Thursday, 25 September 2008

Taking Back the Night

Spoiler Alert! This is not a humour column. This is something very real that is happening everywhere in the world, and our little town is trying to get some attention paid to the problem of domestic abuse. This column was published today, September 25, 2008.

I’m looking at a list of names. It’s not a very long list, and I know that to 10 different men, these names mean absolutely nothing; it’s a list of finished business.

But to many, many others, this list represents everything. It represents loss, anger, violence, and serious UN-finished business.

This list was held by my friend Krista last night. She held the stark white piece of paper in her hands and I read over her shoulder. Ten names.

Just 10.

But there are so many more. So many more that aren’t on that list.

And that’s just wrong. Wrong that there should be more names, wrong that the list exists in the first place.


Krista’s name was called as we stood behind the town hall on Monday night. She weaved her way through the crowd to a make-shift podium so she could read her list of names.

As she read one name after the other, women stepped forward and took one flower. One flower to represent a life that was taken violently. Candles were lit as the names were read. Just a small flame to symbolize so much.

Ten flowers, one by one, are dropped into the Mississippi River, a symbol of travel, a symbol of letting go.

But the problem is not one of us will let go.

In fact, we were so hell-bent on NOT letting go that we marched down Bridge Street to let anyone know that was within hearing distance:

“Yes mean yes, no means no, however we dress, wherever we go!”

Take Back the Night was in full effect on Monday the 22nd. Krista’s list held 10 names of Lanark County women who lost their lives because of violent partners.

And that absolutely sickens me. Especially because that’s not the end of it. There will always be more names.

I will never understand how some people are wired. How some men can look at a person that they’ve sworn to love, honour and cherish and see something they hate enough to completely destroy a soul, spirit and life. Just like the 10 names on Krista’s list.

Gone forever, because a man that these women loved thought their lives weren’t worth the oxygen they were breathing.

I walked to the water’s edge to watch the flowers that had been so lovingly and sadly dropped into the Mississippi.

The flowers were beautiful, no doubt very much like the lives those petals symbolized. The floated in a long line, one after the other, towards the small, rocky fall to the lower part of the river.

Everyone else had returned to the grass to listen to the speakers talk about how there is no justice for violence against women .

I watched as the flowers floated towards that rocky wall and stopped. They all crowded together under a clematis vine, seeming to hide from the rockiness of the falls before them. Afraid. Hiding. As if the flowers weren’t sure what lie ahead of them at the bottom of that three-foot drop.

How symbolic. But really, a flower is in no way enough to symbolize what happened to these women, what continues to happen in Lanark County as the rest of us go on with our lives.

Women and children are being victimized. Beaten. Killed. All by domestic partners. By men they trust, trusted, loved even.

So we marched down Bridge Street to say it’s NOT okay. Its’ NOT okay to take a life, no matter what. But it’s especially NOT okay to be a man that thinks he is the rule maker and the life taker.

It’s NOT OKAY. The two recent attacks in Carleton Place. Not acceptable.

Wake up Lanark County. Open your ears, open your eyes. The Interval House, a shelter for abused, scared and victimized women and children is FULL. And worse still? It’s full year-round.

Seven hundred women and children are served at the Interval House each year. Seven hundred in Lanark County.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not okay with that. WAKE UP, Lanark County. Lets put a stop to domestic violence.

Stand up, raise your voice. Protect who you can, let your voice be heard. LOOK at the people around you. Let’s protect each other.

Because. Abuse, fear and intimidation ARE. NOT. Okay.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Paddling With the Dragons

I love it when I get invitations to do cool stuff. One came to me last week when my friend Steve invited me to ride with the Carleton Place Dragon Blades. They were holding a paddling practice the week before the 7th Annual Carleton Place Dragon Boat Festival that took place this past Saturday on the 13th.

So Peter and I wandered down to the canoe club to see what all this dragon boat fuss was about.

We approached a crowd of people in shorts and t-shirts doing various stretches of their upper-bodies. If I stood back and squinted my eyes, it might look like a ballet warm up, sans toe shoes.

The team loaded in a long, skinny boat. They were ordered in a way that balanced the weight of the boat. I was given my own seat in the back of the boat, in front of a guy who stood and ‘steered’ with one long paddle in the water behind us.

They handed me a paddle.

What was I supposed to do with it?

Peter was wise. He rode in the motor boat beside us so he could take pictures.

I still didn’t know what to do with the paddle. The guy in front of me told me to watch what he did, and just paddle.

“So I’m just going to row with you, even though I don’t know what I’m doing?”
The boat got deadly silent.

“We don’t row. We paddle. Rowing is backwards. We’re forwards.” Said with strength of conviction.

Oh. Paddle. Right. Never say row again. Got it.

So on some commands that I didn’t understand, my oar was in the water and I was paddling with the rest of them. Four minutes later, my arms were done. Paddle-dead. Toast.

Something important here, folks. If you are in a dragon boat, and you aren’t paddling, pretend you’re on a horse. You know how you have to move with the rhythm of the horse as you ride (posting)? Well, if you don’t rock with the motion of the boat, you are in serious danger of being tossed right over, only because you can’t find your seat as your limbs go in all kinds of crazy directions.

It’s probably easier just to paddle, but my arms told me otherwise. So I posted in the boat, with the motion of the river and the mad paddling.

Suffice it to say, I had a great time with the Carleton Place team. They were fun but deadly serious about their task. By the time practice was over, we were all soaking wet. Me, from the guy in front of me paddling all his water into my lap, and the rest of the team from hard work and sweat.

Fast forward to race day on the 13th.

The Carleton Place Canoe Club and the surrounding park areas were alive with activity. There were people everywhere, most of them paddling teams from other towns. They were all ready to compete, all ready to win.

I’d never seen so many people that were into arm torture. And to cement that thought, I spied a team with black t-shirts that said “My Arms Hurt!”.

Aha. My mission. I would find the most creative team name. There were some good ones – People In a Boat, Dirty Oars (snicker), Mixed Nuts, Chicks and Hunks Ahoy, Drag’n Tales, Double D’s (what?), The Undomesticated Goddesses, and many more.

Good stuff.

The boats on race day were dressed up as well, with groovy little dragon heads adorning the front of all of them. Teams climbed in, and the oarsman at the back stood, while a person also took a small chair facing the team inside the boat. Apparently the person who sits on that chair has to be good at beating a steady rhythm on a drum, and must be especially good at screaming at the team while paddling.

It was fascinating to watch. Three minutes of mad paddling and the race is over, and a team is crowned the winners. I wish I could tell you what the ceremony was like, but the Canoe Club was too crowded with paddlers and their beer for me to get too close during the awards ceremony.

However, a hearty congratulations to the following winners:
Women’s Challenge: Galley Girls, 1st place with a time of 1:47.11
The Dale Scott Community Challenge: Carleton Place Dragon Blades with a time of 1:45.52 (Woot woot!)
Overall Championship: Gung Ho with a time of 1:37.74

The Dragon Boat Festival was fun. There were so many great people there, and so much energy to all the races. Can’t wait for next year!

Oh, and props to my new friend Wendy Martin - obviously not from these parts - in a county such as Lanark, it's nigh on impossible to find a true fashionista in our presence.

Girlfriend was rockin' these blue suede boots in a sea of flip-flops. Power to the shoes!


Friday, 19 September 2008

Power Holds All the Cards

So this weather has been a peach, hasn’t it? Peter says it’s a jet-stream that’s usually over northern Ontario that’s causing all the rain.

I say, who invited the jet stream, and how do we get it to go away?

Although I am a huge fan of a wicked electrical storm, living in the wilds of Lanark County sometimes gets us more storm activity than we really want.

Take this week for instance. On Monday, there was a wicked storm running through our parts.

The cloud that came first was the kind of cloud that makes you stop what you’re doing and go look out the window. It was the kind of cloud that makes you wonder if you should go hide under something in the basement.

It was big, black and scary. A rumbling followed the cloud, announcing its presence with a cacophony of deep bass tones from the roiling thunder behind the cloud. I walked outside to see if I could see the end of the black blanket coming at Carleton Place with a lazy but purposeful speed. The thunderous cracks echoed through woods behind us, their song long and lonely before blending into another roll of thunder up in that monster of a storm.

I couldn’t see the back end of the cloud. Uh oh.

Still, I didn’t close any windows or doors. The rain hadn’t started yet, and like I said I do love a good storm.

So, it was rather surprising when that big ol’ baddie black cloud barely scattered a drop of rain before it was gone. Should have known it was just a bully, all bark and no bite.

But that also means that we figured the storm had passed over us. Yay. Where’s the sun?
Sun? Helllllooooooooo . . . sun? Yeah, that’s been a rarity this summer, hasn’t it?

Once the black cloud moved on, the other clouds came in its wake. It seemed that they came from all directions at once, as if they were coming together in a rugby game, ready to clash heads and see which of them could make the most noise.

I knew it was time to shut down the computer and had started doing so when there was a crack of lightning tremendous enough to make me jump.

And that’s when the lights went out.

Cursing aside, I sat back and waited for the power to blink back on. Good thing I didn’t bank on that wait.

I eventually moved to the sunroom, where I sat in a corner and read while the light was still bright enough. Peter joined me eventually and we just kind of stared at each other.

It even took us a moment to decide what we were going to do for dinner. Do we go out? Just have the rapidly melting ice cream in the freezer? Luke-warm yogurt?

Every thing we thought of doing (laughingly) required electricity. It’s amazing how dependent we are on power, how long it takes us to realize – okay – we either nap, or read. Until it gets dark – then I guess we nap.

Did I mention it was only 5:00 p.m.?

Luckily, brains kicked in (for Peter, of course) and he suggested we barbecue for dinner. How simple it was! And it took was a power outage to realize we needed no power for dinner. Oy.

Nobody said we power-dependent humans were bright without our light bulbs.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

One Red Flower - Photos by Joyce


I’ve told everyone of my plant-killing prowess. You also know that I have a gorgeous orchid that is just two weeks from its one-year-blooming anniversary. I even found myself offering orchid advice to a friend at the gym. It’s laughable, really.

But there is one flower in my sunny garden that absolutely takes my breath away, and all I did was put a root in the dirt and add some water.

Just one flower.

It is the most unbelievable colour of red. The darkest of blood, the brightest red of a rose, the passionate colour of love, anger, fire.

And it’s all in one flower.

It’s a dahlia, and looking at it gives my thoughts flight (like I need a catalyst).

My only question . . . how?

How is this particular flower this colour, this shape? Have you ever thought about it? How many different types of flowers there are, how many colours, varieties, shapes. . . like people, I can’t imagine any two flowers are exactly alike.

I wonder if this brilliant bloom has a spirit of its own. I wonder if, being a living thing, it knows what a beauty it is. Does it know from the time it is a tiny sprout, still in the dirt, that its petals will open to show the perfectly shaped array of flames from a fiery red sun? Does it know that its colour would make a rose wilt in shame? Does it bloom in humility, knowing it’s beautiful but keeping quiet about it?

Or does it bloom a little wider, a little more every time I walk by and stop to gaze at it?

Ironically, I believe the insects feel the same about this amazing bloom. In just less than an hour since I’d gazed at the perfect dahlia last, an insect had been given his last rites and was already 6-feet . . .-up.

My dahlia could not be considered an insect cemetery, no matter how heaven-like it must appear to any part of the critter kingdom.

So I flicked it out and it pinged off the rain barrel.

The human eye is always drawn to what it perceives as attractive, beautiful or covetous (no matter how wrong the latter is, we are still human after all). And there I was, looking at one silly flower and wishing for its beauty? No, I don’t want to be a flower. But I do want this flower to thrive and stay forever, that’s how much beauty I see in one bloom.

I guess this gives new meaning to the words “stop and smell the flowers” (roses, whatever).

But alas, there is one flaw with my perfect flower when I do stop to smell. In nature’s way of balancing, this flower is barely scented. My dahlia can’t kick the rose’s bootie in every category, can it?

While this flower blooms, I will gaze on it and let my mind wander, wondering about the mysteries of this gorgeous creation. I will wonder if the blooms that are waiting to open will be as breathtaking.

And I will wonder one more thing. . . what if the flower just wants to grow up to be a tree?

It boggles the mind.

IMG_3651 IMG_3654 IMG_3653 


Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Rollercoaster Lovin'

Dear Readers: This column was published just after Nuria's departure back to Spain. Am I little behind in posting much? Or did I already post this one? Ugh! Getting old blows.

Nuria has only been gone a week, back to her home in Galicia, Spain. Peter and I still miss her like we've only just said our tearful goodbyes.

Really, it was only three weeks. How attached could we be?

Nuria phoned when she arrived home safely, seeming to have forgotten English. Apparently lack of sleep has that effect on the brain. I can barely speak English at the best of times, so I will always be impressed with our 17-year-old-four-language-speaking wonder.

I’m glad I don't have my own children, because any of them leaving would kill me outright.

Anyway, come back with me to Brockport, New York, after the soccer tournament . . . remember, Terry now has a GPS, so the cornfields no longer frighten us, and my Google Maps reading skills no longer frighten Peter.

Sunday afternoon, several of us in the group were on our way to Darien Lake theme park (a former Six Flags resort). Thanks to the GPS and Superkathy’s sense of direction from an actual map, the cornfields didn’t swallow us as Darien Lake rose out of the trees right smack in the middle of nowhere.

Peter and I have never ridden a roller coaster together (I know!). Even though Peter didn’t see the romantic implications as much as we tender-hearted women-folk, I was ready to cross roller-coaster-screaming-as-a-couple off my things-to-before-the-‘til-death-do-us-part-thing list.

You see, I love the coasters. LOVE them.

The weather was fully clouded over and a constant threat of rain. We didn’t care. The lines at the park were short, and it was still as humid as the deepest of rainforests. Oh, and the mosquitoes must know that Lanark County residents have sweeter blood, because there wasn’t ONE bug in all of that park.

I’m pretty sure that our tough-16-year-old-year-old-soccer-chicks were a little surprised (and hopefully suitably impressed) when after we all giggled right through the turnstile in our excitement to get to the first ride, I was asked if I’d ever been on a roller coaster before.


I gave them my most superior look and informed them that there wasn’t a roller coaster in California that hadn’t seen my backside on its seat or my hands up in the air (up until about 7 years ago, anyway).

But when they pointed to the ride where your feet dangled AND you turned upside down, I knew I was out of my realm of experience. So I started giggling like a little girl again.

Nuria pointed to another ‘ride’ that wasn’t much more than a steel cage bouncing about a hundred feet between the sky and the ground hanging by two giant rubber bands. If it hadn’t cost extra, I would’ve done it. That’s my only excuse. Really.


The foot-dangly ride called the Mind Eraser was the coolest. But ladies, don’t wear your earrings. I was seriously afraid that my ceratoid and jugular arteries were in peril as the backs of my earrings stabbed my neck repeatedly.

Oh, and that piercing, high-pitched shriek that you hear is not the ride coming apart, it’s your own scream, or that of your husband.

We tackled all the other rides with a fierce bravado. And roller coasters are just as thrilling as I remember, especially when you have your guy (or girl) next to you for a quick kiss or a hand-holding-scream.

The water slides were just as much fun, but I have a feeling all these mysterious bruises came from screaming down fibreglass tubes at 40 miles per hour. Might have to wear a protective bubble suit next time.

Check out all the exciting photos when you log into your Facebook account and add me as a friend.