It’s Good News Week!


by Roxanne Tellier

Hey there! are you tired of constantly opening your browser or newspaper and finding an unending stream of reports of mayhem and horrible tragedies? Are you tired of reading about how cruel and nasty humans can be to one another? Have you asked yourself lately, ‘why does the media never have anything nice to say about anyone?’ 

Well, be morose no more, because today I have decided to divert that river of unrelenting malice and instead provide your tired eyes with a little good news.

I’ll take Good News Week Potpourri for $200, Alex …..

First up .. now come ON!  Couldn’t you watch this delightful toddler reunion forever?

Just be careful if you decide to search youtube for more videos of  ‘toddlers hugging’ or ”babies hugging babies.’ You’ll find enough sweetness there to bring on premature diabetes.

Have you ever wondered what North America would look like without the intrepid explorers who opened up the “New World.?” Raise a glass and wish a ‘happy birthday!’ to the Venetian merchant and writer, Marco Polo,  who would be 765 today, had he been gifted with eternal life. (Tell him he doesn’t look a day over 750 .. he’s a little vain)

His book, The Travels of Marco Polo, written around 1300, gave Europeans of the time a first peek at how the Eastern World, including China, India, and Japan, spent their days. Eventually, it caused people like Christopher Columbus to try and find India to see for themselves how the other half lived. Sadly, Mr Polo is today best known for a watery game children like to play in swimming pools. 

Scotland’s own J.K. Rowling, author of the beloved Harry Potter books series, is back in the news again for more of her trademark philanthropy. She’s been ‘memed’ before for having donated enough of her hard earned dosh to charity ($160 million) to fall off the Forbes billionaire list, after having been the first author to even make the cut.

Now she’s making headlines for donating another $18.8 million to the University of Edinburgh, for the further success of the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic she brought into existence in 2010 with her first generous endowment.

The clinic was named after the author’s mother, Anne Rowling, who sadly lost her fight to MS at 45 years of age.

In a Twitter post that went viral around the world, Japanese photographer Yasuto Inagaki caught the magic moment when his son – a major fan of  locomotives – was approached by a conductor of one of the bullet trains at the Nagano Station platform. The conductor gave the boy his hat to try on, and then offered the boy a salute.

Growing up, I never really had that love of trucks and trains and all things mechanical like the guys in the ‘hood did. Just not my thing.

But it would be hard not to appreciate how much joy this train conductor brought to this little fellow when he allowed the child to wear his official hat. 

“While it may have been a small gesture, Ingaki said that it meant more to his son than meeting Mickey Mouse.”

Does it sometimes seem like we just can’t stop bashing our youngun’s?  Millennials often get a bad rap for being isolated and seeming emotionally fragile. The other side of the coin is how many of these kids actually appear to be focused on improving society.

Brittany Wenger of Sarasota, Florida, coupled a love for computer science with an interest in artificial intelligence to invent an AI system that could diagnose breast cancer. In 2012 she developed a program called Cloud4Cancer that is 99.1 percent sensitive in processing fine needle aspirate tests, using AI to find patterns that are far too complex for humans to detect. 

In 2013, 15 year old Suman Mulumudi used a 3-D printer to create a smart phone app and device to optimize stethoscopes. Not only was his new product, the “Steth IO” superior to manual stethoscopes in sound, it could also create a visual graph of the heartbeat sound on the screen. Mulumudi then went on to  invent further medical improvements having to do with procedures meant to clear blocked or narrowed arteries. He again used a 3-D printer to develop his LesionSizer, which helps cardiologists measure lesions without changing or altering their technique.

3-D printers also allowed Will Wagner, principal of West Leyden High School, to create an engineering class project that designs custom prosthetics for people in need—particularly children.  Because kids grow so quickly, parents in many developing countries are unable or unwilling to pay for a succession of prosthetics. 

” Since launching the program on both of their high school campuses seven years ago, students have made more than 75 prosthetics for children in need. Not only has the program helped students to learn about design, it has helped them forge real-world connections with other children around the world. According to Fast Company, Leyden students recently got to video-chat with a Syrian boy who had lost his hand in a war-related accident—and they got to witness the moment he tried on his new prosthetic for the very first time.”

People in the United Kingdom were cheered this week when word of a strange friendship between a dachshund and a baby porcupine made the news.

A zookeeper at the Cotswold Wildlife Park in Oxfordshire, England brought home a baby porcupine she had been hand-rearing after it’s mother rejected the little one. Her little weiner dog, Fig, took an immediate liking to Diablo the porcupette, and they have been BFFs and running partners ever since.

While I’m a big animal lover, my neighbours are not as fond of the local wildlife as I. I know, because they keep telling me. Despite their  pleas, I continue to feed and water the flora and fauna, because life is hard when you’re a small creature that has been forced from it’s habitat to accommodate the huge humans who want to build houses and stores, right where your tree used to grow. The least I can do is provide them with clean water.  

When this photo of a squirrel sniffing wildflowers went viral last week, amateur photographers all over the world rushed to duplicate the photo. It’s beginning to seem like it was the squirrels who invented that whole concept of ‘stopping to smell the roses.’ 

So – are you feeling any happier now, after our trip around the world? According to the 2019 Happiness Report, Canada is the seventh happiest place to live. (Finland is the happiest country, followed by Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The United States slouched into 18th place)

It’s said that the happiest people are the givers, not the takers. So often we forget how little it can take to bring joy into the lives of others. We’re living in ‘interesting times,’ and the days can be unsettling and stress-filled. Sometimes we just need a reminder that life is short, and that being kind is as much a choice as being unkind.

And sometimes it takes a squirrel to remind us that we too, should take a moment to stop and smell the roses while we can.

An Attitude of Gratitude


I am not a religious woman. I see some that take great comfort in their faiths, and I am happy that it makes them happy. To gather together with others of like views and beliefs, to share song and nourishment, is the essence of community.

I also see some who insist that everyone must follow the same faiths and paths that they have chosen, even if it must be enforced by law or violence.  That is an abuse of the same spirit that causes people to want to come together in joy and a common pursuit. A forced faith, brought about by societal or legal pressure, is not a true faith, and is quickly discarded when the pressure to comply is lifted.

taking-for-grantedMy faith, if that is what it is, lies in gratitude. I’m thankful for so much around me, most of which is unearned except by having been born the person I am, in the society I live within. There is nothing remarkable about me. Some parts of my life have been very difficult, but, at other times, life has been very good. The me that lived through all the parts of my life is always grateful, whether it is for a little or a lot, of whatever I’ve got.

In a consumer society, all of the world’s riches are still never enough. We are constantly bombarded with urgings to buy more and more physical goods. This one is new and therefore better! This one is improved!  Buy this makeup/clothing/car and you’ll be prettier/sexier/more acceptable/maybe even loved! And for heaven’s sakes – discard what once was exactly what you thought you needed to achieve happiness. Make room for more stuff that you’ll faintly resent moments after purchase. Because  …

happy-people-are-thankfulStuff doesn’t create happiness.  Happiness cannot be bought. The feelings of comfort, joy, and community rise from not just an acceptance of who and what you are, but from thankfulness for the people you’ve chosen to surround yourself with, who accept you for who and what you are, wherever you are, whatever the conditions.

We are easily distracted. Something shiny will always come along that entices us to look at what we have, and find it wanting. There is no joy or happiness in envy or greed. The need to acquire hides our truest desire – to truly see what we have,  with loving and compassionate eyes, and be thankful, no matter the circumstances.

 

There is a Time and a Space to be Happy .. and Unhappy …


rox lolas July 21 2016 smiling small picSome people think of me as a happy person, who laughs long and hard, and knows how to have a good time. And that’s a large part of who I am.

But I get really, really angry at injustice .. to anyone. Especially injustice to the vulnerable, those who suffer, but are expected to keep a stiff upper lip and their mouths shut before their ‘betters.’ And that includes not only racial minorities, it includes ALL injustice .. to anyone …

I get really, really angry … and I’m allowed to express that anger. Oh sure, I’ll get a few people who tell me to lighten up, or who’ll ignore me, or who’ll snicker about my ‘rants’ … but I’m ALLOWED to get angry. I’m allowed to yell and stamp my feet, and some will agree and some will not .. but I’m allowed to show my anger.

And it doesn’t get me beaten. Or killed. Or arrested for ‘typing while black/native/female/old/young/handicapped/imprisoned/Lefty Liberal.’

My heart breaks every time I see injustice. But I feel the most pain when I see those to whom injustice is a daily reality and a life sentence, being told and shown that they not only have to take it, they have to take it with a smile.

justice will not be served ben franklin

That’s the kind of unthinking injustice that our world tolerates. And I’ll keep getting angry and ranting about it as long as I have breath in my body.

A quote from the article below: “There is a time and a space in which to be angry. There is a time and a space to be happy and joyful. Black people are fully human and we deserve the opportunity to exist in all of our emotions and feelings all the time. NO ONE gets to regulate our humanity —— not even “childhood friends.””

White Policing of Black Emotions

The Journeys of Grace and Frankie


Grace and Frankie is brilliant. Imagine! A series based on the real life, non-medical, issues that 60-70 year olds deal with! Who’d have thought we’d ever get that open minded?

Grace and Frankie NetflixThe Netflix offering stars Jane Fonda (Grace) and Lily Tomlin (Frankie) as the wives of husbands, Sam Waterston (Sol) and Martin Sheen (Robert) who have recently come out to their wives as long time lovers … of each other. Legal business partners for four decades, they’ve been concealing their affection for each other for twenty years, in an attempt to shield their families from pain and scandal.

What happens when a 40 year marriage collapses? How do you face the rest of your live? Will you be alone until you die? The series looks at the reality of women suddenly divorced against their wills and expectations.

So many issues are ‘outed’ in these thirteen perfect episodes, so many suppositions tested. Right off the top, we’re somehow supposed to be kinder to the two men who break up their long time marriages because of how they have suffered, hiding their love for each other. Because, you know, socially enlightened.

But what if the hidden love had been between the couples? If Frankie had fancied Robert, and Grace, Sol, would society look on as approvingly when the split occurred? If either of the men had broken up their marriages over a twenty year affair with a woman, we would be incensed. The fact that they have hidden their affair with each other from their spouses should be just as reprehensible. But we can’t say that, because “gay is the new black.”

So the men, two very successful lawyers, essentially walk away with their lives intact, even improved. The wives, however, receive no sympathy, although thGrace and Frankie on beachey do receive their share of the marital finances. The fact remains that the two women are discarded, left behind with no warning, to begin new lives at the age of 70.

Speaking of finances, one episode revolves around the two men, who are divorce lawyers, beginning the usual tactics advised in a break up; they cancel their wives credit cards without notice. It is left to the Grace character to remind her husband that he is behaving as though she is his opponent, rather than acknowledging their long, and supposedly loving, history.

Grace and Frankie w SolWhich is another factor, a continuing plot line; Frankie and Sol were best friends for forty years. They were genuinely in love, and created a life together that encompassed their hobbies and habits. That longevity was a comfort that both have trouble leaving behind.

Frankie, an aging hippie, is not much interested in finding another partner. But Grace, an uptight and upright retired business woman, who is accustomed to success and male admiration, needs someone to be with, in part sexually, but also because she feels more comfortable being in a relationship.

Grace and Frankie no braHang on, did I just say sexually? Why yes, I did. These two women are sexually interested and active, despite being at an age long past being considered viable. Regardless of age and aging bodies, they continue to have normal sex drives, and have no intention of contenting themselves with cats or crocheting.

Grace does have a problem, though, with continuing a lifetime habit of acquiescing to her partner’s needs. She hates golf, hated it throughout her marriage, but golfed because her husband enjoyed the game. With her new partner, she continues the charade until Frankie forces Grace to realize that she’s not being honest to herself or her new man, and in the long run, neither will be happy if they’re living a lie that favours one partner’s happiness over the other’s.

The grown children of both families are well-developed characters as well. Frankie’s two sons are adopted; one is African American, the other a recovering addict. Grace’s two daughters are upper middle class blondes, with outwardly perfect lives, but inward torment. The children are not comfortable with their fathers’ change of partners, but can’t really say what they feel in a society that is desperately pretending to embrace alternate lifestyles.

This is a wonderful series. I binge watched it over a day and a half. Like potato chips, I couldn’t eat just one episode.

There are truths to be found in every half hour. Women have it worse than men after a divorce, and aging women have even more to deal with post-marriage. We assume a great deal when we are in a privileged situation. To be married and comfortable financially are the goals many people have. What happens when the goal posts are moved is what makes this series so new and refreshing.

Grace and Frankie w costarsThe twist in the tale: it was recently revealed that Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, the titular Grace and Frankie, discovered that they were being paid the same as their supporting cast, Sam Waterston and Martin Sheen. Apparently Hollywood has as big of a gender pay gap as the rest of the working world.

http://www.themarysue.com/grace-and-frankie-pay-gap-wtf-netflix/

At a Nexflix press event, Fonda admitted that she and Tomlin are not happy with the pay scale. Tomlin added, “No. The show is not ‘Sol and Robert’—it’s Grace and Frankie.”

So, on the one hand, Netflix produced a show starring two interesting older women, a rarity indeed, but on the other hand, didn’t see fit to compensate them beyond an even level of pay to their male co-stars. That’s a sad commentary indeed on pay equity.

I sincerely hope that the pay issue is settled, because I loved the adventures of Frankie and Grace, and the final episode left me hanging. I want more!

Running On Empty


It’s minus -21C today – that’s 5 below zero in Fahrenheit – and it’s so cold my cats have cat I has a sadgone beyond being angry and have become despondent, either staring sadly into space or denying the existence of the world with their heads smacked up against a wall. I’m sitting at my desk, wrapped in a black flannel poncho, and wondering where I’ve left my fingerless gloves.

I sprang from my bed this morning, rested and brimming with ideas of ‘great social and political import,’ but instead of researching, I’m waiting for oatmeal to cook – this is not the sort of day you face on an empty stomach.

On days like this I am very grateful for the science and technology that allows me to stay warm. I’m over the moon that I can flip a switch and have light to see by, and flip another switch to start up my computer and read mail and messages from family and friends. I’m really pleased that I have warm clothing that just rests in my closet until I want to wear it, and I’m grateful for the closet being part of a house that has walls and a roof that keep out the worst of the cold.

Silly-HolidaysWe often take for granted what less fortunate people would consider luxuries. We set aside a day here and a day there to give lip service to the giving of thanks, the honouring of lovers, parents, veterans and a host of others to whom we see fit to throw a bone. “Here you go, secretaries. It’s not much, but we’re calling today National Secretary Day! As soon as you’ve read that card, I’ll have a coffee with two sugars. Thanks for being you!”

Our culture has moulded us into people that can never have enough. Everywhere we turn we’re told that we’re missing out on something – a new power drill, an iPhone6, a bigger or tidier home, a more luxurious car, vacations in the sun, and most importantly … money, money, money!

and then we'll get himEven though studies have definitively shown that those with heaps of money are not significantly happier than those with enough to comfortably cover their needs, we’re still told that it is only with the amassing of wealth that we can really be content.

In reality, rich people are not all tanning by their dollar-shaped pools while chatting casually with the men and women we’ve elevated to media stardom. They’re far more likely to be spending their time trying to get yet more money, in any way possible, and are probably more anxious and hostile than you are when trying to decide whether to go with a name brand tin of peas or the generic house brand.

Scrooge-PorpoiseBeing addicted to money is like being addicted to drugs; at first, a small amount gives you a buzz, but as time goes by, you need higher and higher doses to maintain the high. And if money is your drug, that upward spiral contains another component – a need to have more than anyone else, to have it all, regardless of whom it damages. Exorbitant, mindless wealth precludes empathy towards those who struggle to survive on minimum wage or government assistance.

“The peasants have no bread!” “Then let them eat cake,” tittered Queen Marie Antoinette. Her joke, rather than having them rolling in the aisles, soon had heads rolling from the guillotine instead.

That anecdote is likely only the fabrication of Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiographical, “Confessions,” but has been used ever since as a cautionary tale of the perils of great wealth and self-indulgence in the face of social unrest. One would think the lesson would be self-explanatory, but apparently the accumulation of wealth does not always translate to the accumulation of historical knowledge.

In Canada, we can point to arriviste Kevin O’Leary, who, with a net worth of US$300 million that the true 1% would consider pocket change, can’t seem to stop patting himself on the back. When he’s not crowing over his own wealth, he’s exhorting the poor of the world to pull themselves up by their socks – even if they don’t own any socks.

But of course, that’s the dream we’ve been sold since the Industrial Revolution. “Come, work for me, make me wealthy and I will share my largesse. You too can be like me, all you need do is work hard, save your money, and keep your nose to the grindstone.” And we bought it, for decades. We called it the Protestant work ethic, and called anyone who didn’t agree lazy and stupid.

scrooge silly pleasures“The Protestant work ethic (or the Puritan work ethic) is a concept in theology, sociology, economics and history which emphasizes hard work, frugality and diligence as a constant display of a person’s salvation in the Christian faith, in contrast to the focus upon religious attendance, confession, and ceremonial sacrament in the Catholic tradition.

The phrase was initially coined in 1904–5 by Max Weber in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” (Wikipedia.org)

We forget that his essay was his observations on the Germany of his time, and not a ‘how-to’ manual. Weber considered himself agnostic. His argument was that Catholicism, with its emphasis on doing good works in the hope of eternal salvation, rather than pursuing wealth for its own sake, impeded the development of the capitalist economy in the West.

Capitalism depends upon everyone in the society believing in the same goals. When the West had a booming middle class, there was room within the prosperity to dream of a country free of traditional constraints. We could reach out a hand to those who needed help, be they poor or infirm, or young or old. That sense of community resulted in government safety nets and a surge of infrastructure building that connected and included all of the people, regardless of their economic place.

North America looked at what they had wrought in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, and found it good. Good enough to not make a priority again until it started to collapse around us.

glittering TorontoIt’s been decades since the roads and bridges and communities were put in place, decades in which the needs of the wealthy became more important in politics than the needs of the tax payer. In Toronto, once Canada’s most glittering city, our highways are clogged with commuters, while our transit system is woefully inadequate to shuttle workers from their homes to their jobs. The local politicians have been arguing about whether to tear down the eastern end of the Gardiner Expressway since the 1990’s. And the majority of our subway system, which opened in 1954, is held together with patches and prayers.

business and politicsThere’s blame enough for everyone at this sorry state. Although we love to complain about ‘the system,’ every aspiring politician has to present a platform that will be seen to not only address community issues, but cost the tax payer less. Once in office, the newly elected official can point to budgetary concerns, and remind us all that there aren’t any funds since he’s cut taxes, just as we requested. Or that they are working on a solution, but we mustn’t hope to see real change until some year in the future where they will hopefully no longer be held accountable for the project and the additional costs incurred during the delay.

Politics on crosswordFor corporations, political concerns are less about the community, and more about expediting the accumulation of more wealth. Despite needing an infrastructure that allows workers to arrive at the work place on time, and roads and other delivery systems to get product to consumers, the emphasis is placed squarely on tax cuts that they have convinced politicians, and even many consumers, will result in a more equitable distribution of wealth.

Corporations spend billions on pushing forward measures that will deny workers fair wages and benefits, and will spend yet more on media essentially blackmailing consumers into giving them what they demand. Health care, no. More tax cuts, yes. Or we’ll take our ball (company, franchise) and go home. Many even believe that we have no other alternative but to agree.

The last several decades of austerity for the general public, but unheard of wealth for the few, is slowly shaping us into a timid, obedient mass, who are only valued as long as we are able to further enrich business through our labour and consumption of goods and services.

hedonic-treadmillThe pursuit of happiness has become a joyless pursuit of money, dooming its followers to an endless treadmill of greed and desperation. You’ll never catch up to the 1%, no matter how hard you try, but real happiness and satisfaction can be had in a life that encompasses empathy, generosity, and gratitude for what you’ve achieved.