The future of signatures

cursive writing lori welbourne jim hunt

My 13-year-old son can’t write his name and most of his buddies can’t either. My 10-year-old daughter and most of her friends can.

The reason for this shouldn’t have shocked me since the demise of cursive writing has been covered in the news, but I must have missed it, because I was completely surprised when I saw for myself.

We were at the bank at the time. I had just opened individual savings accounts for Sam and Daisy, and the kids were asked to sign on the dotted line. Daisy wrote out her name effortlessly, and then it was Sam’s turn.

“Don’t print it,” I said correcting him halfway through. “Signatures are supposed to be written.”

“I can’t remember how,” he said after attempting to do it. He couldn’t even recall how to script the ‘S.’

Daisy snorted and offered to write his name. I told him to just print it and we’d talk about it later. And talk we did.

“Why can Daisy write her name and you can’t?” I asked when we got in the car.

“The last time we learned handwriting was in grade three I think,” Sam replied. “We never write in middle school.”

According to a couple of 16-year-olds I asked, it’s rare in high school as well.

The art of handwriting that I used to practice diligently back in my youth just isn’t considered important like it once was. After my initial disbelief, I started to contemplate the significance of its gradual disintegration in this digital age.

Back when I was in school I spent countless hours practicing my penmanship so it would look beautiful and impress the reader. Yet I ended up corresponding with more of a speedy chicken scratch in the end.

Over the years it’s developed into a hybrid of writing and printing, and while I can easily read it myself, others have trouble deciphering what it says. That has never mattered though. With greeting cards and notes meant for someone else’s eyes, I’d take an extra minute to neatly print so my message would be understood by the recipient. Additional communications have either been spoken or typed.

“What about signatures?” my friend asked when I decided not to mind that kids are no longer engaging in cursive writing. “People can’t be printing their signatures.”

Well, Sam just did and it wasn’t a problem with the bank. And his friend just did for his passport application and it wasn’t rejected by the government.

Regardless, I would like my children to at least know how to sign their own names and have started working with my son on that. Not being able to write beyond a signature might become an issue the odd time, but the inability to read writing seems more problematic since there are older generations still communicating this way.

“I wrote something on the board a couple of weeks ago and my students had no idea what it said,” my teacher friend said about her grade 10 class. “This could look bad to a future employer who writes. Kids who know how to read writing might be more marketable.”

But many educators argue there are computer programs that can translate basic handwriting and it’s just nostalgia that has some wanting to keep the art of cursive writing alive.

“If the kids can communicate by talking, printing and typing, why should they spend precious school time learning handwriting when they’ll barely need it?” another teacher friend asked. “They’re better off learning a second language or something else that benefits their cognition and will become a more useful skill in their future.”

It feels kind of sad to see the demise of handwriting happening right before our eyes, but better that than spelling and grammar. We have to pick our battles, and for that, I’d put up a fight.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Mirrors reflect appearance, not true beauty

Daisy Lori welbourne mirror jim hunt

My 10-year-old daughter showed me a picture that was circulating on the internet of three gorgeous models, one in particular with an exceptionally tiny waist.

“She’s skinnier than me,” Daisy said about the model in the middle. “And she’s a grown up.”

For my sweet little girl, this was confirmation that she herself was “too curvy” and needed to lose weight.

I explained that her healthy body was perfect and beautiful exactly the way it was and she didn’t need to change a thing. I then showed her another version of the same picture – but one taken prior to the model’s waist being digitally manipulated to appear inches thinner.

Miranda Kerr, the model in question, just so happened to be on my radar since the very photo my daughter was showing me was being reported on by many online news sites. Apparently the famous model  had posted the 2012 image to Instagram and some detail-oriented people noticed that her waist was much smaller in her version, and started sharing the original picture beside it as a comparison.

“Why would she do that Mom?” Daisy asked, after seeing the difference between the two photos. “She was already skinny.”

I told her that we didn’t know who altered the picture, but that it was a very common practice. I also said that no matter how great we think someone looks, that person, or someone else, may think otherwise.

“You know how you were comparing your body to hers?” I asked. “You should never compare. You are you, and your body is yours. It’s your home for the rest of your life. Love it and nurture it – and never think it’s not good enough.”

She nodded and agreed. But then she said something I was hoping she hadn’t noticed.

“But you don’t think your body’s good enough,” she said. “I heard you tell Dad you’re fat.”

Ah, nuts. I had been using the “f” word recently and I clearly needed to stop, for my sake and the sake of our impressionable young children.

Not that our 13-year-old son has taken any notice. But when I was his age, I remember how unsatisfied my mother was with her own appearance and I couldn’t understand why she would ever criticize herself. I thought she was beautiful and I hoped to look exactly like her when I grew up.

I didn’t though.

After gaining weight during puberty I developed an eating disorder and continued to pack on the pounds well into my mid-20s. I ended up obese and miserable, promising myself that if I ever had kids, I’d teach them to love themselves from the inside out. I wanted them to be happy, confident and satisfied with how they looked no matter how their outer shell appeared. I now worry that I’m failing at least one of them, and will do my best to strengthen her self-worth immediately.

But here’s the thing that we all know: children are influenced by so much more than just their parents. They have friends, teachers, family members, famous folks, and many other people and things that affect who they become. There’s only so much we can do.

I’m hoping that as long as Sam and Daisy feel cherished and valued for who they are, rather than how they look, they will be light years ahead of me in the self acceptance department.

I don’t want them wasting precious time trying to attain some unachievable idea of aesthetic perfection that means nothing. What I want is for them to embrace their so-called flaws and treat their bodies, and themselves, with the love and respect we all deserve.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

Open letter to Ellen DeGeneres

lori welbourne ellen degeneres

Dear Ellen,

Open letters seem to be a hot trend right now, so I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and give you a little piece of my mind.

Sixteen years ago you publicly came out of the closet and played out some of your real-life experiences on my favorite sitcom “Ellen.” In doing so, you exposed us all to your controversial lifestyle and introduced gay issues into the plot-lines. You even dared to kiss Laura Dern on prime time television. And not on the cheek either. On the lips.

I realize it’s a little belated, but I just wanted to take this opportunity to publicly express my concern regarding your bold display.

Do you really think we were ready for that? Do you have any idea what kind of impact that has had on North American society and beyond?

Same sex couples are now getting married, for heaven’s sake. Coming out of the closet has apparently become easier for many homosexuals. And what really amazes me is how most people I know don’t even care if a man is with a man, or a woman is with a woman.

Do you think this is good? Do you seriously think accepting and embracing differences in one another, and encouraging people to live and let live is somehow helpful to our world? Because I sure as heck do.

You changed my life when you did what you did, Ellen. Not because I’m gay – I’m not. But because you showed a fearlessness that was so brave and beautiful, I literally had tears in my eyes as I knew it was going to have a profound impact on humanity. Thank you. In that moment you made me see how influential a person could be by simply sharing themselves honestly, and with humor.

I understand things weren’t smooth sailing for you after that, and millions of people were so threatened by homosexuality and its perceived contribution to the moral decay of society that many of them aimed their fear-based attacks at you. At the time I couldn’t imagine how that must have felt, nor understand how awful it would be to be hated by complete strangers for simply being yourself and standing up for something you believed in. But I get it now.

Six weeks ago, for International Go Topless Day and Women’s Equality Day, I wrote a column and made a video in support of women having the constitutional right to go topless wherever men can go topless. While I received a tremendous amount of support, I also received an astounding number of negative reactions from people all over the world, some so vile and misogynistic it was shocking.

I’m a sensitive person by nature, so it’s taken me years to thicken my skin. I hate to admit this, but it’s not quite as thick as it needs to be yet, and I had to channel your courage in some of my weaker moments.

I’d like to thank you for that, and for continuing to help change the world and make it a happier, healthier, funnier place to live.

I made a video specifically directed at you. Some will cringe and accuse me of shameless self-promotion when they watch it. But that’s okay. I refuse to feel shame about promoting something, or someone, I believe in.

I also wanted to write this letter so I could publicly wish you a happy sweet 16th anniversary of your coming out. Thankfully for us you’ve stayed out.

Keep dancing to the beat of your own drum, Ellen. I will too, even though I have no rhythm.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. Her videos and columns can be found at LoriWelbourne.com

 

 

 

Creativity feeds the mind

daisys diner lori welbourne

My daughter is 10 and she’s wearing my shoes. Not just the high heels that she’s been clomping around the house in since she was a toddler either, but the flats, the sneakers and the boots too. Why? Because they practically fit her – which is shocking to me.

How my little girl’s feet are a mere two sizes smaller than my size eight is beyond me, but they are. And she’s in a hurry to grow up, just like I was at her age.

There are three things she likes to do most these days: apply makeup, wear my clothes and play “restaurant.” All are expressive and creative, and when combined, I feel like I’m getting a glimpse of her in the future, as a responsible teenager with a job.

“Good afternoon,” she said, coming into my home office wearing bright red lipstick, a pair of high heels and a floral apron. “Welcome to Daisy’s Diner. What can I get you, Miss?”

Thrilled to have someone calling me Miss instead of Ma’am, and also waiting on me for the sixth day in a row, I ordered some veggies and dip and a tall ice water. She wrote it down on her pad of paper, went into the kitchen and taped the order up above the stove like she was presenting it to a short order cook. She then went about preparing my platter, having no idea I had snuck down the hall to spy on her in action.

With a tip jar, open and closed signs, and menus written out, she had spent a fair amount of time on the creation and set-up of her business, even decorating the “restaurant” with her own artwork that was also for sale.

What a difference in the way she amuses herself in comparison to my son.

Sam is 13 now, and also eager to grow up, but right now he would rather do just about anything than prepare food for anyone and serve them. It also wouldn’t occur to him to dress up in his dad’s clothes or apply cosmetics. Unless, of course, it’s to rip up an old t-shirt, give himself a black eye and make it look like there’s blood oozing out of some wound on his face or body.

They both love making videos though, and do that often with their iPads and iPods. And that’s when I love modern technology the most. As a child I would have given anything to be able to make my own music videos, and now kids are learning how to make them on their own, creating funny and interesting works of art.

I’m always happy when my children are expressive through their creations. It wouldn’t matter if they were painting rocks, writing stories, making music or designing their own digital animations, as long as they were producing something from within.

As a child, I don’t recall ever feeling like I had any talents in that regard, and because I felt that way, I didn’t think anything I made with my imagination had any value. But now, I think we all have creative talents, and whatever is of interest to us should be developed, nurtured and appreciated.

Pablo Picasso once said: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once you grow up.”

As much as my children are anxious to be adults, I hope they’re always able to stay young-at-heart artistically. And I’m also hoping Daisy’s feet stop growing once they reach size eight. It would be nice to clomp around in her fancy shoes for a change.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

 

Name that tot

My nine-year-old daughter came home last week and said we needed to buy a baby gift for a teacher at her school.

“His name is Ikea,” Daisy said excitedly.

“Whose name is Ikea?” I asked, not knowing if she was referring to the teacher or the infant.

“Mr. Verstraete’s baby,” she said. “He’s a boy!”

“Ikea?” I asked. “Are you sure his name’s Ikea?”

“Yes, of course,” she responded, as though I was nuts for asking.

But I guess anything goes nowadays when it comes to names. I shouldn’t have been surprised about a child sharing the same moniker as a Swedish store, particularly after reading in the news that someone named their baby Hashtag, inspired by a commonly-used social media symbol.

And who am I to judge? Once upon a time I was considered weird for the name I had chosen for my firstborn.

“Buster is a dog’s name,” I was scolded countless times during my pregnancy when I made the mistake of sharing the name I’d picked out. So what, I thought. It was also the name of a famous actor and an even more famous shoe.

I absolutely loved the name Buster. It was fun and strong and it had character. I wasn’t about to let the opinions of others change my mind. Except there was one opinion that kind of mattered: that of Buster’s dear old dad.

“Let’s think of a few other options and pick one once he’s born,” Paul reasoned. Fine, I thought. He’ll fall in love with the name by then for sure.

But when our beautiful baby boy arrived with his spiky, blonde hair he didn’t look like a Buster to either of us. He looked like a Sam, so that’s what we called him.

“Buster would have been fine,” my friend, who’s a teacher, said about my original choice. “It’s all the purposely misspelled and hard-to-pronounce names that drive me crazy.”

Like Quvenzhane?

My daughter and I recently saw the movie Beasts of the Southern Wild with Quvenzhane Wallis, the youngest Oscar-nominated actor in history, and we immediately nicknamed her Q. It just seemed easier.

If anyone’s to blame for names getting stranger and more unique as the years go by, let’s blame the celebrities.  I mean, really – who was naming their kids anything all that bizarre before Frank Zappa introduced his children Dweezil, Moon Unit, Ahmet and Diva Thin Muffin to the world?

At the time, people were horrified. Since then, many celebrities have followed suit and it’s become the norm in Hollywood.

Names like Alcamy, Apple, Banjo, Bingham, Blue Angel, Blue Ivy, Destry, Exton, Fifi Trixibelle, Jermajesty, Kal-El, Kyd, Maddox, Memphis Eve, Moses, Ocean, Pilot Inspektor, Rocket, Rumer, Seargeoh and the list goes on. Heck, actor Rob Morrow named his child Tu. How would you like to have the name Tu Morrow?

With websites out there dedicated to listing all the strange names that babies are getting saddled with these days, it’s easy to see that this trend is growing. Am I complaining? Nah. Why not get creative and unique when naming our offspring? This certainly can’t be worse than giving them a name that they share with three other kids in the class.

Naming our children is a big responsibility, and everyone’s not going to like what we choose. But as long as we’re picking names we truly love and not just making up stuff so we can laugh at how hilarious we are, we should be okay. If the kid ends up hating their name, which some do, “normal” or not, they can always legally change it to something else later.

Ikea might do that. Except, his name’s not actually Ikea. Turns out it’s Atticus.

I guess I’ll be returning my gift of an Ikea train set and getting him a copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” instead.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com 

The superhero without a cape

Eleven years ago, when I was running my own family daycare and supervising seven children aged three and under, music was my saviour.

No, I didn’t put my headphones on and crank my iPod to drown out the sound of the kids. I’d put a CD in the ghetto blaster, announce to the crew it was party time, and play some of their favourite tunes from musicians like Raffi, Fred Penner and Norman Foote.

Watching the little ones prance around in their own unique ways was an instant delight and a welcome reprieve, even in my most frazzled moments. Their CDs weren’t background music in my home, they were special, and reserved for carved-out blocks of time in our day when we all needed a break. Most of all me.

So when I recently had the opportunity to meet one of my musical saviours who unknowingly helped me keep my sanity all those years, I had two words for him: Thank you.

Norman Foote was on the receiving end of those words and was about to put on a show to entertain a lot more than just seven youngsters and me. He’d be playing for hundreds of folks, ranging from babies to seniors, and delighting them all. On top of that, he would be managing about 100 elementary-aged children up on stage with him who would be serving as his backup singers for their very first time.

I felt like I was meeting a superhero. A superhero with no cape.

“The most important thing to me is that these kids have a blast,” he said pointing to the excited students who were standing on stage ready to entertain the audience. “And,” he added, “to put on a great show for everyone out there.”

He succeeded on both counts.

As I watched from my seat in the theatre I couldn’t help but notice what a fabulous time we were all having, particularly my eight year old daughter, Daisy, who I could barely keep my eyes off of.

She wasn’t sitting beside me, she was one of those students on the stage. Singing, laughing and gesturing dramatically, she was clearly having the time of her life. For months she and the other back up singers had been learning Norman Foote songs and the movements to go along with his lyrics. They’d obviously been paying attention.

After the fun, funny show was over, the energy in the place was high and I wanted to bottle it and sell it for millions. Not knowing how to do that, I waited until the beloved musician finished signing autographs and swooped in with my video camera to capture Daisy conduct her very first surprise interview him.

As he graciously answered her questions it dawned on me that his writing style is similar to mine. His songs, like my columns, are about the everyday. He writes about grandfather clocks and family pets and things like the crazy colourful shirt he fell in love with at a consignment store.

Of course, the comparisons end there. Light years ahead of me, he’s a Juno Award-winning musician while I can barely carry a tune. He’s also a brilliant family performer who makes entertaining for all ages look easy when I know the opposite is true.

Norman Foote is a superhero alright. He might not have a cape, but he’s got one heck of a nice, new second-hand shirt.

To watch Daisy’s interview with him please visit KidTalkwithDaisy.com

Singing down fear

My eight year old daughter did something recently that I’ve never done in my life: she sang all alone on stage.

Over the years there’s been the rare occasion I’ve been too intoxicated to fend off friends who dragged me up to sing karaoke or mortify some local band by joining in. But never have I deliberately walked out to sing a real song in front of a real audience all by myself, like Daisy did. If I ever had the inclination to do so, I can’t imagine I’d even have the strength.

Singing is hard work. When I’m belting out lyrics from the comfort of my little orange Beetle I feel like the wind’s been knocked out of me before I even hit the chorus if I’m trying to sing in-tune. Should I just crank up the volume of the stereo to cover up the fact that I’m way off-key? Yep, that helps. I sound terrific then.

I’ve heard that public speaking is the number one fear for a lot of people, but I’m guessing that if I took a poll, most people would rather do that than sing in public. And anyone who wouldn’t must have better pipes than me.

My daughter certainly does.

She’s been singing since she was a toddler. She often falls asleep with headphones on singing away to Miley Cyrus, Fergie or LMFAO, so when I suggested she take singing lessons to accompany her guitar lessons I thought she’d be all over it. She wasn’t.

“But, Mama,” she protested. “I don’t want anyone to hear me.”

After I explained that only Terilyn Spooner, her guitar teacher, would be hearing her, she agreed. Neither of us had any idea that only two short months later she’d be singing solo in a Christmas concert. I didn’t even know until that very night because she had kept it her own fearful secret.

When Daisy walked out on the stage by herself she looked really nervous. The music started and she softly sang into the microphone looking out at the crowd, and then she promptly forgot the words and froze like a deer in the headlights. Terilyn stopped the music and asked if she wanted to start over. I wasn’t sure how she’d react, but she started singing again and finished the entire song.

She didn’t belt it out like she would have done at home, and she didn’t dance around like she normally would either. She stood still, arms crossed, looking terrified and quietly singing. As soon as the song ended she bolted across the stage and down the stairs to take a seat in the audience, only to be called back up 10 minutes later to sing the duet that I did know about.

Later she cried from a pounding headache and an aching tummy. But after a good talk she seemed to appreciate her wonderful accomplishment.

She faced her fear and she conquered it. And in the process she did something her parents and big brother have never had the courage to do: she sang on stage all alone in front of an audience. She now knows that if she can do that, she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

To watch the video that accompanies this column please visit LoriWelbourne.com