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The Overturning

Yesterday I put the TV on at about noon as usual because I like to watch something while I eat lunch. The CBC was showing live coverage from outside the American Supreme Court building because the court’s decision to strike down Roe v. Wade had just been officially released, and many people had already amassedContinue reading “The Overturning”

Here We Go Again

Several decades ago Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Hughes, the co-founders of MS magazine, were in a cab in New York City. They were discussing possible issues they could address at an upcoming feminist rally – should they talk about the scarcity of business and educational opportunities for women, the lack of maternity leave and affordableContinue reading “Here We Go Again”

Girls on Film

I have watched a lot of TV lately, what with the latest lockdown and the freezing cold temperatures. There is a finite amount of good television produced, and thus I’ve seen some pretty mediocre to bad programming. I watched the entirety of a seven-part British murder mystery series on Netflix called “Stay Close”, despite theContinue reading “Girls on Film”

You Don’t Own Me

The feminist movement has been active for over a half century now, and yet I notice that there are still an alarming number of girls and women who are treated horribly by the men in their lives. Rape continues to be a common occurrence. According to data gathered by the Canadian Women’s Foundation, rape isContinue reading “You Don’t Own Me”

I’m Back, Baby!

The announcement of the third-wave lockdown this spring laid me very low – so low that I couldn’t find the energy to write. Since then I have received both of my shots, and the warm weather has allowed me to connect with people on a regular basis. Both of these things have buoyed my moodContinue reading “I’m Back, Baby!”

On And On

Yesterday I bumped into a friend from Millbrook who I hadn’t seen since the pandemic began last March. We did our motherly duties and caught up on how our respective children are doing, and then I asked her how she and her husband are making out. She replied, “Oh, you know. We’ve really had enough.Continue reading “On And On”

Picture a Scientist

James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel prize in 1962 for their ground-breaking work in discovering the molecular structure and chemical makeup of DNA in 1953. Watson and Crick worked together at Cambridge, while Wilkins was at King’s College London where he worked with a woman named Rosalind Franklin. Franklin was theContinue reading “Picture a Scientist”

What Price Technology?

Technology is a wonderful thing. You can find out almost anything in a matter of seconds, from the name of a familiar actor to the atomic weight of plutonium. I have a friend who recently underwent a heart procedure which in the past would have necessitated weeks of recovery and would have left her withContinue reading “What Price Technology?”

The Song Remains the Same

I’ve always felt sorry for people who do not regularly listen to music. Very rarely does one encounter situations which wouldn’t be improved if accompanied by a song. I find music can turn simple contentment into unbridled joy, especially when I dance and/or sing along. Heartache becomes more poignant, but also somehow more bearable, whenContinue reading “The Song Remains the Same”

No Woman, No Cry

Anyone who regularly reads my blogs knows that I am an unabashed and avid feminist. I’ve composed numerous pieces about the plight of women and girls around the world, but in the last four months I’ve consciously taken a break from writing about this topic. The first reason is that it started to feel likeContinue reading “No Woman, No Cry”

Fame

I was out for a walk the other day when a lovely young woman came around the corner towards me. It is general etiquette these days when you’re about to pass someone on the sidewalk that one or the other of you will move to the side to create the recommended 2m distance. The personContinue reading “Fame”

The Eighth Deadly Sin

For the past several weeks I have been writing stories about my world travels, and this process has been illuminating. I’ve enjoyed revisiting places and situations I remember often and usually with great fondness, but writing about them in such detail has reintroduced a dark shadow in my mind. I am well past the traumaContinue reading “The Eighth Deadly Sin”

The Land of Kiwis

I got married on December 2nd, 1985, and my new husband Douglas and I headed out on a world tour of indeterminate length on the 29th of that month. We bought special tickets from American Airlines which allowed us half a dozen plane trips over the next 12 months provided we always headed west. ThisContinue reading “The Land of Kiwis”

Portugal

The ancestors on both side of my father’s family came from Sāo Miguel, the largest island in the Azores. The Azores, an autonomous region of Portugal, is an archipelago comprised of nine volcanic islands situation in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1,400 km west of Portugal, and about 1,900 km southeast of Newfoundland. It enjoysContinue reading “Portugal”

Holiday in Spain

Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, and it is world famous because of the enormous rock rising up from its centre. It sits on the northern shore of the Strait of Gibraltar, the only entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. This unique locationContinue reading “Holiday in Spain”

Rock the Casbah

Morocco is an ancient and fascinating country situated in the northwest corner of Africa and bordering both the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It was a protectorate of France from 1912 until 1956 (a fact you already know if you’ve ever seen the movie Casablanca) and many of its inhabitants still speak French toContinue reading “Rock the Casbah”

Count your Blessings

We all face dark periods in our lives, often for years at a time. In my mid 30s I left my abusive marriage, my husband succumbed to cancer after a mere 10 months, I moved to a strange city for a year with two young children, and my mother died shortly after I started aContinue reading “Count your Blessings”

Work to Do

I am in my second year of retirement and have lately been looking back over my 40 years of work with a curious eye. Library positions made up almost the entirety of my working life, although I did try my hand at some other jobs before settling into my career as a teacher/librarian. I gotContinue reading “Work to Do”

Havin’ My Baby

I recently watched a 3-part HBO documentary called Expecting Amy. The series chronicles the comedian Amy Schumer’s pregnancy and delivery. Schumer experienced a condition known as hyperemesis gravidarum, or HG, which is a complication in pregnancy characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and possibly malnutrition. In the olden days women often died from thisContinue reading “Havin’ My Baby”

You’re my Best Friend

Senior public schools came into vogue in the early 70s, landing me in the inaugural class of the newly opened Henry Hudson Senior Public School. The first floor of the building contained regular classrooms designated for art, music, and science. It also housed the office, two gyms, a library, all the lockers, and a largeContinue reading “You’re my Best Friend”

Children Say

I was born on August 10, 1961, at the tail end of the population tsunami that was the baby boom. Women were popping out an average of 3.7 kids every year during this period, as opposed to an average of 1.7 in the ensuing years. Needless to say, this meant there were a lot ofContinue reading “Children Say”

High School Confidential

I started high school at Woburn Collegiate Institute in Scarborough in 1974. Woburn is a huge school. It has separate tech, art, and athletic wings, a large cafeteria with an outdoor quad, and a full-size auditorium with plush, fold down seats. There were some 2,400 students at the school when I attended, and I wasContinue reading “High School Confidential”

Ya Gotta have Friends

When I  was a young girl I had two best friends. Coincidentally they were both named Andrea, although they pronounced their names differently. Andrea Romanuk said her name in the traditional, North American way – AN-drea. Andrea Johnson’s pronunciation was more European sounding – an-DRAY-a. Her family all called her Bumper because of some hilariousContinue reading “Ya Gotta have Friends”

Boys Don’t Cry

I am a secular humanist. I don’t really understand the appeal of religion – all the ritual and rigamarole – although I can see that believing in God could be comforting. I firmly believe that religious dogmatism and tribalism account for many of the greatest ills in history, one of the most recent and prominentContinue reading “Boys Don’t Cry”

I Got the Music in Me

Music has been a huge and integral part of my life. My father was a professional musician and his whole family was very musical. My mother, though unable to play herself, was an avid music lover, as were her mother and sister. Both my brothers are professional musicians and my middle sister is a stageContinue reading “I Got the Music in Me”

Black and Blue

HBO produces excellent television. Their series and movies are extremely good – imaginative, well-written, and superbly cast. They also make informative and artful documentaries. Last week I watched one of these called “On the Record” which deals with accusations of sexual assault levelled against Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam Records and one of theContinue reading “Black and Blue”

What’s in a Name?

My maternal grandmother was born on August 29, 1911 and christened Margaret Jean Fargey (pronounced far-gee) – I always assumed her schoolmates gave her the rhyming moniker Margy Fargey. Her hometown of Weyburn, Saskatchewan is a small city in the southeast corner of the province, just 70 km from the North Dakota border. It is perhapsContinue reading “What’s in a Name?”

Blinded Me with Science

Human beings are such a mystery. They can be breathtakingly smart and unbelievably stupid. Scientists can often demonstrate both of these traits simultaneously. Throughout history they have made amazing discoveries thanks to brilliant insights and very hard work, while completely overlooking how their creations could end up being detrimental to mankind. Robert Oppenheimer felt terribleContinue reading “Blinded Me with Science”

Ghost in the Machine

I used to be an avid follower of “The Daily Show” when Jon Stewart was the host. Stewart’s sense of humour and intelligence really made the show worth watching in my estimation. In 2015, after 16 years at the helm, Stewart decided to step down. He said he was leaving because he was tired andContinue reading “Ghost in the Machine”

A Woman’s Place

I, like many others, do not like Gwyneth Paltrow. She was definitely the weakest lead in the movie “Shakespeare in Love”, and yet she won the Academy Aware for Best Actress – yet another example of how bogus those awards truly are. She’s someone who, as one of my brother’s friends used to say about badContinue reading “A Woman’s Place”

American History X

Nelson Mandela’s government came to power in South Africa in 1994. He and his advisors were aware that something had to be done to expose and redress the many government sanctioned wrongs that had taken place during the almost 50 years of institutionalized racial segregation known as apartheid. They decided to convene a Truth andContinue reading “American History X”

Walking in My Shoes

Earlier this week a woman was attacked in the park where I regularly walk. It was a bright, sunny day, and at 9:30 a.m. there were lots of people in the area jogging, biking, or walking their dogs. None of that stopped the assailant from snatching a lone female off the trail, dragging her intoContinue reading “Walking in My Shoes”

Days of Future Passed

My son recently called me on the phone and read me this quote, “I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers areContinue reading “Days of Future Passed”

Body Politic

Media take a very different tact when reporting on women and men, even when the gist of the story is essentially the same. The actor John Goodman has struggled with his body size since his career began almost 40 years ago. His weight has gone up and down, but he has mostly been obese. GoodmanContinue reading “Body Politic”

Trans Substantiation

Political correctness has made public discourse an absolute minefield. People who say the “wrong” thing are facing swift and sometimes devastating consequences. Right at the beginning of the “MeToo” movement, Matt Damon said, “There’s a difference between patting someone on the butt and rape,” and that while both behaviours definitely need to be eradicated “…theyContinue reading “Trans Substantiation”

The Harder they Fall

I am a unionist. I was a member of three different unions throughout my working life, spending the last 19 years of my career in the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. I paid my dues, used my benefits, and now draw on a pension sufficient for my needs. Unions are by and large a veryContinue reading “The Harder they Fall”

Istanbul (not Constantinople)

Turkey is a geographically diverse and historically significant country. It is home to Troy, the setting for Homer’s timeless epic “The Iliad”, and the city of Ephesus, whose Christian population received a letter from St. Paul which later became “Ephesians” – the tenth book of the New Testament. Turkey straddles Asia and Europe with theContinue reading “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”

Don’t Speak

I need to start this week by defining a few terms coined by George Orwell in his dystopian novel “1984”. “Newspeak” is language introduced by the totalitarian government in the novel which is, in Orwell’s words, “…designed to limit the range of thought.” It is a prescribed lexicon designed to eliminate ambiguity and nuance inContinue reading “Don’t Speak”

Sit Down, Be Humble

Last week Justin Trudeau was asked by a reporter to comment on Donald Trump’s threats to mobilize the army against his citizens. After a very pregnant twenty second pause he said, “It is a time for us as Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges; that black Canadians [and racialized Canadians] face discriminationContinue reading “Sit Down, Be Humble”

Hitchin’ a Ride

Hitchhiking seems to have fallen out of favour in recent years. My husband Douglas and I hitchhiked whenever possible when we were travelling in the Eighties not only because it was a free means of transportation, but also because it afforded us the opportunity to meet people and go places we would otherwise have missed.Continue reading “Hitchin’ a Ride”

Just like This Train

One of my favourite ways to travel is by train. You can quietly enjoy the scenery or read a book, and unlike air travel you always have the option of getting up and stretching your legs, eating a meal and using the toilet if necessary. The rhythmic sound of the wheels clickety-clacking over the railsContinue reading “Just like This Train”

Fly Boy

In December of 1941 the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour, crippling the American Pacific Fleet and drawing them into the war. My then 19-year-old father enlisted eleven months later in November of 1942. He knew he was going to be drafted and since boats were not his thing and he didn’t want to engage in handContinue reading “Fly Boy”

Here’s the Problem

I don’t feel like writing. I don’t feel like doing anything. This whole pandemic situation has become emotionally paralyzing for me. I wish I could remain optimistic and believe that some positive, humane changes will result from this catastrophe, but I just can’t. The many examples of human kindness and concern which marked the beginningContinue reading “Here’s the Problem”

Mother

My mother has been on my mind a lot since the lockdown began; how I’d love to hear her phone greeting of, “Tis I, your pesky mother” or feel the comfort of her physical presence. I know people who almost beatify their parents after they die, but I readily admit that my mom was asContinue reading “Mother”

A Land Downunder

My husband Douglas asked me to marry him in the most romantic way imaginable. We had decided to travel around the world for as long as the money we’d saved would allow and were mapping out a tentative route when he turned to me and said, “Hey, it just occurred to me – if weContinue reading “A Land Downunder”

These Days

Although I am trying very hard to block out what’s happening in the U.S. right now, they exert such a powerful influence that unbidden American news items keep popping up on my Facebook feed. Many Canadians are shocked and saddened by the miserable response of the U.S. federal government to this crisis. While I agreeContinue reading “These Days”

Sisters and Brothers

Sibling rivalry has existed since the time of Cain and Abel, takes many forms and can spring up for a number of reasons. A child might bully their sibling due to a perceived imbalance in the distribution of parental attention, approval, or discipline. It might also spring from a genuine dislike. Whatever the reason, IContinue reading “Sisters and Brothers”

Ladies on Top

Yesterday I read an article in Forbes magazine concerning the countries which have mounted the most effective responses to the coronavirus pandemic. All of them have female leaders. According to the latest WHO figures, only 4,404 Germans have died from the illness as opposed to 20,453 Spaniards and 23,660 Italians. This despite the fact thatContinue reading “Ladies on Top”

There Will be Blood

The Olympics which were slotted to take place in Tokyo this summer have been postponed until 2021 because of the pandemic, and that’s okay by me. I’m not really interested in the games although I do occasionally tune in when they are being aired. One time during the Rio Olympics I happened to hear aContinue reading “There Will be Blood”

Prison Life

I have had many jobs over the course of my life, but the one I liked most was at the Peterborough Public Library. I spent half my time on the adult reference desk and the other half in the children’s department, allowing me to work with patrons of all ages. I liked the staff andContinue reading “Prison Life”

Toro, Toro, Toro!

One of my all-time favourite children’s books is “The Story of Ferdinand”. This tale of a peaceful bull who prefers smelling flowers to butting heads was written in 1936 by Munro Leaf and features beautiful pen-and-ink illustrations by Robert Lawson. Despite its great age, Leaf’s story has endured sufficiently well that an animated retelling ofContinue reading “Toro, Toro, Toro!”

Rapid Acceleration

I am a very good student. I’m not bragging, I just happen to have been born with exactly the right traits to excel at school; I am interested in learning and do so quickly, I am a facile reader, writer and speaker, and I have an excellent memory. My father was a very talented musicianContinue reading “Rapid Acceleration”

Fire Walking

Bali is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve ever seen. It has crystalline blue water, deep green terraced rice patties marching off into the distance, and almost every street corner holds a Hindu statue sporting a hat and a red gingham skirt, with offerings of colourful local fruit strewn at its feet. The peopleContinue reading “Fire Walking”

Have a Nice Trip

I am a member of a local choir and four years ago we had the great good fortune to sing for a week at the cathedral in York, England, locally known as The Minster. There has been a church on the site of The Minster since the 7th century, while the cathedral as it standsContinue reading “Have a Nice Trip”

Ghost Rapes

I just read the introduction to Miriam Toews’ novel “Women Talking”, and I am so outraged that I need to purge some of the fury from my system. I wasn’t sure if the tale she shared was true so I looked it up and found a corroborating article in The Daily Mail which cites informationContinue reading “Ghost Rapes”

I Want a New Drug

I recently watched a heartbreaking documentary about thalidomide and the devastating birth defects if spawned in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. Some 10,000 children worldwide were effected, half of those in West Germany where the drug was first patented and most widely used. I was appalled to learn that the man who created thalidomideContinue reading “I Want a New Drug”

International Women’s Day

So we have once again arrived at International Women’s Day which always puts me in mind of a few things. The first is something that happened early in my teaching career. The day was acknowledged on our morning announcements, prompting a boy in my class to petulantly blurt out, “When is International Men’s Day?” ToContinue reading “International Women’s Day”

Along came Mary

Movies were a big deal when I was a girl. Now movies are made and released one after another, but when I was little there were not nearly as many of them so it was a real occasion when one came out. People dressed-up to go to the cinema, there were luxurious padded seats coveredContinue reading “Along came Mary”

Women’s World: A Primer

Most men, in my experience, really have no idea of the day-to-day insults, harassment and fear women endure at the hands of the opposite sex, quite aside from the larger and more visible problems of assault and societal and workplace inequality. In other words, even if some men understand the scale of #METOO (a debatableContinue reading “Women’s World: A Primer”

Where’s that Confounded Line!? Part 2: The Whining Continues

While the first part of this article dealt with an imaginary line men made up to serve their own purposes, I would like to acknowledge that there are lines of behaviour towards women of which men need to be aware. For example, I think just about everyone has heard of “mansplaining” – the common occurrenceContinue reading “Where’s that Confounded Line!? Part 2: The Whining Continues”

Who really pays for educational underfunding?

There has been a lot of information in the press over the last year about the precipitous increase in violence and misbehaviour in Ontario’s schools. Reports of classrooms being trashed, students being evacuated, and education workers being injured abound. I was hopeful that the sheer volume of information coming out might force the government toContinue reading “Who really pays for educational underfunding?”

An Introduction

Hello and welcome to “Random Samplings”. About twenty years ago I supplied a monthly column to my local paper under this same title which I very much enjoyed writing and which people told me they quite liked reading. (I don’t think they were just being polite.). I have recently retired after 40 years of workContinue reading “An Introduction”

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