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True gratitude includes being thankful for the stuff that sucks too.

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We all know the things we are supposed to be thankful for. We celebrate them as often as we can- having food, shelter, family, love, good health etc. That’s the easy part.

True gratitude and insight, I believe, comes from being thankful for all the things that suck too. Without the dark there is no light, so to speak. After a three year stretch of navigating rough seas, I am trying to find light in the darkness, and understand how to be grateful for the things that haven’t been easy.

Today, I am thankful for suffering multiple losses in a short period of time. The grief was a testament to the fact that I am a well loved human. I had grief to wade through because I knew love. I knew companionship and support and joy through others, both human and animal. I loved sincerely. I am grateful that even though the loss is painful, it is there to remind me of love, and not everyone has that.

I am thankful for the lessons that the stress and uncertainty of this pandemic has offered. It showed me that we are capable of doing hard things together for the sake of others. I am grateful for the people who disappointed me during all of this, because it helped me reevaluate relationships that were draining me and helped me to better appreciate the ones that filled me up. It allowed me to learn how to say no. It gave me strength to stand up for the things that I think are important to stand for, and the tenacity to see them through.

I am thankful for pants that are too tight, or feeling guilty for not exercising enough because it means that I always have enough to eat. It means that my children don’t know what it is to be hungry. It means that my dogs eat better than some humans.

I am thankful for balances on credit cards and lines of credit and sometimes having to wait until next payday to make a purchase, because it means that I have appreciation for the things we have. It means that I understand the value of hard work and the value of privileges we enjoy. It means that I value the time of others, and don’t take them for granted. I am thankful for the lesson it teaches my children of having to work for what you have instead of expecting it to be handed to you.

I am thankful for illness and injury because it gives me empathy for others who are suffering.

I am thankful for mistakes because without them we would never learn anything new. I am thankful for doing it wrong a million times before getting it right because it teaches us perseverance and hope and determination.

Today, I want to be thankful for the things we usually wouldn’t want to acknowledge, because it’s been a rough few years, and I think the next few are likely to be challenging, and finding the calm among the storms fills me with hope.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Vaccine Mandates for the Win

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This past week has been swirling with news and discussions about mask and vaccine mandates and the ever evolving situation with this pandemic from hell which feels like it will never ever, ever end.

I was asked yesterday in an interview with cbc radio where I stood on vaccine mandates. The answer is, right in front, leading the charge of YES PLEASE.

I’ve been sucking up my opinion about this the past few months because I work with a lot of different folks with different beliefs and I thought it would be cool to try to be respectful of that. I will also say that there are a lot of people who are choosing not to get vaccinated, but are also respectful of the hesitation of others to have contact with them due to that decision, and even others who are basically preferring to continue to isolate themselves rather than get vaccinated. This is not about them, because they are making choices based on their personal situations and willing to accept the limitations of those choices.

HOWEVER, if you are working with the public, or any vulnerable population which includes but is not limited to children, medically fragile, elderly, or impoverished folks I believe it should absolutely be mandated that you are vaccinated. By not doing so, you are putting those who have limited choices in receiving the services they require and have a right to (such as education or healthcare) at risk. Let’s put it this way: all children have a right to a public education and all people have a right to healthcare in this country, but we are not entitled to work in any given field. That puts the onus on the employees, the teachers, the doctors and the therapists to fulfill their mandate of providing a safe environment and making the well being of those they care for a priority.

In short: It is your right to decide what goes into your body, but you do not have a right to inflict that choice on others.

Employers create and implement policies for their staff ALL the time. The restaurant I worked at once upon a time had a strict policy about how many piercings you could have, how big they could be, no visible tattoos, and what colour your hair could be. It was based on the clients’ comfort level and response to said body modifications. To put that in terms of Covid vaccines, the “clients” have a right to feel safe in their environment and I think that gives employers the right to determine that their staff needs to accommodate the protection of their “clients” in order to be employed in that sector. While the vaccines are not perfect, especially with new variants in play, they remain one of our best tools to reduce transmission and the risk of severe illness. It will help us begin to focus on care for things other than Covid and emergencies in our health care system. It will help our kids stay in school and our economies to thrive again. Isn’t that what we all want? When we have cancer do we refuse treatment because we don’t know what’s in it? When you have a headache do you spend hours on the internet “researching” the ingredients and looking for adverse reactions of Tylenol? NO. Because many believe in the science when it is convenient for them. I can guarantee when someone refuse to take a vaccine due to lack of trust in the doctors recommending it, they will have an expectation that all of a sudden the same doctor will have enough skill and knowledge to help them get well. It’s all so fucking maddening if you ask me.

We are starting to see post secondary educational institutions mandate masks and vaccines with some school divisions following suit. Which leads me to congratulate the insight and leadership some institutions are showing, but ALSO begets the questions: Where the fuck is the leadership from our provincial government on this? Why is this being passed on to superintendents and university boards? We haven’t we seen hide nor hair of our “Health Minister” for months until all of a sudden she wants to be the Premier, holds a press conference and refuses to address or even acknowledge the crisis in our health care system. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?

People get confused about rights and freedoms all the time. We tend to forget that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should, and also doesn’t mean we are entitled to. The only thing we seem to be experts at these days is finding arguments to confirm our own biases about anything. We are so focused on the ME, that we have no tolerance for the WE.

As members of society and communities, we have a moral obligation to care for others. How our selfishness has grown so deep that minor inconveniences have ballooned into heated political divide and such a severe lack of empathy that we are more willing to risk our children’s well being than implement the easiest of safety measures weighs heavily on me. How an unwillingness to protect our most valuable and vulnerable has evolved into an acceptable “opinion” is unfathomable.

So yes. I truly believe that vaccine mandates should be implemented in many sectors. It’s not even a new thing.Health care professionals when applying to study and children entering the public school system have historically been required to show proof of up to date immunizations, so this should be an easy transition.

I am grateful that my children’s school division has blazed the trail to mandate both masks and vaccines. I am relieved the campus I teach on has done the same. I am hoping our leaders will see what is occurring in other parts of the country and world and will act proactively this time around. There’s still time to prevent the disaster that is waiting for us this fall, so here’s hoping our government will listen a little harder this time around and do the job they promised to do.

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Last Christmas was my first one without my mom. Not exactly a milestone me or anyone else wants to reach. The weeks leading up to the holiday season were mixed with sadness, grief, a desire to keep it as normal as possible and the hope that I could feel like she was remembered.

I try to make a conscious effort each year to do at least some of my shopping locally. Toy stores, artisan sales, and local shops are all on my list of places to visit. Part of that is to support the small businesses financially instead of making the rich richer, but a big part of it is personal connection.

That had never been as apparent to me as last year.

There is a wonderful little family owned shop here called Toad Hall Toys. It has been open since I was a kid. I remember going there when my brother was all about becoming a magician and needed new supplies and tricks. I’d tag along to browse and they always had the neatest things that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

Fast forward to last December. I had just finished helping my Dad go through the house I grew up in. Packing, donating, deciding what memorable things to keep for myself as I went through a lifetime of memories and my entire childhood in the span of a few weeks. It was emotionally draining. When going through the dining room hutch, I came across a Christmas candle set that my mom would always light on Christmas Eve when we got home from church. It’s a simple little metal charm set, where you light the candles and the heat from the flames make the hanging angels spin and cast shadows on the ceiling. Every Christmas of my childhood is for some reason represented by that set.

When I found it in the hutch, it was missing pieces. I was so sad. Of all the things that had huge sentimental value to me, that dumb candle set was of the highest regard. Putting it in the trash just felt like the proverbial nail in the coffin.

And then I went to Toad Hall Toys.

As I browsed things for the kids and made my way to the lineup at the cash register, I passed a shelf that contained a box of the exact candle charms that I had mourned a week earlier. In the same original box design from fifty years go that my moms set was in. For TEN DOLLARS. There was only one set there. I stood there and felt a huge wave of emotion run over me. Whatever your belief system is, I do believe that those we have loved and lost find ways to reach out to us once they are gone, and this moment sent chills down my spine.

I picked up the box, and waited my turn to pay.

When I got to the counter, the older lady who owned the store started to ring up my items, and commented on the candle set. I told her about my mom, and the house, and the candles and started to cry. It was such a moment full of grief and sadness, but also a weird release.

And you know what she did? She took my hand, and cried with me. In the middle of her store. On a Saturday afternoon in the heat of the Christmas shopping season. She took the time to see me, and understand why it was such an impactful moment. Her reaction validated me and made a difference for me.

I will never forget it. I will forever support this business, because of that small moment and what she did for me that day.

And that, folks, is why small businesses are important. Yes, economics, yes community.

But in a world where human connection and empathy and understanding seems to be on the endangered species list, people like her help us feel connected to each other.

Now, more than ever, those connections are invaluable.

An Open Letter to Brian Pallister

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Dear Mr.Pallister,
I’m sure this is not the first letter you have received, or will ignore over the course of the last few months. I admittedly have not been a fan of you or your government since I made the mistake of supporting you in your first term.
This disastrous response regarding Covid is on a whole new level though. From the arrogance of a barely noticeable blip that was our “First Wave” that had more to do with luck and travel lockdowns than your planning ability, to the crisis we as a province are currently facing, we, the people of this province are infuriated with what is happening.
The hypocrisy of “tough talk” that happens in press conferences that clearly only applies to those you think are beneath you, while you allow hundreds of people to gather and protest the very orders you are signing without any real consequences is so clearly preferential treatment of voters that make up your base- is it no coincidence that Steinbach happens to be Minister Goerzten’s riding? The pandering of a lousy two hundred dollar cheque to seniors while those who are self employed or work in the arts- a sector completely decimated by this pandemic- continue to go unacknowledged by you at all?  
The constant attention to your austerity agenda and deflecting all our pleas for help to the Federal government. WE ARE YOUR PEOPLE. It is your responsibility to help us. 
The disregard for the recommendations and cries for help from the doctors and nurses. Ignoring the teachers and the parents when they yelled and begged for options, resources and empathy. The slap in the faces to every educator in this province as you ask them to work ten times as hard, and meanwhile fight with them in COURT to make sure their wages remain frozen. The withholding of Federal funding specifically earmarked for Covid. The misrepresentation of facts. The promise from your Health Minister that “we’ve got this” as elderly people died alone and unnoticed in their beds.
You have dropped every ball that was bounced to you. You have arrogantly ignored the signs that we could all see coming a mile away. Everything we see you responding to are things that could have been prevented with more humility and foresight on your part.
We are angry. We are scared. We have lost our trust in you.
Please ask the federal government for help. Allow the military to provide resources that you clearly do not have at your disposal nor the knowledge to properly deploy.
And when this is all over, resign. Take every plan you have to further devastate us as a province and show yourself out, or I guarantee the public will in the next election.

Yours Most Sincerely.

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