I usually just text these days, but I’m even really terrible at that lately. I’m playing the reclusive fool this December.
So, following my little revelatory glimpse into Claire’s desire for her own computer yesterday on this blog, Matt emailed me with some ideas to solve it: and there was no need to actually spend money to make it happen. (Well, I spent six bucks on a memory stick, but besides that…) The end result was that I tinkered away all yesterday evening converting an old laptop –formerly running a broken instance of Vista that never worked well even off the shelf and a dual-boot copy of Ubuntu which was a little too complex for Claire’s needs– and instead repurposing the machine to use Chromium OS. Her class uses Chromebooks at school, and for our purposes this clunky old machine –that used to take ten minutes to boot, had seen better days, and was bound for the Ecostation– may have just found new life as a zippy little lightweight sorta-Chromebook. It’s fast… damn fast. Faster than that machine has ever run anything. And for as much power as that little OS needs, it runs all the little tools that will serve the girl well for school for at least a couple more years. To her chagrin, it doesn’t handle Minecraft. But they don’t teach that yet… at least not in her classroom.
It would have been obvious to nearly any parent: something was bugging her.
“You look so sad.” I nudged her to chat while she sat slumped in her seat and staring vacantly out the truck window. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” She pouted way too quickly, the inflection in her voice so obviously a cover up for the drama wrecking havoc through her little heart that I couldn’t help but pry a little deeper.
“Are you sure?” I prodded. “How was your day?” I had just picked her up from her summer camp, an all-day-care program offered by the same folks that ran her after-school daycare. Participation in this filled her days and meant that she got to spend the summer going to parks and field trips and swimming pools while we worked, all in the company of many of the same kids with whom she spent the rest of the year in more focused curricular activities. Many of the same kids, yes, but some extra staff meant that they took on some new kids as well.
“It was bad.” She said finally. “I had a bad day.” And I could almost hear the tear welling up behind the words.
new friends, old friends, bad friends, and blue friends
And then she proceeded to tell me the tale of her dramatic friendships torn asunder by the complexities only understandable by the minds of children: new friends, old friends, bad friends, and blue friends. It seemed that in an effort to be friends there was a disconnect between method and result. Tears did indeed follow, and by the time we arrived home, parked in the garage, and clambered into the house she had found her room, slammed her door, and accused me of both (a) failing to listen and (b) having so many friends that I couldn’t possibly understand.
I let her pout for a few minutes alone, and while I pondered I also thumbed through the remote on the television. An idea had struck me and in my temporary genius I searched YouTube for the term “how to make friends for kids” and scrolled through the results, landing on a curious selection that seemed to be either (a) a spot on parody of a 1950s film reel or (b) actually a 1950s film reel.
“Come watch this.” I called to her room, wagering on its quality before I could preview it.
“and Ginger wonders what it’s all about!”
As much as we try to be modern and sometimes frown down on the advice of the past in fear that can be irrelevant or crosses lines of attitude and opinion that are no longer socially acceptable, I think there is often still value to be found in the cracks of where antiquity and serendipity collide. The video we happened to watch pointed out some basic yet classic rules of “being a friend” –smiling, saying nice things, and just talking to people (to be specific)– all in that saccharine feel-good, suburban glow of a black-and-white-toned 1950s reel-to-reel film, rescued and posted online. We looked past that, and as fundamental and obvious as the rules it offered may seem, as parent to a kid in the modern world its easy to forget that old fashioned advice is not necessarily so bad or so plain… especially for a seven year old. A few days later I found her “making friends” checklist stuffed under her pillow.
Making friends doesn’t go out of style, it seems, and our great-grandparents generation may have still have a few things to teach us, even if it means hunting through the Internet to find it. Parents still need to find that balance between modern norms and antique insights, but whether it is the advice itself, or just the notion that some good ideas never go out of style, digging up gems from the past can occasionally pay off.
So, for this one weekend in July we went camping.
Eight adults, seven kids, four sites, two nights, and lots of junk food. The kids rode bikes, cooked over a campfire, and spent a pair of solid days (mostly) away from devices and just playing outside. It only rained a little bit, and the bugs seemed to have gone on vacation, too.
For a brief moment I tell myself that I could once again get used to sleeping in a tent for many nights in a row, eating food that can be grilled over a burning log, and having to walk half a kilometer to use the bathroom. But I do enjoy coming back home at the end of it… so a quick weekend camping topped up that empty space for another while.
We do an annual camping trip with a group of us hauling out to some lake for a weekend and entertaining the kids with toys and swimming and roasted marshmallows. With June now half over and school into it’s final countdown, I can start to think about how I’m spending my July and August… that rare stretch of warm weather that defines our local summer.
Oh, look… June! And there was something I was forgetting… ah, right: those thirty posts I write every year in June. That again. For the fifth year in a row I’m back to a month of daily blogging: each day a new post on a new topic, but on the same blog-per-day topic as last year, creating another set of Those 30 Posts in June. Today, that post just happens to be about something that I’ve:
Despite being born in Canada, at some level I think I still identify a bit as an immigrant. After all, our family has only really been in these parts, what, ninety or a hundred years at most? Most of those years I have not even been around for, and most of the ones for which I was I tend to take mostly for granted. I say that I still identify a bit as an immigrant because so often in this multicultural blend of nationalities, we are carefully prodded to tag ourselves with this idea of ancestry and defining where our grandparents or great-grandparents came from: I’m a little bit Dutch and a little bit German and a little bit Irish, all blended together into a well-established Canadian mutt. I don’t necessarily identify with any of those ancestral homelands, but occasionally we’re reminded that in the grand scheme of things we’re still newcomers, too.
And occasionally we’re reminded of not only the nature of this society in which we live, but the value it can hold for others who are not (yet) part of it.
This morning (and running into and through lunchtime) I had the honour of hanging out with our neighbors and friends who, at about 1 pm mountain standard time, crossed the finish line of a seven year long journey to Canadian Citizenship… a thing that I was handed without any extra effort whatsoever about a nanosecond after exiting the womb in the mid-seventies… a thing which they’ve worked for, planned for, moved for, queued for, and probably lost immeasurable quantities of sleep, opportunity, resources, and so many other things I would neither fathom nor fully appreciate.
We attended, we and some of their other friends who happened to work downtown and who could take a long lunch break to welcome the country’s newest members, along with a small auditorium of other onlookers and a hundred and twenty-two new Canadians.
It was a government affair, so of course there was queuing, paperwork, ceremony, waiting, speeches, formality, ringing iPhones, crying babies, and photo ops. But in the end it was all about little more than handing out a very tangible piece of legal paper… and something more ineffable known as national identity.
All-in-all it made me a little bit proud and a little bit patriotic, too.
Hanging out with friends.
a mash-up of friendship & internet
I recently found out that one of my internet friends is famous. For the sake of approximately six very good reasons, I won’t tell you the circumstances or the details of the aforementioned fame, but needless to say it was both (a) a curious discovery and (b) a kind of reckoning of the state of our friendship, a’la that it’s now almost entirely electronic.
We weren’t always just e-friends. In fact, we’d met in real life and spent real time in the same real space. We’d worked together. We’d spent sometime outside of work together. And we’d generally hung out.
Then drifting occurred: lives shifted, moves happened, and careers diverged. In the end, the best we could muster was a kind of long distance electronic friendship that has over the last couple years degraded to little more than a scattered collection of social media check-ins and digital stalking. We were still connected, friendly, and interested in each other’s lives, but the gaps of time and space left a fog around the definition of that friendly relationship.
a mash-up of romance & belief
Romance in 2015 has been upgraded.
Now, rather than simply the obligatory box of chocolates for the classic Hallmark(TM) love holiday, we are apparently destined to a future of ever-more-loudly extolling the wonderfulness of our relationships through grandiose twitter status updates. We are adrift in a technological loveless anarchy of strategically changing our Facebook profile photos to a smooshy-faced couples pic with our significant other bearing a caption that leaves no mistake about the awesomeness of our partner. We are primed to validate our romance by the power of sheer external belief, a belief that is measured in likes.