Thursday, March 30, 2006


This early morning, I sat in my livingroom in the dark, and watched the morning vista evolve. There is a point in time when night transitions into dawn before light takes over the sky. It is a moment of anticipation, before the sun blinks over the horizon when the land and the sky merge to form a ribbon of colour. Tangerine, with a hint of yellow and red.

The river touched by the bare tree silouettes flowed eastward still carrying remnants of winter ice.

The land on the other side of the river was spotted in the glowing night lights, glimmering shivering in the chill of the season, protecting the community still fast asleep.

Quiet calm and contemplative, I sat and watched the glory of morning arrive wondering if anyone else was enjoying the vista, watching the colourful transitional pull of spring, anticipating a new day, feeling safe and connected to my tiny part of the world.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Harper vs. the Media

A Conservative government never experiences a honeymoon period like Liberal governments. It's a given that the media in this country have their knives sharpened, ready to pounce as soon as the election night has wound down. Like it or not, they wield power. They have the ability to persuade public opinion, dissuade majority trends and parade photo ops that can cut a politician at the knees. Surprisingly, the media for the most part in the last federal election, swayed to support Harper and crew and may have helped win them power, by their extensive coverage of the accumulative scandals and missteps of the Liberal party.

Actually, the media really didn't have a choice now did they? The Liberals basically handed them at least one faux pas story almost every day. Some of them had to be published. And the ones that were quietly slipped under the rug? Well, they were aired proudly on blogs from coast to coast. Stephen Harper has himself a Minority government. This gives him a short window of opportunity to make some major things happen. He's focused on his priorities. He has a strategy. He knows that he needs to produce some "deliverables" based on his election promises in order to be able to go into the next election and win a majority. One of the obstacles? He has more than one opposition.

He has the media to contend with..........the media who are predominantly biased against the so called "evil" Conservatives, who seem to believe that they have the same rights and privileges as an elected opposition. Add the the mix that the flailing Liberals who are flapping in the wind trying to regroup by holding such important functions as a dinner for Tequila Sheila (egads), and attempting to recruit a sordid conucorpia of characters representing all political stripes to run for the Leadership and therefore impotent as an opposition, the media feels more empowered to take the reins.

Like a good chess a good leader............Harper is setting the rules. He will decide when and where there will be a scrum, when and where there will be a photo op, and what will be discussed. But watch out! The media will twist and turn the knife............make the story seem like Canada is now being led by a control freak tyrant who lives in secrecy, and who is making evil plans to take us down the road to damnation.


Stick to your guns, Harper. Make them play by your rules. Teach them a lesson that good journalism is supposed to be an UNBIASED reporting of the facts, and not a psychological brainwash of baseless opinions.

A little bit of effective tough love..........................always leads to more respect.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Lord's Pre-Budget Announcements

Minority governments can be a boon to the taxpaying voter, especially just before a Budget is about to be presented. It also provides the government "spinners" with a lot more goodies to offer from their buffet table.........."good news" stories topped with whipped cream, rather than trying to coax the voting public to try some more wilted brussel sprouts that have been languishing in cogulated butter sauce. The media? More to fill their front pages, top their news stories. Pundits? More to analyze, praise and complain about.

So goes the political world of Bernard Lord's government. Less than 24 hours away from his latest budget, Bernard Lord has become this visible energy bunny hopping around the province AND into the US of A, announcing, pronouncing, and praising...........shaking hands with the PM, hobnobbing with the new Ambassador, welcoming dignitaries, making speeches and setting his wobbly, shaky minority government up for a Budget that is so chock full of chocolate truffles that the Liberal opposition would be perceived as CRAZY to vote down by the voters.

So, what have we got so far?

  • $8.5 million to go towards cleaning up the Saint John Harbour. Sounds good, but SO short on making any real difference. It's like pouring a jug of Javex in that cesspool and thinking that'll do it.
  • Promising that the Childcare programs in place will not be affected despite the fact that the Federal gov't has nixed the whole program in favour of a silly little baby bonus cheque to parents of children under the age of 6. Gee, didn't know 7 year olds could look after themselves. Gee........didn't know childcare expenses were so darn cheap. Gee..........didn't know that the childcare programs being offered in this fair province were up to snuff yet.........
  • Announcing $$$$ for a stadium in Moncton.
  • $400 million for highways............betcha he wishes he didn't get rid of those darn tolls!!
  • GST rebate thing for Nb'ers to help cut the cost of energy costs. Lord also took it upon himself in his chest puffing manner to cut NB Power down a couple of notches and told them that their Executives aren't getting their work bonuses this year. That's good. That's scary. That's a good scary leader..........

Now will someone please explain to me how the price of gas in this crazy province can go from 96.9 a litre to 106.9 a litre overnight????? Did I miss a gas catastrophe somewhere?

Hold onto your hats boys and better yet............hold out your hats boys and girls cause tomorrow the legislative doors will fly open and a cart load of candy will fling out onto the front lawn. Get ready to catch the bonbons.........saveur your sweets because the taste won't last too long. Somewhere along the line, we're going to have to pay for it, including the HST, GST and some BST too.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

On being an Extrovert, Part 1

There are few people I’ve met in this world whom I have a tough time conversing with or at least connecting with. But, if I come across someone, I find that I’m normally dealing with an introvert with the look of judgement in his/her eyes. You know the type…….while you the extrovert is bouncing away blah blahing about this and that like a little puppy trying to please, you are struck by this unnaturally calm being uncomfortably looking at you wondering about what planet you’re from.

As the burrowing furrowing look continues, the steps to the bouncey babble routine start tripping you up. It’s like all of a sudden your feet have gone from size 8 to size 18. Before you know it, one of those big feet is firmly planted in your ever yapping gob over some insanely stupid utterance that you had no intention of uttering.

The second guessing afterthoughts kick in. Questions that lead to embarrassing revelations of how you’ve been perceived come filtering through. Usually a quick review of the impulsivity of your comments and actions indicate that you have dearly gone overboard and that it would’ve been best if you had just calmly kept your mouth shut and opinions to yourself. Instead of sharing what is being perceived by the introvert as your innermost thoughts, you should’ve paused, reflected, smiled AND WALKED AWAY.

The discomfort level is so omnipresent between two opposite personalities, the inward supposedly calm person (who often makes me wonder if they are comfortable in their own skin because they sure don’t look like it) and the outward expressively emotional person. More often than not, these two types avoid each other like the plague, because neither is willing to find a middle ground.

My extroversive personality, for the most part, is accepted and welcomed. However, there are times when it has been my Achilles heel………..just like the other external thinkers I know. Quiet contemplative staff meetings when you’re surrounded by tentative inward thinkers is not the time to act out your interpretation of a scene from the latest reality show on TV the night before. Though, it would be a huge hit for other acting wannbes…….. it just makes everyone else feel uneasy. So do suggesting group singsongs, organizing skits or impromptu speeches, or emotionally expressing your opinion even if you are right! Makes people sweat. However, if you WANT that response, then go ahead and make your day. Just know that the next day…….repercussions.

Job interviews are not the time to let your ya-yas hang out either. Balance is key, though what tips me over is when I get enthusiastic about something. If I am very interested in a particular job, for example, I find it difficult to restrain my energies in an interview setting. I’ve blown my share of interviews with expressive exuberance. And, it isn’t until the day after the interview that I realize how badly I had bombed. In fact, the last time this happened, I swear I had nailed every question and left feeling that I had the job in the bag. After some sleeping thought, I woke with a blushing face of embarrassment as I recalled the reaction on the faces of the recipients of my dramatic prose.

I wanted to crawl away and hide under a rock, knowing that I had been misunderstood …….then realizing that it was my own loud mouthed fault. Own it. Wear it on your sleeve, just like your emotions.

Too many extroverts together make a loud frustrating conversation. We need introverts. We just need to learn not to blow them away with bombastic bellowing. And, they need us. They need to learn that we may rock the boat, but we rarely tip it over. And if we do happen to flip into the water…………we can normally talk our way out of it. But a rock of a boat is much more fun than one calmly tied to the dock. Life is full of rippling adventure. You just have to have balance.

Ah................balance.....................easier said than done................easier thought than shown.....

Will post more on this topic another day. I of course, have much more to convey.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Supporting our Troops.

Once again, a week filled with various stories from Afghanistan. Get used to it, because we're there for the long haul.

Christie Blatchford's introspective articles have brought a face of our military representatives into our living rooms. I for one have been rivetted by her articles and her ability to write in a manner that is grounded in feeling and texture. Her article in the Focus section of the Globe and Mail today provided an in-depth look into a slice of the activity and danger that our troops are facing. What's more revealing is the level of dedication and determination they espouse and show.

Cpl. Franklin, who lost both legs in a suicide bombing attack gave his first interview this week. Sitting next to his wife, talking emotionally and openly, he described some of the horrendous ordeal that he experienced and how devastating it has been to personally acknowledge that his loss. When he described his thought during the bombing, it was very apparent that his extensive training automatically kicked in, which consequently helped him survive the ordeal. He also stated that having to decide to have his second leg amputated was the most wrenching decision he has ever made. I thoroughly appreciated his candor during the interview and his ability to share some of his story.

His future plan? To continue in the military to facilitate medic training. I was left with feeling a strong sense of awe for his bravery, honesty and fortitude. Let's hope that one day, this individual who oozes integrity will run for office.

Prime Minister Harper was interview last night on the Maritime CTV news during his recent spending spree visit through the province of New Brunswick. When asked what he thought about the fact that there are many Canadians who want our troops to pull out of Afghanistan because "it isn't our war," he admitted that he doesn't quite understand this perspective.

Why? Because Canadians and other countries, especially the ones who lost good people in the 9-11 World Trade Centre attack, signed on to fighting and defeating Bin Laden and his band of deadly is our war.

People have short memories. The horror of the attack on September 11, 2001 seems to have disipated in intensity..............even with the ongoing attacks by Islamic terrorists continuing around the world.........London, Spain, Bali................... numerous others. Canadians have this head in the sand mentality that it would never happen on our soil. Wake up!

What would happen if we sat on the sidelines and didn't participate in the activities in Afghanistan and then a terrorist attack touches our country directly? Would other countries support us if we don't support them? Don't think so...................

We are at war. It is our responsibility to be involved. This is not the time to be debating this issue. This is the time to be supporting our men and women who are alert, armed and involved in the battle of our lives. National unity on this issue? Yes.......we need to be.......fully supportive across this country. No question!!

God bless Canada.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Deborah Ellis: Three Wishes

How do you promote the learning of history and social studies to young people? How do you broaden the thinking of a young person to look beyond their own borders to see parts of the world that may be very different from their own? Publish books that they can relate to...........stories of real people their own age telling their stories and sharing their perspective and provide the opportunity to access them.

Of all the lessons my daughter has been taught this year, the most profoundly altering lesson came from reading a book by Deborah Ellis entitled Parvana's Journey. It is a story about a girl living and trying to survive in worn torn Afghanistan, part of a trilogy. Ellis, who has tapped into the non-fiction genre for the young set, has lit a fire under her readers that has prompted discussions and questions and most importantly awareness of what is happening on the other side of the world. She has also indirectly provided some insight and answers as to why Canadians have troops stationed there. Kudos to Ellis!

Her lastest attempt at putting a face on conflict and sharing a portal that links young North American readers to the complications of war in another country is entitled: Three Wishes. In it, she provides a collection of accounts from youth ages 11-18 who describe how the war in the Middle East has affected their lives.

The Canadian Jewish congress is making an attempt in Ontario to try to ban the book...............there are fears that the book may promote the desire to become a suicide bomber.......................WHAT?

From a review:

Ellis begins by citing disturbing statistics: "In World War I, 15 percent of all causalities were civilians. In World War II, 50 percent of all causalities were civilians. In 2004, 90 percent of causalities in war are civilians." Between September 29, 2000 and March 7, 2003, 3,399 died in this Middle East conflict, and Ellis lists six pages of the names and ages of 429 victims under the age of 18. A balanced historical Introduction provides background for the interviews in which children talk about "how the choices other people have made have affected their lives." Ellis alternates Israeli and Palestinian voices and prefaces each of the accounts by an informative discussion of pertinent issues and a profile of the interviewee and his/her experiences.

Fear permeates most accounts; the Palestinian children fear the Israeli soldiers while the Israeli children fear Palestinian suicide bombers. Hakim, 12, speaking from his hospital bed after "Israeli soldiers . . . shot up both [his] legs" insists he will "go back to fighting the Israelis." Twelve-year-old Salaam "would like to become a martyr" like her suicide bomber sister, explaining that "soldiers throw gas bombs, shoot at children, destroy houses, arrest people . . . they just want to kill us all." Elisheva, 18, who has lost friends to suicide bomb attacks, feels "a lot of anger toward the Palestinians," while Yibanel,18, rages, "Palestinians murdered my friends" and believes that when "a terrorist comes out of a village, we should go hurt the whole village."

Among the voices of anger, despair, fear and hatred, however, are more moderate whispers of hope and humanity like those of Asif, 15, who wants to be "a moral voice" during his compulsory military service for Israel. The final interview is with Mai, 18, who attends a Jerusalem vigil "against war and injustice" and organizes a group for young people to talk about armies and war because she believes that protest "helps to influence the way people think."

I strongly oppose book banning. I strongly oppose the act of mis-interpreting something for the benefit of one's cause. In fact, if someone bans a book, I want to read it. Luckily I'm not alone. Just the act of throwing the book into a myriad of controversy has guaranteed that people who may not have heard about the author and her stories will be seeking it out to see what all the fuss is about.

See you in the Young Readers section at Chapters...................

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thought du jour.

There is a little difference in people,
but that little difference makes a big difference.

That little difference is attitude.
The big difference is whether it is positive or negative.
W. Clement Stone

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Listening to History

I spent the majority of my workdays on the road this week visiting clients in their homes and listening to their stories. My actual role in this part of my job is to complete a social assessment to accompany their disability certification application medical. I use the social assessment form, however, as a jumping off point to engage an individual in a conversation about their life and their perspective on live. It matters.

Most of the clients I work with live in destitute poverty. They are old before their time, worn from surviving a hard existance. By the time I meet with them, they have chronic health issues and disabilities. It is the rare occasion that I meet with a family who live above the poverty line, but have an adult child with a disability who is applying for this type of "pension." Generally, I'm visiting individuals who have to live in worn down trailers, musty apartments, or subsidized houses that were built so far out in the boonies that they are trapped in the cycle of welfare. Most often, their homes are clean and decorated with memorabilia and old Mother's Day gifts to cover the 15 year old yellowing paint on the walls.

On the surface, this appears to be bleak. However, it is far from the reality. For, it is this part of what I do in my job that I find the most life affirming and rewarding, for I am the recipient of a lesson in the history of the people in this province. I continue to be amazed by the stories I am told and the chance to meet a person who blows my socks off!

Resiliant, humourous, introspective, generous even when they have next to nothing to offer, these surviving storytellers live amongst us, behind a closed door.....sometimes just down the street. They hold a special key to understanding humanity. My social assessment interview gives me the "golden ticket" to a front row centre seat for the drama of real life. And once the person knows that I'm no threat, that I'm not a "welfare inspector" or a "subsidized housing mole" rather I'm there to help them possibly attain a few extra bucks a month through the extended benefits program, things become much more relaxed.

It often starts with small talk about children or pets or grandchildren. Sometimes, we jump right into a discussion on the politics of the day, or the weather or the beauty of New Brunswick's River Valley. Whatever the topic, once the connection is made, the conversation jumps into full swing while I guide them through their history ........ asking questions, making comments, validating ...... knowing full well tht this may be the one and only time they have shared their whole story.

This week, I met an 89 year old woman resplendent in her pink housedress and her dangling rhinestone earrings, most likely a home shopping network fift from one of her children. She was tiny. Her face was covered in wrinkles earned the hard way. She lived with her daughter, whom I was actually there to interview. The two of them regaled me in stories of their life in the small village of Jacquet River in northern New Brunswick.. This old woman had brought up 11 children on her own on a 40 dollar widow's pension and the money she earned cutting brush for the first set of hydro lines in the area.

Their home was a shrine to every gift she had received.........knick knacks, vases filled with artificial flowers, ceramic statures, shellacked wall plaques sporting pictures of relatives, poems, prayers, and animals, stuffed toys, posters, even a few velvet paintings. There were several craftie items purchased at local flea markets and church basement sales dotting every spot on the side tables and adorning every cupboard handle. It was overwhelming and fascinating at the same time.

Tucked in between her treasures, was her faith. Every wall had a framed picture of Pope John Paul II and various religions icons. When I asked her about them, she opened her china cabinet to show me her cups, saucers, spoons and plates collected over the years with the Pope's image adorning them. Every piece had a story behind it. And when she began sharing her feelings about His Holiness, her craggy old voice softened. She spoke from her heart. This beautifully resilient woman had managed to live a long life despite the untolled hardship because of her faith.

It was a week of learning and revelations and of playing the role of the keeper of spoken history. I wouldn't trade the frontline for anything. It's an honour.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Nuturing a Veruca Salt.

Wanna grow your own Veruca Salt? She's the spoiled brat in Raold Dahl's Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory whose father purchased dozens and dozens of chocolate bars to find the golden ticket because she wanted to go on a tour of the Chocolate Factory. To appease his daughter, Veruca's dad gave her everything and anything she wanted.

Veruca represents the best of spoiled greed that is nutured by greedy spineless caregivers. You know one when you see one. You know one if you listen to their whiney wants and complaints of not having the latest of everything. And as I write this, 2 little Veruca Salts are learning their potential tyrannical behaviour in Quebec, because they happen to be the daughters of parents who are fighting over a discarded winning Tim's coffee cup.

Greed is like a spring pothole in the road that can never be temporary filled with gravel. It continues to grow and annoy anyone who happens to go by it. It is ugly, incessant and omnipresent. Greed is the underpinning of the 6 other deadly sins. It is a festering state of mind that seems to be growing exponentially in our society.

So, two little girls find an empty "Roll up the Rim" cup. They roll it up and bingo, they are the winners of a brand new car. Quickly they head home to greedy land only to find out that their parents are not willing to share the winnings.

It's it's mine...............mine, mine, mine..........................I'll sue!!!

How appalling and pathetic.

Albert Einstein said, "there are three great forces in life -- stupidity, fear and greed." I truly believe that if one is preoccupied with gathering material possessions to a point where it becomes an anesthetic to deaden an empty spiritual life, you tend to live myopically and selfishly. Our society is swamped with materialism, and it is growing out of control. There is a belief, fed by a dysfunctional sense of entitlement, that we deserve our "fair share."

We live in a country where poverty exists, where people go without the basic necessities. We also live in a country that is rich with material goods and opportunities that the majority of other countries can't even fathom. Instead of being thankful and being open to sharing the wealth, even with our neighbours in our communities, we have stories on the front pages of our newspapers about two families fighting over a friggin' car. It blows me away.

And now...................the guy who drank the coffee and who threw away his cup (bonus points to him for not littering) without rolling up his rim............well guess what? He's hired a lawyer.

Tim Horton's should sell the car and donate it the money to a food bank...........and "flip the bird" at these families. Somebody's gotta teach those little girls a proper lesson.

"But now, my dears, we think you might
Be wondering - is it really right
That every single bit of blame
And all the scolding and the shame
Should fall upon Veruca Salt?
Is she the only one at fault?
For though she's spoiled, and dreadfully so,
A girl can't spoil herself, you know."

Willie Wonka and The Chocolate Factory

Monday, March 13, 2006

Spring Anew

Pussywillow promises

Shed darkness for light
Cleanse away grime of winter's blight
Trickling stripstreams
Rivers a flow
Blessings of spring.

Robin's egg blueshine
Cradling it's new
Gestational pull whistling renew
Parka free playing
Laughter filled songs
bouncy balls
blue jay calls
Dawning of spring

Step dancer touch
Cry of freedom abounds
Glorious rhythm of seasonal sounds
Puddle jump sloshing
Sun squinting glow
sneaker fun
Elations of spring.

Pull back the covers
Absorb warming sunlight
Clear the runway for winter flight
Cast off the cobwebs
Toss out the dirge
The symphony of spring is about to emerge.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Winter Thaw

Cruel winds hover under a late winter sky
Wild winged birds drafting with pride
Gnarled knuckled trees vacantly breathe
One last icy gasp
A tired sigh
Of whispered hope
and persistance

Blue agate river sheened in amethyst ice
Slumbering stark islands bracing sharp nights
Impatient currents wave undulating sound
Dip and go
Hesitant flow
Of whispered hope
and persistance.

Saturday, March 11, 2006


If I was to choose any piece of clothing I own as my favourite, it would be my blue wool shawl. No contest. Shaped in a large square with a plaid stripe of light brown on it, I have worn it every winter under various coats for over 20 years, and it has held up. Draped in a triangle over my shoulders and wrapped around my neck (and face when it's really cold), my sentimental shawl keeps me warm and makes me feel like I have been hugged by a special woman who was there when I first purchased it at the Bazaar in Istanbul.

It wasn't the original shawl that I paid 11 whole dollars for after proudly thinking I had negotiated the price with the stall owner. No, the shawl I ended up owning was the 10 dollar one that Sabahat, my guardian angel in Istanbul, purchased for me at the stall next to it. When she found out that I had been ripped off by the equivalent of a dollar, and was left thinking that I had made a good purchase, she was very angry and took control of the situation. She purchased the second shawl with her own money, then stomped back to the sneaky first stall owner, ripped a strip off him in fast talking turkish that I couldn't understand and embarrassed him in front of his male peers. Probably to end the loud tirade as quickly as possible, the stall guy gave Sabahat the money back. She in turn, pointed to me to return the original shawl to him. Then, she took the 10 dollars out of the money, and with a big radiant smile handed me my new shawl and the change. As soon as we were out of sight and ear shot, she gave me a kiss on the cheek and then laughed with hearty glee over the fact that she had embarrassed a proud sneaky man.

Sabahat was no pushover. In a country and city where women were (and still are) subservient to men, Sabahat continued to show her cheeky side where ever we went with her. With a twinkle in her eye, and a streak of troublemaking, I witnessed Sabahat quietly step into the hearing area of a group of men who were circled around discussing serious men issues just to find out what they were bantering about. We had originally pointed them out and asked her what they would be debating. So, she took it upon herself to find out. After eavesdropping for about 5 minutes while we stood by laughing, she was finally noticed and shooed away, only to return to her brood (3 adopted North American girls backpacking their way through Europe that she handpicked and saved during a melee in a bus depot the day before, and her 15 year old daughter) to inform us that the serious debating men were talking of nothing important.

In a previous posting, I described my first memorable night in Fatih, Istanbul after being saved by this woman from the chaos of Turkish bus depots. Our time with Sabahat and her family turned out to be a series of lessons in everything from true generosity, trust, love to a front row view into the life of a family in a country that was very different from anything that I had encountered or experienced. To this day, I consider her someone who made a tremendous impact on my life and sadly I will never see her again. I don't even know how to attempt to find her.

Sabahat's home consisted of two bedrooms a small living room/dining room, kitchen and bathroom equipped with a porcelain hole in the floor. It was full of her few prized treasures that made it welcoming and cozy. When we first arrived late one night, her husband was still away fishing so it was only her son that greeted us. I'm sure he was surprised to find three tag alongs with his mother and sister when he opened the door. We were given the largest bedroom complete with soft beds and homemade quilts to sleep in. Her son was given the master bedroom. Sabahat and her daughter slept in the livingroom on a small daybed. At her insistence. When I went into the livingroom to make another attempt at convincing her that we could sleep on the floor and she could have the bedroom, I found mother and daugher snuggled together, arms around one another talking and laughing quietly, sharing their thoughts. It was a bond of love between the two females in the family that I felt would remain tender and close for eternity.

Saturdays were Haman days. The Haman was the local Turkish bath where all the females in the neighbourhood congregated for their weekly bathing ritual. Since communication consisted of basic sign language and acting out gestures, all we knew were the basics about our trip to the Haman. All I cared was that I wanted to get clean after travelling for 2 days without a shower.

The local Haman in Fatih turned out to be nothing I could've envisioned. The entrance to the building was quite non-descript. Inside, however was another story. This new world had high arched ceilings in the central part of the Haman that let in natural light. From there, were smaller rooms decorated with white and grey marble tiles on the floor and walls, large metal sinks shaped like conch shells , slabs of marble situated in the middle of every small room. And as we entered, it was obvious that we were the first lily white females ever to be allowed to enter this sacred place. All eyes were on us. This was not a tourist haman. No, we were the guests of honour and once Sabahat had explained to her friends who we were, and how she had adopted us, the other women and children welcomed us to their cleansing sanctuary.

As the morning evolved, the Haman filled with steam and laughter. Tentatively, we took our soap, haman cloth and began a ritualistic soaking that quickly turned into a water fight with women of all ages. One at a time, Sabahat took her little chicks aside to scrub us down. As I laid on the marble slab that had warmed from the steam, she massaged my back, and scrubbed my limbs with a rough cloth all the while smiling and making kissing noises to ensure that I felt at ease and loved. The layers of filth that I didn't even know existed fell off me until I was left with a glow of pink clean and so cleansed. It was the most relaxed I had felt in the two months that I had been travelling.

The moment that I want to always recall as a picture in my memory took place after Sabahat had finished her kissing/massaging/scrubbing ritual with the 4 of us. It was then that she relaxed, sitting with her best friend and quietly talking about their week. As much as these women in a lot of ways seemed like kindreds to all women I had known, their lives were very different. For, it was only once a week generally, that they were able to connect with one another without the pressure of their responsibilities floating over them. Their role in their families, and communities and the rules that they had to live by, only allowed them this precious time every week to be with one another. The Haman truly was their only female santuary. it was the only time and place that was theirs and theirs alone. It was a truly spiritual place, where freedom of thought and action was embraced.

It was 4 days of being unconditionally accepted and cared for by a woman who for all intents, did something quite out of the norms of her daily routine and life. In her own way, Sabahat showed that she had some control over her destiny, despite the subservience and inequality of her reality. She opened her heart fully with trust and love to three young women whom she inherently knew she could share a bit of her life with. Somehow too, we all figured out how to communicate with one another despite the lack of a shared language. And by so doing, we were able to bring to her a snapshot of sorts of our very different lives and perspectives into her livingroom.

On the last evening, while Sabahat's husband (who had arrived home after day 2 of our visit to an unexpectedly boisterous and chaotic home) presided over a dinner table laden with many wonderful and strange dishes, including the fish he had caught that week, I presented Sabahat with her own shawl. I had purchased it in Athens the week before, not knowing that I would meet this generously loving woman. The shawl was a fine white lace, woven and delicate; not something that I normally would buy for myself. But, it was perfect for her. When she opened her present, which to me was so little given how much she had shared with us, she was overcome with tears and smiles. She placed the shawl lovingly over her head to frame her face, wrapped it around her neck, and then looked up with her gorgeous smile. It made her glow.

I would love to see her again. She'd be a grandmother many times over now. I'd love her to meet my daughter who's a little younger than her daughter Sengul was when we met and to know that there are nights when I crawl into bed with the only other female in my family to laugh and share thoughts. I'd love her to know that I still wear my shawl during my Canadian winters to feel her presence and loving smile. My guardian Angel so far away....

Honestly, I think she somehow does know..........just like I know that when she places her shawl around her shoulders, she thinks of me and wonders.......................

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Brison's Blustery Blackberry

Scott Brison's regrets that he sent his buddy an e-mail highly indicating that he had inside knowledge on the income trust debacle last fall.........fell as flat as a stomped on blackberry.


Dan Nowlan, university buddy and former political kindred before Brison crossed the floor, was the recipient of an unsolicited e-mail which clearly stated good things were about to happen in the field of trading. Nowlan, a highly respected investment banker with a brokerage firm, could easily have benefitted from inside information. ..........but of course he's out of town right now laying low until this little flurry of heavy breathing from the media passes by. Not available for comment.

Brison is left to dangle from the scratchy blackberry patch. Now why would he do such a bonehead thing as send such a brazenly obvious e-mail? According to reports, Brison has an addiction to his palm pilot. Can't seem to keep his hands of it.

Also, reading between the lines, as we most often have to do when reading the news on the Liberals antics and sounds like Brison, who had lost Nowlan as a buddy during the quick walk from Blue to Red, may have been trying to mend fences? Could it have been a, "will he respect me in the morning again if I give him some helpful information" kind of an attempt? Possibly.

Whatever the reason, it was rash, stupid and against the law. And he regrets it................oh that's good.

Time to take Scott's Blackberry away, and make him write on the opposition party chalkboard 50 times:

"I will not use my palm pilot for passing on budgetary secrets as a way to make ammends with a friend that I let down in the past."

Loose lips sink ships...........fingers and thumbs lose chums.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Do we still need to roar?

Who are the women in your life who have made an impact on you? Who are the women in your life whom you have made an impact on?
As long as there are girls in this world who don't have equal access to an education, and to a path that allows them to make choices in the direction they choose to follow, as long as there are girls in this world who have no voice........we have the responsibility to speak out for their rights and teach them how to speak out for their own rights.
I am a strong believer in the work that the Canadian troops are doing in Afghanistan, if only to ensure that the Taliban never has the power to silence the women and girls in that country, and to take away their right to be independent in every way.
Today is International Women's Day. Take the opportunity to toast the strong women in your life, to consider the women you may have mentored along the way, to contemplate how you can make a considerable positive impact on a young girl in your life, and to remember that the rights we have as women in this country were fought for by others before us. I for one am thankful.
Just as important, never forget that there are many women around the globe who's lives are not their own.............who need our solidarity and strong leadership to help them fight for their rights.
"Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead."
"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning how to sail my ship." Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888),

Monday, March 06, 2006

March 8th.

This is going to be short and sweet. No verbosity tonight...........I'm working on that for a later post!

International Women's Day is on Wednesday. Why is it that everything I read, whether it's a new report on the "status of women," most likely by the Status of Women or another group that's PUBLICALLY FUNDED(????) or whether it's a local potluck soiree invitation to congregate with other women on the big day...............why is it that the day is never about a celebration of progress?

I have had it with the negativity. I have had it with the list of "women's issues" that supposedly highlight the only items/issues that women care about???

It is always a slam on the government, a slam on men, a slam on inequality to a point where it's outrageous overkill.

I am a feminist. I am a proud working mother feminist. I celebrate and acknowledge the men and women who fought hard for my right to vote, my right to choose any career I want, my right to equality in my country. I am a woman who cares about childcare issues AND the environment AND the economy, AND the political landscape in this country, AND our role internationally, AND who's going to win Survivor AND if the Blue Jays have a shot at the pennant.

And yet, International Women's Day.....................don't feel like I fit in. I don't aspire to be a Raging Granny I guess.

Enough said. This working feminist needs to go out and teach her son how to swing his bat properly, and then go change the tire on the van...........well maybe not the tires....but I know where you put the windshield washer fluid. I'll pay for someone to change the tires. I've got better things to do.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Teens and Sex

Recent studies have revealed that despite the fact that sex education in the classrooms is being taught, the majority of Canadian adolescents have their information all twisted and distorted. Performing oral sex, for example, is not considered a threat to acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. A high percentage of teens are involved in unprotected sex......STILL! Though the rate of teenage pregancy has gone down, it sure as heck hasn't depleted enough that it's almost non-existant.

Something's wrong here. After reading the report, I'm left wondering, why the disconnect? Facts are being taught, and yet for some reason the information isn't registering.

Could it be that it's because they are adolescents, living in the here and now, scrambling and searching for a moral foundation to build on?

Could it be that we as adults are not providing the education in a "teachable moment" milieu so that the knowledge is not registering at the time when an adolescent is receptive and open to learning?

Could it be that despite all the talk of empowering females that there is still the incessant pressure to acquiesce because it's expected in order to continue in a relationship?

Is there still the pressure on the male to "score?"

Yes...............and more.

At a time when opportunities to inform ourselves of any topic under the sun, why is it that our young people are still so uninformed? Not only that, we are surrounded by various forms of media that inundate us with advertisements, stories, information, and various and sundry details about sex and sexual orientation every single day. And yet.............condoms are still not being used or used properly? A large percentage of teens are not aware of how the reproductive systems work?

Learning happens when a person is awake and to receiving the knowledge. Learning happens when the information is applicable and when it can be assimilated with previous experience and/or knowledge. When one learns something, one automatically is this relevant to me and my life?

One of the keys to helping bridge the gap between ignorance and being informed with respect to sex education is missing. Knowing the mechanics of sexual intercourse is important, but so is understanding the components of a developing a healthy relationship. The feelings that surround the dance of two people is not being linked to the scientific side of things. So, how boring as well as uncomfortable (for both the student and the teacher) would it be if you were sitting in a classroom learning about the parts of the reproductive system, what oral sex is, and what constitutes intercourse without sharing the stuff about the emotions? Same with the teachings that happen within the family….it’s being avoided. It’s too much of a minefield?

Too bad for the minefield! Talking about sex without the foundation of relationship building, religion and spirituality, communication and decision making is like giving someone a people puzzle to complete without the puzzle pieces that reflect the heart and soul.

Poets, authors, songwriters are always grappling for the perfect stanza that answers the big questions around love and fidelity. There isn’t one person in the world who hasn’t tried to find the meaning of love for themselves. As well, the foundational values of a family or a community need to be shared so that the adolescent has some grounding to make his/her decision when they find themselves in the heat of the moment. Let’s talk about this and link it to the science, to the sex ed curriculums, to the discussions within families. Teens want to know how to make a relationship work.

As a mother with a daughter on the cusp of adolescence, the discussions have already begun. Grounded in spiritual and familial values, our talks make sense to her. I can’t say that they are easy. But, what part of being a parent is? My natural inclination is to go stick my head in the sand and not think about it. I don’t want to put much thought into the fact that my daughter is a sexual being. It scares me. But, how will that help her? It is up to myself and her father to make sure that we keep the door of communication wide open so that she is comfortable approaching us for guidance and mentoring.

Eventually, the discussions are going to be more emotionally charged and complicated. It will be up to me to ensure that I keep a smile on my face, and a sense of calm in my voice while attempting to share my knowledge now and my personal experiences when I was her age, so that she has the tools to forge through this minefield.

And when the discussion is over, I will breathe a sigh and go pour myself a glass of wine.

Friday, March 03, 2006

General Hillier and Our Troops.......

General Rick Hillier, Canada's Chief of the Defence Staff has my attention. From what I have gleaned from reading stories about him and listening to interviews he has also acquired the attention of other Canadians. What is it about him that makes me believe that his reign over our Armed Forces will not only a turning point in it's development, but will also positively impact the perception and feelings of Canadians?

Hillier is a straight talking, hands-on intelligent strategist who clearly has a vision for boosting morale, boosting the forces and enhancing the reputation of the men and women who serve under him. He has gained the respect of many because he seems to live his high standards. His expectations of Canada's role in various countries, particularly in Afghanistan, are based on a foundation of realistic clarity. He is the right person in the right job at the right time.

He has integrity.

One of the first steps he took this week during the changeover was to order that our Canadian flag be replaced by the Afghan flag, a symbolic gesture to the Afghan people that we are their to help and guide, but we are visitors in their country. They are the lead, and we respect that. The Canadian Armed Forces role is to help develop the infrastructure in that country needed to eventually become self-sufficient, something that Afghanistan has not experienced in over 25 years. Hillier is practising lead management techniques...leading, advising, coaching, guiding, listening, observing, directing, supporting while making decisions and teaching others to learn how to make their own decisions........all the while always showing respect through action.
He has my vote.

In an interview today in the Globe and Mail, Hillier talks plainly and openly about several issues, particularly pertaining to our role in Afghanistan and the dangers of the situation. Not one to mince words, he shares an honest picture of the realities of our role. It's not peacekeeping as we Canadians once defined it in the 1950's and 60's. It's not war like we defined it during World War II. No, it's a different kettle of fish, and it's going to take a long dedicated amount of time to help shape the future of this war torn disabled country....... Here are a few excerpts.


"When I was in Afghanistan, the first thing the president [Hamid Karzai] said was: 'My greatest threat is our lack of capacity to handle our own threats.' Part of the reason was because those very visionary and extremely intelligent leaders I saw — starting with Karzai — had zero capability to turn their vision to a strategy to a policy to a plan.

There was no bureaucracy, no public service. They were either dead or living in the West because of the 25 years of brutality.

Kabul, and the northeast, north-central, and northwest have made enormous strides . . .

The real need is in the south, to make sure it does not again become a fertile ground for terrorists to breed and recover and recruit and reconstitute and resource themselves and then project their violence.

I'm there to help Afghans rebuild their families and communities and become part of something more stable and get on with life.

It takes a while to build an army. It takes us a while to build a new unit, and we're an army in longstanding. They're starting from a clean sheet of paper."


"People try to put us in a niche: You're not conducting peacekeeping or you are conducting war-fighting operations or you are conducting combat. Here's what we're doing, because the terms are not necessarily helpful.

We're doing the entire spectrum of operations, from straightforward negotiation and dealing with folks to training police, training the army, to helping work with the international community, right through to firefights with the Taliban, to ensure they're not going to be able to stop the progress.

So to describe that as war is actually, it's really 1940, 1950s terminology."


"You're living with people who desperately want you there — and the Afghans do. I mean, they say: 'The only thing between us and chaos again is you.'

You're living with people who are benign or neutral or slightly hostile, and you're living with a small group of people who actually want to kill you.

That's a completely differnet dynamic than what we trained, prepared, structured for over 50, 60 years of the Cold War, when — we aim for the North German plain, countering that armoured thrust in the Warsaw Pact — everything we've done in structure . . . was all designed for that fight . . .

Everything we're doing in transformation is designed to shape out our structrue, training, equipment, organization, leadership, how we approach things, how we work with people."


"The Canadian Forces have actually been in a survival mode for the last decade and our ability since the Somalia affair — and that crystallized a whole bunch of other things — when our population, in the view of many soldiers and sailors and airmen and airwomen, disowned us, divorced themselves from us, led us into a situation where our survival was the only priority which we had.

So now we're out of that. And one of the aims is to make sure that never occurs again.

But I also throw the ball back in the other court. Canadians disowned their Canadian Forces in one respect back in the early to mid 1990s. And have never been engaged in the way they needed to shape it going forward. So it's a responsibility I throw back into normal Canadians' laps and say: 'It's your armed forces, you get engaged.'

We do live in a very nice, luxurious, safe, stable, fat and easy country, right? It's easy to get myopic and navel-gazing and think the rest of the world is like us. We're part of 1 per cent of the world that's like this.

Canadians need to wake up to the fact that we are viewed by the rest of the world as luxurious, decadently so perhaps."

Hillier's right. We live in luxury compared to the vast majority of people in this world. It's bound to distort the realities of what others have to face day in and day out in their lives. Who are we to sit back and be judgemental without an awareness of the realities beyond our backyard? Who are we to turn away from certain areas in this world that need our attention and assistance when it doesn't fit into the Pearsonian view we still have about peacekeeping? And more importantly, when are we going to turn a corner and start supporting the good work our troops are doing in various hot spots around the world?

It's time to listen up. It's time to support our troops and be proud of the fact that we have the privileges in this country to be able to take the lead insightfully and respectfully instead of harbouring negativity and allowing the media to ask stupid questions about an outdated view of peacekeeping and our role in the world. It's time to wake up to the realities that millions of people in war ravaged impoverished countries have to face every day and know that we have the capacity and ability to make a difference. It starts with supporting our own.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The First Sign of Spring.........

I woke up this morning with this strange hankering for a steamed hot dog stuck in a steamed bun covered in mustard.........wrapped in a tin foil sleeve. There was a hum in my head too that sounded like cheering or something. All of a sudden I recognized the tune........sung with whole hearts in unison in ballparks across this continent.................7th inning stretch...............cold beer......warm me some peanuts and cracker jack.......

Spring training starts today. The Jays' pitching line-up on paper look unbeatable for the first time in years. And while they limber up and merge as a working team way down in Dunedin, I will ignore the cold blasting wind outside today and the frozen snowy tundra and think of upcoming games against the Red Sox, the Yanks and the Orioles...........cheering them on......remembering the rules and signs and sights of my favourite sport.......Baseball.

Batter up!..........................

John Fogerty sang it best.................

Well, beat the drum and hold the phone - the sun came out today!
We’re born again, there’s new grass on the field.
A-roundin’ third, and headed for home,
it’s a brown-eyed handsome man;
Anyone can understand the way I feel.

Oh, put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today;
Look at me,
I can be centerfield.

Well, I spent some time in the mudville nine,
watchin’ it from the bench;
You know I took some lumps when the mighty casey struck out.
So say hey willie, tell ty cobb and joe dimaggio;
Don’t say it ain’t so, you know the time is now.

Oh, put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today;
Look at me,
I can be centerfield.

Yeah! I got it, I got it!

Got a beat-up glove, a homemade bat, and brand-new pair of shoes;
You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.
Just to hit the ball and touch ’em all - a moment in the sun;
(pop) it’s gone and you can tell that one goodbye!

Oh, put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today;
Put me in, coach - I’m ready to play today;
Look at me,
I can be centerfield.


Wednesday, March 01, 2006

And the Teddy Goes to....................

If the Teddy fits....................

The Teddies, named for Ted Weatherill, a former senior public servant who was fired in 1999 for excessive expense claims as chairman of the Canada Labour Relations Board, were awarded by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. This eighth annual black tie event held in Ottawa called 2005 "yet another blockbuster year for Government waste."

"Abusing the public purse at any level of government is unacceptable," said Tasha Kheiriddin, the federation's Ontario Director and M.C. for the event. "Our teddies ar an appropriate way to give the people who fleece Canadian taxpayers the recognition they so richly deserve."

So, who were the winners of the evening................hmmmmmmmmmm I wonder.......

Former Immigration minister Joe Volpe, the province of Manitoba and the one-time president of the Royal Canadian Mint, David Dingwall, are among the recipients of “Teddy” awards for wasteful spending. Hungry man Volpe was named recipient of the federal award for lavish dining on the taxpayers' tab, often several times a day.

“In a world where money is no object because other people are paying, taxis are free and there is always wine with dinner, Joe Volpe is right at home,” Ms. Kheiriddin said. “Staffers called Volpe a grazer because of his penchant for eating several taxpayer-funded restaurant meals a day.”

On March 21, 2005, Mr. Volpe and friends dined at the swank Allegro restaurant in Ottawa, spending $507.39. A few hours later, they ate again at an Italian restaurant, charging taxpayers $80.14. Mr. Volpe also spent $138 on pizza for two one night, and $207 a few nights later on pizza for three.

David Dingwall, who resigned last year from his job as head of the Royal Canadian Mint, received a lifetime-achievement award for what the federation described as his long-term lavish spending habits.

Manitoba's government was given the provincial award for its taxpayer-funded tummy tucks, fat-reducing surgeries and payments for Botox treatments. “It's certainly not the type of fat taxpayers were hoping the government would be trimming,” Ms. Kheiriddin said.

The federation pointed to revelations last year that the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority had paid $981,000 for 218 tummy tucks and fat-reducing surgeries, and $10,900 for 31 vials of Botox in 2003-04.

In reaction to the revelations, Manitoba Health Minister Tim Sale was unapologetic. “It's one of those judgment calls about the severity of the condition,” Mr. Sale said in December. “It is funded where the condition is medically a serious issue.”

In the cities category, Richmond, B.C., came out the honoree for spending $460,000 on world travel for council members, as well as spending on a speed-skating oval for the 2010 Olympics.

And to think that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ah, who knows what obscene spending is lurking beneath the bowels of the so called priveleged who reek of misused entitlement.

Where your teddies proudly boys! Go out and strut your stuff.