And I’m back!


by Roxanne Tellier

… with your Sunday political sermon, though it’s a day late. Time to catch up on what you may have missed over the last couple of weeks, and to get a sense of the direction we seem to be heading towards as Canadian election fever sets in.

In other words… where are we going and why am I in this hand basket?

Looking specifically to Canada, I’m getting very nervous about how Canadians feel about the parties from which they’ll choose their next leader. And one of those reasons is because of a lack of charismatic leadership.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a lifelong Liberal, and will vote for Trudeau again, because I agree with most of his stated policies. However, I’m unhappy about some election promises that were either not kept, or kept very badly … looking at YOU, new cannabis legislation… what a mess that is!

I wanted electoral reform, incontestably part of the Liberal platform in 2015, and that was off the table after the first year.

“The Special Committee on Electoral Reform was created in the spring of 2016, and it delivered its report in December. It proposed two things. The first was that Canada replace its traditional system of voting (the ­single-member plurality system known widely as the first-past-the-post model) with a proportional system of representation (where seats in the House of Commons would be allocated according to the proportion of votes each party received). Second, it recommended that the idea be put to a referendum.”  (reviewcanada.ca)

However …. On February 1, 2017, the newly appointed Minister of Democratic Institutions Karina Gould announced that the government was no longer pursuing electoral reform and it was not listed as a priority in her mandate letter from Justin Trudeau  In the letter, Trudeau wrote that “a clear preference for a new electoral system, let alone a consensus, has not emerged” and that “without a clear preference or a clear question, a referendum would not be in Canada’s interest. ”  (Wikipedia)

The Liberals never wanted proportional representation, so it’s not surprising that an excuse was found not to pursue it with the people. But I’m still angry that it was taken off the table.

Still, even the National Post, notoriously right leaning, had to report that “The Universite Laval’s Centre for Public Policy Analysis’s latest reading — updated since March — shows the Liberals have entirely fulfilled 53.5 per cent of their 2015 vows, partially lived up to 38.5 per cent and broken eight per cent.”

92% of promises kept. Unfortunately, the 8% not kept are the ones I was hoping to see fulfilled. Still – I’m just one Canadian, out of 37 million. Got to be a lot of people who did have their wishlist met.

I still say, when I”m looking to the other parties that are in the race, it’s the lack of a strong, compelling leader that stands out. At least to me. Your mileage may vary.

Andrew Scheer has the look of a Howdy Doody puppet, and the wooden emotions to go along with the image. He’s 3 parts Harper and 1 part the preacher from Footloose. The dimples and simper can’t hide his lack of connection to the actual citizens, that is, those of us who haven’t been living off the taxpayer dollar for the last 15 years, which is most of his life to date. This is a guy who has not paid for his own housing or meals in so long, he couldn’t tell you the price of a kilo of sugar if you stuck a gun to his head. His idea of transportation costs entails having the taxpayer fund over $2,035,886 of luxury travel, just in the time since he became an MP. This is your guy if a Conservative plutocracy is what you want for your government.

I voted NDP in the last provincial election, but I can’t say that I’m sold on Jagmeet Singh asPrime Minister. Remember when Margaret Wente gushed over his ascension to leadership? 

Those turbans! That beard! He was just the kind of figure to make progressive folks feel good about themselves, their party and their prospects. GQ, the men’s fashion magazine, profiled him in rapturous terms, calling him “the incredibly well-dressed rising star in Canadian politics.””

Ah, but we were all so much older then – we’re younger and more racist than that now.

Elizabeth May, bless her heart, remains our Green Queen, and with climate change such an important issue top of mind right now, there are many who will put their X beside her name, just because there’s Green in the party’s title. Google the party’s platform to see what else the party has in mind for the country.

As to Maxime Bernier and his People’s Party -well, on the bright side, it’s looking like his main contribution to the election will be drawing support away from Scheer’s Conservatives.

Regardless of your preference, please remember that, unless you are a white male, someone fought for your right to vote. Someone may well have died, fighting for your right to vote, and it is important that you exercise that right. Because – your vote does count. If it didn’t, the bad guys wouldn’t be constantly trying to suppress that right.

Maybe you’ve already made up your mind, and made your choice, and are happy with it. If so, I’m glad to hear it. What worries me, honestly, is the voters who tend to vote ‘against’ rather than for; or those who vote their ‘gut’ without understanding the platforms of the party leaders. The time has long gone when you could just close your eyes and pin the tail on a prime minister, and tell yourself that it didn’t matter, because all parties are the same. They are not.

On the plus side, and whether you are into politics or not, our entire electoral race lasts only a few months, so there isn’t time to get too bogged down in nastiness and slurs. Well – unless you want to. Lots of people love to argue on social media. Have at it, if that turns your crank.

A few short months. Not like in the United States, where Trump officially filed his re-election campaign with the FEC on January 20 , 2017, the day of his inauguration. He didn’t want to miss a penny of the donations he could keep requesting, nor the adulation of his base, who could be relied upon to keep massaging his ego.  

We’re still fourteen months away from the next presidential election, and I’m already over it. Pretty sure Trump is too – after all, he called off his trip to Denmark because they laughed when he wanted to buy Greenland, and sent Pence to visit Poland  (“Congratulations, Poland! on the 80th anniversary of the Nazi invasion!”) so that he could stay at Camp David to ‘oversee’ Hurricane Dorian, and fit in a couple rounds of golf. And then he apparently cancelled a secret meeting that he’d planned to hold at Camp David with some Taliban leaders, to celebrate the anniversary of 9/11.  I’m beginning to think this guy just doesn’t feel like presidenting any more!

It’s a whole new world, isn’t it? I mean.. do you remember when we worried that impeaching Trump would result in a Pence presidency? Now we know that, no matter how low Trump goes, there’s always another abyss he’s programmed into his GPS. Worse =we’re all gonna get tweeted to death on the ride there.

This is the hell in which Americans now find themselves, looking down the barrel of fourteen months in which the average citizen can never really be sure that what they’re being told, by any of their leaders, or the heads of federal services, is true, or just what they’ve been told they have to say, in order not to contradict their Dear Leader.

It’s not even so much a flood of DISinformation as it is a bombardment of MISinformation, the likes of which no society can be expected to deal with gracefully. Like headless chickens, we can only bob and weave, ducking each new onslaught of lies and untruths aimed at what is left of our sanity. And even once the liars are gone, the bully pulpit power of those lies will continue to warp the minds of Americans for generations to come.

I’m hoping that Pelosi finally finds her spine and allows the Dems to begin impeachment proceedings, but I’m not holding my breath. In truth, it’s immaterial if the Senate won’t pass it; the point is to put the spotlight on all of the crimes and misdemeanours that have happened during Trump’s reign of errors and terrors, so that all Americans can see clearly what’s been going on in the halls of power since January 2017.

We have to accept that there is NO savior coming to America. We thought Mueller might be the guy to vanquish the goblin, but he didn’t, or perhaps he couldn’t, under paid lackey AG Barr’s sovereignty.

Right now it seems like the Dems are just crossing their fingers and toes, and praying that everything will be hunky dory if they can make it from here to Nov 2020 without Trump releasing a load of nuclear ejaculate in the direction of whatever country displeased him at breakfast.

I don’t believe that a lack of action is the right course to take, but I’m not running for anything, and I’m not American. I have my own Canadian election to worry about.

My bigger fear, like that of other countries around the world, is that not beginning impeachment proceedings now will lead to a second, third, fourth and for life tenure of his presidency, which, once he’s tired of playing Emperor, he’ll pass down to Ivanka. 

And that’s a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worse enemy.

Rounding It Up, Heading It Out


by Roxanne Tellier

Today’s column is a round up of ideas and issues that have zipped past us in the last few days.

Have you noticed that, the speeding up of events? In the last few years we have become accustomed to barely accommodating the horrors of a day before awakening to the new atrocities of the next. It’s exhausting, and it’s been taking a huge toll on the psyches of not only Americans, but of citizens in countries all around the world.

Apparently the Orange Warthog is officially on a two week holiday, but unfortunately, his fingers and tongue have not been disabled for the duration. And that means he’s busily doing —- well, pretty much exactly as he does every day that he’s NOT officially on holiday.

Even as he re-tweets conspiracy theories about the Clintons having murdered Jeffrey Epstein (because apparently the Clintons are magic who could somehow breach a high security prison under Attorney General Bill Barr’s protection) his head minion, Kelly Anne WrongWay is hitting the Sunday morning airwaves to confirm and abet Trump’s pell-mell race to full blown dementia.

It’s a full time job, defending the indefensible.  I hope it’s well paid, because eventually, even Kelly Anne will pay the price every other trump loyalists pays in the end; total degradation, a reputation in tatters, and a book deal.

On many days I find myself really disheartened with the thinking patterns of so many people – in America, yes, but also here in Canada, and around the world. There was a time when I wouldn’t have included Canada in that scenario, but the results of the last several provincial elections, and the prospect of what is to come after our next Federal election, has me utterly discouraged.

So many seem to be shielding themselves behind a combination of an innocent belief that the checks and balances of other decades will hold, coupled with a disbelief that what is playing out before their eyes is really happening. They are determined that “It Can’t Happen Here,” even as it actually happens here.

Exhibit A.  Was any kind of sense, common or otherwise, in play when this video pic was shot?  Witness these two lumps of flesh, who seem to believe they are Klansmen of 1819, instead of  police officers living in Texas in the year 2019, walking a handcuffed black man to the police station, as they sat astride their horses. Did no one think to check how many times these goons watched Django Unchained before assigning them horseback duty? 

It seems that what I strove to digest a day or two ago bumps right up against the poison we’re asked to swallow today. After the horror of not one, but two deadly mass murders last weekend, both seemingly instigated by Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric, there actually looked to be a glimmer of hope that these latest deaths might lead to some small attempt at gun reform in McConnell’s Senate. 

Exhibit B...Our prayers for no longer fearing death by Wal-Mart Back to School Shopping were dashed almost overnight, when we were told that the NRA’s head, Wayne LaPierre, had already left a message for Trump while POTUS was out pimping for the cameras in Dayton (or was it Toledo?), warning that Trump’s base, whipped up by LaPierre, would be angered by any kind of scenario involving America’s gun fetish. 

Exhibit C … Even as LaPierre was leaving his bile-filled message, ICE squads were putting together the largest raid against illegal immigrants in US history. They went after two poultry factories in Mississippi, where they arrested 680 workers, many of who were not only legal immigrants, but who had migrated there over the last few years from – oh! El Paso! which had just suffered the largest slaughter of Hispanics in US history.

Rather than alert the local schools and nurseries, who were welcoming the little children of these workers to their first day at school, the raid took no notice of the kids being left to find their way home alone, unknowing of when, if ever, they’d see their parents again.

Fisher Price – My First Prison Camp!

Exhibit DActing CPB Chief Mark Morgan, on being asked to defend the timing and manner of ICE’s cruel raids, brushed aside the video of a little girl crying for her dad, by saying that the girl’s father was ‘a criminal,’ which Morgan seemed to think made the family’s suffering irrelevant.  

Truth is, in the American Justice system, a person cannot be branded a criminal, without due process, just because they’ll work cheap, often at less than minimum wage, and do the jobs that even the poorest American born citizens would refuse. This is a stunning pronouncement from a government official, who has no legal right to call ‘criminal’ any human being in the United States, under their own laws.

Tellingly, the executives at these factories, who knowingly hired the illegal workers, and had been successfully sued for discrimination and poor working conditions, have not been charged for their part in the ‘crime.’  Well, they can’t be, really, can they? Because if they were, what would that mean for Trump’s many companies, that are known to also use illegal immigrants for their grunt work, in his hotels and golf resorts?   

As conditions worsen for people of colour in the United States, the Trump supporters claims that they don’t like the man, but they do like the economy are beginning to wear thin.

There is no moral distinction between those who are excited by Trump’s racism and those who plead indifference to it, and it’s consequences. All the money in the world can’t put a pretty face on the horrific cruelty behind the wealth they are reaping.

And here’s the real thing – while the hordes of Democratic representatives pursuing the presidency storm the boards in Ohio and other politically important states, Americans need to realize that they don’t just need to vote Trump out of power next November, they need to think about how they will vote this era of ‘trumpism’ out of power as well.

Since November of 2016, everything we thought we knew about politics in the US and the world has been changed forever. As populist leaders lie their way into positions of power, flush with dirty money and the support of the wealthiest people in human history, their selfishness, and desire to overturn democratic norms, have badly damaged the pillars of society we need to move civilization forward.

The irresponsibility of overturning everything previous regimes have put into place is, sadly, not coupled with an understanding or ability of how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. 

The next POTUS will have to have a spine of steel to face down the crippling changes put into place during these four years of Trump’s incompetence. The GOP are going to fight tooth and nail to try and keep the legal and financial gains they made by executive fiat, and there are bound to be not only legal impediments brought by 45’s appointed judges, and his stooges in the Supreme Court, but from all of the other departments, offices, and agencies that vowed loyalty to Trump.

And while fighting that good fight, the 46th president is also going to have to face 45s millions of supporters, who pledged themselves to him because they thought he’d fix their lives, share his largesse, heal their addicted family members of opiate addictions, kick out all the ‘bad’ people, and maybe even cure their cancer.

Even though he accomplished none of those things, and indeed, has left the country battered and bruised at the core, these supporters are still just as filled with anger, frustration, fear,  and anxiety as they were three years ago. But they’ll be even madder that the next president couldn’t have given Trump just a little more time.. say four .. or six .. or eight .. or twelve more years to finally get them what they believe they are due.  

The inequality that faced them in 2016, still faces them now, in fact, for many, it’s worse. For the farmers, they lost $10 billion in agricultural sales in 2018, and another $20 billion in 2019. Now that China has found other places to buy wheat and soybeans, those billions are never coming back. What do you tell the farmers?

Those 50,000 coal miners who were told that ‘coal’s coming back!‘ and who therefore decided not to accept retraining in a more current field, have had to roll with the punches, as the country’s third largest mine filed for bankruptcy protection in May.  What do you tell those miners?

While those who watch media other than Trump sanctioned FOX News have been following the collapse of these industries, and holding our collective breaths as the GOP administration threatens to remove America’s social safety net, his loyalists continue to believe that it’s just a matter of time until they are all living in a land of milk and honey.  

Which is all to say that defeating Trump at the ballot box in 2020 will be just the first step towards pulling America back to the centre, and away from the far right where it now uncomfortably dwells. That fight will involve angry Republicans tossed from fat cat, lifetime terms in office, as well as a fight against every day Americans who can’t give up the Kool-Aid.

That may seem a daunting task, but another four years under Trump would be far more horrific and devastating to the planet.

Canada is inching up to it’s own appointment in Samara this fall, and I no longer feel I can say with any confidence that Canadians will do the right thing when they saddle up to vote federally in October. I can only hope that saner heads prevail than those that voted lately in Ontario and Alberta.

And now, I’m off to enjoy what remains of summer. See you in September!

 

 

The Trappings of Fame


“Fame … makes a man take things over …. puts you there where things are hollow”

If you were a baby boomer in the sixties, you most likely never knew anyone who was ‘really really’ rich. There was a kid in my school whose dad was a famous football player, but I didn’t know her well. And there was another friend who came from Texas; they had a big house, and even had a maid, who let us make chili and mess up the kitchen.

I had relatives who had oil patch money – they didn’t come around to many family parties, though. They likely got tired of being hit up for loans that would never get repaid.

USA - 30th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Death - GracelandWhen you think about it, one of the most famous, and presumably wealthiest, person with a high profile, back in those days, was Elvis. And by today’s standards, Graceland isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal. Not with all that shag carpeting. But for the time, it was high glam.

As a child, I knew, through reading, that there had been times in history when some people had attained obscene wealth, usually by conquering another country, and by subjecting those natives to their will. Those people were called kings, and whatever they wanted was granted to them, for their skill in warfare.queen of sheba

England had a royalty, but they wore sensible shoes.

I didn’t look up to those people; I never wanted to be ‘royal’ It seemed a pretty high price to pay for a life lived entirely in the public eye. And back then, there were a lot of people who wondered if the trade off of privacy for public adulation was a good one.

Now, of course, people will do anything to be seen, hopefully to be admired, for whatever it is they can do to be different. Tattoo a snake on your face? We’ll only be impressed if you’re the first to think to do so.

“Could it be the best, could it be? Really be, really, babe?”

I don’t know if it is a Canadian way of thinking, but I remember how most people I knew, growing up, adhered to the ‘tall poppy syndrome‘ … that meant that you didn’t want to stick your head up too high, or blow your own horn a little too loud, because you’d be sure to get cut down to size if you did. The syndrome is basically a way of sneering at those who revel in having a ton of money – which we assume is ill-gotten gains – or of seeking fame in public life.

william shatnerIn the seventies, you’d have been more likely to hear someone snigger, “geez, who does he/she think he/she is!” when a Canadian even got a mention in American media.

We did not put many Canadians on pedestals for their achievements, though we’d often get a little warm feeling when we felt like we’d snuck a Canadian through, behind America’s back. Like that William Shatner guy, with the weird way of talking. His mum had an acting school on Girouard in Montreal, so he was one of the good one’s.

We had our own awards, our Junos instead of Grammys, our Genie awards instead of Oscars, and by geez, that should be good enough for any Canadian! Just look at that Walter Ostanek fella, and all his polka Grammy wins! Does HE look happy? Now, you just go practice your accordion, and try not to get all stuck up and big headed!

“Fame …. what you like is in the limo”

And then came …. rock and roll hedonism.

“In the seventies … There was more excess, more hedonism, more drugs, more attitude, more sex, more style, more enthusiasm. Just?… more.” (The Telegraph, UK)

mudsharkI’m not saying that the days of mud sharks, Whovian displays of hotel trashing, and the deaths by overdose of nearly every icon of the day opened the door to the pedestaling of the rich and famous….

but it helped.

The austerity of the post war years, and the drive and eventual success of the lower class kids, who knew the only way to get out of soul crushing poverty was to get into sports or rock n roll, became the envy of those who wondered what it would be like to literally have the world and all of it’s glories at their feet … drugs, drink, the most beautiful women in the world … it could all be yours, if you just cracked the Top Ten Charts.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Some of the luckier and richer rockers listened to their dear old dads, or to the managers and accountants who flocked to help funnel some of this largesse into safer investments, like property. And sadly, some of those ‘helpful’ advisors turned out to be there with the intention of taking advantage of the silly geese now laying multiple golden eggs.

Fame and wealth are on a sliding scale, as the wiser of the nouveau riche artistes soon learned. And if those musos wanted to keep at least some of the moolah that was coming in, in order to pay for their growing entourages, they’d have to learn to manage, manipulate, and increase their funds, just like the robber barons of the last century had done.

And off they went, to the tax havens…. and began to grow their own little dynasties …

“Fame, “Nein! It’s mine! is just his line … to bind your time, it drives you to, crime .”

We aging hippies, especially those of us who chose careers in the arts, might not have prioritized the acquisition of wealth, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t drool a little when these new ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ were dangled before us, in the mid eighties.

make it rainMTV glommed onto that envy, and promoted the lifestyles of celebrities in shows like “The Fabulous Life Of … “ and “Cribs.” These quasi reality features pretended to give the plebes a glimpse into the opulent homes, glamorous lifestyles, and vacation playgrounds of those musicians who had ‘made it.’

FAME … and wealth, were now what everyone wanted to achieve, by any means possible. Oh yeah, it was all about the Benjamins …

“Fame … what you get is no tomorrow … “

And we bought it .. oh yes, those of us who looked on and envied the lifestyles of those who had cracked the money and power code, wanted in on the fun.

“Americans are accustomed to talking about fame using the heady language of the cosmos: the celebrity as a celestial truth, situated above us; the superstar as a force in the firmament, all heat and light and gravitational demands. Michael Jackson’s environmental form of fame—music that permeated people’s lives, iconography that saturated American culture—anticipated the intimate version of celebrity that is the default today. It is fitting, in that regard, that celebrity itself functions as a spectral character in Leaving Neverland. Jackson was acutely aware of the affordances of fame; he leveraged them, the documentary suggests—and, ultimately, he weaponized them. Joy Robson, Wade’s mother, recalls Jackson making a request of her; she recalls, as well, that when she refused it, he coolly informed her: “I always get what I want.”” (The Atlantic, March 2019)

This year has seen the release of several documentaries that question what the pedestaling of fame has done to our vulnerable young women and men. With the allegations in Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly, we also need to be aware of what fame does to the psyches of those who wield that much power.

camp followersThere have always been camp followers, disciples, those who believe that proximity to what they covet, for even a few moments, raises their own profile and value amongst those who have not had the same access to the royalty of their time.

When those who possess power of any potency use manipulation, a righteous fear, and their fame/perceived authority to get what they want, they are abusing that power in order to exploit vulnerable people for their own advantage or gain. And even if those people go willingly to the abuse, it’s still abuse.

Now, the funny thing is that, somewhere along the line, we all started to think that those who achieve fame and financial reward for being good at one thing, like music, or business, could translate that magic to other careers.

And strangely enough, in a culture that appears to embrace a meritocracy, those who seek fame and power somehow manage to drape the mantle of unique talents upon those whose rise to fame may well have simply come from a well placed endorsement, a reality television episode, or a sex tape featuring some very, very large buttocks.

kardashian buttWe would never expect our dentist to take out our appendix or fix our plumbing, but for some reason, we think that someone who has managed to acquire – by hook, and likely crook – a large amount of money, should be given free reign to guide a country, or should be allowed to tell us who and how to worship. The mind boggles.

The political ‘base’ of a country is as subservient to a populist politician, as a congregation is to a hyperbolic preacher, or a groupie or ‘musical prodigy’ is to a music mogul. There’s a parallel in the abuses.

rewards just aheadDangling the promises of future prosperity, they will assure their acolytes that there is a brilliant future awaiting them, if they’ll just listen to their master’s advice. The prey might wonder at what is asked of them, if they follow this path, and they may be reluctant to give their all, without the assurances, as false as they may be, that their faith will bring them enormous rewards in the end.

The followers will put that preacher, or politician, or musical ‘genius’ on a pedestal, and make that person their whole world, believing that their devotion and loyalty is as strongly returned.

But eventually, and inevitably, that faith is abused.

Our adoration of those with fame and wealth blinds us, and when those whom we’ve put on a pedestal are toppled, our beliefs in our selves is fractured.

toppling idolsWhat goes up .. must come down. At some point, the blinders fall off, and we see that those we call gods and kings are just selfish, spoiled, narcissists, and that we are the toys and pawns they use to satisfy their own whims and urges.

2011 … “A new study co-funded by the Gates Foundation, however, portrays the ultrarich as lost souls burdened by the fears, worries and family distortions of too much money.

Yeah yeah. Cry me a river.

 

 

Surviving A Blue Christmas


by Roxanne Tellier

Man, I cannot stand Elvis‘ song, “Blue Christmas.” And I’ll bet you have a couple of holiday tunes you could gladly live without for the rest of your life … enough’s enough on the “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” amirite?

And no … we’re not discussing the ‘controversy’ over “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” No, we are not.

But.

But seriously … it’s that time of year, when people can get a little – or a lot – down about what seems to be an incessant and annoying full frontal campaign insisting that we all be ‘merry and bright’ and ‘ho ho ho’ ourselves into stupors.

A surfeit of merriment. Bah humbug. What to do, what to do, when you just feel blue?

csarn salons
That was the question being asked at a recent seminar I attended, that was hosted by the good people of C-SARN (Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network – find more info at csarn.ca.)

Facilitated by Matt Eldridge, from the Artists’ Health Centre, the session included curated info on dealing with holiday stress, and included much lively input from the attendees.

We touched briefly on the very real problem of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD.) SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the change of seasons. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disorders. About 2-3% of the general population of Ontario have SAD and another 15% have a less severe experience. It is believed that SAD is caused by changes in the level of exposure to sunlight. At this point, the main treatment for SAD is light therapy.

Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-SAD

There are special light therapy lamps, designed to mimic spring and summer light levels, that can really help relieve some of the depression of SAD, but the lamps are quite expensive.

However, help is on the way if you live in Toronto! Several branches of the Toronto Public Library now have light therapy lamps available in-library on a first-come, first served basis, as a way to treat the “winter blues.

All you need to do is sit, read or work about 2 feet away from a lamp for 20-30 minutes, without looking directly into the lamp, but allowing the light to shine on your face. It may be hard to believe, but that’s all it can take to really help.

You can give it a try at the Agincourt, Brentwood, Don Mills, Fairview, Humber Bay, Malvern, Maria A Shchuka, Parkdale or Parliament branches, or on the 5th floor and basement Toronto Star Newspaper Room of the Toronto Reference Library.

So that’s SAD dealt with – but what if you are just generally bummed out by the holiday season?

Me, I hate the ‘heaviness’ of winter … the weighty coats, the accumulation of hats, earmuffs, scarves and mitts, and the big, sturdy, non-slip boots that contrive to make me feel like a Clydesdale negotiating a steep slope. I can literally feel myself getting shorter as I assume the mantle of wintry clothing. Literally. I will probably have lost another inch in height by January.

Some determinedly, doggedly, cheery people love to tell you that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” My mission is to hunt those people down, and skin them for their magic coats.

But until I find them, I’m going to have to deal with not enjoying anything about surviving the coldest months of the year in Canada.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced hooga.) This is a word that Danes use to express a mental strategy for coping with the winter months, describing an emotional coziness and togetherness. It is a time they spend indoors with friends and family, embracing the colder season as wholeheartedly as they do the summer months, and seeing both extremes as opportunities to cultivate the different sides of themselves.

danish hyggeHey … as long as it doesn’t include sports … I’ve never liked sports, either to play or to watch, so that leaves me out of a lot of the typical Canadian leisure time diversions and debates. About the most I can handle in terms of physical exertion in the winter is a lope to the nearest Tim Hortons for a toasty cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a cinnamon dusting. I simply lack a sports gene, and find it unlikely I’ll develop one during my ‘golden years.’

winter wildlifeWhat I can always find time to do, though, is to spend a few hours with friends, to share a meal and indulge in lively discussions. Or to walk in a park, where some of our wild critters, who don’t migrate or hibernate, can benefit from a gift of the appropriate seed, treat, or suet.

I’m not a religious person, but I sometimes like to enter a house of worship, to partake, for a moment, of the peace that comes from the gathering of those who enjoy a committed faith.

Some people take great joy in volunteering, and of helping others by giving a little bit of their time or largesse to benefit those who have less than ourselves. Others look forward to participating in regular or seasonal religious ceremonies.

christmas eyebrowsI’m more of an indoor person, and can find tons of ways to amuse myself, whether it’s on the internet, or in communing with my pets. I love to search out old holiday songs, programs, and stories from other times and other countries, and to admire or laugh at how our sense of fashion has morphed over time.

Couple of things to avoid – if you are not feeling particularly cheery, go easy on the physical stressors: sugar, caffeine, alcohol and empty carbohydrates will just make you feel more jangled, and pack on the pounds. Be vigilant about eating properly, and taking the meds and supplements that keep you ticking along smoothly. Also, try not to spend a lot of time on social media; many friends and acquaintances like to take the season as an opportunity to put up their annual “highlight” reels … no, neither they nor their kids look that good all year round, and the dog is rented. Nuff said.

try something new SeussYou might be able to turn around some of your blues by making a small attitude adjustment; nobody’s perfect, but we all get a chance every new day to tweak what we’ve got. Why not try looking at your holiday challenges with an eye to a more realistic expectation of how your sister in law will behave after her third glass of wine? Is it possible that even Drunk Uncle will be a little easier to take if you practice a bit of radical acceptance of his all too human foibles? Some people just can’t help people-ing.

And the next time someone invites you to an event, or a meal, why not try saying an enthusiastic YES! to a new experience? The worse that can happen is that you spend a few hours discovering that you like or dislike this new person or food or thing.

Conversely, if you’ve spent most of your adult life hating one of your holiday traditions – this may be the year you finally say a resounding NO! to doing it any more. Walk away from petty squabbles, refuse to eat foods that you dislike, and don’t invite trolls to be part of your celebrations. While the holidays are a time of giving, they shouldn’t also be a time of unending and painful sacrifice in the pursuit of someone else’s happiness.

Everyone experiences the holidays and winter differently, but there are some tried and true ways to increase your own enjoyment of the season. Indulge your senses with the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations that fill you with pleasure.

10-tips-for-enjoying-a-long-winter-indoorsIf you are keen on Christmas carols, fill your home with the sound! Put on your favourite play list while you tidy up your environment and enjoy the scent of seasonal candles, fruits and foliage. Open up your curtains and throw a little light on the situation. indulge yourself with a special treat, because you deserve it.

Be gentle with yourself, and let your inner dialogue express the same tenderness to yourself that you’d show towards someone you love or care about, who’s dealing with a tough time. You are just as deserving.

Above all … pace yourself! This demanding round of lunches, dinners and soirees will soon fade and become last year’s memories, but we Canadians will still have a further three or four months of cold, snow, and ice to deal with. It’s gonna take a toll on you. So try to have enough fun with your loved ones during the holidays to make yourself, if not more tolerant, than at least a little more accepting of our country’s wintry gifts.

And however you spend this holiday season, I wish you the best and most joyous one ever!

happy holidays to all

 

The View from a (Canadian) Broad


Every morning, around four a.m., there’s something that wakes me up. I don’t know if it’s a noise from the street, a neighbour heading to work, or a very punctual raccoon with OCD, but nearly every day, there’s a sound that rouses me from my dreams and leaves me washed up on the shore of my thoughts.

The reveries that preoccupy me in the hours between four a.m. and an almost normal six o’clock rise are the ones that might flit through your mind during the day, but that are not chewed over like they might be at say .. quarter to five in the morning.

Thoughts like, could Melania actually be Trump’s Russian handler? Is this weird red mole-y thing cancerous? And, why is it that so many males, from boy to man, love running around pantless?

The wee hours are also the time of déjà rêvé.Déjà vu is French for “already seen” and déjà rêvé is French for “already dreamed”. Depending on whom you ask, it could mean that weird feeling you have when you’re in a dream and you suddenly think and believe you have dreamed this exact dream once before …or that your dream is a prophesy of something that has yet to happen.

I get that a lot, and for me, it’s like being partway into a movie and thinking, “damn! I’ve had this dream before and I know how it ends! The alligator eats the drummer!

A bit of a lunch bag letdown, if you will.

no more gun violenceThis morning I was thinking about how refreshing it was yesterday, to have a day when the antics of the madman to the south were not front and centre, or even lurking around a corner.

It was all about the kids, about common and uncommon sense, and what the future could look like, if all of the cynical, corrupt shysters who’ve warped our perceptions of the world to shape their own fever dream were forced to stop. No no no no say the kids … you’re not gonna get to use us to line your pockets with the NRAs dirty bribe money. We’re not gonna let you use us as human targets for those who snap under the pressure of hormones or fear or paranoia, so often engendered by adults who labour under their own heavy weight of paranoia and discontent.

Never again! they shouted, those children who, 37 days ago, spent the scariest six minutes and about twenty seconds of their lives, wondering if those were the last minutes of their lives.

Emma Gonzalez‘s speech was the loudest silence in the history of U.S. social protest, said Mother Jones magazine. As I watched those attending struggle with the silence, I thought how uncomfortable people are when they have to contemplate the absence of sound. People were visibly distraught as tears poured down Emma’s face, and the silence stretched on interminably.

” “Never again,” many in the crowd of 500,000 chanted in response. After her timer went off, Gonzalez said, “since the time when I came out here, it has been six minutes and twenty seconds. The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest,” she said. “Fight for your lives before it’s someone else’s job.” And then she left the stage.”

” At least 73 teens have been shot to death in the 37 days since that massacre, according to HuffPost’s review of a database compiled by Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit organization that tracks shootings across the country. (Because Gun Violence Archive culls its data from media reports, there may be cases that haven’t been included.)

That’s a rate of nearly two teens each day. Among them were Kaiden Vague, a California student who died on his 16th birthday after accidentally killing himself at a shooting range, and 15-year-old Jay Diaz in El Paso, Texas, who survived a childhood fight with cancer only to be killed when a family member fired his shotgun while cleaning it.” (Huffington Post, 03/23/2018)

jim carrey never againKids are being shot and killed, all over America, by people who put their ‘right’ to own guns over the lives of their own children. And it is increasingly clear that those same Americans, who so loudly and proudly proclaim that owning guns is their god-given right, are incredibly lax in how they handle those guns.

There is no respect for either guns or the law in the heart of the woman shot in the back by her toddler with “a firearm that slid out from under the driver’s seat.”

The “responsible gun owner” is largely a mythical creature.

Every day there’s another case of people just leaving their guns around for kids
to play with. On March 12th, a one year old boy was accidentally shot and killed inside his home in Mobile, Alabama by his 2 year old brother. In the time it took for the mother to tell the grandmother that she was heading for work .. boom!

And how much care and gun sense was in place when a four year old child in Temple, Texas shot his seven month old sibling two days ago, with a gun that was also apparently just lying around?

Sicker still, a neighbour being interviewed by the press volunteered that he did not blame the family, since “in my family, it happened once with my cousin. My cousin killed accidentally my other cousin. It happens. Accidents happen.”

Newsflash, bozo – accidental gun deaths don’t happen when you treat guns as the killing machines that they are, rather than something that you casually leave around the house, like your sunglasses or your copy of the National Enquirer.

guns_in_homeGuns are not ‘magic.’ Guns are killing machines. When you buy one, when you pick one up, you and you alone are responsible for happens next. No excuses. No exceptions.

 

Every one of the kids and speakers at the “March for Our Lives” spoke to power, and they did it with the verve and energy of the righteous.

“David Hogg went on to call out local lawmakers and the NRA for not taking the lead.

“It just makes me think what sick f–kers out there want to continue to sell more guns, murder more children, and honestly just get reelected,” he said. “What type of sh–ty person does that? They could have blood from children splattered all over their faces and they wouldn’t take action, because they all still see these dollar signs.”

Yes, kids .. it’s time. It is YOUR time. And we all thank you.

trump vs teen gun heroesI’ll bet Trump’s handlers weren’t thanking you, though. Can you imagine what it must have been like, down in Florida, as his ‘people’ tried to keep him from exploding over someone else getting all the attention? All of those hours when his name and face weren’t glaring at people from every form of media? Oh, it was lovely, all of those hours with nary a tweet nor an opinion from or on Mad King Trump.

All of those hours without the human equivalent of the lactic acid which makes milk taste sour.

It was like spring finally sprang.

it was like the birds came out and sang like they haven’t since November 9, 2016.

snow whiteIt was like an old timey Disney movie when all of the animals dance around Snow White!

But, inevitably, it had to end, and we were back to the gloomy, pessimistic, and frequently salacious non-stop drip of Trump’s bareback rape of America.

I cannot stand anything about the man; he triggers in me an awe-inspiring level of hate and violence – and I’m pretty sure that is how many people feel, both in Canada and the United States.

how cdns see the US in 2018What motivates this madman? What makes him, time and time again, choose to burn down the village rather than built it up? What makes him so focused on proving others wrong just so that he can call even a mild rebuke fake news? What drives him to behave like an abusive parent or husband, giving free rein to his worst impulses, while screaming LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO! LOOK WHAT YOU MADE ME DO!

What had most struck me during my two days with Trump was his sad struggle to extract even an ounce of respect from a political establishment that plainly viewed him as a sideshow. But what I didn’t realize at the time was that he’d felt this way for virtually his entire life — face pressed up against the window, longing for an invitation, burning with resentment, plotting his revenge.” McKay Coppins

Well, whatever the reason, America is headed to a precipice .. a crisis in which it will be determined if rule of law and democracy holds or if they have quietly surrendered to authoritarianism and a wannabe ‘president for life.’ Trump the bully, that bundle of ‘malevolence tempered by incompetence‘ will fire Special Counsel Mueller, sooner rather than later, and when he sneers, “what are you gonna do about it?” the course of America’s future will be set.

A democracy or a fascist dictatorship. “What are you gonna do about it?

john bolton war cabinetI think that moment is swiftly approaching. The countdown began when General McMaster was forced to resign and John Bolton, the warmonger who wants to ‘clean house’ and bring in his own staff of warmongers, was installed. As Trump toys with the idea of running America all by himself, taking on the roles of Chief of Staff, Secretary of State, Spokesperson, and, probably, his own living statue for the tourists to admire, he’s just waiting to hear the last senator’s tires leaving Washington for their spring break.

Oh yes, we’ve heard from ‘the boys’ in The House, as they swear that Trump’s told them he will not, absolutely WILL NOT fire Mueller while they’re on hiatus, and he also promises that he won’t drink all the booze in the liquor cabinet, smoke pot, or play with guns or firecrackers. But …

When the adults have all gone off in all directions, leaving Trump home alone until they return on April 9th to get back to governing ….

.. you know it’s gonna be the Trump equivalent of Risky Business

The House and Senate insisting that there would be no need to protect Mueller from being fired, (wink wink nudge nudge,) based on Trump’s assurances that he hasn’t the faintest inclination to do so, are the weak sauce of a government branch that sorta kinda maybe wants to know what really DOES happen when you let a three year old play with a nuclear bomb.

They know damn well that he’s going to fire Mueller … just as soon as he hears how Fox and Friends want him to proceed.

How bad does he want to fire Mueller?

That’s how bad.

 

Empathy and a God in Our Own Image


The holiday season is a good time to think about our interactions with other people. We really want to make our loved ones smile, so we’ll do as much as we can to please them. We search out gifts for giving that we think will delight our friends and acquaintances, hoping to strike that balance between spending too much or not enough. And, in the best case scenario, we find it in our hearts and pocketbooks to donate a little to those who have less than we do; some of us will do that because we think it’s right to share what we have with others, while some will do so because donations can be written off on next year’s taxes. Either way – our donations and caring will have some impact on those in need.

For most of us, that is all that the holidays require; a little thought for others, an attempt to ease some of the stress and strain that we humans navigate most days. Our songs and stories commemorate how we feel when we come together, in peace and joy, ‘heart to heart and hand in hand,” and lift the winter’s darkness for a short time.

lincoln empathyWe are driven by kindness and care, and empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings and emotions of others. The quality is usually strongest in children, who can be almost clairvoyant in their ability to feel the pain of others, either human or animal.  From a very early age, we can sense goodness and meanness in the intent of others, and even as babies, we instinctively dislike those who are cruel to others. Little children have yet to learn that most grownups are oblivious and indifferent to the feelings of animals. And many children, sadly, will grow up into adults who will, very often, be just as oblivious to the feelings of those who are different from themselves.

Different by virtue of skin colour, or gender, or by an accident of birth that sticks a silver spoon in one child’s mouth, and bitter alms in another. Children are born all over the planet, every minute of every day, but not every child will be welcomed by it’s family, or it’s people, or by those who hold power over the powerless.

So, here we are, with Christmas 2017 behind us. The days will get shorter now, and for many, the snow will fall far more than we’d like. The young, the old, the sick and the well – all of us will cope with good and bad events, to varying degrees, and with varying success.

The poor will suffer the most, since winter is hardest on those who live in inadequate housing, with uncertain heat, and even more uncertain nutrition. The middle class will struggle along, carrying the largest burden, since it is the middle class that invariably bears the cost of keeping society afloat. And the wealthy  … ah, the wealthy will have their own special burden, that of hiding their untold riches in ever more clever niches.

Inequality, already a societally crushing issue in the United States, was exacerbated last week when a group of old, mostly white, and mostly male Republicans forced through a bill looting the Treasury coffers, while enriching themselves and their donors. There is no other way to look at the tax scam perpetrated by the Trump administration than as the brutal rape of the American taxpayer, for the benefit of the wealthy.

tax scam 2017Every tax payer in America will suffer, and I say ‘every taxpayer’ because the wealthy were already well ahead of most Americans in the non-paying of taxes. Even as the rhetoric on American taxation being ‘the highest in the world’ (it’s not) crescendoed, the wealthy and corporations snickered up their sleeves, knowing that their trusty accountants and willing elected officials had long ago resolved that little problem. Very rarely do the tax bills of the 1% exceed 1% – it’s more likely that they’ll be coasting on credits from past corporate ‘losses,’ government grants, and well established tax havens in other countries.

The Republicans gathered to celebrate these cuts that were given to those who are currently sitting on trillions of dollars that they cannot be bothered to invest in their own employees and companies, and the corporations responded by cutting staff and automating the lowest paid jobs. And buying back their own stock. And giving themselves massive, million dollar bonuses.  Oh – and bemoaning a rise to minimum wage, as it would impact their bottom line.

trump tax ripoff

Meanwhile, the American people can look forward to death by a thousand tax cuts. There are cuts to pretty much everything necessary to live, not the American Dream, but a life not lived on the streets.

No sector of society has been left untouched. Health costs will soar, children will die from the loss of medication and treatments. The young, the old, the poor, the sick, small businesses, students, home owners, veterans, ‘dreamers,’ refugees and immigrants … all will pay the price for the corporations’ champagne dreams.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” says the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, but now, she’s beckoning them closer so that she can mug them, and then sell their blood and organs to the highest bidder.

The astonishing lack of empathy or fellowship shown in this tax scam is frightening. How do you explain to someone what it means to care about their fellow man? To care for their neighbour, not just because there’s something in it for them, but because their own laws say that all men are created equal?

I don’t know how to open the eyes of those who cannot see the suffering in front of them, or who do see the suffering, but brush it away with impatience. The greed and detached cruelty of those who have the power to ease the misery of others, to elevate the standard of living for all, and yet fail to do so, is astounding.

The gleeful joy and unbelievable callousness exhibited by those who passed this bill is beyond me. I think it’s likely beyond even our fictional monsters. It took Scrooge three ghosts to understand his perfidy, but I think the Republicans cut back the ghost jobs last year, and replaced them with automation.

I’ve got mine, Jack,” they gloat. “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps,” they say, neglecting to mention that the bootstraps and ladders they used to climb to power were pulled up behind them, and the door closed to those who might use those means to succeed in the future.

There are practical, and even self-serving reasons, to make sure that all of your people have health care, public education or access to higher education, and better paying jobs that enable the masses to buy the junk that corporations have made in cheaper lands. But even that doesn’t penetrate the scaly skins of the elected officials.

minimum-wage-graphic Ontario 2017Years of recession, of belt tightening, of cutting staff to the bone, have weakened respect for workers, and tested our own belief in the value of what we do. After all, if we had any importance, surely our jobs and wages would not be treated with such disdain and indifference! When we are no longer valued for what we bring to a company, when corporations would prefer to pay as little as they can get away with, rather than pay a minimum wage that would allow their workers to have a decent life, the very idea of the dignity of work loses meaning.

When we see hundreds or thousands of jobs cut, and the CEO rewarded with multi million dollar bonuses for his/her skill at excising these workers, we begin to see our lowly place in the big picture. We see that minimum wage is, indeed, the lowest amount a company can legally pay a worker, but that they’d gladly drop that amount by even more, or welcome slavery, if only it would come back into fashion and usage.

Minimum wage today buys less than it did in 1950. That’s why some households have two, or even three, family members, all desperately working as hard as they can, just to bring in enough to cover their basic survival needs. That house of cards shivers every time something unexpected happens – an accident, an illness, an unanticipated expense … or the cost of an education that might allow a family member to dream of a better job.

min wage earnersWhen I see the memes of the self-righteous, those who sneer at those who fill these jobs that pay only a minimum wage, I cringe. It chills me, especially when those jeers come from someone who grew up in a time when there WAS a more level playing field, more opportunities for advancement, or who came from a middle class family able to pay for the speaker to get a leg up in life.

Those people are often under the false impression that it is only the young and incompetent that work for such a low salary. They are very wrong. And even when it is shown to them that they are wrong, they will defend their position, trotting out sexist, racist, or xenophobic tropes to bolster their words.

I don’t know if such an ugly and pitiless state of mind comes from the mindset of a political party, the real and imagined fears of the unknown or unknowable that plagues some as they age, or just a sheer bloodymindedness and complete lack of empathy for anyone other than oneself. I don’t know – because it is unimaginable to me.

Worst of all, those who propound these horrors, ‘for the good of the economy,‘ most often profess  to be good Christians, following the Bible, manipulating and misquoting it’s words to defend their deeds.

golden rule empathyIn all religions, there is one rule above all others, and the only one that must be followed. It is always some variation on the Golden Rule … “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Somehow, the importance of that must have gotten lost in the conservative/right wing/Republicans’ bibles.

These people worship riches, not a God. They deify those who have amassed assets beyond any conceivable use, and spit upon those who have not been ‘blessed’ with wealth. And yet, they simultaneously and methodically put into place barriers prohibiting the vast majority of others of ever attaining a similar goal. It is inexplicable. Somewhere along the line, our justified laughter at the silly crassness of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” morphed into an adulation at the altar of the Kardashians.  And it ain’t pretty, folks, it ain’t pretty at all. In fact – it’s nauseating.

Religions tell us that we were made in God’s image. That we are little God mini-me’s. It suits their purposes, because they can then mold our thinking to what works for the benefit of the religion, the church, and for those who profit from the preaching of the tenets of the faith. If we are just like God, we must be right and just. What we fear or hate is rational, as it is God’s own fear. We must love those that believe as we do, and hate those who believe differently. Carrot and stick – behave in the way we’ve outlined, and you get to go to Heaven. Misbehave, and it’s eternal damnation for you, buddy!

In reality, we create our Gods in our own image. We decide what a God should be, and it would seem that we’ve decided that’s he’s a pretty nasty creature, who demands absolute adoration, and will strike down all of ‘his’ children at the slightest indiscretion. He needs money, apparently, lots of money, to build fancy places of worship. This faux God insists that he is the arbiter of faiths, and that all who profess different beliefs are infidels, and must be converted, or murdered so that our religion is the only one worshiped.

What a vicious, reprehensible, ugly, vile, bugger some have chosen to represent the Almighty! Is this really how an all knowing, all seeing being, capable of creating the heavens and the earths would wish to be portrayed?

A benevolent God doesn’t hate poor people – in fact, they are his best beloved, along with children, the sick, the lame, the blind, and all of the others that elected governments prefer to throw under the bus, in order to curry favour with those who already have too much wealth and power.

rich need bigger needleGod DID hate those who wielded money and power like a weapon. Remember when he threw the money changers out of the Temple? Or that bit about the camel and the needle? Were you aware that the word “Gospel” literally means “Good News,” and that, at the time of this usage, had no religious feature, but instead meant ‘the forgiving of debt?’

An omniscient God doesn’t hate gay people, or refugees, or those with a different coloured skin or language. A compassionate God loves all mankind, not just a neat subsection of people exactly like Himself – or yourself.

A Vengeful God that spits out vindictive words and bile about ANY other human being is a false God, created in the image of the fallible and power hungry.  When the likes and dislikes of those imperfect humans are foisted onto a deity of your choice, the only religion that can be carved out is one that reflects our own prejudices and fears of ‘the other.”

empathy religion. JpgThe essence of empathy is an understanding that we are all equal, and all deserving of love and compassion. When empathy is removed from business and politics, we are on a slippery slope to the collapse of an Empire.

A nation is built upon the backs of ALL of it’s citizens, all of whom must have a place at the table. When the political administration in power only caters to the wealthy, they have forgotten that they serve at the pleasure of all of the people … and that their time in power is only temporary, and at the whim of those people.

This holiday season, the Republican party flaunted a lack of empathy and a slavish devotion to the upper class, all the while telling the middle class that they were giving them a ‘Christmas present.’  Those same smiling faces said that this year, you could once again say “Merry Christmas,” as though there had been some admonition against it while ‘the black man’ was president.  In truth, you could always say “Merry Christmas,” but after this tax scam, you just won’t be able to have one. strong people. jpg

The new year will reveal exactly how low they are willing to go in their abject fealty to these overlords. With luck, it will also open the eyes of those who’ve enabled their ugly, selfish, partisan goals, and lead us all to a world where fairness and democracy replace greed and apathy.

My wish is that 2018 be the year when we finally understand that ‘peace on earth, goodwill towards men’ was never meant to last for just a day, but rather, needs to be our goal, every day, every where, and for all people.

happy-new-year-quotes-2018

 

 

Count Your Blessings Instead of Sheep


keep calm and gobble onHappy Thanksgiving weekend! Hopefully most of us will be lucky enough to be gathered together at some point with friends and family to share the bounty of the harvest – or at least the goodies we’ve bought from our local grocers — and that most precious of commodities …. our time.

It’s crazy how fast the days and years go by. That’s not an ‘old people’ thing anymore; even kids in grade school find it hard to accommodate all of the information and entertainment they need to constantly absorb in order to successfully process their world. Those of us with much to remember don’t stand a chance, post-retirement, of guessing the day with much accuracy. (Helpful hint: Write everything down!)

Although I’m not a religious person, I consider myself blessed. I have a roof over my head, food in my fridge, and a husband, family, and friends that love me. I also have a keen awareness that I am more fortunate than a great many people, who often lack the things that a lot of us take for granted.

While I do try to do what I can to help others, this weekend I’m grateful to be enjoying the hospitality of two lovely friends, who asked us to share their respective feasts.

toronto-skyline-nightOn Saturday night, we joined long time friend and writer Ira Band for dinner at the Island Yacht Club, on Mugg’s Island. It was a beautiful night, with weather more like August’s than October’s. Earlier this summer, the island was horrendously flooded, but is now back to being it’s luxuriously landscaped self. After a delicious Thanksgiving buffet, we alternated between enjoying the fireplace inside, and the view of the Toronto skyline from the comfy lounges outside. A perfect evening!

Today, we’ll be joining fellow scribe/photographer/Energizer Bunny Pat Blythe for her amazing festive spread. That woman can cook most people under the table, and still sparkle as the hostess with the mostest. We will enjoy the company of friends, and Pat’s famous pies, and who could ask for anything more!

i-came-in-like-a-butterballMonday will be Bring On The Fat Pants Day and let it all hang out. I can live with that.

But let’s talk about Canadian Thanksgiving. I like when we celebrate the holiday. Let the Americans have theirs on the fourth Thursday of November; ours is just better positioned. We’ve got Halloween at the end of the month, which acts as a speed bump before we get on the tilt-a-whirl that is the countdown to Christmas, and that’s just fine by me.

So why aren’t our holidays celebrated simultaneously, you ask? It’s all about history.

According to wiki, “the first Canadian Thanksgiving is often traced back to 1578 and the explorer Martin Frobisher. Frobisher, who had been trying to find a northern passage to the Pacific Ocean, held his Thanksgiving celebration not for harvest but in thanks for surviving the long journey from England through the perils of storms and icebergs. On his third and final voyage to the far north, Frobisher held a formal ceremony ifrobisher-thanksgivingn Frobisher Bay in Baffin Island (present-day Nunavut) to give thanks to God and in a service ministered by the preacher Robert Wolfall they celebrated Communion.”

Over the years, succeeding waves of immigrants brought their own harvest traditions and delicacies to Canada, and we gratefully blended those new foods and tastes into what we now call Canadian cuisine.

And of course, we cannot forget how new Italian/Canadians brought their own tradition of the Spaghetti Harvest to our great land.

What we think of today as a traditional Thanksgiving feast owes a lot to what American film and TV has idealized as the proper fare… the groaning board that begins with pickles, olives, and hot dinner rolls (Pillsbury Crescent Rolls are a favourite for me) and carries on with mashed potatoes , roasted vegetables, cranberry sauce, stuffing and giblet gravy, all but the preliminaries to the guest of honour, the roast turkey.

And when you’ve had your fill, and have moved your belt buckle over a notch, lo and behold, the desserts arrive – pumpkin or cherry or raspberry pie, carrot cake, ice cream …. Ahhh … yep, sounds like Thanksgiving at Pat’s!

I’m happy to have a day designated for giving thanks. We’re an entitled bunch of gits, and having to stop and actually think about what’s good in our lives is rare; we’re far more likely to be complaining about what we don’t have. This is a day – or a long weekend – on which Canadians can all agree that they are blessed to live in a country which, because of or in spite of current leadership, allows us freedom in so many ways.

thanksgiving-gratitudeI try to have an “attitude of gratitude” as the platitude goes. No matter what life brings, I try to remember that there are people on this planet who would kill to be in my shoes. Which is not to say that I don’t occasionally complain, but I do value what I have, and I thank those who make my life better, just by their presence and love.

 

“When we neglect to require our children to say `thank you’ when someone gives them a gift or does something for them, we raise ungrateful children who are highly unlikely to be content. Without gratitude, happiness is rare. With gratitude, the odds for happiness go up dramatically. The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar

grateful-for-everythingSo, what are you grateful for in your life? I’m grateful for my husband, my children and grandchildren, and my family and friends, who continue to love me despite my many, many quirks and odd behaviour. I’m grateful for the food in our pantry and the roof over our heads. I’m grateful that I’m getting older, because the alternative sucks. I’m grateful that I get to write this column every Sunday, and some of you actually read it and even discuss ideas with me, whether you agree or disagree with my points. I’m grateful that I’ve never lived in a country ravaged by war or pestilence or famine, and probably never will.

Little girl asleep in bed.I’m grateful when I lay my head down on the pillow at night, and know that the odds are good I’ll be waking up in the morning to another day filled with possibilities. I’m grateful for every bit of my life so far, and the wonders that still await my discovery. For as long as I am on this planet, I want to be cognizant of the beauty that is all around me, and never take for granted the gift that is existence.

Even when the going gets rough and it seems like there’s nowhere to go but down, it’s best to consider the good you have in your life, and be thankful. That small shift in thinking can put things into perspective.

Never underestimate how important it is to have people in your life who are kind and loving and thoughtful. When all else fades away, love and kindness are the greatest gifts you can give or receive.

There’s a reason why this song has over 52 million hits … the simple lyrics, and the joyful delivery remind us of the things that are most important in our lives.

Have a wonderfilled Thanksgiving weekend, everyone, however you choose to celebrate.