Dr. Thunderlizard’s Great Gray Moles

Three posts and four years ago (!!!) I wrote about my dear ol’ Professor’s book of poems.

Here is Dr. Thunderlizard* himself, reading one of them.

It’s been too long,


*Dr. Thunderlizard is one of Johnny Wink’s numerous nicknames.



I feel like I’m in a mud puddle.

Breaking news this morning on CBC was the shocking to some; saddening to others; heartening to yet others; and completely nonplussing news to many that Robert Munsch, beloved Canadian children’s author, admitted to mental illness and drug addictions.

At first I was shocked, and then I was saddened, and now… now I feel like I’m in a mud puddle.

The first burble in the mud puddle was the thought that addictions and illness have absolutely nothing to do with this man’s art. He’s not writing self-help books on battling cocaine abuse. He’s writing quirky tales of paper-bag princesses and sleep-walking fathers. If the end result is a satisfactorily tongue-twistingly chewy bedtime story, should the personal process that may have accompanied the writing really matter?

The second blip in my puddle was the realisation that today’s CBC story was not, in fact, a shocking new discovery. Munsch has talked about his battle with mental illness before, in interviews in The Globe & Mail and Global Television Network. In fact, I would far more readily describe the story in G&M as beautiful and inspiring instead of “shocking.”

Excerpt: How Robert Munsch grabbed a lifeline (The Globe & Mail, October 09 2009)

“ Purple, Green and Yellow is my take on depression,” the real-life Mr. Munsch says in an interview. “That’s what it was like for me: You want to kill yourself, but you have to be funny. You colour yourself for the world.”

Known as much for his hyperkinetic performances as his funny-with-an-edge children’s books, Mr. Munsch, 64, has struggled his entire life with bipolar disorder.

From his “wild and wonky” behaviour as a teenager, through to his years studying to be a priest, then as a daycare worker with a gift for storytelling, he largely suffered in silence and accepted the wild mood swings: “When you grow up with it, it seems like the way life is,” he says.

But the bouts of depression and related alcoholism grew ever worse, and Mr. Munsch finally got help – therapy and antidepressants – when he was close to 50.

While many artists fear that treatment for mental illness will rob them of their magical je ne sais quoi , Mr. Munsch had the opposite result: “Taking antidepressants didn’t interfere with my creativity, the depression interfered with my creativity.”

Better still, instead of having to paint himself happy, he actually began to enjoy the performances. “After treatment, it became more fun to do the shows – it made me better.”

And yet, the question must be asked…

What was Mr. Munsch attempting to accomplish by posting the following “Note to Parents” on his website?

And was it accomplished?


I am a storyteller. I write books for kids, I talk to kids, and I listen to kids.

But that is not all that I am. Several years ago I was diagnosed as obsessive-compulsive and manic-depressive. Those challenges have led me to make some big mistakes.

I have worked hard to overcome my problems, and I have done my best. I have attended twelve-step recovery meetings for more than 25 years.

My mental health and addiction problems are not a secret to my friends and family. They have been a big support to me over the years, and I would not have been able to do this without their love and understanding.

I hope that others will also understand. I hope that everyone will talk to their kids honestly, listen to them, and help them do their best with their own challenges.

CBC vs. CNN: Eps. 1-3

April 12, 2010

CBC | Top Stories News
Guergis allegations came from ‘3rd party’
Niqab gets 2nd Quebec student expelled
Pilot in Polish crash may be to blame: officials

Conan O’Brien takes late night show to TBS

April 14, 2010

CBC | Top Stories News
Guergis says allegations based on ‘innuendo’
Chinese earthquakes kill at least 400
Afghan abuse claims went on after 2007: official

Kate Gosselin: TV work provides for the kids

April 26, 2010

CBC | Top Stories News
UN pulls staff from Kandahar
Liberals promise national food policy
British MP Galloway’s hearing delayed

Let teens drink? Parents wrestle with the question

Make eye contact with a solitary pickle

The main university in the city where I live is renowned (among students, at least) not for its professors or its courses or its research space, but for the unconnectedness of the university population.

I don’t know anyone in my courses.
There’s no discussion during class.
Nobody makes eye contact in the hallways.
Everyone avoids eye contact in the hallways.

The building where I work is renowned (in my opinion, at least) for its friendliness. I have never worked in a building where people are so welcoming, even if I have never seen them before in my life…  even if it’s a Monday morning!

Good morning.
Having a busy day today?
Let me get that door for you.

From the lovely cleaning lady who greets me every time she sees me with a Goot mahning!
to the head computer technician who always offers to trade jobs with me to avoid the headaches of his;
to the maintenance guy who tells me about his motorcycle adventures every weekend;
to the scientific director of the other lab who teaches me about Chinese New Year folktales;
to the very cute contractor who smiles and holds the door open for me;
people in this building go out of their way to make eye contact, hold eye contact, and connect with you (whether you really want to or not).

And even if I am busy, even when I do have someplace else to be, that connection with another human makes that moment the most valuable place to exist in. Because that is the power of eye contact: the reminder that in the end, relationships with other people are the only thing that will last.

It’s alarming that of all the things they’re teaching at an institute of higher learning, they’ve not only neglected to teach that most important lesson, but are instead propagating the very opposite. So, what they are teaching is higher than what, exactly?

One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

Three things. That’s all I’m gonna write about right now. I promise.* In order of happenstance:

1. I am going to be a bridesmaid this weekend. My friend was going to be married in April, then February, and yesterday morning she called and said it’s this Sunday. Last minute celebrations are my favorite! There were some problems (read: full-on scratching each other’s eyes out) between the bride’s mother and the groom’s sister over what will be worn at the wedding. So the bride and groom said, “Screw you guys. We’re just getting married this weekend because we don’t give a damn.” My friend said she and her fiancé are happy, so I’m all for it. Certainly makes my weekend a whole lot more exciting than I had originally planned.

2. Two of my short short stories (technically flash fiction) have been accepted by the Fine Arts Center of Hot Springs to be published in The Short List next month. I will attend a book signing in December, where I (along with the other authors) will be presented with a check for our respective stories. Not bad for 149 words.

3. I’m in the process of making a Mix Tape with short story accompaniment. While trying to fall asleep last night, I was listening to my iPod and wondering how pop and rock musicians of the late 1960s would have heard contemporary songs. Not how does Paul McCartney feel about Arcade Fire, but how would he have received their song “Wake Up” if someone had played it for him in 1967? These kinds of thoughts often come to me when I’m in my music reverie, and last night I decided to write a narrative (I don’t think it will turn into any sort of stand alone short story) of introducing contemporary songs (via my iPod, which would be mind-blowing enough) to my favorite musicians in 1969. When I’ve finished, I’ll upload the Mix Tape of the contemporary songs, as well as one or two of the subject’s songs so you might understand the connection. I chose that particular year (1969) because it was on the eve of a new decade, when hard rock was just barely coming into the popular scene, and that time in general because it’s one of my favorites, plus maybe in that drug-induced haze my subjects would feel more inclined to accept whatever futuristic technology I throw at them. I’m done with run-on sentences for now.


*I bet you thought I was lying, didn’t you?