Telling the story of my life in my home - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Home for the Holidays

I open my bedroom door and he practically falls in, plastered as flat to the door as a very fluffy, very large and increasingly fat cat can be. His beloved owner – the Intrepid Junior Blogger – has spent the night at a friend’s house and he has been denied his usual spot at the foot of her bed to sleep, and he is clearly quite lonely. I scoop him up (a challenge given his increasing girth) and hear snuffly purrs emanating loudly from his chest as he burrows his head into me. He is Smaug, the SPCA adoptee who joined our house this fall, and he is home for the holidays.

I write a lot about our pets, I suppose, the menagerie that has come to be known as the Triple M Zoo. Some of the pets, like Sirius Black Cat, have achieved some degree of local fame, with complete strangers asking me how SBC is and what trouble he has gotten  into recently. I have always lived a life with animals, grew up with cats and always felt best when there was a non-human creature in my home, but it is in recent years that we have had a pet explosion in our house, with Smaug being the most recent addition.
 
This past week the IJB went online and found a photo of Smaug from when he first arrived at the Fort McMurray SPCA. While I recognized the face I must admit the photo made me cry, because the soft affectionate cat we have welcomed into our hearts and home looks so scared in it, his eyes wide open with fear. He was found wandering as a stray and I cannot imagine a cat less suited to such a life, as Smaug (or Fitzsimmons as they called him at the SPCA) is a scaredy-cat of the worst kind, terrified of the dog, the vacuum and even large cardboard items. Unlike Sirius, who has an adventurous side and a wild streak, Smaug aspires to nothing more than a soft fuzzy blanket, a constantly refilled food bowl and a human to love. I can only imagine how scared he was when he was on the streets, afraid and alone. He is not the kind of cat to welcome solitude, and not the kind to enjoy the sort of adventures Sirius longs for.


After having adopted three pets from the SPCA I know a few things now. I know I will never again purchase a pet from a breeder or a store, as there are so many loving animals just waiting for their forever home. I know that the pets there came in every shape and size and personality, and that while Sirius Black and Smaug are as different as can be in looks and temperament they have become brothers in spirit who tussle and fight and groom and often fall asleep together in a heap of black and orange and white fur and paws and whiskers.
 
I don’t know how they came to be at the SPCA, Sirius and Smaug and River, their ferret SPCA companion, but I know that they all were likely owned before and that the people who abandoned them were too callous to recognize the incredible spirit of the animals they rejected. When I cuddle Smaug and hear his purrs and feel his love, this kind of all-encompassing love only a feline can project, I feel sorry for the humans who owned him before and who did not treasure and value his trust and love as we do.


Sometimes, late at night when I cannot sleep, I will creep down into the IJB’s room to check on her. At fifteen she does not need these checks, I know, but I find it comforting to find her there as I know one day, far too soon, that bed will be empty as she moves on in her life. But for now I find her there, cuddled under heaps of blankets and with two cats asleep on top of her, blinking at me with bleary eyes as I creep in.
This morning, though, in her absence I cuddled Smaug to me as Sirius began his morning with a stretch and sharp-toothed yawn. I stroked his downy soft fur and listened to his purr, and I reflected on the fact that this is his first Christmas with us. Smaug is home for the holidays – and forever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Roller Coaster of Interesting Times


It is claimed that the phrase “may you live in interesting times” is the English translation of a Chinese curse or proverb. No evidence exists that this proverb was ever used in China, but I cannot help but think that it is perhaps the most appropriate phrase when one is considering the current Albertan landscape, both political and financial.

I don’t write in this blog often about financial issues as there are those much better informed than I who can provide intelligent commentary of falling oil prices, OPEC and the resulting impact on the economy of our country, our province and our community, but even I find myself pausing to consider things when it becomes clear that oil price instability has people deeply worries. As far distant as I am from being an economist even I watch the price of oil tumble and play out the scenarios in my head and what the potential ramifications are for a community and region heavily dependent on that resource. I cannot count the number of phone calls I have received from journalists, interest in our region renewed as the oil prices tumble.
I have lived through this before here as many of us have, watched as the oil prices dropped and varying degrees of panic developed, and I have watched our core resiliency – but there is no doubt that it has an impact, and I recall times when the community became much quieter as contract workers were laid off and local businesses felt the pinch of decreased revenues. And I have lived in a resource-dependent community before, a small gold mining town in Northwestern Ontario at a time when the price of gold could only be described as abysmal and when things seemed bleak for that industry indeed.

Resource towns are tough towns because they have to be, the kind of place where innovation and resiliency flourish because they go through the boom and bust cycles. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience some trepidation but generally speaking we are the kind who simply hang on through the bad times. As I recently said to a friend the only ones who get hurt on a roller coaster are the ones who jump off, and most of us have ridden this particular coaster before, shrieking a bit during the dips and dives but hurtling into the end of the ride quite alive.
And while our financial times are interesting indeed it is the political landscape, particularly provincially, that is even more so. I have been on the planet for a few decades and thanks to a father who took great interest in politics I have followed them for most of my life, no matter where I have found myself living. I would suggest the last year has been one of the most astonishing I have ever experienced when it comes to politics, as we are now on our third premier in just one year. The resignation of Alison Redford, the interim leadership of Dave Hancock and the successful leadership bid by Jim Prentice has made for interesting times , but the recent revelation that several members of the official opposition – including the party leader according to most reports – will cross the floor to join the PC government has most people, including me, a bit flummoxed. I have watched with great interest as Prentice stepped into the role of Premier, and while Bill 10 became a rather outrageous debacle most of the initial decisions his government made (the decision to sell the government planes that were the source of such controversy, keeping the Michener Centre open and leaving the Albertan license plate alone) were not only sound but definitely reflective of the mood of the province. This latest revelation, however, is the kind of thing I tried to explain to my politically engaged daughter but ended up throwing up my hands and saying “honestly kid I have no absolutely no idea what is going on here anymore” because it is perhaps one of the most baffling things I have ever seen. Seeing the official opposition collapse is one thing but seeing them absorbed into the government brings to mind episodes of Star Trek and the Borg (cries of “resistance is futile, Wild Rose Party, you will be assimilated” ring in my mind).

To be honest I have no idea where any of this is headed, from the economy to our political landscape. And the two do not exist in isolation as they are tied into an intricate dance, too, one affecting the other in deep ways. I find myself reading online papers a lot more than usual, following threads on the Facebook walls of friends as they theorize on the economy and/or politics and trying, in vain, to explain it all to my kid who is quite perplexed and who I fear is beginning to think this is some kind of normal. I find myself sitting back in the most bemused kind of way, too, wondering exactly where this particular roller coaster is headed and how low the dips will be – and who will be jumping off the ride.
All I know is that we currently live in interesting times, and whether that is a curse or not is truly yet to be determined.

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Gingerbread Grinch

It is no secret that I think Fort McMurray is a pretty amazing place. After thirteen years here I continue to find people and acts of kindness that astonish me and that remind me of the close nature of our community. But on occasion, too, things happen that may seem small in some regards and yet fill me with sadness and anger. Yesterday was one of those occasions.


That, my friends, is a Tardis. You will likely only recognize it if you are a fan of a little British TV show called Dr. Who, one of the longest running shows in the history of television. It is undoubtedly a quirky little show, but it has millions of fans around the world who have followed the Doctor's adventures for decades. But as you notice that isn't just any Tardis, either. It's a gingerbread Tardis, made specifically for the holiday Gingerbread Village on display at the Sawridge Inn and Conference Centre, a fundraising event for the Centre of Hope.

It is an incredibly lovely idea, asking local companies to help celebrate the holidays by making gingerbread houses for display and then asking the public who enjoys them to donate to the Centre of Hope, one of the organizations in this community I am passionate about. And it didn't surprise me in the least when Nerdvana, a very new store to our community but run by people I know very well and of whom I am very fond, chose to participate by not just building a gingerbread house but by spending days crafting a gingerbread masterpiece reflective of the nature of their store and their interests, being all things collectible and pop culture. When I saw the original photos of the display I was delighted, so thrilled that Ashley, the store manager at Nerdvana, had once again outdone herself in the creative department by creating an incredible little bit of gingerbread pop culture art, complete with several rare and unusual collectible figurines owned by she and her friends. You see, I know Ashley's heart, and she is the kind of person who would spend days gluing together gingerbread, labouring over blue icing and white piping, installing lights and working until dawn to make sure every detail was perfect. She is the kind of person who gives her heart and soul to everything she does, including contributing to this community by making a gingerbread Tardis to display for a local organization I know she holds dear, too.

So you can only imagine how I felt when I received this photo yesterday:


You see that is what is left of the Tardis my friend Ashley created. On the weekend, after a Christmas party at the Sawridge, someone or a group of someones saw a gingerbread Tardis and decided that looking at it wasn't enough.

No, you see, they stole it.

Yes, while in the Dr. Seuss story the Grinch might have stolen Christmas these grinches (and I have several other words for them but I will endeavour to keep this family friendly) ripped Ashley's Tardis off the base and took it, no doubt chuckling at their cleverness. With it went some of the collectible items Ashley and her friends own, some of which have great sentimental value and some of which are quite rare. That this was theft is no doubt, but it wasn't just a theft of goods. It was a theft of spirit.

I don't quite know what compels someone to steal an item such as this in a display designed to raise money for charity. I don't know what, if anything, ran through their heads, but I would suggest they are Dr Who fans as only one of those would recognize the Tardis. I would suggest they are also the kinds of people who would likely frequent a store that sells collectibles and that specializes in pop culture - you know, the kind of store like Nerdvana.

I suspect the Tardis-thieves will one day find themselves at Nerdvana, and when they do they will likely find themselves being greeted by a lovely young lady with a stunning smile and a charming accent. I wonder if they will realize that this young lady is the person they stole from and the heart they broke with an ill-considered and cruel act? Will they understand that when you steal something like this you have stolen not from a store and not from a charity alone but from a person with feelings who spent days of energy and effort on something they likely tossed in the trash after their theft?

I cannot hide it. I am beyond angry about this, devastated for Ashley and all the time she invested and for the loss of the items stolen, too. But I am angrier still at anyone who could be so heartless and thoughtless, who could be the modern equivalent of a Grinch and who likely woke up Sunday morning hung over and with their hands covered in blue frosting. Nothing can undo what has been done, but I would suggest the Grinch (or Grinches as may be) in this case may want to take stock of their actions and recognize that they owe several apologies and consider not only returning the stolen items as Ashley has requested but making a sizeable donation to the Centre of Hope to atone and hopefully stave off the "what comes around goes around" nature of the universe.

If you are reading this and are equally disappointed I would suggest you do a few things, too. If you know someone who has recently acquired a gingerbread Tardis I would ask you to suggest to them that they are not nearly as clever as they think they are, and that they may in fact be assholes instead (oops, sorry about the language there, it slipped out).

If you get a chance please go to the Gingerbread Village at the Sawridge and make a donation to the Centre of Hope or contribute to them directly here as an act of support for their efforts and to show that this act is not reflective of this community.

And do me a favour and drop by Nerdvana and if you see a smiling young lady with a lovely New Zealand accent tell her you are sorry about the Tardis and let her know that Fort McMurray is not about people who steal gingerbread displays and leave broken collectibles, and broken hearts and Christmas spirits, in their wake. Fort McMurray is better than this. Fort McMurray is about people like Ashley and Mike and the others who open little stores like Nerdvana and who even at the very beginning of their business show their community spirit and heart by contributing to a fundraising gingerbread village and who will not, and cannot, be crushed by a willful act of thievery and destruction.

And if YOU are the Grinch in this story all I can is this: in the Dr Seuss version the Grinch's heart grew three times as he realized the error of his ways. Perhaps your heart is far too small and cold to grow, and perhaps you think what you did was funny and clever and acceptable, but know this: the world has a way of dealing with Grinches, one way or another. What comes around goes around, and one day when misfortune comes around to you I want you to reflect on a stolen gingerbread Tardis and realize that you have brought it on yourself. Any fan of Dr. Who should know this lesson very well, and your blue frosting covered hands are dripping in your guilt and your shame. You are the Grinch who stole the Tardis, and frankly I won't shed a tear if the Daleks or Weeping Angels get you.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Setting the Tone: Walter and Gladys Hill

I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to run into someone who grew up in the same city I did. As we talked and reminisced about the place I learned they had a family member who not only lived in that city still but in fact lived on the street I grew up on decades ago. They told me how much their family member loved that neighbourhood, but really that street, as it was the kind of place where neighbours looked out for each other, shovelling each others' driveways and mowing each others' lawns, the kind of place where block parties and block garage sales and neighbourhood potlucks occurred. I smiled as I remembered it all well, as my parents were one of the founding neighbours on that street, one of the very first to move into a brand new house there and call it home for almost thirty years, and I believe they and their generous and kind country ways set the tone for that street in many ways, a tone that appears to exist even today,

I thought a lot about that street when I attended the recent grand opening for the Walter and Gladys Hill Public School in Eagle Ridge. I was there a couple of years ago when the project broke ground, too. I recall the day fairly well, an expanse of empty field in a bustling new neighbourhood and a sense of excitement and optimism for the new school, a desperately needed addition to the Fort McMurray Public School District. For me to follow the project through from groundbreaking to official opening was one of those sweet moments in the history of writing about this community, seeing a beginning, a goal achieved and a glimpse of the future - but it was so much more, too, because the name of the school honours a founding family of Fort McMurray that I have written about several times.

I didn't know Walter and Gladys Hill, and I deeply regret I never had the opportunity to do so. I have had the great fortune to speak to their son Ken Hill on a few occasions, even writing about him for an issue of Big Spirit magazine a couple of years ago. I have taken the liberty of writing about the Hill family on other occasions, too, like on Remembrance Day when a name said during the ceremony took me on an exploration of a sad loss suffered by the Hill family and the kind of loss suffered by families all over this country during the wars we have fought. When I wanted to do some personal photographs reflective of this community I chose Heritage Park as the setting, which is how there are photos of me inside the Hill house and outside Hill's drugs, two places both iconic and symbolic of this community. And through it all, ever since starting this blog, I have wanted to know more about Walter and Gladys Hill.

I was incredibly honoured to be present at the grand opening of the school that bears their name to hear their son speak about them. He told stories about them, about his father being sociable and a talker who loved to chat with everyone who came into his store (and in my mind I could see it, the old Hill's drug store where these conversations occurred, bustling with shoppers and people seeking prescriptions but some probably just coming in to talk to Walter, too). Ken told stories of his mother and her sense of humour and her interest in sports. As Ken spoke - he said he thought for too long, but for me, hungry to know more about his parents, not nearly long enough - Walter and Gladys Hill began to come alive for me, two people who chose Fort McMurray as their home. They were not people who sought attention or notoriety, not those who served the community for some personal gain, but simply people who did what they did because they believed in doing good and contributing to their community in a positive way.

They were a lot like my parents, I thought as I sat in the audience listening to Ken. Just as my parents set the tone for their street, a tone that has lasted long after their departure from this earth, so too did Walter and Gladys Hill set the tone for this community. Through their example they showed others the way to live, and I believe we could trace much of the good parts of this community - our sense of philanthropy, of volunteerism, of pride - back to founding families like the Hills. They exemplify all that is best about this community and their legacy is not just their name on a school in Eagle Ridge but the sense so many of us have about what a community is and what we do to contribute to it. That is a powerful legacy indeed, one that runs deep and strong and true.

Decades ago people didn't talk about how to build communities. They didn't write books about it, do workshops or give lectures. They instinctively knew how to build a strong and resilient community, simply by doing good things for others, by contributing in whatever ways they could, by adding their skills and strengths to those of others in the community to create something amazing. In some ways we think of those times as antiquated and yet in the ways that truly matter they were so far ahead of us, a society that often struggles with knowing how to build the kind of community they just created without even knowing they were doing so, without a plan, a path or a map. Walter and Gladys Hill were those kinds of people.

The new Walter and Gladys Hill Public School is  beautiful indeed, and as a parent of a child who, when she graduates, will have spent her entire education in the FMPSD, I was beyond delighted to see the addition of a new school to our collection of incredible schools. I was honoured to be there to celebrate the grand opening, and I look forward to years of hearing about the accomplishments of the students there. The name that the school bears honours two people who deserve so much recognition and honour because they had an impact on a community that has lasted for decades and will likely last for decades more, not just in the name of a school or a collection of buildings in Heritage Park but in the tone and tenor of this community.

After the opening concluded I saw Ken Hill in the atrium. Although I felt a bit shy about it I decided to approach him, uncertain if he would remember the times I wrote about him, his family and their experiences in this community. I walked up and introduced myself, feeling a bit nervous, and was astonished when he exclaimed: "You do such a wonderful job writing about us!" and wrapped me in a bear hug.

I tried to hide it but at the moment he hugged me tears formed in my eyes and threatened to run down my cheeks right in front of everyone. As a writer and a member of this community all I have ever wanted was to be able to somehow capture not only some of the present in this community but some of our past, too, showing how it linked with today and led us into the future. I have always wanted to honour the legacy of those who founded this place and who helped it become what it is today, and to ensure that their contributions are not lost over time and during the inevitable changes that have occurred and are yet to occur. I always wanted it to be understood that, while I embrace and welcome the future as someone who is, in relative terms, new to the community despite my thirteen years here, I honour the past and the community members who were here long ago and built this place in both the physical and emotional sense. When Ken Hill, part of one of the founding families who set the tone for the community I love and call home, hugged me I felt something indescribable, a sort of joy at knowing that he felt I had done well in writing about and honouring his family.

I left the grand opening at the new school when it was still in full swing, people visiting and chatting. I sat in the parking lot for a moment, looking at the lovely new school which will keep the Hill name alive for decades more to come, and I reflected on how a couple I never knew impacted my own life long after they were gone. I thought back to the earlier conversation with the person who knew someone who lived on my parents' old street and how I had said to them: "My parents were named John and Betty - I think if your family asks around someone on the street will probably remember them", and how she contacted me a couple of days later to tell me that my parents were indeed considered legendary on that street, long gone but still missed and not forgotten, tales of their kindness and commitment to their neighbours being shared even today.

I drove away from Walter and Gladys Hill Public School smiling, because you see some names are never forgotten, because they are etched not just onto schools or buildings but right onto the very heart of our community, and I have been so fortunate to get to know, even just a little bit, the story attached to some of those names, and it has changed my life.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Aftermath of Bill 10

I sit at my desk late that day, realizing that every muscle in my body aches. I feel as if I have undergone a particularly gruelling workout. Coupled with my swirling thoughts, though, my entire body feels as if I have just come through a battle instead. And a battle of sorts it was, I suppose, the battle surrounding the contentious Bill 10.

Just earlier I had watched a live newsfeed of the press conference. As soon as I had gotten word that the conference was happening I called the Intrepid Junior Blogger to tell her what was about to occur, and then we began texting back and forth furiously to find a live feed.

"Have you found one?"

"Yes, just now, here's the link."

And so we watched together, separated in the physical sense but united in our intense desire to see what would happen next.

"He looks tired. Maybe a little angry."

"Both, I think. He just got back from a trip. He didn't think this would happen. And this won't be easy for him."

And we watched as the Premier of our province announced that Bill 10 would be put on hold indefinitely, pending further consultations with the people of this province. The announcement attempted to put the most positive spin on it, of course, tried to make it sound like Bill 10 was far better than the hastily prepared, and even more hastily amended, flawed document we knew it to be, but spin is part of the art of politics and even the IJB knew that. The Premier took responsibility for the debacle - and a debacle it has been - for which both the IJB and I were grateful as that is what true leaders do.

It was a strange moment, not quite a victory but also not the crushing loss it would have been had the government continued to ram Bill 10 through. But it would have come at their own cost to do so, too, as serious cracks were beginning to show within their ranks, MLAs openly stating they would not support the bill and I suspect many more behind the scenes questioning the wisdom of passing a bill that was so clearly unpopular, so clearly flawed in many regards and so clearly pleased virtually no one. Pressing pause on the bill was not only wise but quite likely entirely necessary to save themselves from the looming trainwreck ahead, and they stopped the engine in the nick of time (although already too late for some who had already jumped on someone else's train).

The IJB and I had discussed this battle before we fought it. We had talked about picking your battles wisely, and knowing which are the hills you are willing to die on. We discussed the consequences of taking a side and throwing yourselves into the fray, and we talked about how sometimes politicians are so insulated by their ranks of "yes men" and their echo chambers that it was necessary as citizens to take a strong stance to shake them up and out of their complacency in their chosen direction. We had discussed this hill and whether it was the one we were willing to die on - and we decided it was a good hill.

As with any controversial issue that I have written about my email inbox began to fill up fast and furious with commentary from readers. Most were extremely supportive. Some were, very decidedly, not.

There are those who say maybe we don't need GSAs and that equality and acceptance already exists in our schools, and while I hope that to be true I would venture that based on some emails I received that unless our youth are learning from other adults some are likely learning hate, anger and homophobia instead. I had emails questioning my ability as a parent. I had emails questioning my own sexual orientation. I had emails accusing me of using my child as a pawn in the g** agenda (written exactly like that, too, as if the word gay was somehow contagious and would infect them if they typed it). I saw a dark underside of some of the people who share our planet, walk our streets and live in this province. And it showed me exactly why youth need access to GSAs.

For some youth the GSA in their school may well be the only place they find acceptance and understanding, because I fear some of them live with parents or families like my correspondents above. I received so many emails from individuals who told me of a youth spent in pain and fear because they could not tell their own parents who they really were. They told me of struggles with depression and thoughts of suicide as they felt they had nowhere to turn. GSAs don't just help to make schools more accepting and inclusive - my correspondents were telling me that for some it may well be the only place they can feel safe at all, including their own homes.

There were some correspondents who expressed themselves with such vitriol that even I, after years of hate mail, was taken aback. They told me this was just another of my "crusades", all about me and my own ego and my notoriety. As I sat there late that evening and realized that I felt weary in body and soul I could only reflect on how wrong they were. This wasn't about me. It was about the transgender people in my life, the family member I love dearly and the child of a dear friend. It was about all the people I have known over my years who told me stories of coming out and of the trials they faced in their school years. It was about my own daughter who kept telling me that things just were not like they were years ago and that the decisions being made in the highest offices in our province were not reflective of reality today. It wasn't about me or the other adults in the discussion but about kids like mine who felt they had no voice and no way to make themselves heard - but this week I helped my kid to share her voice using the avenues I had to do so.

I dragged my weary body into my cold car and headed home. I arrived there to find sparkling bright Christmas light flashing, and the IJB on her laptop surrounded by cats and blankets and empty cans of Coke and homework scattered around her. And then she looked up at me and smiled, this beaming smile, and I forgot the aching muscles, the headaches, the hate mail and the battle song, and just hugged my kid instead. One battle was behind us, and peace talks in the form of consultations, hopefully with youth like her, loomed instead. It was a good time for two weary soldiers to just take a moment for some rest. And so we did, because we knew more battles - more good hills - lie ahead, and we would be there to fight on them, together.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

One Voice for the Youth of Alberta

This week my daughter asked me to helped draft and send a letter to one of our local MLAs, the one for whom she worked during the last provincial campaign. I am so blessed to have a remarkable young woman in my life, one who can not only write and speak eloquently but is passionate about human rights and social justice. My daughter hopes that this letter will have some impact on the decision yet to come about Bill 10 and the effect it will have on youth of this province. Today I share it with all of you as I believe her voice and the voice of other youth in this province are the ones to which we should be listening. Last night she said to me: "Who should they base their votes on? The adults that this will never effect or the thousands of kids that it will and who have been given no voice in this conversation?" She might be fifteen but I think we would be wise to listen to her and the other youth of this province, as their voices are perhaps the ones best suited to lead us today and into the future. Today I wanted to give her that voice.

McMurray Musings

 
A Letter from the Intrepid Junior Blogger
 
Dear Minister Scott,
I am writing to you to express my support of Gay-Straight Alliances in Albertan schools. As a founding member of my school’s GSA I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about what a GSA is and does for students.
 
I am a Grade Ten student in Fort McMurray. I have been involved in many extracurricular activities including drama, robotics and student council. A GSA is a student group that is in almost every way no different than every other student group I have been involved in. We meet on a weekly basis, we plan activities and we share ideas and thoughts on making our school a safe place for all students.
As a young woman in your community I think that if students wanted to start a group to end bullying or support multiculturalism there would be no debate or question that the school boards would be asked to support a group of that kind, so I am not sure why a GSA would be any different. The students in our schools, regardless of their religion, race, colour or sexual orientation deserve the support of our school boards to found and develop a group that encourages understanding between students, encourages interaction with our peers and helps us to ensure all students feel welcome in their school. The goal of the GSA is fundamentally to do exactly that, and I think it is a goal all people can and should support.
 
I am also a politically involved student. I worked on your campaign in 2012 and I intend to continue to work on campaigns as well as run for election myself one day. I believe the role of politicians is to represent their constituents, and I believe your constituents, at least the ones who currently attend schools in this province, are very clearly showing their support of GSAs. In my school there is no debate or concern regarding our new group and it seems most of the concern comes from adults outside of the school system who are significantly older than my age group and who attended school in a different era that may not have been as open or welcoming of students who are lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender.
Fifty years ago I imagine a debate similar to this one took place about whether or not to support alliances between students of different colour. Since research has shown us that sexual orientation is no more a choice than skin colour is I find it sad that we even feel the need to debate this issue today, long after we moved into a more progressive society dedicated to the concepts of diversity and inclusion. This is an opportunity to vote based not on what was in the past but how society is today and will be in the future and to truly be progressive in leading us into a new era of acceptance and inclusion.
 
My mom has something she says a lot: it is easier to talk the talk than walk it. It is very easy to talk about diversity, inclusion and acceptance but a lot more difficult to walk that talk by making decisions that may not be popular with everyone. You have a chance to walk the talk of diversity, inclusion and acceptance. You have a real chance to not only change what happens today, but change the future.
I am concerned Bill 10 does not go nearly far enough to ensure students have the ability to form a GSA. The bill your government has proposed will not make it any easier for students like myself to form GSAs and may discourage us from doing so. I hope you and your colleagues will defeat Bill 10 and start again with consultations with the youth of this province. I believe if you do so you will not only be supporting GSAs but supporting students such as myself who simply want the ability to found groups designed to support other students. I would appreciate your support of youth like myself who hope to one day be the leaders of this province and country and who will be faced with tough choices, but who will make them based on what is best for the future and not on thoughts or beliefs rooted in a past that is no longer reflective of who we are.
 
Sincerely,
Sam


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Succeed at Embracing Failure

Leave it to the Finnish to come up with something so mind bogglingly-simple and yet fiendishly clever. I read about it online somewhere and was intrigued by the idea, one apparently inspired by the “last taboo of Finnish society”.

That taboo? Failure.

A couple of years ago a movement in Finland began and it wasn’t meant to be successful. Actually that’s a bit wrong as while the movement was hoped to be a success it wasn’t about success – it was about failure and embracing the concept of failure. It encouraged Finnish people to not go out and do the things they were already good at but to do the things they were terrible at and likely to really, really mess up – public speaking, dancing, baking, whatever it was they wanted people to fail.
Wanted people to fail? What nonsense is this, you might wonder? The idea behind it was that people are so consumed with success that they often will avoid trying anything new or different because of the big f word: Failure. We all hunger for success, for being good at what we do and accomplished, but who really wants to fail? Nobody, that’s who, and the Finns decided this fear was preventing their people from growing in the way trying new things – and failing at them, sometimes miserably – does.

So they established a day to celebrate failure. Seriously. An entire day devoted to trying things you are awful at and failing horribly and sharing the stories of your abject failure with others, maybe garnering a laugh or some sympathy. The entire idea was to try something new, or even something you already knew you sucked at, and failing – and then instead of bemoaning the failure and your fundamental inadequacies as a human being celebrating that you tried and failed.
When I read it I was immediately delighted with the idea. It is so true as just like most I am fond of my successes and far less attached to my failures. In fact I would prefer to not fail, often going out of my way to avoid the things I am terrible at to ensure I do not have to face the dreaded f word and acknowledge my lack of accomplishment.

But I think the Finns are onto something here. I think perhaps a failure movement is a brilliant idea, one designed to not only encourage us to do new things and things we are awful at but that shows us that failure is okay. Failure on occasion in fact might be exactly what we need to remind us to do the things that scare us or that worry us or that we are likely 100% guaranteed to fail at doing.
The Finns celebrate their Day of Failure on October 13, so we have lots of time to plan our failures. I don’t know about you, but I am planning to do something epic – and fail in the most spectacular and horrendous way. And I’ve never been so excited about failure in my entire life, either.