my_flag

Ottawa Strong

My new part-time job is as a workshop presenter with Scientists in Schools.  My first day visiting a school, the school went into “Shelter-in-Place” mode.  Yep, I was in a school near downtown Ottawa last Wednesday while the gunman was on the loose.  My first day “on the job,” as it were.  And we had a “shooter” situation.  Murphy’s Law, right?

Luckily I wasn’t actually giving the presentation.  I was just observing.  On the job training, if you will.  The actual presenter soldiered on like nothing untoward was happening.

As my 2-hour parking permit was about to expire, the principal escorted me out of the school (to move my car) after a while.  This school is in a  neighbourhood where parking comes at a premium and even the paid municipal lots have a two-hour limit.  At the door the lady principal turned to me and said, “I just need to apprise you of what the situation is.  Then you can decide whether you want to go out there or not….  at your own risk.”  My own risk.  Of course.

After listening (and inwardly rolling my eyes once or twice – at this point no one really knew ANYTHING about what was going on, so her warnings were exceedingly vague), I was left thinking  “Hmmm, shooter, or parking ticket….  Shooter, or parking ticket….  Shooter or…”  A typical City of Ottawa parking ticket is $50.  At least.  Then the principal informed me that “the situation” she was filling me in on (if you could call it that) was actually happening on Parliament Hill.  That’s at least 5 kilometres away, I thought.

Of course, I took the chance and ventured out.  I really hate parking tickets.  And, really, what are the chances, right?   There’s a crazy guy downtown, but I’m a good two miles away.

It was 11 AM on a Wednesday, a day of beautiful fall weather.  I was in the Glebe, a gentrified neighbourhood in central Ottawa.  And the streets were completely deserted.  Nobody was meandering in and out of the trendy shops, toting their shopping.  Nobody was out raking leaves.  The front windows of the large heritage homes stared at me expressionlessly.  Playground swings blew in the wind, empty, while the kids were left missing recess and going squirrely inside the locked schools.   The whole neighbourhood was shatteringly silent.  It really was scary.

I guess it was about then that I started to clue-in that something pretty big really had happened in my hometown that day.   I decided to resist tuning into the news, at least until later.  I didn’t want to make myself so freaked out that I’d be too scared to walk back to the school.

When I did get back to the school, the presenter had finished the workshop.  The parent volunteers were leaving.  The teacher was gone on her lunch break.  The group of grade threes we’d been visiting had descended into the chaos of a boisterous (and fairly destructive-looking) indoor nutrition break.  I helped the presenter pack up and lug all her stuff back down to the entrance, where I was, once again, shown out by the still vigilant principal.

On the way home I tuned into the radio.  I quickly learned why the streets were so quiet.  Police asked people in the downtown core to stay indoors and – if at all possible – out of their way.  At lunchtime that day most people still didn’t know the full extent of what had happened and the rumour mill was busy filling in the gaps in our knowledge.  Was there one shooter or several?  Was there a car jacking?  After what all sources agreed had happened at out National War Memorial, had someone then subsequently been shot at, or near, the RIdeau Centre?

As it turned, my presenter colleague and I had been lucky to get out of the school at all.  At some schools and daycares no one was permitted in or out for several hours.  Schools in the heart of downtown Ottawa went into a full-on “Lockdown” mode, with classroom doors locked and students and staff left cowering silently under desks.  One friend of mine joked that her son’s class at Lisgar High School (in the downtown core) was finally served leftover sausages (somehow funnelled to his classroom from the cafeteria) at about 3PM.

For those of you who still don’t know what happened here, an unarmed honour guard at our National War Memorial, one Corporal Nathan Cirillo, was fatally shot.  The killer then, somehow or another, made his way un-impeded several more blocks to our Parliament buildings, where he managed to enter Centre Block with his rifle and walk quite a ways down the hall before being blown away by House of Common’s Seargent-at-Arms, Kevin Vickers.  No doubt Mr. Shooter then immediately ascended to Valhalla or wherever and got right down to business with his seven bearded transversite virgins (the only volunteers they could find for the job).  Or whatever.

It is a little difficult to understand the police statement that a person could do something like this “because of their religious views” and not be psycho, ’cause – wow – sorry, Mr. Shooter, we all think that’s craaaazy.  In fact, I think having religious views that are psycho probably SHOULD be deemed some sort of mental illness.  And I still can’t see 40 dead virgins of any stripe eagerly volunteering to play hide the hotdog and fulfill all this guy’s fantasies.

Do these guys even believe stuff like that or is it just another one of those baseless urban legends, like the white van that kidnaps all the kids?  Surely – whether you pray saying Allah or God the Father  – it’s the same guy, and we all agree that life is His greatest gift to us.  One not to squandered lightly in favour of some half-baked fairytale.

In any event, Parliamentarians, aides, reporters, students, and tourists alike huddled for hours in rooms with furniture stacked against the doors that day.  While they stewed, many of them got ready to run the bad guys through with flagpoles, bop them on the head with barrels of apples, or use whatever else at hand to protect themselves and each other.  Meanwhile, the RCMP slowly cleared the area, methodically visiting every office and cupboard.  A door to door inventory of Parliament.  At every turn they checked – friend or foe?  Friend or foe?

Later we heard that the whole incident was the work of the lone gunman who died in the hallways of Parliament.  But that day, for many hours, no one was sure.  Every place that could be a target of any coordinated, concerted effort to attack our nation’s capital was on high alert.  That means military bases, government buildings, schools, bridges, and any place else Canadians may congregate in large numbers.

A special point of concern, for all of us, was our schools.  I know I speak for every parent in the City when I say our most precious possessions can be found there.  Hearing the schools were in “Secure” or “Shelter-in-Place” mode until further notice that day gave us all that extra twinge of anxiety.  What if…?

And, of course, we were grateful to know our schools had a plan and our children were with people who care about them every bit as much as we do.  So today I’d like to say thank you to my children’s teachers.  Thank you for watching over them, explaining what you could, and keeping them safe until they were able to return to us again.

My husband’s in a sensitive industry too.  I can definitely imagine terrorists wanting to strike the place where so many smart people invent so much technology to protect our airspace and waters and to aid in monitoring and defending our borders.  And so – when I got back and found him still at home – I didn’t want BG to go to work at all . Afterall, I saw Terminator II: Judgement Day in the theatre when it came out!  But go to work he did, and, so, I’d also like to thank whoever it was who had the good sense to send everyone home from that office for the day.  BG would’ve been too pigheaded to do that on his own.  So Thank you too.

And here’s the funny thing about the citizens of Ottawa, and perhaps Canadians in general:  we refuse to be cowed by bullies.  We learned that our children would be permitted to leave school at the usual time.  We met them there and then – taking our cues from one another – the silent decision was that we would all stay and let them play in the park.  Just like we always do.

I felt kinda proud to be at the park with my fellow Canadians, my fellow parents, and my neighbours that day.  It felt like we were making a statement of some sort.

I will tell you something else.  My prediction is – much as there is a lot of discussion about tightening up security on Parliament Hill in the wake of the tragedy – nothing major will change for us.  Canadians will still enjoy the privilege of access to our government.

It will still be our Parliament.  We will still visit if we want to.  Canada remains a free country.

On the weekend I happened to drive by Parliament Hill with the Littles.  The pavers around the National War Memorial (also known as The Response) were festooned with wreathes – at least 20 deep.  The square was swarming with Canadians wanting to pay their respects to Corporal Cirillo, people wanting to say Thank You somehow.  Judging by the number of people, it didn’t appear to me that Canadians felt particularly intimidated in the aftermath of the attack.

Corporal Cirillo, a reservist, was standing as an honour guard  – wearing a kilt and carrying an un-loaded rifle – at The Response when the shooter, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, stepped forward and calmly shot him in the chest.  Cpl. Cirillo was quickly attended to by multiple passers-by, who administered CPR.  9-1-1 reportedly receive “multiple calls” immediately.  All the responders thought first of Nathan Cirillo.  Their own safety was a secondary concern.

Ottawa is a centre of intelligentsia.  Smart people from all around the world live here.  Our city is a centre of government – with embassies and all that, yes – but it’s also the city of choice for many of the best and brightest immigrants from around the world.  It’s a high-tech haven. Not long ago a popular nickname for our city was “Silicon Valley North”, although there has been a recession since then..  Still, we have two universities, a great college, and a school of theology, along with world-class hospitals and innumerable “institutes” of all sorts.  So, for a city of only about a million people,  Ottawa’s got an above average amount of brain power.  I’m often amazed when I get talking to someone at a store or bus stop and – after a bit of friendly and often enlightening conversation – learn that they have a PhD in whatever.  You do have to be careful how you talk to people in Ottawa.  You can’t make any assumptions.  The conversation could turn out to be a little humbling if you started out assuming you were the most educated or knowledgable.

But there’s another type of “smart person” in Ottawa, too.  That’s the longtime local, the person who can trace their roots back a ways in the Ottawa Valley.  The pragmatic sort of person who knows the way to Richmond, Carp, or Kars.  The person who knows when deer season ends, and when duck season will start.  This type is often some pot-bellied gentleman with a ball hat perched far back on his head and an accent that often fools me into thinking they’re from the East Coast (yup, they fool me into thinking it’s my own accent).  That’s the kind of person I always hope will come pulling up in their pickup the day I end up hauled over on the side of the Queensway with that flat tire I’ve been dreading.

I don’t know if Kevin Vickers is from the Ottawa Valley or not, but he reminds me of that kind of Ottawa person.  I loved the description of him in an online article by Margaret Wente of the Globe and Mail last week, as she listed the things she had learned about Canada in the wake of Wednesday’s events:

And I learned that I had woefully underestimated our quaint parliamentary traditions. I’d always thought our sergeant-at-arms was just some guy whose job was to re-enact one of our dustier traditions by dressing up in funny clothes and carrying around a mace (whatever that is). Who knew he was also a crack shot?

But Kevin Vickers, who is 58 and looks it, reportedly can aim and fire with deadly precision when his nation is attacked, then go back into his office to reload. He’ll never brag about it, either. That would be un-Canadian.

I love that.  Kevin Vickers is 58 and looks it.  He can fire with deadly precision, then go to his office to reload.  Without bragging.  How Canadian is THAT??

So, will Parliament change as a result of these terrible events?  Will Ottawa change?  Not on your life.

I’ve been seeing a lot of blowhards on the internet complaining about the hashtag “Ottawa Strong”.  These people are, for some inexplicable reason, absolutely incensed that the people of Ottawa would choose to represent their city by tweeting out basically the same motto Bostonians used in the wake of the Boston Marathon attack.  And these people – aside from having apparently no real problems of their own other than having way too much time on their hands – are missing the point.

People are tweeting “Ottawa strong” because Ottawa IS strong.  And we stand in solidarity with our neighbours to the south.  We have good neighbours.  This isn’t really the time to be niggly about our how we differentiate ourselves as Canucks.  That’s a good topic, but for another day.

People are also complaining about patriotism.  I guess they feel it’s a bit mindless.  But there’s a place for patriotism.  It got us through two incredibly awful World Wars.  That’s why The Response stands in the heart of downtown Ottawa (and so near our Parliament) in the first place.

People are ALSO complaining that our “warmonger” Prime Minister got us “into” this.  Well, to be honest, I’ve never really liked Stephen Harper very much, but I don’t feel he’s to blame for committing us to combatting ISIS alongside our American cousins.  That absolutely needs to be done.  And – as for Mr. Harper – I may not have voted for him, but I certainly don’t want to see him shot.  That would be very un-Canadian.  If we want to, we will vote him out.  And – for now – he may be the best man on a list of fairly mediocre choices.

The LAST point I want to address is the anti-Muslim backlash that’s so certain to come from a certain, ignorant sector of our population.  But it’s easy to see how Canadians really feel about this issue.  Just ask the people in Cold Lake, Alberta, who showed up last week en-mass to clean and repair their vandalised local mosque.   Vandals – how can you call yourselves Canadian when you don’t even get what’s so great about this country in the first place?  Where were you when CBC was running Little Mosque on the Prairie?

What terrorists don’t seem to ever get straight is that – the more you try to intimidate and bully us – the more it gets our back up.  Canadians will just get mad.  And it is our firm belief that – in the long run – our way of doing things will carry the day.

Why?  Because Muslims are welcome here.  They can live in this great country, with its civil society and free health care, and their daughters can go to school.  Let’s not forget that Canada had planned to honour Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai with Canadian citizenship that very day.  Mr. Extremist would like Muslims to forget that Canada is on their side.  On the other hand, Mr. Extremist would ALSO to make his point so loudly that the message of Malala is drowned out and we Canadians forget that there are good Muslims out there.  There are loads of good Muslims out there.

Cold Lake proves Zehaf-Bibeau was wrong.  You can’t win, Mr. Terrorist.  You will just piss us all off.  We will gain up on you, as Canadians of every stripe.  We will repaint our mosque and then grab some Timmies.  Together.

Because Ottawa is strong, and Canadians are, and will remain, strong and free. Our next-door neighbours don’t own AK47’s (okay, that’s one possible difference between us and the Yanks). We still believe in helping each other. We believe in having a parliament Canadians are free to walk into, and – if you walk in with a rifle – some little old lady with a hockey stick will beat the crap out of you when you stop to re-load. If Kevin Vickers doesn’t get you first.

And so, I am still Canadian, and proud of it.

All for now,

Butterfly

batgroom

Da Big Bay Wedding

I haven’t written much on the blog lately.  Not that I haven’t been thinking about things to say, more that I just haven’t posted any of those things.  Not lately.

It’s over halfway through October already and I am suddenly realizing my blog’s been silent all month.  Thanks to so many of you for continuing to stop by.  Anyhow, today – instead of trying to sort out how I got so far behind to begin with – I’ve decided it’s simply time to post some sort of an update.

Whew.  Where to begin?  Turns out there’s way too much for just one post.

For today I think I’ll start with the biggest family news.  My brother Drew finally married his wickedly wonderful girlfriend Roxy in what was billed as “The Big Bay Wedding (of the Century),” held on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in Gambo, Newfoundland.   Fortunately (and thanks in large part to my husband for paying the ticket and minding the Littles!) I managed to make it back home for the occasion.  And a fine occasion it was too.

hands

Congratulations Drew and Roxy! I’m so glad I made it to see you wed. :)

So, after 12 years of not setting foot on the island, I have now been to Newfoundland twice in the past three months.  I connected to my home and family in a way I haven’t for quite a while, and now have a fresh, up-to-date mental picture of the place and people back where I come from.  In other words, a picture of “home.”  That’s pretty cool!

Turns out my image of myself and how I fit in with the rest of the province was way out of date.  Who knew being a Newfie doesn’t have to mean a thick accent, bad teeth, and a drinking problem anymore?  My brother’s group of “Thirty-something” friends are educated, engaged in world events, multilingual, and globetrotting!  And many of these young people are now opting to stay in Newfoundland, where most of them even have real jobs!  The outcome for them’s been so different from what went on with me and my classmates just a decade or so earlier.

In an effort to introduce us to his amazing cohort of close friends, my brother Drew made me,  Shell, and Ed (another cousin, Shell’s brother) play “Cards Against Humanity”  with some of his gang the night before the wedding.  “Leave your inhibitions at the door, people!”  Drew’s friend Laura  announced as we sat down to the card table at her rented cabin.

It turned out to be a  great ice-breaker!  We laughed all night long.  It sure is a game designed to bring people out of their shells.  Basically it’s improv comedy.  With a 14+ rating.

I’ll put Cards Against Humanity up as an item in the Butterflyshop as soon as I get a chance.  It’s rude, but fun.   My brother says you need to be a good psychologist to play it well.  But I noticed it helps if you’re funny as hell, too.  Not surprisingly, Drew beat everyone’s pants off  – he is simply the tops in both these regards.  It wasn’t long before everyone else’s black cards were spread on the table in front of him.

By the way, I should also mention that Laura, as a close friend of my brother’s, was a groomsman for the wedding, alongside her charming husband, Matt (the best man).  The next day, Laura was elegant in a black dress and heels, nestled amongst a sea of handsome fellas in their spiffy tuxedos and shiny black rental shoes.  She definitely held her own across the aisle from a world of frilly bridesmaids and shiny broach bouquets, too.  In fact, hanging with the guys never looked so good!

Sorry, I just thought that was the coolest thing…  Laura, if you’re reading this, good for you for taking on that challenging role!  :)  I thought that was pretty neat.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a chick groomsman before.

As for Newfoundland itself (or more precisely, Newfoundland and me), perhaps it is not as far off as I have, for so long, felt.  Perhaps you can “go home again” after all.  In any case, maybe I can live 2,500 km away and yet aspire to visit at least once every twelve months.  I might not need to set my watch back 50 years during the plane ride, either.  Heck, Newfoundland  – with its politically incorrect card games and female groomsmen – might just end up updating ME!

It’s all very heartening.  And – as a bonus – Drew and Roxy hosted an amazing wedding.  A good time was had by all.  It’s the first time I’ve ever seen such an hilariously choreographed “first dance” at a wedding ceremony, too.  Drew, there was some serious booty-shakin’ going on buddy!  (The “shoe game” was also new to me, but apparently that’s more because I don’t get out to weddings much anymore.)

Well I should actually say that a good time was had by almost all.  Shell and Ed ended up spending that day and the ensuing evening at Emerg.  Ed fell and tore his quadriceps tendon an hour before the ceremony.  The upshot of this was that my cousin was in surgery to repair his damaged leg while the rest of us were frolicking at my brother’s reception.  A definite case of being a groomsman (Yes, he was one too!  Even worse, right?) not turning out as planned!  And my cousins’ presence was certainly missed throughout the evening.

Shell and Ed’s closeness to one another is enviable.  Shell never left Ed’s side for a moment.  She left my parents’ place in the RV with her grimacing brother and – as the rest of us were on our way to the church in nearby Gambo – Shell drove that monster vehicle to the hospital in Gander, about an hour away, on the Trans-Canada Highway.  After that our only contact with her was by cellphone.  She kept us updated (mostly by text messages) as the evening worn on.  Thanks for doing that Shell.  Mom and I were worried sick about you both!

I have to say that Shell seemed to be  pretty philosophical about missing the fun in Gambo, and much more focussed on comforting her brother, who – for his part – was profoundly (and understandably!) bummed by this unlucky turn of events.  The fact that he hadn’t been in Newfoundland for a long while either only made it seem worse.  But – somehow – cousin Shell kept smiling even as things deviated so badly from the plan.  I guess I’ll have to add this to my growing list (“nonjudgemental, kind, laid back, accepting…”) of admirable qualities my closest cousin possesses in spades.

In terms of her relationship with her brother, I can only hope that someday Boo and Lou will be there for each other (if need be) even half as much.  My dear cousins set a great example of sibling intimacy and loyalty for our entire family.

I missed Shell and Ed the whole evening long!  My brother’s friends are great, but my cousins are my family.  For my part, I wanted them nearby during this event.  And I’d been so looking forward to our reunion trailer party!  The RV’s absence also meant I didn’t get to stay in Gambo as late as I’d planned (uh, all night…).  I did, however, manage to get in that one dance with Drew before my mom’s friend Myra kindly drove me back to Glovertown for tea and a depressingly polite bedtime .

drew_n_myra

Groom Drew and everybody’s (!) good friend Myra at the Big Bay Wedding.

A silver lining of this for me was that I managed to have a great chat with Myra, whom I’ve known for many years but never talked to in such depth before.  We went for a long drive that turned out to be as nice as a “coffee and confidences” date with a very best friend.   So, I guess I learned that my mom is actually a pretty lucky individual.  Her “bestie” is one terrific lady.

me_n_pat

I have other cousins too!  I love this picture of me and my cousin Pat, but she may kill me if she finds out it’s on the internet!

Part of what’s been great about all this re-connecting with Newfoundland has been the re-connecting with my family and friends, of course.  One person I particularly enjoyed spending time with was my third cousin, Pat.

Pat’s just enough older than me (she’s about the same age as BG, my husband) to have been my idol growing up.  Pat maybe never knew this, but – when she wasn’t home – her mom always let me in her room and played her board games with me.  Her mom never let me near those sparkly locked diaries that were ever oh-so tempting though.   Everything Pat did I longed to do – drive a car, have a summer job –  and so on and so forth.  Pat, for her part, was always kind to me and made me feel much more grown up than I must have seemed to her in those days.  This past summer Pat and I reconnected.  We even made a new tradition to go with this re-booting of our friendship:  We’re going to take a “selfie” together whenever we see each other from now on!  That last picture’s our wedding day one.  I thought it came out great.

Well, that about sums up the wedding, right?  Nothing left to saayyy…

Huh?  Say wha’?  Uh huh.  You want to hear about the bride, don’t you?  Guess you thought I’d forgotton.  :)

Roxy was stunning.  She was resplendent in her sparkling white mermaid gown, with her broach bouquet and her luxuriously long veil cascading behind her.  But – as always – the best part of Roxanne’s ensemble was her radiant smile.

I’m not a professional photographer.  I don’t have the greatest hot shot of the day (although I did see some great ones on Facebook afterwards).   I’m not sure I took the most beautiful or flattering of the many, many great photos that must have been taken that day.

Roxanne is a beautiful person.  She’s fun and outgoing.  She really appreciates my brother, and – what’s more – I think she really knows how to keep the guy on his toes, which is good for him.  I can tell having her for a sister-in-law is going to be a blast.

So.  What can I give her here, today, to say welcome to the family?  I’m not entirely sure how to do that.

I thought I’d close off by simply saying, welcome to our Crazy Clan Ms. Roxy.  I am glad to have you aboard!  And, in token of the occasion, I’d like to share a couple of my snaps of the ceremony.  Think of them as a photo essay.  :)

  1. couple_1

    Roxy, even though I haven’t known you that long, there’s this special something in your smile that already lets me in on how happy you feel inside. This is you looking pretty happy.

  2. bouquets

    This is your Bridal broach bouquet next to your Maid of Honour’s natural bouquet. Even though you and your sister are so different, I think it’s beautiful how well you go together.

  3. roxanne

    This is you honouring tradition, but making it glamourous and fun in your beautiful gown.

  4. roxanne_2

    Thank you for looking over while I snapped your picture, even though you were trying not to cry as Drew gave you your ring. I love the look on your face in this picture actually.

  5. roxy_fav

    Love that you loved this picture! What a kiss!!!

  6. escape_vehicle

    Daniel needs to tag me on that picture of you standing in this car dancing!

  7. batgroom

    I love that you love my brother for who he is, because I don’t ever want him to change (even though I can tell he would try to, for you…).

All for now,

Butterfly

P.S.  Updated my “About” page.  Those of you impatient for the next post can go check out what’s new with me there while you’re waiting.  Cheers!

boots_made_for_walkin

These Boots Were Made For Walkin’

Today my in-box held a depressing surprise.  An email from MSF, reminding me that I’m participating in the Walk Without Borders.  While I haven’t forgotten about the Walk Without Borders, nobody’s contributed to my campaign in the past 7 days.  So MSF wonders what is going on.  Am I in or what?  The email contained helpful suggestions for spreading the message about my walk (Facebook-ing about it, sending a mass email, making an FB campaign page, etc.).  These are all things I’ve already done.

I guess I should pause my thoughts for a moment here and remind you all again:  I am walking to help raise money for MSF Canada (AKA Medicins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders).  I am very concerned about Ebola virus in West Africa and strongly feel we must continue to support MSF’s presence there.  You can link to my campaign page here.

I know that people today are generally “giving-ed out.”  I get that.  You can’t go to a grocery store or buy a book at Chapters without being asked to give a dollar for this or three dollars for that anymore.  And it’s hard to say “No” to all those little things.  There are probably many days I end up giving away even the spare change I’d squirrelled away for an extra loaf of bread.  Afterall, who can say “No” to that cute little Girl Guide from next door?

We’ve also all been giving lots of money lately to good causes like our kids’ schools, and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.  Not to mention the walks, bikes, and half-marathons that many of us join in on in summer and fall to do wonderful things like help cure cancer, take back the night, and whatever other thing strikes us as a noble and worthy endeavour.

For my part, I picked THIS endeavour.  I am still walking.  I think the cause is worthy, and  – although my feet are old and ache sometimes and my legs are covered in scary old lady things like varicose and spider veins these days – I figured I could probably do this thing.  I can walk 100 kilometres by October 30th.

I also figured that the walking would be the hard part.  It’s not.  The hard part is getting people to contribute to my campaign.  And I feel terrible for even asking, even though this money is by no stretch in any way for me personally.

When it comes to giving, I think what it boils down to is whether it’s fun or not.  And having somebody make you feel terrible about what’s happening in the world is not fun.  We don’t want to feel terrible about things.  We don’t need yet another guilt trip.  Afterall, the misfortunes of others, by and large, have little to do with us.  We’re in no way responsible.

What people like is to feel good, maybe even laugh about it all.  The ALS Society is swimming in loot right now precisely because the Ice Bucket Challenge is FUN.  So, here’s a good question I’ll pose sincerely to you all:  HOW CAN I MAKE MY CAMPAIGN FUN???

I want my walk to be like those guys’.  Funny and engaging.  So should I walk in armour?  Nah.  Been done.

I am willing to be silly, confessional (as y’all know!), or to  go to lots of trouble – pretty much anything as long as only my own dignity is affected – to get you all more involved in this process.  So what would you like?

I had thought of a few things, like perhaps walking my mom’s walk in the dress I’m wearing to Drew’s wedding (I’ll be in Newfoundland again in a week and a bit, so that would be very do-able as a silly thing the day after the wedding).   Then I thought of how that might embarass my parents (Glovertown is a small town and people tend to pass judgement on anyone who appears to be making a show of themselves in an way, so…).  I also thought I could do the Ice Bucket Challenge in my dress (who care if I ruin it in the process?), but I want to raise money for MSF.  This is not about ALS.  Also, it begs the question: Who is it exactly that’s holding back their donation, waiting for the moment I do something like that?  And am I really that interesting or funny?  And is this about my Facebook feed on some level?  Who knows.

For now, I’m going to leave you today with some pictures and thoughts from my most recent walk along the Ottawa River.  At least I can share my enjoyment with you, even if it’s not via an outlandishly attention-grabbing and over-the-top youTube video.

For starters, the mood music playing in my head as I left for my walk this day was something like this…

(Okay, so there WAS a youTube video.  Sort of…)

It was a beautiful day and I was, for the moment, contractor-free and able to leave the house.  I knew the last-minute decision to grab my camera was going to slow me down and ruin the ground-rules I’ve generally adhered to for my walk (keep going, stay in the flow of it, don’t get distracted – it’s not photography or bird-watching time!).  Oh well – what the heck!  I decided to let myself live a little for once.  I’ve been shut up in the house too much lately.

The Beautiful Bikepath

The Beautiful Bikepath

For starters, I have to admit, I’m a little spoiled.  My walk is along the Ottawa River, on the NCC (National Capital Commission) Bikepath.  The bikepath is many kilometres of scenic trails that comprise part of our region’s contribution to the Trans Canada Trail.  I’ve walked different parts of  this trail different times in my life and I have to admit, I think walking the whole trail (“from sea to shining sea”) someday after its 2017 completion date would make a hell of a retirement project.

For now, I’m one of the lucky ones.  My city is hooked up to the TCC and our trails are mostly paved and well maintained.  The Ottawa area, in fact, can boast hundreds of kilometres of beautiful walking and hiking paths.

our_river

Our beautiful river

Like most cities, we could be doing a better job on keeping our water-way clean, but I must say I get annoyed hearing people crack nasty jokes about how dirty and disgusting the Ottawa is. ” Really?  Have you been there lately?”  I go there a lot and my OPINION is that – despite being a little on the murky side – the Ottawa River is a living system where nature continues to thrive.  And it’s beautiful to boot.

Reeds growing in the beautiful Ottawa River.

Reeds growing in the beautiful Ottawa River.

In fact, not so many weeks ago my children and I were playing in the water there and we picked up a baby snapping turtle, struggling to swim along inspite of the current and the day’s strong winds.  For a little while, we admired him swimming in the beach pail I’d scooped him up in, then my son considerately made sure the other children at the beach got a (respectful) viewing opportunity too before we released him, unharmed, back into the Ottawa.  I’m sure he was on his way to dig into the river’s sandy bottom and find himself a spot to sleep till spring.

baby_snapping

A baby snapping turtle.

I love my walk!

me

Me. Feeling happy, funny and engaging as I readily head out on my walk.

I love to swim and be wet generally, so as I walk any place there’s water I hear that familiar siren song.  In Newfoundland I longed to jump into the ocean (or be out there on a boat!).  As I walk along the Ottawa, I crave a swim in the warm sandy-bottomed river (which is actually a lot more practical than jumping in the North Atlantic).  And, sometimes, I pass folks along the water’s edge who are actually preparing for a dip.  But my walking rules generally keep me moving forward instead of getting wet.

Getting my feet wet!

Day off!  Getting my feet wet today!

Hmm, maybe I could join my friend Kim and train for that triathalon afterall!

Taking the day off from “serious” walking means I get to check out some of those little “roads not taken” (by me, at least) I always pass.  So today I slip down all those beckoning little pathways.  I find my way back to the water’s edge a million different ways, all of which have something new to offer.  As I do so, I check out the view of the Champlain Bridge from every new shoreline.  It’s fun to watch it getting closer and closer.

Hide-y hole gives a tantalizing view of the Champlain Bridge.  Getting so close now!

I think Booba would LOVE this one!  Hide-y hole gives a tantalizing view of the Champlain Bridge. Getting so close now!

The Champlain Bridge is one of the main arteries that joins Ottawa, Ontario – on one side of the Ottawa River – to Gatineau, Quebec, on the other side of the Ottawa River.  The bikepath goes under the foot of the bridge and continues right along my side of the river, while the cars crossing the bridge whiz by overhead.

Usually I just stay on the bikepath like a good little girl.  Today I am a hungry photographer!

Maybe it's a sign of what a true Urbanite I've become, but I've grown to appreciate the crispness and colour of a little well-placed graffiti.

Maybe it’s a sign of what a true Urbanite I’ve become, but I’ve grown to appreciate the crispness and colour of a little well-placed graffiti.

Finally – despite all my dilly-dallying – I arrive at my goal.  The Mighty Northern Red Oak With the Sign.

My view as I trot up the little path to the Northern Red Oak.

My view as I trot up the little path to the Northern Red Oak.

The Sign of the Red Oak

The Sign of the Red Oak

I like that the sign calls my tree “a hardy northerner.”  That fits in with what I’m all about so well.  And – like the Pitcher Plant for Newfoundland – the Northern Red Oak is somehow a fitting symbol of (in this case) Ottawa and its people.  Soon we’ll be buried in many feet of snow for months and months again, but we’ll do fine.

I have a great book about trees that has a lovely section about trees as part of religion and mythology.  I read there about Tree Spirits, Dryads.  A dryad, in Greek mythology, was a female spirit that inhabited a tree, typically an oak.  Looking up at my tree it’s easy to imagine where ancient people could have come by such an idea.  And I always greet my oak tree in some way, just in case they’re right.

I look up my tree and whisper "Namaste" and sometimes I think I hear "Namaste" back.  Or maybe it was the wind...

I look up my tree and whisper “Namaste” and sometimes I think I hear “Namaste” back. Or maybe it was the wind…

On the day in question I sat under my tree and put my feet up for a while, but I won’t bore you with the pictures.  Already it’s time to head back.

The day has changed.  The sky is moodier now.  I feel relaxed and loosened up from walking so much already.  I set my camera to “rich tone” now and set some new theme music in my head as well.

Suddenly it's a "rich tone" kind of day!

Suddenly it’s a “rich tone” kind of day!

Good thing the road back is always a shorter one, I've suddenly realised the time.  I've been gone for nearly two hours already!!!

Good thing the road back is always a shorter one, I’ve suddenly realised the time.  I’ve been gone for nearly two hours already!!!

My whole hike today I’ve been trying to get some pictures of birds.  I’ve seen great images of cardinals, blue jays, and sparrows through my viewfinder today, but always seemed to snap a moment too late.  On the path ahead there are some crows.  My last chance for a shot of a bird in flight!

What IS it with me??  Do I need to take a class or something?

What IS it with me?? Do I need to take a class or something?

I take a few more pictures of the murder of crows (I LOVE that a group of crows is called a “murder”, don’t you?), but I never manage to get any good ones.  For good measure, I take a picture of me, looking annoyed.

Ouf!  Bad photographer!

Ouf! Bad photographer!

Okay, so that photo’s kind of funny.  At least you can find the subject in it.

I almost forgot to tell you about the Inukshuks.  I guess it’s another one of those “Ottawa” things.  Folks here love ‘em and I have been meaning to tell you one day about this certain character who hung out down here all weekend in the summer.  A gentleman a certain age who liked his beige (!) Speedo a lot and smoked smelly skinny little cigarettes as he built Inukshuks all day long.  For fun, I nicknamed this man “Cigarillo.”

Maybe Cigarillo made this one.  If so, I hope he likes the picture.

Maybe Cigarillo made this one. If so, I hope he likes the picture.

The fall colour makes me wistful.  I zoom my camera the full 21X’s and take a picture of the trees on the Quebec side.  But my camera really wants me to shut it off now.  The battery needs re-charging.

It will be Thanksgiving here soon, but I'll be looking at the colour in Newfoundland then...

It will be Thanksgiving here soon, but I’ll be looking at the colour in Newfoundland then…

Even though I have been trying to do a “walk with a point” lately, my walk continues to enrich my health, my day, and to bring me so much pleasure.  And so, it was my pleasure to share a walk with you, just this once.  Perhaps one day you will come to Ottawa and try my walk along the bikepath in real life.  It’s a beautiful city.  Really underrated.

Pleasure.

Pleasure.

All for now,

Butterfly

Me.  Resting my feet under my Northern Red Oak.  Decided to share my silly picture anyhow!!!

Me. Resting my feet under my Northern Red Oak. Decided to share my silly picture anyhow!!!

day_2

My Walk Without Borders

I’m not sure how much I’ve shared with you all about my anxieties.  As I’ve blogged, I’m sure I’ve alluded to the anxieties all parents share, but I probably haven’t said much about anxiety as a personal issue.

Sometimes I am a very anxious person.  And, as a very anxious person, I have become very anxious NOT to raise two anxious kids.  So I over-compensate.

Instead of being a helicopter parent, I try hard to be a parent who lets her kids learn the art of risk-management by in fact taking risks.  Instead of saying, “Hey let’s child-proof this!” I focus my efforts on trying to “world-proof” the children.  Someday my children are going to grow up.  And nobody can guarantee that they will always exist in situations that are happy or safe.  No one can ensure that everyone surrounding them will always have their best interests at heart.  No one can promise them good weather or high marks or an accident and incident-free existence.

World-proofing my kids runs the gammet from things like shouting instruction reminders as the two of them dash ahead of me to that busy intersection to trying to nurture their imaginations.  Sometimes their imaginations will protect them too, allowing them to remove themselves from bad situations that aren’t going away soon, to escape temporarily to much nicer worlds that they can read, write, or draw for themselves.  And – as I’ve said before – we have to be able to imagine something, at least a little, before we can make it real.  You have to dream something up before you can make it happen.

World-proofing my kids also means that sometimes they accidentally hear things that aren’t very nice.  They may see something inappropriate on tv (I still try not to let this happen), a passing teenager may drop the f-bomb, or the 6 o’clock news on CBC radio may tell them a story that’s actually terrifying.  Sometimes I wish I could rinse out their brains (and mine!) after something like that, because awful words can become an awful habit and scary movies can turn into recurring nightmares.  And, for me, terrifying world news still translates into sleepless nights of worrying about… well, everything.

The evening news is about the time I’m wishing I felt a little bit more “world-proofed” myself.  I’d much rather flick off the radio than know that disturbing something sometimes.  And when I was younger I did that.  Now it feels a bit like burying my head in the sand.

In the past few months I have been hearing about Ebola virus.  And because I learned a little microbiology in school and I read The Hot Zone, I know a little of what Ebola can do.  It can do a lot.

Ebola is a disease that effects every organ of the body, causing hemorrhage.  It starts with symptoms that show up 2 to 21 days after a person becomes infected and usually include:

  • High fever.
  • Headache.
  • Joint and muscle aches.
  • Sore throat.
  • Weakness.
  • Stomach pain.
  • Lack of appetite.

Ebola kills 90% of those that it infects.  Horrifyingly, the victims bleed to death, sometimes from every orifice.  One reason for Ebola’s high mortality rate is that the time frame for all of this happening is so short.  Ebola kills you before your immune system has time to mount a full response.

One “good” thing about Ebola is that it’s an infection that’s spread by bodily fluids.  You have to be in close quarters with an infected person, touching the same door knobs, using the same box of Kleenex, or perhaps kissing your loved one’s fevered brow.  I know that doesn’t sound so good, but the upside is that – as far as I know – Ebola hasn’t made the jump to being an airborne virus yet.  So it can’t travel quite as well as that head cold on the airplane does.  Not yet, anyhow.  Who know what could happen in the future.

Here in North America we are, I think, well-prepared for a pandemic outbreak, airborne or otherwise.  We’ve had practice.  In 2003 Canadian public health agencies were challenged by an outbreak of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) here, after the disease first appeared in Guangdong Province, China in November 2002.  Our response and preparedness were tested.  Some people were infected.  Contacts were quarantined.  Hospitals were closed to visitors.  There was no widespread outbreak.

SARS is unlike Ebola.  Over 8,000 people (confirmed cases) were infected world-wide.  Fewer than 800 of them died.  So the odds were more in our favour then. On the other hand, SARS is a respiratory infection, so controlling its spread in 2003 presented a great challenge to public health officials.  Infected people could spread the disease simply by sharing the air with those around them.

But the challenge was met.  We cooperated as a society and controlled the spread of infection.  We are fortunate to be living at a time when we have the knowledge to prevent the spread of disease and in a civilization that has the means and where-with-all to work together to do it so well.  We are lucky that so many of us are well-educated enough to understand what is happening and to facillitate it.

The moment (after 3 sleepless nights) that I realised all this, I was finally able to (at last!) go back to sleep.  My anxiety attack for myself, my children, husband, and friends was over.  I realised how unlikely it is that we will all die of Ebola virus.

We are lucky.  Few people here would believe that the nurse with a syringe of vaccine is covertly intending to infect you with the very disease he or she purports to protect you from.  If someone here did think something so ludicrously paranoid they’d be more likely to end up at a mental health facility than as the leader of a lynch mob.  The person who does not allow themselves or their children to be vaccinated is more likely to be quarantined, or – perhaps – prosecuted.  Most of us understand the risks and are aware of our duty to each other.  There are enough intelligent people here to make enforcement do-able.

Still.  After my own horrible visions of watching my own children die subsided I was left with another burning question, a question that stuck in my craw (as the saying goes):  So why are people dying in Africa?

It seems so wrong.  So stupid.  How could we let this happen?

I like to think I’m not a NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) sort of person, but I have to admit that – at this point – the temptation to snuggle my own kids a little closer, place my faith in Ottawa Public Health, and whisper a quiet vow to simply not listen to CBC radio any more was very tempting.   It’s unlikely we’re all going to succumb to Ebola here any time soon and I was way too tired to think about it anymore that night.  I finally slept, and yet the question remained.  Why them?

On an individual basis there’s no good answer to this question.  Their lives are as valid.  Their children as precious.  The thing that frightens me most about Ebola perhaps frightens them most too (if they have time to reflect on it, that is).  Ebola kills EVERYONE.  Parents watch children die.  Whole villages become ghost towns.  What is left of your society – your way of life, your values, your culinary, literary, and artistic traditions – when this happens?affected_regionThe thing that scares me most about Ebola is not that I might die, although that remains a terrifying thought.  It’s not even the gut-wrenching thought that my children might die, which is far worst.  To me, the worst thing about Ebola is the death of all our collective potential.  My children would die unwed, childless.  I, in my turn, would have no children now.  No grandchildren.  It would be the end of my lineage.

Everything I put in Boo’s and Loo’s little heads and hearts would be gone.  Our values.  Our culture.  Our funny little expressions.  Everything.  It would all be gone before they got the chance to teach that to their children.  To pass it on.

My children are a lifeboat of everything that I am, everything that my family – my own parents and grandparents – were before me.  The little lifeboat needs to sail into the future.  Otherwise the future comes and our voice is gone.  Our values are gone.  Our dream dies.

That’s what Ebola takes from people.  It’s like an act of war against a whole society.

We’re lucky to live here.  Our country has the wisdom and the resources to deal with an outbreak.  We are organized.   We care for and about each other, regardless of race or creed.  These are some of the advantages of life in Canada.  The situation on the ground in Western Africa is markedly different.

I am just one person.  And I am tired and small.  I am not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination.  What can I do?  That’s where MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres / Doctors Without Borders) comes in.

Right now MSF is having a fundraiser, the 2014 Walk Without Borders.  Participants walk in solidarity with patients in Africa who have undertaken long journeys on foot to receive care, or with doctors who’ve walked far to deliver it.

Walking.  That’s something I can do.  I was doing it anyway.  So, this month, I am walking for MSF Canada.  They’re already hard at work in West Africa, trying to stem the spread of Ebola and help the sick.

In the next 38 days I will walk AT LEAST 100 km, in solidarity with Aboubacar.  I call Aboubacar my “walking buddy.”  He walked a long way carrying his 2 year-old daughter to an MSF feeding centre.  She was in desperately bad condition at the time, a victim of malnutrition.  Try to imagine carrying your two year-old baby girl so far – wondering if she will die – while you walk along, as quickly as you are able.

Aboubacar’s story made me think of my own Little Lou Lou.  We are so fortunate to have her.  And I just couldn’t imagine being that afraid.  My mind shrinks from the task.

I set myself a fundraising target of $5,000.  That sounds like a lot of money, but then I think of how quickly we go through that much here.  In a month.  Maybe two.  Anyhow.  That’s how much I’d like to raise to help MSF fight Ebola (and whatever else they need to do!) in Africa.  Why?  ‘Cause I think it’s enough to really help somehow.

You can help me by visiting my MSF fundraising page and donating to the cause.  You can also help me by spreading the word.

I figure it will take 500 of us donating $10 each for me to make my goal.  On an individual basis, that’s not so much to ask.  Collectively, it can do a lot in Africa.

This weekend I walked 14.8 km.   I will keep you posted about my progress, and my struggles.  I am fitting this into the spaces in my own hectic life because I think it’s an important issue for all of us, for society as a whole.  I hope you will do something small back for me and take just a minute or two to look at my page, donate anything you can, and spread the word.

All for now,

Butterfly

first_day_at_school3

Char Gar Gothakon: The Up-Date That Hath No Name

So August happened.  September happened.  Some of you may have noticed that I’ve been “away” from the blog for sometime now.  A bit of a break happened, too, I guess.  And – yes – we are okay.  Nothing is the matter.

In fact, I had a wonderful summer (didn’t even notice any “dog days” this August!) and  – so far – have been having an amazing fall.  There have been lots of changes happening in my life, starting with the immense changes in the lives of my kids.  Lou Lou suddenly (almost melodramatically “suddenly”) grew into being four.  She jumped ship, transitioning from being fulltime at home to being full day at JK, and with nary a hitch.  She’s started wearing a bike helmet and zooming around the neighbourhood on the strider bike she so recently inherited from her brother, locking it to the school gate upon her arrival there every morning.   Like her brother last year, she will soon swim away from me at the pool too.

She had a birthday, making “four” official.  We celebrated that weekend with a huge open house in her honour.

Lou’s birthday had a “Scooby Doo and the Wiki Tiki” theme.  I decorated the house right down to the grass-skirted buffet table, laden with trays of veggies, chip dips, and fruit in a bowl I carved from a watermelon (once again proving that no project is too silly when it comes to my kids).  We grown ups enjoyed ourselves, drinking sangria punch and Hawaiian beer and noticing – after some time – that all the kids had disappeared.  And it was…  Way.  Too.  Quiet.

I soon discovered the whole lot of them upstairs in Lou Lou’s room –  7 or 8 children ages 2 through 6, flaked out everywhere and quietly watching Lou’s newest Scooby Doo movie together.  Several were seated on the couch, while several more of them were sitting around on the floor, building with her new (birthday present) Lego sets.  No fighting, just sharing.  Hanging out.  I felt proud to notice that the bigger children seemed to be watching over the littler ones as they toddled around, enjoying the mess.  It wowed me to see them in disaster-free independence like that,  shades (I hope!) of the future – my kids and their friends as teens.  Already I sometimes feel like they don’t quite need us.  Not as much, anyhow.

And – of course – that’s the crux of what I’m going through right now, isn’t it?  Transitioning from being needed overwhelmingly all day (and sometimes all night!) long by two little  people (and often by one demanding big person as well), to – quite suddenly, as it turns out – being off the hook completely from 9:10 till 3:35.  As well as noticing that my two “little ones” are increasingly independent even when they are around.

Okay, the “witching hour” (2 or 3 hours between about 4:30 and 7:30 in fact) is still a bit of a painful stretch.  I earn my keep in those hours.   But still.  I have alone time now.  I can make the beds now. Unload the dishwasher now.  I get to see some of those list items getting checked off every day.  Going for a walk isn’t a problem.  I no longer spend hours a day getting milks, wiping bums or doing puzzles with anyone.

So.  What am I going to do with my life now, you may be asking?  Surely I’ve gauged made beds and having a tidy countertop as less than worthy goals in life when there are mountains yet to climb and novels as yet unwritten.  Or have I?

Turns out that being the mom of school-aged kids is still leaving me with a pretty full dance card.  So far, at least.   Six and a bit hours zoom by pretty quick by the time you unload the dishwasher, put away a load of loaundry, pick up some groceries, get dinner started, and maybe squeeze in a quick walk.  Sure, it feels a bit less chaotic for a few hours each day, but – so far – there’s still lots to do.

And evenings are busy.  Between afterschool playground time, getting them home and serving a snack and some milk (Lou is whiney and tired by then), and then finishing up dinner and getting it on the table (by now to full on howls from Lou Lou, who’s just realizing she’s exhausted and has an empty tank), it’s often after 7 by the time everyone’s managed to eat something and settle into “evening” mode.  And by then I notice I’m feeling pretty tuckered myself.  It’s hard to get that second wind started that sees me through getting the dishwasher loaded and going, tidying up (there’s always a few things that need hand washing plus everything needs a wipe down by then too), and packing the lunch bags for the following day.

By then it’s 8:30PM.  I just remember I didn’t have a shower again today and feel cruddy.  I take a quick bath and get my jammies on.

9:30 now.  Oops.  That’s pretty late.  I order the kids into the bathroom and get them to clean their teeth (well, I brush Lou’s, actually, but Booba does his own, which is a blessing) and change into whatever they’re wearing to bed.  Lou likes pj’s but sometimes my Tarzan prefers to sleep in his boxer briefs.

We all snuggle into Boo’s bottom bunk.  After my busy day and warm bedtime bath I can barely keep my eyes open, but Boo is raring to go on his favourite routine of the day.  It’s time to read.

We start with Go, Dog, Go.  Booba reads.  He’s in fine form tonight.  He reads on, quickly sounding out words, then recapping at the end of each sentence, for 8 pages.  When he’s tired from the effort, we smooth his green and gold Ottawa Gymnastics Centre participation ribbon against the page, shut the book, and place it on his night table.

“Now Treasure Island, Mumma,” he emplores.  I open the Robert Louis Stevenson and pick up where I left off the night before.

“Get me some milk, Mumma..” Lou Lou whines.

“In a few minutes,” I say.  “After I read this, okay?”

“Okay,” she answers softly.  She turns on her side and puts her hands under her head.  A minute later she’s sleeping.

I continue reading.  Boo’s eyelids are getting heavy and his speech is slurred a bit as he says “Keep reading, Mom.”  He is trying so hard to stay awake and listen.  Fighting sleep.

A minute or two later he is breathing deeply.  I put my bookmark – a pair of paper 3D glasses – in the pages and close the book.  Silence.  They’re both asleep.

I turn out the light and pull down my sleeping mask.  I lie in bed and feel amazingly grateful and blessed, cuddling my two kids.

I entitled this update “Char Gar Gothakon:  The Up-Date that Hath No Name” as a bit of a joke.  Char Gar Gothakon: The Beast that Hath No Name was a Mystery Incorporated episode about a novelist whose monster comes to life.  The episode and the novel shared the same title -a title I just loved.  A running gag in this episode was “How can the beast have no name when you just named it in the title?”  Understandably, the genius of the novel’s author (a professor at Darrow College) was a matter of some debate amongst his fans (and haters) at Crystal Cove’s local post secondary institution.

I started back to writing last week feeling like I didn’t know what to tell you about where I’m at with my life right now, where I stand in relation to where I stood when I started this blog way back in November 2012.  Ergo, a blog up-date that hath no name.  No topic.  A real Char Gar Gothakon.

Life is calmer now, in some senses.  It feels serene.  Happy.  Routines are good.  They’re old enough for routines now.  So, for me, there’s less urgency to spill my guts about everything I think and feel, less need to scream “I’m still here!  I’m not just a cleaning lady or a milk-getting machine.  And – by the way – don’t eye me like that when you catch any of us “having a moment” in the grocery store.  I am not my kids and my kids aren’t me.  Sometimes they’re going to act up or make mistakes.  It doesn’t mean I’m not doing a great job as a mom, ’cause I am!!!  Yeah – well – the urgency to say all that gets less (even though I just said it all – again) as your kids get a bit older and grow more independant.  As they go off to school and new activities (no longer “Mommy and Me” ones) and begin to learn and grow and stand alone as separate little people.

This brave new world is a real Char Gar Gothakon to me.  I don’t quite know what to expect of this new phase of my life yet.  This week, depressingly, I have contractors here again – still messing up this house, keeping me from privacy or quiet, and even making it impossible to enjoy the smallest of my new little freedoms, like going out for an hour, child-free.  They make me feel like I’m being bullied, hiding in a room with no right to do my own thing in my own house.  But I will get through this and get on with the new things I am, slowly but surely, planning to add to my own life this year.

For one thing, I got myself an exciting new job (more about that later  – I’ll save it for another post!). For another, I will continue (as always) to give some piano lessons.  But I’m doing less of that – less piano – this year.  I’m trying harder to be here for our evenings.  Evening is SO important.  Bedtime is so important.

I’m also seeing that the kids get to all their new “bigger kid” activities.  Boo and Lou are continuing to swim this year, have replaced gymnastics with Ukrainian dancing – think Daddy was as excited as the kids about this one – and, on top of all that, I will be bringing Boo to Camerata Music once a week for his very own piano lesson with Auntie Laurie.  At school, Boo continues to be a French Immersion student and has also expressed an interest in participating in the Primary Choir (now that he is a Mighty Grade One he is old enough to join).  I’ll keep you posted as all these new things unfold.

And – of course – I’ll keep you posted too on how my newbie to the world of being four makes out with fullday kindergarten.  ‘Cause that right there is the hugest change for us all.  Lou has taken the first step on the road to being a full-on adult member of society some day.  She’s added her little shoes to the pile that have to go somewhere! every day.  She’s off to the races… School!  Her first “real job” in life

first_day_at_school7

Big girls go to school!

.

And I’m so proud of her.  So proud of us all.  We made it here, wherever “here” is.  Char Gar Gothakon.  So far, so good.

All for now,

Butterfly

Gratitude, to the tune of “Gravity”

I was tagged in the “5 Days of Gratitude” campaign that’s going around (amongst my friends, at least) on Facebook right now.  And, in one of those weird synchronicities of life, my husband made this video yesterday.  It’s so amazing that I had to share it.

There are so many things in this life I’m grateful for.  The presence of three of the things I’m most grateful for (my son, daughter, and the filmmaker – my husband) are very obvious in this short film.

There are other things which I – occasionally – stop and feel a sense of gratitude (and wonder) over.  Air with oxygen.  Green grass. Sunlight.  Gravity.  Our planet, that provides just the right amounts of all these things for us to live and grow  (wow – that’s awfully amazing if we stop and consider it for a sec).

Being a member of a nurturing species that runs along beside our helmeted young on bikes with training wheels and that’s intelligent enough to reflect on a concept like gratitude in the first place.  Having leisure enough to write about it.

My children, who are healthy, make me laugh every day, and wow me with the new skills they’re acquiring.  My son Boo learned to kayak in a half-day this week.  Last week he got his first big boy pedal bike (no training wheels).  Dad took it out of the car.  My son got on it and rode away.  Simple as that.

Likewise, both my children have figured out enough applied physics to make the swings go.  Our amazing brains.

There is so much to be grateful for in this life.  Try to get out there and enjoy our planet a little today.  It’s amazing and wonderful that we exist in such a place.  And, yes, it makes me feel a little gratitude from time to time.  We are so lucky to be here.

Music for the video, btw,  is from the 2013 movie “Gravity.”  A new family fav.

All for now,

Butterfly

P.S.  RIP Robin Williams.  It’s unbelievably sad news. Felt compelled somehow to say so.

oxeye_daisy_aka_batchelor_button_03

The Flowers of Newfoundland, Part III: Batchelor Buttons and Confusion

Back to the flowers of Newfoundland now for a bit.  Next up, an interesting constant – a wildflower (AKA “weed”) that is commonly found in both Newfoundland and Ontario.  Everyone knows what a Batchelor Button is, am I right?

To me, it’s Chrysanthemum leucanthemum (isn’t that a musical name?), more commonly know as Oxeye Daisy.  That’s YOUR Bachelor Button too, right?

Well, right.  And NOT right.  It turns out that, although most of us share a similar affection for identifying a certain wildflower as a “Batchelor Button,”  which flower we would choose is a matter of some debate.

My mom consistently identifies this showy white daisy-like Newfoundland weed as Batchelor Button.   So I grew up believing that was its name.  Yet, since I’ve gotten a little older, I’ve learned that my mother also consistently identifies Musk Mallow as  “Columbine.”  I’m also increasingly uncertain that she can tell the difference between Forget-Me-Not and Stout Blue-Eyed Grass (fairly uncertain whether I can tell this difference myself!).

Wood Forget-Me-Nots.  They belong to the family Boraginaceae.

Wood Forget-Me-Nots. They belong to the family Boraginaceae. Imagine from Wikipedia.

stout_blue_eyed_grass

Praire Blue-Eyed Grass. They’re actually irises.  Take a good look at those flowers. They’re pretty similar.

I’m a big girl now, and I guess I figured out a while ago that my parents don’t always know everything (they already knew this, it’s their adoring daughter who took longer to figure it out).  In fact, for a while now, it’s been more a case of them asking me about plants.  So I was starting to figure that a) they were often incorrect, and that b) I was the family expert.

In this humble spirit, I started my investigation into Newfoundland’s Batchelor Button.   First up, I googled “Batchelor Button.”  Here’s a picture of what I got back:

chicory

Yup.  Apparently – for Mainland Canadians – a “Batchelor Button” is… Chicory.

Chicory is pretty common around here (goldfinches seem to LOVE it), but – to the best of my limited recollection – it seems to be LESS common in Newfoundland.  Although I’m a big admirer of those almost periwinkle blue flowers and the equally technicolour birds they attract, I was a bit taken aback that these were somebody else’s “Batchelor Buttons”.  They certainly weren’t mine.  Who’s going to do the whole “He loves me, he loves me not…”  thing with THOSE petals?  Am I right?

So, were my mother and I just plain wrong calling Oxeye Daisies  “Batchelor Buttons”?  Keep reading…

In the name of investigative journalism, I dug a little deeper into this issue.  For starters, I was pretty sure the plant we (and, I assume, all Newfies) referred to as Batchelor Button had another common name, Oxeye Daisy (I’m going to go with this identification for now, but they could be Scentless Chamomile, or even Shasta Daisies.  Which I doubt – Shasta Daisies always flop over.  Which I despise.).   My next stop was to check what Wikipedia had to say about “Batchelor Button.”   I was, of course, looking for Oxeye Daisies to be there somewhere.  Here’s what I read:

Bachelor’s buttons is a common name for several plant species:

- Wikipedia, under Batchelor’s Buttons

Okay, so the link is there, but I’ve literally transcribed the entire entry.  That’s  ALL Wikipedia has got for “Batchelor’s Buttons.”  If you’re curious, you can  follow the links to all the species.  Try to find “MY” Batchelor Button.  Did you find it?

Yup.  Wikipedia does have our Bachelor Buttons (Yay, Mom!  You go, girl!).  And they said they’re… Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew).

Now I’m not expert on plants (I’ve mentioned this, right?) but I AM curious.  I also know when it’s time to run to my books.  ‘Cause I’m pretty sure Tanacetum means “tansy” in everyday speak.  I’m also fairly sure tansy is yellow stuff.  Just plain yellow stuff (no white petals).  I’ve mentioned my favourite (although there’s a small pile growing here now…) wildflower guide before – it’s Ontario Wildflowers: 101 Wayside Flowers by Linda Kershaw.

Linda Kershaw sounds (and looks – I love the photo of her, with her hubs and two grown sons, at the back of the book!) like a person I would like.  A person I  should have respect for.  Already she’s someone whose opinion I value a lot.  And Linda Kershaw DOES NOT call Chrysanthemum leucanthemum “Feverfew.”  She saves THAT name for Tansy, a wildflower she doesn’t even mention in Ontario Wildflowers.  I had to hit Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada to find it.

Back to my Wikipedia Entry.  Here’s the first paragraph under the  Tanacetum parthenium entry:

Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) is a traditional medicinal herb which is commonly used to prevent migraine headaches, and is also occasionally grown for ornament. The plant grows into a small bush up to around 46 cm (18 in) high with citrus-scented leaves, and is covered by flowers reminiscent of daisies. It spreads rapidly, and they will cover a wide area after a few years. It is also commonly seen in the literature by its synonyms, Chrysanthemum parthenium and Pyrethrum parthenium. It is also sometimes referred to as bachelor’s buttons or featherfew.[1]

So Tanacetum parthenium is the same thing as Chrysanthemum parthenium (NOT leucanthemum) Uh, okay.  The picture next to the article looked a LITTLE like my Batchelor Buttons, but not quite.  The petals are more roundy on this plant, plus the leaves look kinda wrong.  More importantly, mine are no bush.  And I don’t remember a “citrus-y” scent.

Wikipedia's Batchelor's Buttons.  Also known as Feverfew (Linda Kershaw might not agree!), Featherfew, and Tanacetum parthenium.

Wikipedia’s Batchelor’s Buttons. Also known as Feverfew , Featherfew, and Tanacetum parthenium.  But – to be sure – you should check with Linda Kershaw.

I rush back to Linda Kershaw now.   After a bit of (more patient!) reading I finally get that Tanacetum parthenium is also known as “Feverfew,”  but looks a fair bit different from Tansy vulgare, which basically looks like the flower centres but with no petals.

So, okay, THIS is tansy (T. vulgare).  From what I understand, it is NOT called Feverfew (that's the one with the petals).  I think I got it now...

So, okay, THIS is tansy (T. vulgare). From what I understand, it is NOT called Feverfew (that’s the one with the petals). I think I got it now…

Okay, now it’s about time to unveil my own pictures.  These are MY Bachelor Buttons.  What do you think?

Bachelor Buttons at Sandy Beach, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Bachelor Buttons at Sandy Beach, Newfoundland and Labrador.

oxeye_daisy_aka_batchelor_button_02

Was going for art more than science that day. Now wish I could get a better look at those leaves!

oxeye_daisy_aka_batchelor_button_03

Well, at least I can say one thing: My Bachelor Buttons are definitely in the Chrysanthemum family. And they are definitely (!) not Chicory.

It turns out my whole story today is about my inability to make a certain ID of a familiar plant.  There are a couple of lessons here:

  1. It’s not always easy (or possible) to get that positive ID of a wild plant.  Many species look similar and like similar habitats.  Further, look-alike wildflowers have a nasty habit of growing close to each other (that one hemlock in a field of wild parsnip!), making sorting them out from one another a literal game of teasing them apart.
  2. What we call something is a game of semantics.  The same name may be used for different plants in different places.  Or the same plant may have different names, even in the same place (and it does – at the VERY least it’ll have both a common name and a scientific, Latin name!).  Heck, in Newfoundland “dinner” is the meal you eat at noon.  It’s all a matter of context, isn’t it?  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  Similarly, my mom’s sweet and sour chicken tastes just as good leftover at dinner/lunch the next day as it did at supper/dinner the evening before.
  3. This botany stuff can get confusing!
  4. I’m not ready to eat any wild plants yet.

My Bachelor Buttons are probably Oxeye Daisies, but they might be Feverfew (T. parthenium).  Heck, they might even be Scentless Chamomile or Shasta Daisies.  But, in Newfoundland, they’re Bachelor Buttons.  At least I’m positive about that!

All for now,

Butterfly

P.S.  Talkback time!  Do you call a certain flower “Bachelor (or Bachelor’s) Buttons”?  Ever played “he loves me, he loves me not”?  Which flower is YOUR Bachelor Button, and which species do you think mine actually are?