Friday, September 29, 2006

The Flap of A Butterfly Wing

A little over a year ago, I had the pleasure of watching my friend Finnan give a short dissertation on the Butterfly Effect to a couple of enraptured adolescents (do those two words go together??) while sitting around a campfire. Being the natural lecturer that he is, Mr. Finnan with a big expressive grin on his face, stood up in front of them, drew his arms up and down dramatically and explained the phenomenon.

A flap of a butterfly wing can alter the weather systems far far is the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately cause a small change in the initial condition of the weather system, which causes a chain of events leading to larger scale alteration. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings, the developing system might have been very different.

Possibilities.........different results................with the flap of one wing.

I liked the whole idea. I decided later to use the concept with respect to my personal trajectory......move it away from weather systems and apply it to behavioural systems. What would happen if I started one new adventure in my life? Would it alter things? With a nudge from my husband and my friend Finnan and a flap of my own wing, I decided to set up my own blog. After years of perambulating, I would kickstart my love of writing again. This time, however, I would take it one step at a time, one topic at a time............and base it around a global theme of Awareness. I would allow myself a chance to explore any topic that piqued my interest.

More tune.......inwardly and outwardly....

Over 270 posts later, today marks the first anniversary of my own corner of the blogworld.

One flap of my wing brought writing into my daily routine for the first time ever. One flap of my wing has allowed me to broaden my thinking, to hone my writing skills, to experiment with poetry writing, to tackle topics that I hadn't even contemplated before. One flap of my wing has allowed me to explore my spirituality, to strenghten my faith, and at the best of times to connect with God while writing. One flap of my wing has sent me forward in a completely new trajectory. In fact for the first time, I believe that there is a possibility of a career change through my writing. It has been a full year of generating ideas and never feeling depleted of them. I have more ideas now to ponder over than I did when I started.

The most fascinating and fulfilling aspect of being part of the blogworld are the connections I have made simply through sharing thoughts and words..........drawing pictures with our lyrics. I never expected that at all. As we all know, writing is a solitary activity. That's what I expected it to continue to be. Add blogging to the mix and one transforms the solitude into community.

One flap of a butterfly wing............... brought new breezes, blessings and a completely new view from the veranda. I look forward to what year 2 brings.

PS. Thank you all for supporting my efforts, and for all the encouragement you send my way whether is through the comments, an email, a phone call or a drop in visit to my office for a chat on the topic. Thank you to my family who have all put up with my new obsession. I am very appreciative.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Art versus Science

Sometimes insomnia can be an opportunity to address a shadow or two.

Last evening after dinner, I returned to my office to catch up on some work that needed quiet time thinking. When I arrived, I found a note from my future Supervisor requesting (yet again) a bunch of numbers that would reflect the work that I do. He was asking for the number of clients I see, the amount of time I spend on average counselling them, the amount of time it takes for me "process" the accompanying paperwork etc......... This would be a simple task if I was in the field of making widgets, but I'm not. I'm in the field of counselling.

Not only that, the majority of the clients I work with are the most marginalized in our community.
Multi-barriered, with complicated and tragic life stories, these clients live in daily crisis. Often, I'm the only one who connects with them besides their Case Manager who ensures they receive their month welfare cheque. If they are referred to me, it can be for a multitude of reasons ranging from career, personal or crisis counselling to helping them get information they need from other organizations. It could be that they are apply for disability certification and my role is to hear their stories, assess their situation and then write up their application for the Medical Board to review. How do I put numbers to that?

I had made several attempts to elaborate on the work that I contribute to the organization as a whole and for whatever reason, management just wasn't getting it. Given that I am supposed to move into a new position with a supposed list of different tasks on MONDAY, my initial reaction was one of unbottled anger.

I'm no scientist and I'm not even an MBA wannabe but it seems to me that any type of work analysis should've been done first before any decisions about moving hu
man beings into perceived new jobs. Is that not the first lesson in Organizational Design? Whatever.......

So, as I sat steaming over
the request, wondering how I would respond without sarcasm or any other form of putdown ( I do have to continue to work there for the time being), I thought of my recent blog post on anger and decided to "walk the walk," and try to transform my feelings into something more productive. Hoping the supervisor is literate (the chicken scratches he left on a torn piece of paper didn't give me any clues as to his literacy level, so I am a wee bit wary....good to have the blog to allow for sarcastic venting), I decided to answer his numbers question by also trying to paint him a picture of the clientele that I work with. A compromise of sorts.

Cognizant that I was writing to someone who sees the world in a more linear manner than I ever will.............I also recognized the fact that I needed to try to open up a dialogue that would allow for effective communication between two people who speak different languages. I
don't get him, and he sure as sugar doesn't get me. I had to start changing that.

If I want respect, I must show respect........genuinely.

I let my visually driven writing speak for me.
I transformed my anger into a linear story, writing about real people interactions I have been involved in this week alone as examples in order for him to understand that each client is different and each client's needs may lead to further interactions etc, OH, and I included the numbers that he wanted to see. Whether or not he will see and feel beyond the numbers ........well I gave it my best shot. More importantly for the moment (because I have a feeling that this process of learning how to communicate in each other's languge will continue throughout our boss/worker partnership) I felt better. My anger had alleviated.

So, here I sit writing in the wee hours of the morning after having an insomnia induced revelation. I just realized that the frustrations and culminations of blocked paths I have experienced as a counsellor in an organization, and the fact that I always feel like a square peg being shoved into a round hole.......... that my "role" as the perceived specialist/consultant in amongst people whose jobs are very clearly laid out and evolve basically the same every day when mine doesn't................. I'm an Artist making a living in a Scientific environment. I'm the freakish oddball person who enjoys developing deeper connections with the people we provide the service for and who would rather not read a spreadsheet full of numbers. AND to think that I thought they all were!!

It is up to me to compromise to learn to respect the gifts they bring to the table. It is the Manager's job to provide the numbers so that the Artists can carry on.

I'm not saying that the field of science is not creative.........far from it. It's just a very different way of looking at the world. It's a very different "take" on the important things in life. Both are needed in the workplace. Both sides needs to respectfully acknowledge this. Most work places must prove their worth through numbers............... I get that.

Accountability is a key factor in developing an accepted argument that a service is needed. However, statistics only tell a fraction of the story. This is the point where I always react angrily. Why don't people in
Social Services of all place get the people interaction stuff? The Artists in my building and the Scientists don't trust eachother because we put the emphasis of importance on very different things.
Qualtity vs Quantity ....... Art vs. Science

As the oddball artist it looks as though I have to find a way to communicate with the number cruncher so that he is comfortable and trusting of me because right now my sense is that he thinks I'm this wacky drama queen who has dug her heels in. I may have to start with a Paint By Numbers set........and then expand the palette.

When he finally feels comfortable enough to relax when he's around me, I'll gently let him know that the world of art is a vibrant place to be.........oh and that I'm a diva.

Can I go back to bed now, please? I've learned my lesson and the shadow has
left the building. Better yet............there's a sunrise to take in. It's a brand new day, fresh with no mistakes........

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Electricity of Eccentricity: An Ode to the Proprieter of Old Orchard Crafts

You've heard the saying, "there's a method to his madness?" Often, it seems to be tied to a person who is considered an eccentric.......... someone with unusual gifts....... someone whose behaviour is perceived to be impulsively outside of societal norms. These individuals constantly live thinking outside of the box. They thrive on generating ideas and often acting on them. Confident originality expressed with gusto.

Edith Stillwell wrote:

"Eccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness. It is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because genius and aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd."

When I read this quote, the first person that came to mind was Bertie Wooster's friend Gussie Fink-Nottle from the brilliant mind of P.G. Wodehouse. Gussie is described as "a teetotal bachelor with a face like a fish, wears horn-rimmed spectacles, and devotes his life to the study of newts." Along with a whole host of aristocratic eccentrics including Gussie, Bertie stumbles through hilarious situations only to be rescued by his intrepid butler, Jeeves. What makes Wodehouse's novels so funny is that these characters just dont show fear of not fitting in. In fact, they do fit into their bizarre lives..... we the reader get to look through the window of the infamous Drone's Club to take a peek at an absurdist world of post WWII aristocracy.

The British do have the corner market on eccentric characters don't they? From Basil Fawlty to Adrian Mole to Mary Poppins ...............and so many memorable Monty Python skits that are the epitome of odd.

The way I see it, there are many subtypes of eccentrics. The academic eccentricfor example is stereotypically portrayed as an individual brilliant in their personal area of study, but bumbling and fumbling through the rest of the real world. Basic skills like organizing a trip or interacting with others who are not academically inclined are as foreign as learning a new language. Their area of interest is narrow and confined to very specialized expertise. One particular Anthropology professor comes to mind. Brilliant and expressive in the classroom and a complete fish out of water off campus. He was enchantingly odd and I adored his class.

Then there are the introverted types who live as recluses tucked away from interaction and community involvement. Howard Hughes eventually became the poster boy for this subtype. Cat ladies, retired old fishermen who spend their days whittling folk art, famous artists like Van Gogh who never sold one of his paintings when he was alive, but continued with his vision and passion despite not being understood, the local garbage picker who stays in their imaginary bubble oblivious to any onlookers while surfing through trash for returnable career field of choice often allow me to cross paths with wonderful reclusive eccentrics.

But, the most interesting to me are the individuals whom I will label the Zany Bounders. These individuals are extrovertedly dramatic, and charismatically creative. Full of a love for life, they often take over a room full of people just by their electric presence. They have the ability to spill out poetry one minute and engage you in a topic that you may not have even considered interesting until you are confronted by their passion. Off the wall, sure...........but they also have a serious side too exhibited during a conversation that triggers their particular interests. My friend Finnan, who recently told me that he pretended to be a daring reporter at the local market by holding a piece of broccoli up as a microphone and interviewed the people passing by his stall while the candidates for the recent election were glad-handing all around him, is a true Zany Bounder.

Zany Bounders can scare the snot out of an introvert. Not being an introvert myself I can only imagine what it must be like to be standing quietly when all of a sudden you're confronted by what is visually perceived as a beginner skier schussing a mountain while flailing out of control and heading right towards you.............loudly, while you frantically make an attempt to jump into a snowdrift to hide. Sometimes I think Zany Bounders enjoy this nervous reaction as they sniff out the uncomfortable quiet person.........much like a cat does when confronted with a room full of people. The cat inevitably entangles himself in between the legs of the allergic cat hater... just rubbing it in!

Personally, I believe this world doesn't have enough of these expressively unconventional individuals because we need them to spark up the energy and to alleviate apathy. We need them to stir up the fun and the thinking and the zest for living. Sadly, this weekend our community lost a notable Bounder, the colourful Eric Ferguson.

I first met Eric years ago when I did a short stint as a copywriter. He and his wife had just opened up a gift store in a village outside of Fredericton called Burton. It was a bit out of the way, but he was hellbent on making it a tourist destination all on its own. It was my job to create the first radio ads for his new business. It wasn't until a few months later when I was involved in a completely different job did I have a chance to visit Old Orchard Crafts.

As soon as I parked my car beside this shop/home settled in amongst a host of apple trees, a big burly smiling man came barrelling out the front door full of flamboyant exuberance..............his arm extended to meet mine. With a hearty "Welcome," Eric then became my personal tour guide of his treasure trove of pottery, jewelry, books and knick knacks. Every room in his house had been turned into an alcove of goodies.........even the bathroom! I was offered a cup of hot apple cider while we looked around and chatted up a storm. Our conversation wound hither and dale, encompassing the importance of promoting Canadian made products to New Brunswick tourism to police work (he was a retired RCMP officer and did a stint as the Chief of Police for the city of Saint John) to our mutual love of politics. I was there forever that afternoon!

Eric's ulitmate love was politics. He lived and breathed it. A diehard Progressive Conservative and ex Member of Parliament in the short lived Joe Clark government, Eric and I would cross paths on many occasions after our first encounter, most often through our shared political interests. And whenever I saw him, he always gave me a big bear hug at the same time asking me my opinion on the latest political gossip or scandal. He did this with many others.........always making them feel special...........always giving them his undivided attention...........always espousing his opinions enthusiastically.

Never one to tip toe into any situation, often his aromatic aftershave would precede him. I think it was Polo. Many times over the years, I would be in a parking lot on my way to a local fair or market on a Saturday and I would catch a whiff in the wind of his presence. Then, I'd notice the flyers that he had tucked into the windshield wipers of every parked car..................20% off coupon for Old Orchard Crafts. Looking around, I would find him engaged in a lively conversation with a patron talking up his latest Canadian "find" for his store, or promoting the local Tory candidate in his riding. Sales was in his blood.

It's been a while since our paths crossed. In fact, I was surprised that I didn't see him during the last election. And for some reason, I never made it out to Old Orchard Crafts this summer despite thinking about it several times. (BTW it did become a tourist destination and the largest craft store in the Maritimes.......he put an extension on his house, and a barn on the property).

I was taken aback when I heard of his passing on the local radio news while driving home from work today......................we have lost a Zany Bounder who touched many many lives and probably scared the snot out of a few along the way.

No doubt his smiling star in the sky will sparkle in an unconventionally lively light, with a tinge of Tory Blue. Watch for it.

Bless you, Eric.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Harvest of Opinion

There are days when one can skim through various newsy avenues and have no real interest in any of the topics covered. For whatever reason, none of the stories have the tentacles to grab you or to jiggle you into thinking about it beyond the text. Not much help when youre trying to capture your own perspective, using a newsy item as the jumping off point.

Then, there are other days when it seems like the media offers so many thought provoking political nuggets (thanks in part to the inanity of this global village of idiots we have to contend with) one has to choose.................... so I've whittled my nuggets down to three...........lets see.

Say it isn't so Joe

..........looks like Volpe is still the conductor of the Liberal monkey wagon....

The Toronto Star reported yesterday dozens of people in Montreal-area ridings — including at least two dead people — had been improperly signed up as federal Liberal party members.Volpe's campaign was named as having paid for the memberships of nine people, according to interviews conducted by the Star using membership lists for the Quebec wing of the federal party.When interviewed by the Star, scores of people didn't know who called them, but two Volpe team insiders told the Star the operators, working from campaign headquarters and concentrating on recruitment among the city's Italian-Canadian population, generally didn't say which campaign was calling.

If nothing, he's consistent. Consistently corrupt. Over the past year, Volpe has gaffed more often than any other federal politician and yet he still believes he is going to win the Leadership race and then go on to beat Stephen Harper to become the next Prime Minister of Canada. Are you smokin' dope Joe? Last fall, I wrote about Volpe's announcement about bringing home the expatriates to fill all the high level jobs that seem to be floating around this country unfilled. At the time, he was our fabulously uninformed Immigration Minister. In March of this year, Volpe was a proud recipient of the "Teddy award" along with David Dingwall. These two wonderful political poster boys thought nothing of spending taxpayers dollars through dining and debauchery......... entitlement gone awry.
In July of this year, I posted yet another story on this fleabag when it became apparent that he was scoffing at his own Party's campaign fundraising rules by having his group of campaign thugs arrange to have a whole family identified as individual donaters to his Liberal leadership cause. He denied any involvement whatsoever. Arent leaders supposed to accept the responsibility of any actions of the team he leads?

His political scoundrel days are numbered and my bet is that none of the other contenders will be knocking on his door for an endorsement. He is one smelly tainted tuna. Good riddance..........


And the Weekend Humanitarian Award goes to.........................

Afghan President Hamid Karzai

After a rousingly heartfelt speech in the Ottawa Legislature on Friday where he thanked Canadians for our part in the fight against terrorism and the Taliban in his country, Karzai then took the time out to meet with the president of the Looneytune Society of Crazed Socialists, Jack Layton.

This meeting was hastily arranged due to the need for damage control after Layton's declaration that he wanted to meet with the Taliban to discuss peaceful resolutions. How Jack thought he was going to arrange this meeting of the mentally ill minds......... guess he thought he could leave it up to his comrade Svend Robinson to sketch out the details (words out that they planned to reserve the corner table at the Tim Horton's in Kabul to chat with Bin Laden's buddies over large double-doubles and crullers). Here's a link to my previous posting on this

An excerpt: Earlier in the day, Karzai skipped a speaking engagement to sit down with Layton, who has been calling for Canadian troops to be withdrawn from southern Afghanistan.

In a news conference following their meeting, Layton said the two agreed that solving Afghanistan's problems requires more than just military might.

"The roots of the problem lie outside Afghanistan - they lie in Pakistan," Layton said. "A political solution, ultimately, is the only route to bring security for the long-term, and ... Pakistan has got to be engaged in the creation of that environment."

Layton's quote is almost verbatim to Karzai's comments in his speech. I guess Jack needed to hear it twice, and then say it outloud for himself in order to learn it.

I hate the whole idea of war. I hate the fact that anyone has to go to battle. I hate the fact that there will always be psychotic evil lurking in various hot spots around the world........ that we are now living in a world that is being tossed on it's side by extremists and terrorists. There are days I want to just put my head in the sand and not think about it anymore. But, how does that help, really? No, it doesn't.
We are members of a global community. This country is not exempt from attacks. How alone would this country be if we decided to pull out of Afghanistan now and turn our backs on the people of that country who are trying to resurrect it from rubble? Pretty darn alone!!!
Afghanistan needs our support. Our troops need our support. Until every child can safely attend school; until every woman can freely choose to work and study outside of their home; until teachers are safely able to do their jobs without the fear of being beheaded .......... until the government is established, and democracy is up and running ........ until the economy isn't reliant on opium sales ............ we need to stay. Got that Jack???


Please Pass the Holy Water

As the United Church of Canada watches their congregation numbers go down the drain, they have decided to focus their attention on banning bottled water. Gee, that'll get the people back to the pews. Good on ya mates!

From the Globe and Mail:

The United Church passed a motion urging its nearly one million Canadian adherents to leave bottled water on the store shelves, unless alternative sources of safe water aren't available.

“Water is seen increasingly as a saleable commodity, [being used] to make a profit,” said David Hallman, a United Church official, “as opposed to our perspective of it being an element of life and good for all creation.”

The whole business of bottling water straight from the taps of enterprising entrepreneurs is appalling when one thinks about it. Environmentally, it's appalling. And it's capitalism at it's slimey worst. However........... how can this be an issue for the church? Sure, throwing in the line that water is a sacred gift seems to justify this action as a religiously based stance for some.

Not me. It's a turn off because it degenerates the reputation of the whole church. The United Church of Canada needs to put the plug in the drain by returning to religion. Ministers need to return to delivering sermons that are based on the Bible and the stories that are the foundation of faith. That doesnt mean that we shy away from helping those who are in need, that we stop promoting equality. Ironically, it's issues like these that the UCC adopt that "water down" their reputation as a house of worship.

One of the first blogposts I wrote was about my concerns over the United Church of Canada (here's the link). Looks like my thoughts have remained the same. I'm left thirsty as I try to find my way back to church. Potluck dinners are still the norm in the basement of the United Church................just don't be washing down that mushy casserole with Dasani........

Smiling..............shaking her head.....................

PS..........OH I forgot! Sorry here's number 4! Belinda Stronach and Tie Domi? I'm at a loss for words.............................He shoots, he scores?

Friday, September 22, 2006

Singed Feathers

I read an interesting article today in the Globe and Mail that hit close to home. I've been struggling in my job for quite a while trying to maintain a level of enthusiasm for the work that I am to do. It's a paradoxical that I presume many encounter. I love some of the aspects of it, especially the counselling and connecting with clients. I love delivering workshops and teaching the frontline staff. I love the team I work with....a wonderful group of women who are supportive and caring for one another. However, my skills have never been recognized nor utilized by the powers that be. For years, I have been underutilized despite my enthusiastically persistant offer of ideas and openness to work on various initiatives or problems.

I'm a square peg who doesn't fit................. the struggle continues while I await a physical move into a new building, new office and onto a new team. OK..............does this make sense? I am hired as a counselling specialist to work directly with income assistant clients and to consult with the case managers and frontline staff. Management in all their wisdom have decided to move me onto a team that consists of public housing inspectors and maintenance people and with adminstrative staff who collect rent. How do I fit in with that crew? Where is the logic in this? interesting job has been once again I will throw all my eggs in one basket and attempt to land it. It at least provides hope and something to strive for. In the meantime, I picked up the paper tonight and this article glared back at me with flashing lights......................

"Burnout has been the subject of extensive research for nearly three decades. Most of us are familiar with its most common causes -- overwork, feeling undervalued, failing to understand the purpose of your work, a sense that the effort-reward equation is out of whack -- in sum, an inability to derive any satisfaction from work, indeed from life.

And it's getting worse. Over the past 15 years, I've noticed fewer and fewer people say they feel good about what they are accomplishing.

If I had to summarize people's experiences, it would be, "Welcome to the world of the half-assed job."

More disturbing, people used to complain about this. But we have all become so inured to the demands that many simply accept burnout as part of life. As one woman wrote to me: "What do I feel about my work and my life? Who has the luxury of time to think about it? I don't feel like I'm living my life. I feel like it's living me."

Not surprisingly, this can also lead to depression. People experience an erosion of self-esteem as they feel they are not accomplishing anything. And it is, after all, the sense of accomplishment that contributes to our sense of competence.

We may be overstretched but also understimulated, Indeed, it's a paradox of our times that we can be simultaneously overworked and underchallenged -- feeling like we are not learning anything new and have nothing to look forward to. Although we often think of busyness as an antidote to boredom, the truth is that boredom and restlessness are also often closely linked to burnout."

Read the rest of the article............................

One of the key suggestions to dealing with burnout and feeling underchallenged is to seek other avenues. That's always been my tactic. Whether it's extra-curriculars in the community or a creative project or finding a good book to read............that has always been what has saved me. But, the most effective and exciting activity that I have embraced which has helped me in more ways than one is writing and blogging. What an outlet this little piece of the internet has been. The only downfall? My desire to write a novel or something more substantial increases daily. I would love an opportunity to be given a big chunk of time to kickstart that process.

Somehow, I must sort out a plan to do so, because if I don't......................I will continue to be sucked into the vortex of the world of the underwhelmed. I will not let that happen.

All I can say is................thank God for weekend reprieves....................bring it on.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Teacher Applicant

I found this posted on the bulletin board in the photocopy room at my son's school today:

After being interviewed by the school administration, the eager teaching prospect summarized:

"Let me see if I got this right. You want me to go into that room with all those kids, and fill their every waking moment with a love for learning, and I'm supposed to instill a sense of pride in their ethnicity, modify their disruptive behaviour, observe them for signs of abuse, censor their T-shirts and dress habits for inappropriateness, and plough through their lunch boxes to make sure they are eating a nutritionally balanced diet.

You want me to wage a war on drugs and sexually transmitted diseases, check their backpacks for weapons of mass destruction, and raise their self-esteem. You want me to teach them patriotism, good citizenship, sportsmanship, fair play, respect for others, respect for themselves, and respect for the environment.

I am to check for head lice, maintain a safe environment, recognize signs of anti-social behaviour, make sure they all pass the provincial exams, even those who have poor attendance and never complete their homework.

Plus, I am to make sure that all of the students with special needs get an equal and integrated education regardless of the extent of their disabilities and of the fact that they are not connected to a special education plan or teacher's assistant. I am to communicate regularly with the parents by letter, telephone, newsletter and report card. As well, I'm expected to run extra-curricular activities and take part in any school fundraising activities even if they occur on the weekend.

All of this I am to do with a box of chalk, a desk, a bulletin board, a big smile AND a starting salary that barely covers my rent. You want me to do all of this and then you tell me that I CAN'T PRAY?"

Ain't that the truth?

And yet somehow.....................they do it all and then some.

I arrived at the school just when the little ones were congregating outside to stand in their bus lines. The teacher, still fresh as she was when I saw her first thing this morning was multi-tasking as per usual........monitoring behaviour, addressing the wiggly ones, answering questions, counting heads, making sure they kept their sweaters on in the cool air, entertaining them by throwing those "helicopter" seedlings from the trees in the air to see how far they would go when the wind caught them, AND talking to me about the recent election and asking about how my daughter is doing in middle school. Fresh as a summer daisy..........with a few wisps of hair bangs a little askew.

In the middle of this demonstration of competence, she expressed her delight with her class of 23 kindergarten gaffers by commenting on how wonderfully dear and mature they are and how lucky she is to have such a marvellous class. It felt like a family.

Just before the bell rang, the Grade 1 class came barreling out the door to join the wiggly bus lines. 4 little girls..........graduates of this teacher's Kindergarten class rushed up with the energy of a locomotive.........arms wide open, big smiles, they ran over, slamming right into their favourite and openly missed teacher. She took them all in her arms and gave them a big hug and called them her big girls, while playfully chastising them about growing up too fast.

Then, she rushed off to follow her little ones to the right buses....................always counting heads, always ensuring their safety and love and belonging needs right up until the bus doors closed. She waved goodbye to head off to her classroom to clean up and to prepare for tomorrow's busy day of learning.

She prays and counts her blessings every night. How do I know this? She told me.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Risky Business

When was the last time you took a risk? I'm not just referring to a hang-gliding, bungee jumping, mountain climbing activity, though some risks may feel that way. I'm wondering about the risks one takes stepping outside of your everyday routine, when you push the boundaries to do something that makes you a bit nervous..............something that alters your adrenaline and wakes you up?

Risk taking is living an examined life. It is the medicine needed to fight off that nasty apathy virus that leads to feeling a sense of depressed inertia. Stretching your limits allows you to feel, to learn and to grow......... three dimensionally.

Last week, my 12 year old daughter took a step outside of her safety net when she auditioned for a theatre group. It was of her own initiative, culminating from her interest in acting. As we sat waiting her turn to stand in front of a group of adults to perform her monologue, she struggled with her nerves as she tried to maintain her confidence that she could do it. But, when her name was called, she composed herself, found her poise, went into the auditorium all by herself and nailed it. She's still waiting to hear if she made the troupe. She took a big risk.

A risk involves some has to know one's talents and understand that any risk can land you flat on your face, see that pushing the limits can open up new opportunities. The most difficult part of taking any risk is making the first decision, the first step towards the goal. It comes down to understanding that you are as powerful as you allow yourself to be. You can handle the mishaps as well as the successes. Aplomb. We garner confidence by weighing the odds of success and failure, by looking at our approach from several angles, by positive thinking and self-talk and by surrounding ourselves with supportive people in our lives. Though we may take a risk on our own, it's the foundation of faith, family and friends that spur us on. We are never alone.

So............. what's you next personal test? What have you been putting off, but deep down are dying to try?

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Mark Twain

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Simon and Hilda Glasberg

This story breaks my heart. After 65 years of thinking that their sibling had perished in the Holocaust, Simon and Hilda, brother and sister were reunitied.

"An Ottawa man was reunited in Israel this week with the younger sister he thought had perished in the Holocaust 65 years ago.

Simon Glasberg, now 81, last saw his sister Hilda Shlick when she was only 10 years old.

For more than six decades, he thought she had met the same sad fate as six million other Jews who were killed by the Nazis during the Second World War.

Meanwhile, half a world away in Israel, Shlick, now 75, thought her big brother Simon was among the dead.

Recently, the brother and sister were overjoyed to learn they were both wrong — thanks to another brother, Karol, who submitted a note to preserve his sister's memory at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

This week, Simon Glasberg laid eyes on Hilda for the first time in over six decades.

In spite of her grey hair, he said he recognized her at once, and he cried as he embraced her for the first time since she was a little girl.

"The world was swirling around, and I looked at her," recalled Glasberg of the moment. "I just kissed her … I couldn't stop kissing her."

Read the rest of the story...

What I'm left thinking about is how this story is both joyful and tragic. The reunion with her brother must've been deeply emotional for anyone who was there to witness it. However, Hilda grew up and lived all her adult years thinking that her whole family had perished. How does one live with the tragic knowledge that half a world away, they were alive and have all died of old age except two brothers?

Joy and sorrow

Political Post Partum

Ah...........the lure of the seductive political siren (are there male sirens?).......... and the losing hangover the next morning.......... makes one non-linear...............

Despite the fact that the Tories won the popular vote, this province has a new Liberal Premier. And in a small place like this, a new government means change. Patronage is alive and kicking around here. All contracts for everything from snowplow operating to management consultation with the government will be scrutinized behind closed doors (or in a corner table at the local Tim Hortons). The change will directly impact the civil service, and the feeling this morning is one of disarray and concern.

What does it mean? What about the intiatives halfway being implemented? Who will get the axe? Who will the Departmental Minister be? Will the government departments be re-aligned AGAIN? All hiring is on hold even if a position needs to be filled. All political appointments, and there are a lot of them are null and void. Political reality imposes stark changes to any so-called strategic initiatives Management had spent ruminating hours in meetings planning.

Out the window..........the four year window has been closed shut..............time to find the new window..................

On a personal note, I am supposed to be moving to a new locale and a new division within my government department, with a supposed new list of job responsibilities at the end of the month. I'll be leaving the team I have worked with for 12 years in the Intake unit of Social Services to the Housing Division. Initially I was told that I was to head up a Community Development initiative for families with kids under the age of 5. However, in actuality, my position is being expanded rather than altered. Bit by bit, more responsibilities are being added to my list of to do's. Without any analysis of my work and without any helpful discussions with me, I have been pushed and pulled in a variety of directions, with no respectful communication. It has been stressful to say the least and quite offensive. This morning? This change may be put on hold. Why? One of the promises this Liberal government pledged was a separate housing department with a focus on Seniors. Looks like my "move" will be put on hold. Fine with me.

This will occur throughout the civil service. I'm sure the phones and emails are burning up today with stories, guesses, interpretations all related to the fallout.

My thoughts on the election............

Shawn Graham, the Premier elect spoke last night of a "bold change." Who's he kidding? A change of underwear perhaps........from blue bloomers to red knickers? This province will still struggle with the ongoing brain drain, high taxes and gas prices, low educational scores, unemployment, call centre hell, rural poverty, urban homelessness, dilaudid addictions, methadone madness, and obesity rates higher than the rest of Canada. Well, maybe Shawn will add a couple more gym classes into the equation, since that was his major in University. Yes, we have a Gym teacher for a Premier. Let's hope he's not prone to double dribbling.

Bernard Lord has a couple of options..............or so the mainstream media thinks...........
1. Stay the course and be an opposition leader while eating humble pie.
2. Jump ship the NB Schooner, run for the Feds and work for Harper.
3. Start developing a board of directors figurehead portfolio and make some money.
If I was offering my opinion.........I'd suggest he meet with me to help him update his resume. I'd then introduce him to the Resource Centre staff, show him the NB Job sites that have bogus ads on them and wish him well............ and possibly suggest that he contact Ralph Klein in a hurry. I hear there's loads of jobs in Fort MacMurray. Or maybe, because he's bilingual, he can land a supervisor role at the Cendant call centre. Repatriation, my butt.

Alison Brewer and the NDP? Let's hope she was receptive to the loud epiphanous message that her type of social activism and her personality don't automatically translate into being a leader of a group of social activists. Her unbelievably poor showing in the polls across the province had a major impact on the final results.
"And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on a carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game."
Joni Mitchell

Monday, September 18, 2006

Vote Early and Vote Often

Today is election day in New Brunswick. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks personally juggling work and helping with my friend William Forrestall's campaign (all the while my partner in crime kept the homefires flaming, thank you Jamer) and what's truly bizarre is that I don't have a clear feeling about how it's going to turn out. In fact, pundits are stating that this election is too close to call even at the provincial level. We're in for a long day and night. Both viable parties are tied in the polls.

Most people involved knew going into this that several swing ridings were going to be won due to the door to door work of the candidate. Given that many of the ridings had been re-jigged to accomodate population changes, polling isn't as accurate as it normally would be. On the ground candidate level, it seems that we have had to rely mostly on antecdotal stories. And if my team is reading it right, we have a good chance of taking this seat.

Too close to call elections usually bode well for accumulating voter public interest. Everyone normally likes to watch a dogfight. Yet, the public ennui is pathetically palpable. This election never seemed to catch fire except within the confines of the campaign teams during the strategic planning and decision making meetings held in the campaign headquarters. Unfortunately, I think that was the gameplan all along. It was provincially planned as an "under the radar" affair. Calling the election during the lazy dog days of August, and running it during the beginning of a new school year when most people are stretched to the limit with the added burdens of starting up various fall projects and activities, attention was elsewhere.

Usually there are a variety of local meet the candidate functions organized by different groups. Usually there are debates and showy rallies even at the local level. Usually one or two issues catch fire with the public. Not this time. It all seemed a wee bit haphazard from my perspective, while any defining issues were kept under the sheets prophylatically wrapped up in order to avoid potential damage control. Too bad...................there are many issues that could've been the spark to kindle this dogfight. Instead, most voters are heading to the polls asking themselves, "Do we really need a change of government or is the present one the lesser of two beige options?"

Yes, this election is a ho-hum affair when looking at it from a higher level. But, on the floor...... it's been a blast. It's been a long time since I was really and truly involved. I've reconnected with the loyal crew who have been running campaign offices and planning their candidates day to day schedules in the trenches. I've met new folks who are keen political animals who have rolled up their sleeves to focus on getting their candidate elected. Along the way, I've been able to throw my two cents into the mix using my writing and planning skills to help out Will. Writing his ads and brochure, helping him prepare for a taped speech, talking with him before and debriefing after an event, planning his Saturday morning gladhanding at the local market, attending a "walkabout" with the Premier and the local candidates, where my son ended up getting to ride in the "Big Blue Bus" with all of them............ Being in the thick of things has definately rekindled my political streak and my interest. It's good to be back in that milieu.

Tonight, the big screen TV will be set up in the Campaign headquarters. The whole "team" who havent congregated together since the beginning of the election while they assumed their roles, will assemble to watch the results. Talking strategy, enjoying the dogfight, hoping for a win, connecting for a moment in the history of this province. I'm looking forward to it.

My prediction? Bernard Lord's Tories will scrape to victory for their third term with 30 seats. Shawn Graham's Liberals will win 25. Alison Brewer and the New Democratic Party, a big fat zero. Both Graham and Brewer will be replaced by the next go around.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

God Made Me Funky

Actually, He didn't. I learned this last night. It's good to know. God made me many things, but not funky.

The Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival, an annual concertfest that transforms staid old Fredericton into a happening spot for a week every September, was in full swing last night. With 8 big tent venues, and entertaining buskers out in full force scattered all through the downtown core, people were out in droves to enjoy a beautiful early autumn night and to take in music that ranged from classical jazz to smokey New Orleans blues. Each tent has a theme........a large group of us dropped our kids off at one house and headed to the "Love ya Funky" venue to see the headline act "God Made Me Funky." Within a matter of seconds into the first song, I realized that I was in for a long night.

Normally if I'm attending something that I don't particularly enjoy, I can sneak into my head and entertain myself with my imagination.........kind of like Walter Mitty. But, the noise was so invasive that my usual coping mechanism failed me.

Loudly raucous with a deep pulsating bass beat that invaded my head and gut like a flashing strobe light............the band played on and on and on and on............... and all I could think of was:
"I'm not in Kansas anymore." Though I've never been to Kansas, it seemed apt. Yes, I was visiting an alien planet stuck in '70's funkytown timewarp. Problem was..........I was the alien.

I was surrounded by a large crowd of people who LOVED it. Sure there were the ones that were faking it and pretending to go with the flow of the funkydance. You know them........a couple of beats off in their dance groove...........standing a bit off to the side and smiling like they really arent sure, but not wanting to ruin the party. For the most part, however, the crowd lapped it all up..........couldn't get enough of the funkygroovethang. Since I was basically stuck there trying not to absord the hits to my nonfunkified system, I sat off to the side of the speakers on a picnic table and watched a diverse crowd jump, bounce, sway and get into the groove thing. Eternity came and went..............

Every once in a while, one should be bombarded with a personal revelation. Here's what I learned last night: God didn't make me funky. God didn't even give me the openness to appreciate funky. God made me the type of person that prefers listening to smooth sexy bluesy jazz sound found in a low key smoky bar.........a guitar, a background drum beat and a guy on the side playing a harmonica.

Hey! I'm so funkyfine with that!

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Firey Dance of Anger

I wrote most of this post last week, initially as a way to assess my own increasing level of anger over my situation at work where I'm feeling a great deal of stress. It sat as a draft until today when the ideas I had grew deeper. I have been involved in a train the trainer workshop this week on Family Violence and the Law and will be arranging a variety of workshops for the frontline staff I work with. Then, after the incident in Montreal yesterday, I thought it was time to complete it. It's interesting sometimes that a topic can surface in our thinking and then take on a life of it's own based on circumstances that feed it.

Are individuals apt to be more angry now than years ago? We seem to be a nation of angry people perpetuating an atmosphere of retribution. Our world is filled with enough rage to heat our homes and fill our gas tanks. Sure there are legitimate reasons to make the blood boil........corruption, violence, terrorism, injustice, discrimination, oppression, poverty, and the senseless atrocities associated with the abuse of power. Evil lurks out there.

What about the daily personal occurances that generate a flare up? Disrespect at work, a thoughtless remark, being ignored or slighted, communication breakdown, or complete misunderstanding of actions? These too trigger an outburst of anger adrenaline.

And then there are the trivial matters that can get under your skin. Can't find your keys again for the 10th time this week? Are you so busy that multi-tasking while making dinner confuses the wires in your brain that you end up forgetting an important ingredient? You've run out of laundry detergent, toilet paper, or dog food? Your favourite team starts tanking just before the play-offs? Someone has taken apart the newspaper before you're able to read it? Oh, the list can be ridiculously long.

Is anger ever helpful? Is there a time when feeling angry is a good thing? For the most part, it seems so destructive and counterproductive. It also seems like it has a tendancy to start as a piece of kindling that can easily turn into a blazing campfire, all within your belly. When anger is turned inward, it will be disguised as self-loathing, passive aggression, and sarcasm. In some cases when it is left to fester the implosion may result in suicide. And as we have witnessed again, in rare situations, it results in homicide. Rumination leads to depression. Bottled up up anger needs to go somewhere.............

When we let our anger out and direct it to others, we may feel good temporarily. But releasing anger inappropriately may also get us into trouble. Frequent temper tantrums may result in getting fired, while fistfights and assaults may land us in jail. Office rage, road rage, vandalism, and random violence are examples of anger out of control . We hear of them regularly. These are not random acts anymore. What do we do about this? Not only does it affect our personal health, it is wreaking havoc on our communities. The extreme was acted out at Dawson College.

So, whats the solution? Anger management is a cottage industry for counsellors and their ilk. Like an addiction, one can't force someone into anger management treatment if they havent wholeheartedly agreed to it. Any "programs" I have read or heard about seem too minimally basic. If someone is at a point in their lives when they need to learn to understand their uncontrollable anger, a weekly group session isn't going to cut it. Often, a person who is susceptible to expressing themselves violently has progressed over years to a point where they are a danger to the health of the people in their lives and to themselves. Also, like any profession, exceptional therapists with a deep understanding of the genesis of rage are few and far between.

The basic premise behind anger management is also full of faults. There is a belief that the expression of anger is lack of self-control. An individual not coping is a person who has allowed anger to control their actions and not visa versa. But isn't anger an inherent reaction to negative situations? Out of control expression of it is a complicated accumulation of negative situations. One does need new approaches to dealing with life...................relaxation techniques, understanding own triggers, understanding the connections between depression, anxiety and anger and consequently learning how to express it in an acceptably healthy manner. This takes more time and an open willingness to change than most people realize. Plus, it has to be accomplished all within the confines of the person's "world." That "world" (dysfunctional family, no friends/dysfunctional friends) isn't changing along with them. How impossible is that to try to make huge changes in your life all the while to try to fit into your world that perpetuates the dysfunctional coping mechanisms?

Is there a solution? Instead of looking at managing anger, what if we looked at transforming the anger? Can we find a way to use it to our advantage? Can the fire in the belly heat a transformation? Creativity, for example often stems from anger or sadness. Have you ever tried to write a poem when you're feeling euphoric? It's much easier to pound out the words when all flares are glowing. Some of the best ideas, the best inventions came out of the bowels of despair. Is success not the best revenge? It's definately the sweetest.

Activism and working towards social change is generated by the fire in the belly isn't it? Oppression often leads to "doing something about it" by both individuals and groups. How empowering. If there is a feeling of injustice, why not put the anger to work in a productive way instead of allowing it to lead you down the road to apathy? Anger can also renew the passion and human spirit. It's funny how those two seemingly diposed feelings are so linked. The depth of a passion is often so strong that it feels a bit like anger.

Personal pain can also transcend through spiritual endeavours, such as prayer, meditation, forgiveness and reconciliation. Remember Desmond Tutu? He developed a whole healing process for South Africa as an attempt to transform the pain that was inflicted through apartheid. If we perceive that we are no longer alone in our efforts to control anger, we can overcome the pain by relying on the hope of our faith. When spirituality is the foundation of our values, we have the chance to transform our anger into a sense of forgiveness. From anger comes serenity.................if its transformed and not managed.

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can And the wisdom to know the difference.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Senseless and Sad

As I start this post, one is dead, 6 critically injured, two of whom are on life support and 13 others are seriously injured after the killing spree at Dawson College in downtown Montreal. The media is full of stories and antecdotal information about the incident which occured yesterday afternoon........commentary, observations, debates on gun control have begun in earnest. This is the third such shooting in our beautiful city of Montreal since 1992 when a professor, Valeri Fabrikant, at Concordia University went on a shooting spree because he didn't get tenure. 17 years ago this December, Marc Lepine rampaged through Ecole Polytechnique purposefully targetting female students..................killing 14...........

Today we learn of the third sick man named Kimveer Gill. He was a 25 year old loner goth blogger who posted many photos on the net of himself holding a semi-automatic gun; who wrote about depression, death and destruction. Dressed in black, complete with trench coat and combat boots, Gill began his spree near the entrance doors of the college and continued to shoot randomly as he entered the building, spraying bullets up and down the hallways, in the cafeteria and up a set of stairs. No crazy yelling...... no accusations shouted aloud................he was in the zone..............killing.........innocents.

A tragic incident like this automatically steers us to others in the past.........places where families, friends and victims are still searching for answers..........Columbine, Taber to name just two. There aren't any. The "experts" will have a heyday attempting..........more books will be written on bullying..............more protests will occur over gun control (good!) ................ theories will abound. Though this sounds so defeatist, I don't believe there is an answer and if there is, well it's more complicated than looking at one issue as the cause.

Senseless and Sad..........................another senseless and sad incident..........with no explanations. Whether Kimveer Gill was inherently mentally ill or psychologically damaged from emotionally abusive events in his life...........I don't think this event could have been prevented. Our society seems to generate so many lost souls.

Unfortunately, we can't prevent evil from invading our world. This was a sick sick man who is now dead. His real story and psychological profile are gone with him.

Now we focus on the survivors and the wounded individuals fighting to live.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The 3 R's and then More........

“I told the children that I love my family first. And I love teaching second. They know all about my husband and kids because it’s important that they know me as a whole person, so you’ll probably hear stories about my family just like I hear stories about yours.”

I heard these words sitting at my son’s little desk in his Grade 4 classroom last night during “Meet the Teacher Night,” and it made me smile. So did the feeling of enthusiasm and genuine love of teaching exuding out of my son’s new teacher. A veteran of the school and someone whom I have worked with on several fundraising projects over the years, this woman is living her calling. And as she presented an overview of the expectations and curriculum for the year, it was plain to see that this little group of boys and girls was in for an inspirationally challenging year of learning. I could tell from the faces of every parent sitting at their child's desk that they were just as pleased.

Like teaching, most professions require pertinent aptitudes as well as an interest in the field as prerequisites. To be considered at the level of excellence however one has to have more than just the bare necessities. What does it take to be a top notch surgeon? A revered Minister? A well respected Counsellor? A well sought out Lawyer? An inspiring teacher? A talented Musician, Carpenter, Entrepreneur?

It’s not book smarts. It’s a magic inherent touch……’s a blend of intuitive awareness along with a desire to continue to hone one’s skills.

A mediocre teacher talks at you. A good teacher will take it a little farther and explain things……..and may even demonstrate new learning. A superior teacher? They inspire.
Teaching methods naturally flow in a way that doesn’t interfere with learning. In fact, the methods act as a conduit to awakening the spirit of learning. A superior teacher just gets it………..and really didn’t need to attend university to take the courses on curriculum development and learning theory. It’s in their blood.

23 children in this class…………all at different skill levels in reading, math, and science…….all living under different circumstances at home…….all different personalities, needs, abilities, interests…………all at varying abilities to focus, to learn, to absorb, and to grow this year. Over the year, there will be familial upheavals for some, illnesses for others………living both in and out of the classroom…….learning and growing both in and out of the classroom. The constant in their lives will be this woman who will greet them every morning with a familiar smile and routine, and will encourage them to write and read and share together. She will recognize their individuality as well as encourage team building all the while showing them how to respect and recognize their own talents as well as their classmates’. Her expectations for them are high. Yet, I have no doubt this class will embrace the challenges.
Why? Because they are already inspired.
Gee.................I didn't want to leave that classroom last night........

Monday, September 11, 2006

Praying Naked

Water Song by Felix Vigil, Jemez Pueblo, mixed media on canvas,
photo courtesy of Blue Rain Gallery, Taos, New Mexico.

When I pray for something, I do not pray
When I pray for nothing, I really pray.
Anthony de Mello

Like everyone, my thoughts today are on the 5th anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. What can be said that hasn't already been said? Why is this tragedy so raw in people's psyche still? There seems to have been no movement towards putting it to rest. 5 years later, the event feels like it occured just last week to many. The more I pondered this, the more I believe that it's because there has been no satisfactory conclusion. Bin Laden is still at large. Islamic terrorism continues to hover reinforcing the fear button in us, and will continue even after Bin Laden is finally captured. It's the world we live in.

As citizens of our global individuals who have no real power to turn the switch off to rid this world of evil................we must carry on living...........focusing on what we do have power over.......our awareness of ourselves and of the way we look at the world.

Last spring, I read a book entitled Praying Naked by Francis Stroud. It contains teachings originally written by Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest whose work continues to resonate 20 years after his death. I've written about it in the past, but I returned to it because of the messages it had on meditative prayer. I'm a firm believer that "life is 10% things that happen to you and 90% how you react to the 10%" it seemed like a good idea to remind myself that what I can control is my way of responding.

Events happen outside of yourself. Change happens from within. If we want change, if we want to alter our understanding of the world around us, we must focus on developing enlightenment from within. It's what we can control.....our awareness. Though we can learn from our past, our history, we can't change it. We need to focus on today, the present....a gift from God.

Take the time today to be still for a couple of clear your head of all cluttering thoughts. Focus on the sounds around you.....and on your aware of the fact that if you are focused on your own breathing and the various sounds around will begin to calm those ongoing thoughts and feelings related to all the external stress you may be absorbing.

These first few steps are the beginning of meditative prayer. How simple is that?
And to think all these years, I thought prayer was such a complicated ritual only performed before meals and in church, when in fact it is simply a way of silencing and calming all the "noises" at anytime..........a method of stripping away everything one can't change in order to become more awake to who we are.

I wish I had the ability to stop all rid the world of evil................. but it ain't gonna happen. What I can do, however is control how I respond and react to these events. I will take the time to day to remember the tragic events of 9-11 and all the events before and after it. Then at lunchtime today, I will head down to the river, which flows behind my office to breathe.

"A way of coming back to the harbour of ourselves is to ask who we are. It takes a whole lifetime to take your place in your own life. Solitude is given to you to receive yourself. Maybe dear friends it's time to illuminate God in the mirror of our souls?" This quote is one that captivated me when I first read the words last week. Thank you to Mr. Harbour himself for sharing his friend's wisdom.

I found the painting that I posted today on Tara's blog. She's a beautiful writer living in Paris and I've been reading her poems and musings for a couple of months. I'm often intrigued by her insights and by the stunning artwork she posts. Yesterday was her birthday and she posted this celebratory painting that I just loved. So, I decided I would borrow the painting too because it reminded me of a party. Today is my birthday...... It's a strange day to celebrate one's birthday......... but it's also a blessing because birthdays are a celebration of is beautiful art.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

To Market...................

Close to the centre of my little city of Fredericton is a special place that opens it's wares every Saturday morning all year long.......Boyce Farmer's Market. Like many towns and cities, it is where people congregate to buy locally grown or made products. But any market is much more than that. It is the historical touchstone of its community. It is the crossroads chosen by the residents that pulls together people from all corners of the area..............urban, rural, acadmic, blue collar, political,, artists, musicians, tourists, babies, families, entrepreneurs, students, kids, politicians. The Boyce Market represents the merging of the Saint John River Valley in a way that nothing else does.

I have always had a tendancy to gravitate to markets, most likely because I used to go with my parents many Saturdays to the Hamilton market when I was young. There we would be surrounded by wonderful Italian cheese and meats as well as the local produce.......the most amazingly juicy tomatoes grown anywhere. When I attended university in Kitchener-Waterloo, a city surrounded by Mennonite communities, I often headed there to taste such delicacies as shoo-fly pie and Oktoberfest sausages. As I travelled through Europe with my backpack, we would always make a bee-line to the city centre market to take in the multitude of colours and aromas of the local fare...........everything from cut flowers to freshly baked the unidentifiable meat hanging off hooks. Any time I visit a new city, I like to check it out. It tells you a great deal of the community and it allows you to meld into it, even for a brief moment, even as a tourist. So, for the past 19 years living in Fredericton, I have been a dedicated patron of the Boyce Market. It is the focal point of my Saturday morning routine.

Since this is true market season........let me take you on a tour. Early morning is best, before the crowds start to congregate. Crisp fall air, with a little big of fog hovering over the river.

Already there are wafting scents of sausages cooking on the Bar BQ's. We enter the outdoor section through "food alley" filled with multi-cultural vendors selling mouth watering scrumptious treats. Souvlaki pitas, samosas, falafels, German and Italian sausages, waffles made right in front of you with maple syrup drizzled on top and a sprinking of icing sugar, wantons, spring rolls, bears claws (fried dough sprinkled in cinammon).......... there's a busker guy playing to the crowd. He's known around town as an Elvis impersonator for hire (he's been known to arrive at an office for a birthday seranade all dressed in Elvis regalia) On Sundays, he's a preacher and on Monday nights, he opens the door of his multi-denominational church to the homeless and offers up a social evening of good cheer. "Mike" is the first of many characters at my market.

Usually I stop to chat with Joey. She's from Thailand and used to work with my husband at the University. Joey sells the best spring rolls and noodles. Her piece de resistance are thinly sliced sweet potatoes dipped in a secret batter and deep fried. Yummy. Joey has a soft spot for my daughter Martha because about 5 years ago, I lost her in the crowd for a scary 15 minutes. As a group of us rushed through the market searching for her, my daughter made her way back to Joey's stall because she knew she could trust her and knew that Joey would look after her. Since then, Joey always fills a little bag full of sweet potatoes for "her girl" to take home.

Once past food alley, you enter a square that is set up in three rows of vendors selling everything from fall mum plants that are bigger than your arms can hold, to gladiolas of all shades, to fresh local blueberries and crunchy MacIntosh apples, gourds, multi-coloured hand knit hats and sweaters, tie-dyed shirts and skirts and baby clothes, tole painted garden ornaments, jams, jellies and homemade purses.........herbs and cut flowers............ kindling, and four foot high cut sunflowers. Of course, and most importantly there are the farmer's stalls heaped high with summer's best. This is where you would find my friend Finnan wearing a baseball cap decorated with a cabbage leaf on top of it. He's selling carrots, "air cooled" corn and of course cabbage along with a host of other fall vegetables. His outgoing friendly banter and his absurd headgear often creates a line up at his stall. One Saturday last year, he decided to adorn every kid's head that he could get his hands on with a cabbage no time the Market was filled with children proudly walking around showing off their new fashion accessory. He has a way with kids even though he won't admit it.

Inside the building that was built in 1951 specifically to be used as a Market, you will find two large rooms filled with an array of goods too numerous to mention. It's a combination of artisans, jewelry makings, photographers intermixed with a terrific cheese stall that has been run by the same family since I started going.

Several bake tables displaying pies, squares, cookies, cinammon buns and elaborate pastries await the market produce, meat and seafood, greek baklava, bread, apple cider, samosas, a small section for a restaurant, fruit smoothies, a couple of tables of "flea market stuff," quilts, lamps with beautifully designed shades.....................all are there for admiring, and purchasing.

I love the multi-sensory feel to the place..........the colourful chatter and busyness feeds my attachment to living in Fredericton. It is always lively. It always resonates with the seasons and with the events that are unfolding in the area. Today for example, the university students have returned. It's Frosh week, so the students are out in small armies collecting money for annual fundraiser to collect money for Cystic Fybrosis. Candidates for the upcoming provincial election are strolling through talking to patrons and passing out buttons and brochures. There's a stall set up selling tickets to next week's Harvest Jazz and Blues Fest, an annual bash that transforms the downtown core (and the Market at night) into a festival of music. I like the fact that this place is reliably constant, but has a fluidity of new to it as well.

Markets often define the community.............for Fredericton, it is a snapshot of our history, and it is the link between urban and rural. It has been going on in this city since the early 1800's in different locales all within walking distance of the present location. And as it continues to evolve, I will continue take it all in.................wanna join me?