Month: December 2022


As CEO (chicken executive officer) here at Rooster Acres, I am called upon to solve problems complex and mundane.

If exercising the brain promotes intellectual health, I won’t need any fancy pants training regimen—the usual: sleep, exercise, diet, plus trying to keep up with my children should do it.

The kids themselves are rabid learners. The way they take to anything new on their tablets reminds me of how the company head of security, Cocker Spaniel Remington Cabela, gobbles chicken tossed her way when I eat supper. You could say they set upon learning “like a dog on a bone,” as the old saying goes.

This morning, I converted game CDA music files to MP3 and loaded them onto a memory stick. I had skipped that lesson, so I did it on the fly. Now I have a desktop file just for the boy.

Last night, we loaded the files onto a stick but found out his chromebook wouldn’t play them.

The kid slept, holding the stick in his hands so as not to lose it. He has his own memory stick now: oh, the joy.

Before conducting this sensitive transfer, we stood in my office, him on my step stool, me beside him, and recited Invictus together.

I thank whatever Gods may be for my unconquerable soul…

This is the day…


(Merry Christmas)
*Link to Phelps Oh Holy Night below
Bless my Missus’s tender heart. She struggles to get me something at Christmas. I learned a long time a go that wanting is suffering. A wanting man is not a confident man. I’d rather want less.
This year she got me this beautiful jacket. I tend to wear my jackets for at least a couple of decades if I can, so quality counts. This one is both breathable and windproof and waterproof. It also has scent inhibitor, a new one for me. I picture her reading that and telling herself, “I’m getting it.”
You see, I have faith in Missus. She has faith in me. We grow our faith in each other.
Which makes me think of my mother’s deathbed advice, “Chris, you’ve got to have a little faith.”
She said these words while patting my hand with some effort as she lay dying of cancer. The sacrifice of reaching out through her pain with this unequivocal statement meant her words were anchored in my psyche permanently. I had tried without success to hypnotize her and relieve some of her pain, but it was she who had put me into a trance.
But faith? Faith is about trusting something. A part of me said, “Not this guy. Faith is for others.”
Perhaps I had the concept of “belief” taken from me as a child. It could even be that I have unknowingly searched for it since. It may be that I used to believe, at least I believe I used to believe, in any case, I told ma that day that I’d leave a little room for mystery.
One of my first Ottawa memories is singing in the choir with my dad at L’Eglise Catholique St Thomas D’Aquin on Kilborn Avenue. The old man bounced around his shadow for much of his life but every once in a while his divinity would shine through the darkness… and he was King.
Losing my place in the hymnal at six-years-old my first time singing with my father and the choir standing way up high in the back balcony overlooking the congregation, I felt increasing panic the longer I couldn’t find my spot.
I remember desperately finding the courage to risk interrupting him and to look up to search his face as he stood beside me singing along with the others. It was as if he read my mind and my fear. He casually reached down and with one finger showed me the exact place on the page where I needed to be and resumed singing. What a relief it was, and at least to me at the time, a minor miracle.
On the day I compromised with dear old ma and told her I’d leave a little room for mystery; it was the best I could do. It has now formed into something of a core-belief. This has been a surprise after all, unforetold at the time. It means some shit I can just let go.
It was the quote on my dad’s bookshelf, handwritten in marker in Dad’s script, by Robertson William Davies (1913-1995) which said, “Nobody ever knows the whole of anything.” What a relief.
I wonder why the old man felt so strongly about that quote that he defaced his own bookshelf to remind himself each day of its message. I have a suspicion it is the same reason it so appeals to me.
Dad told me he was worried about dying while still possessing books he had not read. I know he carried a fair bit of shame in his life. You could say it takes one to know one, that’s how.
But some or a good part of his self-worth was tied to his learning. You could see it in the way he had information filed away at the ready, partly from genuine enjoyment and talent, but I think also partly from survival.
I know this was true for me, and like him, I have read a book per week most of my life.
It’s as if learning meant I was worth at least something, and just maybe, if lucky, I would not be taken to the edge of the village and left to the animals and the elements. I think the old man had some of this abandonment fear in him. Davie’s quote lets us both of the hook, at least in function.
Like my father, my faith isn’t traditional, not in the conventional religious sense in any case. This is entirely self-serving because knowing and having a faith is a burden which exceeds me. I think it did for the old man too.
Ma went to church every Sunday, but Dad stopped going. He did tell me if he had to do it all over again he’d go to church for the community because he felt as if he may have missed out. That kind of wisdom is hard to come by.
It makes sense that mystery is a doorway to faith. Mystery and awe are related, perhaps like cousins, especially when a sense of awe is part excitement and part fear, as some claim. Faced with Northern Lights, the Milky Way, the Perseid Meteor Shower, the vastness of an ocean, the view from any mountain top, the rising or setting sun and vastness of space with the moon hanging out there in full, these may inspire awe and remind us of just how small we are in comparison.
If you are at all like me, and I realize you are not, nevertheless, to find at least a faith in yourself, here’s what you do: don’t go all in on the Bible right away. Its parables need some context.
Instead, visit the works of Joseph Campbell, or even texts like the Bhagavad Gita. Dabble in Jung but only the more mystical stuff. R. Wilhem and Jung’s The Secret of the Golden Lotus Flower will build mindfulness and stretch your ideas of interconnectivity (as you gather light over a hundred days).
Consider over a period of some days or weeks Jordan Peterson’s Maps of Meanings either in print or through his lectures. Listen to this and allow the greater human journey to build in your mind and most importantly in your heart, then plan to go for a walk in nature.
It was Spinoza (1632-1677) who helped me understand God as a metaphor for nature. Pantheism, which sees God and the Universe as the same, seems to fit me and endures.
Daily I have recited psalm 118:24 for 35 years. “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” At first I used it as I had read it. Then I stopped pretending I had a faith and substituted the word “Lord” for the word “Universe” for about ten or fifteen years. No one was listening so no one knew.
But thanks to social media, eventually I shared my morning ritual using universe instead of Lord. At some point, especially after someone pointed out that I was reciting Psalm 118:24 (because citing the source makes things neat and tidy, which makes sense), I decided to use the “as written” version.
Of course, this pissed off the odd faithless bastard out there who felt I was proselytizing. Fuck’em if they can’t take a joke, is my attitude. As a faithless bastard myself, if I can handle it, so can you.
Christmas time is a good time to invite a little more faith into your life. You could act “as if,” and no one will know. It’s none of their damn business anyway.
One thing to do is go out into nature. When you go for your walk, if you are lucky there will be snow.
Snow quiets the forest and the trails, making the odd chatter from squirrel or bird take on an otherworldly rising and falling sound, a disturbance which seems to summon the spirit like a loud whistle from a referee signals the start of play on a sports field.
If you are lucky, you may see sun filtering in among the bushes and trees and fields and be dazzled by billions of sparkling snowflakes reflecting their light.
Breathe in the cold air and imagine the lingering smell of pine.
But before you go on such a walk, listen to Christmas music, one selection in particular.
Listen to O Holy Night. Oh my, it’s up there… metaphor intended.
I have listened to Mariah Carey, Celine Dion and even my favourite torch song singer Whitney Houston (rest in peace fear seeker) and none of them are comparable to the male voices I have heard singing this singularly powerful and faith inducing song.
The Pentatonix group have a female singer and collectively do a fine job. Tyler Shaw and The Tenors are pretty damn good too. This brings several voices to the fray and widens the experience.
But it is this gospel fella David Phelps singing Oh Holy Night live in front of a crowd that may stir your soul. Maybe listen to it several times, it is that good anyway.
Then take some time to walk in nature wherever you are. Who knows what might happen?
You could fall on your knees and hear the angel voices.
I’m off for a walk. Merry Christmas.
This is the day…
*Listen to Phelps’ best rendition here:


And so it was a gal finds herself working in a classroom as a Teacher’s Aid, something she could not have foretold.
Like I had once been, she was a high school dropout, a deficit she felt deeply. Early life can conspire against a kid and becoming an adult brings with it the power to right wrongs.
When the pandemic hit, she seized the opportunity and spent months and months in a tiny little alcove office she made in her bedroom. Then she spent an almost equal number of evenings repeating the process. She not only got her high school diploma but a college education as well, scoring above 90%.
I remember when we first had children. Hell, I remember even talking about having children.
I had told her I didn’t blame her for wanting MY children. Who wouldn’t, was my attitude…
So I promised her a dog.
She looked hurt for a split second and I caught it. That’s something I would not have been able to see a few decades ago. But time…
As a result of that momentary lapse in my protective male hubris, I conceded that if she did well with the dog, I’d agree to let her have my child. It was the best I could do. Besides, betting on the future is easy: you kick that can down the road a bit and cross that bridge when you come to it, right?
Well, she had the dog trained in weeks. You could shoot it with your finger, and it would play dead for food. Come on. Who does that? I was enthralled with her charm. Missus too.
We have two kids together. It’s been magic. And she is still training, only now she does it with developmentally challenged kids. Every day she comes home and exclaims, “I love my job!” with the kind of enthusiasm rarely heard amongst adults.
Non-verbal autistics and Down Syndrome kids and all the rest of the little people: she cleans, feeds, teaches and plays and even swims with them. She loves every bit of it.
I once worked as a pool porter back when kids like these were warehoused away from their families in large institutions. Arriving by prison van each day I’d see the hearse at the back of the building, taking away whomever died in the night. It was Dickensian: an alternate class universe, not a good one.
Working at the Smith Falls institution was better than doing time and gave me access to “street food” from their cafeteria and a chance to chat up pretty lifeguards, actual females.
Missus is now one of the cute gals attending to the children full time, only not at an institution. And the best part is she comes home to me. You could say I’m her only prisoner.
I haven’t bought my kids new clothes in ten years. It’s nuts, I know. What kind of dereliction of duty is this, you may rightfully ask.
Meanwhile their closets and drawers are overflowing with “stuff.”
It’s Missus, she hustles clothes through the sisterhood, washes them and passes along the rest. The only time she wears new clothes for herself is if I buy her some at Christmas or for her birthday.
It’s as much a testament to her character as it is that she looks great in anything, rags even. I know that because she wears my old T-shirts to bed from a dozen or more years ago. Still looks hot.
Every day, it’s “I have to go pick something up,” and off she goes. She is a star recycler. Cars pull up outside my office window almost equally often and a gal jumps out to pick up something Missus has left for her on our front porch.
She is part of silent group of gal pal gatherers. I admire them.
And so it was, one of her charges, a diminutive Down Syndrome type with his tongue perpetually stuck out whom she refers to as the “cutest kid ever,” has only shoes. For whatever reason, no boots.
This is Canada. We just had two feet of snow. No boots.
Not going to happen on her watch.
The day before yesterday, she had to go pick something up. Problem solved. Scrubbed clean and ready, now the “cutest kid ever” has boots.
And last night she is at the kitchen table with one of Howie’s hoodies sewing on mittens to the cuffs of the sleeves for a child with cold hands. Brilliant, I thought. She never ceases to amaze…
Howie didn’t think so, and said it was one of his favourite sweaters. Missus thought it was too small for him, but he convinced her it was not, a little worried while trying it on for proof. Off came the mittens and the sweater is back in his drawer.
The school where she was hired has no idea what they have gotten themselves into.
She is NOT your average mortal. Highly conscientious, Missus is a natural problem solver and anticipates and kills obstacles to functionality like an engineer.
That’s what she is, a caregiving engineer. Though frankly, I used to call her “Miss Bossy” with all the love the moniker deserves, out of respect for the force of nature that she is.
I know that she is scheming how to match need with resource even now. Perhaps she’s eyeing the accumulated clothing, pondering how she will sew “which to what for whom.”
Meanwhile, back at the school, the cutest kid ever, his tongue sticking out and eyes sparkling with excitement, went up to ALL the adults ALL DAY LONG and poked them to get their attention.
Then he’d point at them assuredly and then down at his new old boots excitedly, snuffling in excitement while nodding his head, pointing at them, his boots, at them, at his boots.
This is the day…