Candidates, please read

Dear candidates: There is already so much that I want to thank you for in regards to the upcoming election.

Please do call me during dinner. I have nothing better to do than to listen to your prerecorded message. We always have family dinners, so what’s wrong with you interrupting one of them. Your message is important, more important than face time with my children. And don’t worry, the pre-recorded thing doesn’t bother me at all. I will listen all the way to the end. It isn’t a concern to me that you didn’t take the time to call me yourself; a recording is just as genuine and effective and will definitely improve your chances of me voting for you. Continue reading

Cooking Shows Nourish Family with Education, Entertainment

While I don’t like to endorse a lot of screen time, there are moments when television can give me the extra 20 minutes I need to complete the task at hand or to make dinner. Most recently, I combined two birds and found something the children and I enjoy watching, and at the same time it gave me an idea of what to make for dinner: Behold the cooking channel.

It wasn’t all that long ago that Dora the Explorer was teaching my daughter a few Spanish words, and I was so happy that she had replaced the useless purple dinosaur and singing brightly coloured bobble heads. While the show was formulaic and unsophisticated, at least she could learn something useful. Dora and her pals played nicely together, went on adventures, and taught the kids some Spanish.

Soon, my daughter had grown out of the little Latin lady and was becoming entranced by ‘tween programming. There has been little redeeming about the’ tween shows I’ve seen over the last 5 years. Basically, it all adds up to how much attitude can you show friends, teachers and parents.

I definitely don’t want my kids modelling their behaviour , nor do I want to pay an extra $10 a month for kid channels to inject more eye-rolling and sarcasm into my family’s world; that’s my job, and I do it for free. Continue reading

What’s so bad about austerity?

There’s a lot of talk about Greece lately, and not as a tourist destination. Greece is broke and may be removed from the European Union. Experts are conflicted on what the effect will be on world markets. While I worry somewhat about my global investments, I worry more about the state of us as a people.

Alexis Tsipras, now prime minister of Greece, ran on the promise of reducing austerity measures. These austerity measures were put in place by lenders who provided bailout money to Greece. Tsipras has gained popularity as he thumbed his nose at creditors and their austerity measures.

What’s so bad about austerity?

In economics, austerity measures involve reducing the government deficit, which means either raising taxes or decreasing spending, or both.

Hailing from the Greek word for severe, synonyms of austere include frugal, sober, restrained, and strict. None of these synonyms sounds like a lot of fun, and definitely not for such a hedonistic society. Continue reading

Tax cramped women’s pocket books

This Canada Day, women across the nation have one more reason to celebrate: GST will no longer be charged on feminine hygiene products. Was the day chosen because it is a holiday that is all about red and white? Or perhaps because it is about celebrating Canada’s independence and now women are freed from a tax that shouldn’t have been there in the first place?

It has truly been a long time coming and it was a text from my father that reminded me of my personal connection to this issue.

Back as early as October 1998 I began corresponding with the then Minister of Finance, the Honourable Paul Martin. I wrote to ask for a review of the taxable status on sanitary napkins and tampons as I felt they should be listed under schedule V or VI (tax exempt or zero rated) exemptions because they are a necessity, not as they were then categorized as “a luxury.” I challenged him to offer up a substitutable good if they are not a necessity. Continue reading

You have to love convocations

Convocation is one of my favourite celebrations. Seeing graduates in their black robes, adorned by the multi-coloured hoods based on their discipline of study evokes pride, emotion, and tradition. There is something grand about the ceremony, and yet I found myself with gown envy.

Sitting as part of the platform party, as several of my former students crossed the stage, I was on the verge of tears, acknowledging their hard work. Yet, jokingly, someone from the audience could have seem them as tears of vanity.

 (Granted, I am the first to remember that the day is about the graduates and not about the platform party and what we’re wearing. Luckily, we if nothing else, can provide some amusement for the audience to get through the longer speeches.) Continue reading

Geocaching a modern day treasure hunt

In my last column, I wrote about the importance of getting outside for mental and physical health reasons. I received many comments in agreement with the sentiment (though one allergy sufferer disagreed with me wholeheartedly).

This week I thought I’d let you in on our family’s little outdoor secret: the joys of geocaching. Imagine an activity that wraps up exercise, fresh air, and family-time all into one excellent adventure!

A quick visit to www.geocaching.com prompts you to “Join the anytime, anywhere, real-time adventure.” After signing up for a free account and downloading a free app, you will be shown the GPS coordinates for geocaches close to you.

Continue reading

Go outside and have fun

Ever wonder how you can improve your life? More and more the solution seems to point to one very easy and obvious solution”¦ get outdoors more. Yes, mother was right. Her answer to every problem was: “Go play outside.” Even though she probably just wanted my sister and I to take our bickering away from her, in retrospect, there was profound wisdom in her words.

When was the last time you were taking a walk in the forest and thought to yourself, “Gee, I wish I were in the office”? Unless the forest is on fire, or it is pouring buckets of rain, the answer is, likely, never.

Being outdoors, literally and figuratively, grounds us. Looking at the leaves on the trees, hearing the birds chirp, feeling the sun on face, all help to melt the problems of the day. Even if you’ve started your walk in a bad mood, spending enough time outdoors will turn that frown upside down (or at least to a neutral position). Continue reading

Hiawatha Highlands Column was Public Service

On March 25, I wrote an article about the owl attacks up on the Hiawatha Highlands trails. Two people had been seen in the Sault Area Hospital Emergency Room for wounds received after being winged by an owl. I had suggested that this was a public safety issue and that something more should have been done by the hospital and Hiawatha Highlands to inform the public. Continue reading

How do you read a newspaper?

How do you read the paper? Are you a skimmer or scanner?

Watching people the newspaper here in the airport on the way out of town once again shows me that it takes all types to make the world spin. Some read it cover to cover; every headline, every word. Some are less conscientious. What type are you?

Of these less thorough individuals, I’ve split them into the scanners, skimmers, and section specific scholars.

In the scanners category you have those who look only at the pictures and perhaps the accompanying captions. I assume the logic behind scanning is that if the story is important enough, the editor will accord it a photo. (Though in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, that is often not the case.) Another subset of scanners follow only the headlines. There aren’t a lot of photos, so best to hope the headlines will cover all the salient news.

Then there are the skimmers: they read the headline, and the first sentence or two, and move on. Again the assumption is either that the most important details will be in the first two sentences, and / or if they aren’t interested after the first two sentences they won’t read on.

Becoming progressively more thorough are the section specific scholars who are scanners or skimmers throughout the paper until they get to their section of interest. Then they become the focused, conscientious, read-every-word person. The sports fan pours over stats, trades, player updates, team standings and more. Similarly, the financial minds, focus on the business pages exclusively, looking for an edge to understanding the markets. Both seem keen on retaining and quoting back information, or improving picks for fantasy football or their day-trades.

The puzzlers go straight to the entertainment section, hoping to match wits and prevail over the latest crossword, word search, or Sudoku puzzles. Others are only interested in their horoscopes or the latest celebrity gossip on who married whom and what designer gown they wore. Which brings me to the television updates in the paper. Who knew we would get to a point where not only could reality television shows exist, but that a newspaper would allow for a whole column to update us on what happened on television.

Was I so focused on reading the Saturday comics as a kid that I never stopped to see if there was a section updating me on what I may have missed on All in the Family or Gilligan’s Island?

(I have to pause and relish the thought for a moment that the writer of either of those updates would have been able to print nearly the same words each week. “Archie gets angry about something, says something racist or politically incorrect, his wife replies ‘Oh Arrrrrchieeeee’ says something placating in an annoying voice, and Archie has a beer in his reclining chair.” Alternatively, “an opportunity for escape off the island presents itself, but Gilligan botches it, the Skipper hits him with his hat, and Ginger wears another amazing dress which she packed for a three-hour tour.”)

Back to the newspaper readers, I have missed mentioning the readers who focus on the obituaries.

Of course there are also those subscribers who are more interested in the flyers, be it for deals on groceries or DIY projects.

As I typed that, I wrote fliers first. Which brings me to a yet undefined category of extremely conscientious readers those who turn every article into a form of entertainment. Armchair editors find every spelling mistake and wrongfully used homophone. Clearly this is more interesting than Sudoku to them, and luckily the result is to me as well. I enjoy being reminded that neigh-sayers would be speaking to horses. Most recently it was pointed out to me that it should have dawned on both my editor and I, that I’d donned the wrong d-word in my last column.

Me, I’m probably one of those section specific readers, most interested by local news and opinions (and grocery flyers). Otherwise I find myself skimming the national and international news and only scanning the entertainment and sports sections. The older I get, I’m also becoming a scanner of the obituaries, hoping none of my friends’ names will appear.

Did I miss a category for you?

Regardless, it’s not how one reads the paper that’s important, it’s that one reads the paper. (Now give yourself a pat on the back).

Warm up to acceptance — it makes winter easier to handle

It’s been a long, cold, snowy winter. With record snowfalls so early in November, some days it seemed like winter was here to stay forever. The first day of spring came and went, and while daytime highs rose, the melt was abated by night-time lows, and further stammered by more snowfall.

In reviewing old photos, on the same day a few years back, my daughter crouched in the grass in the backyard at our old house, surrounded by crocuses. Back to looking out the window, there is no sign of the crocuses, let alone a sign of dirt or grass.

We’re facing negative Celsius temperatures a week into April, and the forecast leaves little to look forward to. But, I’m finally at peace with it. Even though my motorcycle will remain in park for weeks to come, I’ve taken to enjoying winter as much as possible before it is gone.

Not to get too deep, but, life is truly fleeting. So many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and years have disappeared, often as I wished them away. I wanted it to be warmer, I wanted to be older, I wanted to be wiser, I wanted to be something I wasn’t, to be somewhere I wasn’t, with someone I wasn’t with, I wanted to be less wise, I wanted to be younger, I wanted it to be cooler. Continue reading