Ladybug Monster

There once was a very dangerous monster.  He would eat ladybugs all day long – chomp, slurp, gulp, chomp, slurp, gulp.  The more he ate, the more his slimy skin would deepen to red and the darker the black dots would become over every lump and scale on his body.  He did this because he desired to be beautiful and from the land of monsters from which he came, all the monsters fought and preened and bragged to be best among their kind.  There were monsters of hazy blue and grey like the Blue Jay birds upon which they feasted.  Other monsters of shocking yellow crunched the heads of sunflowers all day long.  Yet a third kind had the strongly contrasted orange and white stripes like the Clownfish they hunted among the coral reefs.  Despite their beautiful markings they were a nasty bunch for vanity had rotted their hearts.  They lay waste to the flowers, birds, insects, trees, reptiles, fishes and animals in pursuit of their beautiful colors but nothing could distract from their hideous heads and fearsome bodies.  Two fleshy tentacles dangled on either side of a gap of sharp teeth.  Their eyes were like pools of black oil.  Their fingers were long and pointed and a large hump protruded from their backs.  A lizard like tail dragged behind them and yet they walked on two legs like a man.  The only thing that made each one distinct were their colored patterns.

The Ladybug monster was perhaps the most dangerous because children are very fond of ladybugs.  They are the first and the best of all things that children discover in their backyards and forest.  They are harmless, very pretty and children make a great game of finding them.  They embody the joy of innocents and for that reason, the evil monster gained strength in destroying them.

Now what happens when a little girl loves wearing her ladybug dress?  For there was such a girl.  She was three and a half years old and every day she wore a lovely dress of red with large black dots all over.  The two antennae made up the two straps that curled over her shoulders and the eyes blinked out from the top of her round little tummy.  Her Mom was sure to wash it every night so it would be fresh for her daughter the next day and magically, the dress never faded or tore.

One day, during the first days of autumn when the warm sun glistens on the first yellowing leaves, the little girl was in her backyard playing.  Sure enough, she found a ladybug on the underside of a newly fallen leaf.  She picked it up and began to sweetly talk to the little bug.  She was deep in conversation with her new friend when a low growl could be heard behind the tree.  The little girl looked up to see the Ladybug monster.  At first her eyes were confused by what she saw for the pattern of red and black was so overwhelming to her eyes that she did not see his snarling teeth, long claws or the tail that swished and disturbed the fallen leaves.  The Ladybug monster, for his part, failed to see the little girl swathed inside the garb of a ladybug.  What he did see was a very large and very tasty ladybug and he cackled inside himself thinking what an amazing transformation awaited his foul body once he consumed it.

The little girl finally adjusted her eyes and was so terrified by the Ladybug monster that she was mute, unable to scream for help.  The Ladybug monster approached and opened his jaws wide.

It was at this moment, in the very same tree that had expelled the leaf from which the little girl had found her ladybug friend, that a crow rested upon a branch.  He was an unusually big crow and among his very large family he was the blackest, the shiniest, and the bravest.  He glanced down and was shocked to see a peculiar looking monster about to eat a little girl.  With only a moment to spare before the beast was about to close his teeth around her, the crow let out a tremendous “CAW, CAW, CAW.”

Have you ever heard a crow?  It is quite a startling sound.  To some ears, it is a low and menacing sound.   Which is probably why in all scary movies, just before something really bad happens, you hear a crow cawing.  This time, however,  it stopped the Ladybug monster right in his tracks.  In fact, it did something very remarkable.  The monster started to shrink.  The change was very small at first but the crow kept on cawing.  With every burst of sound from the crow, the monster shrank even more and soon the monster was only as high as the girl’s shoulders. The thing about the CAW of this particular crow was that it came from the growly depths of a very brave bird.   He was known among all the flying creatures to peck at hungry cats that threatened to catch and eat the sparrows, robins or baby birds newly hatched.  He once snatched a baby squirrel away from an eagle just as it was about to be carried away for dinner.  He gently laid it down on a branch and it scurried home.   Monsters thrive on others’ fear and so bravery is the surest way to weaken them.  Bravery can take many forms: telling the truth under threat of harm or embarrassment, protecting the weak, or simply making enough noise so the monsters know they cannot scare you.  Because monsters are only dangerous if we let them scare us.

The loud cawing from the crow managed to wake the girl from her fright and she realized the crow was helping her with his mighty voice.  Here’s a handy fact: besides being friends with ladybugs, the girl happened to be fantastic at bird calls.  In addition to learning how to sound like a chickadee or a prairie grouse, her mother had taught her how to sound like a crow.  Every time they would see a group of crows cawing to each other, they would join in, cawing and calling out to the others.  The crows would caw back and this would go on for several minutes until they flew off.  The other handy thing about the little girl was besides being good and kind, she was also terrifically brave.  No tree was too high to climb, no slide too fast to go down and no swing too tall that she wouldn’t sweep upwards as high as she could.  Her parents feared for broken bones or a fractured skull, but magically like the dress, she was never harmed or even suffered a tiny scratch.

The little girl added her own cawing to that of the big black crow in the tree and soon the noise shrank the Ladybug monster to no bigger than a tiny bug.  In fact, if you squinted your eyes, the red and black dotted monster looked like a ladybug.  The girl picked up the monster and the crow flew down from his branch to land at her feet.  The girl bent down and with an outstretched hand offered the Ladybug monster to the crow.  The crow gave a happy sound, picked up the little red and black morsel and swallowed him in one gulp.

Since that day, ladybugs have been free to roam without fear.  The little girl grew up to be a world famous bird photographer and so it was quite useful she was talented at mimicking bird calls and also an expert tree climber.  She could often be found perched on the highest limbs of trees calling to rare birds that would happily flit over to her for their photo op.  The crow became a great warrior; he flew around the world, cawing and shrinking and eating all those nasty monsters.   It turned out despite their slimy skin and ugly features they were very tasty, so the crow lived a long, contented life on a diet of monsters until no more existed.  From that time forward the plants, insects, birds and animals lived happily in peace.

Postscript:  My sister asked me to write about the Trump win to formulate into words what my family and friends were feeling.  I came up with this story.  I suppose in times that evoke fear or apprehension or just unknowing, we must amalgamate our thoughts into stories if not to protect us from reprisal but to also simplify our understanding of events.  I have no idea how Trump will perform as president, all I know is that “history doesn’t forget, people do.”  So we wait to see if the people of the United States have repeated the mistakes of the past.

Hillary vs Trump

I can’t belief I’m writing this post.  It seems a ridiculous topic because everyone and their dog has weighed in on this political drama.  I’m not even sure what either party is stumping anymore.  Full disclosure: I’m Canadian.  We have boring politics.  We voted out our last prime minister because he became too cloak and dagger with his policy decisions.  We voted in Trudeau because a) he’s handsome (yes, really) b)incredibly idealistic and c)naively optimistic; everything a prime minister needs to be righteous.  We love righteousness with a dollop of humble pie.  That is where American and Canadians are fundamentally different: we conceal contempt in favor of a begrudging handshake because we hate being the moral underdog.   Americans express contempt by right of moral authority.  Which one is the hypocrite?   It doesn’t really matter.   This post isn’t about the best approach to being heard.  It is about women in politics.  YES!  A feminist rant.  Please brace yourselves.

Here is the backstory.  My daughter and I have being going for about a year to playgroup hosted by a Baptist church as part of their community outreach.  I’m not Baptist.  I’m not Christian.  Or Muslim.  Or Jewish.  I grew up on First Nations reserves and I would say I’m closest to being an animist: the belief that all living things have a spirit and that we must peacefully coexist with Mother Earth through an acceptance of our humble place in its inspiring dynamics.   I go to the playgroup because they have excellent coffee, lots of snacks for the kids and parents and the conversation is good.  I’ve never hidden these facts and they know I won’t be attending  bible studies  anytime soon.   Every week the playgroup is hosted by the church coordinator, a lovely woman in her 50s that is always generous with her hugs and has an easy smile.   I’ve never had reason to be wary of her opinion or judgement.

Two days ago, a mother wanted to kick up a quick conversation by asking me if I’d watched the second televised debate between Hillary and Trump.  No, I hadn’t.  I stated:  I have no desire to watch Trump speak; he does not speak with meaning or purpose but only with vitriol.   The mother concurred and thought he was possibly crazy.  The church coordinator piped up:  no one should vote for Hillary; she cannot be trusted.  Which meant:  the Americans should vote for Trump.   I said a few more things on the subject, well aware the church coordinator was not speaking due to her disagreement with my favored choice for president.  I left the room to finish packing away some toys, thinking no more of it.  When I returned a few minutes later,  I entered upon the last utterance to the mother:  no woman should be a world leader.   The church coordinator immediately changed the topic upon my reentry into the room and thanked me (twice) for my help.  A classic Canadian moment.  Bleh.

If I had to describe the line drawn in the sand between Hillary and Trump, I would say it is the demarcation of two perceived crimes:  a husband’s adultery and the triumph of a woman scorned.  If ever there was a reason to elevate a woman’s transgressions to the crimes of her husband, I naively calculated Hillary’s post coital loyalty to her husband to be cancelled out by Trump’s own philandering.    How wrong I was.   It seems that adultery is a crime that doles out justice on a sliding scale; men may be forgiven but a woman is bonded in perpetuity to her own foolishness, either as victim or wrongdoer.

Hillary can and should be a world leader.  She is smart and politically savvy and tough as nails.  She does not succumb to outbursts of emotion under extreme verbal assault and doesn’t flinch from over inflated threats.  She is a class act.  It is ironic that her adversary is unable to exhibit the same restraint and whose histrionics undermine his legitimacy to pass judgement on women.  I’m only disappointed that other women would attempt to do the same.  In 2016, the disparity in moral indignation towards men and women for equal crimes is hard to behold.  As a good feminist or maybe just an idealist, I’ll have my champagne ready on election night.  Good luck Hillary and may your good fortune sweep forth the winds of change.  It seems the moral righteousness of men and women, American and Canadian alike, could use a good dusting.

I Wish Bill Murray Was My Dad

The best dream I ever had was about five years ago.  I walked into a delicatessen with linoleum squares of white and green and a few round tables with a scattering of black chairs.  Sitting at one of the tables was my dad, Bill Murray.  He greeted me with a warm hug and we sat down and had a great chat over a great cup of coffee.  Soon, my other dad, William Shatner arrived, kissed Bill on the cheek and sat down beside him.  The dream was short but the feeling of warmth and goodwill lingered after I woke up.   I don’t have a secret desire for two gay dads but the dream resolved a mutual admiration for both actors.  I have read enough magazine articles about both men to guess that Bill is a no nonsense kind of dad, affectionate but not indulgent and Will is charming in a self-aggrandizing kind of way- the parent that would likely get the eye rolls from the kids.   I imagine they would be a dynamic power couple, both charismatic and rambunctious; dinner guests would be left roiling on the carpeted floor as the two men fed each other lines, their cheeks rosy with wine and good humor.

Bill Murray has received an iconic status of late.   I have seen stenciled silhouettes of his face on T-shirts and on vehicle decals.  He has become cool for a hipster race of Gen Y’s and Millennials that watched Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day and Saturday Night Live before his sublime casting in Lost in Translation.  His morbid detachment – the stone face is his coup de grace in high brow and low brow theatrics -is the zeitgeist of an overstimulated populous with an unrelenting social media feed of Donald Trump, Middle Eastern terror groups, and YouTube stars.  He is the de facto guy everyone wants to hang out with while we wait out the maelstrom.

William Shatner looks like my Mom.  He really, really looks like my maternal side of the family.  The bulbous nose framed by padded red cheeks and wide, large eyes is a hallmark of my mother’s family.  He was also born in Canada and is an alumnus of my alma mater, McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.  That’s pretty much where the similarities end but it really helps to have a few similarities when you idolize someone.  Why would anyone idolize William Shatner, you say?  Well, he has a lot of spunk; he’s still working at 84 years.  He has a sassy kind of appeal – he told his loyal Star Trek fans to get a life (let’s be honest they needed to hear it) but he also humbled down by 2011 to address an audience at McGill University and told them: “Don’t be afraid of failure. Don’t be afraid of making an ass of yourself. I do it all the time, and look what I got.”  And let’s be honest, any person who has the cajones to release multiple spoken word albums that are actually good, has my respect.

On introspection,  why does a 37 year old woman look up to older men for life guidance?  What happened to my own parents?  What happened to Gloria Steinem for feminist idealism or Kristy Wiig for witty realism (or  is it raunchy realism?)?  Let’s face it, we rarely fantasize about being our parents.  We spend half our lives trying to make improvements on their model with later epiphany we are maddeningly similar.  As women we are attuned to the flaws of other women.  That is why we get dressed up for a night out with the gals but don’t even bother to shave when it’s date night with our husbands.  We are always trying to impress other women hence the new skirt and freshly cut hair.  Women are women’s biggest critics.  Men are happy we’re warm and smell like soap.  If you happen to have shaved, they interpret it as open for business.   Some social anthropologist will say something to the effect this is an attempt to place us higher in the social pecking order as to appear more attractive to a potential mate.  I think women are just plain jerks.  Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of really great friends that are supportive and kind.  But, we are all competing all of the time.   We offer up ourselves as exemplars of wifery, motherhood and professional elitism when our girlfriends suffer self-doubt.   This is where the foundations are laid as future mother-in-laws.  We all know the universality of mother-in-laws. They take your 20’s self delusions of grandeur and knock them down a peg or two.  If you are awesome friends with your mother-in-law you need to entertain the possibility she a)is an alien b)is a man disguised as a woman or c)does not have a competitive bone in her body and can be classified as a subspecies of jellyfish.

So yeah, I think it would be awesome if Bill Murray and William Shatner were my dads. Perhaps their example of self-effacing humor and light banter would make me a better person.  I might be less inclined to judge other people’s follies and laugh more at my own.  And, for my future daughter-in-law and son-in-law, I send you a  wish:  that visits from your future mother-in-law are whimsical and fun; that my padded cheeks are rosy and filled to the brim with good humor and kindness. And if you have delusions of grandeur, I promise to bring you back to earth.