PHSS Class of 2018 – Kimmy has Graduated!

June was a very exciting month in our family (more on that here).

June 27 marked a special day as Kimberly completed her secondary education and graduated from Pender Harbour Elementary-Secondary School.

It was my honour to deliver a message from the school board, I’ve posted it below.

This photo was taken by Carly Fielding, I’ve scooped it from her Instagram. I was standing in the receiving line, so it a bit difficult to snap a shot.

I’m very proud of Kim for completing this portion of her education. As she spent her grade eleven year in the Netherlands, Kim compressed three years of high school into two. It was a challenging journey and not always easy but, with the help of the Pender Harbour staff and hard work, she made it happen. Congratulations, Kim.

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Here’s my address:

On behalf of the Board of Education of School District 46, Sunshine Coast, I bring greetings and congratulations to the 2018 graduating class of Pender Harbour Elementary-Secondary School.

The board and staff love this time of year.   We celebrate your achievements and educational journey to this moment and, along with your community, wish you well for your next steps.   Pender Harbour and Egmont are very special places and you have made it better by your dedication to this community.

The Pender Harbour and Egmont Community has been incredibly generous to this class – cheering on at soccer, basketball and rugby, attending concerts and performances, donating their time, energy, bottles and money to help these students not only make it to the stage, but follow their dreams after.   Thank you all for all you do to support PHSS youth.

To the staff at PHSS, and all the way back to Serendipity with Gwen and Patricia, MPES days with Mrs. Stinson and Mrs. Kammerle, thank you for all you have done for these young adults.  Your efforts have been so appreciated.

To switch gears slightly, I’ll tilt my trustee hat back and be a mom.   This class has a special place in my  heart.   Having known many of you since baby drop-in and preschool days, one of you a bit longer, you’ve become part of our family and your parents have all become friends, or rather “comrades-in-arms” as we have navigated these past years.   These are our Y2K babies – the children that arrived after the apocalypse that was going to end civilization as we know it.   And to paraphrase Ian’s speech from last night, this group has been .. interesting? difficult? challenging?

The best anecdote to describe this class happened earlier today.   I called Kim at 11:40am to find out where she was, as time was running out to leave home to be at the high school for 12:30pm.   Her answer?  “I’m in Roberts Creek.”   That’s a forty-five minute drive away from the school, plus time to stop at home and get dressed and ready.

While thinking about what to say today, there were two themes that popped up for me.

The first is this – the beautiful welcome that was installed earlier this month has a wolf carved at its base.   Our Master Carver Arnold Jones chose the wolf with the graduating class as their symbol.

The wolf itself is a symbol of loyalty, intuition, intelligence, independence, compassion and communication, all qualities exemplified in this group.   The wolf may have a reputation as being a solitary creature as in “the lone wolf” due to its independent nature, but is actually a very social and communicative creature.     And as Tami describes the wolf on the welcome pole “it was difficult to emerge from the wood”.   It needed to come out in its own time.   This is so true of this group.

The second thing is this.   It is a tradition at Pender that grade 7 students write a letter to their future graduating self.  These letters were delivered last night at banquet.  In kim’s was her letter, a 2007 penny, a photo of herself, a coupe of other items and a fortune from a fortune cookie that read, “You will earn success at whatever you attempt”.   This is so true.   Show up and work hard for what you want and you will achieve your goals.   So often fear, self-doubt or external voices creep in and shut you down before you begin.  If you attempt something, work at it and you will be able to accomplish great things.    Whether it be veterinary, teaching, driving truck, logging, fishing, anything you choose to do.    This is growth mindset.

You’ve already accomplished amazing things – some of you have spent a year away, learning other languages and cultures; a couple of you have helped build a school in Ecuador.  We have volunteer firefighters, peer mentors, and just enjoyable human beings here, pushing the envelope, challenging the status quo, questioning things that do not make sense.   Please continue to do this as you venture into your steps.

Thank you for being unapologetically and unabashedly yourselves.

Go continue to be amazing.

Congratulations.

June 2018 – a Month of Celebration!

The graphic above says it all! (Credit to Brian Lee of the Harbour Spiel).

Carly completed her Bachelor of Business Administration- Marketing degree through Mount Royal University in Calgary, with a double minor in Social Innovation and Non Profit AND Innovation and Entrepreneurship in December 2017 and her convocation was June 1.

Kim graduated from Pender Harbour Secondary, receiving several bursaries from the community for post-Secondary. Kim was accepted at several universities and decided to pursue a degree in Education at the University of Victoria.

Michelle successfully completed the Carpentry Train in Trades Program, receiving first year university credits and credits for high school. The Train in Trades Programs are a partnership between School District 46 and Vancouver Island University. The Carpentry program has an additional partner with Habitat for Humanity- Sunshine Coast. Michelle still has one year of high school left, as she completed this program during her second half of her grade eleven year.

Thank you to all of Carly, Kim and Michelle’s family, friends, teachers and community that have helped them to achieve these goals – from housing to driving to tutoring to helping keep their mama sane, your support has been very appreciated. Thank you.

We’re very proud of these young women. Please wish them congratulations the next time you see them.

Waste Management – Diversion or Aversion?

I attended the Infrastructure Services Committee Meeting at the Sunshine Coast Regional District on May 17.   Agenda items included water (a future blog post on that topic) and an update on the 2011 Solid Waste Management Plan, specifically on waste diversion.  (Full agenda here)    Waste diversion has essentially flatlined for a number of years, and is falling far behind the five year goals set in the SWMP.  The Plan Monitoring Advisory Committee has become defunct in recent months with no renewal of the SWMP in process.

With the Sunshine Coast’s landfill nearing capacity at an alarming rate, more must be done to combat the flow of refuse locally.

When you couple our community’s stagnant waste diversion rate with shocking images in the June 2018 issue of National Geographic: Planet or Plastic? ,  you can see the global crisis we are facing.     The issue is dedicated to bringing awareness and inspiring action in regards to the discarded plastics catastrophe our world is facing.    The magazine has also pledged to discontinue its use of a plastic wrap for new issues.  Hopefully, other publications will follow suit.   Or maybe consumers will choose to read the electronic versions instead.

And it ultimately comes down to choice – as individuals, we can say no to the single-use items or be prepared with reusable items.   Reducing what we consume and reusing what we already have goes a long way to combating the waste we generate.   Aversion to single use negates the need to divert.   

Local Governments need to take a strong leadership role; they are on the front lines of waste management and can be the most effective agents for change.   Saskatoon has recently banned plastic bags (including plastic film wraps, food packaging and bread bags) from recycling bins as it’s becoming increasingly difficult for their contracted disposal companies to find markets accepting these types of plastics.  There is a concern that these soft plastics will now hit the landfill even with an aim of 70% solid waste diversion by 2023.     Victoria has gone further, banning businesses from offering single use bags starting July 1, 2018.  They’re being tested on the legality of the ban by the Canadian Plastics Association.   Many other jurisdictions are watching with interest to see how the courts will rule, but Vancouver has chosen to move ahead with a more comprehensive ban including plastic straws and foam take-out containers for food and beverages.

Hopefully, the leadership taken by Victoria and Vancouver city councils will be followed by other municipal leaders.  We are out of time for planning, we need action.

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What can you do?
  • VOTE.  BC Municipal Elections are coming up this October.   Find candidates that will take lead your community to find better solid waste solutions.     Or put your name forward as a candidate.   That’s what I’m doing – running in Halfmoon Bay for Sunshine Coast Regional District Director.
  • There are small things we can do to cut out the use of disposable products in our daily routines with planning ahead and reusing items already in our homes.   Here’s a great article showcasing some small steps to start you on the plastic-free path.
  • Zero Waste Canada has some great resources to help with your choices:
  • And if you do have to use and recycle, here’s our local SCRD Recycling Brochure
Links from above:

Wedding Bells

One of my best friends married her amazing partner this past weekend.  They are fantastic people and I love them dearly.     She “allowed” me to speak at the reception so I wrote a special poem for the two of them.  

Ballad of Tracey and Cam

‘Twas once upon an October night

Dark and stormy, no moon for light

When Tracey and Cam met by chance

In Roberts Creek Hall at a Halloween dance. 

Who knew such a relationship could come forth

When a blonde belly dancer from the Harbour up North

Met a questionable ginger from the city

With coke bottle glasses, wig and teeth not so pretty. 

Though first contact elicited a spark

A few weeks went by with no remark

Until one day a text did appear

Asking if TLG knew someone Cam worked near 

Thus started this couple that we all know 

A blossoming romance began to grow

Snowshoeing dates and chocolate fondue

Cypress, Dakota Ridge and other areas too. 

From the North Shore to the far reach of the Bay of Lee

Cam did venture to meet the children of Tracey 

The adventures continued through with this group of four

And then one day they decided they wanted more 

The time had come to find a home for them all to stay
They looked far and low and decided on Halfmoon Bay

Cam’s commute continued into the city 

He sucked up those early morning drives, didn’t expect any pity 

The family grew further with Wendy the cat 

A dog named Baxter who yes, only “weighs 50 pounds”,flat

With Johnny, Sarah, the pets made it six strong

Cam and Tracey decided there should be one more to come along

And Miss Piper arrived a few days early in August. 

Then Cam thought it was time to make his woman honest. 

When I learned Cam asked Tracey to be his bride

I’ll admit I did more than tear up, I full out cried. 

This man and this woman, a more perfect pair cannot be found

They laugh, are good friends at home and baseball mound. 

And while Cam may have shirts that proclaim we “suck this much” 

We know how large his heart is, its bounds you cannot touch. 

Tracey is our best friend, a vault and Nana’s princess 

Every piece of advice she gives, not a word she minces. 

With all these words, I ask you to raise glasses in toast

For our dear friends, this family we love most. 

To Cam and Tracey, may the life you’ve found with each other 

Be colourful, joyful, crazy- not a feeling should you smother. 

We celebrate your love on this day full of romances 

And Thank God for Roberts Creek Halloween dances. 

Lessons from Amanda 

I lost a cousin to cancer on April 11, 2005. She was twenty-three years old.  Incredibly young.  Amanda fought cancer valiantly and we actually thought she had it beat at least once.  Sadly, it was not to be the case and the tumours ravaged her body, taking control of her organs and systems.  

I’ll always remember the last time I spoke with Amanda.  It was a few months before she died, and she knew her prognosis was terminal.  She was taking the time to call and say goodbye.     I was in complete denial, staying upbeat and cheery “you’ll get better”, continuing to prepare a dinner of rice and steamed veggies for my family.  Amanda is my first thought every time I use that rice cooker, the memory of our last conversation replaying in my head.    Regret fills me, as all I could talk about was the journal I had sent for her to write in, but not hear her tell me she was too weak and had no desire to write.  I burned myself using the rice cooker, the steam scorching my bare hand, making it necessary to cut our conversation short.

Even with such a short life, she left a legacy in our family.   Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned from her.

  • Find the beauty.  My aunt Shelley, Amanda’s mom, has a beautiful recollection of the peace in Amanda’s room as she took her last breaths.  The calm in the room offered solace to those who entered, whether in grief or as part of their employment.  Nurses, family and friends all felt the solemn grace.   Beauty can be found in even the most difficult situations.
  • Let go of the baggage – Don’t take it with you.  Amanda’s tumour had gotten quite large before she died, even earning itself a name.   It was important to her to not be buried with her and her last request was to have it removed after she passed.   Whether your tumours are literal masses attached to your body or figurative emotions, hurts and chattels your mind festers upon, they become cancerous to your well-being. The person who cut you off in traffic, your husband’s dirty clothes all over the bedroom, the friend who gossips about you…   Let them go.
  • Listen to what people are saying.  Hear them.  You may never have the chance to speak with them again. I would give anything to turn back the years to that last phone call.   I would have walked away from the kitchen and spent a few uninterrupted moments with my cousin’s voice.   Hear her say goodbye.   And talk about anything she wanted to tell me.
  • Take time to Remember – after Amanda died and her apartment was being cleaned out, the family kept finding pennies everywhere.  Apparently, before she died, she joked that she would continue to visit.   The sheer volume of pennies gave birth to the family axiom that every time you find a penny, someone in heaven was thinking about you.
  • Life is short.  This reflection not only comes from my cousin, but from other young (and older) people lost in my circle.   Love, dance, sing… enjoy the time you have.  Hug your children, your sister, call your best friend.  Visit your grandmother.  Sightsee.   Laugh.  Get the dragonfly tattoo.

While it has been twelve years since she passed, it feels like only minutes have passed.  Thank you for your legacy, Amanda.

Repurposing America’s Oldest Mall

The oldest indoor shopping mall in the US has been repurposed  from stores to tiny homes.    The Arcade Mall, located in Providence, Rhode Island, has a waiting list for the forty-eight micro lofts.

The main level of the mall contains boutique shops and the housing units are on the second and third floors.  The resulting effect is a calm indoor ‘avenue’ of shopping and residences.

Developer Evan Granoff had a few challenges through the process, including the issue of cooking facilities.   When city ordinances didn’t allow for cooking facilities due to the size of space, Granoff registered the property as a co-housing  facility, which allowed for convection microwaves.   Residents find it to be an acceptable compromise as they can easily purchase meals on the lower level of the mall or create simple menus within their space if they are home or dine in one of the many local restaurants in the Providence downtown area.

Quite the interesting endeavour.   It’s certainly worth the few minutes to watch the video at the end of this post.

People talk about saving historic buildings, but often the only way to save them is to make them economically viable.   – Evan Granoff

The concept of adaptive reuse – repurposing unused buildings into usable facilities-  has been around for some time.  Developing standing buildings – such as warehouses, mills and distilleries-  into homes not only minimizes urban sprawl, it reduces the waste created by demolishing and constructing new structures.    There are issues that can occur; modernizing electrical, plumbing, and internal structure while ensuring any harmful chemicals such as asbestos are not within walls coupled with zoning and local bylaws that will allow for changes to the original building.    Not an easy task.  But if you look at some of the links below,  you’ll see some pretty amazing spaces with incredible architecture.

Unusual Buildings Converted in to Spectacular Homes

Architectural Digest Gallery of Converted Spaces

 

 

For additional reading:

Adaptive Reuse 

Business Insider – Oldest Shopping Mall in America

Historic Buildings Modern Uses – Saskatchewan

Historic Places:  Affordable Housing and Neighbourhood Improvements in Canada

Unusual Buildings Converted in to Spectacular Homes

Architectural Digest Gallery of Converted Spaces

 

In Memory of Shawn 

I lost a dear friend to suicide in 2016.   He was married to my best friend and the father to five amazing children and adoptive father to a truly gentle soul.

Shawn was not an easy person to know.   Years of a troubled childhood had made Shawn prickly and closed.  He allowed very few people to get close to him, and I was lucky enough to only see the gentleman he could be. He was a big brother, a protective man who always looked out for me.

Over the years, there were subtle changes in his behaviours. Or rather, as I saw him infrequently and he could easily hide these changes from me, they appeared subtle.  He became sullen and closed, his temper volatile and unpredictable. The family he adored was no longer a treasure but a burden he could not handle.

When Shawn walked away from his family,  he was angry and resented the life he felt had trapped him.   The details in the months away are sketchy; a few accounts from those around him paint a wildly partying life, full of travels.   During this period, he attempted suicide at least twice and was eventually located by police to be admitted to an Albertan mental health facility for observation and assessment.

After just over a month, he was released in early January.   And promptly disappeared.   The remaining weeks of his life were a mystery to his family until after his body was discovered in April.   From there, they discovered how he had been living at a childhood friend’s home since his release, having no support from the health industry due to “just missing” a diagnosis of bi-polar disorder.  There were other mental health concerns but inconclusive diagnoses did not support further treatment.   Shawn was ready for help but nothing was available within the provincial health care system.

Suicide follows the surviving family.  It becomes the unspoken topic when you are with friends, the whispered conversations of neighbours. The spouse and children feel as they are under constant scrutiny and every movement is being questioned, studied and judged against the deceased’s actions.   As my best friend says, “It is the White Elephant we cannot escape.”

Mental health issues are becoming more widely spoken of, yet they are still not supported and treated with the same seriousness as physical maladies.   Lack of understanding and stigma within the general populace, insufficient funding and structure from government agencies, and stretched front line workers add up to a vacuum of support for affected citizens.

It’s time to get beyond the stigmas, silences and sideways glances.

Whispers don’t save lives.  Speak up and OUT LOUD.

Reach out.

#mentalhealth

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Need help for you or a loved one?

Centre for Suicide Prevention   https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resources/

Canadian Mental Health Association  http://www.cmha.ca/

Alberta Health Services http://www.albertahealthservices.ca/amh/amh.aspx

British Columbia Mental Health http://www.bcmhsus.ca/

 

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Additional reading: Alberta suicide rates remain high despite ‘encouraging’ 20% drop – (from CBC.ca Dec. 14, 2016)