Monthly Archives: August 2012

The First 2500

It’s been almost two months now since I started writing here on WordPress. I’ve been enjoying the experience thoroughly, and wanted to share a few thoughts with you.

You’ve made it very rewarding for me. The 2500 I referred to is the number of views I’ve gotten on this site since July 5th; it honors me that so many of you would choose to pay attention to my point of view. I’ve been working hard, too, to make sure my blog thrives and grows. You’ve seen the Facebook posts, the tweets, the Google+ updates. I’ve also been at work elsewhere, sowing good karma wherever it might take root. Some of the most fertile ground has been at LinkedIn, where I’ve been actively reviewing other folks’ sites. You give a little, you get a little back.

Just yesterday an online peer of mine paid me the compliment of publishing this article. I had written a review of his site, and he showed his appreciation by doing a bit of a shout out. It was awfully sweet of him, and flattering.

Two big changes loom in the future of my blogging process.

One: I intend to change the name of this blog. Watch for the new title over the next few days. The url will not change.

Two: I’m starting up a new blog. It’s called the Parrington Review, and it already has an online home. I’m not going to link it, because it’s utterly empty at this stage. The Parrington Review is a simple idea: it’ll be a home for media and literature reviews, and thoughts about reading, writing and viewing. I’m really looking forward to it – I couldn’t tell you how much.

I was going to post something quite different today – I hope this was alright with you. I’ll still put up my regular post, either tomorrow or soon afterwards. Just wanted to keep you up to speed.

It’s a real pleasure writing for all of you.

Yours always – Dan

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Becoming Dad

Somewhere along the line, in these past few years, I became Dad.

Not my dad, much as I love him. Not the dad, since there are in theory two of those in my boys’ lives. What started out as a domestic partnership became a family, and I went from Dan – to Daddy Dan – to Daddy.

I often struggle with the sense that I don’t deserve any of this. As a stepdad, I must also deal with the fact that although blood’s legendary consistency is much less considerable in this age of mixed families, I nevertheless am, in some sense, an outsider.

Ask any of my darling three if I am a stranger, and I expect you will be met with a prompt dismissal; but a stranger I am. I came in from the shadows of the outside world, intruding on their established lives, and built a bridge of love with which to enter and claim that family as my own. I could say I never meant to disrupt things for them, but I knew when I had found my girl that I would overcome anything that stood in our way. And we did, together.

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Aura will tell you that her family life had been flawed, for years. This is absolutely true, to the best of my knowledge. Daddy was not all he ought to have been, and Mommy wasn’t happy. But the boys knew nothing different. Who was I to intrude?

One of the very first times I met with my future wife outside of work, it had occurred to her that the best way to serve me a hefty portion of reality was to have her baby with her. I arrived at a friend’s house to meet her, and there he was: Emery, age one. He crawled on me, he made baby noises, he made baby smells. And I loved him, too. Aura’s first and best line of defense had backfired.

After we had moved in together, it took me some time to adjust. In addition to the challenges I was facing in terms of the soundness of my body and mind, I was now the adult male in a young family home. I was in a relationship with the lady of the house, and so faced a new truth: my destiny lay either in fatherhood, or failure in this new context.

The emergence of Daddy Dan took place sometime in the second year of my new family situation. In fact, it had ceased to be altogether new, and I was settling into a role. It took time to find my feet, to find my place in the family. I have always loved kids, however, and these ones seemed to like me as well; the development of our relationship was quite natural.

The boys gradually took up a larger portion of my heart. I am prone to thinking that my heart has room for all the good people in my life – but these kids were pushing me to make a special commitment. They needed more of me than I had ever given to a single other person. They demanded more of me even than their mother required. I began to see the real extent of what it was to love a child, my child. My children.

Kieran and Emery have taken to calling me Daddy. In Kieran’s case, it’s often Dad. Emery, ever operating on a level all his own, once called me a Dumb Dirty Buffalo. Thankfully, I am not identified with this filthy critter on a daily basis.

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Today, water flows thicker than blood, or at least as thickly. Popular adage seems to deny me that privilege, but I would propose that like in Moses’ time, the water has become a blood of its own – and it is that much more potent for the magic that effected the transformation.

How is it that I can stand in the threshold – my eternal vigil in life – looking in on my sleeping boys, and melt inside? How is it that with their laughter and tears they carve their names into my very bones? If they hurt, I hurt; when they feel joy, I rejoice.

I was the outsider, but they have brought me in and made me their own. They have made me Dad.


A new look

Well, what do you think?

I was encouraged lately by an acquaintance of mine to lighten up a little. Thanks for the solid advice, Brian.

I also want you all to know that in addition to providing the very personal, Dan-type stuff you’ve come to know and (I hope) love here on parrington.wordpress.com, I’ll be starting up a Books & Writing blog within the next few weeks. Turns out I need a professional image, too! Who’d have thought. (Well, Desmond did.)

This also seems like the right time to thank a few of the people who’ve made my first (nearly) two month in blogging both interesting and rewarding. A special thanks to Jason Alan, who always speaks his mind. Thanks also to Mysterious Man from the Shadows, whose thoughtful posts never fail to get my mind turning.

It’s been a particularly good two months, blogging aside. Almost four years ago, I was in the midst of alcoholism, drug abuse and major depression. The girl I met at that time- now my wife- helped me see myself as I was, and as I had become in the midst of all this. These past three and a half years have been a time of an intense struggle for healing. I was fighting for my body, I was fighting for my soul. And she was there, fighting alongside me, every single step of the way.

If you knew me then, but weren’t aware of what I was going through- you aren’t alone. I became an effective chameleon, hiding the reality of my suffering and self-destruction from even those closest to me. Some of you did see the flip side of me. I can’t imagine it made you feel all that good. But what can anyone do, really, to help someone like that?

I am living, breathing evidence of the transforming efficacy of love. It was my love for someone special, and her love for me, that allowed me to finally summon the will and courage to face the BS and get myself on track.

After an exceptionally nasty episode at the hospital, and many tears on the part of my devoted partner, I finally consented to begin treatment. I began seeing a crisis counselor and a psychiatric doctor. They started me on meds, and asked me to stop drinking. I did. Well, for the most part, anyways.

I felt like a slug for two and a half years. The meds made me drowsy most of the time, and I gained more than fifty pounds. This, surely, was my personal hell: no energy, and a body that would no longer co-operate.

But I was getting better, behind all that. Week by week, from month to month, the anger and confusion in my heart were being overcome. I choose that word specifically: they were being overcome, not removed. I still carry them, and many other pieces of baggage, today. It was the process of slowing down and engaging in a little bit of introspection, bathed in the care and affection of my family, that enabled me to get the upper hand in my struggle for self-control. And not just self-control, but self-love, and a sense of peace with my reality.

These past two months, however, have been the best yet. I started a new medication- got my energy back and lost twelve pounds. I rebooted my online presence, started a blog and reconnected with a lot of special people. I’ve been out to spend time with friends and family more than I have in years. And all this without getting blind drunk!

You may find all this a little strange. You may not even recognise me as I have described myself here. What I’m really trying to tell you is that I’ve found my legs again. I am revelling in change, holding tight while I once again become aware of the glorious adventure that is life.

And I’m awfully glad to have you along for the ride.


Roadmap

Hi folks!

Hope you’ve been enjoying the blog so far. It’s just a baby, I know. But as it matures I hope we can explore many new places together- you, my faithful friends and family- and you, my newest visitors.

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Here are just a few of the avenues I want to explore over the next few months.

In interests & reflections: Parenthood – Running & biking – Writing – Body image – Mental health – Style – Personal psychology – Addiction

In literature: Stephen King (The Stand) – Carl Jung (Man and His Symbols) – Isaac Asimov (Foundation) – Robert Heinlein (Starship Troopers) – Fyodor Dostoevsky (The Idiot)

In media: David Cronenberg (Shivers) – David Lynch (Wild at Heart) – Sam Peckinpah (Straw Dogs) – Akira Kurosawa (Throne of Blood)

In objects of delight: Nintendo – Lego – Food & drink – Pets – Collections

In reminiscences: School – The family home – Mom – My siblings – Grandpa & Grandma

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For up-to-the-minute data on all things Dan, please follow me on Twitter.

For an all around database of my online existence, follow me on Google Plus.

To follow me on StumbleUpon (so much fun!) go to this address.

I’ve also established a professional profile on LinkedIn.

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This has been a really neat experience for me- I’d been virtually offline for three years until two months ago. Now I have a lot to say, and I want you along for the ride! Please don’t forget that I’m always even more interested in hearing from you- so connect- drop me a line- stay in touch!


The Wheels

Ah, the Wheels. This was our colloquialism for a special place I will not name here, a decrepit cesspool of a water park that lies just outside city limits. And by we, I’m referring the privileged souls among the human race who were singled out to have a really great time at a really tough joint.

First of all, let me make it clear just how truly degraded that place is. Yes- if they ever find this, I’ll lose all hope of a reference from the old goat who captains the ship. But it’s a pirate ship, as you shall see, and I’m thoroughly in the right. Hilariously so.

Let me take you on a tour, as a faithful ex-employee. My love and my contempt should balance, rendering me the most objective guide you could ask for. If your standards are higher than that, look somewhere else. Good luck. Most of us lived in terror for years afterwards, the cap’n himself haunting our sporadic sleep. It’s just that I’ve decided that this will be part of my healing process.

No one seems to realise, as they walk innocently through the front gate, just what sort of danger they’re putting themselves in. They pay exorbitant fees for a chance to ride the go-carts we barely keep kicking. I mean, each one of those deadly vehicles is on its last legs. Our mechanic- who gets the world’s biggest kick out of telling dirty jokes to us kids- is the only one who has no fear of the boss. As a result, he does as little work as possible keeping the miserable things alive.

If you make it through the go-carts- with which incidentally, you nearly killed the guy collecting tickets- you might just head up to the water slide for a cool-down. It’s a good thing they keep lifeguards up there, or you might drown in the malnourished two-inch-wide trickle that washes you down to the pool below. Actually, this part of the park is probably the safest. It’s also the most proud environmental accomplishment of the management: you could barely fill an inflatable pool with the water that’s used on the attraction.

Now you find yourself getting hungry. You proceed downward to the concession area, in behind the ticket booth. The boss-

Hold on a moment. Let’s talk about the boss. And let’s talk about his henchman. Our boss was the guy who also owned- still owns- the Wheels. We called him the Lion, and a lion he was. Built like a tank atop a pair of fragile stilts- the scrawniest leg of chicken you ever saw- the Lion was most fearsome when drunk. And he was most drunk when working. And he worked every hour of the day. Sometimes he took a quick drive up the road to his favorite diner for a whiskey- but you always knew he’d be back the moment you goofed off. Stomping around like the predator he truly was, the Lion brought the Law to us. I only looked him in the eye a few times, so great was the power of that enormous greying mane.

The Lion’s sidekick was a funny little character we’re going to call Moe. Moe had been running the rival concession stand for some time when he finally decided to call it quits and join the competition. The Lion tossed Moe around like a wee hyena, a minor threat on the Wheels savannah. Moe tried to toss us around, too, but it’s hard to pull that off when you get to watch a guy get his dignity smeared all over the inside of the administrative office day in and day out.

So you were headed for the concessions area. Little do you know, the Lion has smoked like a big old train all over that pizza you’re eating. And we purchased it early in the morning. It was the same pizza you could have eaten eight hours ago.

You walk out of the stand with an uneasy feeling in your gut, but you brush it off. It’s a hot day, after all. In fact, it’s time for some more water fun! You move to the next good thing coming: the bumper boats. This isn’t a big deal- yes, the pool is as full of spilt gasoline as water, but it will only turn into a blazing inferno if you ignite it. I mean, you’d need to be running something with ignition to run that sort of risk. Something like a bumper boat, if you see what I’m saying.

But you’re still alive and well, in spite of everything. Well, it’s time for the Big One: our very own gravity-powered, muscle-propelled roller coaster! Yes, it operates on gravity alone, requiring only the ergonomically uncertain thrust of a lone coaster operator to get you going. When you get to the bottom, a large plank will be raised under your cart to decelerate it sufficiently for a full stop. Is this foolproof? Go on with you, it’s not like anyone’s ever been given radical whiplash by an inexperienced brake operator. Well, in any case, it’s not like anyone’s ever failed to make it all the way around the coaster, then fallen prey to the next oncoming coaster cart, the occupants of both carts being banged up pretty thoroughly. Okay, maybe I’d better stop.

Believe you me, the absurdity of the whole setup was a never-ending source of cheer to we of the deranged employee base. Deranged, because we had to face day after day of trying to cope with the insane dereliction of health and safety standards. Cheerful, because we got to hang out all day watching people risk their wellbeing for a good time.

Shucks, I’ve really painted this place in a negative light. You should know that I have many pleasant memories rooted in the Wheels. I did want you to get a sense of the place, though, and I suppose you have. Next time you visit this park- fictitious though I must insist it is- think about just what your ticket is buying you. I’d rather be the one watching, though, if that’s alright with you.

[Editing note: Oops! The first posting of this article contained real names. My goof. Please don’t tell the Lion.]


Sunday Morning Special

Hi everyone-
Given my newfound love for social media, I thought I’d harness its reach to tell you a little about something my friend, Mark Duncan, is doing.

Here’s the blurb from the official website:

Started in 2002, the RIDE FOR KAREN is a yearly cycling event that is held as a tribute to the life and legacy of Karen Tobias and to raise money for charities that help people living with cancer, and those who care for them. In the last ten years the Ride for Karen has raised over $1,640,000, which was used to help build and furnish new cancer care facilities, provide much needed resources for cancer support centres and send kids with cancer to camp.

As a cancer patient, Karen knew first hand that hospitals were not a very positive environment in which to spend a lot of time. Karen wanted to make a difference and was dedicated to improving the quality of life of cancer patients with one goal in mind – Improving Hope – which she felt was a critical component of cancer care. We as a family have created the Ride for Karen to continue her work in an effort to harness the positive power of hope.

All the monies raised from the 2012 Ride for Karen will be used to send kids with cancer to camp. This year’s ride will feature four events, a 160km course for advanced riders, a 100km course for intermediate riders, a 25km course for recreational cyclists, and a Kids Fun Ride for children 2-12 years old.

Having seen my mother in law go through cancer- the illness that took her life just over a year ago- I can appreciate how important it is to provide care for the seriously ill, and support to their loved ones. We relied heavily on the incredible organisation that is Hospice Peterborough. Some of you supported us in this past May’s Hike for Hospice. Please consider making a small donation towards Mark’s effort.

There is more to cancer than the cure– there is also the care. Without charities like Ride for Karen and Hospice Peterborough, cancer patients and their families are on their own in coping with the deeply personal, highly emotional baggage that goes along with the disease. You can help make the difference by empowering theright people and facilities with the financial resources they need.

And if you just can’t make a donation today, check out Mark’s page anyways, and send him a kind word.

Donate or comment here.

Have a great Sunday, everyone- I’ll see you on Monday with my next regular post.

Dan


Like Tears in Rain

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time… to die.

Such are the last words of Roy Batty, lead antagonist in the film Blade Runner. They always make my spine tingle. Maybe I am imagining myself in black empty space, seeing the c-beams glittering beneath me. Maybe it’s the romance of a forsaken creature, a Frankenstein’s monster superior to its own maker.

Maybe it’s the struggle for freedom, a fight that ultimately ends in Batty’s death, and Deckard’s redemption. On that consideration, hear Rick Roderick:

I will call to your mind a scene from Blade Runner, where before the replicant dies, he slams his hand on a nail (and many of you may not know this), but when Batty does that in the film, it’s a reference to an action that Sartre has a character perform in “Roads to Freedom”. In “Roads to Freedom”, the Sartre character slams his hand onto a nail to prove that he is free. Because he chose to do it. It hurt like hell, but he chose it. I put my hand on that nail, and that shows I am free, because just as a calculus of deterministic pleasure I would never have done it. It’s a philosophical demonstration… a painful and stupid one in my opinion… but by the time we get to Blade Runner, the replicant slams his hand onto a nail just to feel anything. Just to feel anything.

When the attempt for immortality finally falls through, man must settle for memory; in Batty’s case, he chooses to leave what is left of himself pass into the hands of his enemy- his best bet in his hope of being remembered. In a sense, he chooses to live on through Deckard.

Would you want to live forever? Many people believe they will, in a spiritual sense. Do you have a belief in that respect? If not, how do you deal with the reality of death?

I am currently struggling with the sense that my grandparents- my boys’ great-grandparents- are coming to the close of their days. They may have five, ten- maybe fifteen- years remaining. But as life comes to its dusk, the odds stack higher and higher against us. How much longer, I ask myself, do I have these two wonderful old folks to share with my new family?

They meant so much to me, growing up. But you see, their legacy will continue in us. This is what Batty wanted. This is what he chose to do, exercising his ability to will: when I die, on day, I want to have chosen just the same; to have chosen, throughout my life, to draw my loved ones close and give them a legacy worth passing on.

Hear, now, Anthony Pate:

In contrast to Deckard is Roy Batty, the leader of the renegade replicants and Deckard’s doppelganger. Both men suffer the same pains – lack of knowledge and security about the natures of their identity and existence, the soul-deadening toll of their labors, their dissatisfaction with their circumstances and their subsequent inability to reconcile themselves to and master their reality. But unlike Deckard, Batty refuses to languish in inertia and depression because of the circumstances of his reality. Batty aims to do something – whatever he can – about it. Like Deckard, Batty is a murderer too. But unlike the murders Deckard commits for his job, which reflect his jaded dissociation and institutionalized impersonality, Batty’s murders are raw and impulsive, emotional and purposeful. They are also, in Batty’s mind, righteous.

A major symbolic element in Blade Runner is the eye: its reoccurrence throughout the film tends to indicate perceptions in general; and, more specifically, self-perception. Remember Jung’s Persona, the mask we develop as a representation of the Self- a representation that is so intimate that even we believe it to be ourselves? Blade Runner asks the question: what is it to be human- and what is an imitation? Does the difference between the two really matter?

To me, it does. I know that to some extent I am formed by the world I have developed in- the peers, situations and reactions around me have greatly influenced who I am now. I also believe that to a large extent I am capable of creating myself, of shaping myself into whoever I want to be. Does any of this make me false? I thought so, once. Now I accept it as fact.

I am a mixture of my environment, my upbringing, and my own devices. I may also be, at some level, programmed from birth. I don’t really understand how all these elements interact. There must be a healthy balance somewhere, a fine line where I can see myself as acceptable before God, so to speak: a whole and good person, redeemed in the process of refinement that experience provides.

It is my inclination to believe also that only once we have begun to accept ourselves as we are, beneath the mask, are we able to gauge with any accuracy the legacy that we are producing. I am Dan Parrington, stepfather, husband, son, grandson. I am Dan Parrington, straight-A student, dropout, reader, writer. I am also Dan Parrington, sometimes fearful, often in my own world, always sensitive to the needs and opinions of those around me.

A lifespan is what it is. I hope I can use mine wisely. I hope I can leave something good for those left behind. I fear the time when my predecessors’ mantles fall onto my shoulders, but I also intend to be ready. What about you?


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