- Gone is the railroad that connected us from coast to coast. It's now a walking trail, unfortunately littered with brown coffee cups.
- So long to universal medicare. That'll be history in a couple of years when the two-tiered system, which is already in place, is finally acknowledged.
- The CBC? Have you listened to it lately?? If I hear one more Dave and Morley story, I'll choke. Those dimwits on the weekly afternoon show are mind numbing.........and the Voice on The Current is the unfunniest piece of yuk. It's sad and true. CBC is not the icon it used to be.
- Mr. Dress-up and the Friendly Giant..........gone.
- Don Cherry? Heard it all before...........
- Hockey? Well, I just read that while the other Olympians were being cheered and welcomed home in airports from coast to coast, the bazillionaire hockey players quietly (and rightly so) slunked by in anonymity. And poor Gretzky........annus horribilus for sure. He's out of the running right now.
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Monday, February 27, 2006
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.
So long loyal friend. We will miss you dearly.
Lucy - 1994-2006
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Do you think you could ever manage to survive on $495.00 a month in Canada, when you are responsible to pay $300 of that for shelter? This leaves $195.00 for food, basic necessities, power bills, heat, clothing, transportation to and from doctor appointments??
People somehow manage to do this everyday in this province. This is the rate of social assistance for a single individual who is over the age of 55, and/or has serious health issues that render them temporarily or sometimes permanently unemployable. They are not considered certified disabled because they can still look after themselves. Consequently, they don't qualify for more $$$, they aren't a priority with respect to subsidized housing, or other special benefits such as help with household items, or even a bus pass to get to and from appointments. They are on their own, struggling beyond comprehension.
Over the past couple of months, I have been meeting with a 57 year old woman who is barely surviving on this rate of assistance. Pat has no familial connections to this area. Her health has been so poor that she has lost any links she had to the community at large. For the past year, she has battled cancer on top of serious digestive problems, back problems and post-menopausal issues. She was totally dependant on the assistance she was given as she dragged herself to and from treatments. And despite her ongoing health issues, she contacted me to see if I could help her find employment.
Maslow places the need for basic food, water and shelter at the foundational bottom of his hierarchy of needs for a self-actualizing life. $495.00 a month doesn't even cover this effectively without some community intervention.........soup kitchens, food banks etc. It's appalling. And yet, most community members are not aware,( or refuse to be aware ) of the daily struggles that neighbours are going through. Sense of belonging, and the need to be needed by others are also considered basic needs. Can you imagine not having anyone, a friend or a family member to connect with regularly..........someone who could help you out if you needed to move or if you needed care when you are too sick to care for yourself?
Unawareness is irresponsible denial. Unawareness in this case should be considered unacceptable. Unfortunately, unawareness helps balance the provincial budget. Like many many others in our country, Pat is SOL.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
The baby shower brought back memories of all the other baby showers that colleagues have thrown over the years and of their everflowing and overwhelming generosity shown to the expectant parent. People go all out. We are a group of people who love babies. Whenever one is heard or seen coming in through the door, there's a guarantee that you will see at least a handful of staff ooogling and coooooing before the baby has had a chance to be lifted out of his/her carseat. Granted, most of my office is comprised of maternal women, I think there's more to it than meets the eye. The men also share this affinity.
No, it has more to do with two other reasons.
We work with people who are receiving social assistance. Day in and day out, we hear human stories of despair, poverty, illness and struggle. Every individual who arrives at the reception desk has experienced walking a difficult path in their life. By the time they reach our door, they know that that are at the end of their path. We're the last resort. Our role in the frontline is to assist them financially, but more importantly, to counsel and guide them back towards opportunity and self-sufficiency. Sometimes we succeed............oftentimes we see the same clients over and over again.........then there are the times when a colleague has to inform an individual that they don't qualify, or that their assistance has been cut off due to a change in their situation that goes against policy and regulations or their financial status has improved by a blip. Luckily in my role, I don't have to do that.
Frontline confrontations...........Frontline reality...........it's an emotional minefield. Often conversations, particularly about tough policy decisions that impact a family's financial future, are tinged with frustration over not being able to help more, and guilt over having to work within the confines of strict legislation. They are all pros, however, and have been working for many years in the field, and know how to protect their own emotional well-being. Yet, there are always situations that get under their skin and pierce their hearts. These are situations often involving babies and young children, where inherently you want to go the extra mile to ensure their health, safety and love and belonging needs................and can't.
Babies exude hope, and new beginnings. Babies provide a soft-hearted diversion.
Babies can also be the innocent face of poverty and neglect. More times than I care to remember have I wanted to take over the care of an infant who obviously is not being well-cared for. It just doesn't seem fair that a tiny being's future is so bleakly predictable at the start of their life. But...............there are systems in place to deal with those issues, right? Well, that's a subject for another blog posting another time..........
The second reason why celebrations of the birth of a newbie in my office stems from the heartbreak of seeing a baby who isn't lucky enough to be born into a family who may not even know how to care for him or her. After so many years of facing this ongoing issue, there is a sense that we all are part of a global village community. We are responsible in many ways for others. Our efforts everyday impact the lives of others. So, it transfers onto the people you work beside. I spend my workdays with special loving individuals who always have shown their compassion for each other's family's at home.
Is this unusual? I think so. Is this why I continue to work in the frontlines? You bet. It sure as hell isn't the salary!
I have been the recipient of two baby showers in the past. The joy and generosity shown to me then was overwhelming and very special. My children are theirs too. Just like Baby Mac will be.
Friday, February 24, 2006
This is the third part of my Lucy story...........her old lady years. Scroll down if you want to start from the beginning..............
Lucy is an April Fool's dog. She'll be 12 grand years in a little over a month, and though this family isn't so loopy that we formally celebrate the birthday of our dog we just may this year, because it will probably be her last. In fact, this time last week, it didn't look like she was going to make it.
As I have mentioned previously, Lucy has always had a loud unlady-like snore........one that can wake the neighbours. Over the past year, she has developed an impressively loud sniffing mechanism too, which sounds like a pot-bellied pig snuffing out truffles. Great for interupting dinner party conversations, I must say. What was more alarming was her wheeziness that reared it's ugly head just before Christmas. It was the first time that we felt that she was in distress. However, after many tests and blood work, we were left in the dark as to what was causing this to happen, except that it seemed to occur after she was out in the cold air or when she got overly excited. Since she is so laid back, this happened for the most part when her family returned home for the evening or when she was greeting visitors.
Last week, her breathing problems worsened. Though the wheezing only ever lasted a short amount of time, it was happening more often. Once again, she made the trip to the Vet's. Now, you would think that because she has received unconditional care and love from the good people at the Vet's Lucy would enjoy her visits there. uh...........no. It freaks her out. But, there was no avoiding it.
My husband took her over around dinner time only to hear some devastating news. There is a good chance that Lucy has lymphoma. She was given a shot of a steroid, and was sent home. When she arrived home, she and her litter buddy solemnly walked through the front door bearing this news. Lucy was struggling with her breathing again too, and for the first time, she was unable to stop the wheezing.
For two hours to no avail, we tried to calm her down hoping to help her turn the corner. All the while, we were trying to figure out whether she was reacting to the steroid injection, or whether her visit to the Vet's prompted the distress and she just couldn't stop herself. Nothing worked. The anxiety level increased. The reality of the situation was not lost on any of us, though we kept holding onto hope that she'd snap out of it. Instead, an emergency visit ensued.
The next hour was heart wrenching and draining, while we first heard news that she wasn't going to make it. As I made arrangements to take a cab over to the hospital with my kids, however, Lucy responded to the next round of medication and calmed down. We had a reprieve, and she came home.
This week, the medication has kept the harsh reality at bay somewhat but in our heart of hearts, her time with us will shortly be over. I will miss all of her eccentricities and her lovable personality. I will miss seeing her take a running slide down the snowy hill on her back like a seal............her enthusiastic trot to the beach, ears flapping, tail wagging.....her ability to warm my feet and heart at the same time........her calming presence and her slow pace walk, imitating E-or, up the street behind her litter buddy and her blonde upstart best friend who still loves to chase tennis balls and who taught her how to bark....her sad eyes and happy disposition, always.
Sometimes life just sucks, doesn't it?
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
This is the second part of my Lucy story..........her middle years....................scroll down if you want to read the first part.....................
On most days, Lucy rarely strayed far from her front lawn or her food source. She patiently and consistently kept an eye on her family, especially at night when she would ensure all was well in slumberland. Click, click, click of her nails up and down the hardwood hallway, until she’d settle down in the doorway of my son’s room, only to snore like a lumberjack with a deviated septum. Since we were used to her loud Flintstone-like snores, it rarely woke any of us up, though the noise was known to scare off visiting guests. Like fish, guests start to send off an odour after three days anyways, so we all considered it a good thing and never warned a newcomer!
Friends and family always commented on Lucy’s demeanour. Always friendly in search of a pat or a belly rub and always willing to warm someone’s feet, she would be described as laid back and nonchalant. Once she greeted someone at the front door, bark free, she’d park herself in the middle of the action and promptly fall asleep. In fact, she was so relaxed that when she shared her living space with our escaped, free-range hamster for 4 months, she took no notice. They were like two ships passing in the night and day. Any other dog would’ve devoured the furry little rodent, but not Lucy. I think it was the same attitude she displayed with other dogs. If the humans didn’t mind or pay much attention to them, why should I? Weird.
There were times that she would show her excitement. Every time her litter buddy, my husband, walked through the door, Lucy would get a good wag going. In fact, she somehow knew when it was 4:30 pm, because like clockwork, Lucy would awake from wherever she was slumbering and make her way to the front window to perch and wait the arrival of her family at the end of the day. If my husband was out in the evening, Lucy wouldn’t settle fully until he was home safe and sound.
If you really wanted to get a rise out of her however, to test her energy mettle, you needed a body of water. Naturally. It’s the Lab in her. Yeah, she was even known to sneak away from her front yard, and head down to the river, which happens to be across a busy road, for a quick dip. But, her favourite watering hole was in Spencer’s Island. As soon as her paws hit the beach, her lumbering gait would turn into a quick trot while she made a direct bee-line to the shore and into the cold salty water. Ahhhhhh………….
She definitely had slowed down after her slipped disc drama—to a point where we decided it may be a good idea to get her a buddy that would help keep her spry and young at heart. So, one spring when Lucy was 8 years old we brought home a blonde upstart pup. Born on Easter Sunday, Lily pounced her way into the hearts of the humans, but prompted the first growl ever to emit out of Lucy. For the first time, Lucy found her inner bark. We didn't know she had it in her.
Lily jumped and romped and teased and tried to wrestle with the old girl and Lucy would have none of it. Whenever they were let loose in the backyard, Lily made every attempt to get Lucy to play by barking and nipping and trying to jump over her. Finally, Lucy would chase after her just to get rid of the pain in the butt......to no avail. The blonde was not going away. Finally, more drastic measures were attempted by our cunning canine. Whenever no one was paying attention, Lucy clutched a puppy toy in her mouth and slipped away down the hill to bury it in a neighbour's garden. This went on for a couple of weeks until one day, the neighbour knocked on the door. Puppy toy in hand, he explained what had been occurring. He was very nice about it, but he also explained that lumbering Lucy, who was the size of a small brown bear, was frightening his wife. For the first time since her puppy days, Lucy was tied up on the property.
That fall, she ran away. I had come home for lunch and let the dogs outside, neglecting to put Lucy on her chain. She hardly ever wandered, and I thought I could keep an eye on her. Within seconds, she was gone. After calling her name and not finding her, I went back to work confident that she would be back sitting on the deck in the sun at the end of the day. She wasn’t. We took turns searching for her all evening………..along the highway, along the sideroads, up and down the streets and through the mini-home park by our house. We checked along the walking trail and down by the river. No Lucy. She had simply vanished. There was no sleep that night.
The next morning, my husband called the dog pound. No luck. However, he serendipitously crossed paths at his office with a neighbour and asked her if she had seen Lucy. She told my husband that there was a sign on the mailboxes close to her home indicating that someone had found a dog……….could it be? My husband rushed back to our neighbourhood, grabbed the phone number off the sign and called the number.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, yes they did have a Chocolate Lab. She had shown up around noon the day before. They tried to find the owner and had in fact taken her for a long walk to see if she would saunter in the direction of her home. When she didn’t take the bait (it turned out their walk took them as close as seeing distance to our house!) they took her home, gave her dinner and allowed her to sleep on their couch. They had fallen in love with her gentleness and laid back demeanor.
What are we at now? That was the third time that I had thought we had lost her. I was so relieved to see her. I was even grateful that she managed to get underfoot every time I was making dinner, or stood in the hallway in the middle of the morning traffic. Her overnight stay with her newfound fans once again made me realize that I was becoming one of those eccentric British dog lover types. I was a believer in the idea that I was a member of a family of 6……….4 humans and 2 dogs……..a family. Funny, after the runaway incident, Lucy must’ve come to terms with this concept too, because she started showing her compassion to the blonde upstart. Lily was now in her family. She had a new family member to look after.
And while Lily ensured that the old girl kept a spring in her step, it was then that Lucy began to teach Lily the art of laid-backness. We were all grateful.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Though I'm definately a dog person, I never considered myself a fanatic dog lover. You know the type? They are the people who spend exorbitant amounts of money at PetWorld, and dote on their poochies by buying gourmet food and adorning dog collars with bling. But, I guess I have a bit of that in me, though I draw the line at pig's ears once in a blue moon.......well and sometimes sharing my bed.
I blame this all on Lucy. She's our oldest family dog, a beloved member of the street and pal to our extended family of friends. Born with an old soul, Lucy is now the eldest in a neighbourhood full of dog lovers. Though I'm far from her preferred litter buddy, that distinction belongs fully to my husband, over the years Lucy (named after Lucy Ricardo)somehow managed to get under my skin. I'm not alone either. I don't know what makes her so exceptional, but biases aside, she truly is. My fur shedding, loud snoring, lumbering Chocolate Lab has admirers across the country.
We initially brought Lucy home when our daughter was an infant. How naive to think that this would be a smooth transition with both my husband and I working and basically two infants to attend to. Consequently, Lucy didn't get much of my attention during her puppy days. Consequently, Lucy, vying for my husband's full attention perhaps, took it upon herself to chew and demolish all of my shoes in a span of a month and devour every throw rug in the house. She and I didn't get a good start on our "bonding." What did occur right away was that she was very attentive of my daughter, always aware of her safety. Part of this could've been that there were tasty things to be had if one sat under a high chair and pretended to be guarding the house princess while waiting for mouthwatering morsels to drop from the chubby baby hand.
Hmmmmm......no..............she was devoted..................
It's hard to believe, when I look at her now, that she was a menace as a pup. She flunked out of obedience classes, dug conspicuous holes in my garden, ate anything in sight, she even chewed a big hunk of a stair in the front hallway. One day when she was about a year old, it was obvious that she was not feeling well, and we had to tie her up for the day outside while we went to work. When we returned home, she still wasn't well but we decided to take her for a walk anyway. With me pushing our daughter in a stroller and my husband walking Lucy on a lead we set off for a trip around our downtown neighbourhood worried that we may have to take her to the Vet's.
When she stopped to "do her thing" for the umpteenth time that day, I looked over at her and saw what I thought was something poking at her. When my husband bent over to check, he quickly realized that it wasn't something poking up from the ground. OH NO! It was something poking out of her. A piece of a Superstore shopping bag was sticking out of her rear end! The dog had eaten a friggin' shopping bag.....the cause of her belly aching all day! And as my husband removed said bag, I looked to the heavens and thanked God that I wasn't her litter buddy.
I'll never forget the proud pouncy poochie steps for the rest of the walk, like she was thinking about how her dog buddies were going to react at their next poker game when she regalled them with her story. Gross!
A she made the transition from adolescense to adulthood, Lucy continued to play an integral role in our family. She had calmed down considerably once her teething was over with and settled into her role of protector. Always up for some fun, she inevitably allowed any snot nosed kid to crawl all over her without a single growl. She never missed a trip to the beach, a campfire or a weenie roast. She rode shotgun on many trips to Ontario and Nova Scotia.
Friend to all other furry creatures, Lucy never made a scene as far as protecting her territory or doing the "alpha" dog thing. There is a simple explanation to this. I believe that she considered herself more human than canine. She took a cue from the humans around her. If they werent too concerned with other furballs, than why should she? Her favourite place to hang was in Spencer's Island, a small community on the shores of the Minas Channel in Nova Scotia, where my husband's family have a summer home. Even as an old lady dog, Lucy always perks up during the drive when we would hit the curving road that hugs the shoreline from Port Greville to Spencer's Island.........the smell of the salt air? The familiar turns of the car? The shared feeling of anticipation of her car mates? Whatever it was, sleepy old Lucy would register the location in her dog brain and start panting with a smile on her face. She knew exactly where we were headed, and she approved.
One summer, when she was 5 years old, we left Lucy in Spencer's Island with my in-laws instead of taking her on a family vacation. By this time, we had an infant son. So, we felt we had our hands full without taking the dog with us. The night we got home, we had a call from Spencer's Island. Something was wrong with Lucy. She couldn't lift her back end up. No wimpering or yelps...........just the inability to stand up. Arrangements were made to meet my in-laws halfway in Moncton the next day. When my husband returned home, it was obvious that something was very wrong. A quick after hours emergency consult with the Vet (arent these things always after hours?) and she was diagnosed with a slipped disc so severe that she was paralyzed from the waist down. The prognosis was grim.
For two days, we struggled with what to do. Surgery seemed outrageously expensive, and the chances of recovery were slim. In the meantime, the Vet kept Lucy and began acupuncture and steroid treatments. On the second day, my husband and I with heavy hearts drove over to the vet hospital with the thought that we would have to decide to put her down. We couldn't afford the surgery..........our options seemed empty.
We found Lucy lying on the floor of the room where other animals are caged. Thinking that I would be the strong one, the one who would keep her wits about her as we discussed our dog's future, I was blasted with a surge of compassion I didn't know had accumulated inside me. Before I knew it, I was splayed on the floor beside my dog with the sad eyes, sobbing. It was then that the Vet told us that he thought he was seeing some improvement........that they was some movement in her hind legs. He asked if we would give him a week to see if he could turn the paralysis around.
By this point, my husband and I would've re-mortgaged the house. Of course we wouldn't stop the treatments. We'd find the money................anything to get our dog back home where she belonged. We left her there in good hands with hope. Our pooch patient responded to the treatment, while endearing herself to all the staff at the hospital. When the Vet was in surgery or dealing with another sick animal, Lucy would drag herself over to the action and keep the Vet's feet warm. She never did like to be alone.
After two days, her wag was back. After a week, she was able to put some weight on her legs. We carried her to the car and continued to nurse her back to health from home. Treatments continued weekly for another month, and by then she was jogging along outside. When it was all said and done, the only indication of her near death experience was a bump on her back and a wiggle in her walk..............oh, and a depleted bank account.
To be continued...................Part 2: Lucy Meets the Blonde Upstart.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
I heard Leonard Cohen sing this poem/song today on the CBC.
I loved it's cadence and sadness. He is a true treasure.
Coming Back to You
Maybe I'm still hurting
I can't turn the other cheek
But you know that I still love you
It's just that I can't speak
I looked for you in everyone
And they called me on that too
I lived alone but I was only
Coming back to you
Ah they're shutting down the factory now
Just when all the bills are due
And the fields they're under lock and key
Tho' the rain and the sun come through
And springtime starts but then it stops
In the name of something new
And all the senses rise against this
Coming back to you
And they're handing down my sentence now
And I know what I must do
Another mile of silence while I'm
Coming back to you
There are many in your life
And many still to be
Since you are a shining light
There's many that you'll see
But I have to deal with envy
When you choose the precious few
Who've left their pride on the other side of
Coming back to you
Even in your arms I know
I'll never get it right
Even when you bend to give me
Comfort in the night
I've got to have your word on this
Or none of it is true
And all I've said was just instead of
Coming back to you
Saturday, February 18, 2006
That's the question the editors of UofT's newspaper, The Strand is asking today in their editorial. Here's the text:
All media, student or otherwise, has a responsibility to its audience. Media should inform, invoke discussion, represent a wide range of ideas and encourage critical thinking. Granted, when student media is concerned, this role often takes a very tongue-in-cheek tone as it seeks to both appeal to and represent its demographic. The undergraduate experience is the universally-accepted time to find one's self, and for reasons yet to be documented, articles about thefacebook.com and funny headlines seem to help the process.
That being said, there are times when, in attempting to sort out their own priorities and personal opinions, the staff of student newspapers underestimate their influence. Student newspapers are in a perfect position to push the envelope since factors like media convergence don't come into play, nor do investors or advertisers. The wrath of the Dean's office and of various student groups, while forces to be reckoned with, seem much more manageable than that of CanWest Global.
However, you can only push an envelope so far before you get a nasty paper cut, one sure to be infected with the gangrene of social unrest.
Almost every newspaper on stands today has been following the controversy of the publication of the Mohammed cartoons in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten. Certain student newspapers got even more heavily involved when they decided to not only cover the controversy, but print the cartoons themselves. The Cadre, UPEI's campus newspaper, found its issues yanked from stands when protests ensued after reprinting said comics. Ray Keating, the Cadre's editor-in-chief, argued that it was a stand for freedom of the press. So the Cadre was merely fulfilling its responsibilities as a free media outlet, even if it was at the risk of being a mainstage attraction in a media circus.
But was it really freedom of the press, or a case of media martyrdom? Publishing these cartoons seems to do little more than fan the flames of already-existing controversy. Is it the press's responsibility to decide what people should absorb, or is providing an option more important? Articles are somewhat different; you can decide whether or not to read something based on the headline - which, admittedly, is questionable on the subject of giving audiences agency. A graphic or photograph, however, is much more intense: you don't really have the choice to view it or not.
Good on them to throw in some controversy!! Let's hope it wakes some people up!
The media, including University student newspapers need to stand up and pronounce that they believe strongly in freedom of the press. If not, aren't we all just victims of extortion? Taking the chicken route isn't the safe route. Are you kidding? Just because this country's media decides not to publish, doesn't mean that we are any safer from terrorist attacks.
It is a sad and dangerous game of chess. We're pawns already sitting off the chessboard as the Islamic terrorists expand their sites. It's a real life game of RISK.
Now let's see the Strand publish the notorious Danish editorial cartoons and ask the same question......
Friday, February 17, 2006
This week's column is powerful, frightening and unfortunately true. It should be required reading. Here's the link to Amiel's column. Take the time to read what she has to say. You may not like it................it's a bit like taking some Buckley's..............but you need to be aware.
Knowledge and awareness is always a good thing. It may also be frightening................
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Poor old sorry Liberals. Looks like they have resorted to grasping at straws in an attempt to heal their party. Word's out that there's a party planned for the one and only Sheila Copps, the Steeltown Magnolia.........original member of the Rat Pack.......and everyone's invited. Saint John's Paul Zed initiated the idea to hold a traditional Maritime kitchen party in the heart of Hamilton.........his thoughts? Who deserves it more than the woman who has given 30+ years of her life to the Canadian public?
This is the lady who handed out flags to all of her countrymen.........flags who were imported and were made without grommets so they weren't flyable........the woman whom every year that she was Heritage Minister tried to upstage the musicians at the Junos........the woman who leapt over stacked chairs to get closer to rebel rouser John Crosbie............the woman that Paul Martin hung out to dry during his transition to power.....the woman who in my opinion was one of the most irritating politicians in the past 20 years. Such a classy broad.
All the big guns will be there..............with the exception of ex PM Paul I would presume. NO tickies will be sold. Instead, Zed is looking for donations. A can of corn for the local food bank, perhaps?
Will there be an opportunity to do the chicken dance?
Wanna go? Huh, huh?
Given the gulf of dissention orchestrated by the all too public display by Chretien and Martin, I have a feeling that this party will need a more strategic plan than toasting Sheila with Tequilla.
I wish them well.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
Can't you hear the local economy coughing and sputtering from stagnation, while talented individuals slave away in mind numbing underpaid jobs? It's such a paradox.
Why has this scurvied affliction been allowed to penetrate our working community without anyone using an innoculation to stop it? Fear? Apathy? Blinding narrow mindedness? Yes, yes and yes!
Underemployment is rampant, and it's very very sad. It is fed by a paralytic middle management whose scope is so narrow to recognize untapped talent. It is fed by so-called Human Resource specialists who continue to use archaic means of interviewing for new positions that are based on some crazy statistical scientific measurement of mediocre. It is fed by complacent fearful people who dread taking risks on someone who may not fit in a particular "box" labelled with a job title. Instead of opening the lid of the job position "box" to allow for fresh breezes and new ideas, they shove someone in there that wouldn't know a new idea if it bit them in the ass. The scourge continues.............the virus leeches............
Society doesn't promote individuals who are uniquely creative............who thrive on thinking outside of the parameters. Bright, intelligent analytical leaders who could pull this country out of the doldrums and make it sparkle are passed over. It's a mind boggler. One of the conundrums, and I speak from experience, is that these unique people won't compromise themselves to become a pre-fab person. And if you don't play the rules of the game, just to get in the box so that you can open the lid...............well, you're SOL pal.
Many times, when I have personally complained about not being considered for a new project, or a new position, or when I have shown my drive and desire to move up and onward, I have been told that I should just be thankful for the job I have..............I shouldn't rock the boat, because who knows when there may be more lay offs.............stay low.............don't make a scene. I have even been asked why I have such high aspirations? It's like I'm an alien from another planet.
Guess what? I'm not the friggin' alien! What's wrong with expressing new ideas enthusiastically? What's wrong with sharing a fresh approach to leadership or management or service delivery?
So, what to do? The only thing a creative independent individual can do. Keep trying.......eventually there will be someone out that who is also a risk taking, broad minded big idea person. Keep the faith, batten down your values and beliefs and innoculate yourself from the big bad wind of narrowness. It too shall pass.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
A little over twelve years ago, I found my myself wide awake alone in the middle of the dark night, surrounded by unfamiliar smells and noises, feeling very unsure of myself. Laying in a hospital bed, I was waiting for the nurse to arrive with my brand new daughter who would be hungry and ready to be nursed by me for the first time. Initially relieved that she was perfectly healthy, I was exhausted from nine months of worry and a whole day of labour. But the most predominant feeling at that moment was dreaded fear. I was so afraid that I wouldn't be capable of providing for her. Sure, I had read all the books. I knew the techniques. But, was I really up for the challenge?
When I heard the bassinet being pushed down the hallway, my pulse quickened. The reality of the situation stark. The door opened quietly. My daughter was wheeled into my room. What to do? Could I do this?
But, when the nurse lifted her out of the bassinet, I felt like I saw her for the first time. Freshly bathed, she was wrapped tightly like a cocoon with a soft blanket tucked around her. Her wisps of hair combed back; her tiny perfect pink face aglow. And when I saw her pursed lips searching for sustenance, I felt my heart soften in a warm melt. I had fallen in love.
I never knew what a "melting hearting" meant until then. And, I knew that I would never forget that moment when my daughter was placed in my arms, where she would remain as we began our life together......always within arms reach.
Happy Valentine's Day, to my daughter, who is even more of a romantic than I am. No matter where your life path will lead, you will always be within arms reach.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
No matter.....it has been a blessing to know that it doesn't matter when you were there over the 40 years of Kawabi, the feelings are the same and the experiences were very similar. An attempt is being made to gather story submissions for a book. Here is my first attempt............ I have found it very difficult to write about my thoughts and feelings about this place. Even though it has been 20+ years since I was a camp counsellor, I have a tough time standing back and writing something that isn't too mushy and over the top. Funny, I can write about anything else, but when it comes to Kawabi, the words leave me.
Life Lessons From the Stern of a Canoe
Very few activities are more life affirming for me than paddling a canoe. Not any kind of canoe, mind you. Ideally, it has to be a lovingly made cedar strip Chestnut canoe with it’s varnished thwarts and gunnels on the inside and painted blue canvas protecting the outside. Equipped with meshed bow and stern seats that you NEVER sit on and the thick ribs that wrap from gunnel to gunnel and leave red indents on your knees, the cedar strip canoe is a work of art. And, if you work hard at perfecting your technique, it can become an extension of yourself. A paddle, a Chestnut canoe, you and the water to slice through is all you need to find nirvana.
My love of canoeing didn’t seem to be an inherent trait initially. When I was very young, my dad took me out for my first paddle and we were promptly tossed overboard. The experience left me with a fearful aversion to water and boats – two phobias which accompanied me up the Kawabi camp road and down the path to the first tent in the girl’s tentline at the age of 9. But, within a few days of settling into life at Kawabi, I found myself standing by a rack of paddles with a bulky orange life jacket terrified of what was to transpire.
Along came Onions, smiling confidence and focused on changing my fear into fun. And he did. Everyday, I returned and everyday he took me out on an adventure that mostly consisted of the triangular cove of the canoeing area. One day, we paddled around the point. Sitting on a rock, waiting just for us, I swear, was a Great Blue Heron. I was hooked. Canoeing became a passion. On the last day of camp that year, I was presented with a small certificate (I still have it) which confirmed that I had successfully passed my beginner canoeing. Onward and upward.
Thanks to Onions, during my subsequent camper years, canoeing remained on my list of daily activities as I persevered to learn the art of paddling and of finding one’s balance. Memorable canoe trips and outsuppers to various locales were also added to the mix which definitely broadened my horizons and expanding my world. To Clear Lake, one portage away, to Crab Lake past diving rock and Indian Head point, to Sherbourne over the beaver dam and through the meandering shallow water that blossom with lily pad flowers, to Flat Rock, Big Hawk island, and eventually to Red Pine Lake two portages and a world away from camp…..many wonderfully meaningful trips shared with old and new camper friends, all with poignant and treasured camping memories.
Not all trip were completed without obstacles. Mosquito infested portages aside, most canoe trip disasters, like the first senior girl group attempt at accomplishing a “Survival trip” with our fearless leader, Drone at the helm that ended with returning to camp before dawn, or the trip to Red Pine with Naush, Spook, and Blade when we forgot the tents on the shores of Big Hawk only to have to paddle back in a rainstorm well, they have all become kindred memories that were filled with life lessons.
Canoeing at Kawabi continued to be an integral part of my summer days when it was my turn to be a leader. Mornings were spent listening to old Beatles tunes and working on my kiln tan in the craft shop. Afternoons were spent in the stern of a canoe teaching fun and skills to a newbie. Just like Onions………..with same amount of enthusiasm and love of the craft. Catching a few rays………..working on the canoe tan. Ah, those hot hazy days…….the long pull of the J-stroke and barging up with another canoe to float and chat, bobbing along on Big Hawk Lake.
20+ years laters I still have many Kawabi canoeing memories, some more vivid than others of that time in my life – the late night paddle with a special friend to talk quietly while sharing the spectacular summer starry sky, the boisterous comraderie of a successful outsupper or overnight, an evening with my senior girls group floating in the middle of the lake singing campfire songs, the early morning paddle during the Hawk Lake swim, quiet and pensive on the way over, loud and supportive on the way back, the “ah” moments when you’ve just successfully introduced a camper to the experience of being on a lake, away from camp, exempt of “civilization”. Then, of course, there are the trips dealing with weather’s elements; the wind, rain, thunder and lightening, and cold which always culminated in faster paddling, more focus and teamwork, while you hugged the shoreline for safety. Ooooo what about the leeches? I can’t forget the leeches.
It wasn’t until I left Kawabi after 12 glorious summers, that I realized how many life lessons from the stern of a canoe I took with me. Despite the fact that I rarely have a chance to gunnel bob along these days, whenever I do have a chance, there is a spiritual connection that comes over me in a way that no other activity does. When I do have a chance, my life lessons and ALL of my vivid memories resurface so strongly. It doesn’t matter what body of water I am on, I am quickly transported to the Haliburton Highlands where I saw my first Great Blue Heron and where I learned the J-stroke.
So, what are some of these lessons?
- If you don’t like your perspective, paddle out a bit more to see things in a different light.
- If things are a bit loud and crazy, launch away from your reality. Spend some time alone and gather your thoughts.
- If you want to find some balance, grab a canoe, a paddle and find just the right lean in life to have your gunnels just above the water.
- If a challenge is what you want, try paddling against the wind, using all your physical strength and emotional focus. Don’t forget to sing loudly. It always helps develop a sense of bravado.
- If you’re stuck in a really boring meeting, one that is about to make you head pop off, close your eyes and think of the idyllic setting of the Kawabi canoeing area on a hazy summer day.
- If you don’t like the direction you’re going, paddle hard and then attempt a running pry to alter your path.
- And, if you think you are in trouble and there’s a storm pending, always know that Skip is there for you in his ski boat or on the shore waiting to give you a safe warm hug.
Saturday, February 11, 2006
I filled a journal that captured my thoughts and observations about our life changing and affirming encounters and experiences ................most of which culminated into some life lessons that I still continue to believe:
- We learned that we didn't know a whole heck of a lot, and that there was a lifetime of learning to be had, a wide range of people to be met, and whole lot of living to be done outside of academia.
- We learned that we were blessed to be from a wonderful country which we grew more proud of, that we had families and friends that were 100% percent behind us and who loved us unconditionally.
- We learned to go with the flow. If you have a destination in mind that is set in stone, then you will miss out on many fateful moments with very interesting people.
- We learned that you can trust the kindness and generosity of people. Even if you can't speak their language, you can still communicate.
- We learned that sometimes, there's no place like home and it's alright to miss your backyard every now and then.
- And we learned that fate and destiny can be magically surprising.
Whenever the Winter Olympics rolls around, I start reminiscing about my trip with Heather because it was the year the Olympics were held in Sarajevo and we continually met other backpackers that had made a detour to Yugoslavia to take in some of the festivities. But the most predominant reason is because of a synchronistic moment in Istanbul; one that made me feel that I was an integral part of a global village and that maybe my backyard wasn't so far away despite the foreigness of our situation. Let me backtrack and explain..............
Heather and I had met up with this very funny outgoing American individual named Laura who was travelling on her own. We hooked up along with a couple of Aussies, another Canuck and another Yank and had spent a glorious week on the island of Crete in a cabin we rented, introducing each other to our individual country's drinking games, among other things. We had a blast. During one night of revellry, Laura posed that when we left, we head north and cross the border to Turkey. "Sure!" we said, though in the back of my ouzo soaked mind a little voice was reminding me that my family specifically stated that they didn't want me to consider going to Turkey after being totally freaked over the movie "Midnight Express." Oh well........what they didn't know wouldn't hurt them.............
After a long hitch-hike from Athens to Alexandria in northern Greece, we walked across the border (another head spinning story for another time) and found ourselves a taxi which took us to a bus depot in the nearest Turkish town. Our plan was to take a bus into Istanbul, and head to the student quarter area and find a cheap hostel to lay our heads. Armed with the Let's Go Europe guide, and naive confidence, we arrived at the bus depot and were promptly surrounded by a cacophony of crazed men trying to lure us to their particular bus companies. Turned out, they live on the commisions from new passengers. Little did we know, while we were fighting for our rucksacks, and trying to determine which bus left next, a woman and her daughter were sitting on a bus watching our reactions to these men and their antics, and must've decided that if we ended up on their bus, they would look after us from then on.
As fate would have it, we did. Within moments of settling, the daughter who was learning English in school, sat beside Laura who initially thought the daughter wanted to practise speaking English, which really only consisted of knowing how to say the alphabet. However, through gestures and many verbal attempts, it was evident to us that she was trying to invite us home with them.
Can you imagine? 3 perfect strangers, who don't speak your mother tongue, impulsively inviting them home with you? Would you do it?
I looked over at the mother, who was smiling and looking at us with a note of excited anticipation on her face while we pondered what to do. She had the most welcoming smile, and the most trusting angelic eyes......I knew instantly that we needed to risk it and accept their invitation. A leap of intuitive faith, an openness to go with the flow and a lesson in being receptive to the genuine generosity of others led us to a life affirming 4 days with Sabahat and her daughter Sengul.
The rest of the bus trip was filled with attempts to communicate with one another over the din of bazooki music and turkish smoke. We managed to relay the basic information...........name, rank and serial number stuff but at that point, that was about it. Oh, we did learn that this family had two homes in Instanbul, and one was in the student quarter. We were to go home with them for the first night, and then we could live in their other place for as long as we wanted. How we managed to dechipher this, is beyond me when I think about it now.
In between these attempts at communicating, Heather Laura and I shared our doubts about our gut decision to go with this woman and wondered if we were making a sound and safe plan. But, they were so friendly and so innocently excited about our acceptance, the doubts held no water. We stuck to our gut decision.
It was when we arrived at our destination that night however, that we felt more sure that we had done the right thing. The bus depot in Instanbul, not only happened to be on the opposite outskirts of this massive city from our original hostel destination, it was a chaotic jumble of disorder. Picture a half lit big cow pasture covered in 200 buses all parked willy nilly. Our naive confidence betrayed us and was quickly transformed into a sense of overwhelming insecurity. Sabahat instantly became our lifeline as we followed her like little ducklings along a meandering path to a city bus which eventually took us to Fatih, her neighbourhood.
We had made two assumptions when we made our decision to follow Sabahat home. Firstly, we assumed that Sabahat was comfortably well-off to be inviting three people home with her and owning two homes in Instanbul. Secondly, we figured that she must do this all the time........taking home backpacking innocents. Our first assumption was quashed immediately upon disembarking from the city bus in front of a neighbourhood that obviously had seen better days. The buildings, similar to the picture I have attached to this posting, were tenements and the whole neighbourhood wafted in a sweet sickly scent which I learned quickly was burning coal. It was dirty and falling down. And yet, we continued to follow this smiley momma duck down a street, around a corner, up an alley in the dark into a scene of poverty I had never experienced before.
Safety and strength in numbers? Trust, trust, trust. Tired, unsure and hungry, I felt so far away from home at that moment, my first evening in a far away place.
Suddenly, Sabahat stopped walking and looked up at a second story window. In her singing turkish voice, she yelled something up to the window, which promptly opened to reveal another woman. They chatted animatedly, while Sabahat pointed to her new little lost ducklings, and before we knew it, we were traipsing up the stairs to an apartment owned by her best friend and her husband. In the 3 minutes it took us to climb the stairs, Sabahat's friend had managed to set her coffee table up with an array of food and drink to share with us, these perfect strangers. Most of the food was foreign, but we were determined to be good guests, so we ate it...........whatever it was.
Trying to re-establish my bearings, I began to look around the room. It was apparent right away that this family had very little in belongings.....a few chairs, a table, a few ornamental figures, and a black and white TV in the corner of the room. All of sudden, I was transformed from feeling like a fish out of water to feeling grounded. On the TV were the Canadian pair skaters performing at the Olympics.......it was a tiny link to reality and to home. I had this uncanny feeling that I was watching the same event at the same time as my family was in my home. My parents, my sisters, my grandmother, my friends would all be watching on this Olympic night. It was such a strong cosmic connection that it promptly calmed me down.
And as we all stood eating and drinking the wine that this couple had been given as a wedding present 15 years before and had been saving for a "special occasion" and watching the Canadian skaters in Sarajevo, I recognized that we had just met a guardian angel who was about to teach us many life lessons in a short time span.
The Olympics allow us to feel, even for a short timespan, that the world is connected in comraderie. As I watched the opening ceremonies today, I was linked to my short term families in Istanbul, I was linked to my family in Ontario, I was linked to Laura wherever she may be, and I was linked to my bestest travelling friend Heather whom I havent seen in WAY too long. Thinking of all of them.
Linked by the vast midnight sky, and whispering heart wishes..........to all of them.
PS. Oh............our second assumption? Sabahat had never invited strangers into her home before. Her "read" of us and her faith in her decision was similar to ours. Fate threw us together.
More on Sabahat in another posting.....................................
Thursday, February 09, 2006
I don't know about you, but I read that definition and I feel like putting my hands behind my head, leaning back and waiting for the Fates to intervene. I mean, what's the point of struggling up river, against the swift current when my lot in life is already totally predetermined? Anything I do is just going to be rendered a waste of time. I've been dealt my hand. I'm just on this earth to (hopefully) enjoy the ride. Why fight it?
Not so fast............
Existential Psychologist Rollo May describes destiny as "the part of our lives that is determined for us, our raw materials, for the project of creating our lives." In other words, it is the clay, markers, paint, glue, feathers, pompoms, googly eyes, plaster, gimp, charcoal, wax, felt, construction paper, tissue paper, cardboard, crayons, and sparkles...........a craft shop full of materials that allow us to form our own fate.
Accompanying this destiny of raw materials is it's alter ego ..............FREEDOM! It's freedom that allows us the capacity to take a hand in our own development; our own destiny. It is our job to mold ourselves with the gifts God gave us.
Sounds simplistic? Think again. When are you the driver and when do you let Jesus take the wheel?
With the strength of your faith that will allow you to even consider your options..................Co-drivers possibly?
Freedom of choice inevitably creates anxiety. What to do? What to choose? Which path should I take? Am I on the right path? Will my choices affect others? Am I choosing with my heart or my head? Can I figure out a way to choose with both my heart and my head? What do I want? What do I need? If I choose the more difficult path, will I have the strength to follow through? Can I rely on my faith to guide me? What if I choose a path that goes against my values? Can I live with that?
Fret, worry, fighting the daimon shadows................................Paradox shadow boxing....... freedom and destiny duking it out. What a big stomach ache it can cause.
To quote May: "Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom."
How many times have we felt paralyzed by choice? Gee, on some days, it's a bugger just to choose the gum flavour you want let alone tackle the big googlie-eyed decisions. Sometimes, it's much easier to take the easy path, with no bumps, no conflict, no puddles to jump over. Calm denial, head-in-the-sand mentality can take you right to the end of your life.....to a predetermined destination. But, is it what you really want? Is it fulfilling? No. Life on it's good days is a big meanie.
May also explores the concept of "Will." Will is your level of determination to tackle the big decisions and by doing so, to take the reins of your destiny. Will allows you to use your raw materials generously.....................to soar, to create a masterpiece with your life. Will is the motivational mortar to help you achieve your goals and to make wishes come true.
Eros, on the other hand, is the love that balances the strong-willed Will. According to Rollo May, "Man's task is to unite love and will" thereby finding a balance between eros wishes and blind determination. Love is the predominant daimon that motivates the will to make decisions.
So, what does all this mean? It means that the hand I was dealt can be altered and manipulated based on my desire and determination on fulfilling my wishes, wants and needs. It means that I have a huge hand in how my life unravels. My destiny is my choice if I am clear what I want and need. I can stick my head in the sand and go with the flow, or I can confront the whistling whipping winds of conflict and change, with the strength of my faith, and go for the gusto. I have the materials I need to create a destiny that is fulfilling and life affirming.
After I decide on the pack of gum I want......................
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
Considering a Tory hasn't been elected in his riding since 1958, I'm sure the local Liberal Association and the voters won't forget this turncoat move. He should pay the $97,000.00 back to the association. You bet he should. But, he won't. The man has shown to have no integrity. What do you have left if you don't have integrity? Why would he start doing the right thing now?
Did Harper really need a Cabinet Minister from the city of Vancouver right away? No!
Weren't there several competent people in and around the metro area that he could've chosen instead? Yes.
Will there be Tory pay-off in Vancouver next election? Doubt it.
Was there really a need to create dissention and controversy in your own caucus on the first day of holding office? NO!
On the other hand, Michael Fortier's appointment was a brilliant move, not seen since Joe Clark's days. There definately was a need to ensure Tory exposure in and representation from Montreal. Given that there were so many close races that the Conservative almost won, Fortier's prominence will be felt positively in the next election.
It's good to see Chuck Strahl at the Cabinet table as well. Given his precarious health, I was surprised, though pleasantly, to read his name on the list. Strahl exemplifies integrity. He is a man with strong values, who presents himself in a genuinely honest manner. He won me over when he stood up for his beliefs and formed a group of dissenters when Stockwell Day was leader of the Alliance. In fact, it was Strahl that offered the first glimmer of hope I had for the future of the Conservative. May he continue to fight his cancer, stay healthy and play a productive role in this new government. I look forward to watching him at work in April when they return to Ottawa.
Monday, February 06, 2006
A grace note.
The other morning, I was rushing from the car to my office, but my thoughts weren't on the "to do list" waiting for me on my work calendar. Rather, I was thinking about the night before. I had spent the evening writing about various ideas I had been formulating in my head about my beliefs and my emerging understanding of my spirituality. It had been a fruitful task, and I was feeling very positive and upbeat about my endeavours.
Happily lost in thought, I almost bumped right into an old friend. We hadn't seen one another in a while as our paths had diverged when he went off to pursue another career. Knowing that his new path was now more similar to the one I was trying to forge on my own, I jumped right into sharing my previous evening's thoughts with him. Turned out, we were "in sync" more than we realized. Before we knew it, we had ducked into the local deli, grabbed a table and became engrossed in a conversation that could easily have gone on throughout the day. His insights, my questions, my insights, his questions..........our finishing of each other's sentences............left me feeling even more upbeat about my pursuits.
A grace note. And a note of thanks.
Grace notes are the gentle enhancements of your day. They aren't necessarily essential to the harmony of your life, but they sure add some zest. It's like a beautifully blossoming garden in the middle of July. At first glance, you see a myriad of accenting and contrasting colours and inhale an aroma of blending floral scents wafting by. How could it be much better? Then, out of the corner of your eye, you spot one particular flower...........a majestically blooming dark pink lily, an added touch of beauty, which makes the garden even more pleasing to the eye.
A garden grace note.
Like every little gift from God, you have to be open to receiving it. A grace note in a busy day can easily be overlooked. What a shame it would be not to recognize one when it floats by? We all tend to rush through our busy days, often focusing on the task at hand, oblivious to what is going around us, too busy to really listen to someone when they are offering you a melodic note of grace, or too blind to see nature's display right in front of our eyes.
Sometimes, when we have a day that is more of a dirge than a rhapsodic aria, a grace note may be the only sunny affirmation on a day enveloped in grey clouds. A smile, an offer to help, a compliment, or a hug of recognition can turnaround even the most depressing day. If you are sensitive to it. If you acknowledge the gift.
Can you orchestrate you're own grace notes in life? At first when I thought about it, I dismissed the thought. But, then I realized that was not right. Like any gift, our act of giving returns in emotional spades. If one is sensitive to others, showing them respect and understanding, recognizing them by offering a special touch to their day through a thoughtful gesture, a shared joke, a compliment, an empathic validation, either in person or even electronically not only may you be providing a grace note to someone, you may have just created your own.
So, the next time your out driving on a beautiful day and you find yourself feeling that sense of freedom and accomplishment that one sometimes feels...........you know...............when the song is just right on the radio, the road is clear, the weather is fine, you have a sense of purpose and all feels right in the world. Look around...............the day will jump from good to great when you spot a grace note from God..........just over the horizon.
Sunday, February 05, 2006
The recent bombings, violence clashes, fire settings, and downright scary protests that seem to becoming commonplace throughout the world this weekend over the cartoon editorials that were published 5 months ago in a Danish newspaper show no signs of stopping. The spread of hatred has flashed so quickly..........it's like this one little spark in Denmark has been doused with all the oil from the Middle East oil fields.
Where's Red Adair when you need him?
Since 9/11 Muslims have been desparately trying to control the spread of mistrust pointed at them. The acts of hatred and retribution pointed mostly at Danish embassies and other countries who have supported free of the press by publishing the editorial cartoons, are quickly fanning the feelings of doubt and mistrust of Westerners and Christians.
All over a piece of satire. Irony playing out as irony. An over the top reaction to a cartoon picture of the Prophet Mohammed.