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!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

‘Twas a long weekend devoid of fanfare or fantastic stories. Our “massive” family gathering involved my mother coming over so we could order Swiss Chalet’s festive special, only to dine on leftover sausage pizza because it took three and a half hours for the delivery to arrive. I wish that were a typo. We were not lacking stuff to do, of course – the calendar will always see to that. And as we roll into yet another week of weirdness at the mercy of a year that always seems to go for the throat, we reflect on all this fun:


We all know that American Thanksgiving is a centuries-old story of Europeans sitting down for a delightful feast with the Native Americans they’d wind up totally getting along with for the ensuing few hundred years. And we also know that Canadian Thanksgiving dates back only 63 years, and is seen as our non-religious, purely secular way of giving thanks for all the kick-ass things and people (and pets) we have going on in our lives right now.

But check out the original proclamation, issued by Governor General Vincent Massey back in 1957: “A Day of General Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” So no, this was not conceived as a purely secular holiday. How’s that for some weird Canadian trivia?

Our Thanksgivings have been predictably tame since the kids moved out. We aren’t big turkey eaters so we tend to gloss over that aspect and spend the day doing yard work and maybe taking a moment to contemplate all we’re thankful for. Yesterday was no exception. We were thankful it was a statutory holiday (it’s not in Atlantic Canada), and that we could relax and spend it together. We dove into those Swiss Chalet meals a day late, so we came close to the traditional dinner.

Close enough. It’s been a weird year. I think we can all collectively be glad it’s almost over.

National Kick Butt Day

Apparently this celebration has been going on since 2004, and somehow it hasn’t yet found its way onto commercial mainstream calendars yet. How could that be? Well, I have a theory…

My source for this day consists of a page featuring a stock photo of a guy making a triumphant fist while sitting at an office computer, suggesting he was ‘kicking butt’ in re-calibrating a database or de-fragrancing a spreadsheet or something. The page proceeds to tell us that this is a day when we are supposed to face down those hurdles in our lives and kick butt. So, it’s exactly what you’d think it is.

It occurred to me that these generic “go team” celebrations should probably be skipped moving forward. We have indulged in dozens of them this year, and we no longer have to stretch to the most repetitive and esoteric realms of suggested celebration to hit our target this year. But we found a way to make this applicable. Jodie had a test to take for her schooling. I told her she should either kick butt on the test, or I’d literally kick her in the butt. That way, no matter what happens we’d have this celebration covered. She kicked butt on the test. I had to take out my rage the old fashioned way, with video games and quiet seething.

It was a beautiful celebration.

National Vermont Day

Yes, we have been slipping on our National State Days, and it pains me to think there may be a couple of states we don’t get to visit on our culinary voyage around the United States. I tried to secure a certain bottled soda from North Carolina, but the one place in town that sold it hasn’t had it in stock for years. I tried to put together something for Rhode Island, but I may just put on a few Family Guy episodes for that one, since it’s tough to find good clams here right now. But Vermont? Vermont loves its maple syrup, and that’s something that’s easy to celebrate.

The Green Mountain State – inaccurately named, since if you removed all the trees and grass, the mountains would be rock-coloured, just like everywhere else – used to be a part of New France. This was when the French had high hopes they’d secure a good chunk of this continent for themselves. During the Revolutionary War, after the British had seized the land and while the Americans were trying to seize it for themselves, the Independent Vermont Republic was founded. They wound up abolishing slavery before any other state thought to do so. They also produced the first black university graduate, Alexander Twilight, in 1823. He became the first black state legislator, and the only one to serve in such a role before the Civil War. Neat.

Vermont, while at the bottom of the list for GDP among American states and territories, was also the first state to give a thumbs-up to same-sex civil unions back in 2000. That even beats out Canada. They also adopted greenhouse gas emissions controls in 2006, before most any other state. I mean, it’s not perfect – we should mention that many of its legislative policies in the early 20th century were based on eugenics, including a law that prohibited those “unfit” to marry. But overall it sounds like a great state, one I would absolutely love to visit. I’d also love to try its maple syrup. It’ll probably taste the same over blueberry pancakes, but that’s an experiment I’d be down for trying.

As for cool people to come from Vermont? Here’s the list: there’s Henry David Lee, creator of Lee Jeans (which we just learned last week still exists!), from somewhere unknown in Vermont, Sam Lloyd (the guy who played Ted on Scrubs, and who tragically passed away earlier this year) from Springfield, Elisha “Mr. Elevator” Otis, born in Halifax, Ernest Thompson, author of On Golden Pond, from Bellows Falls, Neko Case from Alexandria, and a whole heap of people I’ve either never heard of, or are Ted Bundy, who doesn’t deserve to be considered one of Vermont’s best accomplishments.

It’s a pretty state, whose flora was scored by Henry Mancini and whose air was cast from the winds of potential. Can’t wait to see it in person.

National Online Bank Day

Again, with no need to stretch to achieve our goal of more than 2,000 celebrations this year, we didn’t need to do this. First of all, it’s a celebration we’re supposed to honour on the second Monday in October, which is also a holiday every single year in both Canada and the US. So I guess it makes sense that we can still do our banking on this holiday, and that’s kind of cool I suppose. But who’s thinking of banking stuff on a day off?

We popped into our app and checked our balance yesterday. It wasn’t much to dance and party about, but then I’ve still got a broken foot so dancing is best avoided for me anyway. We online banked though. Mission accomplished.

Freethought Day / Freethought Month

The Salem Witch Trials effectively wrapped up on this date some gazillion years ago (to be honest, I feel like 2019 was a gazillion years ago at this point), and to commemorate that, this day was created. It’s a day for secularists to point to the absurdity of those trials and say hey, if we based our societal directives on common sense and logic, and not the belief that people (mostly women) were channeling crazy magic that offends our religious sensibilities, maybe we’d be a bit better off.

In California, where this movement appears to be at its strongest, it’s a day for atheists to demonstrate to their theist neighbours that they are also tuned into family, community, and all that togetherness and do-goodery that gets described as “the Christian thing to do” by those who have forgotten stuff like the Salem Witch Trials. They often have big events and gatherings (obviously not this year), and induct people into the some sort of Freethinkers Hall of Fame. Inductees include Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, George Orwell, Frank Zappa and Katharine Hepburn.

As a true disinterested atheist I don’t tend to indulge in any big event surrounding my lack of belief. I’m not a big atheism spokesperson, mainly because I’m not a there-is-no-God type of atheist, I’m more the type who doesn’t really believe there is one, but who is pretty sure that if there is, He/She will be okay with me simply living my life on my own, and trying to be a half-decent person.

But yesterday was the day to indulge in such discussions, and to explore the type of faith that focuses inward. I did some reading on the Freethought movement, and even reference On Golden Pond, Katharine Hepburn’s last Oscar-winning role, in today’s article. So I’d say I’ve done my part.

International Moment of Frustration Scream Day

A big ol’ thanks to Thomas and Ruth Roy for procuring yet another great idea for a deeply weird celebration. Apparently at 12:00 noon, Greenwich Mean Time, people walk outside and scream in frustration for 30 solid seconds, basking in the glorious endorphin rush that no doubt follows such a primal and visceral act. Unfortunately, 12:00 GMT would have been 3:00am Sunday night, and my scream of frustration would have been drowned out by the intense white noise of three dogs snoring on our bed.

I also didn’t feel that stepping into my backyard at any point yesterday and letting loose with a loud, sustained shriek was a good idea. I have neighbours, and some of them are considerate enough to have raced over to see what was wrong. I don’t need to put them through that. So I screamed in my house, channeling my frustration at my foot specifically, and its slow healing process that keeps me stuck in this cast and not able to walk my dogs. That frustration is real.

And it tied in gloriously with Thanksgiving, because I was deeply thankful that I could cross off another celebration with one concentrated yell.

National No Bra Day / Breast Cancer Awareness Month

We actually jumped the gun a bit on this one. It’s a celebration for today, but we jumped on it on the more logical day. Jodie didn’t have to leave the house yesterday, so ‘no bra’ was absolutely an option for her. Also for me, though I hardly ever leave the house now. Talk about tying yet another event into Thanksgiving, because I’m really grateful for that little ingredient in my life right now.

Actually, this day is meant to bring awareness to breast cancer, which is probably one of the best-known cancers out there. We’ve all seen the runs, the pink ribbons, and heard the story of Christina Applegate’s battle with the disease. We’ve also likely all known someone who was afflicted by it – in fact, if you only know one person who has dealt with breast cancer, you’re doing better than us.

But as much as we’re all aware of breast cancer, the ‘awareness’ aspect of this is still necessary. Women need reminders that being aware isn’t enough – regular mammograms and lump-checks are essential. Breast cancer is one of the most beatable cancers out there, but if you don’t get proactive to find it, you’ll be stacking the odds against your survival. And how shitty will you feel if you perish to a disease you could have potentially nabbed early just by taking care of yourself?

It may be often beatable, but breast cancer is no joke, and it’s no passive foe. Jodie did a self-check yesterday (I offered to help, but that was wisely rejected), and she assured me that she is on schedule with her regular check-ups. Wear a bra or don’t – but save those bra residents from their greatest enemy.

It turns out my listing of ‘today’ events yesterday actually encapsulated a lot of events that were supposed to take place today. Confused? You won’t be when you see all the fun stuff waiting for us on a Tuesday:

  • International Face Your Fears Day. Today my fears involve not snacking enough. Anyone believe that?
  • National M&M Day. Now we’re talking. I’ll conquer my fears with this.
  • Headspace Day. A day for taking care of one’s mental health. Since that’s a running theme this month, we might dive in.
  • Silly Sayings Day. You know what they say…
  • National Train Your Brain Day. My brain is always being trained for whatever it may encounter.
  • National Yorkshire Pudding Day. Doesn’t matter that I was a day off for this. I’m not baking it.
  • Treat Yo’Self Day. I’ll still wish I was out shopping with Tom Haverford and Donna for this one.
  • International Day for Failure. Today we get to fail. At long last.
  • International Suit Up Day. Wear a suit? On a work day? I hardly ever wear pants!