Thursday, August 31, 2006

New Brunswick Election is in Gear

As soon as we returned from a 2 week hiatus, we found ourselves immersed in the provincial election. A good friend, William Forrestall is the Conservative candidate in the next riding over. A newbie to candidacy in a restructured riding, Will and a small crew are developing the volunteers needed to run things from the grassroots.

My job title? Grassroots Communications Diva. I picked it out.

I love politics. I love election time. And I love getting into the thick of it all. It's so alluring and adrenaline inducing. It's in my blood........both my parents were always involved in local politics. I also married into a politically involved family as well. My kids don't have a hope in hell of escaping it. Luckily, they seem keen to drop into campaign headquarters and to wave signs and banners.

Yeah............the tactics and planning and organizing and the creativity behind the scenes......great brain food. The only thing I won't do is make phone calls. I hate making phone calls.
So, this last week of vacation, I'm drumming up corny slogans for stickers, designing brochures and learning how to use a brochure template, writing copy and press releases...........all the while trying to figure out how to get some free air time and press for Will. It's been 18 years since I wrote a radio ad, but I guess it's like riding a bike........once you know how to do it, those aliterative rhyming tongue trippers just flow out of you.........IF you've found the right angle to use.

This election is going to be close, though I was told tonight that the polling numbers coming ou
t tomorrow show the Progressive Conservative party in the lead at 45%. That's 8 percentage points more than the Liberals. The Premier's numbers are lower at 37%, which isn't surprising. He hasn't shown a great deal of team playing leadership............bit of a technocrat loner guy, our Bernard Lord. But, the Leader of the Liberal party (Shawn Graham) is such a lightweight, that the consensus seems to be that Graham is Lord's trump card.

It's a very short election span. Voting day is September 18th..................just around the corner. So, between now and then, I'll be orchestrating demos, planning a parade of sorts through the local Market on Saturday........THE hang-out for even visiting politicians, but it just happens to be in Will's riding..........coaching Will for speeches and Meet the Candidate nights.........and coming up with some more corny slogans.

The sticker slogan this week? "If there's a Will, there's a Way..........." of course! What fun

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hey Mom! Happy Birthday

Today is my Mom's birthday. Her big day kicks off the fall birthday season in our family as well as her favourite time of year...................not because of the birthday deluge but because August is over and Autumn is just around the corner. My mom isn't a fan of the month of August. If I had to hazard a guess, it's because it seems more like the end of the year to her than any other time of year. Beginnings happen again in September. Even though her three daughters have been out of the house managing their own families, my Mom still has the urge to go shopping for new socks and shoes to start off the school year. Now, she has a slew of grandsons and one granddaughter.........who acquired the "shoe gene" from consider.

Autumn represents more than that of course. Cooler weather, beautiful fall colours, a zip in the energy level, even the baseball play-offs come into play. Then there's always a new release of great books to devour, bountiful harvests at the local market to admire, home decorating and projects to plan, planning tennis games, and regular routines to re-enter, especially connecting with her close female friends whom she plays bridge and scrabble with and whom she celebrates milestones with. Road trips with my Dad also figure prominently. My Mom is always game for a fall trip to New England, or out East to visit us. Thanksgiving in October is her favourite holiday.

My Mom love to write as well (where my writing gene came from.........) and has recently crossed the threshold from her comfort level with a typewriter to a laptop. She is learning to tackle the internet for news and information, to send and receive emails, and to play scrabble online. Writing has always been a passion of hers. She spent many years working in advertising, developing promotions, writing copy, using her creativity in the field of marketing. One of the more prominent memories I have as a child was falling asleep to the sound of the typewriter clicking and dinging away at the dining room table. All the while she wrote copy, my Mom has had the desire to write something more personal, more novel-like. And now that she has conquered the laptop computer mystery, I think she's on the threshold of dipping her toe into the creative writing water test the waters, maybe starting with a few short stories or observations. Right Mom?

Just wondering Mom...............have you thought about setting up your own Blog? Given your penchant for current events, and your own personal take on the would have lots to write about.

Have a wonderful day, Mom. I hope it's filled with Mel Torme music.................and that someone buys you the new Il Divo CD since you have worn out the first one I suspect...........and that little packages tied up in bright bows arrive at your doorstep. Happy Birthday.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Finding Our Way

"No problem can be solved from the same level of thinking that created it."
Albert Einstein

Our systems are made up of fallacious convictions that create leaders who use coercion, control and top-down approaches to managing. Instead of promoting and using methods that would encourage and support self-direction in the systems that we live within, controlling leader types choke the life out of the human spirit. Assumptions that undermine our societies, organizations and the workplace be it government or private business are long held beliefs that will take a long time to alter.

There is a belief that individuals and groups are motivated by fear and greed for the most part. Hierarchical organizations are still the best way to manage bureaucracies. Quantity in a fast paced efficient manner to measure value. Individuals work best when all the rules and regulations are in one needs to spend time thinking. It's already been covered. Sameness is best. Diversity should not be encouraged. It's best to have a unified, single thinking team that tows the line and works together like a well oiled machine.

So, the systems in our society that we are all dependent on; the ones we may even play a cog-type role in, are set up to find solutions, to protect the population, to effectively deal with the dilemmas.......................Are they working??


  • Katrina's aftermath
  • Afghanistan
  • Iraq
  • Terrorism
  • Crime in our Cities
  • Homelessness
  • Drug Addictions
  • AIDs in Africa
  • Sudan


  • Our Educational system and low test results of our children
  • Highest Obesity rates in Canada
  • The Brain drain..........Educated Maritimers having to leave this province for ports west.
  • Poverty
  • Lowest Welfare rates in the Country
  • Crime and Drug Addictions
  • Homelessness and Mental Health issues

Margaret Wheatley has written a book entitled, "Finding Our Way: Leadership in an Uncertain Time. In it, she tackles the questions related to the need to shift the get out from under the help leaders learn how to lead through order and not control, through promoting creativity, interdependence AND independent thinking, through encouraging news ways of solving problems....................all the while respecting the human spirit.

It should be required reading for every politician, bureaucrat and CEO. But then again......if it was required reading, then I would have to use coercive tactics to make them read it!!! It would kind of defeat the purpose, now wouldn't it?

Instead, I will strongly recommend that you give it a little peak and see what she has to say.

Wheatley writes of the fact that we seem to be living in an "era of messes." She's got that right. This world needs a good shake up. We need a new that supports and respects all members of the systems.........

Monday, August 28, 2006

Teachers That Inspire

Like most families with young children, this week is set aside to ramp up for the beginning of the school year and for the increase in extra-curricular activity level which always takes place in the Autumn. School supplies, new "indoor" shoes, new jeans for my son who seems to have grown 6 inches over the summer and now has a closet full of pants suitable for floodwater levels only, new outfits for my fashionista daughter going into her last year of middle school...........bookbags, lunch boxes, lunch supplies all have to be purchased and/or organized.

Throughout the excitable meanderings that include: "I hope so and so is in my class," and "I hope I don't get so and so for a teacher," and "I think I'll wear this outfit on the first day of school (the 15th one displayed by my daughter in one morning........the cast-offs thrown on her floor), I am struck by the familiarity of the conversation. We have all been there..........the anticipation of the new school year............ the determination that this year you would stay on top of the homework and your binders would remain organized .............. the feeling the you get when starting a new year, "fresh with no mistakes" as Anne Shirley would say .............. the hope that your best friend was going to be in your class ........... and the tentative fear that you were going to end up with the teacher from hell.

Oh, we all had a few of them boys oh boys..................... and I'm pretty sure that if we pooled our descriptions, they would be eerily similar ......... the stand outs? The ones who lost their temper 10 times a day, who were disorganized and disinterested in trying more effective facilitating techniques than lecturing to 8 year olds, who would punish the whole class with "put your heads on your desk and don't move for 15 minutes" over a minor issue with one kid, who would make even Phys Ed boring..........

Then, there are the uniquely disgusting teachers from our past that for whatever reason you were the target. Mine was a Math teacher in high school who was a salivating letch and who spent most of the classtime trying to see down my top. I also had a homeroom teacher in Grade 7 who was a volunteer firefighter and amateur photographer. Believe it or not, he would bring photos in of burnt out homes to scare us with.

Oh, then there was Mr. Chadwick, a certifiable whacko who taught music class in Grade 8. During one memorable day as he was teaching a group of disinterested kids "76 Trombones" for the umpteenth time, he stopped the class, half of whom were not singing and just mouthing the words as a way to drive him into a delirious frothing, to confront me, who was singing. In front of the whole class, he barked me out and sent me out to the hall. It was the one and only time that I had been sent out to the hall...... I was not a shit disturber, but I did try to stand up to him in class to inform him that I was singing.........must have been my tone and look of disdain on my face or something (like I had embarrassed him?) By the time he joined me out in the hallway, steam was coming out of his ears. He was completely out of control as he grabbed me by the shirt and flung me against the locker, all the while screaming like a banshee. It was bad enough to get my Mom to the school to blast him and the administration. However, given the "times" it wasn't bad enough to fire the jerk. They just shuffled him off to another school the next year for a new start, "fresh with no mistakes."

Well, that was a digression I wasn't expecting when I started writing this piece. .......... my how often that happens............ glad to get that off my chest, even though I had no idea it was weighing on my chest !

On the other hand.......................thankfully there are the teachers who inspired us. You know this type too. They are the ones who took the time to get to know you and your quirky uniqueness. They are the ones who shone from a place called a "calling," who arrived early to the school to set up a special "station" in the classroom or to surprise you with a new activity geared to make learning FUN! They were the nurturers who greeted you with a smile and a sincere question about how your evening went..........who remembered when you and your family had a special event to attend and who understood if you were having a crappy day. It all came down to connecting and communicating with respect.........on both sides. They knew how to motivate and make you hungry to learn.

Who was your inspirational teacher?

On the last day of school in June, my son's Grade 3 class had a visitor arrive. It was their future Grade 4 teacher. She spent part of the morning with the class introducing herself and sharing with them how much she was looking forward to September when they would all be in her class. She then told them that they would be making a decision about a BIG project they would embark on together as a group, and that it could be anything from Space to Greek mythology was totally up to them. She left them with lots to ponder over the summer, and a sense of excitement that I have heard in my son's voice whenever he has bumped into a classmate. How lucky he is to be entering into an inspirational teacher's classroom.

"One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers,
but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings.

The curriculum is so much necessary raw material,
but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child."

Carl Jung

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Growing Up and Still Growing UP..............

When do you know when you've grown up? Is there a magic age? A mysterious rite of passage and once you've stepped through the myriad of milestones you reach a pinnacle where you find yourself all grown up?

The obvious tell-tale sign is when you stop physically growing in adolescence, but at that point, you're just starting to struggle with moral and value issues and cultivating that path. There may be a shift in thinking at a deeper more complicated level, but there is still so much more to learn before there is a feeling of being grown up. After all, isn't learning and understanding what growing up is all about? If that's the case, it appears that we are never all done growing up.

Maslow seeks to encapsulate his theory in a pyramid, where the top is a point in our lives when we can seek self-actualization. Maslow describes self-actualization as a person's need to be and to do that which the person was "born to do." The process is somewhat like the growing up process...............

"A musician must make music, an artist must paint, and a poet must write." These needs make themselves felt in signs of restlessness. The person feels on edge, tense, lacking something, in short, restless. If a person is hungry, unsafe, not loved or accepted, or lacking self-esteem, it is very easy to know what the person is restless about. It is not always clear what a person wants when there is a need for self-actualization.

The process of attaining a higher level of actualization seems to me a lifelong one.............with undulating peaks and valleys.........personal stops and starts all the while cultivating self-knowledge. There are days when we know exactly what we want, and then there are days when it's not clear at all. There are also days when you feel a sense of happiness and contentment that is generated from within yourself. And, then there are the days when you question every move you make.

Self-actualization is a fleeting feeling at best, isn't it?

You could be on a path that seems so right, and then you're thrown a curve ball, be it a tragedy or new learning that alters your aim for whatever reason............there are so many cause and effect moments in life. I guess it's how you approach the scenario..............but as soon as you alter your course, you are on a path of new learning. It's all a part of growing up. New learning continues the growing up process..............

Henri Nouwen wrote in his book The Road to Daybreak, a spiritual journal he wrote during his year living in the L'Arche community in France, about his encounters with friends and family. It was a truly introspective look at his need for approval and recognition; that for whatever reason he needed to know and be told that his vocation and call to become a Catholic priest was fully understood by the important people in his life. However, it was clear reading his written contemplative thoughts that he would never feel a complete sense of this desire and that he had to shift his own thinking to realize that his confidence in the path that he chose must come from within. It was he who had to be fully approving and comfortable in accepting the gifts that God gave him and the path that God chose for him even if it wasn't going to be the one he had a yearning for. His path was to move away from a life of academia and independence to a communal setting living with people who had serious disabilities and were dependent on their caregivers. A huge step for Nouwen in growing up and becoming independent of the need for others to understand his personal gifts and goals. He was a middle aged man when this maturing shift occured.

Sometimes one reads something that seems to resonate in such a timely way that it makes you wonder about the prescience of it. For years, I have struggled against the tide, trying to restructure my career in a manner that would allow me to move ahead financially and with recognition. I have met with several individuals who have the capacity to place me in "prestigious" positions within the government I work for. They have been interesting meetings, and often cover a lot of ground, but I have never been able to encapsulate for them just exactly where I would fit. And for various reasons, these attempts have stalled. What I have come to realize, thanks to Henri Nouwen, is that I have been given gifts that don't necessarily fit into the normal square pegs....... and that recognition and approval must come from me.

I need to be comfortable in my own fit. Self-satisfaction and self-actualization go hand in hand.......... the hunger both Maslow and Nouwen write about.........Maslow's theoretical concepts and Nouwen's personal reflections .......... have helped me realize that I need no one to tell me if I'm on the right path or not, or if the path I have chosen lives up to anyone else's expectations. Instead, I just need to chill out and accept that my destiny and perhaps my personal career legacy will be more fulfilling if I stop going against the tide.

Counselling in the frontlines, working with individuals with multiple needs, visiting clients in their homes and offering my open ear, advocating, supporting, challenging, confronting, teaching, caring and motivating.................these are the gifts I can offer to others.

And the gifts they give me? Moments of grace that a rare few will ever experience.

I feel like I've just made a step closer to growing up. Anyone wanna meet outside to play kick the can with me? I'm allowed out until the streetlights come on.

To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.” Henri Bergson

Monday, August 21, 2006

Big Buzzie

Some men look best dressed in business suits. You know the type? They look like a fish out of water in a pair of shorts and a golf shirt. They were born to wear a good tailored suit and tie. My father-in-law fits the bill. Tall, lanky and handsome, when he walked into a room in a navy blue suit all eyes were on him. He had a presence that illuminated any social function, and as he made his way around a crowd his down home Maritime-ness always pulled everyone in to whatever story he was rapturing on about. George, or "Buzzie" as he is known to his family and close friends is a social butterfly...........he loves a good story, a good joke, and always loved to be up on a dance floor. Good thing he spent a good deal of his working life as a politician. That too was a perfect fit.

When I first joined this family, it was at a time when George had recently stepped down from holding office in this neck of the woods for 21 years............a darn good run. He was returning to his legal practice after a busy political life where he held many portfolios, including the first Environment Minister in Ontario. Though he had returned to a more private life, he was still very actively involved in the community. He kept in contact with his political friends and actively supported his party by continuing to attend meetings, and to canvas.

Buzzie thrived as a politician, representing his constituency at the provincial level and overseeing various Departments along the way. Though I didn't know him personally at the time, I certainly knew of him, growing up in his riding. As Minister of the Environment, his major emphasis was to try to clean up the Hamilton harbour in Lake Ontario, which at the time was so full of chemicals and pollution from the large steel companies nestled on the periphery of the shores, across the bay in Hamilton. All swimming had been banned for many years. Eating fish caught from the lake was avoided. Like Lake Erie, it was heading towards becoming a "dead" lake, where plants and water life was becoming extinct. George oversaw the instigation of the measures to try to turn things around in the mid-1970's. To prove the point that the harbour was swimmable and not dangerous, Buzzie donned an old fashioned one piece striped bathing suit jumped into the sludgey waters of Lake Ontario.

It was a great publicity stunt during a campaign, which also included the candidates from the other two driving a car/boat and another who tried to "walk on water" on a pair of stilts. And, it must have worked. He was elected again to represent his riding.

Buzzie has always been game to take part in anything social. Whether it was a beach supper in Nova Scotia with a crew of all ages, or a political shin-dig he was game. He actively played tennis, never missed watching a Ti-Cats football game, read the newspapers voraciously, watched the evening news daily, never missed a Law and Order episode. If a party was in the offing, he was there. But, what he loved to do more than anything was talk politics. There was nothing more invigorating for him than to have his family around the dining room table discussing the intricacies, policies, and events of Canadian political history. Often loud and heated, always entertaining. The more the wine flowed, the more gregarious the conversation became and the more he thrived. Verbal and intellectual jousting with his son, my husband, was a sport for him.

One my more memorable moments with him was the evening he took me to Toronto out for dinner and to see Les Miserables. It was one of the only times when it was just he and I. Over the years, we have had many heated discussions on the politics of the day, he always showed an interest in "my take" on things........... but this evening was a quieter moment. As we ate dinner, I asked him several questions about his 21 years as an elected official. I was an audience of one as he described some of the highlights and reflected on the more difficult times. I have always been grateful for the evening alone with him.

The other night, I made dinner for my family and my in-laws. Together for the first time in a year (because we live far away from them) we shared a meal together that was much more subdued than the ones from our past. It was during dinner that I realized Buzzie's capacity to debate and joust had disappeared. He finds long winded stories too confusing. Sometimes even simple words are lost in the ozones.

Buzzie is now in his 80's. He's been battling Alzheimers now for several years. The other night, we had dinner with him and my mother in law who is also quite frail. Gone is the anger and lashing out that often accompanies this horrendous disease. Gone is the overwhelming frustration he suffered from as he fought to retain control of his thoughts and actions. Still able to have brief conversations before his train of thought becomes confused, he tried to tell me a few stories of his glory days. When attempts were made to kibbitz with him though, to get him going like we normally do, he couldn't take the bait. Alzheimers has stolen his sense of humour.

Sadly, gone is the strong imposing man dressed in his dashing suit and tie who could work a room like no one else. He doesn't know how to smile and laugh anymore. He's losing awareness.

What an unforgivable disease.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Wrestler and a Fulfilled Vision

One of the most memorable moments captured at the 2000 Olympics for Canadians came near the end of the games. An unknown young man competing in the relatively anonymous sport of Wrestling won a gold medal. As is tradition, someone passed him his home flag. Daniel Igali then laid it on the ground, and danced around it. He then bent down and kissed his adopted flag. After he received his medal, and turned towards the raising flags during the ceremony, Igali sang the words and wept openly. Since this genuinely raw emotional scene, I have continued to read stories about this extraordinary man, whenever one lands in the news.
By the time the official medal ceremonies began, word had spread of this big hearted sportsman and the struggles he overcome throughout his life. Igali grew up of 20 children in his extended family. It was during the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria that he made the decision to leave his life and family behind in order to remain in Canada to pursue both his education and athletic career. He lived in a 2 room basement apartment in B.C., enrolled in University and linked up with a coach to hone his skills. Despite only having the very basics even in Canada, he thrived and never lost sight of his make it to the Olympics
The original school the Igali attended as a child was a thatched roof shack that had to be closed anytime it rain. It was ill-equipped and not big enough for the children living in the area. After his surprise win, this Olympian continued to pursue his studies, obtaining a degree in Criminology, all the while focusing on raising funds to build a new school in his home village.
After several more years than he expected, the Maureen Matheny Academy (named after the woman who looked after him and brought him into her family when he moved to Vancouver) opened. Along the way, he met various donors, both private and public who believed his vision and supported his dream.
Daniel Igali is an inspiration. His full personal story is one of determination and integrity. His personal seeing this new school open with amenities for learning, paid teachers brings hope to a whole village. It may be that this personal vision is completed, but I know that we havent seen the last of this strong humble man who has overcome such diversity.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Terrorists and Tetra Packs

So, we have gone from everyone being frisked from head to toe by electronic devices, taking off our jackets and shoes for inspection, having our carrying on luggage sorted flicking of bic lighters, and definately no tweezers, nail clippers or mail openers allowed on board any flight, to relinquishing everything from hair mousse to covergirl make-up to baby formula. One zip-loc baggie per person with a couple of saltines in it is allowed. No liquid tylenol even if your kid is sick. No water bottles, suntan lotion, food, books, mascara, toothpaste, eye drops, booze or perfume........nada! Before you know it, we'll be boarding flights in our birthday suits.

How visual. Wrinkly, saggy baggy naked people all in a line up going through the inspection area at the airports around the world holding a baggie filled with saltines. People of all shades, shapes and sizes and ages and religions ...............naked in the eyes of the airport x-ray technicians.

The whole travel scenario has left me with many questions as to how great our security really has been since 9-11. I'm also wondering, heaven forbid that I am thinking this way, if we have gone off our rockers as we bend over backwards not to be discriminatory. We all have to succumb to the security regulations even if we aren't Islamic?

Here we were focused on the sharp objects and the "Maxwell Smart" funky shoes that hide plastic explosives and the terrorist dudes were focused on creating bombs from everyday seemingly inconsequential household products. Were we ever safe? Is security just a facade? Do they really know what they are looking for and how consistent can the frisky search be when nothing is safe, when everything and everyone is suspect?

Why is it that all individuals travelling, including 80 year old Italian grandmas who say Mass everyday, red-headed freckly 10 year old boys..........and everyone in between have to be considered suspect? We know that the terrorists are Islamic. We know that their goal is to annihilate all "infidels" and yet, airport and customs officials are forced to frisk little girls carrying Dora the Explorer backpacks?
Is it not time to focus on a well known and well researched profile of individuals? Or are we so freaked out over being politically correct that are methods of dealing with Islamic terrorism have rendered us impotent?
Governments and law enforcements across the globe are spending billions of hours and billions of dollars to "monitor" the flow of travellers, to tap into internet discussions, to infiltrate mosques and cybercafes, when an informant comes forward (thank God) to let them know what's up in the bomb creation underworld, so that they can swoop in and safe us from disaster? So, we are living on "critical high alert" or some such thing. What does that mean?
Today in the news, Canadian officials are allowing the purchase of duty free booze and perfume again if it is delivered by a representative directly to the consumer while boarding. Good thing they are travelling nakedly light so that they can carry their bagged saltines in one hand and their Jim Beam in the other.
Oh I feel so safe......................and very confused.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How's about a little planned spontaneity?

It goes like this.....................

"Hey, why don't we hop in the car, head north and see what we find?" OR.......

"Look, there's tickets available for a concert tonight. Wanna go?" OR............

"Why don't we check out what's happening at so and so's house........"

Planned spontaneity can be just as much fun as and opened ended as a surprise. All you have to do is make one decision, remain open minded, lower your expectations and go............. This is such a difficult thing to do when one is living a scheduled lifestyle of work and familial obligations, when your day is chock full of "to do's." But, when one is able to step away from the daily grind, one can have the luxury to create an opportunity that may lead to some unexpected surprises that are out of the ordinary.

The first such event happened Monday night when my husband and I ordered Lyle Lovett tickets online, drove into Toronto, shucking parent responsibilities for the time being, had a quick dinner without having to cut up anyone's entree, and sat down a few rows from the front of a stage. As soon as we settled in, we both laughed at how quickly this evening had been time for "looking forward to it"...............a spontaneous.............let's do it........moment. We were not disappointed. For three hours, Lyle and his "Big Band" entertained the house. It was magical................after all these years playing his music and always enjoying his witty lyrics and off the beaten path style. There he was in full glory singing all the songs we knew backed by an 18 piece band that was amazing! The venue is a well known concert hall in Toronto with great acoutics. The only downfall was that I had to sit in a seat and not get up to dance. Though, I think I wiggled and swayed enough to drive the person behind me crazy....................oh and I sang along.............

Halfway through this planned spontaneity, I was overcome with that wonderful feeling you get that tells you that Life is Good.

Planned spontaneity is what makes up memorable moments in life.......................the cherries in the drink..................the discovered cache of blackberries waiting to be picked...............

Late last night, my daughter and I arrived home after a two day stint in an area where I spent many years of my childhood and adolescence. It had been years since I drove those familiar backroads that cut through the Canadian Shield, that are decorated with splendid vista views of lakes and pine............and it was the first time for my daughter. Not really knowing what we would find, we ended up spending the evening in a cottage with a camp alumni and then spent yesterday hanging out at the old camp I attended in my youth. Kawabi is closed now........this is the first summer it's not teeming with boisterous anklebiters and a flurry of activity, all hepped up on silly songs, crazy skits and woodland crafts......... We had the place to ourselves for most of the day. And as I relived the flood of memories, as we toured the whole area, checked out the archery range, jumped on the trampoline, swam in the lake and made a craft..........I had this bizarre feeling that I had never left. Familiarity...........all the sights and the smells........the comfort of walking down a path littered with roots, canopied by beautiful pine was good to know that it will always be there.

Our planned sponaneity also brought forth a reunion with an old friend, and dinner with the owner and her daughter whom I havent had a chance to have a long talk with in such a long time. When we got back in the car to make the 3 hour trip back into the city, my daughter crashed in the backseat and I put on my CD that was filled with the old tunes from my counsellor days...........................

Most importantly.....................our planned spontaneity offered us a relaxed, unrushed, unstructured chunk of time to share our thoughts.................the thoughts and topics that often get pushed aside when one is rushing to get out the door in the morning to school and work.....

Looking forward to other spontaneous happenings..................and fortuitous moments that are uplanned..................blessings, really. No urgency allowed.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Say it straight Margaret..........

Margaret Wente sure knows how to say it straight. Her straight talk ruffles feathers, and makes the politically correct forces foam at the mouth. More often than not, however, she makes sense. No nonsense makes sense........... what she is calling for is blunt talk when discussing public health policies at the AIDS conference

Her article today in the
Globe and Mail highlights many of key points when dealing with the AIDS scourge in this world. Key points include:

Incidence of HIV is going up, not down even after 20 years of non-stop safe-sex education in the gay community. New infection rates are not falling in Canada.

Activist rhetoric spends little time talking about personal responsibility and behaviour. Instead there is a focus on so-called root causes as "poverty, human-rights violations, racism and despair."

Safe sex, now that HIV is no longer a "death sentence," is not routine as it once was becoming a dozen years ago. There's a flippant attitude out there that using condoms is a choice, and it all comes down to sexual freedom.

Immigration policies in this country are so lax that this government may be increasing the incidence of AIDS in Canada simply by allowing infected new immigrants from settling here taxing our health and social costs. Canada is widely known as a safe haven for HIV-positive individuals. Despite the fact that our immigration policies indicate that an individual may be excluded for health reasons if their condition imposes undue costs on the system, advocates have successfully argued that HIV is neither a cost nor a health threat. If it isn't a health threat, than what's all the hoopla in Toronto this week?


Accountability must play a key role in the prevention of this deadly disease. It must start with realistic and honest discussions that aren't blanketed with political correct double speak. It doesn't help the people affected, nor does it help the argument for ongoing research to stop the spread of AIDS in Africa where babies are being infected at an alarming rate.

With respect to AIDS in Canada? We should not be seeing rates that are increasing. This all boils down to irresponsible behaviour.......whether it's through unprotected sex or through needles, it is abhorrent and appalling that this country should be seeing these numbers on the rise. Where is self-responsibility? My patience is mighty thin when I read these facts. In fact, it makes my blood boil.

Sadly, columns like Margaret Wente's will be dissed at the conference instead of added to the forum of open receptive discussions. Too blunt? Too bad. It's the truth.
Having said all that.................the Prime Minister of Canada should not have missed the opening of this conference. Shame on him.

Monday, August 14, 2006

AIDS Conference, Toronto: Where's Harper??

Worldwide, an estimated 38.6 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. Globally, half of them are women, but in parts of the developing world, two in every three infections are among women.

A weeklong conference on HIV/AIDS has begun in Toronto which has attracted over 30,000 participants from 170 countries. This includes scientists, politicians, advocates, health workers, individuals living with HIV/AIDS and it marks the 25 anniversary of the first reported cases.

Bill and Melinda Gates, who to date have donated over 60 billion dollars to the cause of finding a cure, opened the conference.

An excerpt from the
Globe and Mail:

The key to stemming the HIV/AIDS pandemic is getting more power — economic, sexual and legal — into the hands of the world's poorest, most oppressed women.
“We need to put the power to prevent HIV in the hands of women,” Bill Gates said last night at the opening of the 16th International AIDS Conference in Toronto.
Mr. Gates, chairman of Microsoft Corp. and co-chair of the $62-billion (U.S.) Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that in particular, it must be a priority to develop microbicides and oral prevention drugs, medications that women could use to avoid infection without being dependent on their sexual partners.
He said that effective microbicides could revolutionize the battle against AIDS and mark a turning point in the pandemic.

The local and national media have been writing many articles in preparation of this conference, and I'm sure many more will follow as the week progresses. It has put the pandemic back in the forefront again. Given the 25 million people have died of of this disease in the past 25 years (almost the population of Canada), and given that another estimate 38 million are living with the disease, it should be.
Given that this country is hosting a conference that is bringing together such a diverse group of people who are all working towards the eradication of HIV/AIDS, our Prime Minister should be present.
Where is he? Up in the Arctic somewhere looking to put down some imaginary boundaries so that the polar bears feel more safe.
Stephen Harper missed the boat on this one. His absence shows blatant disregard. His absence reveals a little man. I'm not impressed.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

On the road again....................

We're all packed up and ready to pull out of the driveway, and head out along the Trans Canada pointing west. Yes we're "Goin' Down the Road" to share our vacation with family and friends. Lots to see and do. Some plans, but hopefully just a whole lot of family "downtime."

In the journal Henri Nouwen wrote about his contemplative time living in Trossly France in the L'Arche community, he writes about learning and living a life where one differentiates between completing the important tasks rather than the urgent ones. Our lives are jam packed full of urgent tasks.........daily unending, unabiding, soul sucking............... our lives need to be more enhanced by focusing on the important things........... we all know what these are.

I'm hoping to have more time for the important things in my life.............. they go along with a glass of wine so much more divinely.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A day of relearning.................

On the road today, met with 2 individuals separately whom have left an inprint on me. Here is a snippet of their stories.

Meg is a 40 something woman living in a trailer park in a nicely decorated, welcoming mini-home. A year ago, she separated from her husband and she has found herself alone and on welfare because she is suffering from various physical and psychological ailments. These illnesses have been haunting her for many years and affecting her ability to live without pain. Consequently, I met with her to help her apply for a disability pension, which would give her a tiny bit more money to live on. My role was to complete a social assessment to accompany the medical documentation, then pull together the application on her behalf to be presented to a medical board for review.

She has suffered from anxiety and depression for close to 20 years after caring for her dying parents, one after another and then experiencing the deaths of several other family members and friends all in a space of 10 years. She never recovered. Since then, she has developed fibromyalgia and is presently being tested for arthritis and lupus. She lives on $490.00 dollars a month, and obviously has to rely on the food bank and the generosity of her sister to get by. Her ex-husband is dealing with his own financial woes, though is still working. Her medical coverage is supplied by his company. However, in order to have her many prescriptions paid for, she must pay them upfront, send the receipts to her ex who holds onto them until he feels he has enough to put in a claim, and then sends her the money to cover to previous costs whenever..................

Normally, I jot down bits of information and details on the assessment form in order to jog my memory when I return to my office to complete it formally. However, it was apparent that Meg was nervous, so I sat the pen down to engage her in a conversation. Two hours later, we had covered a mountain, most of which will never make it to the assessment form. In between talking about the necessary details, we shared parts of our lives with one another and came to a place of common ground where we laughed about being in our 40's, about some of the crazy things on television, about family and sisters and pets and friends and about living in Fredericton. We cracked a couple of jokes about the TV show "The Trailer Park Boys" which she believes she is now living............ But the story that will stay with me is about her dog, Willie, who is the love of her life.

Willie is a jet black Cocker Spaniel whom Meg rescued last October. She and her friend who also had her own dog of the same breed would visit this friend's sister who lived on a local Reserve. The friend's sister had purchased Willie for $1,200.00 as a puppy, and then promptly kept it on a very short lead tied to the table leg outside. The length of the lead was so short that Willie had no way of moving around. Meg found the scene heartbreaking. It left her worrying and crying on several occasions when they would leave this home. For about a month, she couldn't get Willie off her mind, despite the fact that her friends tried to convince her to stop thinking about it. One night after seeing Willie tied up again, she couldn't sleep worried about this little puppy. So, the next day she phoned this friend's sister to see if she would give Willie to her to care for. Knowing that the S.P.C.A. would not intervene because the dog was on the Reserve, she felt it was the only recourse.

Meg was told that they would sell her the dog for $600.00. Six dollars would've been difficult for her to scrape up. Six hundred was impossible. Initially, Meg felt completely defeated but the dog's situation wouldn't leave her mind. Knowing that she had her diamond engagement ring and wedding ring sitting in her drawer would never be worn again, she made an offer to trade them for the dog, rather than pawn them for extra money to pay for more food and other needed items for herself. They accepted the offer. Willie was given to Meg.

When she returned, her friends at the trailer park fell in love with the dog as well Since then, they have helped her pay for dog food and vet bills. Willie is safe and secure. He has brought joy to many kids and people in that small community.

Meg's openness in telling me that story made me feel honoured to have heard it. When it was time for me to leave, I felt that I had made a new friend.


Full of many thoughts of Meg and her struggles, I continued on my morning. The next stop was supposed to be a short visit where I was to meet a young man who needed to sign a form in order for a government employee to review his case/situation......... Normally this process is completed in the office, but since I was on the road and he had no money to make the trip into the office, I told him I would swing by to get his signature.

John lives in a boarding house situated above a gasbar/convenience store that I pass often oblivious to the fact that 15 men live there..........until today. We met in the back parking lot free of other's ears. Rooming houses and emergency shelters are completely void of privacy. So is being a welfare recipient.

I knew little of John's background, though enough to know that he had a history of run-ins with the law. Notes indicated that he had "anger" issues, however, I was confident based on the conversations I had had with him over the phone that this wasn't going to be an issue during my contact with him. I was right, and my 5 minute signature capturing turned into an hour and a half of talking.

John is a 32 year old single man with several health issues as well. He inherited a heart condition which killed his own father at 35. This fact troubles him deeply as he struggles (on $490.00 a month) to try to eat a proper diet etc in order to combat the inevitable. He also has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which has manifested itself in various bizarre ways all his life. He grew up in group homes, foster homes, and youth "training" centres. His petty crime ways kept him in and out of trouble and jail until his mid-20's when he "woke up" and has been trying to find his purpose in the work world. What struck me about John was his intelligence...........creative, intuitive, street smart, and filled with legitimate "business ideas." Our conversation ran the gamut and lasted close to 2 hours........... he and I standing the parking lot in the back of a boarding house along the old Trans Canada highway chatting...........
Though most of our topics were serious in nature, we did manage to share a couple of laughs at the absurdity of life, at the frustrations of trying to deal with bureaucracy, at the struggles we find ourselves in. When I finally had to curtail our conversation, which easily could've carried on for another marathon run, I saw before me a very different person than I had when we first introduced ourselves. This big burly unshaven angry man with so many issues had relaxed and softened. With honesty, we both admitted to one another how much we enjoyed our conversation and made plans for him to contact me in the fall to continue where we left off.
A morning of relearning many things for me.........................that was reinforced when reading later about the Gospel that tells the story of the fishes and the loaves.
You give a little, or what little you have and it expands and grows in ways that can fulfill both you and many abundance. Who needs grand ambitions when one makes more of an impact by sharing and connecting with another human being?
I need to rethink my ambitions......................

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Peacekeeping Day in Canada

The sky blue beret signifies the Canadian peacekeeper which has been worn by more than 120,000 men and women over the past 50 years while acting in their role as peacekeepers in many countries where war and strife were occuring. Today marks the 50th anniversary of the role of the Canadian Peacekeeper, which started with the intervention in the Middle East in 1956 to help mediate the Suez Crisis. How tragic that we are still facing death and destruction in that part of the world. How tragic that the last individual acting as a Peacekeeper was killed in this latest Hezzbollah terrorist war against Israel. Here is an excerpt:

"Peacekeeping Day
was created to recognize the service of Canadians in far-away places in the service of peace. Since 1948, members of Canada's Armed Forces and Diplomatic service have served on peacekeeping missions around the world. Additionally, since 1992, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and municipal police forces have served in Peace Support missions around the world. It was to recognize the service of Canadians past, present and in the future that Peacekeeping Day was created.

9 August was chosen because on that date in 1974 the greatest single loss of Canadian lives on a peacekeeping mission occurred. Nine Canadian peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Emergency Force in Egypt and Israel, were flying in a Canadian Forces "Buffalo" transport aircraft on UN service which was shot down by Syrian air defence missiles while preparing to land at Damascus, Syria on a regular resupply mission. There were no survivors.

Canada's first casualty on a peacekeeping mission occurred in 1951 when Acting-Brigadier HH Angle of Kamloops, BC died in a plane crash in Kashmir on the border between India and Pakistan. Since then, 114 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and one member of Canada's diplomatic service have died in far-off lands in the service of peace.

On this day, we recognize the families of our peacekeepers who keep up the morale of our peacekeepers with cards and letters, parcels and gifts. They play a central part too helping their spouses to adjust to the peace and tranquility of their home and country when they return.

We also recognize and thank other Canadians who have given freely of their time to support our Peacekeepers abroad. In particular are the ham radio operators who nightly have connected to the military ham radio operators calling from the missions and linked the peacekeepers to their families back in Canada. This most valuable service, always given freely, has been a strong element in maintaining family morale. We also thank the families that knit the "Izzy Dolls", small dolls given to the children whom Canadian peacekeepers meet as they patrol their assigned areas. Created by his family in memory of Master Corporal Mark Isfeld who died in 1994 while serving in the former Yugoslavia, the dolls have brought much pleasure to children in many countries suffering the ravages of brutal conflict.

Peacekeeping Day, 9 August is about recognition and commemoration; of peacekeepers past, present and yet to come and their families; recognition and thanks to those who help make the peacekeeping duty less arduous; and remembering our fallen comrades who have died in the service of peace. "

Our role in Afghanistan has altered the picture we have of the Canadian Armed Forces. No longer involved in the "traditional" peacekeeping activities, they are in the middle of all out violent conflict, as a way to support the Afghanistan government and people. Who knew 50 years ago that the world would be facing ongoing terrorist threats on a global scale? We have had to accomodate and change our ways in order to be a member of the global fight against such an nebulous and frightening enemy. The war may be in Afghanistan, but the threat is global.

Canada has a proud that continues...........................

While we take the time to proudly honour the fallen peacekeepers, may we also take the time to honour and support our troops in various locales around the world, especially Afghanistan and to think about the families living in Canada who stand by worried but supportive of their loved ones.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Ambition with Integrity

Ambition is defined as "an eagerness to attain success, honour, power." In it's positive light, ambition is the motor behind the boat................... or the heart of a goal. It gives oxygen to a new idea as it inflates an individual's incentive to aim higher. Feeling ambitious can be exciting and energizing when one's sights are honourable, attainable and motivating.

On the other hand, one can still feel the buzz of ambition even when one's aspirations lead a person to plough forward, oblivious of others who may be in the way. This always leads to others feeling threatened, angry or even disenfranchised. The world of work and politics is chock full of examples of individuals who are so hungry for power that they'll do anything to get ahead. Maybe because there are so many examples of this type of ambitious self-absorption that any time a person has a strong desire to aim high, they are now brushed with the same tint.

Most of my career life has been spent working in the public service. It's what I know best, and consequently, it is the lens through which I must observe. Though there have been ongoing rumblings from management types who attempt to fabricate a business-like environment, it always misses the mark by a long shot. Sure, private sector business terminology has infiltrated government civil service, the implementation of the concepts behind the words falls flat..........especially in the social services area. Always trying to turn the "art" of human social services into a "science/math" of the private sector, their ambitions fall flat. Heck, in this province, they can't even get tourism marketing right.........completely missing the mark unlike how it would be handled in the private sector.

Why? There's a fear of ambitious people. They are all smeared with the same brush Even if a person has good intentions, good ideas and a good heart expressed ambition is now considered a scary thing. Even if it is accompanied with integrity, the public sector monster has a tendancy to prefer mediocre.

Just go with th
e flow, be grateful you have a job, don't rock the boat........................... be satisfied with your station in life.

I find it all very strange, because if aspirations are muted, motivation and self-satisfaction of a job well done is strangled out of the workforce. Ennui sets in. Old ideas and ways of doing something are recycled over and over and over again in order to avoid an enthusiastic fresh perspective. Whatever happened to the lesson we were taught as youngsters that if you work hard and show your best, you will be rewarded?

Yes..........lets all swim in the same direction...........let's all sing like the birdies do......tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet. The tune is familiar. Gee, doesn't familiarity breed contempt?

Ambitious people in the real world..........the private sector, on the other hand are rewarded more readily. New ideas are applauded, taking risks are encouraged. Change leadership is interactively sought out. My feeling is that there isn't the same fear factor in the world of business when working with someone who has aspirations and dreams, especially when it is obviously for the greater good of the company as well as the individual.

We are all ambitious in our own way. It simply manifests itself in different parts of our lives. We may not use the word to describe the personal drive or incentive that we feel when it comes to our personal lives, but it is ambition all the same. Aspirations for our children, goals for our family life, dreams that shape our individual personal can't even take on a hobby without the little engine of ambition to drive you towards learning how do master it.

You want to learn how to play chess, grow beautiful flowers in your garden, cook a new dish, save money for a dream trip, learn how to swim, maintain a blog, tackle a classic novel that seems a wee bit daunting, learn how to play a musical gotta have ambition. It's what motivates. It's what energizes. It's what brings out the gifts in us. It's the intuitive urge to want to bring out our own gifts, and share them with others.

Yet............. people are fearful of allowing others to blossom? To share their gifts? How downright odd.

We live in various communes with our personal lives and in our work lives. Communes work most effectively when everyone plays a productive role, where everyone has an identity that is accepted and applauded, where individuals are embraced because of their uniqueness and what they can offer to the larger group. We gain strength from healthy functioning "communities." We gain the self-esteem from the support we feel around us to take another step towards new learning, to speak openly about what we want and what we aspire to. When the community you find yourself in doesn't provide that, well then it's time to pack up and move on..................... if only I could find that work community where my aspirations are respectfully nurtured and welcomed.

In the meantime.....................good thing I have many other ambitions that aren't related to my career. Yes, my life is abundantly full of people who will support my crazy ideas and my freakish nature to want to try new things............ family and friends who often will "go for the ride" on one of my crazy ambitious plans......... and who have come to expect that of me! It's one of the roles I play in my family and with my friends. I'll continue to channel the energy in that direction............. while continuing to figure out what comes next for my career.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." Marie Curie


Monday, August 07, 2006

Bach's Cello Suites and a Lipstick Sunset

Yesterday morning, I found myself sitting on a lounge chair at a cottage not too far from my home. The sun was brilliantly shining, a nice breeze kept the temperature just perfect. In front of me was a fallow field with wisps of tall grass shooting out of the brush weeds.........little purple flowers spreading through it. Behind me, others talking quietly over coffee, and deep resonating cello music playing in the background.

I sipped my tea, enjoyed the soughing sound of the wind rustling the leaves, felt the warm rays.

I watched a Monarch touch down on the bushy part of a hay stem that seemed to be dancing in the wind. The butterfly balanced itself by knowing when to flap it's wings. It remained perched on the same stem, flapping occasionally, allowing the breeze to be a part of the balance, until it was time to move onto another stem a couple of minutes later. All done to the soundtrack of Bach.

Later that morning, we portaged the canoe down to the shore of the lake. My son and I went out for a paddle, talking and sharing alone time while I gave him a lesson on how to paddle, while he asked me questions that ranged from the depth of the lake to the type of fish in the water to who I thought was my favourite Toronto Blue Jay player and did I think they would make it into the Hall of Fame. Typical kind of conversation I have with my always curious son. His lessons to me are always more interesting than mine.

Then, it was my turn to paddle solo. Knealing on the bow seat facing the stern, I paddled the canoe close to the shore away from the gusts of wind experimenting with various strokes, as I balanced the gunnel along the surface of the water..........perching myself in a position that allowed me to move the canoe along effectively. Balancing..............knowing when to flap my own wings.............and how to lean into the wind, with the canoe. As soon as I got far enough out, away from the beach I floated randomly listening to the sounds of nature around me and the faint voices from the beach. Nirvana.

Late afternoon, a dip in the water where I stood for a long time.............water to my waist, eyes closed, feeling content to soak up the rays of a summer day..................

Dinner with family and friends, rapturing about the day of sun, water, fresh breezes........acknowledged gratitude of how lucky we are to be living in such a beautiful part of the world............acknowledge gratitude of how blessed we are to be able to appreciate it together. As the sun began to set, tiny bats began to appear in the sky, crossing in front of the sillouetted trees. My son and I decided to check out the pathway to the lake to see if there were more bats flitting along the way. As we approached an opening of the trees that seemed to frame the lipstick sunset across the lake, several little bats swooped in front of the vista. Catching the winds,.................quickly fluttering by, balanced by their own flap of their wings.

Darkness brought a moon that was almost full, glowing so brightly in the sky that one didn't need a flashlight, and millions of stars that were so abundant they seemed to touch each other. John Hiatt was playing on the stereo in the background, kids were settling in the for the night, adults venturing off to play cards. Me? I decided to remain outside facing the fallow field where the monarch had entertained me with it's balancing act, feeling grateful for such a bountiful day while balancing a glass of wine. Yes, it was a day that one only dreams of during the deep freeze of February. It lived up to my expectations and beyond.............

"There's a lipstick sunset
Smeared across the August sky
There's a bitter sweet perfume
Hanging in the fields
The creek is running high

And I left my lover waiting
In the dawn somewhere to wonder why
By the end of the day
All her sweet dreams would fade
To a lipstick sunset

Well, a radio was playing
And that ol' summer heat was on the rise
I just had to get away
Before some sad old song
Brought tears to my eyes

And Lord I couldn't tell her
That her love was only killing me
By the end of the day
All her sweet dreams would fade
To a lipstick sunset

Well it's pretty as a picture baby
Red and blushing just before the night
Maybe love's like that for me
Maybe I can only see
As you take away the light

So hold me in the darkness
We can dream about the cool twilight
'Til the dawning of the day
When I make my getaway
To a lipstick sunset

There will come another day
When I make my getaway
To a lipstick sunset

There will come another day
Then I'll make my getaway
To a lipstick sunset"

John Hiatt

Friday, August 04, 2006

How's About a Bit of Humour?

This family is quickly gaining a reputation without even trying. It all started innocently a couple of years ago when my daughter desparately wanted her own pet hamster. Sure, why not? Lo and behold the Easter Bunny delivered Cassie the light brown hamster, equipped with a fancy cage an attached lookout tower, water bottle and loft. From day one, Cassie was a gentle hammie who was fine being held by a 7 year old little girl. However, I think it was 30 or so and the hamster up and died. Turns out, Cassie's gentleness was actually old age. A funeral was held in her honour, and off she went to the dump.

Next came Daisy. Cute as a button, but feisty as hell. She would nip you at forty paces. Consequently, Daisy spent a good deal of time in her lookout tower or in her hammie space ball blasting up and down the hallway, much to the chagrin of our trusty Chocolate Lab, Lucy. Actually, since Lucy knew she was on a higher rung on the animal kingdom ladder (she believed she was deserving of humanness), she paid absolutely no attention to Daisy. She just got out of the way whenever the space ball happened to veer her way. No, the Lab hunter gene was missing in our intrepid dog. She much prefered her food cooked medium well on the Bar B.Q.
While we were biding our time, waiting for Daisy to get used to us, her trust issues escalated the morning we awoke to find her the new mother of 6 babies. Yikes. Immaculate? Nah......just preggers when we purchased her from the pet store.

My rodent knowledge at that point was minimal, but I did know one tidbit. Hamsters often eat their young. Isn't nature disgusting sometimes? Since my husband and I were up to our parental eyeballs in teaching various life lessons already, I didn't want to add "eating your young, 101 to the list. So, off I went to gather information in order to take on the role of post-natal nursemaid rodentia. The local petstore agreed to take the little guys after 6 weeks of nuturing to sell off to other unsuspecting individuals. I was also informed not to keep them in the cage with momma after 7 weeks. Little did I know that this had nothing to do with lack of space in one cage for too many hammies.

Daisy and babes were now relegated to a high traffic area in the house in order to be monitored. Turned out, she was a natural momma and protected her brood lovingingly. So, 6 weeks came and went and before we knew it, the little ones were old enough to forge ahead on their own..........healthy, perky and needing their own spinning wheel and space module cage. Off they went to entertain other kiddies.

A couple of weeks later, I noticed that Daisy was looking ample in size, but chalked it up to the fact that she hadn't done her postnatal keegal exercises and was holding onto some of her maternal chubbiness.

Did I mention that Nature is disgusting?

While we were away on vacation and the kid next door was looking after Daisy, she went into labour again and produced 12 babies. The Dad? Well, lets not go there................but let me tell you that it was a squirmy uncomfortable conversation trying to explain to a 3 and 7 year old just how their hamster got pregnant again when the only company she had were HER OWN SONS! Everyone assumed their postnatal roles, and I'm proud to say that not one hammie was eaten during my vigil. AND, the babes were sent packing to the petstore (we should get commission) at 5 weeks.

Daisy settled in again as a sole hamster, doing her thing, zipping around in her space ball, hanging out in her lookout tower, eating and pooping and nipping at anyone who came near her. Such a lovely pet, really. Then one day, my daughter went to give her a piece of lettuce and found the door of the cage pushed open. Daisy was and running, free range of the house.

We looked high and low..................behind every nook and cranny. No luck. So, we kept her cage on the floor in the basement near where it had been situated and made sure there was food available for her consumption..........hoping that she would enter her cage again and all would be fine. Though we saw no sign of her, we could see that she was returning to eat some grub. A month went by before we had the first sighting, but she scampered away so fast that we had no way of catching her.

Meanwhile Lucy? Our trusty Lab? Couldn't have care less. In fact, I'm sure she crossed paths with Daisy in the middle of the night. Perhaps they enjoyed a tete a tete on occasion over a bowl of popcorn watching David Letterman..........who knows? But, Lucy wasn't 'splaining and Daisy r
emained hidden.

4 1/2 months later..............................YES...................... our free range hamster decided to come clean. She peaked out from under the couch in the livingroom (the couch has since been trashed) and stood there long enough for us to pick her up and place her back in her spacey home. What was so weird about the process? We all felt badly that we had to lock her up in such a small space. Daisy lived with us happily for another few months or so and promptly died, as all good hammies do. Another funeral, and another honourable dump disposal. Farewell and over and out. No more rodents. The cage, lookout tower, space ball and water bottle were sold at the next garage sale.

Time went by.........years went by.................with no discussions about purchasing a new caged critter. The stories and adventures continue to be bandied about and were enough to satiate any desires to go down that cedar path again.

Fasttrack to two weeks ago, when Coco arrived for a two week stint chez Awareness. Coco's family were going on vacation. Unbeknownst to moi, resident postnatal nursemaid, this arrangement had been agreed upon between ma famille and Coco's family. I made it clear that I would not be paying any attention to hammie bonding for me. In fact, the very thought sent shivers down my spine as I wondered if I suffer a bit of Post traumatic hamster stress disorder...........PTHSD?

"Fine, fine" says my family, "Don't you worry!" Famous last words? Hmmmm.

Coco was set up in her own space camp, with her little module attached to the side of the cage by a tube, in the basement on the air hockey table with a view of the backyard where it was nice and cool. The perfect vacation spot for one furry finger biting creature. The only time she entered my "world" was when I was at the computer blogging. Coco would spin by in her space ball, often getting caught up in my feet.

All was going swimmingly until last night, when horror of horrors, she went missing. Turns out this crusty critter worked furious and determined to push all of her cedar shavings into her little space module. The pressure seemed to pop the top off it and before Coco knew it, she too had become a Free Range Hamster.

Shock and fear rocked the family as a mad dash with flashlights and moving furniture etc ensued. We all wondered if we could sneak to the petstore to replace the darn thing without anyone knowing, while holding onto hope that A) the little fart is still alive and B) we will find her before her family arrives home late tonight.

It looks like life's lessons will continue this weekend because there's no sign of the happy roaming hamster. With our luck? She'll probably turn up just in time for Christmas dinner.

"I'm a hamster person. No - that's so bizarre, I don't know what that means. Please don't say that. Now everybody is going to go, "Do you like hamsters? Why did you say hamsters? Do you have a collection of hamsters?" I'll never live that down. Please don't use that. "Sean Hayes

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Zachary's Future?

Last night there was a collective sigh of relief heard across this country as a little 10 year old boy named Zachary Miller managed to escape on his own and into the safe arms of the police. As soon as the good news spread, the voiced anger rose.

Zachary had been kidnapped from his family farm in rural Saskatchewan by man who had been hanging around the community for a week while he attempted to endear himself to the residents. Taken from his front lawn. Grabbed and forced into a van by a man who happens to be a well known convicted Pedophile to the legal system. For 48 hours, Zachary Miller endured unrelenting fear and terror and who knows what else while community members and police joined forces to try to find him. An Amber alert was issued right and photos spread across the country.

Canadians learned very quickly throughout the ordeal who Peter Whitmore was. This 35 year old man has a record of offenses dating back to 1993. After sexually assaulting 4 young boys he was sent to prison. Since then, he had been convicted of sexually assaulting an 8 year old girl, has been found with lists of children's names, and has been in and out of the Canadian penal system. And as the information accumulated, discussions and disgust increased over the obvious gaps in the legal system. One glaring gap? Whitmore had never been sentenced for a long enough period of time for the legal eagles to use the "dangerous offender" label. Consequently, he was let free over and over...................even though he admitted to fantasizing and ruminating while in prison.

Nothing is more reprehensible to me than pedophilia. Child molesters can't be rehabilitated. Research has shown this time and again, and yet our system continues to churn them back out into society unbeknownst to the community. There have been times when I have had to counsel these types in my office and it takes all my focus and fortitude to remain "professional" and not a raving lunatic raging mother of two children whom I would kill for. As much as I have never been a proponent of the death penalty, I struggle with this sick evil type of person who disgustingly perseverates on assaulting innocent children. These animals should be thrown into a dark pit and never let out. Peter Whitmore should never see the light of day again. He is a twisted sicko. NO argument could convince me that he deserves any attention or attempts at rehabilitation.

Let's hope Harper's government takes this incident very seriously and begins the process of filling the glaring gaps in our legal system. Once is too much. It should NEVER happen again.

Tonight, Zachary is back in the arms of his family, who are devasted and are all traumatized by the heinous experience. He will be able to sleep in his own bed, surrounded by a vigil of family who love him............parents who I'm sure wish they could wipe away the whole horrid incident and return the innocence back to their little boy. They have a long healing road to walk down. Zachary deserves the very best intervention our social and health service system can provide. Our legal system let him down in a way that is intolerable. We must try to make it up to him so that he can heal and really fall asleep in his own bed to dream 10 year old little boy dreams again.

He's lucky to be alive........................lets hope one day he feels a sense of joy again.