Friday, June 30, 2006

Happy Canada Day

A day early, but I'm off to celebrate Canada Day weekend in Nova Scotia.........far away from phones and the internet. Lots of comraderie over roasted marshmallows, beach suppers and beachcombing. Kites and kids and sparklers. Music and much fun. Enjoy your weekend.
Happy Canada/Dominion Day.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Uh Oh! I'm in Trouble Now...................

I had every intention of writing a political missive today; an overview on the PM's first few months in office. It'll have to wait ................. because today I rant about something completely different -- something that affects me personally.

It all started this morning when I tried to do that flippy thing with my hair. Usually, all I need to do after I've washed it is let it dry a bit, put a bit of stuff in it and then blow dry, while scrunching it up through my fingers. Eh Voila....... je suis pret une jour nouveau. This professional process, which normally takes all of 6 minutes because of a wonderful haircut, stalled this morning. Nothing seemed to work. Of course, the more I primped and prodded and tucked it behind my ears, the more moppy it looked. Nope, my funky hair that looks great with a funky pair of earrings, a bit of make-up and a dash of lipstick had de-funkified. I didn't feel like my zippy self. The day had come to contact Kellie, my hairstylist to see if she could squeeze me in like right away.

It's funny how a haircut can be fine one day, and then overnight POOF! It's too long. How does that happen?

So, as soon as I had completed my first appointment of the day, I made a call to the salon. Kellie answered (good omen, I'm thinking). I ask her if she is busy today. She (of course) says, yes she is..............I cross my fingers and ask about tomorrow and then all of a sudden............ she pauses and says................ "Today is my last day. I thought you knew. OMG! I forgot to call you to tell you the news. I'm so sorry"...................but all I hear is "blahdeeblahdeeblahdeeblah," cause I've gone into shock. She's moving to uhhhhhhhhh guess..........ALBERTA! Her hubbie is already there. He has started his new job...... first lucrative one in his career. She and the kids head out next week. Before I hung up, I did gather my wits and told her that I would stop in for a couple of minutes to say good-bye.

I got off the phone, wailed to my colleagues..............amazingly they completely understood my reaction and dilemma. One goes to great lengths to find a hairdresser who knows what they are doing, who listen to your requests and then gently modifies them to suit you more appealingly, whom you tell your stories to and they tell you theirs...........whom you can trust fully. After searching for what seemed like eons, I found Kellie over 10 years ago, and have followed her from one salon to another as she tried to find the place the suited her the most. Before Kellie, I was the victim of many sheer disasters. After finding Kellie, I've had a few mishaps but she was always open to fixing it up if I just gave her a call.

It's not like my hair is difficult. In fact, I have happy healthy hair. I just have a lot of it and it grows like a weed. I also change my hair interests often, from long past my shoulders (well it's been a while since that look) to short sticky-uppy. I had an upgraded Hamil cut, a straight blunt cut with bangs, and I have had lots of wavy perms. You don't mess around like that if you don't trust someone.................

But, it's more than just haircuts. Kellie and I became friends over the years. 4 babies between us, family emergencies, kiddie illnesses, unemployment traumas with her husband, guidance counselling for nephews..............yes our relationship evolved far beyond the hairwashing sink. A couple of years ago, when my daughter was only 10 but struggling with stomach ache anxieties drummed up due to a bunch of events happening at the same time AND too much thinking..... Kellie invited her in for a wee bit of pampering. For an hour one evening, Kellie gave my daughter her undivided attention, foiling her hair with a couple of lighter blonde streaks......nothing too showy, but fancy.......... and talked to her about peppermint and lavender and wonderful soothing aromas that could help her sleep at night.

Last year was my turn. I received a call from Kellie. Her family was in crisis. Her daughter was in the children's hospital with a severe infection from a botched up appendicitis operation and an obstructed bowel. She needed information and advocacy on my end. I dropped everything that I was doing and went looking for answers through the myriad of government red tape. It was the least I could do.

Yes, our relationship went from service provider and client to friends some time ago, which is why I have been travelling to the next town over to her salon when she moved there a couple of years ago. ......... which is why she is very comfortable asking me if I would meet with her nephew to talk training and trades...............which is why I called her to ask her to help me with my daughter.

At lunch, instead of getting a new cut...............I jaunted over to the store, picked up a big bouquet of pink lilies and headed over to say good-bye to a friend. She's off on a big adventure with her family. Don't know if she really wants to leave her roots behind, and her large extended hey..............this working class family of New Brunswickers is following down the road like many others before and after them. It wasn't until we were saying good-bye that I was struck with all the many ties that we had developed. Isn't that often the case. You don't realize the depth of your feelings for someone until you are faced with something like this? Gee, there's a song in there somewhere..............oh yes.....................I hear it now.....

Cue...........Joni Mitchell....................."Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got til it's gone................................"

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Reality Escapism...................

I have a confession to make. You ready?
I'm a reality show junkie.
There.......I feel better. It's out in the open.
Ah! The cleansing of a good confession.

Now, I do have some standards. I refuse to watch anyone lie down in a tub of live slimy worms. And as much as it may be voyeuristically interesting to watch a bachelor feel up a bunch of hot single chicks (not), I avoid the rose ceremonies. I won't watch the wife swappin' shows and that British Nanny? She's just plain irritating. Mary Poppins will always be my standard for a British nanny. But, there are a bunch that I tune in to see, and look forward to wastin' away an hour or so to take in some mindless entertainment.

My all time fav is The Amazing Race. I've been a fan since day one..................apart from the canned conflictual couples and the obvious choice of different types of twosomes to spice it up, I love the idea of criss crossing the globe like a massive scavenger hunt....reading maps, figuring out travel plans, testing stamina and chutzpah along the way. And if it wasn't for the fact that the Amazing Race people only take American applicants and no Canadians, I would be hounding the show to let me take part. I don't know what my one-liner moniker under my name would state....I guess it would depend on who my partner was.

Bloggette Momma? Counsellor Stylist? Crazy Canuck Counselling Blogette Hot Momma? That's it!

Yeah........... So, I watch the Amazing Race and think..............gee I could do that! I'm great with directions. I can schmooze with lots of different people and if I had to, I could beg for money to continue in the race.........uhhuh, that's me. I can swim a bit, and hike a bit and I think I would be fine bungie jumping. I even have the perfect buddy to do it with, if we didn't kill one another by fighting for the leader role! We'd probably have to flip a coin to see who would have to scarf down a large bowl of caviar in St. Petersburg though or choke down the live squid in Thailand. That would be disgusting. But, if I had to balance a shot of schnapps on the end of a sword while drinking it, or find my way through a maze of caves on a Greek Isle, or dance with a dirndl on.........hey I'm there! Wash an elephant? Walk a camel? Why not?

Survivor............yeah, I'm still a tuner-inner. In fact, we still have a Survivor pool at work. There's enough of us hangers on to continue with enthusiasm. The Pool helps too, and since I hang a poster highlighting the contestants on the bulletin board outside of my office, many a day finishes with a group congregating to talk Survivor shop...........sharing opinions and copping bets on the side. What I've found interesting with this office activity is that many men have signed up for the pool. Given that I work predominantly with women in the garner a gaggle of men is a feat. But, there they are...........all in there like a dirty shirt. Mind you, I can't imagine that they would sign up for a "Bachelor" pool. But, Survivor? Yes, they're watchers.

Reality shows.........................just schlockie soap opera stuff for prime time? Why not? Sometimes, one can drown in the sea of negative needs a light bit of entertainment, don't you think? It balances out the oh so smart blonde commentatrix (thank you to Mark Steyn for the wonderful new word BTW) talking head found on Fox TV. Is that reality? Nah........that's just rude irritation.

Last night, was da boys on Canadian Idol. 11 of dem bye, from small towns across this vast country. For an hour and a half, my daughter and I (plus a couple of million others) tuned in to catch these fresh faced fellers belt out their song of choice, hoping to garner enough votes to move on. I had low expectations............ last year's batch were pathetic, I thought. As far as I was concerned, there wasn't a shining star in the bunch. Kind of like this year's American Idol after the voting public knocked off the best singers early in the competition. But, last night, I was pleasantly surprised at the level of cutey patootey talent! They can sing too. Oooo weee. Bring it on!

Though Canadian Idol is based on the same recipe as American Idol, which was based on the British version..................and all have Mr. SmirkingCowell's signature on them (how much is he worth now?) and an schmoozy MC there is an oh so slight difference, which I think is reflective of the oh so slight difference between the countries. There's something flavourfully Canadian about the show. Sometimes it's reflective in the song choice, though there seems to be no getting away from Lionel, Barry and Whitney unfortunately. Sometimes it's just reflective in the contestants' demeanour.....they seem to be a little less polished and a wee bit more tentative about being on a large stage in a large city away from home. Then again, it could just be the plaid shirts and ballcaps, the typical uniform of a hoser. There's always a couple of beer drinking, hockey fan hosers thrown into the mix. What's common? The metrosexual host M.C. though I have to admit I'm partial to Ben Mulroney, cause I was always a fan of his Dad, the notoriously despised ex-Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Yes, I think I'm the last Canuck holdout in that department.

Usually there's a diamond in the shining star in the whole group of wannabes. I always figured it had something to do with the shallow depth of the talent pool, given that the population of this country is minute compared to our buddies south, and in the UK. But, this year, it's a sparklin'. And, we havent even seen the ladies yet.

Summer is not the time to be reading the Iliad in my books. Summer is not the time to be following a documentary series highlighting the machinational planning behind the Boer War on the History channel. Political commentary? Seems stale at this time of year. No............summer is a time to clear the head, read lighter fare, and every now and then catch some mindless reality escapism in between catching a few ballgames. Canadian Idol looks like it's gonna fit the bill.

PS. OK........OK here's confession #2. I have watched my share of the rose ceremonies, but only in the darkness of my livingroom, with the remote in my hand to switch it to the Discovery Channel asap. That doesn't make me too one-dimensionally shallow, does it?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Fishy Fishy................

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! I'm about to let you in on a big secret. Don't go spreading it around, though. You have to keep it to yourself. We wouldn't want the secret to get into the wrong know what hands I'm referring to.............the hands of middle management. But, then again, if you told them the secret, chances are they may not understand it anyway. WHY? Have you ever heard of the Peter Principle? It's a rampant virus that has spread across the mired mucky wasteland where one finds the lost souls of the public sector.

And now that the lost souls have "made it" in their own eyes..............well.........the muck has cemented them in job positions with responsibilities that are beyond their pointy little brain abillity. Yes, they reached their job climax...........the pinnacle of power (or so they think)............and there they sit mucking up the waters, and making decisions that impact the frontline little people who are doing their best to provide the service to the client.

Somehow the aspirants who reached for the so-called brass ring (a mirage of a facade) of middle management and attained that special rung on the ladder missed out on a couple of lessons in their first year Organizational Design course. The key role of middle management is to liase between the bigger fish and the little herring while not getting anything dirty under their fins. They are the lobsters in the food chain of command, and they take this quite seriously. Clutching onto their mantra of "Key Messages, Key Performance Indicators, Core Competencies, Excellence in Client service, Quality team approach," these deepsea thinkers have neglected to learn the meaning behind the words. They forgot to take a course in common sense communication. Consequently, they don't get the importance of looking out for the herring.

Middle management runs on fear..........of being caught like a crustacean caught in the net.............fear that their own incompetencies will be shone for all to see. Under the shimmering guise that they one day will rue the public sector world, that they too will rise above a station that is already above their capability, they focus only on the bigger fish and forget the herring.

Herring, especially the strong swimmers...........the ones who with a few brain cells, who are awake and aware of the incompetencies...........scare the shit out of them. So, middle management peer up towards the bigger fish, to please, please and please and forget to cover their dorsal fin. . Yes, they are so busy congregating in coral boardrooms across the public sector nation, plowing through bureaucratic baloney that is packaged as fancyfish food, they completely miss out on the fact that upstairs, business runs as usual. Clients are served. Issues are dealt with. Problems are solved, often by a school of the herring who know how to run the business.

So, along comes a red tory herring. She doesn't fit. She's not a regular herring, and she sure as heck is not interested in miring in the muck of middle earth, middle management. The bigger fish don't know what to do with a spear in their side, she asks questions, expresses her ambitions, offers suggestions, and demands to be recognized.

This red tory herring, who also has the ability to see and often support the other herring, just doesn't fit in the eyes of the lobsters. What do they do with her? Where could she go? Why isn't she grateful that she just has a job and a paycheck? Why would she want anything more in life? How can we quash her ambition? Does she want our lucrative and important position? That must be it! She wants what we have! Swim for cover! Lay the tracks with number counting exercises, swamp her with reports to submit...........scatter a minefield of obstacles so that we wear her down. Sooner or later, she will get tired of enthusiastically sharing her ideas. Surely she'll swim away soon. Or better yet, throw her a shiny lure and that'll shut her up for good. Put her in her place..............let her know that she's only a red herring and will never be a lobster.'s the secret. Lobsters are bottom feeders. They suck up the entrails of the ocean floor. They may be gourmet in some people's eyes............but a bottom feeder is a bottom feeder.

Red herrings? Well, this red herring is not what she appears to be. She's really a butterfly...........caught in a net right now, but very soon will be fluttering her wings and taking flight. I just have to unhook the net from my wing..................

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Dance, Dance Wherever You May Be...........

While I dance I cannot judge, I cannot hate, I cannot separate myself from my life. I can only be joyful and whole. That is why I dance.
Hans Bos.

Yesterday, I had BIG plans to scribe a ranty job related rave, and even started a draft. I was all fired up and ready to let it all hang out on my blog..............was going to take my time allowing it to simmer on and off throughout the day and then let it rip out through my fingers after it was all spiced up and savoury. Well..........when it was time to jot down a few missives, I couldn't access my blog. I tried and tried for a couple of hours and gave up. Still thinking I would get back to the rant, I went off to clean my house, do some laundry and toss some accumulated junk. Mindless activity to feed a mindfull head. Like driving in a car, often doing housework allows me to create. That was my plan.........stew in the juices of a good hate on.

Then, I turned on some tunes. Housecleaning tunes..............toe tappin', hip waggin', head noddin' upbeat familiar songs that don't allow for stewin'. Lively, joyful rockin' tunes that force you out of your head and into the moment. Within seconds, my anger flew out the open window and blew away in the breeze. Off it rant roared away. It rolled down the hill, across the road, into the river and floated away, away away................... Music filled my living space with an upbeat beat. Before I knew it, the tunes emanating out of the speakers altered my moody focus, transforming it into life energy. I was off to the and singing and dancing and singing and cleaning................with lighter feet and spirits.

And the dancing continued..........................right into Saturday night.

Along with about 40 others, my dancing partner and I joined a crew to dance the night away with friends. With all the kiddies safely tucked in down the street with munchies and movies and a babysitter, the adults congregated for an night of forgetting worries and burdens and dance. That was the whole purpose of the dance. It doesn't happen often enough. We don't make time for letting it all hang out. And yet, dancing is something that I love to do. Given the crowded dance floor, I wasn't alone! It used to be that dancing was a big part of weekend festivities when I was younger. But, the club scene doesn't even encroach on my world and the opportunities don't seem to materialize very often. I don't go to many weddings anymore, and most "parties" are get togethers with families to kick back and relax a bit while the kids run around playing. Yeah...........dancing, apart from housecleaning two-steps and some impromptu twirls in my livingroom, took a back seat.

Not last night, however. It was front and centre.

Any problem in the world can be solved by dancing............. James Brown said that. I couldn't agree more. It does make you "feel good." The more you twirl and swirl and flail your arms around............the more you shake and shimmy and lose that whole feeling of being self-concious, life's problems and all it's worry warts leave your pores. It's such a therapeutic activity that is always pleasurably joyful.

The most acute feeling that I have when I'm lost in a dance? Divine inspiration. Oh, and sore feet and calves in the morning. But, it was well worth it.

I danced in the morning when the world was begun
I danced in the Moon & the Stars & the Sun
I came down from Heaven & I danced on Earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth:

Dance then, wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the Dance, said He!
And I'll lead you all, wherever you may be
And I'll lead you all in the Dance, said He!
(...lead you all in the Dance, said He!)

Friday, June 23, 2006

Schools Out...........Yessirreeeeee..............Yippeeeee

The last bell of the year is ringing loudly. Toss your books and binders aside for frisbees and freedom. Yeehaw! Say so long to the dusty old classrooms with the lingering rank of socks and lost mittens. Give your teacher a big wave goodbye and watch their smiles grow bigger and bigger as the last bus rolls out of the parking lot! So long to classmates who will be headed in another direction for a couple of months..............Schools out for another year!

Bring on the hot weather, the hazy lazy afternoons, a cool watering hole, barefeet, flip flops, a pair of cut-offs pulled over your bathing suit, a bike with the tires blown up and ready to ride. Picnics, campfires, toasty marshmallow goo, watermelon, neverending games of scrub baseball.............anyone can play! Summer is here...............lying in the clover, finding art in the fluffy clouds, catching fireflies, paddling, kite flying, swimming, water ballooning, diving, running, and snoozing. Camping, canoeing, beach combing, crazy late nights watching the stars...........where's the big dipper? Do you see the Milky Way? Strawberry picking, raspberries and blackberries too...................yummmmmmmmmmmmm. Don't forget the blueberries. Can't forget them.

Family reunions, Bar B.Q.'s, dancing on the back from away, sleepovers, sleep-outs, sleeping in.....................lots to do, and time to diffuse on a family trip. Ah, what a relief! No more routine.

This is the time of year that I long to be in school again.........just to experience the exhilaration of finishing the year! A satisfying sense of accomplishment interspersed with the knowledge that before too long, I'd be getting on a bus heading north to summer camp. And when I was old enough, this was the week that I would be packing up my trunk with camp clothes and crazy skit paraphrenalia...............and making my way up to camp to reunite with my friends and to plan the summer.

Precamp was always exciting and nervewracking..........driving up the camp road after being away for a whole 10 months.............not knowing everyone and wondering if camp would live up to your idealistic expectations derived from a whole school year of sitting and daydreaming in a stuffy classroom. My "nerves" always subsided as soon as I stepped out of the car, inhaled the pine scent of the forest and took in the first view of the Lake where I belonged.

I had an email from a special friend today who owns his own camp now. Today is the first day of precamp............his staff arrive.............the ones he hand picked to work with, to mentor, to rely on this summer. It's showtime for him............this week is crucial because it is his one opportunity to mold this new crew into an enthusiastic and reliable team that will provide life memory events and activities to a whole gaggle of kiddies. This precamp is a little different because he has "taken on" some of the staff from Kawabi now that it has closed. Even though he himself grew up at Kawabi and has more than likely integrated many of the "traditions" associated with it, he has added his own flavourful approach to his camp.........Otterdale.

My special friend will be focused on many learning moments this week, all toward pulling together a group who are bringing their different camp will be a challenge, no doubt, but if anyone's up for the challenge it's Captain Luten. I wish you well Luten! Wish I was heading up the canoeing program for you! Or, what about the craft shop? Can I run the craft program, Luten? Puuullllllleeeeeze?

This summer, my daughter will be attending a "sleepover" camp. Both she and my son will be involved in a variety of fun day camps...............from sports to a family, we'll head to the beach as often as we can, spend some time in Nova Scotia in a special place that is part of our lives, spend a long weekend in PEI with our close friends, and take alonger trip together in August to visit family in Ontario. In between the activity, we'll just hang out and enjoy the music. I love the summer................ I love the company that arrives at our "Mayflower B&B" for the beginning of their tour of the Maritimes (a tradition for most Canucks it seems) and the spontaneity of a neighbourhood get together................. summer is for letting your hair down and hanging out. Summer is for being a kid all over again..............too much sun, too much fun, too much ice cream!

I may not be getting out of school today myself AND I may have to go to work for most of the two months.............. but I'll make the best of the time I'm out of my office!

A toast to summer. A toast to memorable times with family and friends. cue....Alice Cooper's guitar riff....................

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Hey Gzowski! Are you Paying Attention Up There??

I grew up falling asleep to the sound of the typewriter my Mom pecked away on at night, and I awoke to the sound of the radio. Radio was a cornerstone at my house. It was on all day when we were at home............not the TV............the radio. Mornings in particular......our news, both locally and beyond was brought to you by.................. How do those two activities come together? My mom worked in the media field. She was a copy writer and a salesperson of airtime. Often waiting for a piece that she had written, we had the dial tuned to whatever radio station she was working for.

When I moved away for the last time, I found my own station. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.....CBC. Living in Toronto, surrounded by dozens of options, sick of the barrage of bad jokes, loud talk and annoyingly incessant commercials (some of which still take up space in my cerebellum unfortunately.......I'll sing them for you one day!!!), I was looking for an alternative on my car radio. It was a time in my life when I happened to be in the car a lot, commuting to and from work, driving home on weekends etc. So, good that didn't compete with the busy noise of traffic congestion, was definately on my radar. When I first learned of the CBC and found the wavy transmission for the first time, I felt like I had struck gold.

When I moved to the Maritimes almost 19 years ago, the CBC became more of a cornerstone for me. It connected me to my new surroundings, and more importantly it connected me to my family far away. CBC helped keep the homesick adjustment blues at bay...............

No one was a bigger flag waving fan of our National public radio station than I was. Interviews, political analysis, homegrown music, international stories, dramatic readings, storytelling, comedy sketches, were all thrown into the mix. I quickly found my favourite programs, and in particular grew to love Peter Gzowski's Morningside. He was a weekday morning fixture..................with a unique baritone smokey voice, a quirky sense of humour, an unrelenting curiosity, a passion for this country, and a maple leaf shaped heart big enough to draw Canadians in from coast to coast. This scruffy lookin bearded guy in crumpled clothes, big clunky glasses and an unfiltered Buckingham cigarette glowing in his hand at all times was a charmer. He used to say he had a face for radio. He surely had the voice.....................and the ears of many listeners. During the Morningside years, many a conversation would begin with.............."Did you hear so and so on Morningside yesterday..............?"

I have tried to find a comparison to Gzowski, but there isn't one. He was one of a kind. And when he was at the peak of his career, this national treasure did more to helping Canadians understand eachother across this vast country than anyone. How did he do this? He asked the questions we wanted to ask. He treated everyone with a sense of respect.............well, except for Conrad Black, a pompous ass from way back and who is now in the news for being a fraudulent scumbag, but I have no opinion on Lord Black of Cross Harbour :) Well, not in this post.........

Peter Gzowski never lost sight of his roots. He never developed a "big famous guy" persona. In fact, whenever he was in town promoting one of his books away from the sanctuary of his studio, he seemed shy and withdrawn like he was unaware of the impact he had made on millions of Canadians like me.
Gzowski shared his feelings, and introduced us to regular folk interspersed with the more famous folk............ he had weekly regulars on his show that he was comfortable kibbitzing with, like Stuart MacLean (Canada's verson of Garrison Keillor) and the "the 3 Wiseman"........Keirans, Lewis and Camp who regaled and debated and postured over the political issues of the day, and Sheilagh Rogers, whose genuine enthusiastic talkativeness blended in well with Gzowski as she read some of the mail from the listeners.

He was a strong proponent of reading and literacy issues............and though he has been gone for a while now (the Buckinghams finally got the best of him), his annual golf tourney to raise awareness and money for literacy intitiatives still carries on. He also left a legacy of radio people who carried on after he left.....for a while. Though some are still on the airwaves, the Senior Management turkeys at the "mothercorps" have messed around with the dial tone so badly that the whole station has lost it's way.

Since the days of Morningside, CBC radio has attempted to "redefine" itself. They have failed miserably. More concerned with "attracting" a younger demographic, they have tried funky and flippant and have fallen flat. Political correctness turned it into tunnel vision, and except for a few holdouts...............leftist views took over, glossing out any form of healthy debate and questioning. The attitude emanating from the airwaves was that the CBC had decided it was their role, for example, to replace the Senate as the "sober second thought" to Parliament. And as Ottawa cutback severely on the corporation's budget, the quality of the programming tanked.

There are a few shows I'll go out of my way to listen to. Michael Enright on Sunday mornings still catches my attention. Rex Murphy on Sunday Cross Country Check Up, asking the questions of the day in a phone in format............usually it's on while I'm making dinner. In fact, the line-up for Sundays is still pretty intact, though some of it is getting a little long in the tooth. Stuart MacLean, for example, was once a "never miss" for years, but his schtick has lost it's gloss. Every now and then, though his Vinyl Cafe stories can still make me laugh out loud. But, the bulk of the weekday programming is pathetic. Instead of starting the national programming with a combination of light fare and current event fare, the CBC wiseasses start us off with "The Voice;" a supposedly funny guy with a voice like the brother on "Everybody Loves Raymond" (not my idea of funny) throwing out a glib editorial for the day to kick start a newsy journalistic hour and a half of doom and gloom. Oh, please pass the arsenic.

Squeezed into mid-morning for an hour is Sheilagh Rogers, one of the logical replacements for a "Gzowski-like" morning. She has been see-sawed and mistreated for years now, as the powers that hold the power figure she ain't hip enough for the 20 year olds that they expect to tune in.... Now, I don't think the lady even has a budget, though every now and then I hear her interviewing someone somewhere other than her studio in Vancouver, but how can she establish any kind of reputation and following if the only give her an hour airtime? The afternoon show is so awful that I don't even turn it on anymore............two talking heads, who don't even have a good rapport with one another re-hashing the bizarro bits in the news and giving their opinion........LIKE I CARE?? The afternoon programming used to be smart and interesting.............longer and interesting interview led by Vicki Gabereau is long gone. For the most part, sadly so am I.

An aside..............a couple of years ago, I was driving to a meeting in Moncton listening to Sheilagh Rogers talking with Mark McKinney from Kids in the Hall. He was debuting in a one man show in Toronto that evening. Sheilagh asked him about how he keeps his focus and manages his nervous jitters while doing live theatre. McKinney explained that he pretends the audience is one person. Then, he turned the question to her. Sheilagh stated that she is aware of her audience and her "demographic." She then went on to describe her listener......... a middle aged woman, most likely living in the Maritimes who drinks tea. I almost choked on my tea and drove off the highway. So, if I am obviously a key player in the whole CBC radio world, then how come the "suit people" keep forgetting that???

CBC radio has lost it's way. Though it still has a few gems interspersed here and there, the way they have scheduled things, all couched by a really irritating girl voice named "Promo girl" whom I'd like to stuff into a pillowcase.............., it is difficult to be a consistent listener.
There are many Canadians who have walked away from this treasure, and there are many who would argue that it's time to pull the plug on it all together...........that the political posturing so evident on the airwaves is a disgrace...............that it's a waste of taxpayers money etc, I still believe that CBC radio still has a key role in our Canadian fabric. I just wish that the people making the decisions came down from their insulated ivory towers and spoke to the longtime supporters who are ready to walk away, about what would make it great again....AND quit worrying about the youngin' demographics. If they're interested, they will find their way.

Oh, and Peter? If you're paying attention up there...............can you please make your voice heard again, get behind your microphone and give them a good blast??? Thank you.

Tomorrow......................CBC TV. That's a whole other story............................and a completely different perspective.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

You Raise Me Up.

I have been a scattered mad hatter brain so far this week in what has seemed like an emotional roller coaster ride. I have made many half hearted attempts to write something profoundly witty. I have started projects and reports and haven't been able to finish. I have sat down a dozen times to read and could only absorb 3 o4 pages at most. Up, down and all around...........too many thoughts and too many emotions pulsating through my wee little noggin'. This afternoon, I settled. I sat quietly; strangely open and receptive to a mournful and celebratory ceremony as I attended a little boy's funeral.

I sat in the second pew from the back of the church, on the side, surrounded by all men, whom I presume were co-workers and coaches of Ryan's father. To the right of me, no one. For some reason, I left a little space between me and the aisle. But, as soon as I found myself settle into a prayer, the space beside me felt like it had filled up.............just when I started feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sadness of the ceremony, I felt warmth. I wasn't alone. That's never happened to me at a funeral before..........a Presence.............

Ryan was a kid with gusto, who loved all sports and played all sports. It was evidently and proudly displayed. Just before the service was to begin, a parade of 9 and 10 year old boys, wearing their distinctive team jerseys, walked up the middle aisle with their parents and took over 3 or 4 rows of pews at the front of the church. Behind them, the teachers from the school..........there to personally mourn and to offer support to their charges. In front of the kids, a teacher choir representing teachers from most of the elementary schools in the community, led by the Principal and the Music teacher who has taught every one of those kids music. Funerals and children don't seem to fit into the natural order of things. These children, however, Ryan's friends, were being hugged by a group of adults, parents and teachers and caregivers.............the adults in their lives whom they can trust and who are there to help them figure this out.

Funerals provide learning, awareness and hope. They can provide love and a sense of belonging. And they offer a showing of communal support for the family and friends who will need a whole lot of it in the coming days. Even though there is no clear reason why such a tragic illness should take the life of a child, there was a sense of "coming together" that offered all these feelings. No answers, just, honest and raw.

Tonight, my family and I will attend a more upbeat event. We are joining a slew of other families, out on the "Ridge" with a million dollar view of the Saint John River for a potluck party to kick off summer. Lots of good eats, lots of room to play in the, song and even fireworks. Possibly a bit of howling at the moon. Yes, I think I need to howl at the moon......oh and maybe a glass of wine (or two) is in order.

You Raise Me Up (sung by the teacher choir)
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary; 

When troubles come and my heart burdened be;

Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,

Until you come and sit awhile with me.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up... To more than I can be.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up... To more than I can be.

There is no life - no life without its hunger;

Each restless heart beats so imperfectly;

But when you come and I am filled with wonder,

Sometimes, I think I glimpse eternity.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up... To more than I can be.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;

I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;

You raise me up... To more than I can be.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Thoughts on my Dad

The first time I read The World According To Garp, I thought of my Dad. You see, Garp and my Dad had a lot in common. They both looked after the neighbourhood. There is a scene in Garp when he bolts out of the house to chase down a car that drove too fast down the street, and he was afraid that one of the kids in the neighbourhood would get hurt. My Dad did that too. Even now that his three girls have grown up, moved out of the house and have kids of their own, my father is still chasing cars and keeping an eye out for evil doers in his neighbourhood. He knows every kid on his street by name and knows what their interests are.

The most memorable chasing story actually had nothing to do with vehicles and all to do with boys. One night, after everyone had gone to bed and were fast asleep, a bunch of teenage boys snuck into our backyard and started scratching on the window screen of my sister's bedroom. It woke my sister with a huge fright. She didn't know at the time who it was and of course thought that it was a burgler trying to break in. Her room was down in the basement, the farthest point away from my parents bedroom. Somehow she managed to sneak out of her room, make a mad dash up the stairs and down the hall. In a frantic and frightened flurry, she burst into my parents room with the news. My father leapt out of bed, barked out an order to my mother to call the police and then took off in the middle of the night to catch the culprits. No shoes, no flashlight................just a goofy looking red nightshirt on and the speed of a track star. Out the front door he went.

At two in the morning, my father chased these boys through backyards, hurdling over hedges, hurtling obscenities at them, while the "women" at home waited in anticipation.........wondering if maybe he had gone too far and would ended up hurt. Who knows how much time actually went by, but eventually the cops arrived driving down the street with a bright beaming search light glowing from the front of their car. Caught in the light, was my Dad walking alone in his red nightshirt down to his knees, barefoot, on his way home.......satisfied that even though he was "close" to catching "the little bastards"........he knew he scared them enough that they wouldn't do it again. The cops managed to stifle their guffaws enough to give my Dad a little lecture on not taking chances with potential burglar types.

At a time when Dads played a secondary role in the daily upbringing activities of their children, mine was involved. He worked long hours, and in the early days, when I was very young, he often was gone for the work week only to return on Friday night. Always with a treat........and always glad to be home. His belief has always been "what's mine is yours" and he and my Mom strove to provide opportunities for us that they were not privy to growing up. Family vacations were an annual event, whether it was a long drive to Lauderdale-By-The-Sea or a cottage rental in the Haliburton Highlands or a memorable camping trip to Maine and up the coast to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island when I was 7 years old.........they were part of my upbringing.

For a few impressionable years, he coached me and my friends in the game of baseball. Every year, he would put us through baseball boot camp…….running bases ( he timed us), learning how to slide, bunt, and play the game tactically………….always intensely proud of our accomplishments. Like everything, he took this role very seriously. My mom tells stories of how she was woken up in the middle of the night to discuss batting orders and various strategies, like we were on some special “team”……..well we were. We were on Bob’s team. Every year, he’d manage us to the City finals. And every year, we won. Despite his tough rules, like “no boys allowed on the bench during a game, and no fraternizing or smoking, the girls on my ball team became so close to my mom and dad that when I was away working at camp for the summer (and sometimes missed the City finals…….though I was picked up once, the year I was the ringer/heavy hitter on the team) they would drop by regularly. My Dad adopted them all…………..always (still) interested in what they were doing. Always giving them advice and opinion, over a bottle of beer.

My most memorable "trips" however were the ones I took with him on my own. Skiing eventually became a family thing, with a chalet in Ellicottville NY, and weekend trips throughout the winter. Prior to that, my Dad and I would head off alone, or with a neighbour and his two sons. Up early on a cold winter morning, before the sun was up, we'd set off to Moonstone in Barrie Ontario or to Kissing Bridge, ski all day long, stopping rarely for a bite to eat and then climbing back into the car at the end of the day..........full of fresh air frolics and tired but happy souls. The drives were always full of music, talk of moguls and best trails, and a sense of safe happiness. Often times, on the way home from Kissing Bridge, located in Western New York state, we would listen to the Sabres hockey game on the radio...........WGR.............driving in the dark, listening to a game that seemed so close and yet so far away.

I am my father's daughter. Tempermentally, ideologically, emotionally. He taught me many things...........almost too numerous to mention.....often when we were in the car driving from one desitination to another. Many of our best conversations have taken place in the car.......more times than not when he has been driving me from one destination to another. When I was at university, for example, he would call me mid-week to find out if I was planning on heading home for the weekend. If I said "yes," he would arrange to pick me up on the Friday (never venturing farther than the front door of wherever I was living.....home was home, and I was living in whatever dump only temporarily) and drive me back on the Sunday night. No one else was allowed to join him on the journey (about an hour away from home) It was time for he and I to check in together. Conversations covered familiar ground -- sports, work, school, politics, news events, family stuff, work and sports...... sometimes we would talk about people events, or a particular issue that was in the air. But, more times than not, we would get into our comfort zone ..............talking.. Though it was never admitted, I knew that these trips to and from my temporary home away from home were meaningful to the both of us. I am my father's daughter. I will do the same thing with my daughter and son when it's their turn to head off in search of the fountain of "knowledge."

On the other side of the coin? We clashed, and sometimes still do because we are the same. I have been known to be able to clear a Sunday dinner table. Yup! Me! Why? Because I am the one who will challenge my father. And because we are so much the same, my words and my opinion have a bigger impact. I don't abuse this or manipulate this fact, but I will not hesitate to say my piece when I either feel I have to, or if I can't hold it in any longer. He will do the same with me. We have had some stinging rounds........yessirreeeeee.......but none have stayed unresolved. They always go away……..resolved formally or with time. Why? Because we know we are alike. He's opinionated............I'm opinionated. Both virgos.........both cognitive......... You know, I think my Dad needs to be introduced to the world of blogging. He'd like it.

I am also the “son” my father never had. A sports fanatic, both as a player and as a fan, my Dad always follows baseball and U.S. college basketball religiously. Then, there’s football, hockey and NBA basketball………oh and did I mention Golf? Yeah, he likes golf too. He knows the scoop, the scores, the ins and outs of all the teams. I learned early that if I wanted to hang with my Dad, I better hone my knowledge on these sports. The first lesson I learned, while watching a game on TV with my Dad? Don’t ask any technical questions about rules or plays until the commercials!! Oh, we’d talk, but we’d talk about the play in play…….or the commentating, or the present stats of a player. But, the technical……….”What’s an infield fly rule, Dad” kind of question? Commercial time only.

So, we watched many games and played many sports together. In fact, it was due to my Dad’s enthusiasm that most of the boys in my neighbourhood growing up learned the rules of football from him. More often than not, they would swing by on a Sunday afternoon to see if my Dad would come out to play with them. He always obliged, and I always insisted that he take me. Which he did……….me and a bunch of the boys in my neighbourhood hanging with my Dad on a Sunday afternoon at the park, playing touch football.

To this day, I can carrying my end of a conversation on just about any popular sport. Some of my favourite things to do? Listen to a ballgame on the radio. Hunker down on a wintery Saturday night with my family and take in Hockey Night in Canada, or talk sports! It came in handy when I was dating...........and I know it impressed the heck out of my husband when we first met. Every now and then, just before a big game, my husband will smile, look at me, and know that I'm just as excited about it as he worries there! And I'm programmed not to ask techie questions during the middle of a play. Kidding!

Another side of my father? He is a gardening nut. Nothing like a good heaping mound of compost to mulch your flowers with. Even today, when he isn’t catching a game on TV, you can catch my Dad hauling a load of topsoil over to a neighbour’s garden while giving them free advice on how to fix up their petunia plantation. Now that he’s retired, he also takes care of his street. Lately, the City of Burlington re-landscaped the area where the park on the street used to be after the building on it was expanded. The original park, with it’s baseball diamond and hills for tobogganing are gone now and the city tried to “prettify” it in order to hide the size of the building. The neighbours were not impressed. My Dad was doubly not impressed. Knowing my Father’s penchant for looking after the neighbourhood, they asked him to deal with it. And, deal with it he did. Not only did the City fix up the mess that they planted originally, they basically gave my Dad an honourary position with the City to maintain things. So, it got done right.

There are several sides to my Dad............his love of reading current events and editorial pieces, world politics, religion, local politics, travelling, music of all genres but mostly Ella Fitzgerald and people........oh and politics. Did I mention politics? It was a regular topic of conversation at the dinner table. And it was an activity during election time that both my parents took part in for many years.

I could go on and on, but this is getting too long.

Both my Mom and Dad grew up in poverty………..they met at a young age and married at 20 and 22 years of age respectively. Two years later, in 1960, I was born, followed by my sisters 4 and 8 years later. I was brought into the mix during a time when they were just establishing themselves. Money was tight, and ambition was high. I was there for most of it. My earliest memories are of attending my Dad’s ball games, watching him from the bleachers with my Mom, eating Cracker Jack. He played third base. His idol was the Orioles third baseman, Brooks Robinson……..and years later I was there at a Sports Night dinner when my Dad got to meet his hero. It was one of the only times I remember him a bit tongue tied.

My earliest memories don’t include financial struggles, though I'm sure there were many for them. My Dad took on his role as provider, held on tight to that role and has never relinquished it. He started off as an apprentice electrician with a company that he dedicated his working life to, and ended up the owner. And along the way, he looked after his family, his neighbourhood, and all of the staff who worked for him. He now has 7 grandchildren to monkey around with too... all of whom have an individual rapport with him, depending on their interests and age. They are all under his protective umbrella............."What's mine is yours. I will look after you"...............his belief.........his personal motto. You can count on my Dad. Always...........just a phone call away.

Integrity is his middle name. Integrity is the most important value I learned from him.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Batting the Old Eyelashes.......

I've been thinking lately about the people I meet
The carwash on the corner, and the hole in the street.
The way my ankles hurt with shoes on my feet
And I wonder if I'm ever gonna see tomorrow........

Father forgive us for what we must do
You forgive us, we'll forgive you
We'll forgive eachother til we both turn blue
And we'll go whistling and fishing in Heaven.

John Prine, Bruised Orange, 1978 that I have that out of my system................

I've been thinking lately about my gender; specifically about the type who have this uncanny ability to make men's eyes gloss over and not think straight. Yeah, we all have this ability during certain times and with certain men. Sure we do!! But, I'm thinkin about the lady who can make the male heart a'flutter through manipulative "Oh help me, I need won't believe what happened to me, and I need your manly help................" stuff.

They are the ones with big goals in it a hop in the sack or a longer term commitment objective.............and will wiggle and giggle, and shimmy and shine all the while pretending to listen intently to a point where the male believes that they are the only person on the planet. Sometimes, the goal isn't sex related. Sometimes it's career enhancement, or getting something else that she wants......real bad. They are smart, these gals because they quickly figure out what to say to entice the man of their desires. And once the guy is in their sights, they massage the trigger points in such a way that a hypnotic sprinking of lust dust falls gently into the male brain.

These are also the women who will physically butt in between another woman and the man of her attention, completely and conciously communicating to HER OWN GENDER war is afoot and she's got the goods to hypnotize the guy. Even if it isn't as obvious as a back posturing "talk to the butt" could be a non-chalant non-verbal facial expression (fake smile, taking with her eyes closed or fluttery her eyelids, looking at her watch, talking to you but looking over your shoulder and all around to spot the dick) that gives her away to the so-called female competition.

You know anyone like that??? I do.

I've met a few in my travels. To other women, they stick out like weeds in a garden. What's strangely interesting is that they let off this aromatic aura that most women become alert to right away. I don't know whether it's a Darwinian survivalist thing, but it's a musk that only other women seem to be able to hone in on. Actually, I think that when we were young girls learning our very complicated communication strategies that sometimes come in handy when we find ourselves in a cat fight...........we learned how to "smoke this one out" quickly. Men can't see it, smell it or interpret it properly........... I swear! It's true!!

Oh, but what happens if you express your opinion about this woman to the guy in the line of fire? You end up with a "don't be ridiculous, you're overreacting, how could you think that of this lovely woman, how catty can you be, what's wrong with you...............???" lecture. You are dismissed because it is perceived that you're the one with the big problemo. Sore loser, over emotional........................hyper sensitive...........Yeah whatever. I have met enough of this type and have discussed this issue with both men and women to know that I'm right.

But here's the key to snuffing these broads out. They ALL have one thing in common. These women never have female friends. Whether it's disinterest because other women supposedly can't give them what they want, or it's a threatening thing...........whatever it is, these women do not have the capacity to have and maintain a friendship with another woman. Trust can never happen. Therefore nourishing authentic friendships can never occur.

My motto when it comes to this bizarre foreplay? Never trust a woman who can't be friends with other women. They'll stab you in the back, and stomp all over you if you happen to be in the way of the good man that they want.

One other thing? Good luck trying to warn the male who just happens to be in the radar site...............

Friday, June 16, 2006

Extremism is Another Word for Evil

"That differences of opinion should arise among men on politics, on religion and on every other topic of human inquiry, and that these should be freely expressed in a country where all our faculties are free, is to be expected. But these valuable privileges are much perverted when permitted to disturb the harmony of social intercourse, and to lessen the tolerance of opinion."

--Thomas Jefferson: Reply to Citizens of Washington, 1809.

Extremism is a term used to describe either ideas or actions thought by others to be uncompromising and unwarranted in our society. In terms of ideas, it is often used to label political beliefs that are on the extreme end of the continuum...........far left or far right. More often than not, extremism uses violence to propel their "cause." Whether it's environmental extremists violently attacking a perceived polluter, animal rights activists threatening to kill scientists, or anti-abortion activists bombing an abortion centre, it's fanatical and it's powered by the same motivator -- evil. Extremism in all it's colours is ugly.

Groups don't label themselves "extremist." It doesn't work that way. Members of the Islamic faith don't label themselves Muslim extremists. No, the label is always applied by individuals outside of the fray. But, the label is correct. Extremist measures, fronted by human beings narrowmindedly hellbent on destroying.

You don't hear Ann Coulter describe herself as a right wing extremist. Religious fundamentalists dont consider themselves "extremists." No, they are pointing at the "lefties" and calling them extremists. Anti-fur wearing vegans, or environmentalists that go to the "extreme" of loading a tree with a large piece of metal to kill a logger don't label themselves leftie they are too busy pointing at the right wingers.

It's insane. It's rampant. It's intolerance at it's meanest peak, and it's murderous.

"You're right! I'm wrong! You're more nuts than I am. I'm going to blow you up because you performed a scientific experiment on a rat to test a new medicine. You're evil! No, you're more evil because you don't believe in my religion so I'm going to crash a plane into a building and kill thousands of innocents."

How distorted and disturbed has our world become.

Extremism is a single minded, narrow thinking, democracy disrupting hate enhancing virus that kills healthy debate.......that anhilates discussion and sharing of solutions to world issues. I hate it. I don't care what end of the continuum an extremist postulates and poisons from, it completely turns me off because it is destructive and disrespectful. It doesn't help the greater good. Why is it that individuals feel like they need to fuel their own fires with such hatred? What is the purpose? Where does it lead? Where will it end?

The discussion these past couple of weeks regarding the young Muslims arrested for terrorism plotting in Toronto seems vapidly vacant. Experts and analysts keep thumbing back to the idea that these youngins' joined the jihad movement due to boredom and teenage angst. They were in search of a "club" to belong to, and stumbled across a guy with big Islamic ideas who lured them to cross the invisible line where hate and evil lurk. C'mon...............there's got to be more to it than that! What's the solution, build them a community centre and provide a ping pong table? I don't think so.

Sure, there's a need for belonging to a group...........we all need to fulfill that need, but why didn't these guys just join their local YMCA or Dance club? Because they were brought up in a religion that has the potential to espouse messages over and over again to kill the enemy....... and the enemy is US!

There is no one who enjoys a good passionate political debate than me...........well, there are some who enjoy it as much and luckily I happen to know a Finnan or few that will give me a run for my money...........will make me think twice about my point of view, will motivate me to stand up for my beliefs or recheck my facts or sometimes even acquiese. You win some, you lose some and then you move on. Sure it feeds my need for intellectual discourse, but it doesn't fully define my raison d' self-definition.

Opinions? Oh yeah! I'm opinionated. Throw me a topic, and more often than not I have something to say about it. And if I don't, usually I'm interested enough to ask questions. What I don't have time for is stupid think and stupid talk that is boastful, ornery and self-righteous. What I won't put up with is when the topic being discussed somehow turns from the topic to dirty fighting finger pointing personal putdowns. But, there isn't any part of me that I would consider extreme. Yeah, I'd stand up for certain causes. There are "hills" that I would choose to fight over, but not in an evil inducing manner. So, why am I so different? Why am I a moderate? Values................................?

Do we all have the capacity to veer to the extreme? I hope not. What prompts an individual to define themselves in a way that one "cause" reflects their image? It all comes down to values...................religious, righteous, reactionary beliefs. So if a individual decides to embrace values that are extremist in nature, how do we fight that? I honestly don't know.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Songs About Rainbows.

The concert began last night with the Vice Principal welcoming everyone and reading a poem that was written by the little 9 year old boy whom the event was being held for. It was a descriptive poem of himself -- with words like happy, busy, strong, friendly and hockey fan in it. The last line held onto Ryan's dream. He stated that he wanted to grow up to play in the NHL. A typically active Canadian little boy with a typical Canadian dream. Last night we gathered as a small school community within the larger city community to raise some money to help out Ryan's family while they focused on his healing.

A few short weeks ago, apparently after a winter of poor health Ryan was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. It came out of the blue. The news shook the teachers, kids and families associated with Garden Creek which is a tight knit supportive school community that my children have been an active part of over the past several years.

Within hours of finding out, the teachers decided to put a Father's Day basket together to raffle off. Then, someone decided to hold a "loonie" drive as well so that the kids could bring in a couple of dollars for the jar. By the next morning, kids were arriving with coins. Parents were arriving with their cheque books. The basket idea expanded to include so many items that they were clumped together to fill 16 "baskets." Local businesses, who have always supported the school during the annual Creeker Christmas fundraisers came forward at this time of year donated items and gift certificates. One of the parents, whose hobby is woodworking dropped off two cedar adirondack chairs for the cause. Overwhelming, but not a surprise. By the time the concert was planned, this special school, whose motto is "Once a Creeker, Always a Creeker," had already raised thousands of dollars.

The concert was a joyful could it not be? The gym was filled with parents, grandparents and little preschool anklebiters wriggling in their seats while their big brothers and sisters sang joyful songs. There was a feeling that one only gets in a larger group of a sense of belonging and more importantly of doing something helpful when uncontrollable trauma is felt. Hope and joy and hope.

The first group to perform was the boys choir, which consists of 20 little ruffians dressed in black chinos, white shirts and bow ties. These guys ages 8,9 and 10, all of whom also play and live for hockey, have been singing together under the direction of the Principal, a musical guy himself, all year. They have performed with other choirs, in churches and in seniors homes and even for the Premier himself. My son, who knows Ryan well after spending many hours together when they were little at daycare and afterschool care, sings with this crew. One of the songs they sang was the Rainbow Song..............the one Kermit sings. Innocent voices performing for their playground friend. It was very touching.

The concert lasted a little over an hour, with half a dozen different groups of children performing songs in both English and French. Little girls dressed in their summer dresses. Little boys spiffed up in their best T-shirts and shorts. Kids who normally would be playing hard on a soccer pitch were performing for the last time this school year, thinking about Ryan and knowing that he was gravely ill fighting for his life in the Childrens hospital far away in Halifax. Even the teacher's choir, also formed by the Principal sang a couple of numbers. One of the Creeker parents who has volunteered his time over two lunch hours a week for the past couple of years teaching any kid interested how to play the bagpipes assembled his little band to perform as well. Not bad. It was far from professional, but it was close to the heart.

After the concert, parents chatted, teachers chatted and the kids scattered throughout the gym. The feeling was of promise, though in reality we all knew that Ryan's chances of survival were slim. His cancer was an aggressive kind, and his treatments were severe. The whole week, the updates on his progress went from good to bad to good to bad. Just before the concert, we had heard that his heart may have been damaged, that the cancer may have spread too quickly, when just last week we were told that his chances were good. It was difficult to gauge as we continued to pray for the little guy. Strength in numbers. Strength in togetherness.

When we arrived home, we settled into a more typical weekday routine of homework and baths. My husband, who was helping out another family in the neighbourhood and was not able to attend the concert heard the news first and returned home bearing the sad news.

Our little Creeker friend Ryan, dreamer of playing hockey on his favourite NHL team, had passed away yesterday afternoon.

The Rainbow Connection

Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that
and someone believed it,
and look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing?
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.

All of us under its spell,
we know that it's probably magic....

Have you been half asleep
and have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same.
I've heard it too many times to ignore it.
It's something that I'm supposed to be.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
the lovers, the dreamers and me.
La, la la, La, la la la, La Laa, la la, La, La la laaaaaaa

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hey "Flow." Where Have you Been?

Like most things in life, my job is a paradox. I thrive the best in counselling situations. I love the ebb and flow of the process while having an opportunity to help move an individual forward, even if it's just baby steps. More often than not, counselling offers unending learning opportunities for both myself and the client. What helped me get out of bed in the morning with a bounce in my step was the anticipation of wondering who was going to walk through my door that day and whether or not I would be able to assist them in figuring out their next steps or sorting out the issues they were carrying as a burden on their shoulders.

Career Counselling is really a misnomer, especially with the majority of the clientele I work with. The "career" stuff is the so far down the road for many of them, that really what I provide is personal counselling..........a place to tell their stories. My "office," whether its my real one in a real building or the one I take on the road and into their living rooms, is a place of recognition and acknowledgement. My office provides approach has always been to offer guidance on a level playing field. Adult to Adult. God knows, I don't have the answers to their problems. They do. It's up to me to allow them to experience a few "aha" moments and then the confidence to tackle their own demons.........with me on the sidelines coaching them along. This is the ideal.

Lately though, over the course of the past several months, the opportunities to engage in these challenges hasn't been available. The scope in my workworld has narrowed to only include the assessment side of things. I have been spending the majority of my time completing disability applications, meeting with clients, listening to their stories, writing their stories and then pulling together a package to send to a faceless medical board for certification.

This is where the paradox fits in.............

I love the home visits. I love the counselling aspects. I love meeting the families, being on the road, having the freedom, providing a friendly face so that they aren't feeling such a disconnect with government bureaucracy. However, this part of my role is supposed to have been minute. Instead, I have become the "expert" in the office.............and have been swamped with an assessment process that I have completed hundreds of times. As much as I do love the connections and the stories (recognizing that I am often the only one who has sat with this individual and heard their whole is an honour) In other parts of the province, the Case Managers complete this task. It is part of their role. In fact, I trained them all. In my part of the world, I became the disability assessment queen. It is not a challenge.
Government has their own agendas. Management often builds their agendas around the sitting government.............why not? That's where the money comes from. My job became someone else's agenda and I was dropped from sight. Don't really know why.......but it happened, and I was sinking, feeling no control over my work destiny. I had started to put the "feelers" out again. I was not going to rot sitting in my office pouring over paperwork when I have the desire to apply my skills, reach out and do what I do best.
When the spring in my step left me once again recently and my energy and drive tanked, I knew I was in the right frame of mind to move forward.
Then.................a new gig landed lightly on my that comes with a blank that I can mould and shape (if I get to it before anyone else with an agenda does) to fit my interests and expertise. It'll include more outreach, intervention with families and children, counselling, teaching, coaching and coordinating with community service providers. It's right up my alley. It's where I'll be able to find my flow again. In a matter of minutes of officially finding out about the plans (albeit sketchy) for my new gig, my energy level returned...............along with an e-mail from the person who originally hired me 15 years ago, who is now the Great White Hope Director guy..............that I was needed.
I look forward to finding my flow again. I look forward to setting my own agenda again. I look forward to delving into my job with the gusto that has been missing for a long long time.
Happy dance..............happy dance!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Lustre Years

It was just before the busy rush of spring planting about a month ago that I found myself on the road heading to a rural corner not far from where I live for a home visit appointment. It wasn't an unusual task. In fact, a large portion of my workday is meeting with families and individuals, often in their own homes..........often in the country. So, after I had dropped off my own family at school and work destinations, I set off to the tunes of Bruce Springsteen. The farther I moved away from the city, the clearer my head became of cluttered thoughts. I always experience a sense of freedom and creativity when I'm on the road for work. It must have to do with the feeling of purpose as well as the propelling movement of the journey.

My destination was situated past the out of the way village of Stanley, New Brunswick. I don't know why it seems off the beaten path to me, except that it feels disconnected to the Saint John River, which as far as I'm concerned is key to my feeling a sense of belonging to this part of the world. It's a beautiful area, but not close enough to water for me to ever consider settling there. So, I'm skipping along, listening to tunes, taking in the scenery, driving through the village when I realize that I have taken the wrong turn. I'm heading down the wrong gravel road. However, something about the morning sunlight hitting the fields which are coated in mist.......something about the large century old farmhouses with big porches and peeling paint..........something about the feeling of abandonment and the impressionistic beauty of the scene..........touched my wandering, wondering curious side.

I pulled off the road and quietly absorbed nature's picture while wondering where everyone was. There wasn't a soul in sight. Was I the only one lucky enough to enjoy the view? Thoughts and questions came tumbling out of me............and so did the descriptive words.
What was this area like in the farming glory days? Has prosperity left for good? Have the youth moved on, leaving behind aging family members? What are the stories of the people who live in the big old houses?

I knew the answers to a lot of my questions. Even though I had never been down this particular road, I have been down many roads like it and have had the opportunity to be invited into similar homes as part of my job. Poverty lurks in this area. As much as the view had a majestic feel to it, it was only the mist that blurred the reality. The backroads of the Maritimes are full of ancestral stories of fully active family run harvest times..........of pride and belonging........of hard work for little money................of providing, producing and sharing. Now, behind the mist and the sun, behind the Monet inspiring view is old age.

Early morning sun splinters

Tired tilled fields of wainscotting mist

Lipstick red raised roofs

Winter worn pallored barns
Littered with long ago harvest remnants

Hushed tone silence grows in the fields of abandoned lustre years.

Retired story dusted verandas

Steeped fabled secrets

Worn planks of peeling paint

Piano parlours of spent dreams

Crowded memories under aching eave homes

Hushed tone silence grows in the fields of abandoned lustre years.

Past glories of cordials and cornflowers
Spirits of late summer slumber breezes
Sweet pipe tobacco aromas

Proud quitting time contentment

Unforgotten elegance of past prosperity

Hushed tone silence grows in the fields of abandoned lustre years.