Sunday, March 27, 2011


Everyone has their own idea of a perfect day. Mine would begin with a walk along a sunny beach, my feet pulling through the surf as it rolled onto the shore, the cool sea-spray splashing up my legs and quickly drying in the warm breeze, leaving only the salty mask tightening on my skin. The noon hour would find me lounging on a blanket with a picnic lunch as I dig my toes into the sun-baked sand, listening to the roar of greeting between sea and shore, and watching as the gulls fight over a crust of bread.  The afternoon would be spent playing in the waves, body surfing. There’s nothing like catching a great wave. A barbeque supper would follow, it wouldn’t matter what meat, but the veggies would have to be grilled as well. And this perfect day would end with a cozy campfire, complete with s’mores.
That would be my perfect day, but, of course, it would not be everyone’s perfect day. Your preference may be a day on the ski hill, four-wheeling through the desert, or just relaxing at home…which brings me to my point. Perfection is relative.
Whether it’s a day, a book, or a painting, everyone has their own thoughts on perfection. I’ll even go farther than that and say there is no such thing as real perfection, only perceived perfection. In fact, even what you perceive as perfection may be slightly flawed, but you choose, consciously or sub-consciously, to blind yourself to the imperfection, thus, rendering it seemingly perfect.
Example: My walk on the beach may include me stepping on a sharp shell, seagull droppings landing on my picnic blanket, or (and most likely) water going up my nose as I turn into an oncoming wave. But even with its lack of “real” perfection, to me, there is nothing better than that day.
The same goes for the people in our lives. We all know that people are not perfect, but we will, sometimes, choose to look past the flaws in them. Or better yet, embrace their flaws as a part of what makes them unique, as it is the sum of your all your qualities which make you a “perfect” you. In actuality, I am thankful for the lack of perfection; how very boring life would be without mistakes.  And It’s our flaws that differentiate us from one another, and that is one of the joys of life; variety.
So, I’ll take the nose full of seawater and the gull droppings on my perfect day, after all, I’m certainly not perfect, myself. The proof of that is in the URL for this blog - It has an extra “l” in it. I’m not sure how that happened, but when I noticed, I decided not to fix it. It’s perfect in its imperfection…just like me.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Extremely Super

I was mooned, last night.  Okay, cheap laugh. What I mean is that I ventured outside to take in the beautiful view of the full moon…sorry, I mean “supermoon”…no, it was even better than that, it was an extreme supermoon, which simply means the point at which the full or new moon is at its lunar perigee, or closest to the Earth. But at 356,577 km away, last night’s moon may not have seemed close to us, but in celestial terms, it just took one small step toward us in its monthly dance around the Earth.
The moon, being our closest neighbor, seems to hold the greatest fascination of all celestial bodies. Many tales have been told to explain the phases of the moon, eclipses, blood moons, and yes, super moons. And it has been blamed for natural disasters, acts of lunacy, and affairs of the heart.
It is a scientific fact that the moon’s gravitational pull affects the Earth’s tides, (That in itself makes me a fan of the moon.) but is it strong enough affect us directly?
What does that extreme supermoon last night mean? Nothing, really, except maybe some higher tides, although, there are some, astrologers in particular, who read much into celestial events. And those who follow these soothsayers believed last night’s event would create a world full of hurt. Sorry to disappoint you….
Of course most of us are not inclined to believe such dire premonitions, as deadlines for the end of the world have come and gone many times. But since the beginning of our sentience, mankind has been fascinated by the night sky and how it affects our little blue planet and its inhabitants. For mankind, it was the lure of the unknown which began the search for answers to the events happening around him - everyone loves a mystery -  and when it couldn’t be explained scientifically, due to lack of knowledge, it’s the imagination which raced to find a satisfactory conclusion. Constellations were not only given names, but stories to explain how they got there, and a whole pseudo-science was built around them and other celestial bodies. I have to admit that, as a teenager, I owned a book on astrology and used it to see if my friend’s personalities matched their signs, but that was all in fun.
To an astrologer the moon holds a part of our destiny within its grasp. To an astronomer, a full moon is simply a lunar phase that occurs when the moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the sun. To a poet, it might mean the life spring from which all romance flows.  Whatever your theories on the moon’s effects one thing can’t be denied, it is beautiful and everyone likes to be mooned…er, you know what I mean.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What’s In A Name?

When I was young, I didn’t like my name. There were no other kids in school named Shannon, (or Shanny as I was known in my early years) and some people could not seem to get it right, as I was called Shauna, Sammy and even Shane. I looked up the meaning in a baby book once, hoping it meant graceful or angelic, or something to make me feel that it wasn’t all bad. Instead, I found out it meant “old wise one." Just what every young girl likes to hear. Eventually, I grew to embrace it, and I figured it’s only a name, and what’s in a name? But upon deeper reflection I realize that, sometimes, there can be a lot in a name.
Shakespeare once said, “That which we call a rose, by any other name, would smell as sweet.” This may be true of roses, but roses are not blessed with self awareness or the ability to internalize those “other” names which are capable of changing the sweet to sour.
Many kids in my old neighbourhood had nicknames, and I saw no problem with that, when they were welcomed nicknames. In fact, nicknames can sometimes be empowering, depending upon their meanings. But when they are the other nicknames, the unwelcomed nicknames, the hurtful, crippling name calling that can crush you, that is a huge problem.
I’m no psychologist, nor have I done any studies on bullying, so I can only speak of what I’ve observed over the years.
Contrary to the cliché, sticks and stones are not the only things that can hurt you. Names, the mean-spirited kind, can destroy your self-esteem and change your perception of your place in the world. There are many factors involved in determining to what degree someone internalizes this type of abuse and, of course, a person’s inherent personality is a huge factor. If you have a strong, self-confident, nature you may be able to get quickly past the hurt that these labels create and, perhaps, even fight back. But the quiet, sensitive, non-confrontational victims are easier to intimidate and put down.
Bullies, searching for a way to feel powerful, tend to seek out these less difficult targets, but when that momentary power trip ends, and their own insecurities begin to resurface, the bully needs another fix, and, unfortunately, they return to the tried and true victim and reopen the old wounds. Whether it happens between children or whether the names come from an adult, the aftereffects can last a lifetime and in the most devastating of circumstances, cut a life short.
I realize that bullying comes in many forms, and that physical forms of abuse are more apparent to the outsider. I also know that name calling is something that all kids do at one time or another, even if it’s as simple as calling a sibling dumb or ugly just once. But if you are told something often enough, without someone countering that negativity, you begin to believe it and a broken spirit can be much more painful than a broken bone.
So, what’s in a name? Plenty. But name calling is certainly nothing that is going to go away. There will always be ignorant, hateful, and fearful people who find satisfaction in making someone feel as badly as themselves. But in our own lives, we can help to curtail the propagation of this act by be mindful of what we say and how we label others, and by teaching our children to try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes before they speak. And there are always those empowering names we can use to help to rebuild a child’s’s self-esteem. Who knows, you could end up becoming that child’s hero. Now there’s a welcomed label .
However you feel about you own name, I hope that the next time you write it you think about the power that names possess and the people  whose lives you can influence just by the way in which you choose to wield that power.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Players

How many of you played make-believe as a child? I think it’s a safe bet to say that most of you did. The number of towels and pillowcases used as capes, over the years, probably runs well into the millions. And who can forget the beautiful princesses costumed in their mothers’ old party dresses, and boys, thrilled to find a broken tree branch with just the right offshoot to make it the perfect rifle?  And whether you were a superhero, a soldier or a princess, your imagination would transport you to another time or place. In my neighbourhood, backyards became battlefields, where the guttural sounds of exploding grenades and gunfire resonated from the throats of every pint sized soldier boy.  Old discarded scrap wood was perfect for constructing forts; ground level, as well as in trees. Our minimalist tree fort consisted only of a platform and railing, but what made it “cool” was the rope swing. What else did we need, besides imagination? We had the world…and beyond. How fun was that.
Unfortunately, most children’s affinity for make-believe diminishes, little by little, with each passing year, until, eventually it gets shoved aside and only rarely permitted out to sneak a peek into our rational, responsible, mature lives. However, if you are among the fortunate few, it will refuse to be stifled completely, and evolves into a more organized interpretation of that superhero or princess. It’s called amateur theatre.
Amateur theatre is much like playing – thus the use of the word players in reference to actors – not only do you get to make-believe you are someone else, but you get to build that fort…now called a set, and dress up…now called costumes. And you do it all just for the love of it.
As a teen, I had always loved theatre and the way it drew me into the story unfolding upon the stage, and had always wished I’d had the courage to audition for the school musicals. But my inner child was too shy to come out to play. As much as I had wanted to become a part of that world, feelings of inadequacy and fear of rejection held me back. I wasn’t ready to let go of my inhibitions and put myself out there for the world to see and criticize…nor did I think I ever would. Performing is not for the faint of heart.
Then, one day, not long ago and not far away, something magical happened. I joined an amateur theatre group. It was life changing. I didn’t know it at the time - sometimes you don’t recognize things for what they are until much later – but it was. My introduction to amateur theatre began with a giant leap outside of my comfort zone, jolting that playful little girl inside and reawakening my creative spirit.
Ironically, my teenaged fears of being made to feel inadequate or to be rejected were far from realized. Instead, I felt an overwhelming feeling of acceptance and encouragement from these “poor players”, and I still look forward to “playing” during every rehearsal. I don’t know if everyone feels as much of a kinship toward their fellow actors, or if I just lucked out, but not only have I made some great friends to play with, on and off the stage,  but a few have even become some of my favorite people.
If you’ve never experienced the world of amateur theatre, I encourage you to step out of the box and release your inner child. In other words, I’m asking, “Do you want to come out to play?”