It’s Groundhog Day, Again

Groundhog Day

 

Then put your little hand in mine, there ain’t no hill or mountain we can’t climb…. These are the words that Phil Connors hears each morning, at 6:00 am, in the famous 1993 film, Groundhog Day.. It’s a favourite in my household, with its humour and downright silliness, and yet lesson about being open to change and being with those you love. Now I’ll state the obvious, what so many of us have been thinking: we are living the movie. It’s Groundhog Day, again.

As I thought about writing this post, and as I started to put the first few words on my screen today, I wanted to state something very important up front: it is not my intention to make fun of or to minimize the impact and power of COIVD-19. This virus is to be taken seriously, and so many people are ill or have died. I am not poking fun at COVID-19.

Our lives changed in an instant on Wednesday, March 11th, 2020, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a “global pandemic.” We were scared, politicians and scientists had more questions than answers, and we all panicked. In Canada, at least, we locked down. Our lives, it seemed, stopped in an instant.

Which is when the real-life version of Groundhog Day began.

Since that fateful day in March, does it ever seem like every day is the same? No matter what your routine is, does it seem repetitive? Here’s my typical weekday. And when I say typical, this is my life, every day:

A Groundhog Day in the Life of Alicia since March 16th

  • 6:50: radio turns on, by timer of course, to Newstalk 1010. Yep I love to hear John Moore in the morning. I listen to the daily updates and chatter for a few minutes, in a semi-comatose state, until I have the strength to roll out of bed just after 7:00.
  • 7:20: Shower and make myself look decently presentable.
  • 7:40: Start the process to wake up 13-year-old son.
  • 7:42: Return to bedroom of said son and see if he’s conscious.
  • 7:45: Return once again to bedroom of said son with louder voice and make him respond.
  • 7:50: Wake up my daughters, who now insist on sharing a bed. Enlist the help of the dog, to climb on them and lick their faces. They get up.
  • 7:55: Run downstairs as fast as I can to avoid hearing the fight that the four-year-old needs to pee but her brother is still in the shower.
  • 8:00-8:20: prepare breakfast and lunches for the kids, load school bags and get everything ready at the door.
  • 8:20: Sit down at my new home-office desk (which used to be my dining room but now is my office/sitting room) and turn on my computer. Have a quick check at morning emails.
  • 8:25: turn on the espresso maker, grind my beans and get my morning cappuccino ready.
  • 8:30: Raise my voice that it’s time to leave and maybe children should get their shoes and coats on.
  • 8:32: Raise my voice further as at least one of them is ignoring me.
  • 8:34: Remind them to bring their backpacks as they run out the door to the car with my husband, as he drives them to school.

**Note the “drive to school part” is only as of September 8th. In the spring they learned virtually and most of the morning still looked like this.

  • 8:35: the workday formally begins, with meetings on Webex, email, writing, phone calls and a lot of multi-tasking. Jump from one file to the next and back again. Finally take the first sip of my cappuccino. Brain is waking up.
  • 8:35-4:00: the heart of the workday, when the house is quiet and the kids are at school. My main distraction is my cute personal assistant, aka my dog, who takes issue with any person who dares walk along the sidewalk in front of my house.
  • 11:00: I suddenly realize that once again I’ve eaten nothing and make myself a light breakfast. Same thing a few hours later when I realize maybe lunch is a good idea as all I’ve consumed is coffee and yoghurt.
  • 4:00: My girls arrive home from school, bursting through the front door like a tornado. Note that sometimes I pick them up and sometimes my husband does. So I guess there’s some variety in the day. Dog goes wild. Children scream. Everyone who I work with knows my children are home.
  • 4:20: My son arrives home. He adds to the pile of school junk at the front door and disappears to some corner of the house to check all the sports news he’s missed in the past 8 hours.
  • 5:30: I start to try to wind down my workday, though this will often stretch to 6:00, 6:30 or beyond.
  • 6:00: Enter the kitchen, to discover a hurricane has yet again come through, with a sink full of dishes, empty food containers on the counter and a dishwasher that needs to be emptied.
  • 6:01: Get over the daily shock, turn on the TV and watch CTV News at 6 for the day’s daily depressing update.
  • 6:30: Once my kitchen is sparkling clean, start cooking dinner. Yes, I cook dinner every night, and not simple basic food. This part of the day is cathartic for me, though I do scream at my kids every few minutes to leave me alone while I cook. How do they constantly want a snack?
  • 7:30: Dinner is finally ready and everyone attacks. I will admit it here: we gave up on sitting together at the table for a family dinner months ago. The five of us spend so much time together that the kids dumped us when it came to mealtime. So everyone does their own thing.
  • 8:30: I realize that the evening has flown by and maybe I should start putting the four-year-old to bed. Sometimes she’s jumped in the bath already and other times I look at my messy, yet only lightly dirty child, and decide a bath isn’t worth it. Meanwhile I holler to the 10-year-old that screen time is over for the night. She has just spent the past 4 hours on her phone and laptop, socializing with her friends and it’s time to say good night.
  • 9:00: If I have my act together, I have the girls in bed, ready to read with me. First it’s a preschool book for the younger one. Then I switch to the good book: Harry Potter, which I’m reading aloud with my 10-year-old. We’re on book 6 now, and we enjoy every minute. And yes, I do all the voices and even some accents!
  • 9:45: I fall asleep reading to my daughter, which displeases her every night. Her sister (and the dog) have finally fallen asleep, and I slowly get up and move on with my evening.
  • 10:00: I consider doing something around the house, like a load of laundry or cleaning my office but instead fall over on my bed. Luckily my husband has cleaned the kitchen. At this point my son is ensconced on the couch, and depending on the night, either watching football, playing XBOX or reading up on yet more sports news.
  • 10:50: After lying on my bed for the past 50 minutes, either chatting on WhatsApp with friends or playing Scrabble against the computer, I get up and get ready for bed.
  • 11:00: I’m in bed, watching the news and seeing that it too, hasn’t changed.

I’ve missed a few details, and sometimes a few things change, but the beginning, middle and end are basically the same each day. And so it is, I believe, for many other people. My long, often monotonous day, is repetitive and really, not exciting at all. I watch and read too much news. I participate in some of the most inane conversations with friends and family on my mobile device. I’m constantly paranoid that I forgot to add certain items to my online grocery order. I regularly check my storage room to see if I have enough toilet paper, power towel and flour. Then I head to my computer and buy more.

As those of us living in Toronto head into a new stretch with increased restrictions, I guess I’ll just keep singing the song, I Got You, Babe, every morning. As long as COVID-19 rages across the world it’s going to be Groundhog day, today, tomorrow and for many days to come.

Tik Tok, Tik Tok – WhatsApp? Do I have online time to bypass any Roblox while I Instagram my photos for a Fortnite?

Online

I realize that my subject line only makes just a bit of sense, unless you have been living under a rock for the past 7 months. Whether you live with teens, pre-teens, other adults or on your own, social media and online gaming are keeping us in touch, busy and sometimes just on the brink of sanity this year.

All of these tools can never replace face-to-face, in person interactions. A hug from a loved one or hanging out on the couch with a good friend are special, uplifting and necessary in our lives.. Human beings, I believe, are by our very nature sociable and in need of other people (or pets, but that’s for another day!).

But that’s just not possible right now. Not only is it not a good idea to hug your grandmother or host friends for dinner at home, in many places it’s just outright banned. So we find alternatives. We find other ways to fill the long and often lonely days, to break the boredom and seek out different ways to connect.

Enter the smartphone, tablet, computer or gaming system. How do I describe how I feel about the many devices, as I refer to them, that litter my home? Do I love them and feel grateful for them? Yes. Do I hate them and sometimes consider throwing them all in the garbage dump? Definitely yes!

It’s a daily battle in my head, as I constantly check my email, social media accounts and text and WhatsApp messages. And what would I do without my online Scrabble games? I am lucky that I work for a wonderful employer, ADP, who has been open and transparent and who sent us all home to work on March 16th. I’ve been busy (okay, VERY busy!), and I often sit in front of my computer for 12 or 14 hours a day. And what do I do in between, before and after? I’m on my phone, checking in with friends and family. I can’t escape it, so how could I expect my kids to?

Screen time. When I was a kid, that phrase was only used to quantify how much time a child sat in front of the TV. In 2020, TV is old news. Now it’s the smartphone, tablet or computer. How much is too much, and without it, am I cutting my kids off from the only way they can feel connected to their friends? My 10-year-old daughter is a whiz with the various tools at her fingertips (she is also the child, who at age 2 taught her grandmother how to play Angry Birds on the iPad). Julia seems to be at the centre of more social circles than ever before, jumping between multiple texts, WhatsApp conversations, video chats and online interactive games. Her phone is dinging all day and every few minutes I hear the voice of a different friend of hers emanating from her bedroom.

online
Even at the cottage, the device is never far.

My son plays online games with his cousins and also camp friends who live around the world. I often hear him laughing hysterically at 2:00 am, as they discuss the latest sports news. Even my four-year-old often has her head down with a device, watching some painful kiddie video on YouTube or preschooler game. Her little fingers give her the ability to fly through screens at a rapid pace.

Does this make me a terrible parent? Am I destroying my kids’ brains by letting them spend so much of their day online? What damage have I done to myself? I spend hours in front of a computer screen, day after day, and in between I’m on my phone. I hear clicking and pings all the time, whether they are real or not. I followed the news before but now admit I’m definitely a news junkie. Is this healthy? Terrible? Devastating?

I think it’s all of it. The world as we knew it before March 2020 doesn’t exist right now. Devices, like it or not, keep us all connected and together. I don’t know what I’d do without my WhatsApp group from work, people who have truly become close friends in the last seven months – and yet I haven’t seen them at all. How else could we have celebrated Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah in April without webcams, computers and the Internet? I had never felt closer to family than I did on that day, as we all appeared side by side on our screens.  

online
This is not how we planned it, but this is how it happened.

My kids’ lifeline is their personal mobile device. The pinging, middle of the night laughter and online parties are helping them – and me – get through this. I need to stop thinking about screen time and see it more as social time. We have found new ways to stay close to the ones we love and build bonds with old and new friends. Thank goodness for social media, video chats and online gaming. Like it or not, they are here to stay.

Ready for a Happy New Year

happy new year apple

It is the start of a new year.2020 has a few months to go, but 5781 has arrived. People like to make resolutions at the start of a new year, so why not at the start of the Jewish new year? The second half of 5780 was hard, for everyone around the world, and just plain terrible for many. While I would love to wish everyone a healthy, sweet and wonderful new year, I fear this is a wish that won’t come true.

I haven’t published a post since May 2018, when my daughter Julia celebrated her 9th birthday. I honestly don’t know why I stopped writing here. It’s something I love to do. Was I busy? Did I forget? Did I always have something else to do? Maybe. I’m not going to make excuses. I made a commitment, when I published my first post in May 2017, that this blog was important to me and that I was excited to start this new journey.

Then I got side tracked. Even during the early lockdown of this pandemic in March and April, I didn’t write. When I was lucky enough to spend much of my summer outside the city, I didn’t write. My kids went back to school, and I didn’t write. So, it’s a new year, and I’m ready to write. Here I am, I’m back.

I have so many ideas for new blog posts. Every day I come across something that makes me think, read about a piece of news that makes me want to know more or have an interesting conversation that makes me want to write, I remind myself that the Kinetic Motions blog is where I need to share my thoughts.

We are living in such a unique and challenging time in our lives. Over 30 million people have been infected and almost 1 million people have died from a dangerous virus. This virus is terrorizing us, hurting us and killing us. It has not only changed every aspect of our daily lives, but so many people have lost the ones they love.

I am not going to use this space to tell people to be smart and berate those who are ignorant or who choose to ignore the invisible enemy. We are all in this together. The world is just a small global village, and everyone, in every community, is responsible for the good and welfare of everyone else.

In the past 16 months since I published my last post, Nessa turned 3, then she turned 4; we celebrated Matthew’s Bar Mitzvah from our dining room and blasted the signal via Zoom around the world; Julia hit double digits in May; my beloved Poppy died in April, at the age of 99; oh and we got a dog…. An adorable Maltese-Bichon mix, who just turned 3. And of course so much more in between, in the midst of a global pandemic.

The world, and life, are never boring. Every day brings something new, and sometimes shocking. A shooting, hurricane, wildfires, murders of people because of their skin colour or ethnicity. I don’t want to be dulled by any of these events, but maybe, we could do with a bit of just plain boring in 5781.

So, the blog is back. Kinetic Motions is, well, back in motion. Whether you celebrate or not, I wish you a happy, healthy, sweet, and maybe a little boring, new year.

*Just a little note… the apple featured here was just picked from my backyard garden. We have a single apple tree in our backyard, that typically produces one apple each year. This year it bloomed with beautiful flowers and produced a few apples for us to enjoy. If the tree can bloom, so can we.

Happy Year of the Pig

pig

 I like pigs. That’s right. I don’t eat them. I just like them. I always have, since I was a child. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment or reason when or why I started to have an interest in this fine animal, but the pig and I have always shared a strong bond.

So it seems timely, as a citizen of the world, that I celebrate the Chinese New Year this week, which of course is the Year of the Pig. From what I have read, the Year of the Pig is the twelfth of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. Other great animals are part of this, like the dog, rabbit and tiger, but really, no animal is as interesting or as sophisticated as the pig.

I have to say that this loveable animal really gets a bad rap. It is often associated with being dirty, fat and lazy, and that’s not fair. I have scoured the internet (some very sophisticated research) and found some fascinating information:

Top Ten Things You Didn’t Know about the Pig

  1. They are fast. Can you run a 7-minute mile? Adult pigs can run up to 11 miles per hour. Why don’t you try that?
  2. The expression “sweat like a pig” is not accurate. Pigs don’t really sweat – they like to cool off in the mud. That’s why you think they are dirty. But they’re just hot!
  3. If my daughter’s room looked like a pig sty, I’d be thrilled. They may roll in mud to cool off, but they are naturally very clean and organized. Pigs self-potty train, and new research shows that in an open barnyard pen they will establish a community toilet.
  4. They are chatty creatures and know how to communicate with each other. They use different kinds of vocalizations to speakto each other. Those aren’t just squeals.
  5. They are not picky eaters. They will eat anything. Can you say that about your children?
  6. Maybe they don’t see so well, but wow do they have an excellent sense of smell. Just ask someone who likes to eat truffles (and I mean mushrooms, not chocolate).
  7. It’s not just my daughter who is sociable – so are pigs. They like to be together and snuggle together when they sleep.
  8. You are not that different from a pig, genetically I mean. Their stem cells are helping us humans for research into countless diseases.
  9. This one is interesting, especially as we celebrate the Chinese New Year – pigs are associated with fertility in Chinese culture. So many hidden talents.
  10. This is a smart animal, often ranked just behind apes and dolphins. According to Winston Churchill (and I have a piece of art depicting this in my home), “I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.”

So you can see why I like pigs. I could tell you at least 10 more great things about this animal. I will admit I don’t want one for a pet. They may be domesticated, but I don’t think I’m ready to take that leap. But if anyone wanders around my house, it won’t take long to see hints of the pinky pig all over the place.

Yes, I literally have dozens of the stuffy kind all over my house, led by the big and cutest one, my long-time friend Taloulah (yes that’s her in the photo at the top of this post). This giant stuffed pig joined me when David and I lived around the world early in our marriage. I was so worried about Taloulah flying safely from France to Israel back in 1999 that I made David take my lovable friend as carry-on luggage on the journey. I still giggle at the thought of a grown man wandering through Charles de Gaulle airport with a giant stuffed pig under his arm!

The collectibles never went too far, but the friendly pig paraphernalia definitely permeates throughout my house. There’s the kitchen ice cream scoop or the citrus squeezer. Pillows and picture frames. Socks and t-shirts. It’s just enough to keep me happy but not too much to overwhelm and take over.

So this week, as Chinese communities around the world celebrate the new year and put the pig up on a pedestal, where it’s supposed to be, I will celebrate with them. As will Porky, Miss Piggy, Olivia and of course, Peppa too.

Do you want to have a Snow Day?

snow day

Some people would describe a massive snowstorm as terrible and nasty. They shudder at the prospect of cleaning heavy snow off their car, a longer commute to work and slippery sidewalks. It’s just miserable. Then there are people like me who perk up and get excited when they hear the word snow. When I saw the weather forecast a few days ago that a big storm was headed my way, my first thought: snow day.

snow day
Looking out the window during the height of the storm

A rather big snow storm blew through Toronto on Monday. For those of you who live in cities who get big storms all the time, sure laugh at us. But I’m sure that a solid 35 cm of the white stuff fell on my front lawn. And all over Toronto. The city was crazy and hectic. But as I sat at home and looked out my window, I saw the beauty of my neighbourhood covered in a shiny white blanket.

Tuesday morning, 6:40 am. My cell phone rings. I ignore it. Ten minutes later the phone rings again. I turn off the ringer.

My morning radio alarm goes on and they are reading out the list of school closures. I check my phone. Email from the kids’ school. It’s closed. Phone rings again and I finally answer it. The preschool is closed.

Snow day!

Yippee!

I firmly believe that a snow day is one of the greatest highlights of childhood. Every child has to experience at least one snow day. You wake up groggy from the night and your parents tell you, guess what, school is closed – snow day! The look of joy on my children’s faces was something I will remember for a long time. Pure happiness.

snow
Looking out at my backyard on the morning of a snow day

snow day
Three rounds of shovelling to clear the snow

Stay in your pyjamas. Make a big batch of French toast. Turn on the TV and watch morning cartoons (update for 2019: pull out the ipad and click on the Netflix app). Sit back and relax.

I looked out my front window and quickly came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going anywhere either. Getting dressed meant throwing on a pair of old sweatpants and breakfast was a homemade espresso and leftover french toast.

I flicked on my laptop and did my best to hide in my home office to work. By midday I had actually accomplished quite a bit of work. There were six children in my house, including the kids’ friends and my nephew. We were settling in for a cozy day.

After they downed a few boxes of Annie’s mac and cheese, it was time to throw them outside. What child doesn’t want to run around outside after a huge snowfall? What parent doesn’t want to throw them out there after said children slowly started to trash every corner of the house?

I don’t know what the three boys did outside, but after a couple of hours in front of an ipad or XBOX, these border collies needed their run. Again, thank you tons of snow for providing great entertainment for them. My two-year-old wasn’t quite as happy. She couldn’t move outside in the waist-deep snow (ya that happens when you are a few inches under three feet tall).

As the afternoon wore on, the brood of children grew restless, in particular the boys. So isn’t it logical to throw on a bathing suit and jump in the hot tub? If you are 10 or 11 years old, sure! Minus ten (or something close to that) and a foot of snow is a great appetizer to a 95-degree vat of water.

snow day
Matthew started to leap in with his boots on

snow day
The boots flew off as Matthew flew in

snow day
And he’s in!

Everywhere I looked in my house all day a different activity was going on. My older daughter was hosting a Playmobil pool party in her bedroom. My son took full advantage of his selection of XBOX games in the basement. The baby traveled from room to room, sharing her toys and snacks with the couch, the floor, her clothes and her siblings’ bedrooms. David and I switched off between work and cleaning up after the pack of kids.

On first read it sounds like the local zoo, but it was bliss. Outside it was freezing cold with layers of snow blanketing every corner of the city. And inside everyone was cheerful and drinking in every moment of this special day.

And as the sun began to set on the day, the fun continued. My nephew and son announced their interest to go night snowboarding at a local small but decent little hill – right in the middle of the city. My daughter definitely had a bit of cabin fever and eagerly went to her karate class.

We didn’t waste a minute of the day. Good food, good friends and good fun. Who could ask for more? Maybe another snow day tomorrow? My kids were quite sure of that as they drifted off to sleep. It was a great snow day, indeed, but another one tomorrow? Ah, I don’t think so.

It is Your Duty to Vote

vote

I feel privileged every day that I live in a free, just and democratic country. I take nothing for granted in my life, and when it is an election in my city, province or country, I take my privilege to vote very seriously.

As I write, it is late afternoon on Thursday, June 7th. It is election day in the province of Ontario, and it’s been a hard fought (sometimes nasty) campaign. I am not going to use this space to share my opinion on which candidates or political party would be better for the province of Ontario. I don’t support any specific political party and choose who I vote for very carefully. Whether it’s at the municipal, provincial or federal level, day to day I am non-partisan and support candidates and elected officials for various reasons.

Again, who I actually voted for today is not relevant here and I am not sharing my choice. What is relevant is that I voted. I always vote. It always amazes me that so many people in countries like Canada choose not to vote. Whether your candidate of choice wins or loses, I believe that all citizens who are the age of majority are obligated to cast a vote.

For example, only 52% of eligible citizens voted in Ontario’s last provincial election back in June of 2014. Federal election turnout was better three years ago when 68% of eligible voters cast a ballot. Media reported “higher voter turnout” after Toronto’s 2014 election, which saw 60% of eligible voters participate.

Why should we be satisfied with a turnout of 60%? Shouldn’t we strive for 100% participation, or close to it? If someone can’t vote on election day, there are ample opportunities to cast a vote before. Or remotely. Our democracy doesn’t just encourage us to vote, it obligates us to do so.

I remember watching the news about 15 years ago when open elections came to Iraq. This was a country that was under brutal autocratic rule for years. There was no such thing as open, free and fair elections for the people. Iraq was still a dangerous place after the regime was toppled. Democracy was in its infancy. And there were elections.

People waited in line for hours, and many of them risked their lives just to cast a vote. Polling stations and those long lines were often attacked. Scores of people were killed. But they had to vote, or at least they had to try. I remember reading the stories and watching on TV and was in awe. The ability to vote was so easy for me, living in an established democracy like Canada. How could I not always vote? How could every Canadian not always vote?

And yet many do not. I hope the voter turnout increased today from its previous number of just 52%. The provincial government in Ontario is going to change today. Many people will be happy and a large number will be angry. But in my mind, unless you voted you do not have a right to complain about your government. The person for whom I cast my vote may or may not win. The party of my choice may or may not be in power tomorrow, . but I participated in the process. And I always will.

**That’s my grandfather, age 97 (98 in a few weeks!) voting today. He is someone who taught me the importance of voting.

A Royal Wedding is a Complicated Baseball Game

royal wedding

I slept on the couch, in front of the TV, on Friday night. Okay, I didn’t really sleep, but I was on the couch. I didn’t want to miss a moment of the THE Royal Wedding of the year across the Atlantic Ocean, and it was easiest to just park myself on the couch all night. I am happy to admit that I love all things royal, no matter which royal family it is, and this event was not one to miss. A few days later, as the streets of Windsor are cleaned up and the journalists and tourists have gone home, we are left to analyze and discuss the latest royal wedding. What do I think? A royal wedding is a complicated baseball game.

You probably won’t find this comparison anywhere else, but please, allow me to explain. This connection came to me on Monday afternoon, during the celebration of Her Majesty, Queen’s Victoria’s, birthday in Canada (also known as Victoria Day). As I sat with family, watching our favourite show, House Hunters, we of course discussed our thoughts on Saturday’s wedding.

From outfits (and hats) we loved and hated to which celebrities were invited to asking why the only member of Meghan Markle’s family in attendance was her mother, the conversation flowed easily from topic to topic. Then we moved on to the new title bestowed upon Prince Harry and his bride – the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Is a Duke the highest honour that can be bestowed upon the English aristocracy? What are the other titles? Where do Earls and Barons fit in? If a Duke is invited to dinner, does he get served soup before the lowly Baron? Is it true that Ms. Markle had to wear a specific shade of nail polish because of the rules of a royal wedding? What did the seating plan mean during the ceremony?

The questions go on and on when you dig deep into the intricacies of a royal wedding. Each step, each moment and every word are steeped in a mix of tradition and rules (even though I know Ms. Markle added her own modern twist here and there). It made me think: this is just like a baseball game. There is a seemingly endless list of rules, mixed in with ancient traditions. There are few people who are true experts on all the rules of a royal wedding or a baseball game.

Has a baseball player ever married a member of the British royal family? Now that would be neat! Imagine bringing together the detailed, intricate rules of baseball with those of a royal wedding. I can’t even imagine where to begin.

A baseball game is filled with statistics. How many baseball players have hit a triple, in the bottom of the ninth, left handed? Name which pitchers struck out at least 20 players in one game. How many times has it happened in baseball history that a second baseman hit a homerun during a game then pitched the 12thinning? Think of some crazy statistic, and it happened in a baseball game.

How many royal weddings have happened over the centuries? Too many to count I’m sure. But when you have dozens, if not hundreds, over centuries, rules are created and statistics have been collected. How many royal brides have been pregnant? Do most royal grooms where an army uniform? Have any big name guests died at a royal wedding? What is the most popular chapel used for royal weddings? Like a baseball game, the statistics are endless.

Okay, so a royal wedding is a bit more formal than a baseball game. Baseball players don’t wear a white tie and tails. But at both events there is a prescribed uniform for all participants. The Archbishop of Canterbury does not preside over a baseball game, chanting prayers, but I promise you, many a baseball player is crossing himself and saying a prayer before a key pitch. Loud, cheering fans? Check. Paparazzi photographers? Check. An exclusive group of people who are part of the inner sanctum? Check. Hats? Oh ya, check.

On first thought, a royal wedding and a baseball game may seem worlds apart, with nothing in common. But when you go deeper and do some thoughtful comparisons, they really are so alike. So, the next time you stay up all night to watch a royal wedding, put on your favourite baseball cap and remember to say, let’s play ball.

Listen to the Sounds of the Game

sounds

If you are a sports fan, May is a great time of year. There is a plethora of choices of sports to watch, read about, follow and discuss. If you want playoff action, there’s a hockey or basketball game every night. Baseball is in full swing. Soccer has come alive. There is a game on my TV every night, and I will admit, once in a while I fall asleep during the height of the action. A few nights ago, I watched a Toronto Raptors’ game with my eyes closed. I was too tired to watch, so instead I just listened. The sounds of the game fascinated me.

Have you ever closed your eyes and just listened to the game? And I mean really just sat down, relaxed and listened? The radio works, but I find the subtle and nuanced sounds the television cameras pick up are even more fascinating.

Basketball 

The Toronto Raptors play game 2 of their playoff series versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday evening. I won’t go into the letdown that was game 1 on Tuesday night. But I will share the audio highlights that I enjoyed from last night’s game. The sound I love most during a basketball game is how the athletes’ shoes travel across the freshly waxed and clean hardwood floor.  Some people may cringe, but it’s this sound that tells me that there’s a basketball game going on. Here is an example:

 

I also like the even tempo of the bouncing ball as a player races down the court. My son loves when a ball slides through the net with a perfect swish sound.

Hockey

A hockey game has very different sounds from a basketball game, even though they are often played in the same building. First of all, there’s no shoes or hardwood floor.  The sound of perfectly sharpened skates flying down the ice or suddenly stopping make me smile. Add a stick and puck to the mix and you get a beautiful melody of sounds. How about when the puck hits the crossbar or a player checks another into the boards? Just close your eyes and listen. It’s a wonder to the senses. Listen to the sound of the blades on the ice:

 

Baseball

The sounds of the ballpark. These are special. I went to a Blue Jays game last week, and at one point I closed my eyes so I could take in all the sounds around me. Even if you aren’t paying attention to the action on the field, there’s nothing like the concession vendors who run up and down the aisles yelling, “Beer here, ice cold beer” or “Popcorn, peanuts and Crackerjacks!” On the field there’s the sound of the bat as it makes contact with the ball or the sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt when the player swings and misses. And the umpires. Some of them articulate the word “strike” so well that you can hear it for miles.

Just listen to the crack of the bat and cheers of the crowd in this example. You know it’s a baseball game in an instant.

 

Other Sports

No matter the sport, each brings its own unique sounds. The grunt of the athlete and ball hitting the racquet in tennis. The calls of the quarterback in football. Oh, how I love the sound I hear when skis turn on the snow. How about the swing of the golf club and the sound when it hits the ball?

What are you favourite sports sounds? Post a comment here or on Facebook or Tweet me @AliciaRichler.

We have it within us to Save a Life

life

There is a famous precept in the Talmud that says, “Whoever destroys a single life is considered to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered to have saved the whole world” (Jerusalem Talmud, Sanhedrin 4:1 (22a). Not only is that a very powerful statement, but I believe it is true. I also believe it is something we must all internalize and carry with us every day.

I have thought about this line from the Talmud a lot over the past week. The deliberate, murderous attack on innocent people in Toronto last Monday has made me think a lot about how a life can be easily destroyed, but also how a life can be easily saved.

From that attack alone we all know how a life can be destroyed in an instant, and when that life is destroyed it really feels like the whole world is being destroyed too. We question how one person can sink so low, into such misery and desperation, that he can murder not one, but ten people, in a matter of minutes. We question, what has our world become and how is a human being capable of something so despicable? Has our world been destroyed just a little bit more each time a person destroys a single life?

If we focus on the destruction of life it will be hard to think about how we can turn the world around. So instead, as the people of Toronto heal, let’s focus on the second part of the statement, on saving even a single life.

What actions can we all take to try to save a single life? I wish I had a simple answer that I could write about in this space. It is something I have been struggling with for the past week. There are many individuals in our society who are different, who don’t fit in, who feel they sit on the outside. Some people are well adjusted and others seek out dark places to find comfort and belonging.

It could be your neighbour or your brother or maybe someone you work with. I believe that all of us are unique, and we all handle success and failure or joy and grief in different ways. How aware are we of the people around us, in particular, the people who may be silently screaming for help? What small actions can all of us take to show kindness, support or patience when interacting with someone who may be different?

While in no way am I saying that anyone who may not fit the mould in our society or appears to be different is capable of destroying a life. But you never know when an action that you take, by reaching out a helping hand, could potentially save a life. I keep going over in my head all the times I may have slighted a person who may have made me feel uncomfortable or seemed different on the outside to me. Did I do harm? Were my actions, or lack of action, yet another hit on a person who just needed some kindness?

I really do feel that we have it within us to save a life, even if we don’t know it when we do it. Hold the door for that person struggling to walk up the steps. Smile and make eye contact when someone stops you on the street and asks you a question that is clearly nonsense. Does it make a difference if you hand the homeless teenager a sandwich or hot drink instead of cash? I guess I’m just saying, take a moment to think when you interact with other people. Our actions affect everyone else. If we can all save just a single life then together we can save the whole world.

This is our New Reality

new reality

I wanted to write about the new royal baby today. When I heard the news on Monday morning that Kate gave birth to her third child, I was excited to write about the British royal family. While I’m not obsessed, yes, I’m a fan. But on Monday afternoon I turned on the radio shortly after 2:00 pm. I was in my car, about to leave a parking lot. I couldn’t move. Horror washed over my body. I suddenly felt sick to my stomach. This is our new reality.

In the age of technology, with instant news and lives shared on social media, the details of the horror on Yonge street in Toronto spread rapidly. The world saw videos and photos, heard and read witness accounts, after a man drove a van block after block, on the sidewalk, intentionally murdering people.

I couldn’t focus yesterday, and my heart ached for the people killed and injured and their families and friends. So many questions immediately went through my head, like why did this happen? What was going through this man’s mind when he committed this heinous act? What has happened to our society?

While it did not make me feel any better, I quickly realized that this is our new reality. We often speak of how we live in a modern age, with equality, freedom and justice. In Canada children are raised to be anything and everything they want to be. We are free to speak our minds in public and protest against injustice. People walk down the street and hold their heads high, without fear.

Or not.

When I was a child, at age 5, I walked home from kindergarten most days with my brother. School was s short distance from our house, and we walked home together with a group of kids. We went to the nearby park on our own and played sports on the street. Our parents knew we were safe. When we ran off down the street to play with our friends, our parents knew we would come home. When parents kissed their children good bye in the morning, they knew they would see them that evening, after work.

But that is no longer the reality and hasn’t been for years. I’m scared to let my children out of my sight in public, and I will admit that when I say good bye to my husband in the morning, when he jumps on the subway, I often have a quick, horrifying thought in my head, what if I never see him again? What if the subway is attacked or someone drives up on the sidewalk and hits a crowd of pedestrians?

And then it happened to someone’s husband, or wife, sister, brother, mother, father or friend yesterday. Someone said good bye for the last time.  And I wasn’t surprised. I felt sick, horrified and angry, but I was not shocked. This is our new reality.

Or maybe it’s not new, it’s just evolving. Mentally ill individuals, who for any number of reasons were angry with an individual or society, have used violence on a massive scale to voice their grievances. In some cases, there is a religious motivation, but often not. There was the massacre in 1989 which targeted a group of female engineering students at the University of Montreal. An individual murdered police officers in Alberta in 2005.

And yet, yesterday’s attack was somehow different. Or at least it was different for Canadians. Driving a vehicle, intentionally, into a group of people, is not new. It is a tactic that has been employed for many years to murder innocents around the world. But it was new in Canada and in an instant changed our reality forever.

I wish I could offer some unique insights or an inspirational thought to make us all feel better. But I can’t. What I feel today is sadness, as do thousands of Torontonians. We love our city, and I believe that most of us think the best of all people. Right now, we are coming together to grieve and to pay tribute to those whose lives were lost, to those who were injured and to the first responders who did a tremendous job to help those in need.

Moving forward we need to face our new reality with our heads held high. We must show kindness to our fellow human beings and reach out and support people who suffer from mental illness or who feel they don’t have a voice. I wish that would mean our world would be a better place, but at least we can try.