Happy Easter / Joyeuses Pâques

Happy Easter 2014

This is another vintage postcard from my maternal grandmother Rose Pineau’s collection. It dates from the early 1900s – probably around 1910.

This week’s giveaway: Reinventing You by Dorie Clark

Reinventing You

This week’s newsletter giveaway is a copy of Reinventing You by Dorie Clark.

Book description: “Whether you want to advance faster at your present company, change jobs, or make the jump to a new field entirely, the goal is clear: to build a career that thrives on your unique passions and talents. But to achieve this in today’s competitive job market, it’s almost certain that at some point you’ll need to reinvent yourself professionally. Consider this book your road map for the next phase of your career journey. In Reinventing You, branding expert Dorie Clark provides a step-by-step guide to help you assess your unique strengths, develop a compelling personal brand, and ensure that others recognize the powerful contribution you can make.”

To enter your name in the contest, follow the instructions in this week’s newsletter. To subscribe, please fill out the form in the right-hand column of my website. The deadline for entries is Sunday, April 20, at noon. The winner will be chosen by random draw.

Congratulations to last week’s winner, Louise Richard, who won a signed copy of Please Let Me In by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer, illustrated by Kent Bulmer.

Hump Day: We can all make a difference by teaching others to read

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I’ve been an avid reader since childhood. I loved to read books. I was probably one of the only kids around who liked to read the newspaper, too. Saturday editions were the best. They would take an entire weekend to go through. The smell of the ink after taking the newspaper in from the mailbox on a cold winter morning – another fond memory.

To imitate handwriting, I’d often scribble on a page – nonsensical curves and lines at first, but then eventually writing letters to relatives. Letters to pen pals around the world followed. I loved using the manual typewriter we had at home. Eventually, I studied journalism and today I make my living reading and writing.

Other than signing your name, you can probably get away with not being able to write. It’s difficult, mind you, but the ability to put pen to paper – or fingertips to keyboard, these days – is likely not as important as the ability to read at a functional level, when all is said and done. (Obviously, the ability to do both at a functional level is preferred.)

If you can read and you’re like me, just seeing a newspaper headline containing the word ‘literacy’ is enough to induce yawning. It’s not because I don’t care – not at all. It’s just that I can’t relate. I’ve been reading forever. My mother tells me that I just picked up the ability to read. She didn’t have to teach me or show me. She would correct me from time to time, of course, if I was reading out loud and mispronounced a word, but overall I was just one of those kids who picked it up.

But caring about literacy isn’t necessarily about relating, it’s about compassion. It’s about economic development. It’s about health. It’s about quality of life.

I admit that I was very fortunate. I picked up the ability to read at the snap of two fingers. Others have to work harder – either learning at school or getting help from their parents or tutors. At some point, they eventually learn to read. Meanwhile, others just never learn for a variety of reasons. And most of the time, it’s not about intelligence.

Learning disabilities, physical ailments or other circumstances may make reading difficult or impossible. Eventually, coping mechanisms take over and you get by. There are probably people around you right now who don’t know how to read. In fact, you would probably be shocked to find out who they are.

Learn to read!

Learning to read isn’t just about books. Being able to read can also help you with everyday chores, such as grocery shopping.

If you sit back and think about it, we read dozens of times per day. Have you ever been to a grocery store that sells ethnic food in packaging you can’t understand? That what it’s like not being able to read. Unless there’s a photo on the can or box, or the packaging is transparent, how would you know what’s in it if you can’t understand the writing? Even buying groceries can be affected by our ability to read.

And let’s just say you’ve managed to memorize the packaging or a word here or there. Great. Then they change the packaging and you’re lost again. And how do you follow the preparation instructions on the packaging if you can’t read? Chances are that since you can’t read, you’re likely not making a ton of money (at least that’s what the statistics say), so you’re going to end up buying the more expensive brands with photos on the packaging instead of the more affordable no-name brands with plain packaging.

And what about taking medication? The doctor or pharmacist explains what to do, but you forget or misunderstand. You either take too much, too little, or none at all. Either way, your health is affected. You end up getting sicker and hospitalized.

If you’re like me, finding an unfamiliar street is always a challenge. How do you find a certain street if you don’t even know what the signs say? In fact, how do you even drive if you can’t read the signs? How do you find your way through the airport? Catch the right flight? Or the right train?

Speaking of driving, how do you even get your driver’s licence if you can’t read? There’s a written test for the beginner’s permit, after all. How do you help your kids with their homework? How do choose the right greeting card for a loved one’s birthday? How do you surf the Internet? How do you get by at work? Very carefully, I bet.

Reading permeates our entire lives. Not being able to read – for whatever reason – can and does adversely affect our careers, our health and everything we do.

Sometimes, we wonder how we can make a difference in the lives of others while also having a positive impact on our region. If you can read, it’s easier to get a job. If you can read, you’re likely healthier because you can read food labels, follow recipes and medical instructions. Employment and health have a major impact on our economy.

Actually, you can make a difference by teaching others to read. The Moncton Regional Learning Council is a volunteer, non-profit organization which offers free, confidential, one-on-one tutoring to adult learners. The Council is seeking volunteers who would like to be a part of this change and help others to read.

A two-part tutor training workshop will be held on April 11-12 and April 25-26 at the New Brunswick Community College in Moncton. To register or for more information on how you can make a significant difference in someone else’s life by teaching them the joy of reading, call the Moncton Regional Learning Council at 382-3303.

This week’s giveaway: Please Let Me In by Rhonda Herrington Bulmer, illustrated by Kent Bulmer

Please Let Me In

This week’s giveaway is a signed copy of the newly released children’s book Please Let Me In written by my Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC) colleague Rhonda Herrington Bulmer and illustrated by Kent Bulmer.

Book description: “Jill longs to make a home in the marvelous city of Adventus, where days are rich and life is sublime for the best and brightest people. But when her great journey concludes at the city walls, she finds that gaining entrance is not as easy as she’d hoped. Will they let her in, after all? Adults and children alike will enjoy this light-hearted picture storybook about self-perception and elusive dreams.”

To enter your name in the contest, follow the instructions in this week’s newsletter. To subscribe, please fill out the form in the right-hand column of website. The deadline for entries is Sunday, April 13, at noon. The winner will be chosen by random draw.

Congratulations to last week’s winner, Sean Bryant, who won a copy of Talk Like Ted – The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo.

UPDATE: The winner of Please Let Me In is Louise Richard! Congratulations, Louise!

Hump Day: There ought to be a heritage law protecting ancient underwear

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I broke down last week after an inordinate period of procrastination and decided that it was time to throw caution to the wind and tell the universe that it was time that I was in some sort of accident that would land me in the hospital.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Why would you, a rich, handsome, virile, world-famous newspaper columnist want to be hospitalized after an unfortunate accident?’ Well, it’s not because I want to, it’s because a recent action of mine has sent a message to the universe advising it that be that I’ll now be presentable to emergency room staff upon arrival at whichever fine hospital to which I’m admitted after stubbing my toe, slamming the car door on my finger, a very severe paper cut or what have you.

You see, being a typical man means that I’ve amassed a collection of underwear over the years that can only be described as ‘tattered’ or, perhaps, ‘should have been incinerated in a hazardous waste facility a long time ago.’ Either one works.

I have drawers full of perfectly good underwear, as you probably do, but I keep going back to those super comfortable ones of a certain brand name that I bought some time ago (you don’t want to know how long). Like favourite shirts, socks, sweatpants or other comfortable clothing us men sometimes hang on to things too long, these beloved articles of clothing which should be declared a fashion emergency. In fact, I should probably be arrested for first-degree fashion homicide. No need for defibrillators, only a cremation ceremony will do. Stand back after the fashion police throw gasoline on the pile and make me light the match as part of my punishment. Oh how cruel!

underwearBefore I wrote this column, I did some looking around online and discovered that many men have this habit – hanging on to certain items of clothing way past their prime. The reason? Well, they’re comfortable. It’s that simple. And there’s nothing wrong with being comfortable, unless of course when what you’re wearing looks like it was hauled out of the layer at the landfill that was covered up by a bulldozer in 1975.

Lord knows I’ve tried to find that certain brand again locally. Much to my dismay, I couldn’t. Money wasn’t the issue. I was willing to pay to achieve underwear nirvana again. Being comfortable is great, but being horrified at the thought of having emergency room personnel see the rags I call underwear eventually got the best of me.

So, I finally got out the credit card, found exactly what I wanted online and spent a small fortune buying a bunch of brand new ones. When they arrive, the old ones are being thrown out immediately. I’ll probably shed a tear seeing my old comfy companions peering out from the garbage bag at the side of the road waiting to get picked up, but it’s for the best. They’ve earned their retirement. They’d probably weep from relief.

I could just imagine the call from the emergency room to my relatives. ‘Brian’s in the hospital after pulling a muscle sneezing. He’s unconscious, but he should be make a full recovery. We’ll try finding him a place to live in a shelter since he’s homeless. We saw the underwear.’ Do I really want my family to have to convince them otherwise?

At least if you’re married or living with someone, you have someone to bring you back to reality when it comes to those comfortable clothing items that should have been landfilled years ago. At some point, you’re bound to hear, ‘Apparently, you have lost all sense of common decency and continue to wear something that no sane human being would be caught dead in, let alone alive. Therefore, I’m invoking the Comfortable Clothing Clause and hereby prohibiting you from ever wearing that again.’ For emphasis, it is torn to shreds in front of you to ensure it has given up the ghost for good.

If the Comfortable Clothing Clause isn’t already entrenched in law, it should be. Single people should be able to assign a member of the Comfortable Clothing Clause Commission to check their wardrobe for any offending clothing, as well. ‘Don’t move, sir, those underwear are illegal under the Comfortable Clothing Clause. Their thread count has gone below the allowable limit.’ They’d draw their guns. ‘Strip!’

Now, ladies, before you get all high and mighty about your men wearing stuff that they should be ashamed to have on, the online research I did was pretty clear that women have a penchant for doing the same thing – especially when it comes to comfortable bras, which are often worn out until they’re in tatters similar to men’s underwear, undershirts, socks and sweatpants. So, no pointing fingers!

Whether it’s a favourite bra or favourite pair of boxer shorts, we all strive to be comfortable. The alternative is going without, which can be its own special kind of fashion emergency.

Note to all political parties: I take full credit for this job-creation idea and want to be appointed Comfortable Clothing Clause Commissioner at an astronomical salary and big pension for which I’d be eligible after one week on the job.

Should we rely on the Comfortable Clothing Clause being invoked by a partner or independent auditor, though? Don’t we all look in the mirror when we’re wearing things that should have been thrown out long ago and realize we shouldn’t be wearing them? Of course we do. But we all say the same thing, ‘Just one more time,’ or ‘This is the last time I’m ever putting this through the laundry. It’s being chucked after that,’ or ‘We’re only going to be using this as a rag after today!” Such good intentions. Such blatant lies.

Ah, heck. Let’s just all start running around naked. You first, though.