Friday, September 25, 2009


When it comes to thinking, there may possibly be no better aid, no more effective facilitator than the water exercise belt. It’s a simple technology really, simple but brilliant. There’s a piece of foam rubber to go around your back, a belt to tighten through it, and a buckle for the belt. Once you’re in it you can move in deep water without having to worry about whether your head will go under. Relieved of that concern, standing upright with your legs free to move without attention to where you are stepping, your mind is at liberty to wander.
This morning my mind wandered off into territory usually occupied by my buddy and colleague Lenora, the territory of possible selves. This is familiar territory for her. She works primarily with kids, helping them imagine hopeful possibilities for their future selves. This morning it felt natural for me to be there, seeing as how I was floating along, maybe being noticed by strangers who, humorously and impossibly, might be thinking of me as a jock, an exercise fanatic. Yes, I know it’s unlikely. But still it’s possible. Strangers, after all, know so little about your history. They know only the self they see, and the me these strangers see is out in a bathing suit around 7:00 AM. You can’t really blame them if they’ve misunderstood, can you?
Having wandered there, my thoughts continued on until they came to the work that is coming up for me, a trip to Vancouver, an evening with the parents of children with severe disabilities. A funny thing happened in the planning of this event. It was organized by the staff of Sunny Hill Health Centre. They planned a parents’ evening on hope and advertised it. To their surprise they began to get a very enthusiastic registration, not only from the parents for whom the evening was planned, but also from the parents of grown children with severe disabilities. Once a parent, always a parent—as far as hope is concerned.
Hope, where parents are concerned, shrinks itself down from the rosy future picture to the present reality. I’ve heard it said—and thought more than once myself—that the earth’s population would likely die out altogether if parents at the prenatal stage were fully informed about the challenges they were taking on. Anticipating the birth of our children we imagine, without really knowing we are imagining it, laughing with bubble-blowing babies, glowing over honour-role graduates, bragging to our fellow seniors about our compassionate care-giving children, there to help us in our old age. We imagine a blissful state of loving parenthood with ourselves at the centre of wisdom. It is a future anyone would covet.
Though few parents are awarded the luxury of such a reality, none are more challenged to rise to the task of becoming possible selves than the parents of children with severe disabilities. Without warning or preparation they are called upon to be so many things they never intended to be—loyal defenders, advocates, brave and cheerful accepters, special educators, medical experts, managers of staff—all possible, but not hoped for, not hoped for at first anyway. Later—prodded by an urgent necessity--they hope to be all these things, and they work toward that hope. The age at which a dependent child becomes a dependent adult is not a magic age. This, perhaps, explains how it happened that so many of the registrants at the hope session for parents are not the parents of children, but rather the parents of adults.

Monday, September 21, 2009


To those of you who, like me, remain slack-jawed with amazemen at my having made it into the pool at the Y before work on 10 consecutive business days including 2 Fridays when I didn’t have to be at the office, I beg you not to worry. The world isn’t ending. There are always logical explanations to account for unexpected events. Here are my top ten.

10 Nobody objects when I practice the alto parts of choir anthems while I water-jog
9 Sometimes I am the only person in the pool (possible explanation for reason 10)
8 The Y is directly on the route between home and the office
7 You can access the lRT from the y without going outside (excellent on wet-hair-days)
6 The pool staff are nice to me
5 Nobody asks me for anything when I’m there
4 The water feels warm when you put the first toe in
3 The water still feels warm when you put your stomach in
2 The shower is warm when you get out of the pool


1 I haven’t been able to think of a good excuse to skip.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Blame it all on inspiration, or wild imagination, or good leadership, or hero worship, or even delusions of grandeur. But 8 days after the fact—having invested about $25.00 on a washboard, a leather strap, 2 old-fashioned clothes pegs, 3 metal spoons, 2 plastic spoons and a kazoo—I think I can probably say definitively that I may not have needed any of it, except possibly the kazoo. In fact—unlike many other people--I actually had a washboard in the laundry room, and a hundred pegs in the peg bucket (albeit they are the new-fangled kind with springs instead of slits and dapper round heads), and a few dozen metal spoons in the spoon drawer, and 3 plastic spoons in another drawer, and my old washboard never once considered having a fancy leather strap, and when I play the comb some people say it sounds to them like a kazoo. Still I did invest about $25.00 in all these things, which now lie in a pile on my dresser, waiting, like jewellery, to be shown off.
Maybe I wouldn’t have bought any of it if it hadn’t been for the fact that last summer I spent $400.00 on a used keyboard which drove me to hysteria and occupied way too much of my free time until, just a month ago, I heard David say, “I think that keyboard was a really good investment.” If I could make a good investment with $400.00, what might I be able to do with $25.00?
And I likely would not have bought any of it, or even ever considered it had I not sat spellbound in the audience at the Timpanogos Festival in Orem, Utah while
Angela Lloyd
hypnotized me with her gentle stories and then delighted me with her washboard antics. So I traded my plans to hear more stories for an hour’s worth of washboard workshop with Angela, and you really can’t go to a washboard workshop without a washboard, can you? And really, if it hadn’t been for the store having such a run on washboard accessories, I would also have bought at least one wooden block, and possibly a bell, and undoubtedly a little tooting horn. Likely I would have spent more than $30.00 adding in all that. So you see, I really got quite a bargain, as it turns out. What I didn’t get, was the skill, the forty million hours of instruction, the 28 years of practice or the ultimate talent that would transform me from the musician I am not, to the musician Angela is. Only in my dreams am I permitted to make all those bits and pieces burst into beautiful music the way Angela does. She said it was easy. Next time I’ll take promises like that with a tablespoon of salt!
When you get right down to it, the reality is more perplexing than the appearance when it comes to playing the washboard with the wooden pegs, and there’s got to be some sort of technique of magic that converts a mixing spoon to a percussive wonder.
So far, about 6 days in—I didn’t get home until very late on Sunday—I’ve mastered the kazoo, using the amazing band-aid trick Angela taught me, and the fancy strap has been temporarily affixed to the washboard with a couple of sewing pins.
Now I must say, all things considered, that every day, as I turn away from the dresser and toward the keyboard--that keyboard is looking more and more like a really good investment!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Every September the storytellers of Utah launch a fantastic summer event, the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. This year it was our great pleasure to attend.
We certainly got our money’s worth. They had invited a dozen national tellers, professionals who make their living telling stories. No wonder we loved it. The national tellers are all pretty good. We’ve learned to love them. For the most part they come complete with long southern drawls and a gift for exaggeration.
The southern tellers pull you into their lives, into their history, into their landscape. Go to a festival in Tennessee or Texas, and you’ll feel like you’ve been to Tennessee and Texas, also, North Carolina, Kentucky, Georgia. You come home with a sense that you have rested in the bosom of the people, become part of them somehow.
The Timpanogos Festival is surprisingly similar to the festival in Jonesborough Tennessee. It is huge—ten thousand visitors, maybe more. The programs are housed in enormous tents and on a marvellous hill under the stars. The festival goes on for several days, multiple choices every 90 minutes. When you first arrive you wonder what to choose. Later you realize it doesn’t really matter what you choose, because any story those tellers tell is likely to be wonderful.
There was music. There was audience participation. Sitting in tents and on the hill under the stars we feasted on words, gorged ourselves on laughter. We heard about North Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee! No doubt about it, we came home happy and well entertained.
But wait a minute! We weren’t in the south. We were in Utah. I’d almost forgotten where we were. Curiously, we did not hear a single story about Utah or its people, and that, in a place where the local storytellers have the organizational structure to put on such a large and well-managed event, strikes me as very surprising. To be fair, the brochure didn’t promise any local tellers or any local stories. I guess I just expected them. It’s funny how you can have an expectation without knowing you have it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


The world is full of interesting jobs. Imagine, for example, the life of a customs agent, opening suitcases, examining unmatched socks, waylaying wads of used underwear on their way to the laundry. Whose suitcase would you want to look in? How would you determine which of those travelers are suspicious enough to warrant further investigation?
“Where were you, ma'am?”
“Salt Lake City?”
“How long were you there?”
“Six days.”
“Business or pleasure?”
“What did you buy?”
“A washboard made by the Columbus Company (especially for lingerie), 2 wooden clothes pegs (knobby tips, no springs), 2 plastic spoons, 3 metal spoons, 1 strap and a kazoo.
“Anything else?”
“Five bags of candy.”
“Anything else?”
“Two copies of one small book.”
“Total value?”
And there lies the mystery of it all. Given that he didn’t even bat an eyelash, what would it take to make a customs agent suspicious enough to want to thumb through my laundry?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


Who knows what forces will suffice to drive a human being forward under adverse conditions in the quest for personal betterment?

Will intrinsic motivation be enough? Maybe not.

Will spousal support and encouragement be enough? Maybe not.

Will bragging rights be enough? Maybe not.

But just in case a person might be too proud to quit after bragging …

Let it be entered into the public record that on this first day after Labour Day, this first day of the post-summer routine, I, (okay, admittedly David was there taking every step alongside me to keep me going) in the true spirit of hope and future intentions, left my bed at 4:30 AM, made the uphill trek to downtown, joined the YMCA, and did an hour’s worth of water aerobics before coming to work. And if, upon reading this, you are doubled over, seized beyond breathing by convulsions of laughter or disbelieving amazement, let it be a matter of public record that nobody could possibly be more surprised to report this than I.

But it really happened.

To do it once was a stretch.

To do it again is almost a certainty. .

To do it AS often as intended will require …

Nothing les than A MIRACLE!!!!!