Dear Mr. Harper:

            Last night I dreamed that the oceans had turned to Jello.  Everything under the water was stuck, like chunks of pineapple in fruit salad that was a sad shade of gray.  I woke up with a post apocalyptic feeling that always seems to follow bad news.
             The list of disasters around the world is endless.  Drought, floods and increasing numbers of hurricanes are all signs that Mother Nature isn’t happy. We’re a little full of ourselves about life up here in the North, snuggled safely between the rocks and trees.  But last week’s windstorm was eerie.  It gave us all a taste of what much of the world experiences seasonally.
            To quote hip hop artist, Nelly, “It’s getting hot in here.”  Nine countries hit new temperature highs last summer, causing devastating floods in Pakistan and elsewhere.
There aren’t many credible scientists who dispute global warming.  Those who are work hard for their supper serving the interests of industries that are major pollutors. It’s also hard for governments to ignore the pleas (and the cash) of big business, especially when so many families benefit from the work. The Alberta oil sands are a good example.  The system for extracting oil is much less efficient than regular oil wells, creating high carbon emissions for less result.  But the world is so energy hungry that the jobs created by it pay well.   
We all want prosperous communities. 
But in the attempt to keep the economy moving (and get re-elected) most governments choose to ignore the disasters awaiting the planet.  There’s some lip service, but no one is doing anything significant to halt carbon emissions.  We need serious investment into energy alternatives.   We need stricter environmental laws that big business has to follow.  If the financial incentives are there, the results will be amazing.  Its not too late.

Flin Flon Culture Days, Alive and Well

Culture days is a celebration of all things artistic.  We paint, we sing, we attend community events that bring us all together.  We dance and sometimes, we cry. 
Last year’s song by K’naan, Waving Flag, was a HUGE success as our dance pick.  Most of us aren’t that coordinated, but we all danced and clapped with joy as we made our way down Main Street.  Different songs speak to different people, but that one spoke to all of us.  So what now?
            For 2011, I’m proposing Michael Buble’s song, Hollywood.  This choice is not the favorite, but here’s why I like it.  The tune is amazing and fun, as is the voice.  Here, in the lyrics, is why it fits.
‘So don’t fly higher, for your fire, put it in your head, baby Hollywood is dead, you can find it in yourself.  Keep on loving what is true and the world will come to you, you can find it in yourself.’
Each of us is an artist, though we may not paint, or write, sing or play an instrument.  We all dream, we dance in the shower to the Black Eyed peas, we sing into our hairbrushes (yes, even at 57.)  We create things every day, whether it’s an essay for school, a project for work or a braid in a child’s hair.  We are all artists.  We find what we need inside ourselves, when we love what is true. 
When we dance down Main Street, we’re celebrating so many things.  We’re saluting this amazing country that we live in.  We’re acknowledging the artists who add an extra dimension to our world, bringing colours and insights and emotions we’ve never imagined or experienced.  But mostly we’re celebrating each other.  As friends and neighbors, we’re dancing in unity, flowing and laughing as we move together.  Our eyes meet and we smile, acknowledging just how amazing this experience is.  Hollywood may indeed be dead.  But Flin Flon is alive and well, and we’re rockin’ it! 
Let me know what you think!  Let’s get a dialogue started.

When Candy was Dandy

 In the 1960’s, every kid I knew had the same idea.  Where can we scrape up a few nickels to buy a chocolate bar?  Forget the search for peace, love and understanding. The bigger question was, how many pop bottles can I find to trade for penny candy?  We’d check every ditch, and weren’t above asking couples at the beach for their empties. 
            We thought about the sweet stuff a lot, probably more than kids do nowadays.  That’s why Halloween was such a big deal.  It was the same thing with soft drinks.  We got them in our Christmas stockings, or while on vacation.  How many of us remember traveling with the car windows rolled down on a hot day, everyone covered in road dust, a cold, sweaty pop in each person’s hand?
            This memory illustrates the difference from then to now.  The change in consumption is having a definite effect on our environment.  Because kids (and adults) have treats every day, there are food wrappers, plastic bottles and pop cans strewn everywhere.  They’re more noticeable on the walking paths around town.  Even the strategic placement of garbage cans and recycling bins seem to have little impact.  This careless attitude is disrespectful to our town, to Mother Earth, and to each other.  Its even disrespectful to candy, when you think about it.
            The other impact of junk food is felt by society as a whole.  Nobody set out to exercise in the sixties, at least from what I can remember.  Everyone played, or worked in their gardens or shoveled snow.  Yet somehow, people were fitter.  At least, that’s how it seems in my memory.  Today we battle with soaring diabetes rates, cancer and other diseases that may be weight related.    It turns out that most of the candy around now is made with cheaper alternatives, like high fructose corn syrup. 
            It seems that cheap and readily available junk food is not a good thing for anyone.  Not for the children who struggle with obesity, their health compromised at a young age.  And certainly not for society, as costs rise and the government struggles to keep up with an increasingly unhealthy population.
            It was hard for smokers when the price of cigarettes went sky high because of large tax levies.  Smoking has been recognized as being hazardous to our health, and a high cost is a deterrent to a lot of people.  Maybe if junk food cost more, it would have the same impact.  The tax money could be used for health care, and the general population would benefit.  There’d be a lot less litter around town, and who knows? Maybe the chips, chocolate bars and pop would make a Christmas comeback.      

Avoidance Behavior at its Best

A unique situation that verges on a strange type of illness flares up within me every summer (at least, since I’ve become an adult.)  It started long before I had children, though having babies definitely made the symptoms a little worse.  Starting in mid spring I begin to feel overwhelmed by the approach of summer.  Most of my friends and neighbors long for this, their favorite season.  They can’t wait to lie out on the patio, a cool drink in hand, a book or magazine flopped to one side of the chair as they gaze lazily at the sky.  This image gives me nightmares, frankly, which tend to start right around the end of May.  Why? you may ask with honest astonishment.  Because the summer creates in me a fierce need to do absolutely everything.  I must have a wonderful garden, an incredible vacation, maximum time with family, freshly painted items and/or fabulous garage sale nick nacks arranged artfully around the yard.  If I’m not on high alert, having the best time of my frantic life, then I feel that I’m wasting the precious few months of warm weather. 

I have learned some calming techniques, but the best one came along with the babyTrekker.  When in doubt about what to do, go for a walk.  Don’t think about the messy house, the unweeded garden, the new plants languishing in their pots.  Strap that baby on and head outside.  If its raining, invest in one of those $2.00 plastic ponchos, cut the front low enough for the baby, and head into the rain.  Walk briskly and inhale deeply.  Wonderful things will start to happen in your brain.  Endorphins begin their happy dance and sanity returns, allowing perspective on EVERYTHING.  Because there is no agenda, or chaos, or reason to feel anxious on that beautiful/rainy/snowy day.  This life is a gift, and nature has tied it up for us in beautiful ribbons of greenery and sunshine, of bees and butterflies.  John Lennon said that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.  It also happens when you’re busy being stressed out about unimportant things.  Easy for a parent to do.  So let it go, and don’t force yourself to make one more decision.  When life feels sour and demanding, head outside and get moving.  Mother nature is waiting with open arms and no expectations at all.