going to be it for this outing.  Thanks for checking in, and please come back!

JANICE says:

K, well I have to chime in on a few things. I want to get Mike down to 175 lbs so that he will come to the Y and go swimming in a Speedo. I think all well proportioned men should wear Speedo bathing suits. I myself do not care what he wears because he is perfect just the way he is. I just think a Speedo is a bonus. Lex and I are members of TOPS because we need to change our eating habits. Speaking for myself I need to lose some weight so that my arthritis would be easier to manage. Lex just needs to learn to watch her portions. I am really proud of her, she is doing really well. She has become somewhat of a pet there to our fellow members. As for the gym, I really do like going there because I feel so good after I leave. I am back at TKD with Lex, and it is so nice to have our old master Chris back teaching and you can just see he is happy. I am so glad for him and his wife Tina (plus one, plus one in the oven!). As Mike said it is our anniversary in a few weeks, and I love the fact that we still look forward to being together every day. I believe we truly were meant to be together forever. I know he is reading this. I Love You Honey. That is all I have for now night all