Thursday, October 15, 2020

Once the term “dusting of snow” pops up in someone’s meteorological observations, you know it’s time to settle into that six-month journey into the frigid abyss. I find comfort in my continued ability to work from home, and remain resolved to my commitment that the dogs will not be walked once the mercury plunges beneath ten below. Mostly I’m excited to see how my Seasonal Blues might get vanquished by the ever-present window at my side, exposing me to a level of sunlight I have not experienced throughout a winter before. This could be the year I find winter tolerable. And only the first chunk of it will involve these perpetual indulgences into realms both wonky and illogical. For example, all of this:

National Bring Your Teddy Bear To Work/School Day

Last month (September 9 for those who are keeping close track, and I know most of you probably are) we celebrated National Teddy Bear Day. On that day I introduced the world to Buckley II, the sequel to Abbey’s most beloved stuffed animal. Abbey kept Buckley close, bringing him on every sleepover, every vacation, and even on those cold/flu days when she’d be stuck in front of the TV all day, Buckley was standing by.

Someone bought her another identical Buckley a few years later, which really killed that awesome parental feeling that we’d purchased a unique and special companion for our kid. But Abbey understood that’s how capitalism works, and she gave Buckley II a comfy place to chill while Buckley I still received all the good attention. Now she’s 23 and living on the west coast, and I have no doubt Buckley is still perched beside her on a nightly basis. As for his sequel, that was a gift from Abbey to me.

So we don’t have an actual teddy ‘bear’ to speak of around here. Even if there is a stuffed bear somewhere downstairs, Buckley II gets the honours of taking part in this holiday. With him above is Clyde. Clyde is actually one from my own childhood. Both creatures were given this dubious honour of taking part in a celebration with us. And since Jodie bringing them to her school would mean potential exposure to viral grossness, it made sense for them to accompany me instead. For Buckley II that meant travelling one room over. Clyde already takes up residence in my office, so that was easy.

I suppose the idea here is to appreciate the comfort and security of being young, home, and tucked into bed, all while recalibrating e-commerce architecture structures for proper integration into TPS reports. Or whatever.

national lowercase day

yes, the plan here is to stick with lowercase for the duration of this section. i will also be looking into some trivia about our lowercase letters, because otherwise i could fill this space with anything and it would be the most unimpressive celebration of the year. i’m still holding on to national felt hat month for that one.

pictured above are the two lowercase ‘a’ options. you’ve got the double-storey ‘a’ and the single-storey ‘ɑ’ (which may end up looking the same, depending on how wordpress switches my font choices around). quite simply, the single-storey version is the one that caught on for handwriting, while the double-storey one was the one that printers settled on. the backstory is, unfortunately, no more interesting than that.

even the lowercase ‘g’ presents some weirdness. we all know the ‘opentail’ version, the one we write by hand. it’s a circle with a fish hook dangling below it. but we also have the ‘looptail’ lowercase ‘g’, which features two closed loops joined by a line on the left side, which makes it look drastically different from its opentail companion. a study done at johns hopkins showed that most people forgot there were two ‘g’ options to choose from, and most were unable to successfully identify the correct looptail ‘g’, since they assumed the connecting line was on the right side, not the left. so this is one lowercase quirk that apparently slips right on past us.

a lot of folks will stick to lowercase in their text messages because it’s simply easier, plus autocorrect will swoop in like a superhero and fix a few of those errors. jodie and i both prefer to include uppercase when necessary, mostly because we are lovers of language and the rules surrounding it, and we don’t wish to forsake them. but yesterday we went all e e cummings / kd lang and forsook them to the wind. it’s a weird basis for a celebration (and of course, i can find no backstory on who decided this should be celebrated), but weird is standard procedure this year.

National FRUMP Day

Here’s another day for which I found zero notable sources, and which may only exist in the mind of a blogger who penned a blog entry back in 2005, declaring that this day was coming up. That same blog entry also comments on the cancellation of Paris Hilton’s reality show, and that Roger Moore might enjoy prunes, given his advanced years. Well, Joe Hickman, army historian and casual pop culture blogger from 15 years ago, Roger Moore is dead now. I hope you’re happy.

Anyhow, this day is meant to focus us on being FRUMP: Frugal, Responsible, Unpretentious, Mature, and… and that’s all. I guess the ‘P’ at the end stands for ‘Person’. So you’re not being a FRUMP person, just a FRUMP. Got it. Let’s see how easy this is for me.

First of all, frugality comes naturally to me. I’m part Scottish, part Jewish, and astoundingly terrible with handling a budget. As such, I make every effort to spend as little as possible on luxuries. Jodie is just as bad as I am, and yet we both screw up and over-spend sometimes. We aim for frugality as often as possible, because sometimes we know we’ll be splurging. Usually that day will be a Saturday, when brunch beckons, and time allows us to shop. But on a Wednesday? This shit was easy. I didn’t leave the house, and as such I didn’t spend a dime yesterday. Jodie went to work, but was also able to make it to midnight without spending anything.

Next, ‘Responsible’. Well, I walked the dogs (I can do that now!), fed them, and refilled their water. I did actual work stuff during my work hours. Jodie went to school and did her job. We were responsible enough. Unpretentious? I did my best not to mock or deride others for anything yesterday, and that was trickier than I’d expected. I’m not the type to troll people on social media for liking Two and a Half Men or the Bay City Rollers, but I do like to laugh at those who subscribe to silly conspiracy theories or idiotic political / human rights beliefs. But I held that in check. That helped with the ‘Mature’, since as an avid pot smoker, video gamer, and generally immature schmuck, I can only achieve a certain level of maturity before it’s just not feasible anymore.

But dammit, we FRUMPed like pros yesterday. And now I can go back to being an immature, spend-happy, wildly irresponsible and pretentious dickbag. Whew!

National Dessert Day

That’s it? National Dessert Day? Nothing more specific? Cool.

We have been making desserts all year, whether it’s baked goods from our lovely and talented team baker (hi, Mom!), a myriad of ice cream concoctions over the summer months, or the Baked Alaska I somehow cobbled together at the end of January. And yes, every one of those desserts have been properly honoured by getting shoved into our mouth-holes for a proper celebration. Now we face the generic, the open-ended, the infinite potential. Whatever shall we do within the parameters of National Dessert Day?

Leftovers. We still have a massive amount of strawberry shortcake from National Angel Food Cake Day, a few slices of key lime pie that my mom baked over the weekend (for no specific National Anything Day), the slices of pie that accompanied our extremely late-delivered Swiss Chalet meal, and a bunch of Caramel M&Ms from yesterday. So we were not short on dessert treats.

And there was certainly no need to acquire more. We are dessert professionals at this point, so we just picked what tickled our fancies and dove in. I love it when these celebrations are this easy and delicious.

As of today we have only 77 days remaining in the year. Not that we’re counting down or anything. Here’s what’s on the menu:

  • National Aesthetician Day. Jodie celebrated this one last week with some quality eyebrow work.
  • National Cheese Curd Day. Sure, we’ve celebrated poutine a few times this year. What’s one more?
  • National I Love Lucy Day. These episodes should be easy to find.
  • National Grouch Day. Finally we can embrace our inner misanthrope.
  • Global Handwashing Day. I think it’s best if we wash our hands more often than once per year, especially these days.
  • National Mushroom Day. I just ate mushrooms on Tuesday in an incredible recipe that I didn’t photograph. Maybe that will count?
  • World Maths Day. Ew. Math doesn’t get any more appealing when you pluralize it.
  • World Students Day. Jodie can cheer on her students I suppose.
  • National Get Smart About Credit Day. Hoorayyyyyy…..
  • International Day of Rural Women. Let’s all embrace our inner rural woman, shall we?
  • International ShakeOut Day. No idea what this is, but I hope it involves dancing.
  • My Mom Is A Student Day. I suppose our kids can celebrate this one.
  • National Chicken Cacciatore Day. I wonder if this dish includes mushrooms. Or cheese curds.
  • National Pug Day. Yes!!!
  • National Roast Pheasant Day. That’s a lot of poultry for one day.
  • Spirit Day. An LGBTQ+ day, not a day for consuming alcohol. I was a bit disappointed about that.

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!