Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ringing Out The Oh-Ohs

Let the countdown to the end of 2009 begin.

I for one will not be sorry to see this sorry excuse of a year come to a close. And "don't let the door knob hit you where the good lord split you" on your way out 2K9.


Good riddance to this last decade as well.

Whatever it was called.

After a decade of this new millennium now, we still don't have a common easy way to refer to this last ten years. In my life time, we had the 60s, the 70's, the 80's and the 90's. But what do we call this first ten years of this new millennium?


I would suggest we call this last decade the "Oh-Ohs".


More bad than good came of this last decade.


That's an understatement.


The millennium opened with the American election and inauguration of the Dub-ya administration ruling the U.S. after a twisted electoral vote dispute over hanging chads in the state of Florida – governed at the time by Dub-ya's brother Jeb. A short nine months later we witnessed the event that changed the western world - the 911 attacks.

This led to chasing down Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan that somehow was deferred to invading Iraq.

Fear gripped the world – most noticeably in the United States. Homeland Security became the most powerful branch of law enforcement in the lower forty-eight, highlighted by its designer security threat color codes.

I forget now how threatening fuchsia was.


As well, gas prices soared through the roof, while Iran started threatening with nuclear missile development.


China rose to the forefront of economic power – while North America watched it's jobs leave the west and move into the eastern lands of China and India.


And then came Katrina – which showed us just how Mother Nature could take advantage of a neglected city like New Orleans and turn it into a soup bowl over night. Having spent a good deal of time in New Orleans in the early eighties, this incident really disturbed me in how badly the aftermath played out.


Then there was a tsunami that devastated the populations of the Malaysian coastal areas.


And earthquakes devastating areas in China and Pakistan.


And all the while the Africans kept killing each other in a battle of the genocides.


Last year the financial meltdown as big as the great depression of the 1930's threw many in financial disparity.


Business failed.


Jobs lost.


Homes foreclosed on.


Banks failed and major financial institutions came close to folding – caused by years of corporate executive greed with multimillion dollar bonuses being paid to those very executives who put in place the practices that caused the meltdown.


The American banks received trillions of dollars in American Bailout monies. Other nations like Great Britain followed suit.


And General Motors – the company that once gauged the prosperity of North America went into bankruptcy proceedings and had to be floated by billion dollar bailout package to restructure and be overseen by a government appointed Automotive Czar.


As well, Al Gore – the very presidential candidate that lost to Dub-ya in the election of 2000 by a hanging chad – has spent the last ten years growing beards and shaving them off as he shows the world his power point presentation about the irreversible effects of global warming – and chanting "I told you so" every time we see an odd weather pattern appear.


Ten years into the millenium and we sit in a tough situation – high debt owed to China – skilled professional jobs outsourced to underdeveloped nations abroad – wars on two fronts – and some say the worse is yet to come.


And Osama Bin Laden is still nowhere to be found.


The Oh-Ohs indeed.


The western world is far worse for wear that it was a decade ago.


And many actually believe the ending of the Mayan calendar in 2012 means the end of the world.


Thanks Nostradamus. Great timing.


Let's usher this decade out with all the grief we can muster, and usher in the next decade of the Teens with all the celebration, pomp and ceremony that we possibly can.


Because while I would like to tell you that it can't get much worse – it certainly can.


But we can't dwell on how bad it might be.


We need to knuckle down now to do our best to ensure this next decade unfolds much better.


An awakening.


A resurrection.


We need to find an alternative to fossil fuels to not only stem the tide of pollutants in our environment, but more importantly (in my personal opinion) to neutralize the power and influence of the oil barons and the dastardly (bastardly) destruction the lust for oil has created.


We need to find ways to use this new technology we spent the last decade building other than to download movies and music illegally to really bring cultures together to find common grounds – lowest common denominators of understanding – to work together.


To understand each other.


We need to do something different.


If we are moving into a global shift of power – from North America to Asian and Persia – we need to understand the causes of that shift – and what our new roles will likely be. And how we can perhaps shift that balance back to a more equal level.


I believe this next decade will be ten years of the greatest opportunities mankind has yet to encounter. And how we embrace these challenges will determine our ability to grasp these opportunities to benefit of all of us.


Or maybe the Mayans are right?


If we don't start the awakening soon, the Mayan's may as well be right.


Join with me now as we kiss the "Oh-Ohs" good bye- and lets join hands and celebrate what can be. What should be.


On New Year's Eve 2009, have the one you love by your side – take their hand – and make the commitment together to embrace this next decade with all the optimism and spirit of community you can muster.


Happy New Year everybody. And raise your glass high to a happy new decade.


And next year - this next decade- may we all win.


Whatever we call it.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fame – Be Careful What You Wish For

Another Christmas has come and gone.

Christmas wishes hoped for. Some received – while others denied.

It's all part of Christmas.

But one wish I would never make is that of fame.

I have indeed met some famous people.

Once – at the young age of twenty - I got drunk with Burt Reynolds – me and about twenty five other people that night in the former Atlanta underground that used to house the Omni.

And I once stood in line at the airport with Bill Cosby – but he was in no mood to be sociable that day. Airports ticket lines are not conducive to grand moods of social levity.

I have written here already about the time I walked eighteen holes with Mike Weir.

As well, I once met basketball legend Isaiah Thomas as he waited for a puddle-jumper to take him from Detroit to Toronto. He was very friendly that day. He actually came up to us and asked us if we wanted his autograph. I have no idea why we declined his offer – but we did. I joked at the time that I hoped Mr. Thomas would not be on the same flight as us.

And once while at Canada's Wonderland amusement park north of Toronto, Shania Twain – a just then rising country music singer leaned back against a chain link fence as I did the same from the other side – and as we both turned around to see what we had done – I got the nicest smile from the soon-to-be-super-star as she apologized to me – as I apologized to her. So my bum has touched her bum. But that didn't impress her much – and to this day I wonder if I inspired that song?

But these are only random chance occurrences of paths in life crossing each other.

Novelty encounters only.

I have never seen any advantage to fame. And after the last month or so, witnessing the Tiger Woods affairs on every form of media available to the modern man, I wonder even more so "who would want fame?"

Why?

The world is a much smaller place now. And while I feel closer to friends I have not seen for thirty years as they continue to appear on various social media sites like facebook – it is also smaller in the way the creeps of the world can now approach my family online – promising great riches of Nigerian bank accounts and false and misleading emails from what appears to be my own bank asking me to please confirm the information for my various accounts.

The scary part is that we are just at the very beginning of this new age of the Internet – even though it has been prevalent in our lives for the last fifteen years.

Sites like YouTube to allow every person with a camcorder the ability to post their best attempt to be noticed in the hopes of instant fame.

Fame – why would anyone wish for fame?

The only fame I would ever wish for would be that of recognition among my peers – those that I struggle and toil with on a daily basis in the efforts to fulfill the obligations of our professional designations. And I believe we as a team have already accomplished that positive level of recognition – within the confines of our corporate audience at least.

I wonder if Tiger Woods is still happy to be famous.

It would appear that with fame come riches - or at least the opportunity for riches. And power. That seems to be the common perception of fame anyway.

But to me I think such fame would bring unwanted obligations. Conditions on fame such as constant public scrutiny. Approval ratings. And of course the loss of any privacy a person such as you and I may not appreciate that we enjoy.

Would I want pictures appearing on web sites of me all unkempt with ball cap on in sweatpants as I run into the market for sorely needed bread and milk for breakfast?

"Fred Brill is really a sloppy bum!" would read the caption – announcing the truth that my close circle of friends already know.

Would I want people speculating on my personal life because a picture appeared of me talking to a pretty girl out at a social function?

I think not.

It would also appear that a stipulation for popular fame is beauty.

So I think I am pretty safe.

I am not one that people would look upon as a beautiful person. I am actually quite odd looking. I am not complaining mind you. Being an odd-looking married father of two has its advantages.

I wonder how it must be for that beautiful girl – the one people like me are seen talking to that launches speculation on intentions and other what-nots.

How inconvenient it must be to be beautiful?

Yet there is a multi-billion dollar industry founded on products to make us more attractive – both men and women. And for what purpose?

Sex I guess. Sex would appear to be the motivating factor for so many stupid things people do.

Do you think Tiger Woods is still motivated by sex?

Who knows.

Who cares?

It's such a small world now.

Damned near crowded.

I don't answer the phone when the caller ID reads "Unknown". Let them talk to my answering machine.

I don't open emails from people I don't know – regardless of how large the sum in my Nigerian bank account could be.

But I still smile at strangers as I pass them in a store or on the street. Some smile back – others look offended that I acknowledged them.

I also sometimes like to wave at strangers as I go by in my car – but only for the sport of watching them try to figure out who I am and how it is that they must know me. My wife hates it when I do.

Someday perhaps I may find myself famous – quite by accident I would assure you. And should that day come – the game of passing strangers on the street and waving or smiling at them would take on a new aspect – depending on the nature of my fame.

Should I be acknowledged as that amazingly talented writer of Headstuffing – the response would be positive of course. But this is quite unlikely.

But should I be acknowledged as that horrid person accused of doing what-not to you-know-who for reasons we all know – the response would be much more negative.

I might even get punched in the nose.

And for this reason alone – I will do my best not to do anything horrid like what-not – certainly not to you-know-who – and never, never, never for reasons like the one we all know.

Because I'm already pretty odd-looking. A broken nose certainly wouldn't help.

Let others fill the role of beautiful and famous. Let them enjoy the riches and the power that fame brings.

As for me – I am quite content to simply remain anonymous – except for my name and odd-looking picture of me in the top right corner of this page.

I will simply continue to whisper to the world in my writings here on Headstuffing – attempting to make you laugh – or point out the foibles of the day – of our ways. And whisper those ideas I sometimes have that may make a difference in the world, whisper them into the ears of the rich and famous and powerful so that perhaps – just perhaps – one day that one of those ideas might take root in the public's imagination to be realized.

But leave the fame to someone else.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cherish The Christmas Present Before It’s The Christmas Past

The ground outside is white with snow.

The snow is lit by the outdoor lights of white, blue, red, green and gold. The reflection from the snow creates a surreal haze in the silence of the dark night.


Through the window the Christmas tree is lit in the center of the room. A sense of warmth emits from our well lit abode.


My faithful black lab Suzy's new favorite place to lie is no longer at my feet as I write from the back deck by the pool. The deck is now buried in white – the furnishings of the deck put away until the eternal hope of spring teases us with the nearness of summer.


Summer? It's Christmas!


Suzy's new favorite sleeping spot is under the foot of the Christmas tree.


The tree I just erected moments ago. Less than a week before Christmas.


My two little girls – promising so eagerly to help me put this three pieced mash of fake evergreen and pre-strung white lights – are strewn across the couch in tiny curled up forms of lightly snoring little princesses.


Useless princesses – but my princesses none the less.


I hope they marry into money – because the job market for princesses is likely to be very small when they grow up.


Our two little kittens are not quite as little now – but this will be their first Christmas. They are curious of the tree, the holly intertwined in the banister that wraps around our upstairs living room, and the larger than normal nativity scene on the large shelf above our foyer closet.


The kittens find all this more curious than normal. Climbing and balancing and weaving their way through the decorations.


Downstairs in front of the fireplace sits the green and red bin full of mantle decorations. Full of stockings, and stocking holders, and nutcrackers of all shapes and sizes. And a very special snow globe my cousin Jenny made for me to celebrate a headstuffing story called "Don't Be Scared Of A Little Snow" – depicting my arrival to the great white north from the sunny southern climate I grew up in.


All are very special to me. But the snow globe is the most special I think.


My daughters are now seven and eight years old. And I plan to cherish these few remaining Christmas's with them as little girls. Soon they will be young lady's – and soon the childlike wonder of Christmas will fade from their eyes.


Too soon – I know.


Their favorite decoration in the bin would be the tiny house of Advent – with twenty five doors – one for each day of the month from December 1st to Christmas day. And behind each door is a candy for each of them. Each day they open a new door.


The Advent house hasn't been pulled out of the bin yet.


Alannah – while helping me line up the sections of the tree posts to fit them together – asked me:


"Daddy, can we open all of the doors of the Advent house tonight?"


"I'm afraid they don't have any candies in them Alannah".


"That's ok, I just want us to open the doors".


Shortly after – she was curled up on the couch – likely dreaming of doors to be opened in some mystical fashion.


Later, Ashley-Rae woke up and helped me spread the branches out on the tree to make it look full and natural.


"Lift me up Daddy, so I can reach the ones on the tippity-top" she asked.


As I did so, I realized my daughter weighed more this year at seven than last year at six. Combined with my additional year of aging, it was obvious next year would be an even greater struggle to do so.


I know it's silly.


It's silly to love something so much as to start missing it while you still have it.


I am already starting to feel the pangs of missing my little girls – even though they are still – to me anyway – little.


I see the days coming ahead in the not-as-far-in-the-future-as-I-would-like-them-to-be.


The days when Alannah comes home from wherever she is living – with her boyfriend or husband – and only having a brief moment to stop in and visit her mother and I as we sit in that same living room. She will pull a small parcel from her bag for each of us and explain that she has to be elsewhere for dinner.

And we will smile and say thank you and give her presents to her. And we will show her the lovely card we received from Ashley-Rae explaining that she cannot be in Ontario for Christmas but that she will be thinking of us.

And while the boyfriend checks his watch for the time, my lovely wife and I and Alannah will drop our heads in unison as to signify to each that we know the days of today are past and tomorrow's days have arrived.

And I will let out as deep a sigh then as I let out now as I wrote my premonition here.

But today is still today. No ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, or Future need visit me just yet. The bah-humbugs have not yet infested my soul and devoured my passion for Christmas with my little family.


It's not about getting. It's about giving. And it's about giving all that I have – all that I am to my two little princesses – strewn on the couch lightly snoring.


Useless as they may seem to me now – they are the most valued treasures of my future. And in their absence I will somehow love them even more then than I do now.


Merry Christmas to you all. Cherish the Christmas present – for soon it shall be in the past.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Be Of Service

Christmas is the time for giving.

That's what Christmas is all about right?


Giving.


But most often at Christmas, we mistake this idea with simply purchasing and wrapping something up with pretty bows and ribbon. We take that parcel and put it under a tree, and wait for Christmas day for the receiver of the gift to open it and tell you how much they like it.


Job done. Objective met. Obligation satisfied.


Right?


Well, the one aspect of giving that many overlook this time of year is the most important one.


To be of service.


To offer assistance to someone in need.


To be available and receptive to requests for your attention.


To give your time and attention to someone who would benefit from it.


These are the gifts of the greatest reward.


Much better than a kitchen gadget that scoops ice cream and cuts pizza when it's not crushing fruits and vegetables into some form of juice.


Your attention is the most purest form of generosity.


The reward is the deepest sense of satisfaction, of purpose, of gratification.


It helps if the receiver of your attention appreciates your attention. But that should not be your motivation for being of service.


Some confuse this aspect with the self-serving form of self-promotion. Giving to people who can help them better their station in life.


But the greatest reward comes from being of service who have nothing to offer in return. Except for their sincere appreciation for your effort.


This year, as we get busier and busier with holiday festivities and the tasks they inspire – I would like to ask you to please keep your eyes open for opportunities to be of service.


Not when it's convenient. Not when it suits your schedule. But when it's required.


A laneway shoveled for a person not easily capable of shoveling.


A visit to a person who could use a friendly face to tell them you care how they are and to listen to them.


A trip with someone to someplace they need to go.


You know what I mean.


You may have had several opportunities to be of service come to mind as you read these few short sentences.


I encourage you to be of service. To give of yourself to others. And to ask for nothing in return.


Then you will be in the giving spirit of Christmas.


Should you heed this advice – well really this request – you will find the spirit of giving this season to make this Christmas even more special.


More special to you.


But even better – someone else.


And you might find you will want to be of service all year round- truly making every day Christmas.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Being Santa In Our Hearts

I have said it time and time again.

I am not a winter person.


But it's not quite winter yet. It's still fall.


It's December and Christmas has been charging full steam at our Calendars now for the last two weeks.


Last year about this time, my eldest daughter Alannah was questioning Santa Claus. So she and I had a long discussion about how Santa lives in your heart in the faith you hold that he exists. I wrote about this last year in a story called "Believe and He Exists".


But a year to an eight year old seems like an eternity. It does not seem as recent as it does to a nearly fifty year old Daddy.


So I shouldn't be surprised that last year's conversation has slipped out of her mind.


She seems to want to be grown up at only eight years old.


Meanwhile, our youngest daughter Ashley-Rae is seven. The same age Alannah was last year, but Ashley-Rae understands believing – and does not throw such logical explanations at us in such a well structured case of court room prosecution style that the fat man in the red suit is fake.


"You're Santa Claus Daddy, what do you think I am … stupid?" says Alannah, my future crown attorney.


Hmmm ….


I was getting ready for work last week. Standing in front of the bath room mirror brushing my teeth, I saw my own reflection.


I am heavier this year. Nearly two-hundred and forty pounds. Okay, I'm fat.


My hair is a bit longer in the cold weather – not nearly as short as my profile picture suggests. And every year in the cold weather I grow a beard. Not just the white goatee like my profile picture suggests – so this year more than years before – my beard is growing in white.


And it's pretty full.


See where I am going with this yet?


So this year I will continue to let my hair fill in. And I will let my beard grow as long as I can in the short four weeks left.


After this divine revelation presented in my bathroom mirror reflection – I bided my time for Alannah's next session of professional analysis. The clincher was at the point where she restated her position that "Daddy, you're Santa Claus" as her clinching argument.


"What does Santa Claus look like?", I asked.


"He is a big fat guy with a white beard", her voice raising an octave as she said "beard" – questioning where I was going.


"Yup", I said.


She picked up a shopping flyer left behind on the kitchen table from her weekly shopping planning excursion through the ads in the newspaper.


"He looks like this Daddy, but this is not the real Santa Claus".


I took the flyer from her hand. I looked at the picture. I held it up next to my own face.


"Look familiar?", I asked.


I pulled my reading glasses from my shirt pocket and I put then on the end of my nose, like the Santa in the picture.


Alannah just looked at me.


I asked her if she remembered our conversation from last Christmas – that cold evening in the garage where I explained that Santa Clause is in your heart – and lives in your faith – like the baby Jesus lives in your heart – lives in your faith.


"Oh yeah", answered my little girl slipping out of her analytical grown up persona and back into my little girl with an open heart.


"You have to believe for Santa to be real", I reminded her.


She looked at me, and she looked at the picture again. And then she looked at me.


I just gave her a little wink, looking down at her over my spectacles.


She gave me a hug, and then without a word she ran downstairs to the area around the pool table – where our indoor decorations were pulled out of the closet waiting in their boxes to be re-allocated around the interior of our lovely home.


She came back upstairs with a handful of read Santa hats. She handed me mine – with the name "Daddy" written in glitter and glue on the fluffy white fur bottom of the hat.


I put it on.


"Oh my …" said Alannah. "But your beard is not long enough."


"Not yet, I still have four weeks your know"


Alannah smiled and ran off to play with her sister.


Again, like last year, our conversation ended with my uncertainty of its effect.


But this year, I am a bit behind an eight ball now.


The next move is mine – and I really don't have a clue what to do.


I believe sincerely that Santa Claus lives within the heart of all that believe. He lives in our faith, and he lives in our actions.


But all I did was play off the fact I got fat, my beard happens to be white, and my now aging face with my wrinkled eyes looks a tiny bit like Santa's – if the light is right and I wear my spectacles on the end of my nose.


Now I have to back up this big impression with something substantial to make a lasting impression on my future female Clarence Darrow. If Santa lives in our actions, what should my next action be?


What do I do now? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated?


How do I get myself in messes like this?



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