What is Going on in my World

This is my column from the newspaper this week. It is very local but gives you a bird’s eye view into what is happening in my world:

Circumspection Denied: Open Our Libraries

During a conversation with a friend over the weekend, she called me “circumspect”. Not really sure what it meant (though I had an inkling) I looked it up. I knew my friend would never insult me, but I wanted to make sure the word meant what I thought it meant. And it does. According to Volcabulary.com, “circumspect implies a careful consideration of all circumstances and a desire to avoid mistakes and bad consequences.”

I do try to “case the joint” before making a statement to make sure the audience is friendly, and I try to stay as politically correct as possible. In pubic. Of course I have my own strong opinions and biases, but these are generally not for public consumption. But I have to say, the fact that “our” librarians are now entering their fourth week on strike is starting to annoy me. A lot. It is fraying on my nerves and makes me question the fairness of it all. And I am afraid I am no longer circumspect about the situation. I know there are two sides to every issue, or as my husband says three–the third being the truth.

What is the truth in this matter? And what is fair? If life were fair, the librarians would be back in the libraries helping patrons, but instead they are walking the picket line—somewhat confused as to what is really expected of them. From my understanding they are asking for little other than the status quo. Perhaps my understanding is incorrect, but I am wondering why they are not being allowed to fulfill the myriad of duties they perform for you and me on a daily basis.

For the last three decades I and my family have been enthusiastic members of our local library. I took my kids to all the programs for kids when they were little; I have partaken along with my husband in many of the adult offerings; and have been known to haul home as many as twenty books at a time. Some I use for research (for this column); some I read; and some I just enjoy perusing.

I love the library. I find the librarians in Kingsville helpful, friendly, and knowledgeable. I am leading with my heart here—and my heart breaks to see this beloved institution closed during the summer months. So, if anyone out there is listening—please give us back the place so many of us love and use. I cannot be circumspect and careful with my words about this—I need to go out on a limb and state my position unequivocally: it is just wrong to make these purveyors of the written word (and so much more) fight the good fight for their jobs.

Poetry and Prose at the Lake

Went to a poetry/prose reading over the weekend. I always feel so intellectual when I attend one of these things. “Feel” is the operative word here, which means that I do not necessarily understand all the nuances of the sentiments being expressed but I like the challenge of trying to unpuzzle the written word. Poetry is a puzzle that unlike its cardboard cousin can be put together in many different ways and produce as many pictures as there are readers.

The outdoor “reading”  took place at the Woodbridge Farm Retreat overlooking a tranquil Lake Erie. Hosted by Grant Munroe (et al), we listened to old 78’s under a canopy of ancient trees. The poet, Jesse Eckerlin had spent a week writing at the farm, and read from his chapbook of poems called “Thrush”.  I particularly liked the poem called “Emporium” as it brought us face to face with another era ensconced in the modern day. The opening lines: “A disorderly labyrinth of decrepit junk, this florescent bunker hunkered in the north end of the city…” is reminiscent of meandering old stores that we have all experienced with stuff from a decade long gone still for sale. He describes the products as “…either raw materials or house goods from the 40’s or 50’s that have gracelessly fermented into novelty items.” I cannot do Jess justice here, but it is enough for you to know his work is fierce and fearless and fine.

The other reader was Robert Earl Stewart, a former Windsor Star reporter turned poet and prose writer. He read from a book he is now in the process of writing about running. Though the passage he read does not convince me to run, it was filled with a wry look at his personal life and how running saved him. He was in turn funny, honest, and an accomplished wordsmith, who made you hang onto his every word.

It was an ideal way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon. I believe there will be another reading on August 20th. Stay tuned.


Published in: on July 19, 2016 at 6:12 pm  Comments (4)  


sometimes our shadow selves are bigger than we are….

Live & Learn



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Published in: on July 13, 2016 at 9:40 am  Leave a Comment  

From the Heart

I am a huge advocate of letter writing. Does that mean that I write a lot of letters? No. At least not anymore. I used to. Write a lot of letters. Now it is email and messaging and texting. More decades ago than I care to count I was an avid letter writer during the summer months when I was home from university. I missed my roommates and friends and a far flung boyfriend or two, so I would spend a lot of my spare time penning letters that involved perhaps a bit of exaggeration about how wonderful my summer was. In reality I was working at a summer job or two that took up most of my time.

I wrote hundreds of letters and received the same back, because a letter sent was always met with a letter received. Many of the letters I composed were from a small room on the second floor of my family home just down the hall from a bedroom I shared with my sister, Peg. We dubbed this room the “spook room” because before we transformed it with pretty pink rose covered wallpaper it had grey walls and had been used for storage by the former owners. We renovated it and turned it into a tiny getaway, with mattresses on the floor and bright throw pillows. The room had a huge window for its size, and it was in front of that window where I wrote many a letter.

I am reminded of my letter writing days by a book I picked up yesterday at Chapters called “To the Letter” by Simon Garfield. It is subtitled “A celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing”. Not to put too fine a point on the fact that letter writing is a lost art, but the book was only $5, marked down from its original price of $29.

I am guilty of not using a pen and stationary much anymore. If I write a letter, I tap it out on my laptop and then change the font to look like writing instead of printing to make it resemble a more personal note. I know that I fool no one with this tactic, but it does make the presentation a little closer to actual letter writing.

Garfield makes a compelling argument for letter writing—one that has convinced me that I should do more of it—even if it is not handwritten. He says that “Letters have the power to grant us a larger life. They reveal motivation and deep understanding. They are evidential. They change lives, and they rewire history.”

Pretty heavy duty reasons for letter writing, though I do not think that anything I have ever written has changed a life or rewired history—but perhaps I have offered a different perspective or word of encouragement, or even lent a bit of humour to a situation. Garfield believes that at one time “It must have seemed impossible that their worth would ever be taken for granted or swept aside” because “a world without letters would surely be a world without oxygen.” Yet, today many of us rarely put a pen to paper unless we are signing a legal document or for a package that comes to our door. I agree with Garfield that the loss of letter writing has put a strain on literacy and good thinking. The handwriting process is a slow one, and that fact generally leads to more organized thinking—we have the time to think before we commit to paper.

The author also makes an interesting point that one might not come to initially. He believes that writing a book about the magic of letter writing is also writing a book “about kindness.” He says that he is not against emails but calls them a “poke”, and letters more of a “caress” that “stick around to be newly discovered.” He believes that letters are “a form of expression, emotion, and tactile delight we may clasp to our heart.”

I wholeheartedly agree with him. I have kept letters for decades. They are little time capsules that show us what we and our friends and family were like at a certain point in our lives. I doubt that I will return to the handwritten days of yore, but Garfield has convinced me that the written word is one that should be cherished, and one we should share with those we love. Now admit it—it is wonderful to receive a bit of snail mail every once in a while that is not a bill or political propaganda.

Published in: on July 11, 2016 at 8:02 pm  Comments (6)  

Just One Shopping Cart Away



In my constant search for the meaning of life I am often stymied. My efforts are thwarted by life itself. I have finally given in and come to the conclusion that life is a mystery—and not one that is going to be solved by me. But I have found a few truths floating around the other mystery I have not cracked—the Internet. On my Facebook page I found some wise words of advice attributed to Dr. Richard Carlson, author of “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff”.

This paragraph showed up on my Facebook page on a bright Sunday morning, and rather than skip over it, or nod my head in silent agreement then go on with my day, I thought I would share it with you along with a few thoughts of my own. I shared it on Facebook with the comment: “easy for you to say….” Here is the paragraph which took some licence with the good doctor’s guide to a good life:

“Live beneath your means. Return everything you borrow. Stop blaming other people. Admit it when you make a mistake. Give clothes not worn to charity. Do something nice and try not to get caught. Listen more; talk less. Every day take a 30 minute walk. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Be on time. Don’t make excuses. Don’t argue. Get organized. Be kind to people. Be kind to unkind people. Let someone cut ahead of you in line. Take time to be alone. Cultivate good manners. Be humble. Realize and accept that life isn’t fair. Know when to keep your mouth shut. Go for an entire day without criticizing anyone. Learn from the past. Plan for the future. Live in the present. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s all small stuff.”

Now these might seem like clichéd bromides, but if you take them one by one—there is a lot of wisdom here. Personally I would have led with “realize and accept life is not fair”. If you come to this realization early, you are golden. Then when life seems to be fair (or your rendition thereof) you are a happy camper. And when it is not—well, you were prepared.

I try to follow many of these rules, but fail miserably with a few. I try not to argue, but sometimes I cannot keep the beast within that wants to get her point across. Occasionally I do this loudly and semi-aggressively. I prefer to debate but sometimes the debate turns into a dispute. On examination, there is really little satisfaction in an argument, because whoever happens to be holding a different opinion will rarely be swayed by your brilliant argument. Thus the advice to “not argue” is good, but sometimes the will is weak. I am sure that by the time I am 90 I will be able to act more successfully on this advice.

I try to be kind; I let people cut in front of me; I plan on taking a 30 minute walk everyday (as soon as this stupid knee will let me do more than a shuffle); I have pretty good manners; and I love being alone at times. I try to be humble, listen, and keep my mouth shut. The operative word here is try—as I am not always successful.

The one that really hits home for me is to “go for an entire day without criticizing anyone”. I think this one is key to living a happy life. But it is the most difficult one of all. We are a people who seem to need to criticize—our government, our neighbours, our family, our friends—even our acquaintances. I think that what is important is that in our criticism we are defining ourselves and our values. But maybe we should find a different way to go about it. Or at least understand why we are so critical.

Being critical is not always bad. Apparently it has two roots. The assessing, analyzing, evaluating and appraising root is how we compare ourselves to the world and its contents, ideas, and the people who form them. But if criticizing takes on its shadow meaning—the one that censures and condemns, slams and passes unfair judgment, then I agree with the Dr. Carlson–we should try to erase this from our habits.

I have not learned “not to sweat the small stuff”. It is a process, and one that is more difficult for some than others. I know that what I am worried about today will rectify itself in some manner. I just hope that the manner in which it rectifies itself is not one that finds me in jail, on the street sleeping with my piled high shopping cart beside me, or toothless.

Published in: on July 4, 2016 at 3:08 pm  Comments (13)  

Big Red

could not have said it better myself!

Live & Learn


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Published in: on July 1, 2016 at 2:08 pm  Comments (2)