Wednesday, November 24, 2021

New Talent

Recently, I heard a commentator discuss the results of a poll which to him—and to me—indicate a radical change in society. The poll showed that many young people today have no clue how to do some of the basic things older folks have always done, such as preparing a decent meal or sewing or knitting.

Traditional skills are being lost to the changing face of society. Why learn to cook when you can order out or quickly heat up frozen meals in the microwave.? Why learn to sew or knit when clothing made in developing nations is so cheap and easily available?

In just a couple of generations, priorities have shifted. My mother—just like yours, I’m sure—had skills that the world is quickly forgetting. We lived on a large farm, and she canned vegetables from the garden as well as fruit from our trees for our winter meals. She found time to mend clothing and sew some of our clothes during the long winter months.

Of course, my mother didn’t waste time updating her social network profile! Her entertainment was a little more basic—it was the radio. I remember that it seemed to be on all the time. She kept up with the news and comments of the day, and was entertained by the music, while her imagination made the most of listening to actors reading radio plays. When I talked about radio plays recently, my grandchildren were at a loss to understand what it was exactly. “You mean, no pictures?” No pictures, just your imagination! What a concept!

But the radio is far from dead as an entertainment medium, even in this age of computers and all sorts of hand-held devices keeping everyone connected all the time. More and more well-known people take to the airwaves with their own podcasts. We can only hope that radio drama will also resurge. In a world where video is taking so much space, it’d be nice to see imagination having room to prosper.





Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Thinking green: New vs Old!

As we face disastrous climate changes that are becoming the norm everywhere, it is easy to see that the earth is mad. In fact, it is not only mad it is furious! It is telling us to clean up our act – and quickly.

The other day I heard someone say that “in the past people didn’t care for our environment.” Really? “Yes,” the person said. “People didn’t bring reusable bags to the store for their groceries.” Perhaps not, but they mostly carried their purchases in paper bags that were reused in the home.

And back then, instead of plastic bags milk came in bottles that were washed, sterilized and refilled so they could be reused over and over. Back then people washed the baby's diapers instead of throwing them away. When my children were born I used a diaper washing service, a lot cheaper than buying the throw-away kind. Today, diaper service companies are starting to make a comeback – thank goodness, I say.

In the past, people dried clothes outside on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine. Wind and solar power really did dry clothes.

People like my mother and my grandmother respected nature and little was thrown away. For those who lived through the Great Depression reusing and recycling was second nature. Clothing was mended instead of going in the landfill, and when it became no longer wearable companies would use woolens to make blankets, the rest was used for rugs. Household appliances were repaired instead of people buying new ones. Today, it seems that appliances, big and small, are made to break down and be replaced by newer models. No wonder we’re in trouble!
             Back then, there was one TV or radio, in the house, not a TV in every room.  Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gas just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.
              They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty instead of using plastic bottles. They refilled their pens with ink instead of buying new ones, and they replaced the blades in razors instead of throwing them away. And they didn't need a computer to receive a signal beamed from satellites out in space to find the nearest pizza joint!

            Our grandchildren may have to pay a high price if each of us, including our leaders, continues to ignore the message the earth is sending. It will continue to be mad and the future will indeed be bleak for the generations that will follow us.





Wednesday, November 10, 2021


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Instant Communication

“What’s a telegram?” my grandson asked when I mentioned the word. While I explained that it used to be an efficient way of communicating important information, it dawned on me that while now defunct, its life was decades-long in contrast to the speed at which the newest and the latest in communication is forever evolving. But do the methods of communication that have appeared since the telegram of (what seems) only a few years ago always good for us?

I worry that in our rush to be in constant communication with the rest of the world we may be in danger of having too much information. Are we able to distinguish the truth among all the information instantly reaching us?

Those of us who still read newspapers know that they exist by their reputation and that news stories have been checked and rechecked for accuracy before being thrown at the world. And those of us who read newspapers online are assured that this high standard also applies there as well. But what about all the other information, comments, ideas on countless websites and blogs? Can we recognize the real grain among all the half-truth circulating in cyber space?

Another danger looms in instant communication. The never-ending bombardment of images may make us immune to feelings. Somewhat like the horrific images of the Vietnam War, the first “televised” war which made the news daily at the time, today’s images of bloody conflicts and disasters are instantly seen by millions all over the world. And we get used to them. After a while, all shock value is lost. Unless it’s personal, of course.

 In the olden days, if someone was injured or killed, the family received a telegram and were spared the visuals. Today, chances are family members will see a video of the actual event someone has posted on line before anyone has time to officially inform them of their loss. The telegram was kinder.



Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Condo Option

When it comes to housing preferences the condo is certainly a good choice for those whose families have moved on and who would rather not be taking care of a house, the lawn, the snow shoveling, etc.

One of my sisters has been living in a larger 144-unit condo complex for more than two decades and has acquired a lot of condo-related experience. When I asked her what anyone looking into buying a condo should know, she had some interesting advice.

 Cost: Before putting in an offer on a condo unit, be sure you understand what your costs will be. A condo may be an apartment, but it becomes your personal property which the municipality will tax just like any other real estate.  And when you live in a condo someone has to be paid for the care and maintenance of common areas, and that’s where the monthly fee comes in.  It covers care and upkeep of hallways, stairs, lawns, etc. as well as keeping the contingency fund at an appropriate level to cover major expenses such as roof repairs.

History: Prospective condo buyers would be well advised to get a clear picture of the history of the building. If built some years ago, what have the major problems been? And how were they tackled?  If you are looking at a new building or are buying sight unseen from the builder’s plans, be sure you understand the builder’s guarantees should things not live up to your expectations.

Management: Part of the condo fees are used to pay for the management of the building. It can either be an owner-manager or an outside firm. The best way to find out if management has been satisfactory is to ask to read the minutes of the last two general meetings of the condo co-owners. This should be done before an offer is made so that you can assess what problems have come up or what problems are bound to come up.

Be neighbourly: Potential condo buyers should talk to a few people in the building to get a sense of the atmosphere. If you don’t like dogs, would you be happy if some co-owners have large dogs? Will one of your neighbours be a musician who practices at all hours? It’s a good idea to find out what the people in the building are like before buying.

For women: Many condo buyers are women who have become single as a result of a divorce or are widowed. Many have never purchased real estate by themselves and as novice buyers should be especially careful. Examine all aspects of the transaction with a trusted friend, family member or even a lawyer before purchasing.

Caveat emptor certainly applies here.



Friday, October 8, 2021

A Choice for Fun

It used to be people retired and did little—little planning, little exercising, little smiling. Things have improved, thank God. It used to be you were old at sixty while now seventy is the new fifty. Baby boomers are more active than ever and, because of advances in health care and wide information dissemination, can look forward to a long retirement. In fact, it is predicted that most of today’s boomers will live well into their nineties. That’s a lot of years to do little.

I firmly believe that, like any other stage of life, retirement has to be planned to some extent. We certainly cannot plan every minute of every day, but there should be a guiding desire toward a goal. We are all different so goals will be different for everyone. But I don’t know that I have goals, Bob told me recently. He is about to retire and has not planned anything beyond playing golf as much as he can. That’s certainly a nice enjoyable goal, but there has to be more to fill all that free time, especially in the winter months.

Just as we chose careers that appealed to us, that fit our personalities, our choice of activities in retirement should be based on what moves us, makes us feel good, not what friends or family feel we should be doing. I know a man who turned to photography in retirement and is having a grand old time. He was a chef all his life so his children thought he would spend his retirement preparing meals for them. But he wanted out of the kitchen to embrace a new passion.    He’s the perfect example of a fulfilled retiree. Good for him, I say.

A retiree’s mantra should be change for the new, the fun.




Wednesday, September 29, 2021

On Worrying

Most of us are fascinated by what the future might hold. We want to know what will happen to us, to our loved ones, to the world. It’s no wonder seers of all stripes are so popular. Their predictions rarely hold true, and those that do are usually generalities that anyone could have predicted.

            I think we waste a lot of time by worrying about the future – and the past – when we should concentrate on the present. Despite a few physical problems an older relative of mine believes that worrying about the future weakens the mind’s effort to make the most of today.

            Worry is indeed ageing. It robs us of vitality as our mind whirls around and around the same problem for days -- and nights. It serves no useful purpose because it doesn’t change things. For instance, we may worry that the decision an adult child has taken will lead to future problems, but worrying about it is useless. I believe that outside of making our opinions known and providing the rationale for our thinking, worry will not benefit the child. It will only affect our sense of well-being. Those who, like my aged relative, are believers find that at such time, letting go and letting God is the answer.

            Changing a mindset of a lifetime of worry habit is not always easy, but it can be done. When I am tempted to worry about whatever is happening – or I believe will happen – in my life, I sit quietly and meditate. At first, it was very difficult. My mind kept wandering to the problem I was attempting to ignore, but I stuck with it. On especially difficult days, I meditate several times in short sessions, and now reach a level when I can really let go.

            Some people are put off by the word meditation. They equate it to something Buddhists or Indian gurus do, not something simple that anyone can practice. There are many books on meditation, but it is really quite simple. It’s only a manner of concentrating on something neutral or positive to clear the mind of negative thoughts.  It is as simple as focusing on your breathing. When your mind wanders back to your worries, you guide it back to refocus on your breathing.  Or you can close your eyes and let your mind stroll through a beautiful garden or fly above a mountain blanketed in freshly fallen snow, whatever you find peaceful. Starting with just a few minutes a day and increasing the time little by little does negate worry.

            When you train yourself to let go of useless thoughts and worry, you see a difference in the way you approach life. As someone said we cannot direct the wind, but we can indeed adjust our sails. And Mark Twain observed: “I am an old man and I have known a good many troubles, but most of them have never happened.”