Never judge a dwarf by his fingers

Roughly sixteen years ago, I was budding Irish whistle player and living in Prince George, BC. I knew about a dozen songs, and had even worked up the courage to play at a few open-mike sessions. But what I really wanted was to play in a band, even if it was just for a song or two.

Eventually an opportunity arose when a nice lady invited me to attend a practice session for a band that she belonged to called “Out of Alba”. When practice time arrived, I was pleased to realize that she played Irish whistles also. I was also very excited, my reasoning being that if she invited me, it meant at least SHE thought I was good enough to play in a band.

At break time, she introduced me to all her bandmates, including their erstwhile leader, who also happened to be a doctor. The first thing that came to his mind when he met me was to ask critically “You play the Irish whistles? How do your short fingers affect your playing?” He then dismissed me, casually stating that his band’s practice sessions were for members only at this time, since they had a concert coming up soon.

To say that I was devastated would be a major understatement. I felt crushed, humiliated, all alone, and feeling like I would cry.

But, in no time, I thought to myself “Oh yeah good doctor? Just watch me!”

Instead of giving up, I used my anger to fuel my determination, and I practiced playing like never before in my entire life. Soon, Carolyn and her band-mates, without the good doctor there on that particular day, invited me onstage to join them in a performance.

I had such a blast, and felt so supported, but my two or three songs went by much too quickly. Carolyn and I also played a few duets at a charity event, and I will be forever grateful for her kindness, and the fact she recognized that musical spark within me so long ago.

And to that doctor, all I can say is: Never judge a dwarf by his fingers!

Let It Sound (Frank on low “D” whistle, and hammer dulcimer)

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Empty Holes

No matter how much we love our kids, after two weeks or so of summer vacation, sometimes parents feel just about ready to give them up for adoption. We tried to keep Annika very busy with activities each day:  Swimming lessons, playing in the park, balcony gardening, baking, drawing, reading, etc.  The list seemed as endless as her energy levels.

It was crazy: No matter how many things we did with her on any given day, just moments after any activity was over, Annika would say, “Will you play with me?”, in a hurt tone of voice that sounded like she’d been marooned on a deserted island for at least a month, maybe even more.

And crazier still is the fact that on the first day she went off to summer day-camp, there was a great big empty lonely hole in my heart.

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Fill ‘Er Up!

Just in time for Halloween, Annika came home from school, and regaled us with her first joke ever. Well, at least, her first ever cleanly executed joke from beginning to end.

Annika: “Knock-knock!”

Me: “Who’s there?”

Annika: “Phillip!”

Me: “Phillip who?”

Annika: “Fill up my bag with CANDY!”

Honestly, for such a simple joke, the punchline still caught me by surprise, and made me truly laugh out loud. What was even more priceless was the beaming smile she had the whole time. She was sure proud of herself on that one!

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Return To Music

I’ve been spending a lot of time writing over the past two years, much to the detriment of  the music I love to play.  Here’s a new recording of a song you may have downloaded before from my website, but I think you will consider it “new and improved”.

I’m feeling quite dizzy from it all:  I’m the only musician playing all the instruments, as well as being the recording guy, and final mixer/producer.

I hope you all enjoy!

Inisheer (new version) – For Streaming

 

Inisheer (new version) – For Downloading

Inisheer (Take 2)

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Franky-V’s Basic Green Lentil Soup

Franky-V's Lentil Soup

Franky-V’s Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 or 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 celery stalk, diced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 or 2 tsp. curry paste of your choice (we used Thai-style green curry paste)
  • 2-3 tbsp. Miso paste
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 6 cups of water

Instructions

Pour 3 tbsp. of olive oil in large pot and sauté all the chopped and diced vegetables. (Onion, garlic, carrots, and celery) until onions are translucent and/or veggies are soft. Add the 6 cups of water, the curry paste, and miso, and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, add the 1 cup of green lentils, stir, cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for 1 hour.

Tips

“Simmer on low for 1 hour” actually means: As the soup is simmering, remember to check every fifteen minutes, and stir from the bottom of the pot to make sure the lentils are not sticking. Also, taste the broth to make sure the soup is seasoned the way you like it. (We have a five year old, so this basic recipe keeps the spicy heat and saltiness low).

Near the end, if you find the soup is too thick, add more water, ½ cup or even 1 cup at a time. (Of course, remember to taste and adjust for preferred saltiness each time you add more water.)

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Can’t BS Our Five Year Old

One of our family’s favorite hobbies is poking fun at ridiculous advertising. And at just the age of five, our young girl Annika seems to be mastering our cynicism and sense of sarcastic humor.

Recently, during a chewing gum commercial on television, the narrator repeated how pleasing and refreshing the “icy-crystals” were. Annika was on the couch and playing with her toys, but clearly paying attention to the TV.

Annika responded loudly to the announcer’s hypnotic voice: “Icy crystals: HA! NOT!”

I just about fell off my chair from laughing so hard.

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A Present for Mama

This story comes from my wife Bonnie:

The other day Annika was in the bathroom wrapped up in her towel so that she was completely hidden. At one point she says: “Mama, there’s a present for you!”

Bonnie: “What is it?”

Annika: “An Annika!”

Bonnie: “Just what I always wanted!”

Annika: “Yes, it’s a LISTENING Annika!” (Translation: She’ll listen to me more).

Bonnie: “Wow! I REALLY need one of those!” (Of course, her listening didn’t last long, but it’s the thought that counts, right? LOL).

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Hiding Hands

There was a time I felt ashamed about how different my hands looked. I knew my face and upper torso were not so different looking than those of an average person, but my hands on the other hand, if you will pardon my obvious pun, were a different matter.

Not only are my fingers short and stubby, another side effect of my dwarfism is that the third knuckles in my fingers are fused together. This limits my dexterity, and also prevents me from making a proper fist. As I grew older and began using public transit, I buried my hands in my coat pockets whenever strangers stared at me.

Wedding Hands (Bonnie and Frank)

Wedding Hands (Bonnie and Frank)

I don’t know what the turning point was, but eventually, I not only came to accept how my hands and fingers looked, but also to take pride in the things they can do. And when Bonnie and I went to buy our wedding bands, I also realized my fingers are anything but small. We quickly discovered the jewelry store did not even have my ring size in stock, which is a size twelve, the second largest on most charts.

 

Size Twelve Ring

Size Twelve Ring

But as they say, it’s not the size of your hands that matters, but how you use them! These hands can cook, play music, doodle, type eighty words per minute, do cross-stitch needlework, and so much more. Best of all is their ability to communicate warmth, friendship and love, all things a person can be proud of.

Hands In Love

Hands In Love

Posted in Dwarfism, My Life So Far | 3 Comments

Hip-Hop Irish Dance Stepper

Just before our daughter Annika turned five back in June, she performed in a hip-hop dance recital at school. She did quite well, considering she was one of the youngest in the group. At one point the older kids did some solos while all the other kids stood still.

Of course, Annika was in her own special world, as she usually is. Instead of standing still like she was supposed to, she started doing her own self-taught version of Irish step dancing. We confirmed with the instructor afterwards that Annika had totally improvised her impromptu and unrequested solo.

I’ll always remember those few hilarious moments when Annika, in all her glory, looked like our proud little stank-faced Irish hip-hop stepper.

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Lessons in Not Getting Hurt

There are days I wonder if our parental words of “wisdom” ever sink through the thick skull of our darling young girl. But then once in a while, we get a very wonderful surprise.

Word for word, here is what my five year old daughter told her mother to write in my birthday card this past summer: “Dear Papa, Happy Birthday. You’re so smart you make me learn more and more, and you make me not hurt myself. Love, Annika”

Clearly, Annika has learned some of the safety lessons I’ve tried to teach her, as well as how to melt my heart.

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