JFK and my mom both would have turned 100 this week: how much has changed, how much has not

John Fitzgerald Kennedy was born 100 years ago this Monday and my mother, Clare Wood Currie, was born 100 years ago this coming Sunday. When JFK was assassinated in 1963 – the shot that stunned a country and most of the world – my parents grieved. Someone bringing so much hope, tragically cut down in his prime, leaving a country to mourn. They were not to know that their lives would be cut short as well, my Dad in 1965 and my mother in 1974. Though obviously the loss of my parents did not change the course of history for many people besides immediate family and friends, they share the status of remaining in my memory at the age at which they died, just as JFK has remained forever in people’s memory as the young president with so much potential. As well, they share the era in which they died.

My Mom, Grand Central Station, 1945

I have often thought about what my mother would have to say about what has changed in the world since 1974 and what has not changed. Needless to say, technology has changed in extraordinary ways. People can communicate relatively cheaply and frequently (aka incessantly) through Internet- and broadband-enabled media. We can be entertained on HD screens of all sizes, all the time. We can shop online, bank online, order food online, make travel arrangements, you name it. This has allowed us to connect better with each other – if that’s what we choose to use the technology for. It also allows people to invade your privacy.  It changes business models, putting some operations out of business while spurring new ones … I suppose just as previous waves of technological changes have done. It was JFK who challenged the U.S. to go to the moon, and in those days the computers they used wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful as a MacBook today. Continue reading

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Why are some blog posts so much more popular than others?!

Like many bloggers – call us recreational bloggers – I write for myself more than for a readership.  After more than 5 years in the blogosphere, some years writing my heart out and other years trying to wean myself from spending too much time at it, I have come to learn that having a platform for sharing my thoughts or experiences from time to time is important to me. As I explained in one of my past blogs, for me, to write is to think.

Of course, when you’re writing, you are writing for an audience, whether it’s an essay for your teacher, a long message to your friend, posts on the blogosphere, or articles or books for the greater reading public. One question that’s probably worth asking as a blogger is: what posts attract your readers? This may or may not matter to you as a writer; to a large extent you may be, as I am, writing mainly for yourself. However, it’s still an interesting question. In my case, looking for that answer muddied more than it clarified. It turns out that many of my personal favourites are clearly of no interest to the casual reader, while others that I wouldn’t have expected to generate more than passing interest have become impressive draws. How do these things happen?! Continue reading

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On Mother’s Day, life lessons from my mother-in-law

Mother’s Day, 2017. Considering that I had more time with my mother-in-law (38 years) than with my Mom (28 years, until her untimely death), it seems fitting that, along with my own mother, I think of our family’s Mum/Grandma/Great Grandma on Mother’s Day weekend. To be honest, what made me think of her last night was the wooden spoon I use for stir-frying. I pulled it out of the drawer, took a look at the worn-down, stained, even scorched spoon and thought of her. It looked just like her spoons, not to mention many of the other items in her very well-used kitchen.

As I age – rapidly, it feels like – I am reminded more and more of Mum. The way I wear the same few clothes over and over again remind me of Mum. The way I wear the same shoes year after year, rather than getting new ones (except for sneakers, of course!), remind me of Mum. The way I don’t want to throw away my (very) old pots just because they’re discoloured remind me of Mum. The way I find myself stuffing a Kleenex in my sleeve (despite questioning remarks from the males in my family) remind me of Mum. The interesting thing is that we (my husband and I) always noticed these practices of Mum, and we always spoke of them affectionately but with a slight shake of our heads. But now that I have reached the stage of life that the media likes to call “senior”, I not only get it, I find myself following the same path. Continue reading

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Quilting projects: creativity is all about trial and error

“The best laid plans”.  “Learn from your mistakes.”  “It’s all about serendipity.”  All of these phrases play into any creative activity, whether it’s writing poems or a piece of music, painting, woodworking, or, indeed, making quilts. You start with a relatively strong sense of confidence in your concept. You can’t wait to get started. You know there will be twists and turns along the path to completion – well, actually, you usually forget that until it happens yet again, but the happy reality is that overcoming unanticipated stumbling blocks as you work through your project usually increases the creative quality of the final product.  It’s part of the journey.

All that having been said, I still wasn’t prepared for how big the twists and turns would be that I had set for myself when I started a new quilting project recently. Lots of lessons learned. The overriding take-away is that a “random” pattern can’t truly be random in order to end up” looking random”. In other words, I should have had a much more thorough plan in place when I started. And the superior plan should have had a clear expectation for how patterned fabric could be incorporated to best effect. I’m still not sure how I’d do this, but since I’m making similar quilts for two small grandsons, I’ll soon have a chance to approach the planning phase differently for the second one!

I’ve never followed quilt designs too faithfully, but the designs I’ve followed previously have always had clear geometric shapes and structures, and I’d always used fabrics where no pattern on one fabric overwhelmed other fabrics. Unfortunately, this project didn’t really follow either of these paths. Continue reading

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Cuba: More than just sun and beaches, there’s the lure of Havana

We finally made Cuba our destination of choice for our March Break getaway week in 2009. We were definitely playing catch-up with vast numbers of Canadians and Europeans who had been availing themselves of a burgeoning tourist industry in Cuba since about 1995. Of the 3 million tourists who visited Cuba in 2015, nearly 40% of them were Canadians. With lots of reasonably priced packages, direct charter flights even from small towns like ours, and a relatively short flight from eastern Canada, it’s a very inviting proposition. Add in pretty well guaranteed warmth and sun in the middle of winter, plus familiar all-inclusive resorts, and it’s easy to seal the deal.

In addition to leisurely beach activities (or more adventurous ones such as organized cycling trips across the island), a holiday in Cuba offers the opportunity to spend time in Havana, which is a special treat. We were lucky to have had the option of a package tour leaving directly from our small airport which included three nights at a hotel in central Havana and four nights at a beach resort in Varadero. It was a terrific combination for us, although for people who are focused on the beach, day trips are easily available from the resorts. Continue reading

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The word is out: Trump’s rhetoric is eroding America’s moral authority

According to opinion pieces in CNN, the New York Times, and elsewhere recently, America’s moral authority in the world is being compromised by the intemperate language often used by their new president towards its allies and his own citizens. An easy response might be, “Duh. Ya think?!”

There are two underlying assumptions implicit in the phrase “eroding America’s moral authority”. One is that America does have moral authority in the world; the other is that it is simply eroding as opposed to being fully eroded. As I attempted to do in a previous post regarding the phrase “leader of the free world”, I’ll try to unpack this notion of America’s moral authority and where it currently stands, if it stands at all.

What is moral authority? It has many definitions, but of primary importance is that decisions and actions are made based on principles of truth and justice. There is an expectation that moral authority comes from an individual or institution that is respected for being of strong moral fibre and solid knowledge, and for striving for good outcomes for the “right” reasons, not just for self-interest. Continue reading

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Costa Rica: why it rates a top spot in the World Happiness Rankings

As I reported in a recent blog post, we spent our March Break week this year in Costa Rica. Along with its remarkable biodiversity and the resulting opportunities it presents its to visitors to observe an abundance of animals, birds, and plant life in very different habitats, Costa Rica also provides an example of how “developed” countries as well as “developing” countries might do things differently, to the benefit of all their citizens.

Before our trip I had known that Costa Rica was considered to be a bastion of stability in a region not known for stability. But I didn’t know why. It turns out that this country of 5 million people has had a history of enlightened leadership in progressive social development and environmental protectionism for a long time. The Spanish who colonized most of Central and South America apparently decided that this part of their potential claim had little value (no gold) and so left them pretty much to their own devices. And, similarly to the Acadian society in eastern Canada when left to their own devices by France (until the British came along and cast them out), a democracy grew that was remarkably egalitarian for the times and the region.

Things I did not know: Continue reading

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