A Picture of Words

There is a site called Tagxedo, where you can go to create a word cloud from tags on your blog. You can choose from a large number of colour themes and shapes, and even upload your own picture to use as a base. Playing around here seemed like a good way to spend my New Year’s morning. It’s a lot of fun, and it allows people who cannot draw to save their lives (read: people like me) to channel their inner creativity.

If you’re looking for a pretty picture made of words, head on over and create your own word cloud. Post a picture of it in your blog, and leave me a link in the comments – I would love to see it!



What a Difference a Year Makes

My son doesn’t do lineups very well, and therefore we tend to avoid them wherever possible. Some would argue – completely within the realms of reason – that lining up is an essential life skill that we should expose him to more than we do. But like most parents of special needs kids, my husband and I already have enough on our plate without seeking out something to add to it.

Every year, though, we get the perfect opportunity to help him practice the skill of lining up, at the annual children’s Christmas party put on by my employers. It takes place at an indoor amusement park, and the day includes unlimited rides, gifts for the kids, and a picture with Santa. Bearing in mind that I work for a company that has 5000 employees at Head Office alone, the children’s Christmas party gets a little crowded.

Which means lineups everywhere, especially at Santa’s hangout spot.

In our first year at the Christmas party, we almost skipped the Santa picture because the line was so long, and as much as we want George to practice the skill, we have to be reasonable about it. But James would have been so disappointed to miss Santa. We didn’t want George to have a meltdown that could give him permanent negative associations with this place, but we also didn’t want James to miss out on a typical childhood experience.

In the end, we didn’t have to choose. The volunteers were more than happy to let us skip the lineup and go straight to Santa, and they have done this for us ever since. This small but very significant act of kindness is something that makes this day truly special for us.

We still have to line up for the rides, and in years gone by this has created a bit of a problem for George, but the lineups have moved just fast enough to avoid any potential explosions.

Yesterday we had the best children’s Christmas party ever. As always, we were allowed to skip the Santa line and for the first time, everyone was looking directly at the camera for the picture. Our first stop after Santa was the train ride, and from there we went around the whole place and the kids went on every single ride. There were lineups at all of them, and in some cases the wait was quite lengthy.

But George showed a kind of maturity we have not seen before, and he coped remarkably well with the crowds and the waiting. The only time he showed any kind of anxiety was during the wait for the bumper cars, which made even me feel claustrophobic.

We all had a fantastic time, made even better by the new signs of growth in George.

Sometimes time really does make a difference.



Not All Facebook Shares Are Funny

I have something to gripe about today. What can I say? I woke up feeling cranky this morning – it seems like the perfect time for me to vent about something that’s actually been bothering me for a few days now.

Unless you’ve been orbiting outer space along with that thing that just landed on Mars, you will know that on July 20th, a man walked into a movie theatre in Aurora, Colorado and opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding 58. Although I know the name of the perpetrator (sorry, alleged perpetrator, to satisfy any legal-minded readers), he will forever remain nameless on my blog. Identifying him by name would feel too much like acknowledging him as a regular person, and I don’t feel inclined to give him that level of respect.

Yes, I know. Innocent until proven guilty and all that. But come on. The guy rigged his apartment with explosives with the intention of killing whoever happened to walk in. I keep hearing talk of possible mental illness, and stories about how everyone including the perpetrator had unrealistic expectations of him and made him snap. So what? Am I supposed to feel sorry for him? Let me just mention something to put that idea into perspective.

12 people dead. 58 people injured. God alone knows how many people who will struggle with heart-wrenching grief and/or PTSD for the rest of their lives.

Anyway. I find myself digressing from my original gripe before I’ve even gotten to it.

The media published pictures of the perpetrator making his first court appearance. We all remember the shot: a dazed-looking man with inexplicable hair seated beside his public defender.

That picture does not bother me. However, the knock-off picture that has started making its lightning-quick rounds on Facebook does. In this picture, the perpetrator is Photoshopped out, and a children’s character with standing-up red hair is Photoshopped in. As troublesome as the picture are all of the “LOL”-type comments that have been added to it.

I’m sorry, is this supposed to be funny?

It probably would be funny if this guy had shoplifted, or been involved in a protest, or been caught driving down the highway at 200 miles an hour.

But he didn’t. He killed people in cold blood.

Here’s the thing about Facebook: just about everyone is on it. It is perfectly reasonable to assume that most of the people who were in the theatre that night have seen that picture. So have friends and family of the deceased.

What goes through their minds when they see what amounts to a caricature of the person responsible for causing such devastation in their lives? How does it make them feel to know that people are seeing said caricature and having a giggle over it? Sure, it could be argued that the laughs are at the expense of the perpetrator, but I wonder if the people affected are capable of seeing it that way.

What do you think of all this? Am I right in thinking that this is all somewhat insensitive to people who have already lost so much? Or do I need to just lighten up a little?

(Photo credit: B.Frahm. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)