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The Autograph Book

When I was in elementary school, one big fad at the time, especially for girls, was owning an autograph book. You’d go around collecting “autographs” from your friends, your classmates, and even your teachers.

Most people wrote little poems like:

“2 Y’s U R
2 Y’s U B
I think U R
2 Y’s 4 Me”

Or:

“Grandpa getting old and gray
Whiskers always in the way
Grandma eats them in her sleep
Thinks she’s eating Shredded Wheat”

Well, you can’t beat that!

I didn’t have an actual book at first, so I stapled some pieces of paper together and used that instead. Then I finally bought a real autograph book at the local drug store and enthusiastically thrust it in front of my school friends.

What made me think of that book recently was when I was trying to decide what the equivalent of Facebook was back in the 60’s. What did we do instead of posting on Facebook? Let me think…

Well, besides our autograph books, if a friend had a birthday, you’d give them a card. And maybe the “bumps”.

If something exciting happened in your life, you told your friends in person or by phone. Telephone. With a rotary dial.

You were lucky if you had a personal photograph of anything to show people. In most cases, only the grown-ups in the family had a camera. A real camera with a roll of film in it.

Then you had to wait a couple of weeks while getting the photos developed to see if the pictures had even turned out. And they were ALL black and white photos in the 60s.

I don’t ever remember anyone taking a picture of their plate of food. Interesting.

If you were really high tech like my uncle, you owned a movie camera. The only reason any moving images exist of me as a child is because of him. Thank you, Uncle George.

The internet changed a lot of things. And Facebook has become a place where you can easily do all of the above and more.

Say happy birthday to your friends. Post videos of your recent adventure or your silly cat. Show people what you had for dinner last night. Um, yeah.

When Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp went down for a long chunk of time last week, I didn’t really think much of it at first. Websites go down sometimes. Big deal.

But as the down time went on, I sauntered over to Twitter to see if I could find out what was happening. There, I found a plethora of posts from people bragging that they weren’t ON Facebook anyway, so they didn’t care.

A day or two after Facebook had returned to normal, I questioned my Facebook friends, asking if they were affected at all by the website’s down time. Most were hardly aware.

One friend said if Facebook was down any longer, she might begin to notice her puppy pics piling up. A number of friends said they were too busy doing “real people stuff” to notice at all.

Several of them realized how much time they “wasted” on Facebook because of the outage, making them rethink their participation on the platform.

One said she missed Messenger because it was the only way she could communicate with a special friend. And then she added that she felt especially bad “for all the anti-vaxxers that didn’t have access to their ‘research’.”

Followed by a laughing emoji, of course.

Facebook has had plenty of very negative publicity lately, especially after a whistleblower recently testified before Congress. The former Facebook employee brought with her a treasure trove of internal documents showing how the company hides what it knows about its negative effect.

Now Facebook is suggesting Frances Haugen could face legal consequences for her actions.

It reminds me that, even though my Facebook friends are all wonderful, there are a lot more nefarious things going on there that we don’t necessarily see. And considering Zuckerberg’s belligerence and refusal to take any responsibility, maybe it’s time to consider abandoning Facebook altogether.

It would be fun to send him this little message:

By hook or by crook
I’ll be the last to write in your book…

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A Little Good News

I was stopped at a red light near a busy intersection recently when I noticed a man run out into the crosswalk just as the light was about to change. I was three cars back so I couldn’t quite see what he was doing, but when he came back into sight, I realized he was helping another older man across the street. The two didn’t appear to know each other.

The older man’s legs seemed to be collapsing out from under him so the younger fellow was practically carrying him along the crosswalk. It took awhile, but they finally made it to the other side. All of the cars waited until they were safely across.

It was so lucky the younger man was there to help. What occurred to me later was that social distancing and wearing masks suddenly went out the window in that moment, because it was more important to jump in there and give the older man a hand. The selflessness and compassion made my heart swell.

It reminded me of all of the health care and front line workers who do the equivalent of that a hundred times a day, every day. Jump in there and help someone out. We are so lucky to have them.

And a pox on those who dare to protest them! Yes, I know what a pox is…

There’s a song that Anne Murray released about 40 years ago called “A Little Good News”. The gist of it was that it would be great to have just one day where nothing bad happened. Anywhere.

Mostly, it was about being tired of the bad news. We’re all feeling that.

But the odd thing about human beings is that we’re drawn to bad news. Sometimes we even seek it out. The psychology of it is that our brains are wired to help us survive by being more attuned to the bad things happening around us. It’s called “negativity bias”.

It’s just that there’s been so much negativity lately, that it has become overkill. Literally.

Quite often these days when my students first come in to have their guitar lesson (socially distanced, of course), we sit there for five minutes and just vent with each other. But when the music begins, all else is forgotten.

There IS good news out there. I recently posted a link to a New York Times article on my Facebook page about how scientists say that the coronavirus will eventually just resemble an annoying cold. I mean, it’ll take time, but won’t that be great?

Something to look forward to. Never thought I’d say that about a cold.

The thing is, that post didn’t get one response. Maybe it was because people know the New York Times is behind a paywall, or they tried and couldn’t read it. But maybe, just maybe, their brains were experiencing negativity bias, or they were tired of reading, period.

We always hear the phrase “work/life balance”. I’ve decided to apply that my own way. Instead of ignoring the news completely, I’ve been working on trying to make sure I find a good news/bad news balance. I know it exists.

Because you know…

We sure could use a little good news today. ~ Tommy Rocco, Charlie Black and Rory Bourke

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Knock, Knock

Well, ’tis the season once again. Three times in one week, we’ve had a knock at the door from canvassers. It’s been kind of quiet at the front door for the last year-and-a-half, other than the odd package arriving, so the sudden “deluge” surprised me.

Two of the door knockers were looking for donations for their organizations. The other was from a political party regarding the upcoming Federal election. As soon as I answered the door the first time, I thought “Doh! Should have hidden in the bathroom.” Instead I was stuck there listening to the spiel.

I try to look polite and patient, but I’m sure they can see the “Oh my lord, can we get this over with?” haze in my eyes. I was a canvasser for a political party many, many years ago so I know that disengaged look well.

As soon as you open the door and realize who’s in front of you, there’s a momentary panic. What do I do? How do I end this? A couple of times in past when I’ve been in a particularly bad state, I’ve just cut a canvasser off with a quick “Not interested,” and closed the door. But then I feel bad.

Most of the time, I let them finish their pitch and, as politely as I can, tell them I’d rather not contribute.

Occasionally, I actually do hide in the bathroom.

Two of the canvassers last week were young women, intelligent, well spoken and sincere. They had their speeches down pat from having to repeat it many times. But as soon as I see one of those electronic credit card units in their hands, I know they’re trying to lock me into a lifetime of financial commitment to their cause.

I mean, they would be most happy if we all pledged monthly donations for the rest of eternity to the organizations they are so passionate about. I get that.

The reality is that none of us can support absolutely every cause and every emergency that comes up. Well, maybe 1% can.

I made the decision years ago to pick the organizations I wanted to support, and then set up a regular financial contribution to them. And when I have my wits about me, I remember to tell the canvassers that before things progress too much. But I’m out of practice.

I also feel for political party canvassers, especially now. It’s always been difficult to be out there knocking on the doors of people who clearly can’t stand your politics. But these days, there’s even more nastiness out there than usual, and an election just gives some people another excuse to bicker, bellow and blame.

I’m trying to make myself remember that first part of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s motto: be kind.

Oh, and speaking of the election, here’s one for you:

Knock, knock!

Who’s there?

Gladys.

Gladys who?

Gladys Almostover.

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I Wish It Would Rain

I remember as a kid sitting and playing outside my house one summer day, when I felt a small drop of rain on my shoulder. And then another on my head. I decided to sit there and let the whole rain storm come and go, feeling every drop of it. Eventually I went inside the house, completely soaked but happy. The memory of that very personal rainstorm has always stayed with me.

There are dozens of old, popular songs about rain out there. “Here Comes The Rain Again”, “Rainy Night In Georgia”, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head”, “I Love A Rainy Night”. One of those titles is sure to give some of you boomers an earworm.

A lot of the time, rain songs are about sadness or loss. We often think of rain in a negative way, for example, when an event gets “rained out” or “it rained on my parade.” It never rains but it pours.

Over the years I’ve heard both locals and tourists complain about the rain here on the west coast. I like to refer to it as the “wet coast”. Well, we live in a rainforest, what do you expect?

My Dad always hated the rain, but then he had to drive a bus in it for 40 years. People laughed at him “So why the heck do you live on the west coast then?”

People who move out here from somewhere else in the country usually have to acclimatize to our weather, especially during the winter. It isn’t always about the rain itself, but the endless grey days we have to endure. It just makes the winter feel longer and darker.

Ah, yes. Rain. The good ol’ days. It almost seems sacrilegious to complain about it any more. The fires are raging, the harvests aren’t happening, the cows have no hay. If you surf the web, watch the news or read the paper, you know all the bad stuff going on because of our drought. These days the skies can just as easily be filled with smoke as with clouds.

The other day, I received an email from my cousin in Denmark, and in it she complained about the endless rain in her country this summer. There have been flash floods in Europe, in Venezuela and even in Tennessee. If there was only a way for them to send some of it here!

Looking out my window right now, there is cloud cover and the possibility of rain in the forecast this afternoon. If it begins, I will go outside and sit there and feel every drop. I’ll appreciate it like never before.

I have vowed to myself to never, ever complain about the rain again.

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Empty Nesters

We recently helped our eldest daughter and her boyfriend move out of our house and into an apartment of their own. This officially makes us “empty nesters”. The fledglings have flown. Yay!

It reminded me of seeing my first Robin’s nest in a birch tree outside our dining room window when I was a little girl. It was exciting to watch the adult birds build the nest and then fill it with those tiny, blue eggs. We had to be careful not to startle them so the eggs wouldn’t be abandoned. And then one day, lo and behold, one by one, the eggs cracked open.

My mother said that eventually the mother bird would kick the babies out of the nest and make them fly. I thought this was a horrid thing. What kind of mother kicks her kids out of the nest?

A number of years and a whole lot of experience later, I understand completely. It’s not that either of my daughters were difficult to live with. But there comes a time when they need to take flight and find a life for themselves.

The thing is, these days many of our children remain in the nest for a lot longer. I was 18 when I moved out, and I more or less expected the same from my offspring. But now kids often stay home until their late 20’s, or into their 30’s and beyond.

For some, it takes awhile for them to get on their feet. And many of them live at home while they are going to college or university if the schools are nearby. But the reality is that it’s not easy for any of them to afford a place to live right now, especially if they have lower paying jobs.

And never mind actually BUYING a home for the first time.

My husband and I were lucky to be able to purchase our first house on Cook Street in 1983 for $66,000. These days you might get an SUV for that money. A used one, anyway.

In 1988 we sold the first house and bought a bigger one for our expanding family. That one cost $112,000. You can’t even get a “no bedroom” condo for that right now.

Sure, we went through periods of poverty, like most first time home owners do. There were some months that we just barely got by, struggling with the upkeep and repairs. But it was our home sweet home, and as long as we could pay the mortgage, we could always eat KD.

It’s not a surprise that housing prices increase over time. That is pretty much expected. But there has been a growing disparity between the cost of living and today’s average wages, especially more recently.

High demand and low interest rates are among the many reasons real estate has become pretty much out of reach for many younger people. Not only that, but house flipping and the popular trend of listing properties on places like VRBO have changed housing dynamics considerably. The B.C. Speculation and Vacancy Tax shows how concerned government officials are about the lack of affordable housing.

It took awhile for my daughter and her boyfriend to find something, but in the end they got themselves a two bedroom apartment in Langford through the Capital Region’s Housing Corporation. Their place is a newer unit subsidized by the CRD, whose mission is “a commitment to the development, management and promotion of affordable housing that is essential for the well-being of the people and communities in the Capital Region.”

I think it’s a wonderful thing. No foreseeable renovictions, no fear of outrageous rent increases. Well maintained and operated.

There are certain rules and criteria that have to be met, such as a minimum and maximum income. But they can have pets and it’s also a family friendly building.

And one day they’ll have their own little fledglings.

Not that I’m trying to rush them or anything…