Random Thoughts…and otherwise

Your You Is Soooo Good Enough

Aug
31

AibeleenMy daughter, an extremely talented writer whose voice paints her words into captivating stories and vivid imagery, has sent me a story to edit. And I’ve been putting it off because I would rather have an appendectomy or spring clean my house (and I do know it’s August but I just haven’t found the time yet.)

I feel this way, not because I dread the thought of reading her writing—au contraire—but because her writing is hers and no fiber of mine has a place in there.

Writing is personal: It’s neat and clean and it’s very, very messy. You must learn to do it right—spelling, grammar, composition and style, the rules, endless rules—and then learn to properly throw all those rules by the wayside and find your own voice—like she has found hers.

Which is kind of like life, and something I’ve been thinking about since yesterday when I saw a painting on Facebook with the words: Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

And this has given me pause: Right now, at this very moment, I am in the throes of the most honoured and remarkable experience known to womanhood.

Two Augusts ago, I flew to the Yukon to visit my daughter and her husband who work summers at a remote research camp. (She cooks, he flies.) After she met me at the airport, we went to lunch and from across the table she passed me a homemade card.

On the front, it read: The next journey in your life will be…and, I immediately thought, Hell No…I am not going up in that plane! But that wasn’t it.

When I opened the card it read: Congratulations! In seven months you are going to be a Grandma. Whaaaa?

If on the flight to Whitehorse a seatmate had asked if I had any grandchildren, I would have laughed uncontrollably, said “HELL NO,” and rambled on with something about being too young and blahblahblah and not for a few years, I hope.

However, in the nanosecond it took for my brain to translate those words into meaning—going to be a Grandma—my entire self, what I believed to be true, my plan, my purpose changed: My baby was having a baby, and my baby’s baby would be the greatest gift that both she or I, the world, had ever known.

And in the next nanosecond, I spontaneously and joyfully shared this new truth with the entire populous gathered inside Earl’s Restaurant. They undoubtedly wondered by my cries and dance: Is she having a stroke? Did she injure herself? Escape from somewhere? Win the lottery?

I did! Today, I am the proud Grandmomma of two little boys—Wee Man C and Prince P—and it is the most remarkable, heartwarming, life-changing gift-of-a-place to be.

And I don’t want the world to ever tell them who they should be. As I delight in their emerging selves, their untainted souls are sacred: They are perfectly them just the way they are, thank you very much.

Wee Man C is the very essence of kindness: At not a year-and-a-half he is beautifully and authentically…kind. He is generous and curious and focused on his constant, inquisitive pursuit to explore every nook and wonder of his world.

And Prince P—at a mere two months, his unbridled joy at sharing his newfound smile and the innocent expression of unconditional love behind it melts every jaded bit that has ever festered within me.

They are precious and contagious and with them I am free.

Just over 28 years ago, I stood in the anteroom of the Whitecourt Medical Clinic, and carefully piped one drop of my own pee and one drop of Anti-beta hCG onto a glass slide, used the tip of a tiny wooden stick to stir them together for the required 30 seconds, then added a drop of a reactant agent. I waited, and waited, twice as long as instructed, and watched in awe as the concoction before me curdled: I was having a baby!

And in that moment, I knew two things for sure:

  1. I, as I knew myself before entering that anteroom with a jar of my own pee in hand, no longer existed, nor mattered.
  2. As much as this world will perceive this baby to be mine, it won’t be. It will be a gift from the Universe that I’m meant to care for for a time, to nurture and love unconditionally, forever and always. From its first breath this baby will strive to become an independent being and bearing witness to the eventual sum of all its parts will be my grand and ultimate reward.

And those two truths remain today when I answer the question: Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

And for these two grandbabies of mine, I wish three things for them and this beautiful and ugly, awe-inspiring and heartless, and oft chameleonic-dictating world I live in:

  1. An understanding that ‘normal’ doesn’t exist: That the fact we are all very different is humanity’s greatest strength, and that celebrating these differences will only make us inclusive, no longer angry, hurtful and divisive. That their, my grandbabies’, brethren all feel, for once, that they belong.
  2. That whatever path they choose, they are always led forward knowing that they are good enough.
  3. And that they and every child gifted from the Universe know this: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” (Aibeleen Clark, The Help)

That’s all. Must read.

Published @ BabyCenter.ca September 11, 2016

An Addict No More

Aug
25

Candy

I am an addict. And I have found a new drug and a new dealer and things are not good.

I was doing well and had my problem under control until one night in May when my daughter came by carrying a baggie with three little balls in it. She asked if I wanted one. I did. And the ensuing rush was unlike anything I’d experienced before. Ever.

When she left, I noticed the remaining two balls were still in the baggie, sitting on a table beside a chair. I am NOT going there, I thought. Not me. I had worked hard, was doing well. I could not and would not go down that path again.

At 2:30 AM, unable to sleep one wink, I crept out of bed and devoured them both, burying the baggie in the garbage, my pride and will power with it.

Ever since, I’ve been hoarding change from off of shelves, from under couch cushions, deep in the consoles of cars. I found a dealer up in College Heights and sneak up there about once a week. This place is somewhat off-the-beaten-path and the prices aren’t that bad. If I go early in the morning, or late in the afternoon, there are usually few people around. I’m quick. Pick what I want, make the deal and am out of there. Take a hit before the car door is even closed.

And when I get home, this stash does not go in my typical hiding place. No. I’ve found another, buried deep within a desk drawer for easier access when I’m locked away on my own. It’s mine. Only mine. All mine.

It’s been getting worse though. Sometimes my stash doesn’t last the week, and last week I made the trip twice. I know I’m in deep, but am gratefully still able to recognize my problem.

And, then, the other night my daughter was back and I found her going through my kitchen cupboards.

“Any Bon Bons?” she said, her beautiful, post-natal, health-conscious, disciplined-self staring hopefully in her mother’s eyes.

“No. They’re all gone,” I lied.

“Anything?”

“Nothing. Just some old chocolate acai berries in the freezer.”

I knew damn well that there were still a few Bon Bons loose and exposed behind my laptop screen, but they were mine. I needed them. Yet when she left I thought who is the person that lies to their child, who so selfishly, and easily, deprives them of their joy, the last piece of the proverbial pie?

Me, that’s who.

My name is Linda and I am a candy-oholic: Blue Whales, mini O’Henry bars, Hot Tamales, Mike and Ikes, marshmallow bananas, Skittles, sour bears, Licorice All Sorts, Goodies, Tootsie Rolls. And now Bon Bons. Really anything that contains sugar, pretty colours, artificial flavours, gelatin derived from animal bones.

And it’s time to break this cycle. Again.

Exclusion

I’ve been an on-again, off-again vegan for a few years now. Last summer I went two months straight—cold turkey on, fiesta-of-crap off. But during those two months I felt the very best I’ve ever felt in my whole, entire life—an overabundance of energy, deep, deep sleep, clear skin, clear mind. The best.

No meat, no dairy, no sugar, no oils. No processed crap. Just fresh and clean, made-from-scratch, vegan delicousness—veggies and fruits and grains and carbs and beans and pulses, zingy spices and savoury herbs.

And here’s the thing, once I’d detoxed from all the sugar, which really happened in a matter of a day, maybe days, I did not once in those two months ever crave one candy, feel the panic and impulse to speed to the Dollar Store minutes before closing, pull over to ‘pee’ while on a road trip only to grab a chocolate bar, deceive and deprive my child, neeeeeeeeed sugar.

A year or so ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called Forks Over Knives, an informative and inspiring piece that doesn’t preach the obvious proponent of a vegan lifestyle—that killing animals for food is a cruel and unnecessary and horrifically bad-karmic means for humans to sustain themselves. Rather, it presents overwhelming scientific evidence that consuming animal products is not only unnecessary, but detrimental to our physical, and mental and emotional, well-being.

It’s a movement really. And the website offers fabulous instruction and volumes of recipes and heaps of inspiring stories on how to begin and maintain a whole food, plant based lifestyle.

So, I’m done. Today I will offer to my daughter the bag of sour bears I bought yesterday at the grocery store (in the discount bin for $.24/100g, who could resist) and clean out my cupboards along with my gluttonous, impulsive, liar-liar deviant life. I’m coming clean and going clean, as well.

Here’s to the good life, the clean life—green smoothies chock full of deliciousness, rice bowls, lentil stews, stir fry’s, raw veggies, and frozen grapes, for a more natural rush!

What If: Is it Madness or Wisdom?

Aug
22

candle

My mind is always busy, but it has ramped up to cyclonic velocity in the last couple of weeks, maybe longer. And I’m wondering, as I get a bit older, if my level of tolerance is getting lower, or if my beliefs and opinions are shifting from bold greys to pure black and white? Maybe it’s madness? Maybe it’s wisdom?

Regardless. It’s all very heavy, and I’m tired.

In the last week, I have written about two very disturbing topics that are really akin: The murder of Colten Boushie near Biggar, Saskatchewan, and the designation of Prince George as the third most dangerous city in Canada. And where I’m going with this is somewhat to the root, and how they’re not at all the same, but, then, how they really, truly are.

Colten Boushie was the young man who was murdered by a Saskatchewan farmer on August 9, when he and four friends had a flat tire and managed to limp their vehicle into a stranger’s farmyard, in broad daylight, with the intent of seeking help. The farmer “came out of nowhere,” wielding a gun and smashed their windows, screaming at them to “get the fuck out.” Three of the vehicles occupants managed to make a run for it, but Colten wasn’t so lucky: When RCMP arrived he was found dead with bullet wounds to his head.

(The farmer was charged with second degree murder and has since been release on $10,000 bail with conditions.)

Colten’s family has not only had to cope with the loss of a young man who was very dear and vital to their lives and community, but they’ve also had to cope with an explosion of racism on a national scale that is absolutely vile and incredibly alarming.

And this brings to mind a column I wrote for the Clearwater North Thompson Times in March 2000, regarding three Aboriginal men who, within the period of a week, were driven by police outside the city limit of Saskatoon, and dumped. It was winter. It was very cold. Two were found frozen to death without shoes or a coat; one managed to survive

In that column, I asked: Do our young children notice and judge others by virtue of their cultures or the colour of their skin? And if not, where and when is the line crossed that instills such hatred and deviant racist notions in adulthood?

More than 16 years later—a period of time in which, in 2000, I would have imagined incredible progress to have taken place—here we remain.

Which brings me to Prince George’s designation as the third most dangerous city in Canada, and how I think, perhaps, actually know, that we all have within us the power to evoke change. It’s simply the matter of a shift in our consciousness.

Best to belong somewhere

I truly believe that people are born intrinsically good, and it is the path they are given, led down and, then, eventually choose, that causes some to be ‘bad’—to make poor choices, then horrible choices, cause damage, commit horrific crimes, to appear to be without humanity. We call them ‘bad’ people.

We draw a line, build a wall. We are good. They are bad. And they are, what they have done is very bad.

Why them and not us, these people who wreak havoc in our community, who make it one of the most dangerous cities in the whole of Canada?

The answer: It’s better to belong somewhere, than nowhere.

Ask any youth care worker in this city, any city. Or high school counsellor, policeperson, forensic psychologist: It begins when they are children, mere victims of circumstance, likely victims of neglect, abuse, bullying, and more, and continues throughout adolescence when then, or maybe a bit later, belonging and acceptance is eventually found in a world of druggies, gangs and criminal activity.

No one wants, chooses in the beginning, to live that life. And it is not an excuse, but the circumstance is the cause and the violent behaviours the effect.

So, I have been thinking about all of this. And then, last night in the Toronto Star I read a quote by British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who spent three hours sitting on the floor of a crowded train en route to a leadership debate in northern England.

He said: “Is it fair that I should upgrade my ticket whilst others who might not be able to afford such a luxury should have to sit on the floor?”

And then, I thought this:

There is a tool that I used to use in my work once called the Triangle of Change, that is really a very simplistic form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

At each corner of the triangle there is one of: action, thought or emotion. All three of these work together in everything we think and do. When we change any one, our entire behavior is changed.

What if?

What if we became leaders, just within ourselves, changed our thought and began to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves—to be kind and considerate, compassionate. To practice empathy. What if we chose to put down our gavels and stop judging others, chose to see humans instead of race, religion, gender or otherwise. What if we, as leaders, offered belonging and acceptance to everyone. What if we walked with our heads up and eyes forward, with a smile and a “hello, how are you doing?” Then, what if we listened? What if we heard?

What if we did all of that, or had done all the between 2000 and now? What if our leadership, our acknowledgment and inclusivity, our creation of a world where all belong, had changed this world before now, and Colten Boushie was alive today and Prince George was known, far and wide, as one of the best, the safest, cities in Canada?

I don’t think that it’s madness. Wisdom? Perhaps.

There is a candle that sits on my desk that says: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”—Ghandi

What if?
Related Posts
Colten Boushie: Hatefully Murdered, Desperately Loved
Maclean’s Report: Not a Reflection of My Prince George
La Loche deserves respect and humanity, not judgement

 

Maclean’s Report: Not a Reflection of My Prince George

Aug
19

Danger

Last week, Maclean’s magazine published its report of Canada’s most dangerous cities, and, while it did slide from its previous top spot, Prince George remains on the podium with a solid third place ranking behind Grande Prairie and Red Deer, Alberta.

After having spent a few days pondering this news, I’m stuck with two thoughts, the first being—what is the purpose of this report?

From what I can glean it is perhaps to send Westerners (the top 10 most dangerous cities are all west of the Manitoba border) running to Halton Region, Ontario, the blessed winner of the title of Canada’s Least Dangerous City. Perhaps, there, real estate sales are down, or there is an overabundance of jobs, or schools are facing closures due to low enrollment? I’m not sure.

If not, the report feels a moot point: We, the Top 10, know we have a problem. We’re not dangerous because there is an information blackout on the goings-on in our fair cities. Our civic leaders and law enforcement as well as community task forces and social agencies, private citizens, are well-aware. We’re on top of it, doing our very best to effect change, to exit the podium.

And, I’m assuming, by means of the Maclean’s story about the mess in Grande Prairie, that all of the Top Ten, and the ten after that, and so on, experience the same ills that my city does: There is a microcosmic minority committing the crimes, most often, but not always, within that microcosm, typically known-to-police, long-list-of-prior-convictions, gang-related, drug-related types, whom are arrested, charged and slapped on the wrist, if that. Repeat.

A parallel universe?

Second thought: My Prince George must be a parallel universe to the one reported in Maclean’s, because my Prince George is rather awesome.

I moved to Prince George, sight-unseen, in August 2005. I was not happy. I was not staying here. Prince George would only be a blip on the road map of my life. There would be no time to plant roots, not even a microscopic shoot. It was going to be over that quick. It wasn’t.

Today, eleven years later, I feel like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz—clicking my heels, professing there’s “no place like home.” I love Prince George, and I know this is a sentiment echoed by the vast majority of Prince Georgites. (Georgians?)

And those who love this city, like me, choose to ignore the naysayers—those who, if they make it, would sit on a cloud and bitch about Heaven—who sit behind their computer screens and type out negative comments, as dark as their outlooks, on news blogs and in Letters to the Editor, avoid the downtown because of ‘those people,’ complain about every progressive effort that City Council and developers and innovators make—the roads, the air quality, the downtown, the bike lanes—oy vey!

We, the lovers, focus on the incredible things.

We are the Northern hub of the most beautiful province in the country, which is high praise, not self-promotion, considering our country is one of, if not the, most beautiful in the world.

We are blessed with the privilege of sharing the land that is the traditional territory of the Lheidli T’enneh, which means where the two rivers flow together, the people.

Here, in Prince George, the Nechako River, which begins in the Coast Mountains and flows east, joins the Fraser River on its journey south to the Pacific Ocean.

If you go north or south on Highway 97, or west or east on Highway 16, you enter untouched wilderness and endless opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts of any strain—there are endless trails and backroads and lakes, more rivers.

And the city, itself, has it all—shopping, restaurants, entertainment, recreation facilities, theatre, arts, the University, College, big box outskirts and a revitalized, upcoming, vibrant downtown.

If you need to leave, a one-hour plane ride lands you smack in the most beautiful city in the world—Vancouver.

While all these attributes are fantastic, they’re not the reason I’m still here: The reason I’m still here is Prince George’s greatest charm, greatest asset—its people. The people who turned a cynic who took one look at a city’s rough edges and was ready bolt before unpacking, who were all protagonists in a story and turned her into a true-believer.

Community equals its people

People like: the staff and guests of St. Vincent de Paul Drop In Centre, who allowed me to volunteer years ago and learn what real community meant; Ron Gallo, who I first met through volunteering on the board of the Prince George Spruce Kings, a man whose love of this city I now admire from afar and am inspired by every day; the staff and survivors of the Prince George Brain Injured Group, who, for years, welcomed me to work every day and taught me that a new normal was often the very best type; and Alison of Alison’s Embroidery who acknowledged a man named Tommy by giving him a coat one Christmas and enabled him to wear his newfound sense of pride.

People like: nine-year-old ‘Eco-Guardian’ Raia Patrick-Prince and her mom, Amanda, who often walked by my window in the VLA on their way to clean up Hudson’s Bay slough; Val Reimer, who in response to a series, “At Home in the Hood,” presented by CBC Daybreak North in 2014, described my then-neighbourhood as “the kind of community where you actually see your neighbour and they don’t just drive straight into their garage which leads into the house, the kind of community where you can visit with your neighbour over the fence and ask him or her for a cup of milk.” (True story—I miss it still today.) And the Youth Action Team who took their party there this past Monday.

People like: my co-workers during my short foray at the Prince George Native Friendship Centre—who walk the streets, meet people where they’re at and see the very best and endless hope in everyone; Linda Liss, the founder of M.O.M.S.S., for acting upon the desperate need of young women who age out of care in this community, and is only a few dollars short of the first intake into a program that will be a game changer in the future of these women.

People like our current Mayor and Council, who are moving forward, inviting business, cleaning up the city, bringing the fun back. Especially, perhaps, the three rookie women, including Jillian Merrick who has the audacity (and lady balls) to act on her platform and fight for what she believes in, like new bike lanes throughout the city.

People like: the woman who paid for Ranjit Singh’s family’s admission to the BCNE last night, which is only karma, because Ranjit Singh has selflessly provided free food to the community for the last few years through his Guru Nanaks Free Food Langar. And yesterday, as if by magic, City Center Paving showed up at that venue, unannounced, to prep his yard and driveway for free paving so that people with wheelchairs and strollers will be able to access this service with much greater ease.

People like Scott McWalter, who in March 2014, started a Facebook group called Hell Ya Prince George that now is a movement, some-33,000 strong, and has been something of a cognitive triangle of change for this community, in a positivity-breeds-positivity, rather contagious way.

How else would I know about these gems of people who are my neighbours, and your neighbours, too: The RCMP officer who started the pay-if-forward game at the Tim Horton’s on Victoria Street yesterday morning; Christina Gillies who is rallying the troops and organizing a fitness program for women who want to get in shape but are somewhat intimidated to go to the gym; the anonymous person who built the fairy house in Cottonwood Park, likely that same lovely soul who decorates the tree there for every occasion, year round; the person who found Jamie Kranrod’s wallet in the Superstore parking lot, turned it in to the store and then posted on HYPG; Matt Hutcheon who moved here from Kingston and is throwing a party so that Prince George can celebrate the final concert of The Tragically Hip; Dani Weibe and everyone else who picked their apples to be shipped to the Northern Lights Wildlife Society; and Nigel Rimmer who warned of the mama bear and cub at LC Gunn Park yesterday, which will hopefully prevent another cub eating those apples after being rendered motherless. And, maybe most importantly, the person who found Chelsea Smith’s lovely dog.

It’s endless, if you look and choose to see.

Prince George Proud

Many years ago, when I was attending nursing school, my big-city friend picked up a copy of the Watrous-Manitou, the newspaper from my small hometown which I’d left sitting on a table. From the ‘Card of Thanks’ section on page two, she read aloud:

Thank you to the person who found and returned Cathy’s shoe.
Signed, Betty Vickaryous

I remember this now for two reasons:

  • In that moment, I was embarrassed of my very small, non-cosmopolitan hometown.
  • In this moment, I am proud that, despite its rough edges, my new and likely forever hometown is the kind of city, community, in which if Cathy lost her shoe, someone would return it.

So, here’s the thing: Maybe from the outside, to those not intimately informed, Prince George looks awful, no doubt its reputation tainted again by Maclean’s latest report. But it need not define us.

From the inside, we know, have proven, we are bigger than that. It is known that the ultraviolet rays of the sun kill viruses, so it only stands to reason that if we continue to believe in ourselves, live our community, allow positivity to breed positivity, that light of goodness will overshadow and snuff out the bad and we will achieve a well-deserved podium placement of a different sort.

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My Crazy-Busy Mind

Aug
17

Rice

This morning I set a pot of oats on the stove to cook for breakfast, went downstairs to get the newspaper and returned a moment later to check if they were boiling yet. I was surprised, yet not shocked, to find that I was actually cooking rice.

It was an easy mistake to make—l grabbed one bag instead of the other.

No need to rush to the doctor and demand a Mini Mental State Exam: Such is my life.

This is what the inside of my head looks like…

my brain
…from the moment I wake up until I fall asleep at night.

And this morning while reaching into the cupboard for the oats, I was thinking these thoughts: I wish I’d washed the pots last night—I’m kind of bummed I have to do them this morning; I’ll do them later because as soon as I throw these oats in the pot I’m going downstairs to see if the newspaper’s here because I forgot to pay the bill; doesn’t matter, I think I’ll cancel it anyway; should I?; maybe not; are there raspberries in the fridge?; oh frig, today I have to buy food, where does it go?; I don’t want to go out today, I wish it would rain; lots; I have so much to do; if I go out I’m going to the bookstore; maybe I’ll sit there and have a coffee; should I meet someone for coffee?; nah; should I repaint my toenails or trim them and continue to let the polish grow out until my nails look like a reverse French pedicure; I shouldn’t, but likely will; my eyebrows feel bushy; I’m going to paint later; wow, the kitchen sure smells better since I washed the garbage can yesterday; I forgot you shouldn’t use bleach to clean anymore; is that still true?; did I remember to buy vinegar?; oh, there’s some rice vinegar; I should make sushi tonight—and I grabbed the wrong bag.

Unfazed, I dumped most of the parboiled rice into a colander for later, then restarted the process, this time actually dumping oats in the water.

This is a scenario that will gratefully (hopefully) be repeated repeatedly for the rest of my life.

In a former job, a client of mine, whose very life I helped him manage, once stared at my work desk and then stared at me, sighed and announced, “A cluttered desk equals a cluttered mind.”

Which made me gasp inside, then consider the condition of my desk: Cluttered was kind. My desk resembled a Jenga tower—one wrong move and a landslide of papers and books and lunch and pictures and files and crap might be triggered, which could easily maim, or bury, either of us.

I smiled apologetically, and then he said, “But imagine if it was a clean slate, there wasn’t one thing sitting on it? An empty desk. What would that mean?” He smiled and together we laughed—he knew me well.

Yes, my mind is like my desk. Cluttered. Very busy—a lifeform in and of itself, a non-stop frenzy of activity..

I say all of this because yesterday afternoon I had a house full of company and someone told me they have been very bored lately. And to this pronouncement, which was begging for a teammate, like always, I have no response. Only wonder and honest pity: I cannot relate.

In fact, the words I’m bored have not left these lips since I was an angst-filled teen-aged poser and uttered them only to fit in: I’ve never been bored, had an empty desk, empty mind. Ever.

And while to an outsider looking in the thought of living my life might provide a fantastic alternative to anesthesia, I have a rich inner life that remains fascinated with my world, the world. I have too much to think about, learn about, wonder about, dream about. Imagine. I have too much to do. I am busy.

Boredom is the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest. My only cause of weariness and restlessness is my oft state of distress in that there is never enough time to think and learn and wonder and dream.

What is this called?

It’s called introversion. I am an introvert, with extrovert tendencies when the time is right for me. Like yesterday afternoon with my house full of company. It was wonderful to visit, to see everyone. To catch up, to laugh, to gossip a little. As it was equally wonderful when everyone went home, and there was peace and quiet and I had solitude and could return to my lovely cluttered mind, to recharge, to create and learn and wonder and dream.

What’s a little rice in my breakfast now and then? Nothing that can’t be cluttered up with some oats and yogurt and berries and nuts—a fantastic feast of fabulousness, just like my crazy-busy mind.

Colten Boushie: Hatefully Murdered, Desperately Loved

Aug
14

colten boushie
One spring night in 1985, two friends and I decided our small town Saturday night was not exciting enough, that we would amp it up and drive from our home of Watrous to Wynyard where one of them knew we could find a party.

An hour or so later, around midnight, with the bright lights of Wynyard on the horizon, we ran out of gas and managed to roll into a farmyard alongside the highway. The farmer had fuel tanks and we knew he would help us out with enough gas to make it to town.

And we were right. After knocking on his door and waking him up, this stranger only grumbled a little before he left us to get dressed to come outside. Within minutes he had poured fuel in our tank and helped us to get our car started and back on the road, accepting $5 and our “thanks” for his trouble.

With our minds on a party, we hadn’t given a second of thought to our safety: We were young and naïve and fearless, and, in hindsight, by accident of birth we were girls and we were white, why would we?

Today I sit staring at a picture of a boy, only three years older than I was that spring night. He is bespectacled with a mustache and wearing a ball cap and Carhartts, sitting in the cab of what might be an excavator. He’s giving a two thumbs up after having just completed a firefighting course this past spring.

“In case the rez burns down, I’m ready to go,” he’d proudly told his mom.

But if it does burn, he won’t be there to don his new hardhat and work boots and save it like he once dreamt: On the afternoon of August 9, this boy—Debbie Baptiste’s beautiful son—Colten Boushie, of Saskatchewan’s Red Pheasant First Nation, was shot to death for doing exactly what I did some thirty years ago. Except it wasn’t under the cover of darkness at midnight, rather 5:30 PM on a warm Tuesday afternoon.

While returning home from a day spent at the lake, the car he was riding in had blown a tire and he and his friends managed to limp it into a farmyard alongside the highway to ask for help.

Instead of being met by a few grumbles, however, Colten’s cousin, Eric Meechance, who was also in the car, says the farmer came out of nowhere and smashed their car’s windows while yelling at them to “get the fuck out.” In a panic, and with their vision obstructed by the broken windows, they backed into a parked vehicle, igniting the armed farmer’s tirade, reportedly already fueled by a rash of ongoing incidents of theft in his rural neighbourhood: The farmer was incensed.

Some of the car’s five occupants (who were all unknown to the farmer), including Meechance, managed to flee and run to safety through the bush, the echo of gunfire behind them.

“He wasn’t shooting to scare us,” Meechance said. “He was shooting to kill.”

And he was successful.

Upon their arrival, RCMP discovered Colten Boushie, 22, with gunshot wounds to his head. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

(The farmer was arrested ‘without incident’ and eventually charged with second degree murder.)

Horrific. Senseless. Absolutely uncalled for.

And, as if all of this—this needless loss of a life—wasn’t bad enough, when the RCMP news release of this event went public, people went crazy over the tail end of the statement: A woman, a girl and a man were taken into custody as part of a related theft investigation. No charges have been laid. RCMP are still looking for an unidentified boy.

And, POOF, the fact that Colten Boushie’s young life was blown away became lost in all of the madness. Social media and comment sections could barely keep up with racist accusations and heated debates—White vs ‘Indian’ and the right to protect property, even though in this case no property crime took place.

“He deserved to die.”

The media headlines, both local and national, soon evolved into a different story:

First Nations man fatally shot on Sask. farm was looking for help with flat tire: cousin (CTV)

‘We’re scared it’s open season on us’: A family mourns the loss of a 22-year-old shot to death on a Sask. Farm (Star Phoenix)

Deadly shooting near Biggar, Sask., sparks debate over right to defend (CBC)

FSIN says RCMP news release on fatal shooting near Biggar biased (CTV)

Sask. chiefs accuse RCMP of fuelling racial tensions in wake of deadly shooting (CBC)

Shooting of First Nations man exposes tensions in Saskatchewan (McLeans)

“Remain respectful.” SK RCMP to open dialogue with FSIN after fatal shooting (The Wolf)

Brad Wall says ‘racist and hate-filled’ comments after fatal shooting of First Nations man must stop (Globe and Mail)

And I’ve had it. And, once again, the whiteness of my own skin crawls by association.

Robert Innes, an Indigenous studies professor at the University of Saskatchewan said it best: “A lot of people who are talking on social media are happy that the person was shot and killed and believe it was justified. That, to me, is kind of disturbing in a lot of ways.”

Like a million ways. And then some. And then more.

There is good and bad in everyone. Compassion is good, judgement is bad.

There are good white people, and bad white people. There are good Indigenous, and bad Indigenous. There are good African Americans, Syrians, Germans and Mexicans, and bad African Americans, Syrians, Germans and Mexicans.

There are good Catholics, Jehovahs, Muslims and Buddhists, and bad Catholics, Jehovahs, Muslims and Buddhists.

There are good men and women, there are bad men and women.

There are good rich people and bad rich people, and good homeless people and bad homeless people. There are good cops and bad cops, and good priests and bad priests.

There are good people and bad people. There are people. We are people. All of the above.

And until we all, every single one of us, stop hating, stop judging, stop denigrating, stop blanketing, stop perpetuating racism, the madness that is our world, the hatred, will never end.

We belong to one race, the human race. We are all human.

Including Colten Boushie. He was human, belonged to the human race. And in the words of his cousin, Jade Tootoosis, “…loved his family, his community. He was an active member of the Native American Church. He loved his culture. He was proud of who he was, where he came from.”

“He wasn’t a violent person,” Verna Denny, his kokum, said. “He was a smart boy and he had plans. He wanted to go to college or University. He had plans for his life. He was the smartest one of all.”

They called him Coco, their beautiful boy, good boy. He had compassion, they said.

It seems, like me, when he pulled into that farmyard, Coco was young and naïve and fearless, hadn’t given a second thought to his safety.

But unlike me, in the wrong place at the wrong time, he was a boy and he was Indigenous: I pray his death wasn’t merely an accident of birth.

RIP, beautiful boy. To the people whose voices I choose to hear the loudest today, you mattered. You were smart. You were kind. You were loved, desperately loved.

Related:

CBC: Gerald Stanley committed to stand trial in death of Colten Boushie
CBC Out in the Open: What Does Colten Boushie Say About Us
What If: Is it Madness or Wisdom?

Namaste, Young Grasshopper

Aug
06

Earth Mom

“I can’t wait to have my own garden,” my daughter announced, during a conversation we were having about our mutual dislike of shopping for groceries. “Everything I buy, I could grow.”

That is what she said, this is what I heard: “The hospital just called. I was switched at birth. You’re not my mother.”

I was blind-sided. And, given her recent passage into motherhood, I considered for a moment if perhaps I’d ‘heard’ wrong, and wondered if what I’d really ‘heard’ was she was switched giving birth, when she became a mother. Into an Earth Mother?

And then it hit me—Ah ha! The placenta capsules! Of course, that’s it, she has overdosed on oxytocin. Now her happiness and bonding capacity have blown the roof and walls apart, unleashing its potential to the great outdoors, and she has an overwhelming urge, need, to go forth barefooted, her young swaddled to her breast, and dig her hands deep into the soil, to sow seed, to nurture. To provide an abundant harvest for her young.

Much like a robin who regurgitates an earth worm into its awaiting nestling’s mouth. Except she will do this with carrots and eggplant and butternut squash, pummeled in a Baby Bullet and spoon fed into that of hers.

Blessings, My Child. Many blessings.

But may I remind you that this is still at my house.

Kale

The kale plant that your mother-in-law trustingly bestowed upon you during your May-long visit.

“I couldn’t keep up with it last year,” she’d said. You told me.

And now it sits stunted and burnt and weedy in my care. It weeps. For you, the new you. For someone earthy.

And I weep too, for your dreams that were once mine, and your beautiful, unjaded soul.

This, Young Grasshopper, is what my back garden was going to look like this summer!

the wild

I know. You’re reminded of your recent hike through the Trophy Mountains, meadow beyond meadow of wildflowers, endless blooms flourishing, ablaze, every colour of the rainbow, birds and bees and butterflies aflutter. A riot, a feast, a nature-made symphonic masterpiece for your eyes.

THAT was my vision. An imagined landscape that tickled and taunted my mind’s eye this spring as the snow melted and the canvas was cleared.  But, after sprinkling my fertile dreams and border gardens with two $15.99 bins of Miracle-Gro Flower Magic Multi-Colour Mix and tending and watering and weeding and waiting, patiently and hopefully, this—mid-summer—is what my dream-sucker boarder gardens look like.

field of broken dreams

There is the odd daisy, and if you look very hard, maybe squint to focus in, you will see the odd fledgling stem with a miniscule pink or purple bloom. Not quite my field of dreams. I might better have dreamt of unicorns.

I’m done.

In the fall I will clean the gardens out and in the spring fill them with bark mulch. And, I will pass the torch with all its luminary promise onto to you, with hope that my brown thumb is a genetic mutant, that you have the earthy touch that your ancestors, my mother, both my grandmothers, likely their grandmothers before them, as well as all of their offspring and their offspring’s offspring—except me—beheld.

I have, after as many dream inspired springs as your young and hopeful life, come to terms with the fact, that for me, this mid-summer yield is only too shattering, that my ability to nurture and grow was limited to your sister and yourself. That you, and she, are my field of dreams, blaze of glory and riot of colour, and that I have nothing left for the earth.

That the blessed carrots and eggplants and butternut squash that all of our many grocery stores have provided us over these years, were enough.

That you both are my enough, my much more than enough, and, like the mother robin wished for her young nestling, I wish your dreams, all of them, come true. And that with them you fly.

Namaste.

Hoopapalooza, My App

Aug
02

Pedometer

Family legend has it that I was unable to execute a somersault until I was 17, that it was a graduation requirement and if I didn’t tumble my future would be forever marred by a big red stamp on my high school transcripts that read: “DID NOT GRADUATE.” Or so my brother likes to say.

I must correct this fallacy: I actually accomplished the perfect somersault years earlier, when I was 13 and practicing for an Air Cadet gymnastics display. The fact I was the MC of the event was not a slight to my athletic abilities by Captain Bertram, he was impressed. Rather, I selflessly volunteered to be the MC to allow the light of my fellow cadets to shine.

Still, the truth is, despite the fact that when I close my eyes I can see myself as rather sporty—crossing the finishing line of a marathon, running across an alpine trail with the grace of a ridge-running-roan, at the side of a long winding highway effortlessly pedaling my speeding bike, swimming a channel, walking to the grocery store—I am not an athlete.

And I’m getting annoyed.

Every Sunday morning at precisely 10 AM, I receive an alert on my phone from My Pedometer asking: “Have you taken any steps today?”

Every. Single. Bloody. Sunday.

At which time, I’m usually still in my pajamas, reading something very important.

Perhaps it’s the timing of the alert? I don’t know.

But it does nothing to inspire me. In fact, if anything, I tend to rebel: “Think this was a long week? You just wait, you annoyingingly-needy DumbPhone app! You wait!”

And then I snuggle back in and flip the page, and try to read away my scars.

Medal

It seems I piqued in 1980, when I, Linda Glover, a wildcard entry in the Blackstrap Regional Winter Games, annihilated the competition, and beat Sandra Gibney in the cross-country ski event. It was my moment. I shone. (At the time, it was a known fact that nobody, ever, beats Sandra Gibney at anything. She was a legend.)

And like many professional athletes, that should have been enough. I should have hung it up while at the top of my game, gone out a blue-ribboned, gold-medaled champion.

But, I didn’t. I was caught up in the glory.

Let’s go Wildcats

So when a call came out that fall from Winston Wildcats head coach, Rick Eidsness, advising that there were try-outs for the Senior Girls Basketball team, I took one look at my gold medal and thought, “Why not?”

My friend, Laurie, was happy I did—we were able to keep each other company on the bench most of the season. Until—a weekend tournament at Rosthern Junior College, a Christian residential school where there was sure to be a rowdy and plentiful home crowd.

That Sunday, we, the Wildcats, had made it to one of the final games. Against the home team. We were awesome—Deneen Bertram, Jackie McArthur, Tammy Crawford, Lesley Schroeder, Carolyn Burke, even my friend, Laurie, out there, working their magic for the ol’ Blue and Gold.

And then it happened. The whistle blew and Mr Eidsness signaled me up off the bench. I was about to be a substitution. (I don’t remember the score—I’m assuming we were up by a mile—which must have been an element in his decision, along with fair-play rules and the fact I hadn’t played the entire weekend.)

When the play resumed, somehow I got the ball (and, in hindsight, clearly know that it would not have come as a quick pass from one of my teammates.)

My grip was sweaty, but ready—and there it was, a clear path to the net! All I had to do was charge.

“I can do this,” I thought. “I did it on the snow with skis…by damn, I can do it again right now.”

And with the grace and coordination of a three-legged elephant—elbows out, running shoes ablaze—I ran for the net, took a leap with my right foot, another leap with my left foot, planted it, reached high, high, higher, tapped the ball off the backboard and listened to SWISHHH: The most beautiful lay up in Saskatchewan high school history. And it was mine, all mine!

What happened next was horrific. My clear memory, one that haunts me to this day, is that of an extended moment of eerie silence before the entire gymnasium of Rosthern-faithful blew the roof off with their thunderous cheers—a frenzy, immediately followed by every member of my (former) team yelling, “Linnnnnnnnnn-duh!”

My brief moment of great glory had ended in an instant—I’d scored on the wrong basket, and was called back to the bench; my seat was still warm.

Thank you Constance Tillet

Last week , my brother, an actual athlete, texted me a YouTube link to a live feed of the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games. I was making dinner so set up my iPad to watch.

When I logged on, they were playing a video of a 77-year old woman named Constance Tillet who had recently taken up the sport. It killed me. I felt like a sloth, a pathetic excuse for a being, undeserving of the air I suck from this planet.

And I thought of my Pedometer App and its relentless, persistent plea to get me off my couch.

Constance is incredible, as are Mary Burger, who at 67 swept the barrel racing competition at this year’s Calgary Stampede, and the octogenarian I read about last fall who participates every year in UNBC’s —seemingly grueling—Storm the Hill event.

They all have decades on me: I have no excuse.

So, I’m sorry, Dear Pedometer. I know my rebel attitude is doing neither of us any good. Somewhat inspired, I’ll dust the cobwebs off my running shoes, rinse out my water bottle, Google how to use you again, and you and I will hit up a few trails.

Then maybe next Sunday at 10 AM, instead of asking if I’ve “taken any steps lately,” you’ll be busy adding to the history of all the places we’ve been and seen.

A Man, His Beast and A Mother–Oh My

Aug
01

Biker Dude

In August of 1997, my father—56 at the time—lived a dream: He packed his saddlebags and hit the highway on his brand new motorbike, to follow the sun west from his home in Saskatchewan to mine in Clearwater, BC. A man and his beast and miles of open road, could life get any better?

Two days later, he showed up at my door, a drenched rat: “Linda, my fly’s been open since Mount Robson. My hands are so cold I can’t pinch my fingers together to close the zipper.”

The dream had taken a turn. It seems the sun had escaped him, and when he awoke for Day Two of his adventure it had left in its path a torrent of rains for him to contend with.

After leaving his motel in Entwistle, Alberta, he shelter-hopped west: breakfast in Edson, a mall overhang in Hinton, a grove of trees at a rest stop in Jasper National Park, until eventually he waited it out at Mount Robson (this, after the fly incident) where he could console himself with the like-stories of his fellow biker-brethren who were trapped there as well.

(“I don’t care where and when you go,” a woman who had ‘had-it,’ reportedly said to her husband. “This was a ridiculous idea: You live your life, I’ll walk home and live mine.”)

An hour or so later, the sun took a peek, said “Enough, my poor man. Jump on, let’s go,” and, after clearing the skies, led him on through the last leg of his journey.

And once we peeled off his sopping gear and hung it up to dry, stuffed boots and gloves with bunched-up newspaper, and he’d drained the hot water tank in the shower, donned layers of dry clothes and filled up on hot soup and coffee, all was nearly forgotten.

Until the next day when my grandma phoned.

What were you thinking?

“We’re on our way through, and thought we’d stop by for a quick visit.”

It was at this moment—the moment I shared the news with him—that my badass biker father, who only a week before had high hopes (or delusions) for his stick-it-to-the-man epic journey, that was now surely falling apart, shrank before my eyes and became a six-year-old man-child:

“She’s going to kill me! When she finds out how I got here, she’s going to kill me. It’s over. I’m done.”

“She doesn’t have to know how you got here,” I assured him. “We can park your bike behind the house. She’ll think you flew, took the bus.”

“No. She’ll know,” he said. “She knows everything.”

His state of panic was absurd. After all, my father was…my father. But then I got it, and the picture became clear: He was not only worried for the dressing down he might get, but he was worried that she, his mother, would be consumed with worry for him.

In that moment we were living the madness that is the impact that a parent’s overwhelming concern—real or perceived—can eternally have on the conscience of a child, regardless of how old that ‘child’ may be.

My grandma was not a killer. Nor, from the moment of his birth, did she live her life forward with the intent to finish him off, to one day have him “done”. She was quiet and gentle and kind: a born nurturer who empathetically tsk-tsked and ahh-ed away the problems of others, baked away her own.

But she worried: And, in my father’s mind, she was a worrier who suffered no fools.

Like mother, like son

My father adopted this practice. Actually, he didn’t just adopt it, he upped the ante a million-fold and took it to a level that exceeded the heavens. To the point of neurosis. I promise.

A state of worry was his comfort zone, a place he felt was ‘endearing,’ almost ‘charming,’ a place where he wore his ‘love,’ that ‘gave him something to do.’ But at times, many times—practically always—it was, for the worried-about, a difficult and frustrating endearment to bear.

“You’re 37 and driving to (insert anywhere) by yourself? I don’t think that’s very smart. I don’t like it.”

“What if they get there and build a barrier around the wood stove and keep him herded into the opposite corner of the room, and the baby still gets burned?”

“I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about the towel hanger in your bathroom. You should try wood glue?”

“I know he’s 42, but in my mind he’s still 16. I’m allowed to worry. I’m his dad.”

“How was I to know she was only downstairs switching the laundry to the dryer? She didn’t tell me. I didn’t know where she was.”

Etcetera.

While I proudly embrace many of my father’s traits—compassion, wonderlust, an insatiable thirst for knowledge, dry sense of humour, love of solitude—I, gratefully, missed the worry gene, for the most part.

I read once (somewhere in HERE, I believe) that worry, or anxiety, is a story we write in our minds, a fictional account of how we imagine events might play out in our future. There’s no truth to it. It’s purely make believe.

I don’t have room for that story. I’d rather read more interesting books.

I prefer to trust—myself, my people, the world, the future—that all will be well, that I-they-it, am-are-is smart enough, insightful and brave enough, with enough good judgment to make the right choices, and to move forward on my journey without sleepless nights and distracted days, without leaving burdensome imprints of my worry on conscience of others, like my father’s often was on mine.

Some people call it wearing rose-coloured glasses. I say they make for a spectacular view.

Tattoo of a memory

On that August day in 1997, my grandma called back and we met them, my grandma and grandpa, at a beach in the middle of town. My girls were a great distraction, and, with time short, the conversation never came around to the logistics of my father’s transportation. He lived: At 56, his worry was for naught and he was giddy for days feeling like “he’d gotten away with” something big.

Maybe a lesson, maybe not. It doesn’t really matter.

But this does: At the end of the week, with the sun on his back and dust in his rearview mirror, he left my house to ride east this time, warm wind in his face, free from his cares, mile-after-glorious-mile—to live a dream, well-practiced for years in his vivid imagination: The freedom—in mind, body and spirit—of a man and his beast, completely unencumbered on a soul-filling journey that would be bad-assedly tattooed on his memory forever (with the tangible keepsake of a small wire hook we’d fashioned and attached to the zipper of the fly of his jeans, just in case.)