On Privilege


Privilege: according to the Oxford dictionary is “A special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”.

There has been a lot written about privilege, especially recently. Last evening, I was listening to a speaker at the library, an accomplished business woman and active volunteer in our community. She also happens to be Cree. Her name is Cheryl Alexander and her talk was about the indigenous people’s experiences in Canada, a country she nevertheless agreed is “wonderful”.

She was describing her mother’s experience in residential school, one of which left her unable to speak her native language. As a child she had been forced to eat a bar of soap for daring to speak Cree at school. Her experiences left her traumatized in many ways, and left her unable to give her children the legacy of her language because every time she would try to speak Cree she would experience anew the taste of soap in her mouth and the feelings of shame that accompanied it.

So, this morning I am thinking about everything this wise woman shared with the group. Unfortunately, I was unable to take in the whole of her talk and sat in for only a part of it during a lull in the library where I work. At any rate, I heard enough to compare the experiences of the downtrodden with the life of privilege many have known and still know today.

There are people who say, “why don’t they get over it? After all it happened so long ago.” Of course, the people I hear say these things are white, and perhaps do not understand the long-reaching consequences that continue to reverberate as a result of childhood abuse. The pain many people have suffered led many to self-medicate using alcohol or other substances to numb the pain. It left them unable to parent their children in many ways. And the cycle of neglect and/or abuse of children continued, and in many cases still does.

The purpose of the talk was to bring awareness around the experiences lived by most, if not all, indigenous people in Canada.

Comparing the story of First Nations Peoples to the Kavanaughs of this world is mind blowing. When a group of people are privileged they seem to be woefully ignorant of the experiences of those who are not so fortunate. It seems to me that privilege has a price too often paid by those who can ill afford to pay it. My mother used to say two things, “there, but for the grace of God go I”. And, “walk a mile in their shoes”. I have to say it is incredibly difficult to imagine the pain and the suffering experienced by indigenous people. It is almost too painful to even try to walk a mile in their shoes. It is equally as difficult to imagine why the privileged of this world seem to think it’s okay to live in gated communities and to continue to amass wealth on the backs of the poor.

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to hear Cheryl’s talk. And I am grateful for the discussion that is continuing in the wake of the Ford/Kavanaugh story, and others like them. We have an opportunity to learn; to grow; to make a better world. I hope we do.

A shout out in gratitude


“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

A shout out to all the writers, photographers, poets, and artists of every stripe – I just want to thank you. I want to thank you for expanding my horizons; for making me think; for helping me dream. For all the times I have smiled, laughed, or cried, I thank you. For your camaraderie and support; for your friendship across the miles. For granting me a small peek into your lives. Thank you for your generous sharing and for your courage to do so. For helping me see places I may never get to visit, except through your eyes. I thank you for your humour that brightens my days. I thank you for your wisdom and compassion. I thank you for exposing me to new ideas and allowing me new insights into life. And most of all I thank you for affirming for me once again that humanity is wonderful and good. I am so grateful for the miracle of each and every one of you. Thank you!

On global warming


I have lived in Fort McMurray for nearly four years and every summer we are faced with smoke from forest fires from across Alberta, British Columbia, the prairies and Ontario, as well as the North West Territories. This summer has been no different. Last week the smoke was so dense we could smell it. It stings your eyes and throat and for people with health issues it becomes a situation where they are house bound.

Last year we had hoped to travel to B.C. but due to smoke and warnings from the health department we were forced to change our plans. My husband does have several health issues and I am sure we were not the only ones forced to alter vacation plans. So, what is my point, you may ask. My point is that besides the environmental costs caused by global warming there are many and varied economic costs as well. The cost to the tourism industry for one.

Of course, there is the huge costs to taxpayers as governments everywhere are faced with ever growing financial challenges from fighting forest fires to cleaning up after severe flooding and other so called ‘natural disasters’.

We take clean air for granted as well as clean, potable water. There is far too much we continue to take for granted. It is disappointing, to say the least, to see our provincial governments fighting against any real efforts to curb global warming, such as a carbon tax. At the same time, they are lagging in taking initiatives to deal with the fall out.

While partisan politics uses every instrument of technology such as mining data to help them shape their promises and their platforms and spend much of their time fighting one another the issues and challenges caused by global warming rage on.

I don’t have any answers except perhaps to say it is more important than ever to exercise your right to vote, in every single election, whether municipal, provincial or federal. Our future and the future of our young people and our very planet may depend on it.

Addicted to Drama?


“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.” –  Malcom X

“The world is for thousands a freak show; the images flicker past and vanish; the impressions remain flat and unconnected in the soul. Thus they are easily led by the opinions of others, are content to let their impressions be shuffled and rearranged and evaluated differently.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute.” – Walter Lippmann

I think I need to stop reading news stories, or at least take a break for a while. It can be so depressing. I do believe in the goodness of humanity. I believe that there are more people fighting for the rights and freedoms of all races and creeds than those that would deny the same. I just wish there was more focus on that than on the cruel, vicious, and often insane ramblings of people who would malign the right and just. Last evening, I was watching America’s Got Talent with my husband. There was a young rapper performing a song about gun violence – she is only fourteen years old. That and the response of young people in Florida after the horrific school shooting there earlier this year gives me hope. We need more positive stories.

Unfortunately, the old media adage “if it bleeds it leads” is still much in evidence on all types of media and humanity’s addiction to drama holds sway when it comes to what news is presented. Don’t get me wrong, it is important for these stories to be told. We do need to be informed, but I think we need balance. We need the “feel good” stories. We need to know that all is not lost and we need to know that good can and will prevail. The public outcry against children being torn from their parents at the U.S. border with Mexico did result in positive change. Yes, I know many children still are not reunited with their families, but at least the strong opposition to that horrendous policy forced change. We live in an imperfect world filled with flawed human beings, but as the example of that particular public outcry demonstrates, at our core human beings are decent and good.

 

Every life matters


This morning I read a post on Facebook about a mother who took her children to the zoo. Her son is autistic. While there her son became agitated and a man yelled out, ‘some people should not be out in public, they ruin it for society’ or words to that effect. It’s not an exact quote, but you get the drift. That poor Mom! I grew quite angry reading her story.

The mentality of the man who yelled at that family in the zoo just boggles my mind. And he was there with his own children. It worries me that they, too, are being raised in a household that is biased, intolerant, and down right ignorant. How is that going to influence their lives and world views?

I don’t have anything profound to say, but I believe every life does matter. Every person in society deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. I am grateful to this Mom who was brave enough to share this unfortunate incident on social media. I am thankful for the insights she imparted. Unfortunately, ignorance abounds, but so too does kindness. Another gentleman took this imbecile to task and told him to leave the autistic boy and his family alone. Well done, sir. Well done!

The mosquito difference


Muddled thoughts and emotions; Stress and simplicity; Broken records; Up and down; Inside and outside. So, what is this all about? I am not sure yet, I am working my way through a maze that seems unsolvable. Do you ever have days like this? Where your thoughts don’t seem to have any clear path and are blown around like tumbleweed? Yeah. That’s me at the moment. Clarity is a wonderful thing, once you get it. But isn’t life just a fog of confusion at times? And that’s okay. We don’t have to have the answers. We are not responsible for every single thing in the universe. Like the plastic that is floating en masse in the oceans; like climate change, some things are just beyond our individual control.

Having said that I do believe that as individuals we can make a difference. And all those small changes in our individual lifestyles can and will change the world. A smile can make a difference. Taking a reusable bag to the grocery store can make a difference. Manners can make a difference. How we treat one another, our ways of being do make a difference. My thoughts are still somewhat muddled, but I do know this much: What we say and do matters – a lot! I hope today to make a positive difference in some small way – for each small positive difference has a ripple effect. May today bring a torrential downpour of small positive differences – a veritable tsunami of kindnesses to this world.

“Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room.” – Christine Todd Whitman

Worry: a form of prayer?


I read recently not to worry because worry is a form of prayer that can be like a self-fulfilling prophesy. I can attest to that; whether my expectations are good or whether they are fraught with worry I pretty much always get what I expect. I’ve read a lot of books on the power of positive thinking and I do believe whole-heartedly in that – if nothing else it makes you feel good and feeling good is always preferable to feeling lousy. But the concept of worry being a form of prayer is a completely new idea to me. “As within, so without”, as the saying goes. So, in that respect I can see how worry can influence people, circumstances, and situations. People seem to be drawn to happy, confident individuals more so than those who seem to have a problem for every solution.

I am not a guru. I don’t have any answers. But I do know from experience that worry never helps anything. And as my mother used to say, “it all comes out in the wash”.

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere”. – author unknown

And one more: “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.” – Swedish proverb

Two years since the wildfire


I wrote this yesterday, but was without internet due to moving to our new home….

3 May 2018 Two years since the wildfire

Last night our friend who rents the basement suite of this house accidentally set off the fire alarm while making toast. We have moved into a new home and the fire alarm is very loud and a disembodied voice instructed us there was a fire – there wasn’t. It was just smoke from overcooked bread. We were surprised to say the least as the siren continued for a minute or two. We had just gone to bed. And until I heard the voice saying, “Danger! Fire!” I thought my daughter had inadvertently triggered the door alarm. I did not panic, but as I think back it is interesting to me that the alarm did not trigger any “fight or flight response” especially on the eve of the two year anniversary of the wildfires. But afterward we all laughed about it and went back to bed. I was comforted with knowing if there ever is a fire we will get an instant and noisy warning – no one could sleep through that alarm!

It’s been two years since the wildfire that was nicknamed “the beast” roared into our city and caused the evacuation of approximately 80,000 people. Shortly before that event I had been out picking up household goods. Outside the store there were literally thousands of white feathers in a long row beside the building. White feathers (or feathers in general) are said to be a sign that angels are near. I was amazed at the number of feathers laying on the ground. As I think back on those feathers I cannot help but think angels certainly were nearby when we evacuated the city. There were no direct fatalities as a result of the wildfire. Sadly, two young people were killed in a collision as they were driving to Edmonton, so the wildfire did cause deaths albeit indirectly. It remains a source of wonder that more people were not killed. The wall of smoke on the edge of town was so intense that we literally could not see past the hood of the truck.

I wrote this poem and posted it on the first anniversary of the wildfires. I consider it to be divine intervention and the fine work of first responders that kept nearly everyone safe that day. I am adding my poem, ‘A thousand feathers’, as a tribute to all the angels, ethereal and otherwise, who helped us escape the flames.

 

A thousand feathers

A thousand feathers lay upon the ground

It may be there were thousands more

I did not stop to count them

But left them to be carried in the breeze

As I hastened on my way

And I wondered as I scurried

why

It seemed as though heaven’s angels

Had been stripped of their attire

Perhaps exchanged instead for that of steel

Did they fold their wings around us when we had to flee?

That day hell’s inferno came to be

And flames encircled on every side

Licking at our heels as we sought to leave

Did angels see us through the wall of smoke

Where daylight failed and darkness

Tried to steal our hope and faith in all we believed

Yet hell itself cannot succeed

When a thousand feathers lay upon the ground

And angels fly with agile strength

To do battle in our name

May 2, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The current


The Current –

Swimming upstream

Against the current

Currents that dash you

Against rocks and harm you

Buffeted and bruised

Torn and bleeding

Currents that carry you to calm coves

Where healing begins

Currents that shape and mold you

Carrying scars

And lessons learned

The current is not cruel

It just is

Today I will swim with the current

I will not fight it

But will enjoy its power

And its strength

To carry me

Where I need to be

What is a life worth?


Several months ago I wrote a victim impact statement, unfortunately it was not usable so today I sat down to write another. It has been fifteen months since my younger brother was stolen from us in the most heart breaking and totally senseless way. It has been fifteen months of anguish. Fifteen months of being unable to truly lay him to rest as the criminal trial loomed and then began with each day a day from hell as we were all submerged into the depths of grief anew. And it is not yet over. On the 4th of May my family will meet once again in the coldness of a court room to witness the defendant being sentenced. On the 31st of January the defendant agreed to a plea bargain, which says he will be incarcerated for 4 ½ years and will have a 10-year driving ban. This is the human cost of one person driving under the influence of alcohol.

Was it worth the beer he drank I wonder? Was it worth incarceration and being banned from driving for a decade? Was it worth my brother’s life? Was it worth the agony he put my family through or the long-standing painful memories it has wrought?

What is a life worth?