Conversation

Hope you all had a great labor day weekend – good luck to all those entering and re-entering school this year! I’m losing all three of my crew to the education system this year. Aura will be taking social work, and Emery is starting kindergarten. Kieran is going into grade three. Then there’s me, banging away in front of my computer, or stuck behind a book.

You’ll have noticed that I’ve given a new name to the blog. Welcome, dear reader, to The New Dialogue.

Gone are the first two months and their nonspecific title. I spent a long hour and a half batting ideas back and forth with my wife, and we came up with a ton of options. What we kept running into was a quality vs. quantity dilemma; whenever I would look up a nifty new potential, it was already taken by someone bigger and badder than me. On the other hand, most of the truly garbage titles were free for the taking. I believe I’ve found a reasonable balance.

Thanks to Brian L. for prompting this alteration.

At one point Aura suggested Den of Dreams. We were enthused. Great idea, I said. Den suggests home, and connotes Daniel and the lions’ den. That’s cute. Dreams can indicate aspirations, and in this case would probably mean shared goals. It’s a nice set of ideas, I said.

Just look it up. Look it up and see why I didn’t go with this. Imagine the comments:

“I was looking for something to stir my senses, and found your blog. Your writing is hypnotic, even delicious. I knew I could only resist for so long.”

Flattering, but misplaced. Thanks for nothing, Tasha Lynn.

That being said, I’m very happy with The New Dialogue. It’s surprisingly unique on the web, and describes well one of the things I value most highly in life: conversation. I started this blog as a means of conversation with you. It was going to be your window into my life, and my way of reaching out to yours. In many ways, this holds true; in others, my vision has broadened.

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I have a request to make of you.

As you’re aware by now, I’ll be starting up a reviews blog quite soon. It’s going to be covering two of the more major formats of communication today: movies, and books. In fancy talk, Film and Literature. In fact – I already have a name for the site: The Parrington Review! Easy to remember – provided my name isn’t too much of a hurdle – and straight to the point. It’s coming online as of September 25th – mark your calendars!

My request: tell me what you’d like to see reviewed. See, I have a list as long as my arm would be if my arm were as long as my hallway. There’s so much I want to share. I’ve read and admired a lot of books, seen and loved a great number of films. But hey – why write about them if you’re not interested?

So tell me what you want; I’ll do it. No reservations on my part. No conditions.

A word of warning, so long as we’re on this – The Parrington Review is not going to be family fare.

The New Dialogue – from its origin as Dan Writes a Blog through to the end of eternity – is and will always be family friendly. I don’t cuss, I don’t make naughty jokes, and I don’t deal with mature subject matter. It’s suitable for all ages, as the movie authorities say.

The Parrington Review, on the other hand, is going to be built to deal with the heaviest stuff out there. Many of the books and movies I’ll be having a look at and dealing with mature themes. I hope very much that if this perturbs you, you’ll simply stick around here and continue to enjoy what I have to offer on my personal journey.

For those of you, however, who think this sounds wicked – it is. We’re going to have a lot of fun. I’ll see you there.

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You may wonder why do I do all this. What motivates me to write, and to share it around at large? And why so suddenly?

I explained my primary motivation early on. I’ll reiterate it now, with a little perspective. I write to express myself, and to learn new modes of expression. I write because I have so much going on inside, and badly need a way to let it out. And I write because I’m happy – when I feel good, I want to reach out and share some of that warmth.

It’s challenging, writing so much and so often. It’s difficult to ensure that what I offer is worth reading. But the work itself is part of the pleasure.

This all happened at once because that’s how things changed for me – all at once. As a result of a few simple changes in my medical strategy, I went from zombie-Dan to inspired-Dan. I was fed up, and took things into my own hands. And I have the best people in the world to support me.

Creation is one of the fundamental impulses of human existence. As a writer, I’ve found a way to be true to that facet of my deepest humanity: I am a tool-maker, storyteller, dreamer. I respond to the call of my own nature, and seek transcendence. I seek to converse – to find illumination in the hearts and minds of others, and to illuminate what I can in return. I believe that through common dialogue, we find meaning; through conversation, we widen the scope of perspective.

This blog is just my way of taking part.

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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


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


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