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Turns out that – while I wasn’t looking – Messages entered its fifth year! At an average thousand-plus hits a year, I’m feeling pretty good about Li’l Bloggy.

So I’m celebrating four years of blathering on with another visual that quite plainly speaks for itself, thank you.

(In case you’re not clicking through the image … this comes from a post on the facebook page of Dartmouth Learning Network., shared in a terrific local group I’m part of called Read, Damn You!)

The Rights of the Reader

By Daniel Pennac, Illust. by Quentin Blake.

The other day I came across a link to this gem of a poster. It was linked from a well-known blog I follow called The Happiness Project, which mentioned the 1992 book of the same name (which I can’t wait to get my hands on as well!).

I love its simplicity and universal appeal — whether you’re a non-, weak, online, sometime, or voracious reader, you have these rights and likely recognize some of these behaviours in yourself.

And for those of us who make our living by communicating, I see this as a simple-yet-powerful communication tool: a Ten Commandments of Truths We Must Always Remember before we prepare something that we want (or need) people to read.

If you're reading this, you probably have one of these.

CBC Radio One aired an interview this morning about the problems that arise when people pass away without having addressed how to manage their “digital footprint” or “digital legacy” after they’re gone. Today’s show was prompted by the latest effort in Nebraska to propose legislation to allow next of kin to control digital accounts after a user has passed away

I’ve faced this dilemma over the past year, when facebook asked me if I wanted to be friends with my recently-passed mother-in-law.

You see, she fully had no more intention of leaving anytime near when she set up her account, than we had of seeing her go. If she did leave instructions to take down her profile (which I suspect not), they have not yet been satisfied.

Even while I’ve hit the little x when my poor mom-in-law’s profile box appeared – a bizarrely final thing to do anyway – her name and photo still show up each time I search on fb for a name starting with the same first few letters as hers (I simply cannot bring myself to delete another good friend’s contact info from any of my lists, even though she’s been gone for four years now).

One of the people interviewed today on CBC says that facebook is just starting to tackle this issue, having dealt with requests to take down pages from people not even related to someone…or of people still very much alive. It’s sad.

And, it’s become rather insidious, as noted by this site, appropriately titled Death and Digital Legacy. A more well-known example mentioned on that site is of Janna Moore Morin, who died violently and unexpectedly, but whose facebook profile has taken on its own momentum in the two years since her death.

Some think that the directing of all these data toward us – whether we’ve asked for them or not – is a part of a larger, more sinister movement to hyper-market to us by using info about us gotten from our digital footpath, and feeding us only the information related to those preferences – and of course, to the products that can help us further feed the image of ourselves we’ve put out there. The Daily You by Joe Turow explores this more closely, and Professor Turow blogs about these issues regularly on Media Today and Tomorrow.

Would you want to share every part of your digital legacy?
Getting back to the more general issue of the digital footprint, another point made this morning was about including it as a line item in our long-term plan. Aside your will, insurance papers and other instructions in your emergency plan, we’re being advised to ensure we have a list of all of our online accounts and their entry passwords, which we give to our partner or someone else we trust…just in case.

But what if there are accounts we only use for the stuff we don’t ever want people to know? (Course, you might argue quite rightly, as many have done, that you should never exchange anything online that you wouldn’t want shared.) And after you’re gone, well, it’s really all quite moot anyway, right?

Have you considered your digital legacy?

But what if, by sharing that info with your partner, you’re leaving yourself open to that trusted person using that information, er, before they need to? Then, if you do have some things to hide, you could be discovered while you’re still here to have to deal with the fallout?

These couple examples are likely just the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Once you engage with something that is capable of transmitting every one of your deets across the planet and back, these things are now part of your baggage, whether you like it or not.

Still not sure you should be worried? Click the video on the right side of the Death and Digital Legacy site. Follow Digital Nick and his exploits, which only magnify in interest…only problem is, the real Nick has died.

If you’ve been cruising my blog for awhile, you’ll know that I’m a fan of efforts to increase financial literacy.

Fortunately, I have also had the chance to help financial services clients make their information clearer – which is my way of supporting this effort.

And – by hook or by crook (“I’m a words person, not a numbers person!”) – I’m becoming a more informed financial consumer myself.

With the world’s current economic situation in tatters and all of the protests taking place around the way worldwide wealth is distributed, the time is ripe for us to better understand questions such as what factors affect who earns the most and how do the world’s economies depend on each other?

Closer to home, the news media continue to report rising numbers of Canadians who feel unprepared for their retirement; heck, many of us worry that we won’t have enough to pay our next stream of bills if something unexpected happens to our health or job (here’s an example from the Globe and Mail).

So what’s my point?

Along with meeting, analyzing and protesting, lots of people and organizations are choosing to educate. Hence, join me in welcoming Financial Literacy Month!

And to get you into the spirit, here are a few good resources for those of you wanting to know more:

Through SimplyRead, my plain-language writing business, I continue to work with organizations that are required to use plain language in their communications because their industry or customers are insisting on it.

Here are just a few examples:

  • The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005 sets out guidelines for Ontario businesses and organizations to help them identify, remove and prevent barriers to accessibility. The first standard related to Customer Service became law in 2008. Now, the standards for creating, providing and receiving accessible information and communications is being streamlined as it aims toward becoming law later this year.
  • Responding to feedback from its customers, one of our business clients is implementing plain language communications across its organization: establishing templates and training support to help employees recognize and use clear writing techniques in their customer communications.

Watch this space over the next few weeks for a more personal look at why financial literacy has evolved into a subject that’s on the tongues of more people in the financial and education arenas.

If I ever manage to blog more than a few times a month, I figure I have to see how it’s really done by reading what other quite successful bloggers have put out.

Two blogs have stood out and become regular visits – probably because they also help me improve in two quite important arenas of life: stretching our dollars, and surviving gracefully as a parent.


The first is Squawkfox, a very engaging read about ways to keep the ends meeting, even if we face tougher times (and heck, those with lots of extra – does anyone actually still *know* many people like that?! – will stand a better chance of keeping what they have if they live by this advice.)

Deemed as the place ‘ Where frugal living is sexy, delicious and fun!,’ this blog lives up to its name. And because she’s writing as a consumer living in Canada (Kerry K Taylor lives in Vernon, B.C.), she is writing from a similar consumer experience to mine – making the advice terribly relevant. Plus, she lives up to the phrugal philosophy by giving away several resources for free. In other words – financial literacy in action.

I have a penchant for re-using things, finding really good deals on stuff I need – and a serious hate-on for feeling like corporations are getting the better of me. So I just love reading what the Squawkfox has to say. And of course, she makes no bones about saying what’s on her mind. A woman after my own heart, but who wants to help me put more money in my wallet.

The Happiest Mom

One thing you can very often say of blogs about parenting is that they are very honest, often to the point of being in-your-face.  This to me has several merits to me. Chief among them is that many other parents who struggle with the job – but who don’t naturally express ourselves this way in writing – will find solace that others face much of the same angst about it that they do. Entire new communities and friendships are being built among moms who blog about their experiences.

So from a clarity perspective, there’s no issue. And there is a Mom Blog out there to suit every personality. But so far, I’m digging this one the most.

The Happiest Mom is actually Meagan Francis, mom herself to five kids, blogger and columnist in parenting magazines and several websites. What I like so much about her blog is not what you might expect, given its title: she doesn’t try to sugarcoat the parenting experience and portray herself as the accomplished Uber-Mom (many of us know a few of those already). In fact, quite the opposite. From the About page:

I haven’t always been a happy mom. In fact, there was a time that I was downright miserable. But through the years, I came to learn some secrets, tips and tricks that have helped me tip the scales back toward the happy side.

The other cool thing? She cuts through the shrouds of guilt and self-deprivation that tend to characterize motherhood, instead encouraging the key message that it’s taking care of ourselves that helps us to feel more balanced as parents. But not in a self-centred way. Again, she says it best:

By taking care of our health and well-being, defining our values so we can focus on the things that matter to us (and forget the rest,) nurturing our homes and relationships, and setting reasonable standards for ourselves and everyone around us, moms really can learn to enjoy life…even when it’s chaotic, loud and messy.

Amen to that, sister.

This past week I had the honour of attending the annual graduation ceremony hosted bytccld Toronto’s Centre for Community Learning & Development (CCL&D, formerly East End Literacy). Having been involved in the mid-to-late 90’s, I still get invited to celebrate the organization’s tremendous progress — and always leave filled with positivity and admiration for their accomplishments.

I cannot say enough good things about the innovative — yet ultra-intuitive– ways that this organization has transformed itself and its community (which spans the St. Jamestown and Regent Park areas of Toronto, but has expanded its reach in recent years through partnerships with community programs across the Greater Toronto Area).

In this year’s highlights, CCL&D introduced a series of compelling personal stories its program participants had created. Using still photography from the students’ personal collections, interspersed with scenery, abstract images and custom-made artwork, each story was narrated using voiceovers, with the participants narrating their personal histories.

The stories spanned generations of history, taking place in countries across the globe, to culminate in each person’s present-day experience in Toronto, at CCL&D. To have the narrators/creators in the audience, and receiving recognition for their other accomplishments in learning and community development made the experience that much more profound.

digitalstoriesRecognizing their success with integrating this technology into its curriculum, the Center for Digital Storytelling based in Berkeley, California has conferred official partner site status to CCL&D (you can see some sample digital stories on the Berkeley org’s site).

You could say that the new addition to its programming brings this organization full-circle: from being Toronto’s pioneer in self-publishing for literacy learners in the 70’s, to harnessing twentieth-century technologies to once more give a voice to the people who come through its doors seeking to make positive changes in their lives.

Gee, I can’t wait to see what they’re up to next year.


Reel in those finances!

This is a topic I’ve learned about the hard way – you see, I’m one of those people about whom all the media are now talking, who have racked up way too much credit-card debt and hold too many cards.

But fortunately (sort of), I hit 40 last year and finally got the good sense to engage a financial adviser. Her first order of business? Weaning my husband and I off our VISA habit. Having finally drilled down to figure out which ones have the lowest interest rate, we are now cancelling cards left-and-right.

And it’s not just to avoid temptation: it’s also to improve our credit rating. Did you know that just having room on multiple cards raises your debt ratio? I didn’t.

“Debt ratio,” you say? If you don’t even know what that is (and again, I didn’t, either), you can at least be comforted in knowing you’re not alone. A report released today on warns that more and more of us are starting to default on our credit card payments.

There is some good coming of this, though. Last week it was announced that a new task force is being struck to improve financial literacy among Canadians. I’ve also been hearing more and more about revisions to the school curriculum to include this important topic.

You may think it sad and not surprising that these issues are making it into the headlines both here and in the U.S., now that so many are now suffering the consequences of our ignorance. All I can say is, thank goodness it’s happening, no matter the timing! If only those programs had been around in my elementary and secondary school days (in case you’re even more phobic of numbers than I am, they were in the 70’s and 80’s).

Now, let’s just hope that the Financial Literacy Task Force will consult heavily with educators and literacy professionals as they figure out their action plan.

The inevitable Bar Graph

The inevitable Bar Graph

Want to further educate yourself?

Here’s a link from the ‘horse’s mouth,’ as it were: The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) offers a host of resources to help you become more financially literate.

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