On being ... Sesame Street-inspired

by Ingrid Sapona

A Toronto Star columnist’s novel approach to reviewing the year’s tech law news stories caught my eye and my fancy. So, in http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifthe spirit of that column – and with a nod to Sesame Street – here’s a look back at some of the things that were noteworthy to me in 2011:

Alarming – in my first column of this year (January 15, 2011) I wrote about being alarmed by the stories of hundreds of birds falling out of the sky. I haven’t heard anything more about it. Though I still find it bothersome, I guess I can live without knowing why it happened, especially if there are no reports of more such incidents.
Business – after a few slow years, thankfully 2011 was one of my better years business-wise. (See S)
Cars – this year I sold my 14-year-old Buick and imported a car from the U.S. In the process I gained a new appreciation for how much time and money is spent on matters related to cars.
Democracy – that’s what most of us hope will be the result of The Arab Spring. But in the meanwhile, I think we should all pray for peace in the region.
Earthquakes – Though the devastation of all the massive earthquakes always makes the news, a friend shared some e-mails from people in Christchurch, N.Z., that drove home to me the fear, anxiety, and edginess survivors live through with every aftershock. I can’t imagine that.
Foodstock – perhaps the most meaningful event I attended all year. It was a pay-what-you-can fundraiser put on by the Canadian Chef’s Congress to raise awareness of efforts aimed at stopping creation of a mega limestone quarry that would destroy prime Ontario farmland. With seven billion people on the earth, it seems to me it’s in everyone’s interest to protect what little arable land there is.
Groupon – this year I discovered Groupon (and other such sites) and had a lot of fun trying new restaurants and new activities. (See M)
Hope – I sincerely hope that the disparity between the 99% and the 1% highlighted by the Occupy Movement narrows, otherwise I fear for the future. (See O)
iPod – I decided it was about time I got on the Apple bandwagon and so late in the year I got an iPod Touch. (See N)
Jobs, Steve – though news of his death at a young age was sad, I can’t help think he was lucky because he was one of the few visionaries to witness the impact his ideas had on the world.
Knee – my sister had a total knee replacement this year. I know such operations have been around for years, but it’s still pretty unbelievable to me. Three of us arranged our schedules so that she’d have someone to help her those first few weeks after the surgery. I was the last to stay with her and by the time I left she was able to do pretty much everything, including drive. Amazing.
Lucky – Every day something in the news reminds me just how lucky I am.
Meditation – I bought a Groupon (See G) for a five week meditation course and it was terrific. Since then I’ve tried to incorporate it into my daily routine and it’s been most beneficial.
Not intuitive – though I’ve always thought of myself as pretty intuitive, the iPod Touch (See I) has proven to me that I’m not. (At least not in that way…)
Occupy Movement – I think in years to come historians will look back at the Occupy Movement and say that it was a critical catalyst for social change (See H), much the way African Americans who dared sit at lunch counters in the south were catalysts for the civil rights movement.
Passwords – earlier this year (February 15, 2011) I wrote a column about being an evangelist for technology and in that I mentioned a couple programs that revolutionized the way I do business. I’m pleased to say that I turned one sister on to KeePass, a program that I use to keep track of passwords and other information. (I’m still trying to persuade my other sister to try it.)
Queen – After the grace she displayed on their tour of Canada this summer, I look forward to the day when Catherine Middleton becomes queen.
Radiation – I found the nuclear reactor meltdown in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami unnerving. I would have been very happy to go through life without needing to know about millisieverts.
Stumped – I’m stumped about how to continue the positive trend I had in my business in 2011. (See B)
Tsunami – One of the t.v. channels I get has aired a half-hour English language newscast from Japan daily since the March 11th disasters. The story of what the survivors have gone through, and how they are trying to rebuild their lives, has moved me more than any other story this year.
Uplifting words – I wrote a column (August 30, 2011) about the uplifting words used by Jack Layton in the Letter to Canadians that he penned as he was dying. His choice of words and optimistic tone was a reminder of the power of words. Looking back at lessons from the year – suffusing my conversations and writing with positive, uplifting words is something I am determined to do more of in 2012.
Video calls – I was turned on to Skype this year and, after lots of lobbying, I managed to convince one of my sisters to install it. Ever since our first video call she feels we’re living the Jetsons’ life.
Weather – with things like the catastrophic drought in Texas, unprecedented flooding in Bangkok, and city-leveling tornados like the one that hit Joplin, Missouri, you have to wonder what’s going on.
Xcuse – given that this column is already long, I make no excuse for not being able to come up with something that starts with an X.
Yes – a word that I’ve made a conscious effort to say more of this year. If it’s not already a central word in your vocabulary, I promise saying it more often will change your life.
Zzzzzs – about the only thing I’ve not had quite enough of this past year – but then again, who has?

All the best in 2012!

© 2011 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... words of wisdom

By Ingrid Sapona

I’ve been meaning to follow up on the column I wrote in mid-July called: On being … a good (if unoriginal) idea. That column was about wisdom I found in Katie Couric’s book: The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives. At the end of that column I invited readers to share advice they’ve gotten, or wisdom they’ve gained in their life. A few readers shared stories with me that I thought I’d share with all of you.

One reader wrote about advice she got from a 93-year-old woman. The younger woman, who was in her 20s at the time, asked the senior: “How you get to be 93?” In response, the woman looked her square in the eye and said, “Do everything in moderation and learn to accept and adjust to whatever life gives you.” The reader commented on how many times in her life she’s thought of that remarkable woman (who, by the way, lived to be 101) and of her advice about not reacting to what is happening but, rather, to accept and adjust.

Another wrote about a comment his father said to him just weeks before he passed away. The two were sitting in a bank and three children were playing nearby, making lots of noise and not listening. The reader said he thought sure his “stern old dad” would find the children more than annoying, but when he asked his father if he was getting irritated, his old man said: “of course not, dummy … You don’t understand anything.”

When he asked his father “So why am I a dummy?”, in his native Italian, his father responded: “Because if you weren’t you would see that the children are bouncing around so that is a good thing. That means they are healthy. If you see a child in a place like this for a long time and they are just sitting there then you know they are sick. I appreciate seeing their good health.” That episode gave the reader valuable perspective into his father’s insightfulness, and it taught him a lesson he says he tries to take into account every day with his own children.

Another reader mentioned advice his grandfather imparted on him as a young boy. At the time, the reader was working alongside his grandfather, who was building a house. The advice was: “Measure twice, cut once”. When I read that, I thought, “I’ve heard that before – haven’t we all”? But what made that story so special, I thought, was that the reader also mentioned: “I was thinking of him today and this advice which I did not pay attention to. … I was in a hurry this morning and measured wrong and cut my lumber, much to my dismay. So it was off to Home Depot yet again!”

There are two things I love about all these stories, besides the underlying wisdom in the advice. First, I love the fact that every reader who shared such a story wasn’t just relaying the advice -- they were also reflecting on the advice giver. They were, in effect, bringing them back to life, which is a quite a tribute in itself.

The second thing I love about stories like these is that every time you recall such advice, you can’t help but take stock. It seems inevitable that you take mental measure of how you’ve let the advice take hold in your life -- thinking about the times you heeded it -- and maybe some times you didn’t, but wish you had.

And finally, along the lines of words of wisdom that give one pause, I heard something the other day that seems especially fitting to offer as food for thought heading into the New Year. It came up in a meditation course I was taking. At the end of one session the instructor asked how we felt after having practiced meditation for a few weeks. One of the participants volunteered that since he started meditating he noticed people in his social circle related to him very differently. He said he felt the clarity he was gaining through meditation was somehow having a positive effect on the way others interacted with him. Though I felt I’ve benefitted from beginning to practice mindful meditation, I couldn’t relate to what he described and, had it not been for what the instructor said in response, I wouldn’t have thought much more about his comment.

In previous sessions of the meditation course I noticed that no matter what a student said, the instructor always found a way of positively -- if benignly -- affirming the student’s comment. But this time the instructor’s affirming response carried with it a powerful, viewpoint-shifting idea. He said, “Hmmm, yes. Change your self, change your world.” It took a moment for me to absorb that statement, but as soon as I did, I saw the profound wisdom in it.

So, as you consider what you hope 2012 will bring, remember -- if you want change in the world (or at least in your world) -- the surest way to make that happen is to change yourself.

Happy Holidays…

© 2011 Ingrid Sapona