Dear Dragon – I Miss You!

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Dear Little Dragon,

You still hate sleeping but you’re getting better at falling asleep… sometimes.

You are growing so fast in every way possible. Last week I watched you learn how to climb off the couch safely and Sunday you took your first shuffling steps. Just two little steps but they were steps. You’ll be running around soon enough.

I’ve been at work for over a month and I miss you a lot. It’s hard not being with you and watching you grow every day. I know I see you when I get home but it’s not the same.

I miss you and someday I hope I’ll be able to work from home permanently and see you every day. (You’ll probably be going to school by then.)

I miss seeing your smile when you wake up in the morning. I hope you never lose that easy smile, even if it’s just with family and close friends. Your joy is infectious and even when you’re being mischievous it makes us so happy.

I Love you little Dragon!

Your tired, sappy, and a little sad,
Papa

Dear Dragon – Your Uncle

Dear Dragon,

It’s a beautiful sunny 23rd of May and it’s your Uncle Dan’s birthday. You haven’t seen much of him yet because he’s really busy. Sometimes busy is an excuse adults use, but not in this case.

Your Uncle loves you a lot. I know he does because when I was younger, he lived in Ottawa while I lived in Val Gagné. I didn’t see him much then but when he came home, he was there for his annoying little brother. I never felt that he wanted to be somewhere else or that he was bored hanging out with me.

He was my favourite person and he would have done ridiculous stuff to make me happy.

Your Gramma told me about one time when I was very young but still older than you are now. I was sick and had to go to the hospital. She needed to get a ride from someone because she didn’t have a car. At that age I took Toutou (my teddy bear) everywhere and I brought him to the doctors with me, and of course I forgot him at the office.

I got home and took the medicine the doctor told me to and I snuggled in bed, only to realize I left poor Toutou at the hospital. I was devastated and wouldn’t go to sleep. I’m pretty sure I screamed… a lot.

There were no buses in Val Gagné and she couldn’t get a ride. Dan rode his bike all the way to the hospital and back. It was twenty or more kilometres one way.

He was my hero and that’s just one of the many things he’s done since.

So you may not see him as often as you see your other Aunts and Uncles, but he loves you, would do anything for you, and is a lot of fun to be around. Kinda like me, but cooler.

Love you lots baby Dragon,

Your Papa

Valentines Day

Hello My Imaginary Friends,

Today is the day of love, lovers, or overpriced chocolate.

I’ve never been a big fan of this so-called holiday. It’s a day that glorifies showing love by monetary excess or grand gestures and that’s not what love is about.

Love is about the little moments, the smiles and laughter shared between people. It’s not about spending exorbitant amounts of money on stuff or food.

Today I’ll be celebrating by hugging my wife and we’ll be going to see The Lego Batman movie.

If Valentine’s Day has you down, why not call a parent, grandparent, child, or friend and tell them you love them (Only if you do, I don’t want you lying to people).

No matter how you spend this day, remember that it’s not the size of the gesture but the love behind it.

*Important Reminder: Tomorrow (February 15th) is half-price chocolate day.*

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Later Days,

Éric

Dear Dragon – Your Gramma

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Dear Dragon,

It’s the first of December and that means that Christmas is just around the corner. We’ve been listening to holiday music for the past three weeks and other than “Last Christmas” I’m still loving it.

There are all kinds of reasons I love the holidays, the snow, the presents, sappy movies/tv, spending time with family and friends, but most of all, it’s a time that most people feel more hopeful.

I hope you grow up with the kind of holidays that your Mum and I had. Our parents went out of their way to make it a loving and wonderful time.

As much as I love this time, I’m always a little sad. It reminds me of your Gramma. She loved this time of year, she’d get as excited as a child. I can still picture her with her santa mug of coffee and a mischievous grin.

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It wasn’t an easy season for her. She wanted to give me everything the other kids had but couldn’t afford it. I was still spoiled (especially by your Uncle Dan) but I remember the pain on her face when we received food boxes. It hurt her pride but she knew she needed to accept it.

No matter what happened, she made sure it was a great day filled with laughter and family.

She’s been gone for eight years now and when she died I took custody of an old box. It was packed in 1996 and says not to open until 2016. I remember packing it with some of my favourite toys, although I don’t remember the toys.

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I’m a little conflicted about the box. I want to open it, but I also want to open it with you when you’re old enough to appreciate it… to appreciate her. I’ll decide at the last minute.

She would have loved you sooooooooo much,
Your happy and sad Papa

A Letter to President Elect Donald Trump and His Followers

Congratulations on your win.

Now that you’ve managed to win the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the Presidency, you have four years of power to shape your country into the place you’ve always wanted.

President Elect Trump said a lot of things on the campaign trail that were a little extreme. It’s an election, things happen, candidates get excited and things are said.

You now have a choice; you can double down on the hate or you can make America great again. You need to be an example, because whether you like it or not, you’re a beacon that all other countries look towards.

Make America great again, make it the land of the free, the land of opportunity, and the land of hope. Rebuild your crumbling infrastructure, your roads, dams, monuments, water systems; they all need desperate attention.

Don’t “Make” America great again, “Build” it back to greatness. That means more than just a frivolous wall. That means building your cities, your economy, and your people.

The LGBTQ+ community, the POC community, and the women are terrified that the hateful and downright monstrous things that were said during the campaign will lead to legislation, violence, and hate towards them. With good reason, as it’s already happened.

Change it Mr. Trump. You’re the President Elect now, it’s your responsibility to build up your people. ALL your people. The way you act over the next four years will decide if history call you a monster, a clown, or a decent President. It’s your choice.

To everyone who didn’t vote for Trump and who are terrified and/or angry; it’s okay to feel frustrated, it’s okay to be sad, those are natural reactions. Once you’re ready to come out of your grief, you’ll have the hardest job possible. You’ll have to show the other side that it’s possible to work with them despite disagreeing. It’s not fair, but you’ll have the be the ones to be better.

America and President Elect Trump, the world is watching. Be the best you possibly can and show us that there is more to your presidency than fear and hate.

Good luck!

Éric

Dear Dragon – Joy

Dear Dragon,

The other day I was changing you and you wriggled, as you always do, and smiled the entire time. You seemed to be having the time of your life, just being changed.

There was joy in your eyes I hadn’t seen yet. You’re starting to get more emotion, not just expression. It’s wonderful to see.

As I watched your joyful wriggling, I started to cry (Yeah I’ve been tearing up a lot lately). Your joy was pure and innocent and I know will be short lived. I’m not saying you won’t feel that pure happiness again, but right now and for a little while you’ll love, and joy recklessly.

Someday someone whose heart has been broken or has shriveled will tell you that you’re too innocent or that your enthusiasm is weakness. Let me be utterly clear: THEY ARE WRONG!

Enthusiasm and joy are our most wonderful emotions and they’re important. Joy, enthusiasm, and happiness are not always the wriggling bliss of an infant being changed. It can be found in a good cry, a tender moment, a beautiful view, a painful realization, or a moving experience.

I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, but be enthusiastic, never feel bad for your passions, love things people consider weird or childish, and most of all, enjoy and feel everything that happens.

Closing yourself down to the wonders of emotions and excitement lessens the experiences of life. I know that sounds trite, especially when it hurts.

Always try to keep a little of the child-like innocent joy. Trust me, it’s worth it. I spent years trying to be an adult and suppress those emotions. I count those as years lost.

Feel deeply, be enthusiastic, and know that I love you unconditionally.

Your Sappy Papa

Dear Dragon – 1 Month

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Dear Dragon,

You’ve been home for a month now. You have a name, a decorated room, and more clothes than you’ll ever wear.

Your routine is pretty much to sleep in the mornings, giggle/gurgle in the afternoons, fuss in the evenings, and fall asleep by 11. A routine you’ll likely return to in post-secondary.

We still occasionally forget you exist or have waves of panic that someone was foolish enough to leave us with a child. The feeling is getting less and less common.

If I had to sum up the past month, I’d say it would be fatigue and love, punctuated by small bouts of panic and helplessness. I suppose that applies to you as much as to us.

At a month, you’ve already mastered smiling, puppy dog eyes, and a heart-wrenching whimper.

I both can’t wait and dread you growing up. I’m trying to enjoy the little moments.

By the way, you’re a fantastic cuddler and I really hope that doesn’t change.

You’ve had a constant parade of people who want to meet you. Everyone loves you and wants to be near you. You’re going to grow up loved by so many people. You have your family (Me, Mum, Grannie, Grand-dad, Great-Grand-dad, Oncle Dan, Aunt Amy, Aunt Lindsay, and Modryb Sonia), your massive list of extended family and family friends, the ever-growing geeky community in Ottawa, and Ottawa’s wonderful speculative fiction family.

As loved as I hope you feel, your mother and I feel it just as much. Our families and friends are great. We’re lucky to have found so many awesome people to surround ourselves with.

This is a little disjointed, but it reflects the past month. It’s been interesting, terrifying, and absolutely wonderful. You fill me with love and wonder every time I see you or hear your little noises.

Your tired and loving Papa

Facebook Quiz Thing – My Better Half & Me

Hello Imaginary Friends,

Still no Dragon sightings. I’m starting to think she’s going to wait to be induced.

I’m doing my best to relax and hang out with Jen as much as possible while we wait.

Tuesday no matter what you’ll get a great new story but today you get a sappy facebook quiz thing.

Later Days,

Éric

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My Better Half & Me

1. What are your nicknames?

I call her Pumpkin and she calls me Teddy Bear. (We also use sweetie, baby, and hey you)

2. How long have you been together?

11 years in December

3. How long did you know each other before you started dating?

We met on our first date and started going steady after a few weeks

4. Who asked who out?

I clicked “Woo” on her profile thinking it was the equivalent to “Like” on facebook but instead it sent her a message. She replied with something along the lines of, “You’ll need more than a woo if you want to chat.”

I think I’m the first one to suggest a date.

5. Whose siblings do you see the most?

We see Lindsay the most. Dan is really busy; and Derek and Jessica are far away.

6. Do you have any children together?

Not yet… any moment now.

7. What about pets?

Nope. I’m allergic.

8. Did you go to the same school?

Only for University and even then she was in different faculties.

9. Who is the most sensitive?

We’re both pretty sensitive. I’m not sure.

10. Where do you eat out most as a couple?

Does our in-laws house count?

If not it’s definitely Asian Stars. Such good food.

11. Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?

Florida. Unless you count our yearly trips to Middle Earth.

12. Who has the craziest exes?

No comment. (It’s probably me.)

13. Who has the worst temper?

We both have pretty intense tempers. Thankfully we both burn off our anger quickly.

14. Who does the cooking?

Me. I love to cook and Jen loves to let me.

15. Who is more social?

I think she’s more social. I’m sort of standoffish. I’m always in awe of her in a group, she can make friends anywhere.

16. Who is the most stubborn?

Jen’s a little more stubborn but not by much.

17. Who hogs the bed?

We have a king sized bed so that neither of us try to hog it.

18. Who wakes up earlier?

Pre-pregnancy it was always me. Work on weekdays and reading on weekends.

19. Where was your first date?

We met at the Rideau Centre and went to Chapters where she ignored me for a while. Followed by the Highlander pub and ending at Oh So Good desserts.

I walked her home that night.

20. Do you get flowers often?

No. They die too quickly.

21. How long did it take to get serious?

A few weeks.

22. Who eats more?

Me.

23. Who sings better?

Jen has a beautiful voice.

24. Who does the laundry?

We alternate, depending on when we run out of underwear.

25. Who’s better with the computer?

If we’re talking tech, it’s me. If we’re talking typing and social media, it’s Jen.

26. Who drives when you are together?

Jen. I don’t have my licence.

27. Who picks where you eat?

Normally I give Jen 3 options and she picks one.

28. Who wears the pants?

We both do.

29. Who has the better sense of humor?

Jen laughs at my jokes so neither…

30. Who eats more sweets?

We both love our baked goods and sweets.

Five Things Kubo and the Two Strings Did Right

I saw Kubo and the Two Strings and it was magical! A solid 4.5 out of 5.

The wonderful thing about Laika is their attention to detail, both in the animation and the story.

The story is well crafted and beautiful but not perfect. If you enjoy fantasy, animated movies, or a good cry, this movie is for you. Go see it and help its box-office totals.

*Warning Spoilers*

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5. Not Afraid of Sadness

From the first scene of the movie, you know this isn’t going to be a light hearted comedy. It’s dark, magical, and ends with a baby who’s missing an eye.

Throughout the movie there are scenes where the writers could have avoided sadness or pain, both for the audience and for the main character. They don’t avoid it at all, and I cried a few times during the movie.

It’s not just cheap tricks, but genuinely heart hurting moments. Watching Kubo take care of his mother who seems to be losing her mind or watching him pray to his father were cry-worthy.

4. Balance

The movie balances the sadness with humour while avoiding useless slapstick. (Although there is a part with a fire breathing chicken that is slapstick-ish but hilarious.)

The humour flows from the characters, not from the jokes. It means each joke has a reason and helps balance the intensity of the rest of the story.

I laughed a lot.

3. Nuanced Characters

When I saw the trailers I assumed the Beetle Samurai would be a cross between Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove and Donkey from Shrek. I was wrong. He, like the rest of the characters, was well balanced and so very human.

It’s important for a writer to understand why their characters exist and what pushes them. In a lot of comedies, the only answer is humour. At no point could Kubo and the Two Strings be considered a traditional comedy.

2. No Useless Information

There is a lot that happens in the movie and at the beginning you’re given a lot of information. Some of that information is purely visual and easy to ignore. Every detail, from the stories to the landscape is important. It’s a tightness that is hard to do in writing without giving too much away.

Everything is important; every line has a double meaning. It’s beautiful.

1. Strong Ending

The ending threatens to undermine the entire message(s) in the movie and for a split second I was ready to be extremely angry. After the fake out, the story ended the best way it could and made me extremely happy. Like the humour, the ending was driven from the characters.

Throughout the movie, despite terrible things happening, there is a strong message of love and hope; both for the character and humanity.

There was joy, even in death, and that’s something that we don’t see very often.

Caveat

If you haven’t guessed, I loved this movie but it wasn’t perfect. The end of the second act dragged a little and there were a few parts that luxuriated in the animation (which is spectacular).

The biggest issue I had was that none of the main cast, or writers, were Japanese, or even Asian. There were some of the extras that were played by Asian characters and George Takei does have a few lines, but overall it’s all white people.

You can argue, as the producers have, that it doesn’t matter as much in animation because the voice is the important part and not the look. I think that’s taking the easy defense. There are plenty of great Japanese actors that could have done the voices.

 

Despite my minor reservations, this was a spectacular movie that I look forward to owning and watching again and again. Solid 4.5 out of 5.

What did you think of Kubo and the Two Strings?

Éric

Coffee is a Comfort Food

The earliest memory I have of coffee is my mother saying, “Don’t bother me until I’ve had my coffee and cigarette.” The dark brown sludge of instant coffee mixed with powdered milk was bitter, thick, and beyond disgusting.

We all have memories associated with our favourite food. I read an emotional article The Case for Bad Coffee; it’s a good and emotional read. I can’t criticize anything in it; it’s an emotional piece about the writer’s relationship with coffee. Two of my favorite things! I sometimes use a personal statement writing service for my writing but this one is all on me.  I would object to associating Starbucks with good coffee, or all diners with bad coffee. The two aren’t that far apart.

My Coffee Story

Something happened when I was eight: my mom got a job. She started working full time at a women’s shelter. A lot changed because of that job. We moved into a house, she became more confident, we started buying bagged milk, she bought a drip coffee machine, she quit smoking, and she started buying flavoured coffee.

That’s when I started taking notice. The smells of Amaretto, French Vanilla, Caramel, Irish Cream, and Chocolate floated in the house instead of the burnt rubber smell of her old instant coffee.

I can’t tell you when I started drinking coffee. I know it was sometime in high school but the exact date or year is lost to my terrible memory. I do know that the flavoured coffee was mostly for holidays and special occasions and she bought Timmies for everyday drinking.

The smell of flavoured coffee transports me back to our little house and Christmas in Northern Ontario, sipping Irish Cream coffee with the smell of holiday cooking and the howls of winter outside. There was a figurative, as well as a literal, warmth to discussing everything and anything at the breakfast table over a cinnamon coffee. I still have the cheesy Santa head mugs we drank from. I haven’t had the heart to unpack them since she died.

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When I moved out on my own the first thing I bought was a coffee maker. It was tiny and made one large cup. I used it for ramen almost as often as I did for coffee. I used that machine until my third year university when I needed to pull all-nighters. I fondly remember making a large pot of coffee and working from 10pm to 8am on a 2000 word essay.

Caffeine fueled my university. My video editing job was Caramelo from Second Cup, my convenient store job was Vanilla Hazelnut Van Houtte’s, tour guiding was German Chocolate cake from Timothies, and late night classes were an extra-large triple-triple from Timmies.

They were never as good as the weekends when I went to visit my Mom and we had her coffee and watched a movie, chatted, or just argued.

When I graduated, I tried to get into Starbucks or exotic coffees. They were always bitter and over-roasted (I didn’t know that at the time, I just knew it wasn’t right). I tried to be “grown-up” and drink espresso or cappuccinos but my heart always yearned for the warmth of flavoured coffee.

Heart VS Stomach

My heart yearned for the warmth of flavoured coffee, but my stomach took that way too literally. Acid reflux was the result.

Most (some exceptions like Second Cup) flavoured coffees are made from low quality beans. Low quality beans are exceptionally bitter and acidic compared to other beans. The flavour masks the taste of both of these properties.

Unfortunately due to my stomach problems, I can no longer drink flavoured coffee without multiple uncomfortable issues. (I’ll spare you the details.)

Heart Wins!

I couldn’t find any place that made flavoured coffee with high, or even medium, quality beans. I was reduced to drinking unflavoured coffee.

Although my stomach was happy I missed the days of yummy flavours.

That’s when I got the crazy idea of making my own coffee. With the help of the internet, I started roasting in a hot air popper and loving the coffee.

I looked online for coffee flavouring. I found a lot of syrups (mostly made with corn syrup and tasting of red dye #5) and a few coffee flavourings that cost over $100 a bottle.

I wondered whether coffee flavouring and candy flavouring might be interchangeable. I found a random message board comment saying something like, “I don’t see why not?” and proceeded to run several days’ worth of experiments. (There’s a secret to when you need to flavour the beans.)

That’s when I decided to sell gourmet flavoured coffee.

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I now have delicious coffee I can drink and that reminds me of my mom. I think she’d have particularly liked the Mint Chocolate Chip and the Butter Rum.

Coffee is a food that is associated with a lot of social activities and a lot of interpersonal interchanges. It’s natural that a person would associate the coffee they drink with the people who are around or the events. It’s one of the things that makes coffee special and it’s one of the reasons I love it.

 

Enjoy what you love!

Éric