Archive

Posts Tagged ‘News’

Holy Smoke

March 14, 2013 1 comment

VAT611-POPE-SUCCESSION

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. It’s been twenty-four years since my last confession.

I grew up in a Catholic family and, as the youngest of nine children, feel somewhat indebted to its doctrines, particularly the one that frowned on birth control. But from an early age, I recall being miffed by the absence of women on the alter each Sunday. Quite simply, any church which marginalized women could be no church for me, no disrespect intended to my parents. A feminist was born, aged five.

Its treatment of women was only the beginning of a slew of reasons to turn my back on the church: sex scandals and mistreatment of children, attitudes towards homosexuality, and in general an unwillingness to move with the times combined to make me wary of organized religion.

And yet, there are good memories; chief among them my bi-annual obligatory confession. I looked forward to a little tete-a-tete with a faceless priest, to explain whatever was heavy on my heart, and generally got very good advice from behind the iron screen. It was like free therapy. (My siblings preferred General Absolution, whereby you were resolved of your sins just by sitting in the congregation, but that seemed impossible to me, logistically.) Besides the boredom of attending mass each week, religion had an overall positive impact on my life.

So despite eschewing the church as an adult, I’ve been interested in the recent developments in the Vatican, and I suppose in the same way I cheer for the Canadian water polo team during the Olympics, affiliated by country, I’ve been cheering for the Catholic Church, affiliated by my upbringing, and for reform possible with the appointment of a new Pope.

And with the selection of Pope Francis, a Jesuit from Buenos Aires, who is by all accounts humble and saintly, not to mention the first Pope from the Americas, I feel a twinge of hope for my religious Alma Mater.

Advertisements

Explaining Monsters

December 20, 2012 2 comments

I’ve been explaining monsters out of our house for years. To emphasize they’re not there, I get a flashlight and shine it underneath their beds, and always, always, close their closet doors. Tight. After the monsters come the questions about robbers and murderers. How, they ask, do we know we will be safe? Oh babe, we live in a VERY safe community, we have an alarm system, and I wake up when a pin drops.

Don’t worry; you’re safe. It’s my job to keep you safe. Sleep tight.

Ella

When I heard the breaking news about a gunman in Connecticut in an elementary school, I did what most people did. I turned off the news, and have been careful not to listen to it since in the company of my children.

Because some monsters can’t be explained, and some crimes are so heinous they can’t be considered.

I know I can’t shelter them forever, someday they will learn about this unfathomable tragedy, but every day that goes by that they are naive to these monsters is another day of innocence, another day of childhood the way it should be, wherein I just need to explain the monsters underneath the bed, and not the ones that walk into elementary schools with semi-automatic weapons.

Meanwhile, I’m piecing together my response for the day they hear of this tragedy, the response that is supposed to alleviate both their fears and mine. The one wherein I explain our country’s laws against handguns, and the resulting lower murder rates, and the distance we are from Connecticut, and so on. The response where I emphasize that this will never happen to them.

Or so I hope.

Because of course it could.

So as I sat in my daughter’s Christmas concert yesterday, the one where she dressed up as a penguin who encounters Santa Clause after his sleigh has crash landed, the only thing I could think about was how lucky I was. The only thing she worried about before going to sleep the previous night was forgetting her lines.

Another day of innocence.

Marathon Memories of Boston

April 15, 2011 2 comments

It was only one short year ago that I was in Boston on this very weekend, getting ready to run the marathons of all marathons on Monday. People have since asked me, “Was Boston really all that?” The answer is it IS that, and so much more.

From the moment you set foot in Boston for marathon weekend, you feel you are on holy ground. The city transforms itself into a sea of blue and yellow, and you would feel out of place if you had anything on your feet besides runners. Runners signify athleticism over geekiness, a welcome change of events.

People everywhere near the runners expo at the Hynes Convention Center have their recognizable blue and yellow race day packages slung over their shoulder. Workers are lining the street with barriers and building the finish line stands. People are photographing each other on the finish line, smiling today knowing they may not be smiling on Monday. It is a hub of activity and excitement.

As you walk around on this blue and yellow cloud, it’s hard to believe it is just a regular weekend in other parts of the world.

I was humbled by the people I was meeting, runners who have run not one or two but sixteen and seventeen Boston’s. I met a man who had traveled from New Zealand for the race. People from all corners of America who regularly make this pilgrimage. The camaraderie is non-stop and all-invasive – not the place for a quiet weekend of reflection. It’s a place to embrace, and be embraced, by our great sport.

It’s hard not feel like you’re a part of running history by simply being there. At the runner’s expo I brushed elbows with storied people like Kathrine Switzer, Amby Burfoot, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and David Willey. Heady with touches of greatness and cross-eyed by the massive amounts of people, I actually got lost in the expo and couldn’t find my way out.

Everywhere, people are helping people. It restores ones faith in humanity. My high-tech Garmin watch broke on Sunday, and the manager at their booth simply gave me her watch to use. I was traveling alone, but was invited by a fellow runner to have dinner with his large extended running family in Boston’s storied north end. Everywhere people are speaking the body language of helping. It is impossible to get lost, or not know something. The first person you ask will help you.

It was surreal to walk out of my hotel at 6 am on race day and see the street lined with yellow school buses as far as the eye could see. Making my way to the Commons it could have been rush hour, as long lines of people waited to get on the buses that would take us out to Hopkinton, 26.2 miles outside of Boston.

The athletes village, set up at the Hopkinton high school, housed gigantic tents, with food and beverages being served at several tables for pre-race nutrition. People milled around in large groups, music boomed from speakers, and runners nervously chatted about their strategy or lack thereof. It was like being at a gigantic party. I reluctantly tore myself away from it and made my way to the starting line.

Waiting in my corral at the starting line, excitement crackling in the air, I could feel the ghosts of past runners who had stood on this same spot; albeit with fewer participants. In widely varying weather conditions, snow, rain, draining sunshine, people had stood here on Patriot’s Day, waiting to begin the journey to Boylston Street.

If the entire weekend leading up to the race wasn’t incredible enough, the race itself is out of a dream sequence. The festivities continue long after the sound of the gun. I saw a runner down a beer at the biker bar just down the road from Hopkinton, to the delight of the bikers. A runner veered off course in Natick to play lawn bowling with residents. Several runners stopped to kiss students in the Wellesley tunnel of love. I ran beside Captain Canada for a while, decked out head to toe in maple leafs and flags. Along the way people are holding up signs with the latest Red Sox score. Thousands of people lined the route, high-fiving and screaming the entire time.

It was evident that this was a moment in time. Despite a nagging pain in my knee that started only 5 km in, the momentum of both the crowd and the runners carried me through long after I would typically thrown in the towel. Boston is far from typical.

After Wellesley there are the Newton Hills, of which Heartbreak Hill is only one. Looming even larger is the descent from Heartbreak Hill to the Cleveland Circle, for me infinitely more difficult on my legs that were by then searing in pain, complaining loudly that they had had enough.

But Cleveland Circle leads to Beacon Street, and that meant thousands upon thousands of spectators lining the route, in some places 8 people deep, people on rooftops and balconies, everywhere spectators cheering you on. The Citgo sign appears, a vision to shoot for, proof that the end is actually in sight. If you can only put one foot in front of the other for a few more miles.

Fenway Park and the Citgo sign are the the last mile markers that send you through the famous directions, right on Hereford, left on Boylston, the shortest turn on the course, and undoubtably the loudest. Rounding the corner, the finish line is a short sprint away. Or crawl, depending.

As for the finish, let’s just say it is an odd juxtaposition, feeling physically terrible but mentally high. Yet I very much recommend it. If you ever get the chance to run the Boston Marathon, just do it. The mountains you may have to move to get there will be waiting for you when you get back. The memories of the race will stay with you forever.

Relieved to be finished

Parents Need to Get Their Hands Dirty With Social Media

April 11, 2011 7 comments

When I visit my family each summer, I watch my nieces and nephews text each other furiously. Their fingers are working overtime to host constant communication. I asked if their professors had any trouble with this during lectures, and my niece replied that they all have their phones on silent, but can still easily text without looking at them.

So while a professor may see a sea of attentive faces, quite likely they are deep in thought texting.

Tcchnology has changed the way our children communicate. How you feel about this personally is irrelevant. Texting, skyping, and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are only gaining in popularity and children are finding ways of adapting them earlier.

Your mission as a parent, if you choose to accept it, is to become versed in social media before your child has to teach it to you.

There are two reasons for this:  If they are on Facebook or another social networking site, you can (attempt, at any rate) to be on their contact list, or ‘friend’, and therefore watch what they are doing more closely.

Being knowledgeble yourself in social media is to take away another layer of potential misunderstanding between you and your children. You are bridging a gap. If you are using social media effectively, your children are more likely to see you as an ally when they most need one.

Cyber-bullying is a nasty consequence of the proliferation of online communication. It’s easier than ever to be mean behind the cloak of anonymity. The rash of suicides amongst teenagers citing online bullying as the cause is rapidly increasing. As governments and teachers rush to react with preventative policies, teenagers will continue to circulate hurtful lists on their smartphones with a vengeance. They will start nasty Facebook campaigns and they will tweet nasty comments. Cyber-bullying won’t disappear, so arm yourself and your child against it.

Yet I know a lot of parents who know nothing about social media. They view it as a waste of time. They can’t get their head around it. They prefer traditional methods of communication. Knowledge is powerful, and learning this strange new world of interacting and socializing is to learn the language of our children.

Adapting the attitude that social media is child’s play will only keep you out of the conversation.

Canucks Vote Early and Vote Often

April 6, 2011 3 comments

An election is coming.  Universal peace is declared, and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry.  ~George Eliot, Felix Holt

My cup is overflowing. It is the time of year when I normally jump on our Vancouver Canuck bandwagon, as they head into the playoffs with flying colours; I paint my face blue and acquaint myself with the names of the players on their first line. But this year there is something else to brush up on: our federal election.

How I will slot in time to part my hair I’m not sure.

I normally avoid politics like the plague. It is as interesting to me as Jerry Springer, which is to say, it’s not at all interesting. I just can’t get excited about grown ups arguing over policy. It’s not like they are speaking openly and honestly about anything, they are speaking in order to win supporters. They are saying whatever will get them in power.

The last time I heard a politician compliment an opponent, or say something along the lines of “that is a great idea, I think Canadians will really benefit from your suggestion,” was, let me see, never.

They argue for the sake of arguing. It all seems futile. Like a game I used to play with my friend when we would each scream, and then vote about who screamed the loudest. Everytime, we voted for ourselves, no matter how lung curdling and impressive the result.

On our trip home last week from California, I spied a red election sign, soon accompanied by blue and orange ones. An election had been called in our absence, which not surprisingly the USA Today – delivered each morning – had not picked up, choosing instead to report about how beautiful people were happier than those less beautiful, and how a movement was afoot to ban children to their own separate section on airplanes, among other gems. It was like reading People magazine everyday, fine for a vacation, but far from reality.

I sat up straighter in my seat. The vacation was over, it was time to roll up my sleeves and get to work.

Growing up, my father was a big proponent of exercising your democratic right to vote. It went something like, if you live in this house, you had better vote in every election you are privileged to live through. He was outspoken on this topic. Although his roots are Irish, his vehemency makes me wonder if also had some ties to Socrates.

And so as I spied those red, blue, and orange signs, I realized it was time to force myself to pay attention to what differentiated the parties at war. Sift through the rhetoric to determine what would match my best Canada. I know it won’t be pretty or fun and will certainly be frustrating, but it’s my small contribution to society.

And so, as I actually read instead of skip over the growing political section of the newspaper, I ask you this:  How about those Canucks?

Tips for Twittering the Time Away

March 21, 2011 5 comments

When major events happen while I sleep, Twitter informs me first thing in the morning as I wipe the sleep out of my eyes, hovering over my keyboard. I found out about Japan’s horrifying earthquake by watching a moving target of text decrying the devastation; learned of Egypt’s social unrest by a Twitter feed figuratively fist pumping the revolution.

It’s the de facto answer for late breaking news, the final stake in the heart of the printed newspaper.

So when people ask me why they should be on Twitter, I answer it’s where the world is. Are you in or out?

I have made lots of mistakes on Twitter. I have unknowingly used bad etiquette and snubbed those trying to be helpful. I followed all the wrong people. I didn’t know what to talk about, so stood, like a wallflower, on the sidelines. When I did start tweeting, I only talked about myself. Come to think of it, I made a lot of the same mistakes I did in Junior High School.

In an effort to save you from the same pitfalls, here is a list of dos and don’ts to make a smoother entry into the world of microblogging.

Do not set up a direct message reply to your new followers along the lines of “Thanks for the follow! Come check out my blog, http://www.spammer.com.” I was perplexed by these: was I supposed to thank every person who decided to follow me? The easy answer is no, you don’t. In fact, mostly spammers send these out, and the word on the street is to unfollow anyone who has sent you one of these. If you didn’t know any better and set one up, now would be the time to cancel. Very uncool.

Do thank people who Retweet your tweets, at least once. If someone is paying attention to what you’re saying, and likes it enough to retweet it, then show a little love by thanking them, it’s the least you can do. At first I didn’t get this, what was a RT? To those people who I didn’t initially thank, thank you. I get it now.

Do not just talk, be a listener. Nobody likes having those conversations where you are waiting for the other person to take a breath so that you can get a word in. Take time to answer random questions in your feed, or respond to something that moves you. It’s not just a one-way conversation; social indicates a two-way street.

Do add value with your tweets. Again unknowingly (I really could have used some tips before I started, thus my present mission to help people…) all I did until very recently was post links to my own blog posts, hoping to gain a few new visitors. My mandate was completely selfish, never looking at other people’s tweets. Embarrassing. I didn’t understand that Twitter is actually one big love fest, a forum for highlighting good works and deeds.  Now I tweet other blogs I find useful, YouTube videos that are inspirational, quotes I like. Follow Fridays (#FF), where you shout out to people who have been helpful to you, highlights that the mission of Twitter is actually goodness. I apologize to my followers for inundating them with my posts. Disclaimer: since this is particularly Twitterable, I will share this one, but nothing else for at least a week.

Don’t be all flash and dash. Pretending everything is perfect in your life doesn’t fly in microblogging, so leave your corporate mandate in the boardroom. Twitter is a more informal platform, a place to let your hair down a little, while not letting it all hang out. If you happen to have a personality, this can work to your advantage.

Do follow the right people for you. Someone once told me to follow who ‘good’ people were following. So I brought up a ‘good’ person’s list – an influencer, who had lots of followers and was in my target area of women who blogged, and simply clicked on people like a madwoman tasting jellybeans for the first time. This is so easy, I thought, as I watched my list of followings balloon to one thousand. But then I couldn’t add anyone anymore – Twitter had shut down my ability to add followers because my numbers were so out of whack – I had 1000 people I followed, but only 200 people following me. And thankfully, I might add. I had amassed a very random group of people, some of whom were of interest to me but many who were not. Painfully and over weeks, I looked at each person I had recklessly followed and weeded out people (and places, and objects) I had no business following. Not good form. As in so many areas of my life, it was the wrong approach.

Do join the conversation. Standing on the sidelines will only get you cold feet. Like the day I published my first blog post, I was nervous about publishing my first tweet. Everyone else seemed so smug with their @’s and #’s and clever short form, like they’d been tweeting their whole lives. It was like starting french immersion all over again; say what? It all starts making sense eventually.

Don’t expect a revolution overnight. Like anything that is worthwhile, developing your Twitter profile will take some time and energy. Keep things in perspective by setting small goals for yourself – maybe adding ten followers a week.

The day I started high school, I wore a neon pink shirt, only to realize pastels were the new thing. I walked around all day with my cheeks as bright as my shirt. Hopefully, my Twitter mistakes will be more quickly forgotten.


Move Over Bieber, YouTube Sensation Maria Aragon Is Here

March 1, 2011 4 comments

The internet is humming, and it is playing the same tune as people around the world click on a YouTube video posted recently by a 10-year-old in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Maria Aragon has become a sensation since putting a cover of Lady Gaga’s song “Born This Way” on the popular internet site on February 16. As of today her video, which shows her playing the piano in a simple white t-shirt and singing, has had over sixteen million hits.

It’s been a busy week and a half for the young Canadian. When Lady Gaga watched Maria’s video, she tweeted about her amazing talents, and since that moment Maria’s life has been turned upside down.

Less than a week after posting the video, Maria was on the radio interview circuit and appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Lady Gaga surprised Maria during one of her radio interviews by coming on the phone line, offering to sing a duet with her at her upcoming concert in Toronto.

Before performing on Ellen, Maria told the comedian that she chose this particular song because of its message. “Just be yourself, because God made you the way you are, and you are no different than anybody else,” she said. Maria performed her slower, acoustic version of the hit song in front of the studio audience and received a standing ovation.

Maria’s entourage has quickly been assembling social media protocol: a website has been created with the URL www.mariaaragonyoutubestar.com, and a Facebook fan page has been launched.

This is what going viral looks like.

According to her website, she will soon be appearing on Good Morning America, which means a plethora of daytime media appearances will follow, as The View, Regis and Kelly and other morning shows clamber for an interview.

Hopefully like any good Canadian, Maria’s support group can stick handle through the barrage of attention and keep her feet solidly on the ground even though her voice is heading for the stars.

My mama told me when I was young
We’re all born superstars
She rolled my hair, put my lipstick on
In the glass of her boudoir

There’s nothin’ wrong with lovin’ who you are”
She said, “‘Cause He made you perfect, babe”
“So hold your head up, girl and you you’ll go far,
Listen to me when I say”

Lady Gaga, Born This Way