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For Trudeau . . . all the world’s a stage

Leadership is about more than photo ops.
Leadership is about more than photo ops.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s previous experience as a high-school drama teacher is being put to good use these days as his career seems to be an endless series of photo-ops and fan selfies. We’re delighted that our handsome, follicley gifted, young Prime Minister is recognizable on the world stage, represents our country well and seems to be in touch with current issues. However, perhaps it’s now time he got out his pocket calculator and sat down to do some actual work, like Kevin Kline’s character did in the movie about a substitute U.S. President called “Dave”.

Thanks for the legacy.
Thanks for the legacy.

In 1944 when my father was eighteen years old there was a war on and soldiers were granted special dispensation to vote. At the time, his grandmother cautioned him against voting Liberal because “all they do is spend money recklessly”. She certainly seems to have known what she was talking about and her advice has been validated by Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s fiscal policies. Trudeau senior (Pierre) famously started Canada’s spiraling financial decline and we’re still trying to dig our way out of that debt. Our current federal and provincial leaders still spend like drunken sailors with no regard for the consequences.

Dress rehearsals have ended. The honeymoon’s over, Justin. Roll up your sleeves, spread those bills out on the diningroom table and get busy figuring out how you’re going to get our budget in order. Any idiot knows that borrowing on your Visa is a sucker’s game and there comes a time when we have to pay for such foolishness. Set up a system of audits, checks and accountability that is transparent and available to the Canadian taxpayer. It’s our money and we have a right to a say in how it’s spent and where it’s going. You have a majority and no longer need to buy votes. Our grandparents and great grandparents lived through the Great Depression and implementing a few of their pecuniary practices would do us all some good. That iPhone that you love so much for selfies also has a built-in calculator. Use it.

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Now’s the time for a great American President

Where’s a John F. Kennedy or a Franklin Roosevelt when the American people really need one. After watching the Trump/Clinton debate last night, I came away with one thought: thank heaven I don’t have to cast a vote in the American election. I wouldn’t want to bear any responsibility for the future of the United States based on my choice on election day. Whatever the outcome, the results are going to be scary for the American people, although I would love to be proven wrong.  It’s amazing how they arrived at two equally disliked candidates, but that’s democracy at work. I can see the book just waiting to be written: “The Rise and Fall of the United States of America”.

Then, this morning I burst out laughing when I read the editorial cartoon in today’s Globe and Mail called “Pick one” by Brian Gable. I couldn’t have said it better.

cartoon1

 

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Canadian author investigates the dark side

feathersSupporting Canadian authors is easy when given books such as Black Feathers to read. I first heard about this book by Robert J. Weirsema when he was interviewed by Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio. The central character is a sixteen-year-old runaway named Cassandra Weathers who turns up in downtown Victoria on Vancouver Island and is quickly absorbed into the street scene. She is befriended by Skylark who helps Cassie learn where to panhandle most effectively, where to sleep, where to get a shower and where to find a community of friends.

Throughout the book we are offered glimpses of Cassie’s earlier life but the truth is withheld in the interests of suspense. There are many memories of a happy family life along with unspoken trauma which resulted in mental health issues and treatment.  When a serial killer threatens their community of damaged street people, a police officer called Harrison, who has a daughter of his own, recognizes her vulnerability and takes a particular interest in Cassie.

lullabiesThe author paints a vivid picture of street life during a Canadian winter (albeit Victoria) and his characters are so well drawn we are able to get inside the mind of a killer. Black Feathers is not an uplifting book but it is satisfying in the end. As I was reading it I was reminded of another excellent book with a similar theme, Lullabies For Little Criminals written by the very talented Canadian Heather O’Neill. Well-written and a page-turner, Black Feathers uncovers a side of life most of us will never see or experience. It’s a mystery, an observation of the complexities of mental illness and a story of justice. For anyone who has been to Victoria, you’ll recognize the landmarks and street names which helps your mind’s eye wander around the downtown area. All in all, an interesting read. And, it will make you want to be more sympathetic to street people and toss some Toonies into their hat.

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Big Magic encourages our passions in a beautiful way

magic1Anyone in need of some morale boosting or an injection of self-confidence and motivation should immediately pick up and read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, Creative Living Beyond Fear. The fact I enjoyed this book so much is made more significant by the fact I hated her earlier Eat, Pray, Love which I found to be elitist and rather boring. I never even finished it. She really struck a chord in this book, however, with her words of encouragement, relevant anecdotes and sound advice. My own personal passion is blogging, despite the fact I get little to no feedback from my readers and at times I’m tempted to pack it in. But as Gilbert reminded me, it’s what I like to do whether anyone else likes my blog or not and that’s what keeps me going.

Gilbert shares the wisdom she picked up through working at various odd jobs to support her writing and her final success as a writer. While the message is aimed at creative types, the philosophy is easily transferable. Reading through Big Magic I came away with some solid advice worth sharing:

Do not be discouraged or give up if no one else appreciates your work as long as you enjoy producing it.
Don’t allow a lack of recognition or external support to discourage you from creating what you love.
  1. Do not expect to make a living at doing something you love. If it happens, you’re one of the lucky ones. Most of us have to maintain “day jobs” to support our passion.
  2. Rejection of your creation (writing, art, music, crafts, whatever) by others does not mean your work is not valid and meaningful. The fact that you loved doing it is what is important.
  3. Perseverance is not just a cliché. Remember all the rejection letters famous writers like J.K.Rowling got before being recognized. No one will advocate for your work better than you. And persevere in practising your craft. That’s how we get better.
  4. While we all need some idle time to clear our minds and recharge our batteries, prolonged idleness is a recipe for negative behaviours.

blogger5There’s so much more great advice in this book with many personal anecdotes to explain how Gilbert acquired this wisdom. She acknowledges that it’s a myth to believe, “All you need to do is to follow your passion, and everything will be fine.” That’s naive and misleading. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be happy following your passion. Just don’t bet the farm on making a living at it. Enjoy it for what it fulfills in you and appreciate that. The book was a bit slow at the beginning but it soon gained traction and my multiple book marks attest to its merit. I highly recommend “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert. You’ll feel uplifted and encouraged and that’s enough to make any book worthwhile reading.

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“New research” proves what women always knew about hot flashes

flash6Just like the Bristol Stool Chart which has seven categories to describe bowel movements, science has now miraculously come up with a similar grading system for the levels of hot flashes experienced by women in mid-life. It’s called the SWAN (Study of Women’s Health Across the Nation) study. This revelation is hardly genius or new as most women have known for centuries that there are different levels of suffering from whew to hose-me-down-immediately-before-I-ignite. For the record, here’s what the experts came up with to describe the varying degrees of hot flashes:

  1. Early onset hot flashers who start before menopause and finish around menopause.
  2. Late onset women start after menopause.
  3. Lucky few who never suffer a single hot flash.
  4. Super flashers which is self-explanatory.

flash1Sadly, I fall into the fourth category, along with most of my friends. I’ve been having hot flashes for more than twenty years now and don’t see an end in sight. At their worst in my late forties, I experienced them several times each hour, 24/7. Combined with lack of sleep and gaining twenty pounds, I was a wreck until hormone therapy miraculously and immediately allowed me to function like a normal human being again. But the memories remain. I clearly recall sitting in my office at work with rivers of sweat running down my spine, my neck, my chest, my scalp, even the fronts of my legs in pantyhose. I was a walking, talking nuclear meltdown.

There are relatively few natural remedies that work.
There are relatively few natural remedies that work.

I personally know of only one person who did not get hot flashes and believe me, she’s an anomaly. The rest of us are veterans. Years ago we tossed blankets and duvets, started dressing in easily removable layers, installed ceiling fans in every room of our homes, and permanently turned down the thermostat. What no one tells young women is that hot flashes are not necessarily a temporary inconvenience lasting a few months or maybe a year. More than twenty years later, I still get them although they’ve been reduced to three or four a day. I remember chatting with a woman in her eighties at my mother-in-law’s funeral who said she still gets them. Not encouraging.

The experts have further categorized the degree of severity according to race, weight and cholesterol levels. But as any Boomer woman knows, we don’t need SWAN or genealogical charts to track our discomfort. We need fans, ice packs, breathable light clothing and occasionally a fire hose. If the energy we emit during a hot flash could be corralled into reusable power, there would be no more nuclear plants, inefficient windmills in farmers’ fields or insane hydro bills. It totally would solve our energy crisis but until men start having hot flashes, we’ll just have to power through and keep running the air conditioning in winter. There’s no measure of comfort but relief.

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The bad guys are everywhere. Be very, very careful.

fraud1It’s not enough that we’re constantly plagued by duct cleaning telemarketers, phone scams and fraud artists presenting themselves as agents of Canada Revenue Agency or our bank, we also have to endure the endless number of criminals trying to steal our on-line personal information. It’s a virtual shark tank.

In the past week alone I’ve received two potential threats to my on-line personal security (not including the theft of my wallet). The first email was someone claiming to be from Apple wanting to verify that I’d ordered from iTunes and asking for further information by clicking on their linked website. Upon checking independently with Apple it was confirmed that the email was fraudulent and I forwarded the offending information on to their phishing people. Today I received another one. This time from Amazon with whom I do a fair bit of business. I’d recently updated my information with the real Amazon and somehow the bad guys detected that and asked me to again provide them with my credit card information. I became suspicious and contacted Amazon who confirmed it was fraudulent and I forwarded them the site information.

It' not only innocent old ladies who are victimized by fraud. Be very, very careful.
It’s not only vulnerable old ladies who are victimized by fraud. Be very, very careful.

We all know people who’ve been tricked, including many of our friends who are experienced in the business world. There are so many people out there who lack the knowledge to recognize these scams and it’s scary to think of the level of success these people are achieving. Every piece of communication we receive must now be carefully scrutinized and it’s worth taking the time to contact the institutions you do business with whenever you are contacted. It’s hard to keep up but always be suspicious and vigilant.

P.S. No sooner had I finished writing this when I read an essay in this morning’s Globe & Mail about a woman who succumbed to ordering a scam face cream on-line (click here to read it) after her partner of twenty-three years dumped her. She’ll likely be billed ’til the end of time. The injustices never end.

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