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Bill’s Life Lessons 101

 In my previous blogs I have taken to using short quotes as a bit of a punch line at the end of the piece. But this time I have decided to offer some of the pithy sayings I heard used over and over during my youth. Though they were not original to my Dad, Bill, they did nonetheless speak to the wisdom of this humble man who did not have the benefit of a lot of formal education. He was born during WWI, survived on the prairies during the depression years and served in the medical corps of the Air Force during WWII. So he had a lot of life experience before my brothers and I arrived on the scene.

As with most families during the fifties and sixties, we were able to enjoy family excursions once we could afford a car. Ours was not always the most reliable vehicle on the road but it did afford us some freedom to leave the city without relying on Greyhound. And on those trips, we as children had no idea of time or mileage. The boys and I could often be heard chanting, “Are we there yet?” Bill would always reply,

“It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive.”

That remark often preceded a camping trip, where for example, we had to endure a night freezing in the car, clothing and sleeping bags soaking wet courtesy of a flash flood that had run through the tent – a tent pitched in the dark at the bottom of a ravine. Obviously, those unenviable spots had remained vacant until our arrival, other more seasoned campers having found higher ground during the daylight. I think I was in my teens before I realized that motels were available to those other than truckers hauling semi-loads of goods through the Rockies.

But upon reflection, I can see where Bill was coming from with that remark. It had nothing to do with his navigational skills but rather it was his philosophy of living each moment as it came. We cannot go back and change anything in the past, and the future is not yet ours, but there is only ‘what there is’. Still, I wish that I could go back now and relive those moments with my parents and siblings. I value so much the simplicity of those days.

“I don’t agree with what he said, but I would fight to the death his right to say it.”

With that bit of sage advice, we might fast forward to the present day where political correctness prevails to the extreme. Bill was a devout Christian, a tireless church worker, and would never have denied his commitment to his faith in deference to today’s popular (read liberal) attitudes. Bill was the product of an immigrant family, a family who like many thousands of others built this great country. And if he was here today, he would be the first one to admit that the country has benefited by the diversity of the population. But he would also have been disturbed by the fact that we are trending dangerously towards an imbalance wherein the priorities of the minorities are taking precedence over those of the majority. Sixty–eight percent of people in this country profess a Christian faith, though church attendance does not reflect that statistic. Daily prayer in schools has been abandoned. I suggest that most of us would be okay with a general nod to a higher power, whatever that might be, within the collective. Well maybe not those who think they have just materialized here on this planet. We can assume some folks would fall into that category. But why all the fuss? And what would it hurt to spend a few quiet moments each day reflecting on something other than one’s own ego?

“When my ship comes in, I’ll be at the airport.”

While this comment was not too hard to understand given that Bill’s home was located several hundred miles from the nearest body of salt water, we can read between the lines and gain a little insight into a life that had its financial challenges. A discharge from the Air Force at the end of WWII led to a couple of government jobs and eventually a career with an oil company. But there were some lean times. And though he never used the old cliché, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, in his case his advancement was probably a lot about who he knew. I don’t think Bill had an enemy in the world and he would often advise us that you should never burn a bridge with your fellow man. Down the road you never knew when that person might come to have an impact on your life. I now realize what he meant, that one’s path does cross with that of others and there is a reason why we meet at those intersections. We are meant to meet certain individuals during our life and our interaction with them has a purpose. And speaking of purpose, this is what he had to say about that.

“Everyone has a purpose in life even if it’s only to serve as a horrible example.”

One doesn’t have to look too far to find countless examples to support this old bromide. History has provided stories of many such folk whose performances here on earth did not even rise to the level of mediocrity. I leave this subject to the imagination of the reader for each will have a personal inventory. Perhaps instead, we should all compile a list of those in our life whom we admire for setting good examples. Bill is at the top of my list.

In the sixty-one years I spent with Bill, I learned a lot from this patient and hard-working man. He died in his ninetieth year having spent just three weeks as a hospital patient during all those years. He instilled in my brothers and me a strong work ethic, the joy of family and the incalculable value of a sense of humour. Years ago when he and my mother moved to a new home, their next door neighbour stopped by to say hello. My brothers, who do bear a strong familial resemblance to one another, were there. Extending a hand to the neighbour Bill said, “Hi, I’m Larry and this is my son Darryl and my other son, Darryl. (Only those who recall the Bob Newhart years will understand this flash from the past). The neighbour looked from one to the other and then to Dad and asked, “Are they twins?”

So tams, toques and turbans off to you Bill, the most decent man I ever knew. You kept us all on the straight and narrow all those years, especially the neighbour who had fewer names to remember whenever any of Bill’s kin were about. I’m sure he pondered frequently my parent’s lack of imagination when doling out matching names for their children – Carol and her two brothers, Darryl and Darryl.

Thanks Bill.

 

 

 

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MAYBE I SHOULD GET NETFLIX

So, I have just spent the past week trying to negotiate with my provider for better and more economical cable TV, internet and cell phone service. While I do not mean to disparage the efforts of the last representative I spoke with (for in the end she was the only one who took the time to help), there are still things that have not been resolved. And I don’t have it in me to sit on the phone for another two hours to go over every excruciating detail with yet another person. The happy electronic tones of press one, press two are still playing tennis in my head. Call me crazy, but I have trouble with a communication company that can’t seem to communicate.

My concerns about a system that has now become a necessary evil in our modern society are three-fold.

The first problem is the enormous hit to the pocketbook each month. Enough said.

The second problem is the availability of decent programming for people over thirty. And I am well over thirty. I am no prude, but I maintain that the use of gratuitous sex and violence just for the sake of filling air time does not entertainment make. Way back in the day, much was left to the viewer’s imagination, particularly in regard to sexual encounters. Things did not have to be spelled out in graphic detail. Most of us somehow figured it out in the front seat of a ’59 Chevy. My kids are reading this and in today’s abbreviated lingo are screaming OMG, Mom, TMI! Oops sorry, dears. I found you all under cabbage leaves. Yes I did!

People may have suspected by the goofy grin on Sammy’s face that he and Rita had been ‘doing it’, but there was a policy much like the one once boasted by the American military – don’t ask and don’t tell.

As for the violence, it was mostly confined to Saturday morning cartoon viewing. Unlike today’s victims, Wile E. Coyote always resurfaced after every encounter with the Road Runner, with his ears and limbs intact and ready to face another showdown with his resourceful and mischievous aforementioned nemesis. Most of us do not need the sight of body parts being jettisoned across the screen to convince us of someone’s untimely demise.

The third problem I have in dealing with service providers is that not only do the left and right hand have conflicting agendas; they do not even seem to be attached to the same body. While one representative declares vehemently that a certain facet of the service is available, the next will assert that it is not – has been discontinued – was never an option – may be initiated down the road. Do these people not work from the same handbook? Left handbook? Right handbook?

I checked the TV guide one evening to see if there was something moderately entertaining available. The same program, one featuring the above mentioned sex and violence, was showing on five channels. Okay then, maybe a reality show. Hoarding? No thanks. Those programs make me want to catalogue all the nuts and bolts in the garage and plunge myself into a vat of disinfectant. Human interest? What’s that? A program about people who have a fear of public washrooms? While I have great sympathy for those folks who may find themselves in serious distress after carelessly wandering away from their own facilities, I have to ask myself, “In what sphere does a program like that meet even the marginal standard for entertainment?” It merely calls to mind the need for that oh-so-fashionable-old-people’s lingerie.

How about a sitcom? There have been, and still are, a few good ones. And I’m all for clever dialogue that skirts the edge of raunchy or has a double meaning, but listening to bathroom humour and kid’s put-downs of adults while anticipating a canned laugh-track, makes me long for Leave it to Beaver. But just as an aside, who thought ‘Cleaver’ was a good name for this squeaky clean, all American family?

There are of course the cooking shows, though my interest in cooking at this stage of my life is minimal. Besides, on the odd occasions when I have tuned in to watch some of those battling chefs, I am somehow reminded of the Hatfields and McCoys. It didn’t take me long  to lose my appetite for both the candied tripe with cucumber sauce and the pepper spray of sniping remarks. Does anyone remember the Galloping Gourmet and his regular noshing?

And then there are the programs featuring the antics of celebrities – their angst, their latest romantic encounters, their success or failure in the trenches of rehab. For the most part, I have no idea who those folks are or why they are heir to such fame, but I am always sympathetic when at the supermarket I see by the tabloids that most are suffering from irreconcilable differences with their current partners. “Air miles?” I hear the clerk say while I ponder the plight of Curtis and Margo. “No.” I reply, “I only travel in my mind.” It’s always fun to watch the clerk’s reaction.

Every so often the providers give you a tease with a three-month trial of another option. And just when you think there might be something worth watching, it’s gone unless you want to pay an additional $5.99 a month. See problem number one. Guess it’s now back to re-run episodes of Petticoat Junction, which in hindsight were not that great the first time around. Laws a mercy!

So, after all the time spent last week there are still some wrinkles. I still have nine sports channels even though my athletic interest is confined to making it up the basement stairs with a basket of laundry. The promise of channels more in keeping with my interests are still in the wind but a ten dollar credit on one feature resulting in a seven dollar charge on another puts me in the positive by three bucks.  Should I pick up one of those tabloids?

So, in the end I guess I’ll have to learn not to sweat the small stuff, or as Eleanor Roosevelt so sagely put it – “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

 

 

 

 

There’s Something Happening Here

I have this earworm (music, lyric looping in your brain) playing in my head since the middle of November.  Buffalo Springfield’s song “For What It’s Worth” circa 1967. (click the link below to hear the song.)

For What It’s Worth

Usually an earworm is a voice from my inner spirit.  What do you want me to know earworm?  What’s your point?  Why are you repeating in my mind?

 “There’s something happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down”

I will admit I tried to ignored the US election.   Not my country,  I can’t vote and quite frankly, I tired of the pessimistic, nasty tone.   A total ostrich move on my part, but come November the earworm to that song was stuck.

The first chorus opened a vivid memory.

 “Stop children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

I was ten, 1967.  It seemed to be turbulent times thru the eyes of this child.  Newspaper stories of civil unrest, TV reporters ducking behind berms as the jungle reverberated with rapid gun fire, all a world away from my safe home. The constant images of the chaos, the disrespect, the inhuman human bashing, kicking and beating protesters of all colors as they were arrested for upsetting the establishment.   Such violent and vicious confrontations – a disconcerting, confusing contrast to the peaceful life I led in a tranquil rural community.

It was dark, probably winter, early morning, me, sitting in the back of the big school bus bouncing down a rutted gravel road when I first heard the strum, the beat, the lyric.   These words seared into my brain and yes, apparently my soul.

 “Stop children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

There’s battle lines being drawn


Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

It was a wakeup call for me – pay attention, things may not be as they appear.  Ask questions about why people are so upset and mean?  I thank God for good parents and good teachers who helped me learn HOW TO THINK about what I saw, read, heard on the news not WHAT TO THINK.   They helped by questioning where I got facts to support my views and asked what were the basis for my assumptions.  They listened (sometimes) patiently as I railed against this or that, called me out when facts or opinions were fuzzy, all in an effort to help me make sense of the world I saw thru the media, a world so different from my  experience .

Travel to 2017, some 50 years later….

It was the Sunday (two days after an inauguration of a President)   I was casually sipping coffee, two screening between my laptop and the TV.  Scrolling thru Facebook, half watching an American news show when I understood the repetitive message of that song.

“Paranoia strikes deep

Into your life it will creep

It starts when you’re always afraid

You step out of line, the man come and take you away”

I started to notice an unusual amount of outrageous FB posts were showing up on my news feed. The posts vastly outnumbered the cat pictures, the cute kids, and the funny memes. They had been replaced with articles of a more polarizing, misleading, outright fabrication from both the right, the left and some well off in “what the bleep” field. They ran from the totally absurd to a complete factual manipulation complete with opinion pieces penned by “anonymous authorities.”   How can you be anonymous and be an authority?

But the kicker, my heart’s call to action, the reason my earworm was morphing into a shouting fire-breathing dragon happened on the appearance of the fake Blonde Bomb – the appointed truth speaker, the power-hungry “con” shouting her way, the former campaign manager for “Lying Ted Cruz”.   She, Blonde Bomb, was now the appointed, the official, White House Liar for The Chief.

Blonde Bomb had the audacity to show up in my living room on a relaxed Sunday morning, with an agenda to overtake the media with her spin on the real truth.  She proceeded to spin, to tell her nation, my nation, the world, total lies!  The shrill sounds of  blatant media manipulation woke up that ten-year-old’s memory and she started screaming “LIAR, LIAR PANTS- ON- FIRE!

 “Stop children what’s that sound, everybody look what’s going down.

There’s battle lines being drawn


Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

Adulting my inner child I asked the question “Where can I as a citizen of the world use my energy to stop the obvious start of a regime of tyranny?”  I turned to my attention to FB. How do I stop the spread of these hurtful twists of truth?  By making a commitment to stop sharing, liking or posting anything without a fact check. The sharing of misinformation stops here, with me.  We, as a free, open society, must take responsibility and stop casually spreading falsehoods and half-truths because it fits with our political viewpoint.  How will anyone, any political party, any government ever solve problems if we are not hearing the facts?

Have I been guilty of this same thoughtless sharing, liking, behavior thru social media?    Yes, I’ve been duped.  But now  I refuse to become clickbait for a “like” here or a “share” there without questioning, where, what, why, who or how – is this factual or manipulated?  I want to call out the manipulators like a ten-year-old child, chanting, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire!”

My hope for the sake of democracy, in fact our humanity  is that we share the deep sense of responsibility to disseminate truthful, factual information.  W ,now more than ever, have the power to speak up in so many forms. We can take the time for forethought in discerning the truth from fiction.  I am acutely aware of that ten-year-old child who is  calling out clearly,  LIAR, LIAR PANTS ON FIRE (of course in the most grown up respectful way.)  Wink, wink!

 “There’s something happening here

What it is ain’t exactly clear

There’s a man with a gun over there

Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound

Everybody look what’s going down….” 

 

Below a link to youtube, 1967, song by Buffalo Springfield .

 

For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield

Please check out the following links to some sites for fact checking your  Facebook posts. 

www.snopes.com

www.politifact.com

www.factcheck.org

www.fullfact.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Out of the Gate

My good friend and I, having now found ourselves single and with time on our hands, have decided to… well – ‘blog’.

Fortunately the other half of this blogging sisterhood is much more skilled in the technical world than I am and has been able to set this all in motion. It is rumoured that in this age of compulsive communication, I am one of just a handful of people in the free-world whose cell phone has more dust on it than the relics in an Egyptian tomb. That I pay more than a few dollars a month to the phone company for a device that is also rapidly becoming a relic, is a source of confusion to my family.

But in an effort to drag myself into the new age, I got out my Funk and Wagnall’s to look up the word ‘blog’. Okay, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. I’m getting there.

‘Blog’ – a regularly updated website or web page typically run by an individual or small group in an informal or conversational manner. A truncation of the expression weblog.

Then I had to look up truncation.

I thought it sounded a little like writing letters to someone and never getting a reply. Who needs that aggravation anymore?  And whatever happened to what’s-his-name, anyway?

But I digress.

Becoming single and being thrust into a world seemingly designed for duos has been an eye-opener and something I had never thought about before it was a reality for me. The terms ‘double occupancy’ and ‘two-for-one’ glare out at me as I contemplate undertaking even everyday things. I find myself avoiding those things that I had once done routinely. Some days it is just an effort to shop and cook for one person. But if I’ve learned one thing these past months, it is this. Life is too short to lament what cannot be changed and though at times a big boohoo can feel really good in the moment, you soon realize that life can only go one of two ways. You can stay in that moment or you can move on. Your choice.

And so it was decided that we two single gals birth this blog. And think about it. In what other era could women sitting about in their nightwear provide amusement for others without leaving home?

Well, perhaps there have been others, but I’m dead sure they were not wearing a flannel nightie or an oversized T-shirt, a souvenir from a high school reunion repurposed as nightwear, while ‘working from home’.

And so, as it is our intention to amuse, I begin with a tale from my childhood. My parents, younger brother and I lived with my grandparents in an old house located on the edge of the downtown core. Next to our home was a smaller one that had a sign in the window advertising Invisible Mending. And while the young women who lived there may well have been proficient with a needle and thread, their own skimpy attire did not bear witness. They appeared to be in serious need of some haute couture. As a child I wondered; were all their street clothes languishing in the mending basket?

The young women would occasionally venture out onto the front porch, red-lipped, rouged and ready, cigarette smoke billowing from their noses. They became an everlasting source of fascination to a five-year-old who took every opportunity to observe those who wore only their night clothes in the day time. This observation was made despite the admonishment of my tea-sipping, liquor-has-never-touched-these-lips grandmother, to avoid the place. But how could I miss seeing it all? They were right there across the fence. And I could never understand why their ‘mother’ allowed them to wander outside without being properly dressed. We were never allowed to even come to the breakfast table unless we were fully dressed and with our hair tamed into some of sort of respectability.

And so with that snapshot from a time so long ago, we begin our blogging journey. We cannot promise to impart great wisdom but perhaps readers may glean a little entertainment from our musings. Time will tell.

But here is one final word to those, who like me, have put in more decades than we like to think about. It is my favourite quote from Ian Fleming: “Older women are best, because they always think they may be doing it for the last time.”