Saturday, February 15, 2020

We did all the romantic hooey expected of a Valentine’s couple yesterday, plus more. Why plus more? Because that’s the running theme of this project – there’s always a plus more.

Valentine’s Day

When you’re gliding on the reflective wave of a fresh romance, Valentine’s Day means you’d better plan a dinner, a gift, and some special way to unfold the evening. Once you’ve been riding that wave for a cool quarter-century it’s okay to lift your collective foot off the gas a little and take things easy. Unless, of course, you’re both engaged in some bizarre project that obligates you to celebrate everything, in which case you simply adjust.

We enjoyed a quiet, romantic meal and a movie at home. The rest of our day is spelled out below. In addition to all that weirdness, we also took some time to remind ourselves that we wouldn’t want to be sailing through this 366-day party with anyone but one another. True love is not a myth, and sometimes you can coax the magic to stick around. We’re very lucky, but we’re also probably pretty good at this whole relationship thing. I’m grateful for that.

Of course, yesterday was “St.” Valentine’s Day, as the day’s history predates gestures of mandatory romance, tracing back to a Roman priest. St. Valentine was a persecuted Christian (not exactly the opening verse to a love ballad), though it was said that he would conduct marriages on the sly for Roman soldiers who weren’t otherwise allowed to marry. But we can pin the Hallmarkishness of this holiday on Geoffrey Chaucer, who penned a Valentine’s Day love poem to commemorate the first anniversary of Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.

So there you have it. If you loathe Valentine’s Day because of its obligations, or because it serves as a reminder of your lack of a companion this year, you can blame Chaucer for getting the ball rolling on romantic expectations. But fret not, there are other ways to spend a joyous February 14.

National Cream-Filled Chocolates Day

My gift to Jodie was a box of Purdy’s chocolates, specifically chosen to be (a) mostly dark chocolate-based, because I know my wife’s tastes, and (b) filled with various creams. I’ve always found the cream-filled morsels to be more rewarding than one filled with nuts. Whether or not Jodie feels the same way is irrelevant – it had to be cream-filled chocolates yesterday.

She enjoyed her orange-cream chocolate in the morning, and I enjoyed my Valentine’s gift, a pair of socks that declared that she “Choo-Choo-Chooses” me. Any gift that makes me feel a little like Ralph Wiggum is a perfect gift.

And those chocolates will find a good home. If she can’t finish them, I’ll help out. That’s the Valentine’s spirit.

No One Eats Alone Day

Turns out No One Eats Alone Day isn’t an attempt by holiday-makers to nudge me out of the comfort of my grey-beige cubicle to interact with my coworkers. Thank goodness, because I savour that lunch-hour respite, and it’s my only hope of getting caught up on season ten of Shameless. This is actually an initiative in the US that seeks to prevent bullying by encouraging students to eat lunch together, with no one left aside as an outcast.

Last year over 2,500 schools took part. This initiative was started shortly after the death of a 15-year-old named Lili Smith. Lili was born with a cranial facial syndrome, which led to a rather difficult middle school experience. After she passed away, some local teens banded together and sought to quash that middle school isolation that seems to hit a handful of kids at every school. That movement has grown into something much larger – and now it’s getting publicity upon the highest possible stage: this one.

Inclusion is stylish with the young generation. Gone are the days – well, not gone, but on their way out – when the bullies ran the show, and the introverts cowered and hid. This was kid-launched, and remains kid-powered. Now it’s heavily sponsored and widely-spread. Definitely worth celebrating. Jodie made a point of dining with a bunch of students around her, and ensured no one was getting left on the sidelines.

Great Backyard Bird Count

We are actually going to celebrate this one today. The Great Backyard Bird Count runs from yesterday through Monday, so there’s plenty of time for all our readers to join in. Just look at your backyard for at least 15 minutes, and record what you see (bird-wise – no need to report on that squirrel or the neighbour who strolls nude around his own yard). Head to birdscanada.org/volunteer/gbbc/  and fill out a form online and you’re done!

This is a joint initiative between the Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They are looking to see where the birds are at, so the more folks who join in and toss some numbers their way, the more accurate their data will be. We opted to wait for today, as the sun is often reclining below the horizon within 15 minutes of our arrival at home. Besides, I need to spend my first 20-30 minutes chasing after that puppy who sees our entire home as a massive toilet.

As of this writing, over 22,000 forms have been filled out, noting more than 4,100 individual species and over 2 million total birds. The data is pouring in, mostly from Europe and North America, but really from all over. Any of our readers in central Africa or up in Siberia (I hear we’re really big in Siberia) should join in and do some bird-watching. There’s also a photo contest, so if you’ve got some skills, count some birds!

International Book Giving Day

This is a fantastic celebration idea. For those of us who have not yet fully transitioned to electronic or audio books, we’ve got bookshelves full of volumes we’ll never read or even reference again. Lending books is a fruitless endeavour, as people tend to forget to return them anyway. So why not just give them away?

Jodie passed a novel on to a colleague earlier this week, and today I donated a handful of books at work to our communal library at work. It’s a communal library that no one seems to use, but that’s okay – these were books no one would want to read anyhow. I mean, who needs a how-to guide for a version of Photoshop that’s twelve years old?

Clearly Jodie’s method of observing this grand day was more thought-out.

We have looked through our bookshelves and found only a couple dozen that we’d ever dive into again. So why do we keep them? Is it just to keep those shelves from being empty, and thus propelling us to buy a bunch of tacky old tchotchkes we don’t want? Are we preparing for a possible apocalypse in which we’d need paper to fuel a fire to keep us warm? Is it some form of gift-receiver’s guilt that won’t allow us to part with a thoughtful present? The fact is, spreading your literature around is an act of dispensing beauty into the world. Give away those books to someone who will share your love for them. Hell, even if you hated the thing, maybe that book’s audience is out there, and you can help to complete the connection. It’s all a part of the collective party.

National Read To Your Child Day

Look, I’m all about rigorously-slated revelry, but I find this one to be a bit questionable. If you have a child, you should be prepared to read to that child as often as humanly possible. Reading to a kid is like feeding them, watering them, and giving them lots of sunlight. Sorry, that’s for plants – you should probably read to your plants too. I bet they’d like that.

But reading to your kid? Come on – once they can put the words together and swallow the narrative on their own you’ll have propelled them into any one of a gazillion fantasy realms. You’ll have opened their minds to the sky, the stars and beyond. You’ll have taught them to love language, and that’s the first step to loving all the beauty life has to offer. Just read to your damn kids. And if it’s something you’ve been neglecting, this should be the day you kick-start your child’s love of literacy. Well – technically it was yesterday, but don’t put it off until February 14, 2021.

I was usually in charge of reading to our kids. We read a lot – I even wrote an extensive (if mostly sub-par) sci-fi story just to read it to them. We plowed through all seven Harry Potter novels as they were released. My son was 14 when the last one dropped, clearly too old to be read to, but he still insisted on hearing me orate the tale, goofy bad accents and all. Yesterday, because our kids are now 22 and 26 and live thousands of miles away, it was a smidge tougher. I wound up calling my daughter in Vancouver and reading her the ingredients to a box of After Eight mints we still have leftover from Christmas. It reignited that bond between us, allowing us to contemplate together what a “cocoa mass” is, and if it would be a good euphemism for a sizeable poop.

Frederick Douglass Day

He’s one of the great men in American history, yet almost no one I talked to really knew why Frederick Douglass remains so revered. Granted, I was surveying mostly white Canadians, so that could be why. So this one is for you, fellow cracker-Canucks: this is what a kick-ass human looks like.

Mr. Douglass was born a slave. When he was twelve, his owner’s wife began to teach him how to read. That didn’t last – the boss felt that if slaves became literate they’d want to be free. Go figure.

When he was about 21, he fell in love with a free black woman five years his elder, who helped him make his escape. Mr. Douglass hopped a train, then a steam ferry, then another train, and lastly a steamboat to Philadelphia, eventually heading up to New York. He then sent for Anna, his beloved, and the two were married.

Frederick Douglass became one of the most outspoken abolitionists in the north. At the time it was believed by many that slaves should remain in servitude because they lacked the mental capacity to make it on the outside. Mr. Douglass disproved the hell out of that theory, being more well-spoken and a greater writer than most anyone else on the planet. He became a preacher, and tacked on his anti-slavery rhetoric to his sermons. He threw himself in harm’s way by protesting – he and a white friend sat in a whites-only car on the Eastern Railroad and got themselves tossed.

He ventured to Ireland and found kindness, compassion, and a notable lack of racial disdain. He lived there for two years, lecturing and preaching. Then he came back home and re-joined the fight, publishing newspapers and burning copies of the constitution in public protest. He attended the first women’s rights convention, claiming he would not accept the right to vote as a black man if women could not also claim that right. He continued the fight for African-American rights and women’s rights through the Civil War and beyond. The man remained true to his faith, and true to his causes.

And those causes are still being fought today. Women and minorities have equal rights on paper, but in practice those rights don’t always measure up. Frederick Douglass is the model of positively-channeled faith and passion. We need another man like him these days.

Black History Month

We have been and shall be celebrating this all month, reading articles about incredible people in history, watching documentaries and TV shows on the subject, and listening to some of the greatest music ever made. And if you’re one of those people who indignantly refuses to join in because there is no White History Month… perhaps this project is not for you. We’re about celebrating here, not about whining.

And that’s not politics. It’s common sense.

National Organ Donor Day

When I turned 16 and obtained my driver’s licence, there was a section where we could fill out our desire to be an organ donor. Sure, some friends used the space for specifics to insist they would only donate their fourth ribs, their pinkie toenails and their right testicle, but I felt it best to simply check the box to donate everything. My internal parts will be of no use to me once the veil is drawn, and if I can save someone’s life through my demise, that’s pretty cool.

Of course the hope is that they crack me open in the end and shake their heads in dismay, because I will have lived long enough to have used my organs up. Could be they’d already want to skip plucking out my liver.

To become an organ donor in Alberta, it’s almost as simple as it used to be. Now you head to myhealth.alberta.ca and click on the Alberta Organ and Tissue Donation Registry link. Enter your health card number, a few fields of personal info, then select what you want to donate. It took me all of 30 seconds, and that included actually pausing to read what I was signing up for. Please opt in to this – you can seriously save actual humans and you won’t even know it at the time.

Today is as busy a Saturday as we’ll find, though most items here will be celebrated through writing:

  • National Ferris Wheel Day. We’re a day late, due to our local shopping mall amusement park closing early on Friday. Hopefully your local shopping mall amusement park keeps better hours.
  • National Gumdrop Day. Goody! Goody! We get candy!
  • Singles Awareness Day. Not limiting this to human singles, we will sample some single-serving foods today.
  • National Wisconsin Day. Our next great state-feast. On the menu tonight? The butter burger. It sounds too yummy not to try.
  • John Frum Day. An unusual story about an unusual savior in Vanuatu.
  • Love Reset Day. Did you have a crappy Valentine’s Day? This is the day to get your love life back on track. We had a good one, so I’m not sure how we celebrate this one.
  • National Hippo Day. No hippos in town that I know of, but we can learn about them.
  • National I Want Butterscotch Day. And I do! Perhaps drizzled over ice cream.
  • World Pangolin Day. Definitely none of these in town. More learning!

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