On being ... a year-end tradition?

As I’ve done the past few years, here’s an alphabetical look back at things that were on my mind in one way or another this past year. Many of them relate to news stories that didn’t directly impact me or my family – but that I find troubling and worth focusing attention on.

So, here’s my list:

A is for Achilles heel – talk about a metaphor coming to life! I’ve had a problem with one of my Achilles tendons and now I understand how such a simple thing could easily have downed poor Achilles.

B is for bye-bye – thankfully, in the October election, Toronto finally waived bye-bye to Rob Ford, our (in)famous mayor.

C is for conducting and chance – what a thrill I had when I got the chance to conduct the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in September.

D is for damning – I don’t think there’s any other way to describe the recently released Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation report prepared for the Senate Intelligence Committee. While many argued against its release for fear of reprisals, failure to release it would only have compounded all the wrongs committed. Instead, perhaps it can be the first step toward returning to what America used to stand for.

E is for ebola – hard to imagine the devastation ebola has brought to so many and equally hard to imagine the devotion of those helping on the front lines of the crisis.

F is for fracking – just because the technology exists doesn’t mean we should do it, or that it’s environmentally sound. Minor tremors are just the canary in the proverbial coal mine. It’s the dangers posed to potable water that I think people should be concerned about.

G is for Ghomeshi – Jian Ghomeshi was a popular, high profile radio/television host who was let go by the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) this fall after allegations of physical abuse of women he had dated. Apparently, to help his bosses at the CBC understand what he claims was consensual rough sex, he showed them a video. Guess it wasn’t as reassuring a video as Mr. Ghomeshi thought and he was let go after that. Since then he has been charged with four counts of sexual assault and one count of overcome resistance – choking.

H is for hashtag – for those who don’t tweet or pay attention to pop phenomenon, a hashtag is a number sign (#) placed before a title or phrase that makes it easy to search for that topic on Twitter. Shortly after the Ghomeshi story broke, two Toronto journalists decided to share their experience with assault and they created the hashtag: #BeenRapedNeverReported. Within no time, tens of millions of people around the world commented on it and it has prompted women from all walks of life to tell their stories. It’s astounding on many levels.

I is for innocents – sadly, we live in a war-torn world and every day we hear about the perpetration of acts of violence and savagery against so many innocents.

J is for justice – of all the founding principles the U.S. was built on, “justice for all” has always seemed to me to be the cornerstone of democracy. Over the past year, in particular, it’s become sadly apparent that that principle is no longer cherished by all.

K is for killing – I really had a difficult time with this letter because I didn’t want to write about killing. But, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be wrong not to write about it because the reality is that every day this year brought news of killings. While some of the killings may stand out as more horrific than others, the truth is they are all tragic and if we don’t acknowledge each and every one, then there’s no hope for humanity.

L is for lawless – I fear the world is becoming a lawless place.

M is for museum – the Aga Khan Museum opened in Toronto this fall. It was built by the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, and it features his family’s extensive collection of Islamic art. When the Aga Khan dedicated the museum, he said his hope is that the museum will act as a catalyst for mutual understanding and tolerance. All I can say is let’s hope the museum achieves its goal.

N is for nostalgic – it’s funny the way nostalgia sneaks up on you, isn’t it? Last week I had a flood of nostalgia when I was seeding a pomegranate. Growing up we always had pomegranates and it was my father’s job to open them. I have very fond memories of him sitting at the kitchen table carefully, skillfully, patiently seeding pomegranates for us.

O is for oil – like most folks who have to fill up their car, it’s hard not to be relieved about the lower prices at the pump.

P is for poppies – with 2014 marking the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI, I have to say the most moving tribute was the sea of ceramic poppies at the Tower of London. It was a simple idea that really brought home the number of Commonwealth soldiers who were killed (not to mention the hundreds of thousands of other soldiers from other countries who were killed).

Q is for quick to pull the trigger – though many of the senseless killings in the U.S. seem attributable to police and others being too quick to pull the trigger, I think that assessment ignores more fundamental issues lurking below the surface.

R is for race relations – hard to believe that race relations is still an issue in 2014, but it is.

S is for Skype – I come from a technology-resistant family, but I think my sisters and mother would all agree that the best thing to happen to us this year was my techie cousin (bless his heart) setting my mother up on Skype. Now, though we’re still all miles apart, we’re much closer.

T is for torn-up – this year Torontonians have had to deal with a record number of road closures and traffic disruption and there’s no end in sight. It’s frustrating beyond belief and I work from home – I can’t imagine what it’s like to face a daily commute anywhere in the Toronto area!

U is for unspoken – it’s hard for me to understand why gun control is not even on people’s lips in the U.S.

V is for violence – I have only passing familiarity with the Bible, but it seems to me that the world would be a better place if everyone took to heart Matthew 26:52, which Martin Luther King paraphrased as: violence begets violence.

W is for winter – don’t bother looking for a 2014 vintage for many Ontario wines – the winter was so harsh, many buds died. One entire Ontario wine region didn’t have any grapes to harvest and other areas had much smaller harvests.

X is for xenophobic – handy to have one word that captures 21st century international race relations.

Y is for Yule log-like – I love Christmas baking and this year I made a bunch of different cookies from recipes I had clipped years ago but never got around to trying. On about the third batch, I had to laugh when I realized that many of the cookies were log shaped. Oh well, I guess I was just drawn to Yule log-like things this year.

Z is for zester – I’m a believer in using the right tools for the job. A few years ago rasp-type zesters hit the culinary world and they were the “in” tool. When my sister visited I wanted her to zest some lemons and when I handed her my old fashioned grater, she was shocked I didn’t have a proper zester. I assured her I did, but it was useless. She tried it and agreed. Two weeks later I got a package from her – the brand of rasp she has. With much trepidation, I tried it and it is amazing! Thanks to my sister, you could say I have a new zest for cooking!

Post Script: As I was working on this, I was struck by the fact that violence underscores so many of the topics. Given this sad realization, I have a New Year’s resolution I invite all of you to join me in for 2015: taking a stand to stop violence in all its forms. I’m convinced that until we all see it as a personal responsibility, the world will only become more violent.

© 2014 Ingrid Sapona


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