Freebies and Freecycles


by Roxanne Tellier

The hardest part of starting something – is starting something.

In 2003, Deron Beal was 39 years old, and working in Tucson, Arizona for a non-profit group that combined recycling with job training. Beal couldn’t stand to see good, usable items in his neighbourhood being thrown away on garbage day, and he began rescuing things that would have otherwise only added to the mass in the ever-growing city dumps and landfills. 

But soon he’d accumulated a warehouse of furniture, computer parts, and other items that, while not recyclable, were still useable, and were often items in demand by other non-profits. He’d drive around to drop off donations, but the pile was getting higher, and the work became too much for one person.

That’s when Beal got the idea of setting up a group on the Yahoo network, dedicated to the sharing of items that might otherwise be scrapped.  He began by emailing a few of the Tucson non-profits and about 30 of his friends, and overnight, The Freecycle Network was launched. Memberships soared from 60 to 800 members within days.

The name came from the idea of ‘free recycling’ – a ‘free cycle’ of giving, with no strings attached.

The beauty of Freecycle is it empowers each of us to make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.”  Deron Beal.

Beal soon set up a national website, bringing in city after city, and it wasn’t very long before the organization stretched world-wide, spreading to over 110 countries, with thousands of local groups within over 5,100 local chapters, and millions of members, to ultimately become a huge philanthropic system, almost entirely staffed by like-minded volunteers.

Membership is completely free. The only rule is that everything posted on the website must be completely free, legal, and appropriate for everyone, regardless of their age.  

Joining the global system couldn’t be easier; simply visit www.freecycle.org, find your local group, and click ‘join.’ One of the worldwide volunteers will then send you instructions on how to use the network.

On any given day, about 32,000 items are offered or requested, and there is no telling exactly what you might find on the list. Textbooks, furniture, plants, cat trees – in the years that I’ve been a member, I’ve seen everything from a broken kettle to a limousine and a house boat being offered.  

Picked up in April 2021

I’ve been an avid freecycler since March of 2006. One of the first items I received was a bar fridge, and I kept that until just a few years ago, when I passed it on to a friend whose fridge had broken.

Wandering thru my Freecycle email folder is like a trip down memory lane, as I note all the items, big and small, I’ve received or donated in the last 15 years.

When we lived in Scarborough, I usually ttc’ed to wherever I needed to be to pick up the goodies. I’ll never forget struggling home from Woodbine and Queen with an enormous, queen sized magnet mattress pad. Took me hours, by bus, subway, and GO train. Thankfully it was in November; I’d never have survived the trip in the summer.

I once ttc’ed all the way to Jane and Steeles to pick up some used medical supplies that we needed as props for a film we worked on. In 2016, Shawn and I somehow wrestled a treadmill into our van, and we’ve been wrestling with it ever since. It’s living in the shed these days.

A new treasure – just freecycled this week!

In 2018 I needed a cane after sustaining a back injury. I’d hardly typed in the request before a senior care group was organizing to bring one to my home that very evening, and asking if there were any other items I might need, or help they could give.

I’ve been gifted so many items, and I’ve donated just as many through the years. Early on, I was happy to clear out excess plants and gardening utensils, outgrown clothing, unused cosmetics and hair products, and out of date computer parts. After breaking my ankle twice, I decided it was time to dispose of my stage stilettos – it just broke my heart to see them go. Particularly when one of the people who’d requested his pick of the fancy shoes and boots arrived in a Mercedes Benz, wearing a $600 business suit, and announced he wanted something pretty for his wife. I just hoped my used footwear wasn’t earmarked for her Mother’s Day present.

More recently, I saw how hard the city has been hit by the pandemic. I offered up a couple of bags of ‘gently’ expired food items after purging my pantry, and was flooded with requests for the food. I finally wound up splitting the goodies (and adding a bunch more, freshly purchased treats) between two families who were happy to have the foodstuff.  

I’ve always had an intimate awareness of economic inequality. I came from a family that, by today’s standards, would be considered extremely poor. We were often ‘food insecure,’ but my mother made sure we were never short of love. 

I grew up hypervigilant, ever aware of how close to the bone we were, financially. It made me determinedly, even doggedly, self-sufficient. I knew, from a very young age, that some people had a lot of good things, while others had less, and that, for the unfortunate few, having food and shelter at the end of the day could revolve around having the luck of finding a chair at the table when the music stopped.

Our city, like so many others, has been hit hard by the pandemic, which has only highlighted the extreme economic inequity we’re soaking in. Our ‘essential workers’ are lucky if they make minimum wage, yet many have either had their hours drastically cut, or lost their jobs completely. The skyrocketing real estate values have exacerbated the already out of control shortage of affordable housing. And while those businesses that were allowed to stay open have raked in billions, by January 2021, more than 200,000 small businesses in Canada had closed their doors forever, and will never reopen.

In the long-term, even band aid solutions to these issues will have to come from governments, but unfortunately, we’re not exactly blessed with capital L Leaders or Leadership at the moment.

And that means that all we can do to help those who need our help is to be aware of the resources, big and small, that concerned people have provided that we can access. 

There’s Freecycle, of course, and also a bunch of similar groups that have sprung up on the internet, including Toronto-ReUseIt (GoogleGroups.com,) FreeTOReuse (yahoo,) TrashNothing.com, and many more that you can find on Google or Facebook.

Toronto has always been a city with a big heart. There are many charitable groups that feed and clothe our homeless and vulnerable, and there are some great social media groups, including Caremongering-TO, that sidestep the usual bureaucracy to get funds and food directly into the hands of the needy.  

There’s also something called the Really Really Free Market that has been on hold during COVID, but is apparently going to be revived soon. They gather on the first Saturday of every month at Campbell Park (Dupont/Lansdowne) and usually attract a good crowd. As they say on their Facebook page:

Basically, it’s a community-space for sharing – where people bring what they have to give, take what they need, and leave the rest. It’s kind of like a potluck, but for goods and services!

How it works:

You can drop stuff off, pick something up, or stick around! This could include both items and services, such as:

-clothes, books, music, furniture, household and kitchen wares, pet supplies

-homemade goods, such as crafts, art, artisan goods, and baked goods (don’t forget to list the ingredients!)

-services, such as haircuts, yoga classes, music/dance lessons, massage, or gardening help.

All unclaimed items will be donated at the end of the day.”

Really Really Free Market, Toronto

Every little bit that we do to help others counts. I found out recently that there are a few people who are still making face (COVID) masks, and leaving them outside to be taken by anyone who needs or wants a face covering.

I just love the Little Free Libraries that have sprung up in cities and towns across North America in the last few years. There’s about a dozen within crawling distance of me, and they get my full support.  (LittleFreeLibrary.org)

Many have diversified as needed, now carrying CDs, DVDs, and the odd video or audio tape for sharing. A few also allow little luxuries like perfume and hand creams to be shared.     

Some of those Little Libraries have morphed into Little Free Pantries during the pandemic. There’s at least two near me, one just above Kingston Road, on Hunt Club, and another just north of Danforth Avenue, at Woodbine. There people can share non-perishables, and get information on how to get help with their food and shelter needs. Every little bit helps.

There are eight places to leave books and other items in my immediate area, including a small box for food donations at a local church. Yesterday I headed out for my afternoon walkabout with a can of Spam, a can of corned beef, three tins of Mandarin oranges, 6 DVDs, an expensive shampoo and conditioner set I hadn’t liked, a small container of Estee Lauder’s “Pleasure’ body lotion, a couple of still sealed lipsticks, some hair clips, and of course, a half dozen books, and made the rounds of these drop off points. While on the way, I twice spotted boxes of books on the curb, and added those to my stash for distribution. Sharing these items is a great way to do a little something for others, without feeling any kind of deprivation of one’s own.

Just as with the spirit of Freecycling,  “each of us can make a concrete difference in our community, both in the environment, and by helping people.”

All we have to do is the hardest part … and start. 

Carry That Weight


by Roxanne Tellier

If you have recently gone from having a little trouble getting into your skinny jeans, to contemplating buying your whole new summer wardrobe from Omar the Tentmaker, you may have fallen prey to that other pandemic within the pandemic known as “The Pandemic 15,” fifteen pounds being the median amount of weight that many of us have piled on in the last year.  

 It’s not your imagination; you HAVE gained weight, and most of it is sitting uncomfortably around your middle. A year of uncertainty, stress, and endless lonely hours when food seemed as good a companion as any, has broadened our behinds more than it has our minds.

Surveys have shown that the average adult has unwillingly gained weight since the onset of COVID 19, up to more than 50 lbs in some cases. You can chalk a lot of that gain up to mindless grazing, with 1 in 4 adults also reporting that they’ve been drinking more alcohol to cope with their stress. Two in three people say they’ve had unwanted changes in their sleep patterns, either sleeping more or less than usual.  

The majority of essential workers have told surveyors that they’ve been uncharacteristically indulgent in their food and drink consumption, simply to cope with long term stress, while the incidence of those seeking treatment for mental health disorders has risen about threefold.

For those of us who haven’t had much social contact in the last 14 months, personal habits have also changed, with people being less likely to ‘make an effort’ to be showered, made up, and properly dressed when the likelihood of coming into physical contact with other humans has become nearly non-existent. There’s a fortune waiting to be made by the company that properly markets “Pyjama Power Suits.”

It’s not about will power. The epidemic of obesity that hit the planet around the late eighties, and which has soared over the last 40 years, wasn’t a sudden drop in mental strength that led to everyone over-indulging, rather, it was attributable to many different ideas and habits coinciding in this new century, but fully attributable to corruption and greed beginning in the last.

You came by that junk in your trunk honestly; and if you’re American, you paid for it with your tax dollars. You own it, baby.

So what changed? Oh, so very much, and so insidiously. 

Remember when ‘healthy snacks’ suddenly became a thing? All of a sudden, we were encouraging our kids and each other to avoid hunger pangs by adding a couple more meals to our day. Instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, we were now enjoying breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. And – I hate to break it to you, but most of the snacks just weren’t as healthy as suggested. In fact, they were more likely to be indulgences that packed on the calories, carbs and sugars.

What was also breaking down was the amount of time in which our bodies were able to process those calories and sugars. If there was traditionally 4 to 5 hours between meals, we’d now shortened that to about two and a half, or three hours. The mean number of minutes between eating forced our digestive systems to work harder, with less down time to get the body ready for its next feeding. 

Some call this way of eating ‘grazing,’ but what it actually does is create a state in which the body is constantly awaiting more material to process internally, without pause. And that’s not the way the human body was meant to consume and digest comestibles. 

If anything, it’s more akin to the way geese are overfed to produce foie gras, with a very similar result developing in the human liver.

This and other changes to when we anticipated a sweet or salty treat sprang from clever marketing and merchandising that taught our brains to expect certain things when combined with external events. We’ve been programmed.

When you go to the movies, you probably feel like the experience will be poorer if it’s not accompanied by popcorn and a large drink. Maybe some chocolate as well. Hmm… I wonder why that is?

The average adult female needs between 1600 and 2400 calories PER DAY, while men can eat about 2000 to 3000 calories.

Assuming you are likely to grab the large fountain soda (370 calories) and one large buttered popcorn (1200 calories, 120 mg of salt, and 60 grams of fat) you will have consumed not only the equivalent of a day’s caloric intake, but have also blown out your fat intake for the day by a factor of four. (The Mayo Clinic advises that people aim for around 15 grams of fat in their diet on a daily basis.)

Multiply that indulgence by all the other little moments in the day that are linked in your brain to ‘treating’ yourself. Mid-morning break calls for a little something to keep you going until lunch – a coffee and a danish sounds nice! And how about a little break in the afternoon? Gonna need a snack to tide you over til dinner! 

And then, later that night, relaxing in front of the tv or computer, it seems only fair, after the day you’ve had, to reach for a couple of cold ones, to wash down the Doritos.

By that point, all those little treats have added up to about 6000 calories, or the equivalent of eating for three or four.

And you wonder why you just can’t lose weight? There are billions spent on getting you to buy this junk food, and even more billions to be made on the other side, when you try to lose the weight you gained while you filled your boots and bootie with ‘fun’ foods.

I won’t go into a huge song and dance about the evils of Big Agriculture, Big Dairy, and Big Junk Food, but if you’ve got an interest in the subject, I can highly recommend a new book written by Mark Bittman, American food journalist and fellow at the Union of Concerned Scientists. In Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, From Sustainable to Suicidal, Bittman outlines how junk food, aka engineered edible substances, have created a “public health crisis that diminishes the lives of perhaps half of all humans.” Dependence on agriculture that “concentrates on maximizing the yield of the most profitable crops, “it has done “more damage to the earth than strip mining, urbanization, even fossil fuel extraction.”

Worse still, taxpayers in the U.S. subsidize the growing of these products.  

Congress and the Department of Agriculture are spending more than $1.28 billion annually to subsidize the crops that are used as additives in manufacturing cookies, candies, soda pop and other highly popular junk food that arguably are among the primary contributors to childhood obesity. The sweet, fatty and calorie-rich Hostess Twinkies alone contain 14 ingredients made with highly subsidized processed ingredients, including corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch and vegetable shortening.”  (Business Insider, 2012)

That was in 2012. So, how we doing these days, after the trump trade wars?

“Farmers got more than $22 billion in government payments in 2019 — and most of the money came through a program that Congress never approved. It’s the highest level of farm subsidies in 14 years” (Whitehouse archives.gov)

All of which brings us back to Bittman’s book, and his words on how all of this jiggery pokery has stolen the dollars from tax payer wallets, and repaid them in blubber.

The ability to produce massive quantities of a few commodities—wheat, corn, and corn syrup—has enriched not farmers but a few giant middlemen (companies like Archer-Daniels-Midland and Cargill) and implement dealers (John Deere makes four times as much money providing credit to struggling farmers as it does selling tractors). And it has created a new problem: what to do with the massive amount of calories that this commodity-focused agriculture produces. “The system,” Bittman explains, now “delivers a nearly uninterruptible stream of food, regardless of season,” and in the process it has created junk: the processed food that now dominates the Western diet and, increasingly, many other diets around the world. “Junk made it possible to encourage people to—really, [made] it difficult for them not to—eat too much non-nourishing food over a prolonged period.”

As Bittman notes, “the calories have to go somewhere, and—thanks in no small part to the advertising industry, which attached itself to the food industry like a remora to a shark—they went inside us; we look the way we do because of the need for the Krafts and Heinzes of the world to keep their profit margins growing by finding new ways to get us to consume their limited line of basic commodities. “Global sugar consumption has nearly tripled in the past half-century,” he writes, and so has obesity; the number of people worldwide living with diabetes has quadrupled since 1980. “Two thirds of the world’s population,” Bittman tells us, “lives in countries where more people die from diseases linked to being overweight than ones linked to being underweight.”“

Scientific studies of the US in the 90s showed a rate of about 10-14% of obesity. By 2019, the average rate of obesity was anywhere from 30 to 40%. And a lot of those suffering, physically, and emotionally, from being overweight – are kids.

“As of 2019 it is estimated that over 150 million children in the world are obese and that this will increase to 206 million by 2025. Without intervention, overweight infants and young children will likely continue to be overweight during childhood, adolescence and adulthood.”

As I slide into my later years, I feel the literal weight of all the wrong food and drink choices I made in my own health care over the years. While I can’t turn back the clock, I can go forward with better options for what I consume, and try and relieve some of the strain my choices put on my body.

Cutting out the junk food and the carbs will go a long way towards lightening the load all that grazing assembled. After all, we’re gonna want to look our best when we can finally gather together again!

30 Days in the Hole


by Roxanne Tellier

 A little over a week ago, I was browsing through some posts on a Facebook group page. Some of the comments were interesting, but there was one peculiar troll who was obviously looking for a fight, strewing crazy conspiracy theories along the thread like poisoned bread crumbs.

He was adamant that the planet is just 5000 years old, that masks are murder, and that there is no virus. I should have simply let him rave, but I took the bait, and foolishly put a few site links in the post. The barrage of insults began. “You need to get your old crust ass moving alone down your pathetic life and go suck your buttons dick maybe he will give you a cabinet job.” “You’re a diaper wearing stupid idiot.” And then … “You seem to be the one reporting me like the crybaby you are.”

I said that I wondered what it felt like to walk around with a big L on one’s forehead – and then the penny dropped. He’d reported me for bullying.

And I was about to get … 30 days in the hole.

Thirty days, because suspension days are compounded by multiple offenses. Two months ago, in a conversation with a friend about trump lawyer, Sidney Powell, who had defended her seditious remarks about the ‘stolen’ election by saying that no reasonable person would believe her lies, I quoted Shakespeare’s “First, kill all the lawyers.”

And got a week in solitary for the offense of not following community standards.

There IS an appeal process, but Facebook also explains, ad nauseum, that their moderators are far too busy, because of the pandemic, to handle all the requests for justice. Also, regardless of whether your appeal is granted or even acknowledged, and the offense pardoned or not, your Facebook history is still stained by the charge. Each successive charge escalates the amount of time the user is suspended from the services of Facebook.

Collect ’em all!

At some point, and I honestly don’t know when, but it was definitely after Mark Zuckerberg snowed – sorry, I mean ‘spoke’ to Congress last year, and defended Facebook’s business practices concerning the spread of false information, the call went out to the site’s internal censors and security guards already in place; it was time to get tough.

Well, not with their advertisers, or the people they wanted to see re-elected. Those people were sacrosanct.

But the average user, those who may have snickered at some anti-establishment cartoons, or ‘shared’ a photo of a nursing mother … those people were now firmly in Facebook’s crosshairs.

And just like with the ‘real’ police, or the IRS, there would be a tightening of restrictions, and hundreds of charges and sanctions imposed – on the lowest hanging fruit. Facebook would not be going after the trolls, the rabble rousers, the political parties, or the criminals. They were after your mother and grandmother. By not targeting the protected Big Fish, and instead scooping up all the little fishies in their net, the site censors could soon point, with truth, to large numbers of people and offenses that had been tagged, suspended, or deleted, with almost no blowback on themselves.

Nearly every one I know has a story of getting sidelined for 24 hours or more for silly offenses, even for sharing a photo they posted as far back as nine years previous. The fallout from Zuck’s Congressional appearance included instituting new filters that searched back, apparently through the entire history of the site, for certain key words or triggers to purge.  

(Filters have been around since the early days of bulletin board systems – it’s Internet 101 stuff that could have, and should have, been woven into the fabric of Facebook’s social messaging from its debut.)

If you notice the three little dots to the right of posts on Facebook, you’ll find, way down at the bottom of the options, this choice.  

“Find support or report post.”  

By adding this option, the site also added the ability for internal policing of it’s users by other users. Anyone with a grudge against another user, or a wish to silence others, could simply report a message as harassment or bullying. Since the definition of bullying is pretty loosie goosy, the mere act of reporting immediately defines the words as being aggressive in the reporter’s opinion. And if someone decided that everything you said offended them, they could bombard you with accusations that would keep you off the platform for months on end.

Very Big Brother of them.

Back in 2015, Jon Ronson published So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, a book that explained what to do if you got ‘caught’ doing something frowned upon in polite society. At the time, the odds of being someone caught in an international scandal seemed about as likely as winning a lottery.

But in truth, as we’ve seen in the last several years, ‘the internet is forever,’ and things we say or do under current circumstances, or in our past, may find re-entry into our future, by chance or by malice.

Magazines like Forbes, that focus on career mobility, have been warning for ages about how easy it is to get tripped up by our past posts.  Your online presence can be a negative, and wreak havoc on your professional life. Online posts can flare up into huge news, Twitter feuds can call attention to faux pas moments, and corporations can find themselves in the middle of a social media disaster, brought about by those with a talent for internet deep diving.

If you happen to be in the middle of a life change, job searching, or just looking to move on with your life, you may want to take a sandblaster to your social media, to get your profiles squeaky clean.

Luckily, there are some apps out there to do just that. You can find info on SimpleWash right on Facebook. SimpleWash purports to be able to scrub your Facebook and/or Twitter content squeaky clean, by scanning all of the content on your Facebook profile – including comments by other people on photos or posts – to locate key words you may want removed. The app will flag things like allusions to drugs, alcohol, profanities, even negative comments you may have made about a company you’re targeting for a job interview.   

I’m sure there are similar apps available for every computer platform – keeping your social media profile bland and clean is necessary to secure employment in many professions.

So what exactly can you do, if you need to do a little damage control on your social media brand?

First off, you might want to check on just who can see your posts, tweets or photos. If you wake up the morning after the night before to discover photographic proof of your indiscretions, you’ll want to get an idea of exactly how viral that message or tweet has become. What pops up in our news feeds is largely determined by those with whom we engage the most. If you haven’t interacted with many of your work friends in the last few months, it’s unlikely they’d come across your post. However, you may never know who all saw the ‘evidence’ unless it’s been liked, shared or has been commented upon.

While the Internet IS forever, delete the offending post or photo as soon as possible. If you are social media friends with others who were in on the ‘crime,’ check their accounts for incriminating posts or photos, and ask them to delete or untag your presence. If what you’ve done is really egregious, you may want to delete your entire account, and start over anew. But if someone has taken a screen shot of your offense, even account deletion may not really scrub off the stain.

If that’s the case, and you’re found out, there’s only one thing left to do. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for any office gossip that might allude to your errors, and then apologize to anyone who is offended by your post. Take full responsibility for your actions (WITHOUT using the expression, “If I offended someone … “) and assure your friends and/or work superiors that you intend to use better judgment in the future.   

Life will go on, even though it might be uncomfortable for a while. You’ll be looking over your shoulder for a bit, and you’ll find yourself self-censoring more than you might have in the past, but life will go on, and you’ll soon find yourself back in your normal swing of posting your thoughts to your friends and followers, sadder but wiser for the experience.

Personal security experts always advise that it’s best to be aware of your privacy settings on your social media accounts, and monitor what’s posted on your pages to prevent unwanted retweets or shares.

If you’re intent on turning over a new social leaf, it might also be wise to comb through your past posts to monitor for things that could smudge your social brand. Delete those duck-faced selfies, along with any nasty comments you may have made about others, after a couple of bevvies. Nobody needs to be reminded that they can go all Mean Girl after a hard day and a few adult beverages.

 And lastly – and this may seem weird, but you just never know – Google yourself on a regular basis. Even if you’ve never been the subject of a newspaper article, or had a Wiki page dedicated to you, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for false or unflattering comments you might find attached to your name.

We are all works in process. Our society is a work in progress. Social Media is both a blessing and a curse, allowing us to connect to each other for good – or for ill.

Post wisely. All the Big Brothers are watching.

The Hardest Job


by Roxanne Tellier

Happy Mother’s Day to all those who play that role in their family, no matter their gender.

“Being a mother actually has very little to do with birthing a child from your body. That might be the most obvious scenario, but motherhood is so much more than a physical happening. I have known some expert ‘mothers’ who never birthed or raised any children of their own, and I have known some mothers with a brood of children who shouldn’t be allowed to come anywhere near them. I don’t think motherhood can be simply defined by having or not having little people under your care.

A mother is someone who nurtures – someone who cares for the deepest places of your heart. Anyone can throw a meal at you, or give you a bed to sleep on, but a mother makes a place for you. A mother sees the deepest, truest you and treats you like you are already that person. A mother cares about your hurts and fears, but also your dreams and successes. She is a cheerleader, a coach, a trainer, and a fan, all at the same time.” 

Gather and Crow.co

Every mother is different. The way your mother mothered you, informed your life, for good or ill. We are born dependent on those that care for us, until we are able to care for ourselves. Some mothers are able to be Super Mothers, right out of the gate, and spread before us a buffet of happy days and events. Others struggle with the work. Either way, most mothers try to do what’s right – but not all of them are successful.     

After all, some mothers are little more than grown-up children themselves, when they give birth. They’re learning the job on the job, while simultaneously working through the last of their own childhoods. It’s not until we ourselves are in our child bearing years that we can look back at our own childhood in perspective, and consider how much our adulthood is formed and influenced by our mother’s character.

There’s a wonderful new book just released that focuses on the lives of the mothers of three famous men. Anna Malaika Tubbs’s new book is called “The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation.” 

Ms Tubbs makes the point that we tend to gender our parent/child relationships. We hear, “oh, she’s just like her mother!” or “that boy is his father’s son.”

“Coincidentally, I gave birth to a boy, my incredible little boy, and I have already faced others’ attempts to erase my influence on his identity. Phrases like “He’s strong, just like his father!” or “He’s already following in his dad’s footsteps” when he reaches a milestone cause more harm than people think. By choosing three mothers of sons, I do not want to erase daughters or other children. I am instead making the point that no matter our gender, everything starts with our birthing parent.” 

“Louise (Little), Berdis (Baldwin), and Alberta (King) were well aware of the dangers they and their children would be met with as Black people in the United States, and they all strove to equip their children not only to face the world but to change it. With the knowledge that they themselves were seen as “less than” and their children would be, too, the three mothers collected tools to thrive with the hopes of teaching their children how to do the same. They found ways to give life and to humanize themselves, their children, and, in turn, our entire community. As history tells us, all of their sons did indeed make a difference in this world, but they did so at a cost. In all three cases, the mothers’ worst fears became reality: each woman was alive to bury her son. It is an absolute injustice that far too many Black mothers today can say the same thing.

In the face of such tragedy, each mother persisted in her journey to leave this world a better place than when she entered it. Yet their lives continued largely to be ignored. When Malcolm X was assassinated, when Martin Luther King, Jr., was killed shortly after, and even when James Baldwin died from stomach cancer years later, their works were rightly celebrated, but virtually no one stopped to wonder about the grief their mothers were facing. Even more painful to me is the fact that their fathers were mentioned, while their mothers were largely erased.”

The inequities and cruelty that the mothers of these men suffered while continuing to care for their children, informed and molded the men who would go on to have such huge impacts on their own communities, and then America.

Reading about the women that gave Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr, and James Baldwin to the world, opens a small window into the hidden lives of mothers everywhere.   

Another interesting read on how mothers shaped historical figures is Mothers of Famous Men, by Archer Wallace, published in 1999. The author states in the introduction, “My purpose in writing this book was not to extol a few mothers but to pay tribute to the countless number of unselfish, devoted mothers everywhere.”

This tome focuses on the loving care, or lack thereof, provided by the mothers of Booker T. Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and J.M. Barrie, amongst others, framed as a look at how the Christian character of these mothers shaped their sons’ lives. 

My own mother has been gone for 29 years now, and still there are days when I reach for the phone, eager to tell her some little tidbit of gossip, or to ask for her opinion on an issue. You never really get over losing your mother.  

In a 2018 column, I wrote about an encounter I had had with a small boy who, along with a few other people, was waiting for the #12 bus. He was holding a plant pot that held one battered pansy, and he told me, with great joy, that he also had a poem he’d written for her, in French! And he’d also drawn her a card! His little face lit up as he told me, “She’s gonna have so many presents!” 

There was such a lot of delight in his expression as he tallied up the riches he’d prepared for his precious mama. We forget, over the years, how good it used to feel to be able to gift our loved ones with something we’d made especially for them. It might have been a paper plate with some glittered macaroni pasted to it, or a wobbly cut out cardboard heart, on which our shaky handwriting proclaimed our love, but it was what we had to give, and we gave it from our hearts.  

And the best mothers accepted those gifts as the precious treasures that they were.

Happy Mothers Day to ALL mothers. May you be showered with love and appreciation for the job that begins on the day that your child draws it’s first breath, and only ends when you breathe your last, still worrying about them, and still hoping and praying that you’ve done all that you could to help your child be happy and safe.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Your moment of Zen ….

Aging and Changing


by Roxanne Tellier

Teenaged me wasn’t very smart.  “Hope I die before I get old.”Never trust anyone over 30.” I’d not yet heard of the 27 Club, but if I had, I might have aspired to joining it, thus avoiding becoming untrustworthy.   

I was an idiot, as we all are when we are young, dumb, and believe we are the first creatures to experience the banquet of life. I was certain that no one had ever understood fashion, been in love, or known the glories of sex, before my existence.

Yet, by 30 I was having the time of my life! When I think about how much I’ve learned, and how much I’ve accomplished since the days of my ignorant youth, I am so very glad that I survived long enough to find out how very wrong I was about just about everything I thought I knew when I was legit dumber than a box of rocks.  

The fifties and sixties were very different times from present day. Older people got older faster – my grandmother seemed much older than her years when she was in her mid 50s, and bowed down by grief and loss. Older women were expected to be very fragile, and older men were best left to their spooky lairs. (Come to think of it, why did I live amongst all these very odd people?)

But in reality, the seniors of the 50s and 60s were often true survivors. They had lived through the Spanish Flu, two world wars and a bunch of smaller skirmishes, and the Great Depression. They’d seen the world change from being largely agricultural to a more technological economy, might themselves have been child labourers, had seen the onset of unions and labour laws, and had had to change how they worked right along with it. They’d paid some heavy dues, and it showed, especially in their health.

Today’s seniors, on the other hand, are very different. We’ve had a lot of advantages, and few of us were involved in any wars except peripherally. In Canada, we’ve had access to pretty good health care across the board since 1984, when the Canada Health Act was passed. In the heady days when every halfway decent job came with ‘benefits,’ we could count on our teeth being cared for, and often even other small mercies were covered, like massages and rehab.   

Many of us segued from mullets to middleclass, and worked decent jobs with the possibility of retiring with a little financial cushion to enjoy in our ‘golden years.’ And many, many of us bought houses, which exploded in value over the decades, and provided us with either a roof over our heads, or a nice nest egg, post-sale.

Whether we invested wisely or not, we are still guaranteed a small pension on which we can live, if not like kings, then not like paupers either. Before 1965, that didn’t exist. The Canada Pension Plan was passed to replace the original old age pensions for those who lacked pension plans from their pre-retirement days. Older, single, women often suffered the most on those plans, since they generally were paid significantly less than men during their prime working years. While I believe there needs to be a rethinking of how the Plan is currently administered, I am aware of how many are blessed to have this financial security in their lives.

As a rule, boomers have much better educations than their parents had. My parents both left school around the 8th or 9th grade, to help support their families.

Beyond the benefits of having more education, money, and security than our grandparents could have dreamt of, boomers were also a generation that could let their minds fly free in dreams of a progressive future. In the late 50s, the sci fi magazines and even the kiddie cartoons promised us a future in the stars. Flying cars! Robot maids!

Radical ideas were being approved at government levels, and marvels like underground trains, the wonders of Expo 67 and it’s manmade islands, McLuhan’s Geodesic Dome, and Ontario Place rose around us, in a brave new world.

The world, including what we could watch on our new tv sets, themselves a huge jump from the world of radio, went from black and white to colour, almost overnight.

Our world got much smaller, even as we got bigger. Our trips overseas went from being week long journeys on steamers, to eight-hour plane rides, to a zippy 2 hours, 53 minute jaunt, New York to London, via the Concorde.

Our reach got longer, as we began to embrace the foods, customs, and musics of far away places.

So much progress, of unimaginable proportions, happened between 1940 and 1980. There’s a meme going around that says, “2020 is now as far from 1980 as 1980 was from 1940″ and I just can’t stop thinking about that. I mean, the 60s made the 40’s unthinkable. Just a few decades later, the North American world we lived in was virtually unrecognizable.

(What happened from the 80s to today, I cannot explain. We seem to have entered a  cultural void reeking of political correctness that prevents forward movement. I’m hoping we’ll eventually emerge from this costly stasis.)    

While there are stories of sadness, despair and deprivation from those who lived then, as there are in nearly every other time in history, I would still love to be able to spend a few days back then, when we all seemed to be younger, fitter, healthier and sexier. Those were good times for most of us, on many levels.

Nevertheless, life can only be lived forward; looking back might occasionally be pleasant, but living in the past would impoverish my present.

If you have the luxury of aging, there is an opportunity for mental and emotional growth. Personalities don’t really change with the years, but our traits tend to become more pronounced and entrenched. If you were a miserable middle-aged person, you may not ever be happy. But assuming no drastic and/or damaging mental or physical changes come along, you’ll really be pretty much the same person you always were, only more so.   

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks; studies have shown that older people tend to be more responsible overall, more empathic, and more caring of their work and the people around them. Those prone to social fears tend to become less willing to socialize, but more engaged in others when they choose to do so. Quality over quantity becomes the rule.

In some cases, getting older means getting better. Most research shows that as people get older, they are not more agreeable — they just don’t care as much what others think. We develop a higher sense of personal identity as we age, a better understanding of who we are, and what we stand for.

Our personalities are always changing, right along with the calendar, but the change is very subtle, and unlikely to be noticed in the short term. Our reactions to emotional situations tend to become calmer over the years, as we develop self-confidence, leadership abilities, and social sensitivity.

The internet and social media have had a lot of impact on those who are easily persuaded by those they admire. Especially politically, sadly. But there’s also a real positive aspect to social media, when it’s used to connect with friends and loved ones, allowing those that have less physical interaction with others to become engaged in constructive activities and self education. The Internet – it giveth and it taketh away.

Getting older is not for sissies. There’s a lot of entropy involved, for one thing, and most of us swear that we’d have taken better care of our teeth and backs, had we known we were going to have to use them for so long.

But aging is a luxury not all will enjoy. Aging gracefully means accepting your age, living your best life, and hopefully, having the physical and mental health to enjoy it. It means loving yourself enough to be kind to your body and mind, in hopes of having many enjoyable years to spend with family and friends.

Aging well means keeping your mind sharp, and your attitude positive. It’s time to do the things that bring you joy, and to spend time with people of like minds. Mindfulness, and living in the moment by focusing on the present has many proven health benefits that will lower stress and increase immune functions.

For myself, I hope to continue being creative, and to never stop learning. The world is full of wonders, if we are open to seeing them.

Because, as they say, getting older is inevitable. But aging poorly is optional.

Time Enough at Last


by Roxanne Tellier

When it comes to excuses, I’ve got a million of ‘em. Even now, as I should be writing this column, I am thinking of two dozen other things that I should be doing first – like alphabetizing the vitamins in the bathroom cabinet or swinging up to the grocery store for some spices that I won’t need until Halloween.  

Successful procrastination doesn’t just ‘happen’ – no, you have to work at it. I’ve made it into such a fine art that you can still find unpacked boxes from our 2017 move, marked ‘important’, underfoot and unopened. A tall bedroom dresser squatted in the living room from last November to last week. There are two shelves in the middle of the kitchen that desperately need to get gone, and I can’t decide where they’ll go. I mean, who’s gonna see it anyway, amirite?

The struggle to actually complete the multitude of tasks I set myself every day is real. Quite obviously, the smart thing to do would be to tackle one job, and keep at it until it’s done, damn the torpedoes. But there are so many other, more interesting things, I’d rather do.   

I honestly thought that the pandemic and subsequent ‘lockdowns’ would do the trick, finally forcing me to knuckle down and get stuff done, but no. Turns out, no matter how much time I have at my disposal, I’m capable of finding a multitude of unimportant, frivolous time wasting activities to steal that time and then, for those little niggling skivers to demand that I give them even more attention, ensuring that the timely arrival of this column, or indeed, trifling matters like taxes, is backburnered until sirens are blaring and the police car’s strobe lights are scaring the cats.

My lack of discipline has cost me tens of thousands of dollars over my lifetime, but apparently, I can’t be bribed or fined into completing tasks in a timely fashion. Nothing seems to work, though many have tried different tactics, from cajoling to yelling to threats of bodily harm. Nope. Unmoved. It’ll get done when it gets done.

My heel dragging and lolly gagging on some issues is in sharp contrast to my almost manic approach to fresh projects. If I’m fully immersed in a new venture, I’ll work 16-hour days for weeks, to birth this new interest as quickly as I can. Everything will be everywhere, but I’ll make sharp progress ….

Until the day I decide it’s time to take a break. And at that point, sorry, but I just can’t tell you when I’ll be ready to finish – or tidy – the mess that I started. Many times, I’ve considered speaking to the Pope about canonizing my husband for his saintly ability to simply dwell within the chaos, uncomplaining

On the other hand, he’s also long been the beneficiary of my need to “do it all myself,” AND to do it in the hours when he’s elsewhere, like at work. Thing is, since he retired, I tend to get a lot less done, because there never seems to be a time when what I’m trying to do won’t be a disturbance to what he’d like to do. And I really don’t like or want observers when I’m constructing or deconstructing a ‘thing.’  

Between a retired husband and two incredibly spoiled cats, I’m run ragged before I even add on any projects of my own that will take up time, space, and sound. It’s always something. Phones are ringing. Cats are yowling to be let out or let in. Delivery people pound on the door with packages for neighbours. Memes must be shared across a crowded room. It’s madness, I tell you!  

And living in a very tiny cottage with barely enough room to swing a cat, if one dared to risk the cat scratch fever, or could lift the weight of either of these spoiled felines, isn’t much help. All the articles on how to live in increasingly small spaces advocate using vertical space, but when you’re already surrounded by tall, filled to the brim, book shelves, it appears that the ceiling, rather than the sky, may indeed be the limit.

I really did think that having all sorts of spare time during COVID, what with the lining up to get into some stores, and the downright closure of so many places where I might have whiled away the time being coiffured, manicured, or massaged, not to mention the lack of places to dine, drink or dance, would have freed up so much time that I’d be able to finally set all earthly things to rights, while tossing off a magnus opus or two, without breaking a sweat.

Sadly, I was very wrong.

As it turns out, living through a global pandemic is a little tiring. Worry, fear, and depression can wear the edges off even the nicest, most positive, non-whining person you’ve ever known, so why would you think that someone like me could keep their sunny side up indefinitely? Have you met me?

We’re living through some really rough times, and even Canadians, some of the most easy-going and long-suffering people you could ever hope to find, are on their last nerve. They’ve had it up to their tonsils with poor leadership, restrictions that are often nonsensical and seem more punitive than effective, and the sense that those nominally in charge are in fact spinning completely out of control. Patience wears thin as Year One morphs into Year Two (second verse, same as the first.)

Even a mild form of depression will have an effect on what you’re able to accomplish, even if all you’re trying to do is just limp along doing routine tasks. The world is not easy to cope with, these days, and the things we used to do to cope, like going to a movie, hitting the gym, or enjoying meals with friends, aren’t there to relieve the pressure.

Hey, if this ‘pause’ has allowed you to learn a new language, write a book, or start a business, more power to you! But for many of us, in a world filled with grief, depression and anxiety, putting one foot in front of the other, and remembering to shower occasionally, is all we’ve got left in the tank. And that’s okay too.  

Realistically, we’re in unprecedented times, and we need to cut ourselves some slack. You’re allowed to slow down, rest and reflect, and to just say ‘no’ when someone asks you to take on some of their burdens to lighten their own load.

Sometimes we have to let some things go, in order to soldier on in difficult times. Can’t bear to wash another dish? Buy paper plates. Ignore the dust bunnies – they’ll still be there when you’re ready to vacuum.

It’s not only okay, it’s imperative that you make room for a little joy and self-care in your day. You can’t help others if you’ve let all of your own energy drain away. Take the time to pamper yourself a little, even if it’s just having a spa day in your own bathroom with those little face, hand and feet masques you bought for a rainy day.

Just as when, in a flight emergency, we’re told to put on our own oxygen masks before we help others, we’re in a time and place where we have to find ways to put our own mental health first, lest we be in no shape to help those we love when they need us.

In the wonderful “Time Enough at Last” episode of the Twilight Zone, our hero, Mr. Bemis, becomes the last person on earth, with all the time in the world to read without interruption. But he stumbles, and breaks his glasses, leaving him unable to do so, and in so doing, he learns that having time enough can be a curse, not the blessing he’d hoped for. He wanted solitude, not isolation.

This planet is in kind of a similar place right now. We’re discovering that there’s far more to life than we thought, and that time off the grid comes at a cost.  

Give yourself a Mental Health Day. Take a load off. Relax in a bubble bath. After all, it’s not like we’re going anywhere, anytime soon. Be good to you. You deserve it.

What Do You Miss the Most?


by Roxanne Tellier

A couple of weeks into the start of the COVID pandemic, I asked my husband if he’d have done anything differently before we entered lockdown, now that we had a little experience with this way of life. We kicked around a few thoughts, but it all being so new, he couldn’t really think of much he could have done to prepare.

We’re pretty low maintenance. We’re retired, have a very small place stuffed with the goods of a lifetime of (my) conspicuous consumption, and really don’t need much to get by. But need is not want, and want is what drives our capitalistic society, which we are all a part of, whether we want to be or not. 

The pandemic made me realize that what I missed most about my pre-COVID life was the ability to do the things I had taken for granted – the ability to move through my city freely, meet with friends and family when I wished, stop for a coffee or lunch break without having to check that the location was open, and shopping leisurely without worrying about having to line up for entry first.

Oh, and to find an open public washroom when nature called. That turned out to be one of the little amenities most of us had never had to consider in the past.

I’ve lived in Canada all of my life, and I’ve seen things come and go, as times and society changes. I remember ashtrays affixed to supermarket carts, and when you only had to look up and around to find a clock attached to a wall, or a building, ticking away the hours of our lives. But for all the changes, both good and bad, that I’ve seen, what I’ve never seen is a curtailing of the basic things that keep Canada in the top or near top of “Best Places to Live” in the world.

We take our freedoms and rights for granted, rarely acknowledging how much work has gone into making Canada the free country others envy. Our ancestors mostly chose to leave the evils of their places of birth behind, and instead, to work together to create the society we enjoy today. Decade by decade, election by election, those who came before us made the health and well-being of citizens a priority, and they did it with the politeness that Canadians have always been famous for. 

What is the difference Why is Canada considered a Cultural Mosaic and not a Melting Pot Why is this important to our country’s population

We became a nation of shopkeepers, not a company of merchants. We were the vertical mosaic of different ethnic, language, regional and religious groupings, rather than the melting pot of America, where immigrants are expected to adopt and follow the American way, however it is currently defined. We retained our cultures and beliefs, and in a crisis, Canadians pulled together.

After one year of a global pandemic, the veneer of that civility is wearing thin. Oh sure, we appreciated those who sacrificed to keep us going, in the beginning, but as the months wore on, and as the information meted out to us morphed and changed as new knowledge about the virus was obtained, a lot of us started to show our fangs.

The constraints put upon us, to stay inside, wear a mask, wash your hands, social distance, and get the vaccine when it is available, those strictures that once would have been the only responsible adult choice, have become just too ‘demanding’ for many of us to bear.

After a little more than a year of living under Covid, important lessons have been learned by some countries, and have been completely ignored in others.

A successful response to Covid-19 turned out to depend on more than a country’s wealth, scientific prowess and history of public health successes. The U.S. enjoys all of these advantages but mounted one of the worst responses to the pandemic: 1 in every 990 Americans has died from Covid-19 since the pandemic began. Bad politics, quite simply, can trump good public health.

Other developed countries that did well initially, such as Canada and some European nations, have faltered during the second or third surge of infections, because their governments and people grew tired of implementing effective strategies. In many Asian countries, it has long been common for people to wear masks when feeling ill, so they adopted masks early and widely. “ 

The Wall Street Journal, January 2021  

Taiwan profited from early action, and the provision of intensive financial support to the ill, and to contact tracing, which kept Taiwan to less than 800 cases by the end of 2020.

American Samoa never saw a single case or death from the virus, due to the territory calling a complete halt to all incoming passenger flights. While the 55,000 inhabitants have been isolated from the rest of the world, they have not had to implement any sort of closures, distancing, testing, or strain on their health care.  

New Zealand crushed the curve early, first, by being an island better able to enforce travel bans, and secondly, by an aggressive pandemic influenza plan that began in February of 2020. Implementing a country wide lockdown in late March of 2020 essentially eliminated the virus entirely. By June, New Zealand was pandemic free, with only a few cases coming from international travelers, who were kept in quarantine for two weeks post-arrival. Jacinda Arden, the NZ Prime Minister, must be congratulated for her use of clear communication that worked to increase her people’s willingness to cooperate for the betterment of the nation.

Finland, South Africa, and Germany fared well by relying on clear, concise communication, that allowed people to understand their risks, and shoved aside any acceptance of the concept of ‘fake news’ that would confuse their people. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for her citizens to have “patience, discipline and solidarity,” the three essentials to an effective pandemic response.  

“The European Dream” prize winning photo … Andrei Stenin

Many other countries, like Brazil, Moldova, India, Czechia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Bulgaria, have suffered far worse, with thousands of deaths, all while suffering with little modern conveniences or health care to give any comfort.  

In Canada, a very large segment of Canadians, a very large and VOCAL segment, did not take much of a financial hit. Those who had a decent job, with benefits, were generally in position to simply move their office into their home, thru the miracle of the internet and ZOOM. In fact, that group is said to have accrued quite a lot of extra money they didn’t expect to have, due to the lack of restaurants to visit, vacations allowed to be taken, and a focus on shopping by mail, rather than in person.

Scotiabank polled over 1,500 Canadians to learn more about their saving and spending habits since the pandemic began and found that one in four Canadians (25%) have been able to save more because of reduced spending in other areas of their lives. Canadians who are saving more say they are spending less on: eating out (75%), entertainment (81%), clothing and apparel (58%), and commuting costs (41%).  Also, more than a third (37%) who are putting more money aside have made saving a priority since COVID-19.” 

(Scotiabank Newsletter, November 2020)

For the first time in 50 years, I stopped spending about $50 every four weeks to get my hair coloured, and discovered that my ‘real’ hair colour made me look like a cross between a Shih Tzu and Blanche from Golden Girls.  

Lots of other people – those whom we call ‘essential’ but pay as if they aren’t – were the human tinder we threw on COVID’s fire. In March of 2020, people all over the world were urged to ‘make some noise’ to honour healthcare workers, by going onto our porches or balconies, or throwing open our windows to cheer, applaud, and bang pots. That lasted a few months, but as time wore on, I guess we just decided we didn’t really care how many of those in the healthcare field were exhausted or dying from having to care for hundreds, then thousands, and eventually, millions, of sick people.

Hazard pay” for those low on the totem pole, but highly likely to become infected, was discontinued by the fall. We stopped being grateful for those minimum wage earners who staffed the groceries, pharmacies, and Big Box stores, and started demanding that they serve us as though we were management, and they were grovelling for a raise in salary.

We cared about the seniors and sick who were dying by the hundreds, until it meant that the day when we had planned to get a haircut was pushed forward, again and again, until many of us just took the clippers to our manes and had at it, because, really, who would see it when you hadn’t anywhere you were allowed to go?

The herd immunity that initially shocked people by it’s callous cruelty, started to sound good to those who didn’t care how many had to die to get there, as long as it wasn’t themselves, and it meant that they could get out to see a band or a sports match. 

For a very short time, some businesses cared about those who were chafing under the pressure, those who made their living doing jobs that barely covered their needs during normal times, now having their hours drastically cut, while still being ineligible for supplements like CERB.

Ontario Hydro lowered their rates, but decided, in the fall, that they’d done enough to help, and that profits over people were more important.

““Last fall, our government introduced customer choice for all Ontario customers; we encourage customers who continue to work from home who are still paying time-of-use electricity rates to consider switching to the tiered rate option, offering a flat rate at all hours of the day,” the spokesperson from the Ministry of Health told Daily Hive. 

They added that customers who are unable to pay their electricity bills due to COVID-19 can apply to the COVID-19 Energy Assistance Program (CEAP) through their local utility. We have recently expanded eligibility for the CEAP program and residential customers can now receive up to $750 in direct electricity-bill relief.” 

The Daily Hive

Rents and mortgage rates, controlled provincially, have been entangled in regulations that have left many wondering if that roof over their head would be there in the near future, and at what cost. Banks upped their rates, eagerly collecting all those one-dollar-a-transaction fees from those being asked to make their purchases with bank debit cards rather than cash.

As the new year dawned, many companies, large and small, raised their prices and rates to reflect that they’d suffered financial losses in 2020, while ignoring the corollary, that their users and buyers had suffered just as much, if not more, in a turbulent economy.

This week, Ontario’s Premier Doug Ford added even more severe restrictions on Ontarians, some of which make little sense, from the standpoint of those in the medical field already coping with a flood of sick patients. Social scientists and medical professionals have called his latest declarations “an abandonment of science and common sense,” and warn that we will see “a completely foreseeable and preventable tragedy play out in this province.” 

Like a bad parent, unable to control a wayward child, Ford’s reliance on the ‘grounding’ of citizens is backfiring. Continually backing people into a corner only works for so long, before even the meekest amongst us will come out fighting.

Tippy toeing around the necessity for masking, and waiving fines for the scofflaws not only not masking, but organizing large super spreader events, has made even the most compliant of good citizens show their teeth.

And here’s the problem – we don’t have any answers, any other options. All the things we shoulda coulda done from the onset, including school, business, and airport closings, were off the table from the start in an attempt to appease Big Business, and keep the economy chugging along. 13 months in, the virus has dug deep into the soft under belly of its victims, and thrown off new, even more contagious and dangerous variants. Now, all we can do is hold on tight til the end of the ride.

At this point, there’s little we can do to stop this third wave beyond shutting down non-essential businesses and services, enforcing the necessary health mandates of masking and distancing, and getting ourselves vaccinated as soon as possible.

But I’m growing concerned that our leaders are oblivious to the roiling anger simmering underneath our lip service to containment that prioritized business over people, and the lack of policing of those who openly and publicly advocate and display civil disobedience that may prevent our country from ever completely eradicating this plague.

That, along with the pandemic fatigue that has left so many in pursuit of unrequited self-determination, and the sister pandemic of selfishness, may well be the death of many more of us.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered that what COVID stole from me, what I miss more than anything else, is the belief that, in a crisis, Canadians would always pull together for the good of their country, and of their fellow Canadians. That’s something that I never thought I’d have to question. But it seems it only took a year of belt-tightening and restrictions to bring out the worst in too many of us.

Talking Points and Party Lines


by Roxanne Tellier

During the trump years, it was a staple of reporting; when asked for their opinion on something the Administration had done, all the top Republican Senators either brushed off reporters with a breezy, “hadn’t heard anything about that yet,”  or stopped just long enough to run whatever party line Mitch McConnell had broadcast to them earlier that day, into the microphone.

It was so common that comedy shows often ran clips of the beleaguered Senators, or of Conservative media talking heads, mouthing in lock stop whatever nonsense they’d been fed.

Fr’instance, remember the parroting of McConnell lies in 2016, when Senate Republicans said that the seat vacated by Justice Scalia’s death should not be filled in an election year, and refused to hold hearings to consider Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland? McConnell argued that the Senate had not confirmed a Supreme Court nominee by an opposing party’s President to fill a vacancy that arose in an election year since 1888. Of course, it was nonsense.

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President,” McConnell said in 2016.

And at a Judiciary Committee meeting in March 2016, from Lindsey Graham

“I want you to use my words against me. If there’s a Republican president in 2016 and a vacancy occurs in the last year of the first term, you can say Lindsey Graham said, let’s let the next president, whoever it might be, make that nomination, and you could use my words against me and you’d be absolutely right. We’re setting a precedent here today, Republicans are, that in the last year, at least of a lame-duck eight-year term, I would say it’s going to be a four-year term, that you’re not going to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court based on what we’re doing here today. That’s going to be the new rule.”

In 2020, Senate Democrats were outraged at the GOP, charging them with hypocrisy, when Trump and McConnell blithely chose to shove through a Supreme Court justice to fill the seat vacated by the death of Justice Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, mere weeks before the presidential election. 

“I therefore think it is important that we proceed expeditiously to process any nomination made by President Trump to fill this vacancy. I am certain if the shoe were on the other foot, you would do the same,” Graham said, with a perfectly straight face.

Trump’s “Big Lie,” accepted and repeated ad nauseum, by his supporters, and conservative social media, is another example of how blithely mindless people can become, as they parrot the words that contain the seeds of their society’s destruction.

Trump’s Big Lie … A Lincoln Project video

Party lines. Talking points. All political parties do it, in an effort to present a position of solidarity within their ranks. There are scripts written for the rank-and-file members to follow, if they are asked for their opinions. And their answers shape public opinion, especially within the ranks of those who believe their leaders are usually right in their decisions.

There’s a modicum of laziness, and of a lack of time or interest, in that approach. Though, I’ll admit, as someone not gainfully employed, I have a lot of time in which to fall down the Internet rabbit hole, ferreting out the details behind the party line.

When I hear about something that has happened that will affect other humans, I have an immediate gut reaction. I then process the new information by digging deeper into the issue; reading opinions, both pro and con, on the subject; and finally coming to a conclusion with which both my mind and heart can feel comfortable assuming. Even then, however, I retain the right to change my mind, should I receive newer, additional information that is pertinent to the issue.

But that’s not how everyone deals with the day’s data. Most people have a lot to do in the day, at work, with their families, getting through their own personal issues, and simply have neither the time nor the inclination to care.  

Which is where the ‘party lines’ come into play. It’s not just those in Parliament or on Capitol Hill (or the Kremlin, or Westminster) who lean on those talking points, it’s a lot of people who will eventually be charged with electing or re-electing the people who will be following those lines and points while in office, shaping the country.

The trouble with relying on talking points and party lines, rather than thinking for oneself, is that lazy judgments can have a huge impact on societies.

Take the rhetoric that I’m hearing from many whom I thought were less gullible, on the subject of Georgia’s new voter suppression laws. For two days, Morning Joe Scarborough whitesplained and whatabouted that these laws were actually GOOD for voters, even as his guests, people of colour and women who would be aversely impacted by these changes, tried nervously to explain to him why his information was faulty.  (birx reacts to trump.jpg)

Seriously, it was like watching Dr Birx dealing with trump assuming she’d be all in on injecting bleach into oneself to prevent COVID. Deer in the headlights time.

Leaning heavily on the unfairness of major Georgia corporations, like Coca Cola and Delta Air Lines, condemning the new laws, as well as the decision of MLB to move the annual All Star Game, he inadvertently quoted Republican talking points (new laws make Georgia voting safer than that of New York) falsely claiming that these laws would actually make voting easier. He was wrong, but even after being schooled by those who had the correct information, he turned a deaf ear to their words.

A similar thing happened on Bill Maher’s Real Time on Friday, when Heather McGhee and Reihan Salam discussed the restrictive new voting laws in Georgia. Mr Salam is a conservative American political commentator, but in this case, he was reduced to simply mouthing the party lines, and being schooled on the truth, live and in colour. 

Something similar is going on right now with the increasing likelihood of international “Vaccine Passports.” Already several countries have started to lift lockdown restrictions for people who can show vaccine papers that prove they have been vaccinated.

There is a desire for opening up entertainment venues and travel after a year of isolation, but liability laws make owners of those venues nervous about allowing the non-vaccinated to enter. This isn’t about dictating to consumers, it’s about Free Enterprise doing what they must to turn a profit, and it’s as legal as demanding that your customers wear shoes and shirts to receive service.

In countries with a universal health care program, a reputable record of vaccination is fairly easy to produce; the vaccines are under the auspices of each province’s health care registry.

The same cannot be said for the United States, and this has created a bit of a conundrum. If there is no central processing point to be had by the government, then it leaves a hole that will be filled by …  Big Business.

And if you thought you mistrusted the government, just imagine how sorry you’ll be if all of your personal and private health care information is put under the auspices of some massive corporation that has no need to worry about re-election at some point in the future. Be very afraid.

Enter talking points and party lines. The Republicans down south are already working themselves into another ‘rights’ lather, at the very idea of their country becoming a ‘papers please’ nation.

And that’s pretty rich, coming from the party that wrapped America in incredibly restrictive security measures, post 9/11, 2001, which have still not been rescinded, nearly twenty years later. Ah, but that was their own party, demanding that everyone show a passport, carry their shampoo in a one-ounce bottle, and remove their shoes to prove they didn’t have a shoe bomb hiding in there. So that made it okay.

There are some genuine concerns over these passports, which are essentially the same sort of vaccination documents that travellers to certain countries have had to produce for safe travel for decades.  

“People are trying to circumvent that (not being allowed entry into venues) by creating false documents, essentially putting the lives of others at risk,” Beenu Arora, founder of cyber intelligence firm Cyble, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an online interview.

Global news reported that “Fake COVID-19 vaccine passports are being sold online for “peanuts” in a fast-growing scam that has alarmed authorities as countries bet on the documents to revive travel and their economies, cyber security experts said.”

This is why we can’t have nice things.

“Last week, 45 attorney generals from the United States signed a letter calling on the heads of Twitter, eBay and Shopify to take immediate action to prevent their platforms from being used to sell fraudulent COVID-19 vaccine cards.

“The false and deceptive marketing and sales of fake COVID vaccine cards threatens the health of our communities, slows progress in getting our residents protected from the virus, and are a violation of the laws of many states,” it read.“ 

Global News Ca

There will always be a breed of selfish, greedy, psychopaths that delight in putting a stick in the spokes in the wheels of civilization. The pandemic seems to have brought many more out from under the rocks where they usually reside.

Party lines. Talking points. These are a sop for the lazy minded, since it prevents real thought and opinion from forming, based on further investigation of whatever it is a government wants to ‘sell’ to its people.

The repetition of these concepts is a form of gaslighting, a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth. The “illusory truth effect” is something that politicians and markets have been doing for decades, knowingly manipulating your mind by manipulating your cognitive bias.

Trump and his administration were masters of this kind of manipulation, pummeling lies and illogic into people’s minds non-stop before, during, and after his term in office. He’s still doing it now, with his “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him by Biden. He can’t seem to stop doing it, and a lot of people can’t seem to stop believing him.

“Repetition makes things seem more plausible. And the effect is likely more powerful when people are tired or distracted by other information.”  Lynn Hasher, a psychologist at the University of Toronto whose research team first noticed the effect in the 1970s.  

It’s not a new concept. Adolf Hitler knew of what he spoke when he wrote, “Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea,” in Mein Kampf.  

Repetition is a staple of political propaganda. It sells fake news. It sells toothpaste. It drums in concepts that most often are so outlandish that we can’t believe we’re repeating them. And yet, we wondered where the yellow went, when we brushed our teeth with Pepsodent.

We’re slowly coming out of a terrible, traumatic, time, and we’re all a little fragile. Still, it’s not the time to be spoonfed platitudes. What we need now are not party lines and talking points, but intelligent, common sensical directives on how to get back safely into our lives and world, ensuring that the rights of everyone are considered and protected.

Denial Is Not Just a River in Egypt


by Roxanne Tellier

People are utterly fascinating, if you have the luxury of standing back and simply observing the way they think. Mesmerising, but oftentimes, head-shakingly and misguidedly, arrogant. Best to avoid them in groups.

Take this week’s Supreme Court decision on carbon taxes; in his decision, Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote that “Climate change is real. It is caused by greenhouse gas emissions resulting from human activities, and it poses a grave threat to humanity’s future.” 

He added,”The evidence clearly shows that establishing minimum national standards of GHG price stringency to reduce GHG emissions is of concern for Canada as a whole. This matter is critical to our response to an existential threat to human life.” 

Supreme Court or Santas in training? Your mileage may vary.

Under the Constitution’s “peace, order and good government” clause, aka, POGG the federal government has the authority to enact laws to deal with issues that concern the entire country.

Despite complaints from the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, who argued that natural resources are the provinces’ jurisdictions, he ruled that it’s constitutionally permissible for the Feds to impose minimum pricing standards, based on the reality of climate change crossing provincial boundaries, and of being so great a threat that it demands a co-ordinated national approach. 

(I’m left wondering if he couldn’t have appended, “just like controlling this pandemic should be.” But that didn’t happen.)

Three of the Court’s Justices dissented, but not on the subject of climate change – that is simply accepted as fact. Rather, their concern was that the decision opened the door to further matters moving out from under provincial control, and into federalist control. In other words, the destruction of the planet by willful, but corporately profitable abuse, was, to their minds, of lesser concern than the provinces being allowed to maintain an exploitative control of power.

Flippin’ pancakes, hangin’ with the guys …

Minutes after his decision, the backlash began, not just from the provincial premiers who had launched the appeal, but from climate change deniers across the land. Although 97% of scientists believe that climate change is real and human-caused, one of our friends, who is on the side of the 3% who don’t, expressed outrage at the Court’s acceptance of human activities being responsible for the changes we’re seeing in our climate. He said he could produce at least ten articles from ‘learned professionals’ that disproved that fact. Hey – tell it to the Judge.

Well, tell it to the CANADIAN Supreme Court judges. In the States, newly confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett isn’t sold – she called climate change ‘politically controversial,’ at her confirmation hearing. She then added, “You know, I’m certainly not a scientist. I’ve read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”   

In 2020, The majority of Canadians believe in climate change, but still debate how much of the damage has been created by humans.73 percent of Americans say that global warming is happening, and 62 percent of Americans accept that it is human caused.  

A lot of the blame for scepticism about the role humans play in environmental damage comes from people listening to politicians and thought leaders who downplay or outright deny eco-friendly issues. In 2019, after the leader of the People’s Party of Canada, Maxime Bernier, expressed doubts about the legitimacy of climate change, Elections Canada warned that discussing climate change during the upcoming federal election could be deemed partisan activity.

And of course, in the U.S. – trump. He believed climate change was a “Chinese hoax” and pulled the U.S from the Paris Climate Agreement. Getting America back in to it was literally one of the first things Biden did post inauguration.

Sure, Bernier and trump are not exactly MENSA members, but beyond that, it’s best to ‘follow the money, honey,’ because politicians tend to take environmental stances based on what the big donors to the party want done. In both Canada and the U.S., the corporations that most depend on producing carbon pollution for their profits never stop lobbying in their own interests. Damn the environment – full speed ahead!

Horrific natural events that were once limited to once a century frequency, are now yearly events. Whether it’s fires, flooding, or drought, the reality and impact of climate change cannot be denied if you’re impacted by the consequences.  

If the current situation at the U.S. southern border appears to be serious now, get ready for things to get a lot worse – and soon.

According to The Brookings Blum Roundtable of 2020, “the world is looking towards a future where these “unprecedented” storms are commonplace. This global challenge has and will continue to create a multitude of critical issues that the international community must confront, including:

Large-scale human migration due to resource scarcity, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and other factors, particularly in the developing countries in the earth’s low latitudinal band

Intensifying intra- and inter-state competition for food, water, and other resources, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa

Increased frequency and severity of disease outbreaks

Increased U.S. border stress due to the severe effects of climate change in parts of Central America

Climate change deniers will find the waters closing over their heads, like it or not, and whether they believe in it or not.  And if they’re Canadian, they might want to heed a recent scientific report from Environment and Climate Change Canada that reported that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world and that this warming is “effectively irreversible.”   (climate change deniers underwater.jpg)

The only hope left for deniers is to print out their ‘evidence’ and stand on it. Maybe that will keep their heads above water for a little longer.

After the last decade of arguing with those who will gladly buy what conmen are selling, there are still times when I reel at how gullible even ‘book smart’ people can be at times.

Take the latest ‘former guy’ trump appearance on FOX on Thursday night. Trump had an interesting revision of the attack on the Capitol on January 6th. Despite every channel, including FOX, having aired live, unedited footage on that day, trump assured Laura Ingraham that his people posed ‘zero threat,’ even as he basically admitted to having sent them there, all hyped up from his speech earlier in the day. 

“Right from the start, it was zero threat,” he said. “Look, they went in — they shouldn’t have done it — some of them went in, and they’re hugging and kissing the police and the guards, you know? They had great relationships. A lot of the people were waved in, and then they walked in, and they walked out.”

140 injured police officers would beg to differ. One died after being assaulted, two others suicided days later, and yet another officer had an eye literally gouged out of his face. One officer suffered two cracked ribs and two smashed spinal discs after being beaten by flagpoles. Others suffered concussions, were punched, trampled, and sprayed with bear spray.

“I’ve talked to officers who have done two tours in Iraq who said this was scarier to them than their time in combat.”  Acting D.C. police chief Robert J. Contee III

No, trump, and Sen. Ron Johnson. These people were not cuddly patriots. They were seditionist rioters, intent on mayhem, and possibly murder, who could be heard chanting death threats against Vice President Mike Pence, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and several lawmakers as they rampaged. Had they been able to use the gallows they’d set up in the Mall to hang Pence, they’d have done so. And if they’d caught Ron Johnson instead, they’d likely have hung him in Pence’s place without a qualm. But whatever it takes for ol’ Johnson to sleep at night, I guess. 

“my life for you!”

Little lies and deceptions. Little twists in truth, the whispering of conspiracies about political enemies leading to bigger lies, and eventually the Big Lie, that simmers beneath Biden’s presidency.  America is on the brink of a Civil War, all because one man’s ego was unable to handle the loss of an election. Potential chaos is being catapulted forward by his cultist hordes who, like TrashCan Man in The Stand, whisper, ‘My life for you,’ as they torch their own families, jobs, and lives.

The Canadian Supreme Court’s decision on carbon taxes should be the definitive and final world on our country’s acceptance of the reality of mankind’s impact on the survival of this beautiful planet. Rightly or wrongly, that’s how democracy works; we appoint people who are deemed to be wise enough, and intelligent enough, to decide definitively what the country will stand for. Just as the information America received post-election should have put the stamp of respectability upon the Biden election win. But apparently there are still those who prefer their own interpretation of current events, no matter how skewed.

What scares me more than anything else about those that deny truth and reality, who refuse to take responsibility for the physical, emotional, or political future of their planet, is that I am just not capable of understanding that level of arrogant egoism. That kind of self-love is just so far beyond common narcissism, so mind-blowingly selfish and entitled, that it verges on an almost apocalyptic abuse of power. There is no defense.

When there are those that would condemn their own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to the possibility of a planet dying by their own hands, or a future in which their children are stripped of all rights, simply to prevent their own inconvenience in the present, I fear that it will take something even more dire than a once in a century global pandemic to put humanity back on the right side of history.   

I’ll Take White Fragility for $300 Alex


by Roxanne Tellier

Earlier this month a meme starting going around that made a lot of people feel uncomfortable. The meme asked people to acknowledge that overcoming inherent bias, prejudice, and all the ‘isms’ was an ongoing thing, and that we are all ‘works in progress.’

I’m so tired of those that virtue signal, with various #NotAllWhatever hashtags. To hear these paragons of wounded nobility talk, they are the ‘exception that proves the rule,‘ because they’ve always treated women well, and never failed to give anyone of any creed or colour whom they’ve encountered, the same pure and unadulterated dignity, respect and opportunities as those that look just like them.

I rather think that anyone who COULD claim such innocence, is unlikely to ever do so.

As quickly as the meme travelled thru the internet webs, it just as quickly disappeared, which is an interesting commentary on how society is struggling with what those on the political right are calling ‘cancel culture.’ 

Times change. People change. All of this foofaraw over Pepe le Pew and six Dr Seuss books going out of print is an acknowledgment that what was acceptable in the past is now, upon reflection, not the sort of inherent prejudices we want our kids to accept with their juice and Goldfish crackers. The images that march from books and TV screens to parade across the blank slate of children’s minds form the basis of how they will think of the world when they are adults.

Being of French descent, Pepe’s presence in the cartoons we watched was a pleasant surprise. The kids programs available in the fifties were overall white and bland, so hearing someone who had an accent like my family’s was comforting. But upon reflection, while being included allowed me to feel part of a larger culture, the image of a scheming, lascivious, old lounge lizard who refused to take ‘No’ for an answer wasn’t really a positive symbol of what it meant to have a French heritage.

It’s not ‘inclusive’ if the only time you see your families in a drawing or story is when they are being portrayed in a negative or stereotypical fashion. Asians don’t have bright yellow skin; people of colour don’t belong in zoos with monkeys. But there was a time when it was acceptable to say and portray minorities in that fashion.

Inclusion is critical in making children feel safe and respected. It was only fairly recently that children of colour could easily find pretty dolls that reflected their skin tones. Although there had been some European doll companies that manufactured black dolls, most were caricatures based on the perception of those who might never see a person of colour in their entire life.

In the 1890s, Carl Bergner of Germany made a three-faced doll “with one face a crying Black child and the other two, happier white faces.” The National Negro Doll Company was founded in 1911 by American entrepreneur Richard Henry Body “after he tried to purchase dolls for his children but could find none that were not gross caricatures of African Americans.”

Prejudices, stereotypes, caricatures. With very few people of colour around me in my early years, I saw nothing wrong with having a Golliwog doll, and reading books like Little Black Sambo.

Mattel released “Christie,” the first Black Barbie, in 1969, but didn’t officially release an “African-American Barbie” or  “Latina Barbie,” until 1980.  

Fitting in, being accepted, looking and acting like everyone else, enjoying the same kind of foods – when I was growing up, minority children didn’t often get to feel automatically included, just as they were.

But times change, and people change, hopefully in a positive evolution. The discrimination of the past, the things that ‘everyone says’ or ‘everyone did’ may now look offensive, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you were a bigot when you said or did those things at the time. But it does if you continue to use terms that are cruel and offensive after society evolves and develops new language and terminology to reflect more inclusive views.

Much of the confusion over changes to our established culture is due to the Overton Window, also known as the window of discourse.  The Overton window is the range of policies politically acceptable to the mainstream population at a given time.

“The Overton Window is a model for understanding how ideas in society change over time and influence politics. The core concept is that politicians are limited in what policy ideas they can support — they generally only pursue policies that are widely accepted throughout society as legitimate policy options. These policies lie inside the Overton Window. Other policy ideas exist, but politicians risk losing popular support if they champion these ideas. These policies lie outside the Overton Window.

But the Overton Window can both shift and expand, either increasing or shrinking the number of ideas politicians can support without unduly risking their electoral support. Sometimes politicians can move the Overton Window themselves by courageously endorsing a policy lying outside the window, but this is rare. More often, the window moves based on a much more complex and dynamic phenomenon, one that is not easily controlled from on high: the slow evolution of societal values and norms.” Mackinac Center for Public Policy, mackinac.org

As what is deemed acceptable changes in our society, we may find that views we held previously are no longer appropriate. This means we have to rethink our own attitudes, and question how we came to those conclusions in the first place. Explanations – not excuses – for why we thought the way we did, when we didn’t know what we know now.   

People are tribal, at heart. We want our children to do well, our family to succeed, our ‘team’ to win. In a world where there are nearly 8 billion souls looking to get thru the day, it’s just easier if you know who is on your side, when the chips are down, and we like our clues to be shorthand.

My team must be the ‘good’ team, while the other side is, in our minds, framed as the competitors, and an impediment to our team getting what we feel it deserves. By definition, they are the ‘bad’ team.

Tribalism is at the core of every prejudice and bias known to man. Couple that with our brain’s need to categorize all the information thrown at it, and you’ll see how prejudicial attitudes tend to harden as we get older – with more contact with people that we feel confirm our initial gut dislike of the ways of the ‘other,’ we build a wall that keeps ‘our kind’ in, and ‘their kind’ out.  

Have you ever heard someone rail against the actions of another person who was preventing them from getting what they desired? Rather than realize that everyone works their own agenda, the righteously outraged loser of the situation will tend to categorize their opponents acts as archetypal of all people who are of the same race/colour/creed. They’ll come up with ‘facts’ supporting their right to denigrate ALL people from different geographic regions/ people of colour/Muslims because they’ve been thwarted from something they want, by one ‘representative’ of the group

When I was a young woman, there was an explicit bias against women in the work force. Older women had it especially bad, as they were often deemed of least value, and paid accordingly.

Good women didn’t ‘work,’ we were told, even when we could see with our own eyes that women never stopped working, whether it was in the home, in the field, or at a job, or sometimes, in all three. In many societies, it was ‘women’s work’ that literally kept the family unit alive.

And since women were not making the rules, or dictating policies, women who worked, willingly or unwillingly, had a long, slow stretch of years in which to slowly become a valued part of the workforce – as long as they would work for less than a man.

Times change. People change. There are now slightly more women on the planet than men. New statistics project that the United States will become ‘minority white’ in 2045, but only by a tiny percentage, since whites will continue to comprise 49.7% of the population. But the majority 51.3% is split up amongst Hispanics (24.6%,) blacks (13.1%,) Asians (7.9%,) and multiracial populations (3.8%.)

In other words, even the minorities are likely to be jockeying for position, while the previous white majority is already seething at ‘only’ comprising .3 per cent points less than half. And that is still 24 years away.

It almost seems to prove that those who, through a miracle of birth, were born exactly to the specifications their country demanded, have no intention of ever being treated …

… the way they’ve treated those born without those same gifts.

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A friend sent this link to me last week – lots of interesting ideas to mull over!