Thursday, March 31, 2011

knit graffiti, part ii

Spring has been here for over a week now – and so I finally took down the knitted Christmas lights that have been hanging outside my favourite café for the past few months. They have weathered the winter amazing well, but since the snow is melting, their time really is up.

But I couldn’t leave the tree empty. It looked so bare once stripped of the festive lights. And so I hung butterflies and a little bee – signs of spring.

The installation of the knitted lights had been done under cover of darkness – late at night after the cafe had closed. But over time, word leaked out that I was the one behind the installation, so secrecy didn’t seem so necessary this time. Plus, this installation required a lot more tying of fine knots – something which would have been quite difficult in the dark.

So any attempt at subtlety was abandoned. I walked up to the barristas and asked to borrow a step ladder. Oddly, one of them thought I said ‘steam pitcher’ and offered to bring me a broken one from the back. He disappeared, leaving the other two barristas and me wondering why he was offering a broken ladder. He returned with a small metal container used to heat milk. It was maybe 6 inches tall, so really not too helpful for reaching the higher branches.

Misunderstanding righted, a friend helped steady the ladder while I took down the lights and strung up the butterflies. The barrista, walking by later, commented that we could have totally done that with a steam pitcher.

Again, oddly, while we were hanging things up, a woman stopped to admire the project and then gave us each a business card. I didn’t think knit bombing was a networking activity, but apparently it is. Her site has the tagline – Handmade by Mother – so you damn well better wear it.

We also got chatted up by the local Conservative candidate and his staffer. I wondered why two men were been so enthusiastic about knitting, until I recognized the candidate who’d come begging for signatures at this cafe a few days before.

So certainly much less of a stealth operation this time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pilgrims book excerpt 2

A second excerpt from my pilgrimage book.

Bells ring out at six a.m. as I hurry down the cobbled streets of Le Puy to enter the dimly lit interior of the Notre-Dame cathedral. People sit quietly before a white robed priest and I slip in to a pew beside them. Backpacks and walking sticks wait impatiently along the stone walls.

After mass, the group of a more than a dozen pilgrims is invited to gather around a white stone statue of St. Jacques. The figure stands against a side wall of the church, a satchel slung over his shoulder, a scallop shell on his broad hat; his eyes are fixed westward. The priest greets each of us, asks where we come from - France, Switzerland, Germany, Canada - and wishes us a safe journey. A nun at his side gives us each a small pendant of Notre Dame-du-Puy which I pin on the strap of my pack.

Then, standing beside St. Jacques, the priest reads the pilgrim blessing. “Look favorably on your pilgrims who leave for the road to Compostelle and direct their steps in your goodness. Be for them a shade in the heat of day, a light in the obscurity of night, a relief during the fatigue.”

Having been blessed, pilgrims gather their things to leave. We are invited to the sacristy where our credentials are stamped and we sign our names in a book thick with lists of others who have set out from the dark cathedral doors. Then, one by one, we step out to the grey light of morning.

The doors are capped by arched outer walls of the cathedral; a huge, uneven stairway leads down into town. This is the beginning of the Via Podiensis, the beginning of my two-month pilgrimage to the tomb of an apostle I do not know or believe in. I stand at the top for a moment, looking down the stone stairs and ahead to the western horizon. With a deep breath, I begin to descend, following the signs as the trail weaves through town. Soon I am climbing out of the valley, the Virgin glowing behind me in the first light of day.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reply All

Isn’t there something a little crazy about email? Sure, it can be useful, but admit it, it can also be annoying and distracting and a huge time drain.

How many times have you heard someone complain about coming back from holidays to find hundreds, or even thousands, of messages in their inbox? A friend working in the government told me about a woman who’d left one department to work in another, but returned to the first after a few years away. The first time she logged in to her computer, the whole departmental system crashed. Apparently her email account had not been deactivated during her absence.

For years I’ve been doing various contracts, most of which would leave me relatively independent from the organization I’d work for. I was, to a large extent, exempt from the office emails that fly around, cc’ing all and replying to all. With my last contract, I would receive many of these emails but could know with almost 100% certainty that they had nothing to do with me, so would simply delete them en masse.

But now I find myself in a job where I am being actively emailed – directly and indirectly – at a rate which I’m sure is insignificant compared to many, but which has still got me seriously thinking about how I am going to manage this.

Luckily I have a sympathetic manager who recognizes that reading and responding to email can easily encroach from professional into personnel lives. We agreed that since I'm only a part-time contractor, it is fitting that I set up boundaries around my email activity – meaning I will only read and reply to emails 3 days a week. This last weekend was the first time I implemented this new policy – and while it wasn’t easy to ignore my inbox filling up, it did mean I spent more time with my family and less time thinking about and doing work in the off hours.

This has also got me thinking about how we use email, both in our professional and personal lives, about this age of information overload and this culture of over-sharing the many details of our lives. Ironic that I’m blogging this.

Monday, March 28, 2011

More nanny woes

I swear I’m jinxed when it comes to nannies. In less than a year and a half, Miya has had 5 different care-givers. I’ve tried such things as getting nannies to sign a contract with a required period of notice – that seems to make no difference what-so-ever. Of the 5 nannies, 3 have left with less than 24-hours notice.

Well, I shouldn’t say 3. The latest didn’t exactly quit – unfortunately she spent part of her weekend in hospital with a serious knee injury and is now on crutches and with a full leg brace –certainly not in the position to care for 2 toddlers. Of course I don’t blame her for her injury or for being unable to come in to work; perhaps I should apologize to her for falling victim to my nanny curse.

In the past when my nannies ditched me, I would scramble to take time off work and stay home. This week, that simply wasn’t possible. Luckily the other family with whom we share care have some contacts and I was sent a phone number of a possible care-giver around 7 p.m. last night. I phoned her and amazingly she was available to come the next morning at 9 a.m.

My daughter is always more resilient than I give her credit for. When she met her new, sudden care-giver this morning it was almost as if she was making an effort to allay my fears (odd role-reversal there). She reached to be picked up by the new nanny within minutes of meeting her and proudly showed her around the house, showing where she sleeps and her favourite toys. She actually seemed rather unfazed about the whole change, simply accepting that today someone new would be spending time with her.

All’s well that ends well. M seemed to have had a good day – going about her usual routine and taking the change in stride. This woman can come again tomorrow and her friend will come for the following two days. Next week is still up in the air, but for now I am taking this one day at a time, grateful for small mercies, a resilient daughter, and the kindness of strangers.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Tavern Kids Campaign

I’m always carrying on about various causes and campaigns, so here’s one I came across this week that I feel is very important and one which I actively promoted among my friends.

The Tavern Kids Campaign – an initiative of local family-friendly band, Hey Buster, is a “campaign to introduce the children of Ottawa to taverns.” The band cites findings at “the Hey Buster Beer Research Institute,” to advocate for taverns as an “integral part of Canada's cultural heritage that children have been heretofore excluded from experiencing.”

“To help repair this egregious gap in our children’s' education,” Hey Buster performed an all-ages concert at the storied Elmdale House Tavern on Wellington St in Ottawa today.

Hey Buster noted that “children must be accompanied by adults and are not allowed to drink beer; they may only experience beer consumption vicariously through their parents or parents' friends. Adults are allowed to drink without a child in attendance, but it is best to borrow a child for a day as they make a hip and happening drinking accessory.”

Eager to support the cause, M and I headed down to the tavern today after her nap. It actually worked in our favour that we were about half an hour late, since apparently there had been a line-up down the street and people, including some I had recruited to the cause, had been turned away. But I guess a few had left by the time we got there, so we were able to squeeze in.

It was crowded and noisy, but in a very happy, friendly way. Kids were everywhere – dancing in front of the stage, sitting at tables, perched on the shoulders of their parents or held in arms. Everyone grooving to the songs about boogers, poo, play dates and bellybuttons. We inched our way in and eventually got some seats at the back. M with her sippy-cup, and I, a glass of beer.

In her own quiet, observant way, M seemed to enjoy it – certainly she talked about it for the rest of the day. And I think it’s pretty cute to have a picture of her and her little friend sitting together at a concert in a bar.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trees and candlelight

V and I have been spending a candlelit evening together in honour of Earth hour, so I’m late coming to this blog. But it was nice to spend time away from electronics, surrounded by soft, flickering light. I even convinced V that we shouldn’t just do this one night a year, so we’ve decided to mark solstices and equinoxes with candlelit evenings as well – and I’ll try to remember to turn off some lights and light some candles on other random nights too.

On the day of an event focused on “positive action for the planet”, it seems fitting that we spent our morning in a forest of maple trees. One of M’s little friends celebrated his second birthday today at a local ‘cabane à sucre’ – sugar shack. We met up with the birthday boy, his parents and several other young families in an Ottawa urban park where over 1,000 maple trees are tapped each spring for syrup.

We’ve never been to a maple-sugar festival before, so it was a discovery for the whole family. M was very interested in checking the contents in various buckets to see how much sap had already been collected.

She also greatly enjoyed trying maple syrup that had been poured onto clean snow then rolled around a popsicle stick. Quite a treat for a little girl who is usually denied refined sugars and sweets.

Another big hit at the festival was the horse-drawn wagon rides. M is a big fan of the Clydesdale horses at the Agriculture Museum, so it was a real treat to get to ride on a wagon pulled by a beautiful pair of Clydesdales. We got in line early so that she could get a front seat in the wagon and she was absolutely engrossed in watching them the whole ride.

And I enjoyed finding, in the middle of my city, a grove of maple trees being tapped for syrup. It’s so refreshing to step off the treadmill of our busy, modern lives – whether it is by turning off the lights or by discovering the bounty of a forest. It’s a reminder to slow down and to appreciate and preserve the many gifts around us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

I heart Fridays

TGIF. Many people look forward to Fridays as the end of a work week and the beginning of a weekend. But for me, it’s also my wonderful day with my daughter.

I’ve mentioned this before, so I hope you forgive me for bringing it up again. You see, it was a rather busy week filled with many demands of work – so a day spent away from computers with my favourite little girl was extra appreciated.

We dropped V off at the office this morning then headed to a cafe. Going for “coffee and muffin” is one of M’s and my favourite things to do. She loves looking around at other cafe patrons and staring out the big windows at people and cars going by outside. And as her vocabulary grows, we are starting to have little conversations about what she sees - or we just make silly faces at each other while I sip my coffee and she snacks on a muffin.

After the cafe, we headed over the seniors’ residence where M is received with much joy. She knows many of the seniors by name now and increasingly talks about them at home and engages with them during our visits – sharing her toys, doing puzzles or tossing around a big balloon. When we leave, she says good-bye to them by name.

Afterward, instead of coming home for lunch, I took M to my favourite vegetarian buffet-style restaurant where we both had a delicious lunch and she again got to absorb her surroundings. Many people have remarked to me how observant she is, and certainly she generally prefers to hang back and take things in. It’s fun to watch her sizing things up and then have her describe them to me. Sometimes the smallest thing will become a repeated subject of ‘conversation’ for the rest of the day.

In the afternoon, we were out again, this time to one her favourite places: the Agriculture Museum. We went around the farm, saying hello to horses, cows, rabbits, sheep and goats. There were pygmy goats, young lambs and a new calf too.

I feel so lucky to have these days like today – peaceful, gentle, laughter-filled and life-affirming.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pilgrims book excerpt

An excerpt from my book – complete, but unpublished. The beginning of my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella in north-western Spain.

Morning on this third of May is cool and damp. Paris is preoccupied and I slip through its streets unnoticed. In the Gâre de Lyon I board the train for Le Puy-en-Vélay in the southeast of France, a starting point of the Santiago pilgrimage.

Spring is waiting outside the city limits. The lush green of the French countryside spreads out like an open embrace. Traveling at a remarkable speed, within a few hours we enter the Haute Loire region and the landscape becomes more rugged. Streams jostle alongside the railway lines and hills rise sharply behind them. Excitement and anxiety knit into a warm knot in my stomach that rocks with the rhythm of the train. By afternoon, I have arrived.

Set against the volcanic background of the Massif Central mountains, the town of Le Puy-en-Vélay is a pocket of red tile roofs in a rich cloak of forest green. Three immense pillars of rock jut up between the roofs like granite arms reaching skyward. An immense red iron statue of the Virgin Mary perches on the tallest of these peaks. Her child is in her arms; her sightless eyes are fixed on the town below. Her body faces westward, toward the horizon’s uneven line over which flows a human river of pilgrims to Santiago de Compostelle.

Crouched at Mary’s feet is Notre-Dame du Puy, a somber Roman cathedral. Narrow cobblestone streets wind in a maze beneath the cathedral, twisting and turning before leading me to the modestly marked gate of the pilgrim hostel. My guidebook lists this as a ‘gîte d’étape’ - a dormitory-type accommodation for hikers and pilgrims. Run by nuns, the Maison St. François is tucked inside a small enclosure not far from the cathedral. The building is not large, but has an interior courtyard with a small fountain. The floors are of smooth flagstone.

A nun with glasses and a blue cotton dress greets me. Once she understands that I intend to walk the pilgrimage to Compostelle, she smiles kindly and offers me a room that is sparse but neat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I will not write about politics, I will not write about politics, I will not...

I thought I’d blog about the federal budget today, but as I wrote yesterday, I’m feeling so disappointed and frustrated with politics and our so-called democracy right now that I really don’t want to spend any more time wading through inflammatory political rhetoric.

So if not politics, what to say?

I guess I could discuss concerns that my cat may be ill – suggested by red ears and wheezing when he sleeps (which he does a great deal of the time). But then I’d have to admit how I am such a bad pet owner since I tend to avoid vets unless it is absolutely necessary. The cats got their vaccinations and neutering when they were kittens, but since then we haven’t exactly been developing a close relationship with the local animal clinic.

Ah, but to blog about pets... I don’t think it has quite come to that.
I could write about how my little girl was inexplicably distraught a few times today – and how distressing I find it to see her cry so hard and not know how to help. Sometimes a cuddle and a song make the tears go away, but sometimes she just cries harder.

But really, there isn’t much more to say about that.

Should I describe the hesitant spring we are having this year? After a rather indifferent winter – not much snow, no horrible cold spells – and were steadily warming into spring. Then winter suddenly woke up and realized he’d been dozing on the job. In the past couple weeks we had dumpings of heavy snow, sleet and rain. On the first day of spring I drove home in practically white-out conditions.

Talking about the weather? I bore even myself.

So I find my mind wandering back to politics. The government is likely to be dissolved this week, but this was not soon enough to stop Royal Assent on 10 bills today – three of which will directly increase prison populations (Bill S-6, Bill C-21 and Bill C-48). This, in turn, only furthers the likelihood that billions of tax dollars will be spent to build and fill prisons.

So now I’m thinking of politics again. Should have stuck with the pet story.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The bludgeoning of the people

Democracy means simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for the people.”
– Oscar Wilde

So it looks like we may be heading into an election period. Parliamentary parties are already in full-swing lambasting each other and accusing each other of great flaws and faults. Sadly, with all the noise and grandstanding, real issues are likely to be lost and informed debate is likely to be trumped by rhetoric and slogans.

It would be nice to think that the more one became informed about the political process, the more one would be inspired to get involved. But it’s more likely to prove quite the opposite.

In the last month I have spent a good deal of time looking closely at how justice legislation is drafted, presented, argued, debated and enacted. The entire process is very disheartening.

Parliamentary debates over proposed legislation are not only partisan and couched in rhetoric, but they can be downright hostile. At one recent standing committee, a woman intervening on behalf of a church organization was bullied by a Conservative MP and backed into a corner with demands to ‘say yes or no’. Her statement, thus coerced, was then quoted out of context on that MP’s website and in correspondence sent to his constituency. While certainly such tactics will not silence criticism, they do make you think twice about sticking your neck out.

Making informed appeals to logic and common sense seem to get people nowhere – at least that is the impression I have after watching several committee proceedings and hearing expert after expert testify about the harmful impacts of the proposed legislation and then finding out that the bill was passed anyway. So who needs experts, informed debate and research? Our government certainly doesn’t seem to. The produce their own ‘experts’ and ‘witnesses’ – the Macdonald Laurier Institute is a pet think-tank that conveniently backs up Conservative positions – who seem to blindly approve whatever is being suggested.

And to think that, if an election is called, all this bullying, mud-slinging and fact-twisting will only increase. The poisonous atmosphere currently hovering over Parliament Hill will spread across the country, breeding disenchantment, apathy and frustration for some, entrenching partisan divides for others.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Programming princesses

I’ve been out shopping a couple times recently for things for my daughter. And as always, I’m struck with how hard it is to find things that are a) not pink and b) not branded with Dora or Disney princesses.

I don’t know much about Dora, but what I do know I’m not too impressed with (such as every adventure ending in prizes or rewards). I’m also in no rush to get my daughter into the ‘princess culture’. So I find shopping for her to be a challenge I had not anticipated.

She’s not yet 2, so maybe she’s too young to be really influenced by a pink princess chair or a Dora the Explorer colouring book. But then again, my daughter is a little sponge and is always catching us by surprise with the words and the things she knows that neither my husband or I remember teaching her.

I heard a bit of an interview with Peggy Orenstein, a woman who wrote a book called Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. I haven’t yet read the book, but certainly relate to the author’s consternation over the gender stereotyping in products geared to young children.

One could argue that it’s not really some nefarious plot to turn all little girls into brainless pretty things, but rather that companies have realized that by making a blue train version and a pink princess version, they can almost double their sales. Disney raked in $4-billion in 2009 with their Disney Princess merchandise line.

But one could also argue, as Orenstein does, that we are locking our children from a young age into certain narratives. We’re teaching them which behaviours are valuable, which are not – and the behaviours modeled to girls and those which are modeled to boys are certainly not the same. Some even say that the princess culture contributes to the sexualization of little girls, others that it breeds narcissism and a sense of entitlement.

Of course I don’t think it is the end of the world if M goes through a stage of wanting to be a princess. But I certainly am not going to encourage it.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The costs of the 'tough on crime' agenda

So the Conservatives finally revealed the costs of their ‘tough on crime’ agenda – well, grudgingly revealed, since documents were produced only after Speaker Milliken’s landmark ruling that the Tories may be flouting the rights and will of Parliament by stonewalling on cost estimates for justice bills and other legislation.

By their estimates (which are likely conservative, hah) a total of $631-million will be spent to implement the new justice bills – this is in addition to the $2.1-billion tab for prison expansion.

When you look at the total expenditures on the penitentiary system in Canada, the increase under this government is stark. For example, in 2005/06, the Liberals spent $1,597-million on the federal penitentiary system. In 2009/10, the Conservatives spent $2,267-million and are projected to spend $3,128-million by 2012/13.

In capital expenditures, the spending will increase from $138.2-million in 2005/06 to $466.9-million in 2012/13 – an increase of over 330%. Interestingly, their staffing levels don’t increase nearly at the rate of their other spending costs. From 2005/06’s 14,633 staff, they increase only to 20,706 in 2012/13. So while there will be more prisons and more prisoners, it doesn't seem that there will be corresponding increases in staffing.

All these figures likely make your eyes glaze over – I’m sure they do to most people. Because the most meaningful and important impacts of the ‘tough on crime’ legislation are not, of course, the numbers. The most worrisome impacts are on people.

The legislation that the Conservatives are forcing through Parliament will see that we lock up behind bars more youth, more women, more Aboriginals, and more people with mental disorders and substance abuse problems. The vast majority of these cases could be handled with treatment and programs within the community – at far less cost and far greater success.

The Conservatives’ prison-focused approach to crime and justice goes against massive amounts of research on effective approaches to crime, and it disregards the lessons that the Americans are learning after having implemented such laws decades ago – only to see their crime rates continue to climb while the costs of prisons have become unmanageable.

Building more prisons and sending more people to prison is a waste of money – and of human beings.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Books: Lady Chatterley's Lover

Finished reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover last night – a book that has been notorious for its descriptions of a sexual relationship between an aristocratic woman and her husband’s servant, sometimes in words that were, at the time, unprintable.

When Penguin Books first published it in the UK in 1960, they were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. Based on testimony that the work was of literary merit, Penguin won their case and opened the door to greater freedom in publishing explicit material.

So it’s interesting to read such an (in)famous book. Certainly there is a fairly prolific use of four-letter words (including that ‘c’ word generally despised by women yet which receives its own sort of elegy in this text). But what is shocking to the modern reader is not likely to be the descriptions of sex, but rather the bits of misogyny, racism and just plain terrible writing. For example, the key male protagonist, the ‘lover’, rants against women who do not allow men to pleasure them. “When I’m with a woman who’s really a Lesbian, I fairly howl in my soul, wanting to kill her”. Or that sex can be good with black women but “somehow, well, we’re white men: and they’re a bit like mud.”

But mostly the author rambles and meanders his plot. In fact, this book is as much about Lawrence’s critique of industrialism and capitalism as it is about his determination to write freely about sex. His descriptions of collier towns and the drudgery of the working class are some of the better parts of the novel.

So while I found it interesting to read such a historically important work, the writing itself wasn’t great. In fact, the book ends with a rambling letter from the lover to Lady Chatterley, filled with more ranting against capitalism, while not bothering to answer questions like if and how the two actually end up together!

But for all its faults, the book does make one think about how sexuality and relationships have changed over the past century (the book was written in the 1920s). And as with Frankenstein, it’s interesting when a book that is not particularly well written can alter literary history.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Bucket list: part III

Writing this bucket list has taken a surprisingly long time – although it has been fun to think about. I plan to refer to it again and hopefully cross off at least a few things this year. In writing it, I’ve been trying to remember some things that I’ve thought about doing before, but pushed to the back burner.

So here are some more things I’ve come up with:
67) Write a fan letter to someone famous and get a response
68) Spend a whole day painting/drawing
69) Take a homeless person out for lunch
70) Participate in a large-scale public art installation
71) Build something useful from wood
72) Be able to hold conversations in at least 5 languages
73) (Adopted from V’s suggestion) Sing another country's national anthem, in its original language (he says English language anthems don’t count)
74) Attend a pro-football game in the States
75) Attend a pro-football (soccer) game in South America, Europe or Africa
76) Attend at least some of a cricket match in India
77) Attend the Brier or the Tournament of Hearts
78) Watch a sepak takraw (Thai kick-volleyball) match live
79) See a Broadway production, on Broadway
80) Go to a drive-in movie
81) Eat fresh, wild strawberries

Okay, I’m stumped for new things. So for my last 19 things on the bucket list I’m going to put things that I have already done, but would definitely like to do again.
82) See the Northern lights
83) Sleep under the stars
84) Spend several days canoeing and camping away from all sounds of traffic and industry
85) See the Himalayan mountains
86) Walk through rice paddies
87) Live in Paris
88) Ride a camel in the desert
89) Climb a mountain
90) Go star-watching at an observatory
91) Midnight walk on a beach
92) Follow kangaroos in a pickup truck
93) Serve a meal at a soup kitchen
94) Install my own or a collaborative piece of public art
95) Spend a day reading and writing in a cabin by a lake
96) Go night-swimming
97) Canoe by moonlight
98) Eat a 7+ course dinner
99) Explore the Costa Brava
100) Go long-distance hiking in Europe

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bucket list: part II

To continue with my bucket list... I was thinking last night that most of the things I put on my list yesterday require a fairly substantial amount of cash – of which a large part would be airfare. So I’ve been trying to think of some things that don’t require spending too much money (although my mind wanders and certainly some things will creep in to this list which would require at least air fare).

34) Read Ulysses by James Joyce
35) Read À la recherche du temps perdu by Marcel Proust
36) Read Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
37) Attend a murder mystery party
38) Be an extra in a movie or television show
39) Ride a yak
40) Walk the Chartres pilgrimage
41) Try a 30 year-old scotch
42) Go truffle hunting
43) Take my mother on a holiday in Southern France
44) Go on a gourmet picnic in a picturesque location (wines, cheeses, salads, breads)
45) Go biking in Amsterdam and the Netherlands
46) Bike from Lhasa to Kathmandu (this is V’s bucket list item which I may be roped into)
47) Volunteer at an orphanage (although I know that this will likely break my heart)
48) Go sea kayaking
49) Build a miniature village & train set (possibly with the houses out of gingerbread) for Christmas
50) Play in a Scrabble tournament
51) Write and direct a play
52) Visit St Basil’s in Moscow
53) See Angel Falls, Venezuela
54) See a volcano up close
55) Visit all 7 continents
56) Step on the equator and the prime meridian (not at the same time)
57) Visit Iceland
58) Knit a curling cardigan
59) Learn to play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata well
60) Be part of a Sing-along Messiah
61) Attend a Sing-along ‘Sound of Music’, in costume
62) Grow a tree from a seed
63) Put a letter in a bottle and throw it out to sea
64) Visit New Orleans
65) Sit on a jury (V has summons and we both wish I could take his place)
66) Take part in a triathlon or a biathlon (and yes, I know that these are different things, just keeping my seasonal options)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Drafting a bucket list: part I

Lately I’ve been seeing references to ‘bucket lists’ – an odd term that I guess means the things you’d like to do before you ‘kick the bucket’. And seeing as today is one of those days when I can’t think of what to blog about, I thought I’d pick up on this bucket idea and start drafting my own bucket list.

Suggestions and the sharing of your own such lists are very welcome.

So, in random order, here is a third of my list of 100 things I would like to do before ‘kicking the bucket’:

1) Write the ‘letter of the day’ to CBC’s Q.
2) Forget letter, I mean, write and publish a book – or preferably several books
3) Write a children’s book – I'd like to illustrate it too, but that might be asking too much
4) Be interviewed on the radio (this has already happened, but I’d like it to happen again – does that count?)
5) Break a Guinness World Record (I have already made one attempt)
6) Attend an Ayurvedic or yoga retreat in India
7) Attend a silent retreat
8) Learn Reiki (and convince V that it works)
9) Get an honorary degree
10) Make a quilt
11) Join a Habitat for Humanity build
12) Ride in a hot air balloon
13) Ride a gondola in Venice
14) Walk in a rainforest
15) Visit Mayan and/or Aztec ruins
16) See the Great Pyramids in Egypt
17) See the Acropolis in Greece
18) Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
19) Visit Stonehenge, England
20) Visit the Grand Canyon, US
21) Visit Angkor Wat, Cambodia
22) Visit Victoria Falls, Zambia and/or Zimbabwe
23) See giraffes in the wild
24) Take my daughter to see penguins in the wild
25) Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
26) Drive the Alaskan Highway
27) Stay in an ice hotel overnight
28) Hike the West-Coast Trail in BC
29) Follow, by foot, old pilgrimage trails in Italy
30) Walk on the Great Wall of China
31) Hike in Scotland
32) Visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York
33) See Big Ben and visit the Tate Gallery in London

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beware of Summitt Home Services

Apparently I am not to be trusted opening the door. If it hadn’t been for the well-placed suspicion of my husband, I would have signed us up for a scam deal tonight.

A woman showed up tonight on our doorstep, flashing her photo-id from Summitt Home Services. She said it was her job to inspect our rental water heater to check if we needed to be upgraded to an energy-star model.

Trustingly, I let her in to the basement and she jotted down the model number of our tank. She was well-informed, friendly and polite. She said that a new heater would be delivered at no cost to us, that it was our due as renters to have our heaters upgraded and inspected.

Then she asked for the account number off page 3 of our energy bill – which was when V really started to baulk. He said he’d rather not give that out.

“I’m not here to force you guys to get a new water heater,” she kept saying.

I admit that I was convinced she was just someone doing her job and that we were pretty much already part of this company and it was just a required upgrade. V, of course, saw through it.

He pressed her to answer his questions about cancellation and about rate increases. He also kept refusing to give his account number – countering with the suggestion that she leave the contract for us to look over and if we are interested, we could call and set up an installation appointment. She kept insisting we have the right as consumers to cancel anything we’ve signed at the door within 10 days, so we could sign up now, then look over the contract and call to cancel if we really didn’t want it.

Of course, she never handed over a copy of the contract she was trying to get us to sign.

V’s checked on-line and sure enough there are others reporting being scammed and being trapped in contracts with Summitt. So anyone reading this, be V smart (not me smart) when it comes to people showing up on your door offering some deal. Just say no and end the conversation.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A victim of DST

Here my further argument against daylight saving time (DST).

Today, day 2 of DST, I woke at 7 after a very un-restful night during which my husband and I were both up several times comforting our daughter. When the alarm rang I had that stomach-achy-tired feeling and dragged myself into the kitchen to make coffee.

Fast forward a couple of groggy hours. Nanny called to say her bus drove by without stopping so she will be late. I’m prepping lunch and snacks for M and running around getting ready to leave for an important meeting at City Hall.

For those who don’t know, I need to point out here that this is March Break. Although M is not yet in school, she does go to a regular play group at or local school which is closed for the week. So to provide her with some activity for the morning, the plan was to leave the car for the nanny so she could drive M to the Experimental Farm – one of her favourite local hang outs.

It’s 9:15; nanny finally shows. I’m still rushing to get everything together and head out. Debrief nanny. Out the door by 9:30 – plenty of time for the 15 min walk to the transitway station and for the bus trip downtown.

Brisk walk in the cool morning; enjoying the feel of spring in the air. Feeling stylish in my fancy rubber boots. Get to the station and look for bus tickets in my wallet only to discover I’ve left my wallet at home. Very bad.

Start to head home, only to remember that I gave my house (and car) keys to the nanny. Even worse.

Frantic calls and messages which she does not return till I am almost home and am wondering if I will be reduced to knocking on neighbours doors and begging to borrow bus fare in order to get to my meeting and back.

Luckily, she was able to drive back and rescue me. Wallet retrieved and I made it to the meeting in time.

Yet while I acknowledge my own stupidity in this sorry tale, I can’t help suspecting that DST played its nefarious role here too.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I want my hour of sleep back

Winston Churchill reportedly argued that it enlarges “the opportunities for the pursuit of health and happiness among the millions of people who live in this country”.

I say hogwash. But then again, I’m from Saskatchewan, one of the few sensible places in Canada.

What on earth am I talking about, you might ask? Daylight Saving Time (DST) of course - the ridiculous practice of springing our clocks forward in March, then falling back in November and generally wrecking havoc with circadian rhythms.

But in our world of global business and industry, it is hard to imagine that DST will ever stop unless all countries agree on this. In 2006 Canada even moved up our implementation of DST by 3 weeks in order to line up with our biggest trading partner, the U.S.

What’s always bugged me about discussion of DST is that people say things like “we get an extra hour of sunlight, so it’s not so bad.” There is no magical extra hour of sunlight that suddenly appears. You could have got up an hour earlier and enjoyed that same hour.

Or they say, “you get to pick up that hour of sleep you lost when the clocks roll back in the fall.” As if my sleep were a penny I lost that someone will hand me back.

Research has shown that the moving forward of the clocks in spring is linked to more heart attacks in the first 3 following days, as well as to increases suicide rates. Obviously, this is not a healthy practice. In fact, the governments of Kazakhstan and Russia cited health concerns due to clock shifts as a reason for abolishing DST.

It was implemented during the First World War with the goal of saving energy since people aren’t expected to need to turn lights on as early in the evening. The energy savings have never been proved.

What I can prove, on the other hand, is that flipping the clocks around messes with my sleep and with the sleep of my toddler – and this is something I take very seriously.

The only upside is that I’m blogging this at 10 p.m., but it feels more like 9 p.m.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan's earthquake/tsunami

Like millions around the world, I’m watching and reading news coming out of Japan with a sort of helpless sympathy. What to say in the face of such devastation?

The full toll of the massive earthquake and tsunami likely won’t be known for days or even weeks. Thousands of people are still missing. Survivors are cut off from rescuers, electricity, food and aid. The infrastructure damage is mind-boggling – and rather scary such as with the unfolding malfunctioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

I wonder though what the reaction from the world will be over the coming days. Certainly there is the immediate awe and morbid curiosity, but such feelings are rarely sustained for long. What will be our attention span for this tragedy?

The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami saw such widespread devastation affecting so many countries – and the response was immediate and relatively long-lasting. Thousands of people from around the world volunteered with relief efforts and aid agencies were flooded with donations.

But since then there have been other massive disasters – Katrina’s floods, earthquakes in Haiti and Pakistan. But for those removed from the epicentre, how long did it take before our attention strayed to the next big story, or simply returned to the focus of our daily lives?

And there is the on-going political upheaval in Northern Africa – headlines about which are already competing with the stories from Japan.

Japan is not an impoverished country. It is responding to this disaster with highly-trained, highly-equipped personnel. The world’s help is not so desperately needed as it was in Haiti where the country’s pre-existing political and economic deficits threw the country to its knees.

Certainly, there are organizations like the Red Cross which are already active in Japan and which are accepting donations which can be earmarked “Japan Earthquake/Asia-Pacific Tsunami”. I’m sure these will be appreciated and put to very good use. And yet I don’t expect that aid organizations like the Red Cross will receive the same sort of support and investment that they have over their work in other places.

I’m not judging here or saying people don’t care. I’m just wondering about our capacity to sustain sympathy for far-away suffering.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Empathetic communication

Yesterday I vented about my frustration with the lack of public regard in local development. But I want to return to something I touched on in the previous blog: the way we communicate our feelings.

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops, often observing dynamics at other tables. Have you ever watched two women friends have a close conversation? Their body postures and gestures will mirror each other’s, subconsciously sending signals of empathy and interest. Their facial expressions will reflect what they are hearing. If their friend is sharing a frustration, they’re will be flashes of empathetic annoyance. They share smiles of shared excitement and joy.

I’ve noticed too with my close female friends that we intuitively echo and validate each other’s feelings. If a friend tells me about her horrible day, I’m unlikely to say, ‘that’s not so bad. Stop whining about it’. And if I share a frustration my good friends don’t minimize what I’m saying, they get right into it with me and only say things to cheer me up after first showing me how they get how frustrated I feel.

So thinking about all this and how it seems to come naturally among friends, I wonder why it seems so counter-intuitive to have the same approach to children.

I’ve read a few blogs and books lately that extol the wonders of empathetic communication with children. For example, one of the “most important lessons is simple, and just as applicable to adults as to children: acknowledge the reality of other people’s feelings. Don’t deny feelings like anger, irritation, fear, or reluctance.”

This is presented as if it’s a radical approach to parenting – and yet it’s something that we do so easily with adults we care about.

Perhaps it’s because we were raised with plenty of ‘stop making such a mountain out of a mole hill’ and ‘no use crying over spilled milk’. Perhaps it’s because these little people can’t communicate as articulately as our friends. Perhaps we’re just tired and in need of a coffee. I don’t know.

But I do know I’m trying to treat my daughter’s feelings with the same respect and empathy my friends show to me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Public loss, private gain

So much for community mobilization.

I wrote earlier about being part of a community fight to preserve heritage grounds around an old convent. This is a piece of property which was sold to developers before any discussion with or informing of the community. It is a site on which the developers who purchased the property are aiming to double the recommended intensification.

The community has rallied and done their democratic best. There have been countless meetings, letters and phone calls to councillors, media campaigns, flyers, discussion boards, web sites. And yet, at the end of the day, the private developers win.

The Mayor admitted in Council today that he has “never seen the number of public meetings held on one issue”. Yet he said this to praise the newly elected Councillor who has essentially abandoned the community in this fight (as if she were the one organizing all these meetings!) instead of to rightfully acknowledge that the reason there have been so many meetings is because the community is so opposed to this development.

People in our ward who have been lobbying the council to act in the best interest in the community have even been writing to say that we agree to a $97/year levy in our taxes for the next 10 years in order to pay for it. (This a figure city staffers come up with based on an appraisal which would have seen the city pay $11.5M for a portion of the property the developers bought for $12M.)

And yet, at City Hall today, Councillors voted not to purchase any part of the former convent site. Every inch is handed over to the developers. The city even accepted “cash-in-lieu of parkland” from the developer – to ‘invest in improving and expanding parkland” in our ward. Salt on a wound I tell you. Salt on a wound.

It’s nice to think that for the next few years I have will have the drone of construction to keep me and my young family company each day. And instead of a 100-year old willow and other towering trees across the street, soon we will have a tower of concrete and steel. Our loss, the developer's gain.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Learning with my daughter

These last few days I’ve been writing about broad issues like women’s rights, violence, equality. So perhaps for today I will bring my focus back in, back in to my little world which lately has been rather pre-occupied with how to cope with a new stage of toddlerhood.

In the last few weeks, my amazingly mild-tempered daughter has suddenly started dissolving into outbreaks of tears. Not just little tears. These are sobbing, heart-breaking tears. Distressing for her and for me.

I remember being told as a child, ‘if you don’t stop crying, I’ll give you something to cry about.’ I can understand where the frustration comes from that can make a parent say this – your child is crying inconsolably either because they are not allowed to do something or for some unknown, or (in our minds) trivial reason. For example, being told that wet boots can’t be worn in the house should not, logically, lead to a flood of tears.

But although I am unlikely to change my position on wet boots in the house, I can acknowledge my daughter’s frustration and tears, and try to help her experience all this in a way that isn’t quite so overwhelming and scary.

I talked to a woman whose advice on parenting and child raising I greatly respect. She assured me that what my daughter is going through is so normal at this age. She also talked about the importance of involving her in finding ways to cope with overwhelming emotions and engaging her in stories, songs and conversations about feelings like anger, frustration, grumpiness and sadness. She showed us a cute little book about a grumpy bird who walks out his frustration with his friends.

So M has a new favourite song now. We’ve taken ‘If you’re happy and you know it...’ and are making up our own verses. ‘If you’re angry and you know it,’ I start, then ask her what we could do. So far the best we’ve come up with saying, ‘I’m mad’.

For ‘If you’re sad and you know it’... we’ve come up with ‘have a cry’ and ‘have a cuddle’. We also go bananas when we’re crazy.

Toddler steps, learning together.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

International Women's Day

Happy International Women’s Day!

Are you celebrating the women in your life today? Are you thinking of the women who have inspired you, nurtured you, challenged you? Are you aware of the women who have fought to make this world a better place, who are still fighting today?

This is the centennial anniversary of International Women’s Day (IWD), an internationally recognized celebration rooted in the centuries-old struggle of women to participate in society on an equal footing with men. Originally focused on universal suffrage, IWD has become a day to call for change and to celebrate women who have played a part in the history of women’s rights.

IWD is even an official holiday in many countries including Afghanistan, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam and Zambia. A friend in Burkina Faso, where it also a national holiday, reports that on this day husbands dress up in the wives clothes and go out to do the shopping while the women hang out and drink beer. Now that’s a holiday!

IWD is sadly not a national holiday here in Canada – although, as I write, my husband is out getting groceries and dinner (wearing his own clothes I will add). There is still plenty to celebrate. For all my cynicism and ranting, I know that I have so many advantages that women a generation ago did not have – and certainly advantages still unavailable to millions of women around the world.

I also can think of several women who have inspired me: writers Margaret Laurence, Jane Jacobs, Doris Lessing and Iris Murdoch, artist Frida Kahlo, Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi, women and children’s advocate Graca Machel (actually when I start thinking about women writers and thinkers who have inspired me I realize I could go on for a very long time). There are also many women who are breaking ground politically – Julia Gillard, Hillary Clinton, Angela Merkel – while I may not agree with all their positions or views, I cheer them on for the advances they are making for women and the paths they are breaking for others to follow.

(Next up, my husband wants me to write about “masculism”. He says it’s a very serious topic.)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Gender based violence

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day, described by the United Nations as a “day to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of women's rights.”

Tomorrow I will celebrate. But forgive me if for today I feel the need once more to point out how far we still have to go if we are truly to achieve gender equality. Because gender equality isn’t just about getting the right to vote, to get a job or to attend school, it’s should also be about keeping women and girls safe.

Of course men and boys need protection from violence too. We need to keep everyone safe, no matter their gender, age, race, vocation, etc. But sadly, it is women and girls who are disproportionately the victims of domestic, sexual, and gender based violence.

For example, in 2007-2008 in Ottawa, of the 2,440 domestic violence occurrences police responded to in which charges were laid or warrants sought, 89% of the charges were against men. In that same year, the Ottawa Police Victim Crisis Unit handled approximately 1,579 occurrences of men against women partner assault.

Again, 2007-2008, women between the ages of 26 and 35 were the largest group of women accessing shelters in Ottawa – shelters which provided safe housing for 544 women and 444 children in 2007, yet which had to turn away 3,281 women. In other words, for every one woman serviced by an Ottawa shelter, an average of six women are turned away.

These are just some statistics from here in Ottawa. I’m quite sure I would find similar grim statistics in other cities across the country.

I don’t need to lecture about the seriousness or pervasiveness of gender based violence – or point out that it is in no way limited to domestic and partner abuse. But it’s hard not to rant when I think about the women and children who are turned away each day from shelters, forced to go back to abusive situations because they have nowhere else to turn. Makes me think about how much we are failing as a society. How vastly we are neglecting to protect the most vulnerable among us.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Feminism - part IV

If you had asked me a few days ago if I think very much about feminism or women’s issues, I probably would have replied with a shrug. Like most people, I tend to get caught up in day-to-day activities and issues which I pressed in front of me.

But now that I’ve decided to write about women’s issues for a few days, I am reminded of so many aspects of this topic which tend to get pushed to the less frequently visited recesses of my mind – that is until something comes up to bring them to the forefront like the recent case in Manitoba I tried to blog about yesterday in my flu-y state (and have since edited).

Or I’ll sit down to watch a movie and find that women are portrayed as immature incompetents desperately in need of an alpha-male to take charge of their lives.

Or I’ll read a best-selling book such as Pillars of the Earth and be shocked at the blatant misogyny.

Or I’ll have a conversation with my women friends and realize that once again we are talking about the struggle of juggling jobs, child-raising, and housework.

Or I’ll open a newspaper and read about how women around the world are struggling for the right to education, to property, to family planning, to basic freedoms.

V made a good point when we were talking about this the other night. He asked if these are women’s rights or human rights. Hard to separate, really. Right to education, can easily say that’s a human right. But some of the other things that get my blood boiling, like misogyny in film and literature, is that a question of human rights or is that something in our culture, some pervasive disrespect of women?

To be honest, I have not found my life particularly hard ‘as a woman’. There are times I reap the benefits of being the ‘fairer sex’ – like when I breeze through international border crossings or have heavy things carried for me. But still, there are enough reminders out there that I should not become complacent or forget about the millions of women who struggle for basic human rights and human dignity.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Feminism - part III: Blame the victim

We tend to get complacent about women’s issues in Canada and feel that equality, while perhaps not achieved, is at least guaranteed under law. So it was surprising and disconcerting when a recent case in Manitoba showed such blatant discrimination against women.

In February, Justice Robert Dewar gave a conditional sentence to convicted rapist Kenneth Rhodes, describing him as a “clumsy Don Juan” who misinterpreted the signals of his victim – despite evidence that the forced intercourse and sexual assault resulted in significant bruising and permanent emotional and physical scars.

In sentencing, Dewar noted that the woman was wearing high heels, a tube top without a bra, and “plenty of make-up” which gave the impression to her rapist that she was ‘ready to party’ and that “sex was in the air”.

Rhodes pleaded not-guilty, saying he thought the sex was consensual (even though the victims claimed she was struggling and saying no). The judge rejected this defence – and yet still saw fit to blame the victim for her apparel and for her lack of judgement in getting in to the situation.

Not surprisingly, women’s and victim’s groups are irate and have been protesting outside the courthouse. Lorraine Parrington, who co-ordinates the sexual assault crisis program at Klinic, a community health centre in Winnipeg, told the CBC that Dewar's remarks show the need for more education about how women should be treated in sexual assault cases.

Fewer than 10 per cent of sexual assault cases are actually reported and Parrington worries Dewar's comments will discourage future victims from coming forward. "I'd like to say I was shocked. Unfortunately, I'm not after doing this work for lots of years," she said. "But I was appalled. I was outraged. I was disheartened."

“I hope they appeal [the sentence],” the victim told Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mike McIntyre.” I would like some justice. This is not real justice to me. It’s a slap on the wrist.” She said she has suffered severe psychological trauma from the attack, including trust issues with men and a fear of being alone.

Obviously the fight for women’s rights is not over yet, not when raped women are portrayed as having ‘asked for it’. Appalling.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Feminism - part II

Something I heard on the radio fuelled yesterday’s discussion/blog about feminism. I’ve decided to keep up the theme of women’s issues/feminism until International Women’s Day this coming Tuesday, March 8th – even though V warns me that this could alienate any male audience I have. I hope not.

CBC at least seems to be supportive of me blogging about such topics. It was their announcement about the upcoming ‘f-word’ documentary that got me on feminism in the first place. Then yesterday, not unrelated, feminism icon and author Germaine Greer was a guest on the radio show Q.

She had some very interesting comments about the state of feminism today (as well as on Sarah Palin), including a response to a question from Jian Ghomeshi about whether her understanding of feminism was based on equality.

“I’m not interested in equality,” she said. “I think it’s profoundly conservative to think that the best we can hope for is to be the same or on equal terms with men. That would be miserable. Women living as images of men in an unchanged world is not my idea at all.”

Does equality mean that women would be mirror images of men? I don’t think so. But then what exactly does equality mean?

I’m sure we’ve heard it before – different, but equal. But that’s easier said than done. As my conversation yesterday clearly showed, there is a perception that even if we live in a so-called equal society, our day to day lives are not equal.

“Most of the women I know are exhausted,” Greer said. “They’re running on empty. They’re doing everything. They have to earn a living because they can’t cover the family debts if they don’t, and they still feel morally responsible for the standard of their housekeeping and the state of their children and the general quality of daily life and it’s too hard. These women are reeling from exhaustion and then we expect them to remake the body politic. It’s too hard. We have got to find ways of reducing the work load of individual women.”

Greer solution is to rediscover sisterhood and collective, uncompetitive identity among women. Guessing there is more to it than that.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Feminism: Still relevant?

On CBC tonight, among the forthcoming programs announced was one addressing something to the effect of ‘Is feminism still relevant in 2011 or has it become the new ‘f’ word’. And so I posed the question to some young women friends: Is feminism still relevant to you?

‘I think it is. Women may no longer have the glass ceiling at work, but it’s still taboo for women not to do all the household duties. If men do the household work they get negative attention from their peers.’

‘There’s a double standard. I bought the house and my boyfriend moved in – we got all these comments about me being a ‘sugar momma’ – if he had bought the house we would have got none of this. Why is there this reverse sexism? I’m not happy with the situation – although I’m proud of myself at the same time.’

‘To be feminist to me is to be seen equal to a man, to have all the equal opportunities as a man – work-wise, politics. I don’t want to have to double-day, to work all day and then come home and work again. Even in the bridal magazines they warn women that your work load increases by 75% after you get married.’

‘I don’t think feminism is dead, but I think women still want to be wined and dined and all that. So there is a double standard. I still want men to hold doors open for me, but I want to be successful on my own and not have to compete twice as hard as a guy for my job.

‘At work, women in my age range don’t get hired because management assumes that soon as they make us permanent, we’ll go on mat leave.’

‘Yeah, I’ve been in a job where they seemed to skew hiring towards women who weren’t going to have a family.’

‘I think there is still a need for feminism, especially in 3rd world countries where women don’t have the privilege of going to school and there are still practices of female circumcision.’
‘I think feminism still needed, but it isn’t so straightforward – we want equality, but we also want that special treatment from men.’

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Learning from victims of crime

I went to a panel discussion today which was looking at how victims of crime can be better served in the Canadian justice system. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking a lot at how offenders are treated – and mistreated – in the system. It was very interesting and informative to look at the other side of the story.

Although I actually don’t think it is the other side of the story. How offenders and victims are treated is so intertwined – they both become part of an adversarial process in which their actions and experiences become forced into various legal slots which fail to get to the real heart of what happened – to the human needs, the human suffering, the human relationships which were affected.

It was so clear today, in listening to this panel and the people in the audience, that victims of crime feel neglected, unheard and dismissed. The focus of our system is on placing blame and assigning punishment. It is not on actually addressing the needs of the people who have been damaged.

One panellist was pointing out that if the only way that victims feel heard, feel their pain has been acknowledged, is in what sentence is handed down – then that sentence can never be enough. He said if the sentence is manslaughter, the victims will feel it should have been 2nd degree murder; if the sentence is 2nd degree, the victim will want 1st. He said that in conversations with people working with victims in Texas, their satisfaction after a sentence of capital punishment was no greater.

Alternatively, research and stories have shown that when victims are involved in the process, feel empowered to make decisions and to be heart, the importance they place on the sentence is diminished.

As I keep seeing, as I keep learning, the answer to improving our justice system is not in longer sentences or more jails – this works for neither the offender nor the victim. It was stated repeatedly, in many different way, that victims need to be included in justice process, they need to be informed about what is happening and what services are available – essentially, they need to be respected.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

2 down, 10 to go

So 2 months of blogging done. It’s becoming more of a routine – although V and I have noticed that it does eat in to our evenings and the small window of time the two of us have together. But it’s been fun, even if I still feel like I haven’t really found my blogging ‘voice’. But I’m enjoying the challenge of daily blogging and the 365 word-count. How obvious are the extra words I slip in to bring up the count sometimes?

And as I felt at the beginning of Feb, on a daily basis it doesn’t seem like a lot changes – but when I look back over a month I realize how much has. It’s great to have my thesis defence behind me – although I still have to fix those few typos and submit hard copies to the office. I’m also wrapping up a contract I’ve had with Foreign Affairs, on-and-off, for the last 3 years. Two chapters closing.

It’s been a steep learning curve with my new job, but as you can likely tell from the many blogs I’ve written about correctional issues, I’m very interested in the topics we’re addressing and really enjoying my research. Feeling very lucky. I’m getting in to the swing of my new routine, feeling official and professional as I register for a business number.

And after some hics in child-care arrangements, we have started a new shared care arrangement for M as of today which I’m feeling really good about. So things are working out. I’ve also managed to keep up with the almost-daily meditation and find it something I look forward to in my day. It’s still a challenge – especially when I go to group meditation where we sit for 45 minutes – but it has its own rewards too.

Winter is going out like a lion here in Ottawa. Yesterday we had a big, messy, beautiful dump of thick snow. Love watching the big snowflakes falling down and the brilliant white which blankets and transforms everything around us. But I’m also looking forward to spring, to puddle jumping with my daughter, to warmer weather and lighter clothes.

Thank you again to everyone who reads this blog.