Hearts in Snow

President Obama famously described having kids as living with a piece of your heart, out there, wandering around in the world

And today, two pieces of my heart are not wandering, but sliding, gracefully down the snow-covered slope

In front of me

Sometimes slowing within reach, others wrapping around the bend, and drifting out of sight

When a piece of your heart is out there, in the world, wandering,




and, sometimes, hurting

The push and pull of being Papa rears its head

Keep them safe, above all

And, paradoxically, cheerlead them towards adventure, bravado,

and expansion, into this wide, wild world.

Some say that what you want for your child is just a mirror to what you want for yourself.

And maybe this is true

But when it rears its head as uneasy, unrealistic, and unfair expectations

It perches, extra weight, atop the shoulders of these two pieces of my heart.

But still, they say


We can do it, Papa

They carry this weight, without fear, or resentment, or scorn

and glide, silently in front of me,

gracefully making their way around the bend

On Track

My hands!

Her expression of fatigue leaps across the room

I can’t help but chuckle, and also feel proud of the hard work that’s going on.

K, are you okay?



It’s a quiet afternoon, we’re hard at work on our narrative on-demands. Quiet piano streams as the sunlit shadows and natural light permeate the space. I’m tired today, but it’s a mellow way for us to end the afternoon.

This group knows they’re writers, honing their craft and telling their stories. Their behaviour tells this story, as they work their hardest to emulate the mentor texts we’ve been exploring.

And as I share these slices with them, they see, in living print, proof of our mantra, that

only one person can tell your stories

Xom Chua

You’ve still got to be careful.

It’s not quite as torque-y as the other bike. However, once you get up to speed, it’s got quicker acceleration.

It’s also heavy, so take it easy.

You ready?

Yeah, Papa.

You’ve got to turn around, the trash is the other way.

He edges gently on the accelerator and u-turns. A larger bike, this one gas powered, has just enough room for the plastic black trash bin to nestle snug between the steering column and matte black seat.

And, for a slow u-turn, luckily, today is a quiet day on Xom Chua.

He manages the arc, and as he straightens out and pulls away seems a bit unsteady, but nevertheless picks up speed

And, as he peters away and approaches the corner, I hear him ask

Wait, where do I put my feet

It’s such an innocent question, but it’s one that stops me in my tracks

I immediately need to investigate why it resonates, snaps my reverie.

This is brand new for Rhino. First pass with a gas-powered bike. Fresh, unique

And I remember Amor Towles put it so well

When one turns seventeen and begins to experience that first period of real independence, one’s senses are so alert, one’s sentiments so finely attuned that every conversation, every look, every laugh may be writ indelibly upon one’s memory

I think this may be such a moment for him

Where do we put our feet

We wrestle with new, put ourselves out there, brave the road into vulnerable

And suddenly, there’s no ground

Where do I put my feet?

In spite of his question, and perhaps because of it, he makes his way around the corner and out of sight

Leaving me in his dust,

to wonder

Where will he travel

Who will he become

Will he find his ground

And sadly, perplexingly, agonizingly,

I have no answers

So, instead

I exhale a silent wish for him

And make a commitment to put my feet

one, in front of the other.


Siri, show me cognitive dissonance

He stares, seemingly off into space. But his eyes periodically shift downward, towards the rapidly growing numbers.




I don’t know if he’s numb to pain or actively questioning his decision

But he seems to have made peace with the fact that he has chosen to drive an SUV in the city of Hanoi.

The gas attendant makes a friendly comment to him and smiles his way. She seems to be enjoying her day.

I’m not sure if he’s doing the same with his. He remains aloof.

I notice five, six, seven bikes lineup and finish filling their tanks, within his interval.

A forlorn glance as the spigot pumps petrol, seemingly without stop, makes me think he’s at least a bit aware of his reality.

There are more and more SUVs on the roads as time goes on.


But the streets of Hanoi are merciless. Infrastructure is honestly quite good and for a city of millions traffic is usually not an issue until you get into a neighborhood, when two lanes become one, and one then becomes an afterthought of an alley.

SUVs, all status and comfort

Meet their match when things get tight.

And as I see this man pull out his phone and open his banking app to pay his bill, I consider whether he’s wondering the same thing I am.


Poker Might

So every night for a month, I have to post a small moment, personal narrative.

How small a moment?

Well, it kind of depends. If I’m inspired, I spend a lot more time on it.

The thing is, I have to consider who my audience is, and why I’m writing it, all the stuff that goes into great writing.

However, on some days, I’d rather sit around the poker table, shoot the breeze with friends, and avoid writing altogether.

So what are you doing those days

Well, on those days, I might just kind of dial it in and take a punt

I might even write about this but that feels like

This is the last day of our acquaintance

I’ll talk but you won’t listen to me

There’s potential to get distracted when a great song comes on

I know what your answer will be

Checkpoint Too

He sits, waiting for us, every day

Perched in the doorway, perfectly balanced, just across the way from the primary school. He’s next door to the pop up pho restaurant, across from the countless bikes, schoolchildren just dismounted and sneaking across the road for their breakfast. Morning pho, of course.

It’s rush hour at the school

And he’s there to witness it.

Regular, like a grandfather


He sits, legs crossed

And every time we pass he is silent, introspective


His greying, short-cropped hair belies his youthfulness. Eyes shining, he keeps watch over the school.

And in so doing, keeps himself young.


Somebody left the door open

Fresh out the shower, I step across the tiles

It’s heat I pursue today.

I peer at the bright red digital numbers on the panel


That should do it

Normally when I pull open the sticky cedar door, the metal catch wrestles with me, just enough to make a clatter. And once I cross the threshold, the temperature slaps me across the brow, leaving me squinting, shielding my eyes from this imaginary sun.

But tonight I’m later than usual, and my friend who cares for the space must be ready to go home. He’s left the door ajar, and the heat out.

I step in, then backpedal out of the tiny room and double check that the heat is indeed still on.

Ah crap

I need this tonight

Where do we find heat?

In a world where energy saps, where an innocent interaction cuts to core, where small words pierce, leave us without

leave us cold



I hold my hand above the rocks.

I need heat


It seems there’s still a spell reserved for me

The ladle and two rounded wooden containers of water invite redemption.


I scoop a little bit and carefully drop it onto the rocks. Comforting steam immediately rises, hissing overtakes the space.

That’s how I know there’s still time. I dunk and empty the ladle three, four times. The heat is not quite so painful that I can’t take it, but I squint and push fingers against brow.

I whip the towel around three times as is done in Turkey, per my friend’s instructions. Take hold of it in two hands and snap it out, sending the hot air cascading through the tiny room.

The beauty of a sauna; no phone, (tonight at least) no others, no weight, no wait. It’s me space.

I lean into the heat, focus on patterns in the woodwork,

looks like an alien

and be.

Sweat gathers and sweeps away, gathers, and sweeps away.

And perhaps it’s the heat

or the day

or the combo platter.

But I break.

It’s really hard to distinguish sweat from tears

And so, as I lean back and shudder into the blazing wall

I let them flow.

Checkpoint One

Our commute is dotted with checkpoints.

I breathe in.

As I round the bend next to the lake and gun into the straightaway, I see the crew.

The early morning meditators. Perched, still, mindful statues on thin pillows. In winter months this group of seven huddles for warmth and dresses for the cool.

These days they are less layered. But equally, still.

Some days there are up to 12 of them. Aligned neatly and tight, legs crossed under, faces stone. Most have eyes closed but from time to time they peek out.

they remind me of bowling pins for some reason

And as I chuckle at the idea of a wayward ball knocking them out of their reverie, over the rail, and into the lake. And somehow it’s clear to me that if this happened, they’d smile and nod

retake their seats

and get back to it.

Such is the nature of their commitment.

I’ve never made eye contact.

I long to join them, to pause in this stream of life, have a moment for myself, my breath, my empty mind. But our time is short. We need to get to school and there’s too much to do.

So instead, as I pass, I make a point to turn inward, and while steering to avoid the oncoming traffic

I breathe out.


I’m lucky enough to have a classroom up the stairs. There’s a great view of the footie pitch, so on a daily basis, recess for 120 kids provides full entertainment and distraction.

It’s a screechy layer of four to five chaotic footie matches, all sound and fury, all happening, all at once.

We’ve been talking about how to make the pitch more organized, how to involve kids in some sort of antidote to the chaos.

But for, now football is life. And life is messy.

In general, players delineate by division, and age. But there are moments where just before ES is at recess, a few wayward high schoolers wander over and kick things for fun.

So today, I see Rhino and a few of his Grade 11 buds gather for a quick game of World Cup. It’s usually either teams of two or every player for himself.

When did he get so big?

I watch as this high schooler disguised as a man finds so much joy in holding the ball at his feet, making deft touches inside and out, walking around friends turned defenders. He smiles while doing so, and his joy is mine too.

I’m not sure if he’s ever going to the next level as a footballer, so for now, I am content with watching him be beautiful within the beautiful game.

He is connected, smiling, with friends, and I’m lucky enough to have a birds eye view of the action.

And in this moment, the elementary school kids make their way out for recess, the signal for the high school kids to exit the pitch.

But Rhino lingers. The allure of ball and goal is too much for him to get away.

I’m considering the politics of high school, the awkward phase where peers matter so very much, and the push away from family in full effect. Where being vulnerable, or authentic, can feel like a spotlight. Where self-consciousness opens, closes, and too often wins the day.

He’s finding his place

but I think he still needs us

On his way to the pitch, Elephant spots his big bro immediately, waves, and hops in his direction. Rhino waves back.

And for a moment, I’m not sure what kind of reaction older brother has in store for younger. He is surrounded by peers, and I wonder if self-consciousness trumps brotherly love

It’s been a tender stage for Elephant, fifth grade can be rough.

He loops over to Rhino and I can tell he’s looking for some love. I worry that this might not be the moment he’ll get some.

And then, my favorite favorite moment of the day happens

Elephant dashes into Rhino’s arms, Rhino welcomes him with an earnest hug.

And plants a gentle kiss on his forehead