Finding Hope

When I hear Donald Trump talk about closing the borders to Muslims, and I see how many Americans agree with him, I tell myself it’s because they’re American. Canadians have always cared more, we are a caring society after all. Many Canadians feel the same way though, and that disappoints me because I know we’re better than that.

The news depresses me. “Toronto the Good” has stabbings, murders, robberies, and more, happening on an increasing basis. A spoiled rich boy drives drunk and kills three small children with their grandfather, and now they’re talking plea deal. A random woman who worked in the financial district walks into a drugstore downtown and stabs an apparent stranger, who later dies. As a society, we’re going mad it seems. I read about a man who died alone in his apartment, undiscovered for weeks. No family or friends. Completely alone. I feel so sad for this man I didn’t even know. Nobody should be alone.

I put Christmas music on in my car and headed out for dinner, for a brief reprieve from the tragedies of the world. For an hour, I seek quiet music, good food, and relaxation.

We ended up at a restaurant called Jacx on Woodbine Avenue, just north of Newmarket, Ontario. I haven’t been there in years, since it was called the Ladle. I was happy to see it quite busy – the business is doing well and that’s good. We sat at a small table beside a couple with their child, and ordered. When our neighbour’s meal came, it was huge – she had ordered the lamb shank. She saw us looking at her plate, and started telling us how good the lamb was there. Then she asked us to give her our bread plate, and she’d give us a piece to try. A complete stranger, offering to share her food – amazing! We declined though as neither of us really likes lamb.

20215 Woodbine, Queensville, ON L0G 1R0
Jacx Restaurant – Bar and Grill

A solitary keyboard player sang songs that nobody under the age of forty or maybe even fifty would remember. He played well, although some songs were a bit fast. His singing was unfortunate – I’ll just leave it at that. The lady at the table beside me got up and walked over to an elderly gentleman sitting in a booth, pulled him to his feet and started to dance. It was incredible to watch the friendliness and warmth of this complete stranger.

It doesn’t matter what I ate that night. I met a woman from Newmarket named Fran, her husband Dave and son Christopher, and I realized that not everyone has closed their hearts. I learned a lesson from Fran last night – to always talk to strangers, always be willing to share good things, and don’t hesitate to dance!

Maybe there’s hope for us after all.

Work in Progress

creative-writingThere are a couple things about keeping a blog that I find frustrating. One is the administration of the blog itself. For example, I would like to also post some of my creative writing, but I’d like it to be in a separate section, so it doesn’t seem so out of place. I’m not sure how to do that on WordPress. I don’t even know if WordPress is the best option to go with for my blog. With Christmas coming up next week, I may need to leave the “learning” until the new year.

The other frustration is not knowing if anyone even reads what I write. I guess it’s like the tree falling in the forest – if nobody hears it, does it make a sound? I’ll keep writing anyway (it’s who I am) and maybe someday, people will find me. Maybe they’ll even give me suggestions. Like feedback. Or comments. Or just say hello!

The Fountain Pen

penThe following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to anyone living or not, is unintentional. 

There’s something special about the feel of a nice fountain pen; it makes you pay more attention to your penmanship. Penmanship – ha! People don’t even care about that anymore. These days all that matters is quick and easy. Cheap ballpoint pens and lined paper from the school supply store.

When I was a young girl, I learned to write with a nib pen and a blotter. We learned to write with style, nice and straight (although I do remember putting lined paper under my stationery to help me write straight, but eventually writing straight became a habit). Not that any of that matter anymore. When was the last time I received a handwritten letter or note from anyone? I can’t even remember. Everybody wants to communicate by email these days. It’s just not the same. With handwriting, you can get a true sense of the person who’s writing, in the slant of their letters, or how they cross their tees. What are you going to do – bundle up your love emails to read through when you get old? No, it’s just not the same.

I’ve seen so many changes in my life, and some are absolutely amazing! Automatic washing machines and dishwashers – well, I won’t complain about those. I even like my computer; I love having all that information available in seconds. No, my regret is that with all these modern conveniences, we’re losing some of our social graces. Social graces such as a handwritten note to a hostess, delivered the day after a dinner party. I can see it now in my mind, a linen note card, tastefully embossed, with graceful strokes of a fountain pen. You know that somebody took a few minutes out of their busy schedule to pen a note of appreciation.

It isn’t that people don’t have time anymore; it’s that they don’t take the time. If they’re appreciative, you may find out in a quick email sent from their smart phone on the way home. “thx aunt em for a lovely dinner :)”

People don’t appreciate time the way they used to. They think time is infinite – well, maybe it is when you’re in your twenties, but let me tell you, when you get older you realize that time is finite and it goes by much faster.

That’s one of the reasons I appreciate a finely crafted letter or note. It’s also why I still use a fountain pen. I still take the time to create a beautiful letter, with good penmanship. It’s almost an art form; something beautifully written in these days of quick emails and text messages. It gives importance to what I am writing, made obvious because I took the time.

To Whom It May Concern,
I, Emily Stanford, being of sound body and mind, declare this to be my final testament …

Helping Our Own

Refugees

 

Every time I try to say something succinctly, it winds up being longer than I’d like, but here’s my opinion, which is NOT open for argument (which many people confuse as discussion):

I am not better than any of the Syrian refugees. They have as much right to shelter, food, stability, and safety, as I do. My life, my job, my family, are all because I was born in Canada. This country helped me when I needed help, provided a foster home when I needed care, and gave me the opportunity to be safe, get an education, and build a life for myself. If I had been born in Syria or Afghanistan, I probably would not be alive today.

When I think about the refugee situation, I think “there but for the grace of God go I”. All that I have today can be gone tomorrow because of civil war or an act of terrorism. Every day, I am grateful I was born here.

Compared to most people in the world, North Americans are rich with privilege, much of it just because we were lucky enough to be born in this country. Millions of children, who months ago had bedrooms and dinner tables and doctors and schools, are sleeping directly on the ground, their parents unable to secure shelter or food for them, much less healthcare or education.

We have access to education and healthcare. We have a peaceful society and programs to help us when we hit stormy waters. And we have a choice – we can share with others and help them find the peace and safety they so desperately seek, or we can turn our backs and become hateful and fearful of people of a different culture or religion.

How can you harden your heart against others, especially the children who are hungry and cold? These are families just like yours. These are mothers and father, brothers and sisters – all just trying to be safe, and to live free.

We need to be human beings, and understand that every human being has basic needs and that the lucky among us can afford to share our luck to ease suffering. Stop thinking, posting, politicizing around the idea that we just can’t help before we’ve taken care of our own people.

There is no such thing as “our own people”. Every human being is our own. Every hungry child, grieving mother, frightened husband, weary grandmother is our own. Nobody gets to pretend our world is a different world from the world that creates civil wars and bombs and hunger.

Anyone can fall at any time. It’s up to each of us to be there to catch them when they do.

It’s Started

snow

I woke up this morning and saw a thin white layer covering the ground outside. My heart immediately sank. It had started; the snow had come. It was all downhill from here. Shorter days and longer nights. Dropping temperatures, until we once again become frozen tundra. I don’t embrace winter. I don’t ski, or skate (anymore); to be honest, I seldom even walk the dog in the winter. I hibernate and get depressed.

It also means that Christmas is coming. I love celebrating Christmas, but here’s another admission – I’m not so crazy about all that shopping beforehand. I absolutely hate shopping. I often wonder if I should try to start making gifts instead of buying, but I’d have to be organized enough to start in January.

Or I could seriously plan some online shopping. I could start my list in August/September, and start shopping online for deals. Then there would be enough time for delivery.

On second thought, I’m not crazy about online shopping. The only things I’ve ever ordered online that didn’t disappoint me were personal products and books. Clothes never fit me (and then I have to go through the trouble of returning) and other products don’t look like they did in photos.

I’m trying something new this year. I’m usually busy at work and find it difficult to get the shopping done on the way home from work or just on weekends, when the malls are at their worst. That definitely stresses me out and makes the entire experience unpleasant. This year I’ve taken lots of time off, so I can put the tree up and decorate it, shop for the gifts when the malls aren’t their busiest, and do it at a leisurely pace. I need to make it a positive, stress-free activity. Maybe that will improve the experience.

That and a pair of good shoes.

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Another Day, Another Frustration

Today was a difficult day! It started with me putting in a cancellation order to Bell Sympatico. While each of my computers keeps getting faster and faster, my service with them gets slower and slower. Everytime I said I wanted to cancel, they would tell me my service was 5Mbps with unlimited bandwidth and they’d talk me into trying to fix the problem. Well, today, after almost 2 years, I got an honest person on the phone, who told me my line would only permit 1.1 Mbps. Well I don’t even think it’s that. I even tried to download their internet checkup software. The screen said it would only take 2 mins on a high speed connection, the download manager said it would take 34 minutes. So, I’m paying hi-speed prices for a connection that’s pretty much the same speed as dial up. Stuff downloads at 8kb/s. I actually remember getting higher speeds on dial up.

So anyway, I took the plunge and switched to Rogers Express service – 7 Mbps. I have limits on my bandwith (60 GB) but I usually only download 2-3 GB per month anyway, so I should be okay. It will be nice to have REAL hi-speed – for the same price! I picked up the modem tonight and set it up. Works great! Now I need to connect the router and setup the rest of my network which will involve moving printers, etc. because I’m now looking a cable connection instead of a phone line. And I don’t watch a lot of TV, so cable locations are limited… for now.

So, that was a bad thing that turned good. The rest of the day was not as kind to me. I tried to install the new VPN software from work, which is mandatory for me since I telecommute a few days each week. I installed it on my laptop first and couldn’t get it to work, so then I installed it on a desktop, where it did work. It emphasized how slow my DSL connection was though – working that way was brutal. Well, thank God that’s almost over.

After all the upset, I got a migraine just before my husband got home. We helped a friend with their DSL setup (and yes, I did give them my opinion of Bell DSL) and then went to Newmarket to get the Rogers modem. We stopped at Wendy’s for dinner – the one on Yonge Street just north of Davis Drive (in case anyone wants to know). ALL of the tables were filthy except for the one that rocked as bad as a circus ride. I remembered why I never go to that Wendy’s anymore, but too late. I did get someone there to wash the tables, but geez!! why did I have to ask?? In the end, I couldn’t eat the burger, I was feeling so nauseous. I hate unpleasant days.

Maybe I’m just tired from a late night last night. I’ve started going to a comedy workshop to learn how to be a standup comic. Ha-ha!! Can you see me being funny????

But that’s a post for another day!

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This work by Suzette Leeming is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada License.

Bell Mobility

Do you ever have the feeling that it takes a long time to learn a lesson? Well, I had that feeling today. Almost five years ago, I got cellphones for my husband and me over the phone. It was a 2 for 1 special. I wrote down all the details – such as a 24 month term. After a few months I noticed my invoice said 3 months. I won’t go through all that transpired, but in the end, I had to complain to the CRTC about Bell’s false advertising. A deal is a deal, right?

Anyway, we’ve been unhappy with our phones for the past year and the time has come to update and move to Rogers (CDMA vs GSM). When I called to cancel Bell, they kept offering me more and more, until finally I decided I at least owed it to them to look at their phones. They offered me a cheaper plan, $250 per phone towards a new phone, a 2 year term, and 10% off the top of the plan.

Tonight we went to the Bell World store in Keswick. Turns out they really DON’T have GSM phones – just the Blackberry. The person there looked up my file, and the really was $250 on a 3 year term or $150 on a 2 year term. There was no mention of needing to sign a contract in the earlier conversation. AND, if the phones don’t get a good enough signal, I can return them in 15 days or 15 minutes of use for a refund on the phones, but I’d still be locked into the contract.

But as I write this, I have to ask myself – whose fault is this? My earlier dealings with Bell had shown me their character, but I guess I really wanted to believe they had changed and didn’t stoop to lying and misleading anymore. I was wrong.

I’ve heard that Bell Mobility is the most expensive provider and I don’t mind paying a premium, but it seems Bell has become as sleezy as the competition.

Good riddance – I’ve decided to sign up with Rogers, through Amritech Rogers Wireless. I might even be able to use it, as I’m told it gets a better signal than Bell (kind of like comparing Cable Internet vs. DSL). I’ve even considered changing my internet – I should be getting at least 3X the speed at the price I’m paying Sympatico. Then I need to check and see about getting a digital home phone.

Farewell, Bell!