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.

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.

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)

 

Bring on the Sparkle

I have some HUGE news on a couple of fronts!  I am very excited to share it with you. One of my friends always tells me I don’t share my “sparkle” enough, so you’re in for a healthy dose this morning! 

  1. I’ll be presenting at PowHERtalks this Sunday October 2nd in Calgary.  I’m honoured to be the “closer”, the last speaker on the program.   The topic of my PowHERtalk is “Taking the Ick out of Politics”. I want to change the Political landscape in Canada by encouraging  more women to run for elected office and to follow my own vision of a more collaborative Canada at the highest levels of government. You can find more information at: PowHERtalks Calgary .  There are a limited amount of tickets still available of you’re free this Sunday!   Videos of the Calgary PowHERtalks will be available in a few weeks if you can’t make it this weekend.  I’ll share the transcript of my PowHERtalk after Sunday. 
  2. I am thrilled to announce I’ve received my license as a REALTOR(r) in BC!    I am working with the tremendous team of Royal LePage Sussex, based out of the Sechelt office.   It’s been an exciting and challenging time as I’ve worked through the course and exam.     And here I am!  

Thrilling times ahead, and this is only a piece of what’s going on.  Can’t wait to see what sparkles next.  😉 

All the best,

Lori 

Consent Awareness 

Raising awareness about consent. Red light, green light at U of Calgary.

CBC’s Coverage of University of Calgary’s Consent Awareness Campaign

Wow.
I’m happy a university took it upon themselves to hold an event of this scale to bring awareness to the definitions of two of the shortest words in the English language, the concepts of which are pretty definite.

If you detect a small amount of sarcasm,
I am saddened that IN 2016, we have to teach how NOT TO GET RAPED.

How NO means NO. Not maybe. Not later.

That CONSENT means the object of your amorous advances says YES and AGREES to allow you to touch them.

Do you want to go skydiving? No. Then I won’t drag you on to the plane, strap a parachute on you (or not) and throw you out.

Do you want to have tea? Yes. But I only want a bit, and I like it plain.

Would you like this sandwich? Yes.   Wait,  I’m not comfortable having  more than this half.  Stop trying to feed me more!

Consent means agreement to do something.  If the person changes their mind, consent is no longer valid.

It it crucial to educate what consent  IS in an era when misogynistic judges reward convicted rapists with paltry sentences so as to not “ruin their futures”.  There is little justice for perpetrators and even less reporting due to shame and fear of repercussions for victims.

It’s great to see initiatives like U of C’s to bring awareness to this issue, especially on a large scale, collaborative manner and involving new students.

But my heart still hurts and worries for my daughters’ safety in today’s world.

Lest We Forget

During World War Two, my daughters’ great uncle was captured after his plane went down in the European countryside.   He was held in a prisoner of war camp until he and a fellow Allied soldier escaped.

After a fortnight of dodging German troops in the marshy swampland, they eventually found passage over to England.

A short time was spent recuperating in England, and then he was released home to Canada.   Arriving first in the United States, up to Ontario and then home to Vancouver Island, the record of his journey home appears relatively uneventful.

Only a few hours after his arrival to his parents’ homestead, his mother discovered that he had taken his life in his childhood bedroom.  It was June 1st, 1945.

The inquest after his death revealed that he received no greeting from The Red Cross, which handled the repatriation and “welcome Home” aspect of Veteran’s Services at that time.

Medals awarded, both posthumous and prior to his death proved his bravery and service to country.    A model soldier, a hero.  Lost.

This year, lest we forget our heroes that have returned home safe, yet not fully sound. They still live with images and memories that will not dissipate with the passage of time.  We have soldiers that are hurting, and they must be helped.   And never forgotten.

Canadian Armed Forces has a section of their website dedicated to this issue:

Suicide and suicide prevention in the Canadian Armed Forces

There is an effort to remember those lost;  Renata D’Aliesio’s article last week in the Globe and Mail tells of the “Soldiers of Suicide” Memorial.

Military memorial commemorates Canada’s soldiers of suicide

You can also find out more on Honour Our Canadian Soldiers

Alison Howell’s article in the Globe and Mail today discusses the need to for our new government to further support Veterans on their return home in the modern age.

For my children – the link to your uncle’s name in the WWII Book of Remembrance.

WWII Page 514

My Parents

October 10,2015, marked my parents’ 45th wedding anniversary. Their ceremony was held in a beautiful stone church in Red Deer, Alberta, and they were surrounded by their closest friends and family.

Carol and Art are both humble and do not like the spotlight, but as their daughter, I feel that it is necessary to share a bit of why I think they are incredible.

Mom and Dad are the first-born of their respective families; Mom of six and Dad of seven. I know how much their siblings look up to them as I see and feel the admiration through my relationships with my aunts and uncles.  

Growing up, I did not always appreciate the good parenting I received.  As a mother of three teenage daughters, I now wonder how my parents dealt with their troublesome offspring with such patience. 

They both have incredible hearts and show their love quietly through their actions. My dad can always be counted on to ensure that my oil is changed and that my van is in working order. Dad volunteers in many aspects of the community to help those in need of assistance. He is one of the most intelligent people I know 
Mom is patient and kind; she is one of the nicest people I know.  She is a caretaker, whether it be a member of her family or a neighbour in need.  Any friend I’ve ever brought home is always welcomed (and most often fed as well). 

They are the most amazing grandparents to my daughters. My kids love visiting the farm, meeting extended family and joking with dad’s coffee buddies. 

I am so proud to call them mom and dad.

I love you both.  

  
   
 

That Woman

I was speaking on the phone with a young woman yesterday and after we said goodbye, but before the connection was broken, I heard the young woman declare to her companion (to whom I had spoken with as well), “I just love that woman”.

Wow, I thought. That is quite touching. It’s neat to hear someone proclaim their affection for you when they think you’re not listening.

Then I started thinking about how incredible it is to have this young woman think so highly of me. She is a very talented athlete, humourous, intelligent and a personable human being. She is highly loyal to her friends and can be trusted to look after her responsibilities.

The companion she had with her is an amazing person as well- she’s a champion of the environment with high political aspirations, witty and intelligent.

I am quite proud of these ladies; it’s always a pleasure to spend time with them and hear about what’s going on in their lives.

So who were these young women that were on this call with me?

My daughters- Kim and Michelle.

My 30 Day Challenge(s)

A friend of mine recently completed the 30 Day Vegan Challenge. 30 days of all vegan cuisine, focusing on local ingredients.

Listening to her story on how the challenge helped her to curb her candy addiction made me start thinking about accepting a challenge of my own. Thirty days to a new habit… I can do that! But there are so many other things that I need to cut out or start doing in my life. Where to begin?

Vegan?!?! No way! I enjoy my steak too much. Plus, my daughter just found a great recipe for beef jerky. And bacon is a food group of its own. I decided to pick three or four things that would help to improve my health, creativity and contentment.

Last Sunday, I gave up bread. Why give up bread? There are too many times that I end the day with “did I even eat any vegetables or fruit?”

And it’s been okay so far. I made Kale Chips for the first time today and we inhaled them. Amazing! I am now on Day 8, with only one slip up on Tuesday last week – I made scones for a meeting, and I can’t let baked goods leave my home without the obligatory taste test. Quality control, really.

But it’s such a hard food to kick. One of my best friends is allergic to gluten, and I don’t know HOW she survives. I’m just committing to omitting bread and wheat for a few days; I can’t imagine trying to avoid it for the rest of my life.
… I keep thinking of the pita bread in the freezer screaming to be made in to chips to have with homemade humus… yum… .. 22 days..

So what’s next? This week begins with a more active habit. Rather than ‘stopping’ something, I’ll add to my week by ‘starting’ something. This means I will walk or run everyday. I was in a fairly regular routine before the summer began, but it fell off. I sporadically ran or walked during the summer and need to get back to the routine by getting out daily.

The two weeks after will be my blogging and “random acts of kindness” in some order. I have been starting to blog more regularly, which is better than the monthly/bi-monthly/once-in-a-while that I’ve been posting in the past. The concept of “random acts of kindness” is one that’s always intrigued me. I have always done nice things for others, but true “ROAK” has anonymity at its core.

Wish me luck!

What would you challenge yourself to do for 30 days?