Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Impermanence is the lone constant of 2020, and for this we are rather grateful. Watching a half-dozen (on average) celebrations step onto the subway platform of our attention only to get whisked away by the frantic commute almost immediately does allow for some perspective on the larger issues this year. Even our so-called National-Whatever-Months are saluted but once, then shuffled away. We have allowed this to become the leitmotif of our year, thus reminding us that this virus, this presidency, this seething racial tension in society, are all fleeting. This means giving up the bad with the good, and that’s a healthy balance. It also means we’ll pay greater attention to the fun stuff, like this:

National Train Your Brain Day

Since this celebration’s name adequately explains its purpose, there’s no need to get really deep on the explanation. There is no concrete source for the day, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the folks at Penny Press or some other puzzle publishing house didn’t come up with it to move product. But we here at Celebrate366 Industries are fully in favour of training one’s brain for action.

I’ll toss in another plug for the Puzzle Page app, the only phone game I’ve thrown money at in the last year or so. They make sudoku, crossword, math and spatial logic puzzles, and there are so many in this app I’m quite sure I’ll never get to them all. This is my daily brain regimen, though it’s more for fun than an exercise in cerebral fortitude.

I’d also consider this writing exercise as an act of brain training. It’s certainly keeping my writing skills in the category of ‘existent’ until something more artistically and creatively gratifying rolls into the landscape of my brain-parts. So my brain is perpetually in a state of training, inviting the question… what is it training for? What is the end-game here, and when are we getting to it?

These are the questions which plague me for minutes on end, until I get to the end of a section and realize it’s time to hop right over to the next one. Which happens to be:

Headspace Day

We head down under for this one, to an organization that aims to help young Aussies find the tools they need to deal with mental illness. This is certainly a running theme in October so far, with a number of celebrations dedicated to something similar to this. And while no one in our house is a young Australian (or either component of that designation), we both know a little something about mental illness concerns among the younger set. I wrestled through them myself; Jodie helps dozens of kids navigate their own every day. So while we’re not experts, we’re not exactly neophytes here either.

Yesterday Jodie did her part by connecting with the kids when she could, though she acknowledged sadly that her greatest skill, that one-on-one connection with kids to help them through their specific battles, is virtually unattainable this year. Kids aren’t allowed to hang out after class or after school for a pep talk, or an intervention of any kind. Jodie’s skills have to be doled out in an entirely new way.

The only advice I can pass on to young people is to have faith that it gets easier when you get older. It doesn’t get ‘easy’, or at least it never has for me, but we get better at dealing with it. We get access to new tools, new ways of coping and managing. Nothing has been better for me than transcendental meditation. It’s not something you can accurately pick up from a website or a free app, but it’s worth the investment.

I visited that glorious headspace yesterday for the first time in a few weeks. My TM teacher is a semi-regular reader of these articles so she may chide me for this, but I simply haven’t taken the time to take care of my brain as much as I should lately. Maybe I’ve hit a comfy rut, I don’t know. But yesterday I meditated. And it brought me back to that ideal headspace.

International Day For Failure

On this day we are told to fail. It’s not simply a day to accept that we have failed in the past and we should learn from it and move on – believe me, we’ve done that day two or three times already this year, so we’d recognize it. No, on this date we are encouraged to actively seek out something that we will inevitably fail at. It may seem counter-intuitive, but maybe that’s the point.

Who started this? I have no idea. It has an official website, but the only background information we get is a pep talk on how to fail and be happy about it. That’s fine – we get the point of the day. Failing is necessary. It’s the most consistent ingredient in any success. But the question remained, what could we fail at as a quick way to celebrate this auspicious occasion?

Jodie was ruled out of the competition for this one. After her full day of work she was off volunteering at the homeless camp downtown, and asking her to incorporate failure into serving needy people seemed strange and inappropriate. So it was on me. Clearly with my brain having been majestically trained two entries back, this would have to be a physical challenge. And given my general lack of coordination, which is ramped up by the air-cast that remains on my foot, we’re definitely on the right track here.

Juggling. I can’t juggle very well, so this would be an easy failure to achieve. And I made sure to use eggs so that I’d have a half-decent mess to show for my troubles. And because I had nobody to take the picture for me, I had to make do myself. I can count the poorly-framed photos as part of the failure, I suppose. I went for the one-handed two-egg juggle, and made it through three tosses before the eggs broke. So glad I used eggs. Because dropping a couple of tennis balls on the floor is boring.

One can fail, but one should never be boring. That’s the lesson for this one.

National M&M Day

There are a couple of dates in M&M’s storied history which bear significance to the famed candy, but October 13th is not one of them. On March 3, 1941, Forrest Mars (son of Frank, the company founder) received his patent for M&Ms. On September 10 of that year they hit the market. Still, we’re happy this day exists even if we can’t fathom the choice for its placement.

Forrest came up with this brilliant concept by noting that British soldiers seemed to love Smarties – not the crumbly tart sugar treats they call Smarties the US and Rockets up here, but the Smarties we know and love in Canada. The name of this new candy was one M for Mr. Mars and another for Bruce Murrie, son of the Hershey president and co-founder of the M&M empire. So you had a Mars product using Hershey chocolate, primarily because Hershey had control of the war-time rationing of chocolate at the time. It was an unlikely partnership, one that seems particularly bizarre in light of both companies now running flagship retail outlets in competition with one another in Times Square.

These candies were for military personnel only at first. They wouldn’t melt in the hot tropical sun of Africa and the South Pacific, and they were perfectly portable. In 1949 they came up with their most famous slogan, indicating where specifically the candies would melt. In 1954 peanut M&Ms were introduced. The caramel variety, which I find is only eclipsed by their magnificent peanut butter candies, didn’t show up until 2017. Those are the ones I enjoyed yesterday.

A day to celebrate with candy. That’s how I like to wrap up an article like this.

And off we go, into another wild day of… all of this?:

  • National Dessert Day. Eat dessert? We’ve been doing that all year, so this should be an easy win.
  • National Bring Your Teddy Bear To Work/School Day. I introduced Buckley II, the ‘teddy dog’ we have here as a souvenir of Abbey, and today he’ll get to come to work. Probably with me, as we don’t want to expose him to the risk of the virus at Jodie’s school.
  • National Take Your Parents To Lunch Day. Looks like mom’s getting a free lunch.
  • Be Bald And Be Free Day. I’m not shaving my head for this one.
  • International Top Spinning Day. We don’t have a top laying around the house. A dreidel, probably.
  • National FRUMP Day. Frugal, Responsible, Unpretentious, Mature Persons Day. I don’t know if I’m any of those, except for a persons.
  • National Lowercase Day. I won’t be typing in all lowercase. I’d go crazy.
  • World Standards Day. A day for measurements! Yay!

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