Monday, June 20, 2022


Shadows and sunlight on Father's Day

- Any job description for the position of father would be necessarily vague; the rules, roles and expectations of fathers are in constant flux

Globe & Mail, June 17, 2004

Forget the easy cynicism about Father's Day. The arbitrary designation of the third Sunday in June as Father's Day may well be a marketer's invention to improve retail sales as shoppers abandon the malls when the first warm weather hits. But Father's Day triggers much more than shopping. It unleashes an emotional undercurrent of labyrinthine complexity. Why?

Mother's Day, albeit another marketing scam invented to separate us from our money, is a much more worthy occasion. Any father who has attended a childbirth will acknowledge that he got the easier job. It is easy to see what Mom has done for us. Therefore on Mother's Day we buy her cards, send flowers or take her out to dinner. Mothers deserve our thanks. At least this way we are reminded to do it once a year. With Father's Day, the issue darkens, taking on greater nuance.

Perhaps fathers come back to our memories more poignantly than mothers because we never really knew them. If you were born before 1945, chances are your father was a visiting celebrity in your childhood. If you were born in between 1945 and 1960, you may have more memories of him, but maybe not more involvement. After 1960, he was around more and began spending some time with you. After 1975, he might even have maintained the illusion of spending as much time with you as did your mother. Don't believe him. He didn't. Now he regrets it.

Dead fathers come back to us when we least expect them. A whiff of cigar smoke on a busy sidewalk. Old plaid shirts in a cupboard. Medals at the back of a drawer. Fishing rods, trout flies in a tackle box. His favourite beer. Living fathers tend to be older than their wives and less agile at adapting to the passing years. They are more brittle. Like tall trees in a cyclone, they are blown down sooner. We take them in our arms as we never tried to as children. Now they are so much smaller. The physical prowess we remember has melted away. Now they have soft middles and stooping postures.

Warriors no more.

Fatherhood is a largely unconscious role. Ask any group of 11-year-old girls on the cusp of fertility about their life aspirations. Many of them will mention becoming a mom. Then ask their male classmates. No mention of becoming a dad. None. Sex, yes. In the pubescent male imagination, manhood and fatherhood travel in non-intersecting orbits. Fatherhood is not part of most men's Game Plans. They don't aim for it. Fatherhood often struggles into male consciousness only during an affair that is threatening to become a permanent fixture. This prospect often triggers the fight-or-flight response.

The unconscious is a very chaotic entity. Often, as a man lurches into fatherhood and holds his first newborn child, he is overwhelmed by deep feelings that have been crouching just beneath his skin, like patient terrorists about to wreak havoc. The responses to fatherhood cover the full repertoire. He may surrender to the love of his children the moment they are born. Or he may see them as encumbrances that he has to endure to keep living with this particular woman. Or he may run. Or any combination thereof. If he is lucky his wife will read his symptoms and help him interpret these feelings. If he is unlucky his wife will assume the worst, lower her expectations and let him slouch through fatherhood as if drunk, oblivious to what he is missing.

For anthropologists, fatherhood is a very ambiguous role. Apart from the biological imperative, children can survive and grow to maturity without the intervention of a father. True, such circumstances might result in guaranteed income for future generations of therapists, but so can families with abusive fathers. Or unfulfilled fathers who blame their lack of achievement on their families. Almost any sort of a mother is far better than none. Can the same be said of fathers?

Any job description for the position of father would be necessarily vague; the rules, roles and expectations of fathers are in constant flux. Think of any job that lacks clear rules, roles and expectations. How well are these jobs performed?

Fathers still feel their way through the maze, bumping into walls and bruising foreheads. Fathers talk more about fatherhood now than 50 years ago, but they are still woefully isolated compared to their wives when it comes to support for their emerging roles.

Clearly songwriter Leonard Cohen knows something about fatherhood. His own father died when he was 10. He avoided fatherhood for as long as he could. When one of his amours had two kids, he left. Consider the lyrics of Cohen's First We Take Manhattan:

Remember me? I used to live for music./ Remember me? I brought your groceries in./

It's Father's Day and everybody's wounded/ First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin.

What are the wounds of Father's Day? Grief for lost fathers. Resentment for absent fathers. Regret for thanks left unsaid, for embraces never given nor received. Fondness for times shared, precious to the memory due to their infrequency. Anger over old battles, loud voices. Strong hands. Throbbing scars. Old wounds. Father's Day.

On this Father's Day let us celebrate fathers who strive to become more conscious of the cold shadows or warm sunlight they can shed on the lives of their loved ones.

Friday, April 22, 2022

 Is There Any Hope? Mortality and the Climate Crisis

 - a review of Ken Victor's article by Bill Templeman

Click here to access the original online version

BILL TEMPLEMAN – Writer Ken Victor has written a moving assessment of our collective response to the climate crisis. He starts from his own palliative care experiences with his grandfather, then his father in palliative care, where there can no longer be any hope. He discovers that the opposite of hope is not hopelessness, but love. Then he applies this insight to humanity’s potential extinction. His essay, The Opposite of Hope Isn’t Hopelessness: Meditations on Mortality and the Climate Crisis, could offer us an essential compass bearing as we head into uncharted territory ahead.

The most recent IPCC report released on February 27, 2022 says “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet…”

While the IPCC does not imply that there is no hope for our species on this planet, they do not back away from naming the grave danger we face.

UN Secretary General António Guterres describes this latest IPCC report as “an atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.

Half of the world’s population is threatened by water shortages; extreme weather events are becoming more frequent and severe; and more than 14 percent of the world’s species are at high risk of extinction as global temperatures rise.

But for Victor, humanity has already entered the palliative stage of its life cycle on Earth. For him, there can be no hope at this stage. While we can dispute his conclusion, we risk missing a vital coping strategy as the next two decades unfold by dismissing his perspective.

A few words of caution: Reading about death might not be easy. Thinking about the end of our own life journeys can become, for some, either an intense preoccupation or a subject to repress at all costs. Thinking about the end of our species might be enormously abstract. I don’t agree with Victor’s worldview on this point, but not because of my imaginary insight into the IPCC’s conclusions about the science behind the climate crisis. I cannot pretend to have any scientific evaluation of the IPCC’s findings. My resistance is solely based on my own experience of taking action in the face of threat as being more empowering than lapsing into a resigned acceptance.

Ken Victor would counter that the motives driving my actions are destined to fail because they would be based on the false assumption that humanity is still in charge of its destiny. We can fix this! Maybe we can. But how do we move forward if we can’t fix it? He would maintain that only when our actions are based on our compassion for the Earth, not our own survival, will we be promoting the healing that surviving life forms will need after we are gone.

So where are we? Has humanity entered the palliative care stage? Maybe this is the wrong question. A better question might be “how can you or I take action in the face of feeling that the climate situation is hopeless?”

On this point, Victor compares the individual experience of dying with the experience of our species’ extinction. As we lie on our deathbeds, surrounded by those who have loved us —and whom we have loved — we, the dying, so too with humanity. Who has humanity loved and received love from? Who has been our companion? The Earth under our feet and the air around us, the water that has quenched our thirst, the animals and insects that have travelled with us, and the soil that has fed us.

So, if we are leaving this realm, what must we do? What do we have to own? What debts must we repay? Yes, we have been abusive. We didn’t respect the Earth’s needs. We punished those of us who spoke out against this abuse. We didn’t listen to our better angels. Greed, laziness, and short-term thinking won.

If we see ourselves as co-equal with all that lives on this planet, if we see ourselves as sentient beings and not masters, then actions will follow from that understanding will be radically different from what went before. We will move from exploitation to nurturing.

Victor’s closing words could be a clarion call for all future environmental action: “The Earth has been our home, we were bad tenants, and now we’re doing right by it. For all those who come after. There’s beautiful work to be done, not from hope, but from love. Let us begin.”

Friday, March 11, 2022

Can you save your bricks-and-mortar shop by transforming it into an eCommerce business in the post-pandemic era?

Has the pandemic hurt your bricks-and-mortar business? Have you noticed that you are no longer seeing the volume of customers that used to come into your shop before the pandemic?

The only way to rejuvenate your business is to convert it to an eCommerce operation. This is a straightforward process if you sell commodities like clothing, home repair tools or sports equipment. Your customers could shop online and order their shirts, screwdrivers or running shoes to be delivered or made available for contactless pickup. Your online presence will need to be enhanced to include shoppable social media posts, pickup and return locations outside of physical stores, on-demand delivery, and regional or nationwide shipping. 

But what can you do if your business requires in-person customers in order to consume your product or service? Can eCommerce give you a path to fulfilling these needs even when in-person service is not possible? Let’s look at two examples: restaurants and entertainment venues. In both of these examples, knowing your customers, applying innovation and adapting to the realities of the pandemic marketplace are the keys to success. 

What can restaurants do?

Providing take-out options can become a good strategy. But how can restaurants tap into the increased need to prepare meals at home? Customers have more time at home during this pandemic; many are no longer commuting to work every day. Sales of kitchen equipment have shot up. Remember the sour-dough bread craze of 2020? During the first year of the pandemic, some restaurants pivoted to help their customers cook at home.

They sold single-size and family-size meal kits complete with measured ingredients, packaged spicing and detailed instructions. They also sold grocery items like flour, olive oil and fresh herbs which at the time were in high demand. Not only did this pivot meet an emergent market need, but also it also helped some restaurants stay in business. 

A resourceful group of restaurateurs came up with another bright idea: selling their surplus food supplies to customers who were having a difficult time finding essential products at their local grocery stores. Be it fresh meats, seafood, produce, specialty herbs and spices or even paper products, restaurants had the products that their consumers wanted.

They announced their sales of surplus goods via social media, email and on their websites. The transition put these restaurants in a new position in the supply chain; many of them made the transformation from restaurateur to menu planners and grocers overnight. This pivot positioned restaurants as both an expanded resource for their customers and a support structure for their suppliers. 

For restauranteurs who want to leverage their supply chains by selling groceries, creating meal kits, or implementing some other creative strategy, here are four tips to get started:

  • Talk to your customers. What do they want or need? What would help make their lives easier and what tools do you have in your own toolkit that can help accommodate these needs (while supporting your sales goals)?
  • Get creative. This is when your restaurant can get into lines of business that you would never have thought of otherwise, like selling meal kits for home cooking. Challenging times call for innovative ideas.
  • Embrace eCommerce. Sell more online. Sell on your website. Sell via email. Sell on Instagram by creating shoppable posts. Develop meal kits and post details about them (and how to order them, pick them up, or have them delivered) on Instagram or Facebook.
  • Market what you have. Send your customers an email (and use whatever social media they use most) to let them know what you’re still serving and when or if there are other ways they can support your business and employees.

How about entertainment venues?

The same principles apply. Performance spaces such as theatre halls, bars and cafes have formed partnerships with musicians and theatre artists who perform online with ticketing handled through platforms like Eventbrite. A theatre group in Peterborough, Ontario put together a brilliant online performance by asking their actors to take videos of their solo performances at home as they acted out their parts in one of Shakespeare’s best-known playsA theatre technician then stitched these individual clips together to create an early pandemic Zoom classic: Cut and Paste MacbethThe theatre group took over the promotion and ticketing for the online performance of this play, thereby earning revenue for themselves and their actors.

The same model can be applied to online concerts and solo musical performances. Theatres and other performance spaces can also coordinate online film festivals targeting specific slices of their audience. Art galleries are launching online retrospectives of artists’ work to date and shows by new artists. Again, as with restaurants, find out what your customers want via email and social media, or by offering discounted tickets for completing online surveys. 

Whether your business sells physical commodities – like clothing or sports equipment– or you provide a service –such as a restaurant or entertainment venue– that is traditionally delivered in person, can you really save your bricks-and-mortar shop by transforming it into an eCommerce business in the post-pandemic era? The answer is YES! The effectiveness of this transformation from a bricks-and-mortar shop to an eCommerce business depends on you taking these 6 actions; taking these actions will set you up for success. 

6 actions to turn your bricks-and-mortar shop into an eCommerce business

Action #1: Your customers want convenience during their eCommerce shopping experience. You can deliver convenience by making your site as clear and as easy to use as possible. Remember that many former bricks-and-mortar shoppers are now testing online shopping. Not all of them are savvy Internet users just yet. Make their shopping experience easy. Build simple screens. Ask customers to perform only one task per screen. 

Action #2: Your customers want safety on multiple levels. They want maximum cyber safety. Their confidential information must be secure at all times. They also want physical safety as lingering concerns about the spread of Covid-19 are still widespread. How to provide this safety? Two things: (A) You need to make fast home delivery seamless and (B) You need to provide contactless pickup. 

Action #3: You will need to augment your current online budget so you can re-design your website, upgrade your online shopping cart so it is easy to use, improve your platform, upgrade your digital marketing and enhance your fulfillment processes. If all this sounds intimidating, keep in mind that you will be spending much less time on your physical plant and on staffing. 

You will also need to focus on issues central to running a business online, such as handling data privacy, taking online payments, digital marketing, sales tax in different geographies, protecting yourself from eCommerce fraud, and communicating your value to customers. 

Action #4: Think of your eCommerce business as an extension of your brick-and-mortar shop, at least in the beginning of your transition. As your customers get used to shopping on your eCommerce site, traffic analysis of your bricks-and-mortar-shopping volumes will tell you how to make your transition and when to scale back your physical shop. You may eventually down-scale your shop to a product pick-up boutique without any in-store customer shopping whatsoever. Maybe your location and the demographic of your customers will help you determine when you can close your bricks-and-mortar shop completely. Or maybe this analysis will tell you to maintain a small hybrid shop with limited in-store customer shopping and product pickup capability for your eCommerce customers.

Action #5: Re-evaluate your product range. You will need to maximize your digital product offerings while you make sure your order fulfillment processes are smooth and fast. Keep your capacity to fulfill orders in close alignment with your online product offerings. Don’t promote what you aren’t able to quickly deliver. You’ve heard this before –don’t over-promise and under-deliver. 

Action #6: Avoid the temptation to rip up your bricks-and-mortar business model and plunge into eCommerce without sufficient planning. Mall-based retailers, already limping due to department store struggles, saw their earnings drop over 250% percent in the second fiscal quarter of 2020, according to Retail Metrics. 

And if you’re ready to try out these actionable steps to transform your bricks-and-mortar business, there isn’t a better platform to consider than Shopify. Our Shopify Experts at HeyCarson, can help you execute on these goals and turn your brand into a real eCommerce business, at affordable project rates.

Making a decision

Meanwhile, other businesses were swamped with unexpected demand. Businesses with strong e-commerce strategies, or the ability to quickly pivot and deliver a multi-channel experience across stores, online, and social media, reaped huge rewards. Amazon posted its biggest profit ever during the summer of 2020, with sales growth up 40% over 2019. Walmart’s eCommerce shot up by 97%. Overall, online buying was up 45 percent between 2019 and 2020. 

Given these trends, it might be tempting to throw caution to the wind and charge ahead into the online world. But before you leap, be sure to make all your decisions based on a shrewd analysis of local customer data. Survey your customers, make your surveys concise and, if possible, rewarding. How? Offer discounts for completed surveys, or enter names in a raffle of an attractive prize. Analyze granular details about your customer preferences. Remain flexible as you respond to them. 

Business owners who act on location-rich data to place products where customers are (whether online or in-person), then personalize the shopping experience to suit new customer habits, will move through the post-pandemic transition with agility and success.

Remember, you don’t have to make this transition by yourself; our Shopify Experts at HeyCarson can help you navigate all the steps needed for setting up your eCommerce business on the Shopify platform, at affordable rates. Think of your new eCommerce business on Shopify not as a temporary life-raft but as a sleek sailing yacht that you can pilot through the rough waters of the fading pandemic into an exciting future era of innovation and reward.


Friday, February 25, 2022


Healing and listening vital after vaccination divisions

Incidents in Ottawa brought out the worst of us, on both sides.

Saturday, January 15, 2022


How should we deal with the antivaccination crowd?

The divisions are deep, but we have to live together.   

January 15, 2022

Tuesday, November 2, 2021


Guest Column: A pilot, a boy and stories of war in a biplane