Cold doubt

What if this daily writing project itself is spurred on by misplaced motivations, unhealthy impulses, un-analyzed desires?

What if it’s adding a stress and burden of production to a reality that doesn’t need it?

What if it’s trying to “force” something that just needs to be let alone?

What if the better choice is to simply work dutifully, be a loving husband and dad, and lay to rest these literary pursuits?

What if the very concepts I’m preaching on are invalid, or dangerous? What if I’m wrong?

What if I’m motivated to be a published author through erroneous influences, and I need to better interrogate those impulses?

What if my true calling lies elsewhere? Like here, at home, with my family, not doggedly pursuing the approval of an unknown agent, publisher, editor or readership.

I don’t know for sure the answer to any of these questions.

I ask myself for perspective, but my body simply returns the answer, “I’m cold.” I’ve been wearing a winter jacket and a toque while I write tonight. The coldness has been throwing off my ability to read my own emotional realities and spiritual senses.

I know that I’ve committed to a create-daily project. That I technically give myself the grace to rest from it when I need it. That if I’m wrong, I will learn. That it’s building a muscle and a habit that I want to improve. That I very well could be simply contributing more noise onto the internet at the expense of my own well-being.

I’ll say tonight: “Hey, doubt. I hear you. Thanks for trying to help. I’m going to give you a voice so I can hear what you have to say, and we can keep talking a bit.”

I’d love to round it out with a clear, bold, galvanizing response, but all I got is this: I’m a little cold.


Spice Girls 2020

Some Canadian night, in the years between 1996 and 1997, my family and I were watching Hockey Night in Canada when the transmission was punched through with a blinding burst of light and colour, sound and song and dance. In the middle of the hockey broadcast, a music video began to play.

Though nobody in our family knew it at the time, the band was the Spice Girls, and the song was Wannabe. I think the music video was being used to galvanize viewership during a lull or intermission, and would cut away to feature rock ’em-sock ’em hockey highlight images as a way to capture attention with an on-the-rise pop group.

Instead of capturing the attention of this two-channel-over-bunny-ears family, it was like having the signal scrambled. Chaos erupted. What’s this? I imagine a parent rose to block the screen’s content with their own physical form, though again, I can not confirm if that happened.

For me, back at Hockey Night, I didn’t know what to make of it. A 10 or 11 year old Kevan saw it more as an interruption to the hockey game, and thought the singing group was “stupid” and “weird.”

In the intervening years, in my creative experimentation with technology, I created a satirical website called “The Spice Gorillas” to mock the group. I used Front Page Express to build the website. I borrowed the names of the actual group (“Sporty Spice”), and creating parody content that mimicked natural-geographic writing to describe each of these pretend primates’ habits and habitats. It featured images of unique gorilla species’ I had borrowed from a CD-ROM encyclopedia.

Tasteful? No. Mature? No, literally childish; it was content created by a youth.

This year, now that Spotify has reached its digital fingers into the past and resurfaced all music, the song Wannabe began playing in my house, thanks to algorithms and our kids’ predilection for danceable pop. For one of the first times, I began paying closer attention to the actual words of this song.

Lines like:

You want my future? Forget my past.


Taking is too easy, but that’s the way it is.

24 years removed from this original, uninvited debut, I’m hearing these words in a new way.

I’m hearing a group of women say something incredibly powerful — a bold, colourful, provocative group was trying to share a message that we’ve all needed this whole time.

Allow me to translate the words from Wannabe into contemporary language:

If I communicated my actual needs and desires, would you hear them? Or would you just project your own interests on to me?

Are you interested in me as person, or just an idea?

Can you see me holistically, and imagine a healthy future for me?
Can you see my past and let it be what it is?

My time and life, they matter to me. Don’t treat me poorly.
Are you willing to do your own work of maturing?

If you’re interested in me, see me holistically.
See my relationships and friends.
I’m not temporary, I don’t disappear, and what I want is real friendship.
If you’re interested in me, choose to be a participant and a contributor.
Don’t see me as an object to consume.
Don’t let yourself follow the status quo patterns of a consumer culture and expect to simply take what you want. 

That’s my manifesto. Are you inspired and aligned?
It’s what I care about. Can you handle that?
I’m only interested in people who are real and authentic.
If you can’t show up like that, I’m walking away.

[Additional rapping and singing ensues]

This episode came to mind this week as I heard of people’s reactions to the Superbowl half-time show.  All I can offer is the translated words of the Spice Girls of my own much-too-slow discovery of their message.


Attention economy

We have an attention economy in our house.

The attention we all want is Kendra’s.

“Mama, look!” Theo will say, demanding one-on-one attention on his latest dance, lip-sync, costume or performance.

Ben will barge in with a question. “Mama! Can I…” [usually associated with gaining access to a specific piece of technology]

“Mama!” Addie will holler, showcasing her latest illustrated work of art and storytelling.

But Rosie is the primary advertiser. “Mama!” she’ll declare.

“Hi mama,” she’ll chirp, and cheerily climb onto her lap.

“Mama?” she’ll call, looking for Kendra from around a corner.

“Mama!” she’ll exclaim, worried if there’s no response.

“Mamaaaa,” she’ll wail, if it turns out Kendra’s out and she’s stuck with dad, who just won’t do.

Kendra graciously grants this coveted attention to each of her demanding devotees. Mere listening is not enough, they require eye contact. “Look at me?” Theo will say, whenever we attempt passive “mm-hmms.” He needs engagement, and will be appeased by nothing less.

It’s like sunlight, for photosynthesizing plants. Keep steadily baking under that light, and you’re growing. You’re greening. You’re good. She’s got eyes like a sunbeam, and our family is entirely solar powered.

Tonight at dinner, Theo’s lips were stinging. Cracked lips and citrusy foods made for a distraught Theodore. “Dey aw CWACKED?!” he moaned, erupted into volcanic tears, and stumbled over to Kendra, who was still trying to eat her own meal.

Rosie spotted to the shift of Theo attention, and pushed her plate closer to Kendra, like a cartoon cat, itching to be noticed.

Kendra soon had two small people on her, again, while her own dinner was unfinished. (Don’t worry, I took Theo away.)

In that moment, I saw Kendra’s lack of arms, lack of nourishment, lack of lap. She’s not the sun; she’s a plant herself, craning for nourishment.

And there I am, across the table from here — am I another plant, bending to gain from her glow? Another advertiser, craving hits of Kendra attention? Jockeying for position in the list of never-ending demands for eye-contact and noticing? Or can I somehow be a sun, offering some form of growth-generating warmth, some of my own attention and care, to bring some of the nourishment that’s maybe missing from the life of a misunderstood sun.


Nobody left out

At 8:20 am, I entered Beast Mode. Headphones in, music up, I blitzed our house in clean-up mode. Stashes of kid art, stockpiles of pencils, mountains of recipes, avalanches of things-to-be-krazy-glued — it was all swept up in a foot-stomping, house-storming assault, making up for all the nights we said “we’ll do this later.”

While I cleaned, I turned on an album I hadn’t heard in a long time — earlier in the morning, a forgotten melody line appeared in my mind and I was reminded of it — so I pressed play, and dove in. Later is now.

As I chucked boxes and carted goods to and fro, the over-the-top production of this long-lost music was activating all of my emotional centres. The familiar notes and nostalgic noise were like steam from homemade soup under my nose, bringing tears to my eyes as it soared and swirled.

One part of the song led to an improvised extended interlude featuring a women’s choir, where She is surrounded by uncountable melody and dissonance and percussion and sound, and the voices sing: “We’re going to the house of God, are you coming?”

I had an image in my mind of a cacophonous, jubilant procession. It was led by women, unafraid. It was streamers and brass and loudness and possibility. It was sweeping up all of us, nobody forgotten, not a single soul left alone or on the sidelines. An absurd, decadent, citizen-powered parade.

All this to say, I pictured a future with nobody left out. And it made me cry.


Partner parent

This morning, getting Theo and Rosie changed, Theo spotted a puzzle and brought it to me: “Can we do this?” he asked.

“Oh great,” I thought, rolling my eyes. “A three year old doing a puzzle…let’s get this over with.” I whizzed through the puzzle, assembling it in a flash, barely incorporating Theo’s suggestions (all of which were wrong: “I think this goes here!”), so that we could move on to more age-appropriate activities. Besides, we had a plan; we were getting changed, so we could go outside. Move along.

But when Kendra gets asked by one of our kids to do a puzzle, it’s an entirely different game.

She can see developmental milestones, a gift from her time spent studying human biology at undergraduate and master’s levels, including some paediatrics.

As a parent, she lives into her role as a coach: she identifies tasks the kids need to do, and will attempt to equip and encourage them to do the job.

In the case of a puzzle, she’ll let them do the handling, so they can work on dexterity, motor skills and spatial awareness. She’ll encourage them to do the placing, to notice patterns, and keep trying. She’ll tune in to their own emotional attitudes, encouraging them to persevere, to build resilience. She relies on her experience in rehabilitation as a physiotherapist to do this.

It’s mind-blowing to see her competence step into the ring. For me, I’m so absorbed in my own mental reverie and emotional milieu, lost in my own thoughts and feelings, that I’m brushing past the opportunity. I’m so uninformed about matters of development, that I don’t even know what physical and cognitive milestones to coach them towards.

This was a huge gift when our son Ben was around three years old. On any given day with with Benjamin, I’d be overwhelmed and lost, and quickly blame my own bad parenting for the various freakouts we would encounter. But Kendra began noticing patterns. And that led us to explore with professionals the diagnosis of Sensory Processing Difficulties. It helped us get Ben help from an occupational therapist, alongside a couple other professionals, to help us know how to build in to Ben’s unique reality.

I wouldn’t have even noticed. I would have assumed it was my problem, or a one-off emotional day, or just the general challenges of parenting. Kendra helped us spot that something was consistent.

I say this to point out a few obvious takeaways: Partnership in parenting is so crucial. We each bring different viewpoints to the table, which help round out an understanding of our kids. The skills and perspectives each parent has is a gift.

Secondly, sometimes, the reality of childhood development means something else is going on. There may be unique resources, tools, and funding to help address something in your own kiddo that you might be writing off. In the case of Sensory Processing, it’s a cousin of autism/Asperger’s that has less visibility and funding, but has many valuable tools to explore.

Lastly, one key point: Kendra is amazing. I don’t think she has plans to make herself available for paediatric developmental consulting and coaching, but she would do amazing at it.


Strategizing out loud

Since starting this project, I have actively resisted any act of strategy. I have not wanted to undermine the creative, focused energy of simply writing. As they say, “only writing is writing.”

(Plus, I know my own weakness: the activities of mentally problem-solving have a very powerful gravity. If I go there, it’ll be hard to skyrocket back out.)

But it’s getting close to time: I’ve had in my view the deadline of either my birthday or after 100 posts: we’re at 70 now, and my birthday was two days ago. So it’s nearly time to strategize. I figured: maybe I can use the blog itself to process and think about where to next. And maybe you could even speak into it!

Reaching people: This is limited right now to “whoever is already signed up to my email newsletter.” There are about 300 subscribers, and approximately 60 open each week, resulting in about 20 opens. Not huge, I know, but I remind myself: this project is primarily an engine for myself first, and for others to join me if it’s valuable/interesting for them.

Do I want to grow that audience? That’s a good question to ask. Why would I not want to grow it?

  • I really care about “aligned” audiences, who are here for kindness, wisdom, exploration, honesty, depth, humour, weirdness, and all that. I’d rather keep it small and close-knit if it helps give me an energy that helps me create the work I want to be creating.
  • I’m scared of comments, uncomfortable with social promotion. I don’t really love the activities associated with growing an audience. I don’t enjoy the feeling of being self-promotional; I’d rather just retreat into a small cavern. There’s some fear to get over there.

I do want to grow the audience, but I want it to remain a positive, civil environment, not one that terrifies me with internet toxicity or embarrasses me with #selfpromotion.

If I begin growing the audience intentionally, another consideration would be helping people make sense of what they are seeing when they get here: who is this writer? What are the most interesting posts? This suggests I should create an about page, classify some posts in categories, create a “best of” list, and all that.

There are also “professional” users of this website: people who might want to book me for speaking, or agents and publishers I am reaching out. I have kept the space very under-explained, again, to just let myself write, but it may be time to explain myself better.

I’ve got some technical fixes to do: Chrome shows a security warning, there’s a weird WordPress error or two on the back-end.

On the newsletter side, my Mailchimp subscriber list is so old, I think most recipients have the sending address flagged as spam, so most of the list isn’t even seeing these sends. Additionally, with a fresh list and a clear focus, I could reach out to my email contacts and ask people to sign up.

Here’s what I’m seeing from this short think:

  • I can create clarity on the site: Create an About page, curate some categories, select some top posts
  • Find healthy, authentic ways to expand the audience, such as reaching out to real life contacts, and sharing occasional posts on social.
  • Get honest with myself about social/internet boundaries: Am I willing to enable comments? Make my social profiles more active?
  • Ask for help: If there are roles I’d like to invite others to play, I can consider that I don’t have to do all this alone.

So far, the daily-create habit has helped me find and tell stories I’m super proud of, like Tony in Atlanta. It has helped me get to clarity on thoughts I’ve needed to express better, like Gross Domestic Love. It has helped rejuvenate a writing muscle that was atrophying. It has sparked inspiring conversations between friends that have been incredibly meaningful, reminding me of the wisdom, depth, gentleness and possibility that is alive in the world. And yeah, it can be tiring and hard to fit in, and remains something I’m choosing to prioritize.

Thanks for being part of this! Drop me an email if there’s anything you notice about my out-loud musing that might help.


Would you read this?

Hey, you sometimes read stuff I write, right?

I was wondering if you could take a read of this 2-page draft of a mini book-proposal, to answer this question: Is it congruent in tone with what you know of me? Would you read this book?

The idea is to use this as a starter piece for a literary agent I’ve been introduced to, to see if there might be interest in working together. I’ve been advised by an author friend to keep it short, not include an outline yet, just see if there’s enough interest to warrant building it out more.

Leave a comment in the doc, or send me an email or message to let me know your thoughts. Thank you!

* * *

Our ability to build the future together depends on our ability to speak about what’s happening inside us and between us, so we can work together on what’s beyond us.”


Doing the math

When the morning arrives and it’s jumpstarted by children saying it’s go-time, but the clock is not yet green like a traffic light — and those self-same children were popping like popcorn all night long — I can squeeze my eyes shut and pull my covers up and beg for remission or reprieve. None comes.

Nights and mornings for parents, they’re the hardest; there are no substitutes on the night watch.

Kendra has it harder: Rosie’s unique dependence means she’s requiring her, not me. In Rosie’s nighttime seances, summoning us from the dead, it’s Kendra who must zombie down the hallway, while my own spirit remains mostly undisturbed.

So mornings are mine. Pulled from the grave into some kind of reluctant aliveness, I resurrect, resentfully.

My eyes, in this dry climate, in this cold season, in these sleep-diminished nights, feel sandpapered shut. I fumble for my glasses, my watch; I find a sweater to slip over my slovenly pyjamas and stumble downstairs to gesture helplessly at bowls in an attempt to conjure breakfast.

It seems to take an entire day for daylight to dawn. Those pitch-black winter mornings don’t budge, closed tight like a theatre curtain with no show scheduled.

Eventually, somehow, the hills illuminate, the snow is revealed, lightness returns, Kendra joins us, and the day speeds up to regular speed.

How much sleep did we get? When was bedtime? How many wake-ups? When did the day start?

Don’t do the math.

It’s the saving grace that gets us through this time. Don’t do the math. There’s no point counting. Don’t perform the inventory. Don’t attempt to account for the sleep.

A meme Kendra showed me said, “You know that feeling when you plug your phone in to charge for the night and then you realize it was never plugged into an outlet in the first place? That’s sleeping for parents.”

We moaned in solidarity when we read it.

And somehow, mysteriously, energy for the day arrives anyway.

Do these phones run on empty batteries? Some kind of invisible energy source fills these empty bars when nobody’s looking. We parent. We proceed. We live.

Though my morning self wouldn’t like to hear me say this —  eyes crusted shut and body slumped in a chair while kids beg me to please make breakfast — that’s an uncountable abundance, appearing like morning dew.

A part of my face experienced a strange muscle twitch yesterday while I slouched in that chair. It was an odd one: my right eyebrow began to arch up, as if someone else’s finger was trying to make me lift my head up. I went along with it, enjoying the ghostly manipulation, and raised my head to see what was around me: just my noisy family, doin’ stuff.

Thanks, twitching body, I’ll accept your on-the-nose insistence: this is all to be taken in, counting up the things to be grateful for. Maybe there’s math to be done after all.


14 Scenes

Scene 1: We open at 4:30 am, with Rosie waking up, refusing to go back to bed. She joins us in our bed, and proceeds to flap her little legs and climb onto bodies and eventually kick people in the face until it becomes too much to handle, and oh by the way, there’s Addie and Ben and Theo somehow in bed now too, it’s 6 am, it’s time to get up.

Scene 14: I’m back home at midnight after a 5 and a half hour board meeting. It’s time to write, and wind down with a glass of Writer’s Tears whiskey.

Scene 2: After a long morning of making 6 to 13 breakfasts, and piling the kids into the van, Kendra drives them away, and I proceed to clean the house while listening to a work meeting on headphones.

Scene 13: I’m recording a voice memo the entire time I drive, making up songs and couplets and rhymes while driving on quiet, empty roads near midnight. I keep signing until I open the door to the house. I hope my last note didn’t echo through this quiet house and wake people up.

Scene 3: It’s a lovely work morning. I cry listening to Joyner Lucas, I try to elevate my mindset to plot about co-creation, I respond to slacks and emails.

Scene 12: We’re all a little loopy. The board meeting has reached 11 pm. Gummies were found. We’re finding creative ways to pass and rescind motions to pass business. I have a Time Timer and a triangle with me to help move digressions along, and refraining from dings when the conversation seems sensitive or careful.

Scene 4: After a morning of planning and connecting, I’m getting bowls of leftover stirfry ready for me and Kendra for lunch. We’re hearing Theo tell us stories.

Scene 11: It’s going to be a good meeting, but a long one. Cheesecake and flowers to celebrate team members moving on, while a very long list of business items to pass waits for the celebrations to pass. We’re in the church library, 11 of us, laptops not yet open.

Scene 5: A long walk around the block to try and clear my mind. I’m nervous about the speech I’m giving on Thursday, and about tonight’s board meeting, which I know will be long.

Scene 10: Dinner is wrapped up. Rosie and Kendra are waving goodbye to me as I pull out of the garage. I’ve cleaned up the dishes, Kendra has put the chickens to bed, and is about to put the kiddos to bed, while I head out to start up the meeting.

Scene 6: I’m hoisting bags of chicken feed onto a wheelbarrow and move them from the car into the barn.

Scene 9: Rosie is screaming, because she’s chosen that as her communication style, while I wash dishes, Kendra preps dinner. We finally take seats in our new arrangement at the table. (Recently, Rosie left her highchair, and joined us in a booster seat at the table.) Addie and Ben both wanted her to sit beside them, so those two are responsible for scooping spoonfuls of food into her mouth when she needs help.

Scene 7: It’s an afternoon of work. We’ve discovered our publication has been deleted by and scramble to remedy things. We’re planning and prepping for Thursday’s event. For some reason, today on video calls my connection is super glitchy; I’m delayed and stuttering.

Scene 8: It’s time to wrap up day of work and get ready for the night of work. I say “Hey google, turn off the studio lights.” This bank of LEDs was purchased to help light the videos I make, but it turns out they’re great for Canadian-winter-work mood-improving therapy lights. At Christmas I purchased smart plugs and brought our Google Home mini to my office, so when I start and end work, I speak out a command to turn on or off the lights. It’s a dramatic moment. It feels like a movie is starting to film, or that filming has wrapped.


Gravity and love

Is there a narrative you were told or taught about your own goodness? Were you raised to believe you were fundamentally good, healthy, worthy and complete? Or that you were incomplete, unworthy, unhealthy and bad?

“All my little life
I’ve been conditioned to believe
I’m a broken vessel
Riddled with disease.
I’m trying out a new song
I don’t know how to sing:
Maybe we are worthy —
Everyone and everything.
It goes like:
I believe that I am worthy.
I believe that I am good.
I believe that I was made
Exactly how Creator could.”

I’ve started season 4 of the Liturgists podcast; the first episode of the new season is “Am I impure?” It’s interviews and commentary on the impact of the purity movement that swept through the North American Christian church in the late nineties. It’s difficult to illuminate the stated and unstated scripts that are planted in one’s mind. I suspect there’s a few wedged deep in my head about impurity and unworthiness that are challenging to rewrite.

One thing I was wondering about today: comparing gravity and love.

With gravity, you don’t have to believe in it. It simply is. When you know about it, it enables a little more wisdom, creativity and participation. You can plan and invent and engineer and play and experience life with a little more intention when you consciously account for the force of gravity. Airplanes, swimming pools, skydiving, ball games; it’s all possible thanks to gravity, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re schooled in it.

But what if love, too, is more like gravity? You don’t actually have to believe it: it simply is blanketing us, a force that is present whether or not we’re acknowledging it. Love is here. You are loved. I am loved. There is nothing that can change that. If I choose to believe it, it might help me participate differently and creatively in the world around me, but even if I don’t, it’s still true.

Love and worth are a constant. I cannot achieve loved-ness, because it’s already here. I cannot achieve worthiness, because it’s the default state. Just as I need not work at all to be bound by gravity; it’s simply the reality around me — I need not work to be bound by love; it’s simply the reality around me. This is a natural metaphysical law.

There’s more I could explore here. Buttons I could push, traditions and orthodoxies and conventions I could challenge or champion, but I still can’t tell how comfortable I am publicly pushing against (or for) some of these ideas, and how much my own life and story needs to make its way into the mix. I remain, today, simply curious, somewhat troubled, a little tired, and yet ever-optimistic, that maybe even a thread or a sliver of these theories of love and peace and abundance might be true.

I’ll just go ahead and end with some mug-jumping videos: