Cecil, it’s not personal

On July 1, 2015, a tragedy struck the world – the internet forgot that human beings are worth more than animals. Cecil, a famous lion, was killed in Africa and outrage ensued, leading to the online and real-life lynching of the man who killed him. Literally, the hunter became the huntee. And while the fallout of those actions lead to ‘justice’, the tragedy wasn’t in the death of a protected lion. The tragedy lies in the lack of reaction to other more horrific human deaths that were overlooked without a thought or care.

I appreciate animals. I understand that they have the power to heal, to help, to create meaning in people’s lives. I get it. But their lives should not be the only ones we think about, defend, and fight for. They are not the only ones we should be angry about when they’re cut short. They are not the only ones we should weep over and grieve. We should be angry and grieving over other human lives more than we grieve animals we hear about on the news.

At the beginning of June, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report on the cultural genocide wrought by the Canadian government, people, and churches against our indigenous people. From 1883 to 1996 (yes, as recently as 19 years ago), over 150,000 aboriginal children were ripped from their families and placed in residential schools, resulting in the documented deaths of 6,000, with the understanding that there is a high probability of more children who died at the hands of officials. This means that the children in the schools had around the same chance of dying as a soldier in World War II.

the-legacy-of-canada-s-residential-schools

Languages were wiped out by the schools, forcing the children to learn English and leave behind their cultures, their history, and their homes. People were destroyed by the abuse and ‘teachings’ administered by school officials. Families were ripped apart when children were taken from their homes, away from their parents and everything that they had known. And these actions were taking place in force until the 1980s. THE 1980s. Think about that. Only 30 years ago, the Canadian government was involved in a genocide of our most vulnerable people.

The horrific implications of these actions will last generations and will take generations to repair. For the families that were affected by this, for the children who survived this, for the cultures that were destroyed by this, this horror will be felt for all time.

It’s unconscionable. It’s disgusting. It’s unbelievable. And it’s true. It happened. The active residential school program has been officially over for 20 years, but the effect is still here and will be here forever.

Did you know about this? Did you tweet about this? Did you make your outrage known? Did you track down the politicians, the teachers, the church officials who did these horrific things or allowed this horrific things or put these horrific things in motion and set up protests outside of their offices or their homes? Did you lynch them online and demand justice? Did you talk about it endlessly, worried over it and felt grief over it? Did you feel guilt? Did you feel enraged? Did you feel anything?

Did you even know?

This is my problem with Cecil. I personally believe that trophy hunting is disgusting and harmful – that it’s simply a power trip whereby humans get to murder and then gloat about it. It’s gross. If you hunt to eat, fine. If you hunt to adorn your wall, you’re scum. But to freak out about one lion, then go after all the trophy hunters who boast online, and spend energy and emotion on an animal on the other side of the world and have no idea what is happening here is disgusting and makes you scum.

I am a privileged white woman. I may not have been party or integral to the residential school system, but my people were. My people killed other people because they didn’t agree with their culture. Their centuries old, were here before we were, rooted in all the good things like respecting and honouring our natural earth, culture. My people did that. They are scum. I am scum by proxy.

I am tired of hearing about Cecil. I’m sick of hearing about all the animals in the world that are being abused at the hands of horrible humans.

I want to hear about the human beings that my government killed. I want to know about the children that survived and who they are now. I want to know how to help the people whose lives were destroyed by my people. I want to help with the reconciliation piece. I want to be part of the path to healing.

Don’t you?

To learn more, visit the Truth and Reconciliation Commission website. For a summary of the findings, take a look at this article by the CBC.

~ Julia

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Jitters no more

This week is Sophie’s last week of her first year of school. It’s ‘only’ junior kindergarten, but it’s so momentous…especially because she’s our first baby. Our first baby went to her first school. And she not only survived, she THRIVED. Thank goodness.

At the beginning of the school year I had a bunch of worries for a bunch of reasons. 1. I’m a worrier. Period. The end. It’s something that has always been part of my psyche and something I’m working on stamping out…or at least, getting under control. 2. My first day of school was filled with tears. Horrible, awful, ugly-cry tears. My mom put me on the bus to go to kindergarten and I was bawling. The old, curmudgeonly bus driver rasped, “Leave her. She’ll be fine.” The bus doors closed, my mom disappeared and I ended up sitting in the wrong seat (there was a boy side and a girl side and it was organized by grade – I sat on the boy side in an older grade’s row) crying all the way to school. 3. I’m a worrier. So yeah.

On this last Monday of this school year, I thought I’d recount some of the worries I’d had at the beginning of the year…and they all turned out okay in the end.

I was due with Isaac three weeks after Sophie started school. There was a lot of worry around how I would do it all. How I would make Sophie feel special and loved and supported with a newborn in the house. How I would waddle around post-C-section and be Mom of the Year without losing my mind. How I would keep track of three kids AND a school schedule. How I would have a newborn without the dreamy, sleepy, slow days that newborns had kick started for our family in the past. My C-section was scheduled Friday September 13. Sophie started school the week before. It was tight. It was dicey. I felt like I could totally do it. HA. Isaac showed up four weeks early on his own IGNORING ALL SCHEDULES. So I had a giant, new incision on the first days of school. And a newborn. And Sophie felt loved and cared for. And our dear friends, Heather and Adam, folded Sophie into their morning routine with their children and walked her to school for us for 6 weeks. And it was okay.

Sophie and her BFF Elora

Sophie and her BFF Elora

Would her teacher be nice? It’s a TERRIFYING thing, sending your child into a building you’ve never been in, to do things you have no control over, with adults you’ve never met before, for large expanses of time over and over and over again. TERRIFYING. They don’t tell you this. I didn’t realize this. Sophie wasn’t terrified, but I was SO WORRIED and SCARED for her. What if her teacher was mean? What if her teacher was awful? What if they didn’t understand her? What if they didn’t let her go pee? What if they made her take off her crown? What if what if what if? There was a horrible, no-good, yelling teacher, Mrs. Miller, at my elementary school that my sisters had…and she was HORRENDOUS. What if Sophie got her Mrs. Miller? Nerves, nerves, nerves. But in truth, Sophie didn’t get that teacher. She got AMAZING teachers. Ones that loved her. Ones that she loved. Ones that called her Princess Sophie. Ones that were excited with her. Ones that put all fears about teachers aside. I’m not naive enough to think that she’ll never have a teacher that she doesn’t get along with, or one that isn’t the best, but this year, she had three teachers that were awesome. And to Mrs. Service, Ms. G, and Miss Bunghardt – THANK YOU. Thank you thank you thank you for making her love school. And for making it okay.

What do you mean we have to walk to school EVERY day? That’s nuts. That’s crazy. That’s not possible. Have you seen how short her legs are? Do you know how many children I have? Do you have any idea how hard it is to have any sort of schedule or organization with a newborn and a two-now-three-year old and a non-stop chatting junior kindergartener? Do you know what it’s like in the winter in our town? What happens when there’s so much snow on the ground we can barely walk? What happens when it’s so cold we’d normally not go outside if you paid us? What THEN?? I was ALWAYS a sheltered bus student growing up. The bus came to my driveway. The bus picked me up. The bus kept me safe. The bus dropped me off at school. The bus picked me up at school. The bus kept me safe. The bus dropped me off at my driveway. No walking. No unknown. No weather that I had to deal with directly. But you know? Walking to school every day wasn’t so bad. And when it got SO BAD, my amazing friends Adam and Heather and my incredibly generous sister Toni stepped in to help. And when it got SO MUCH BETTER walking to school every day was awesome – it was fresh air, it was outside, it was time for Lillian to run and Isaac to see the sun and me to get fresh air and for us to meet other walking families with kids our kids’ ages and…it was okay.

What if she gets bullied? It’s all you hear about. Kids getting bullied. Bullies running wild with no repercussions. Children not telling teachers. Teachers not responding. All of the horror stories of school becoming a torturous place. But after healing and walking to and from school with Sophie and meeting her friends (she made FRIENDS!!) and asking her about her day and listening to what problems she was having (“I don’t like it when no one listens to me.”), I calmed down. She wasn’t being bullied. And again, I’m not naive enough to think she’ll never meet a bully (I met my fair share) or get bullied, but this year wasn’t the year. It was okay.

She can’t write any letters. She doesn’t know how to read. She’s going to fail. Again, calm yourself, Julia. CHILL OUT. You know – they teach kids at school. And if, while a hundred years pregnant with a toddler AND a preschooler at home you didn’t get around to teaching your kid everything they’re going to learn at school, it will be okay. You know what else is okay? Getting to school late sometimes. And missing school because of a bad night’s sleep. Or dealing with head lice. Or dealing with croup. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it’s hard. But overall…it’ll be okay. Seriously. Calm. Down.

Saucy...and too smart for me

Saucy…and too smart for me

After dealing with all of these worries…I only have one left. How on earth am I going to be as exciting as school this summer? I don’t have a curriculum. She’s going to be SO BORED. !!!! 

Julia

The new girl

Growing up, we moved. A lot. Which means that I was the ‘new girl’ at school, A LOT.

New Girl

New Girl

By the time I was 16 years old, I had attended five elementary schools, two high schools and my future-self would face two more colleges. While not a completely unfortunate or unique situation (army-brat, anyone?), I often find myself a tad envious of the friends that can revisit their childhood home anytime and still have some of the same friends they did in elementary school. That legacy and history sometimes tugs at my heartstrings and make me yearn for a childhood with a few more roots.

However, I attribute our moves and the inevitable new schools that came with them to some very positive personality traits that have helped me in everyday adult-life and even some priceless lessons that have helped me conquer some pretty big demons.

While being the new girl had it’s many disadvantages – especially when you attend a snobby country school full of rich kids whose parents had forgot to teach them basic kindness – it also had its many advantages.

can't sit with us

Mean Girls

1. The less they know, the more they want to:  If I were able to remove the inevitable nerves that come with a new crowd or situation, the allure of being the mysterious new girl is one that I secretly enjoy. Realizing at a young age that I had the control to be able to pick and choose the pieces of myself that I wanted to reveal, when I wanted to, helped me a lot in my dating life, but also when it came to making new friends. Even now as my career life evolves and I face another new team and a whole new set of people, the idea that these people know nothing about me is sorta thrilling.

Never Been Kissed

Never Been Kissed

2. The popular girls aren’t all they’re cracked up to be: I was once immediately accepted by the ‘popular’ girls – this never happens, especially true in elementary school. As an outsider, the popular girls were a group you really had to work to be a part of – something I never had a knack for, so you can imagine my surprise when a group of 10 of the most liked, prettiest and wealthiest girls wanted to hang out with me. It was the worst week of my life! They wanted to control everything – from what brand of jeans I should ‘tell’ my mother to purchase, to how to wear my hair, who I could socialize with, who I was allowed to be nice to, how many turns I had to take at the end of the double-dutch rope… seriously, horrible. After that, I stuck with the boys and the misfits – so much more fun and I was accepted just as I was.

Mean Girls

Mean Girls

3. Variety is the spice of life: Often times we fight to hold on to the old and familiar. Throughout our lives we become attached to people, places, things – the things that provide comfort and give us the feeling that we belong. Not having the chance to create those deep-seeded roots through school coupled with the constantly changing scenery has given me a certain kind of advantage that one might not expect. While I do find comfort in the familiar, I am fiercely independent of the need for these things and have very little fear of being alone. This ability to be comfortable anywhere, with almost anyone has allowed me to meet some pretty funky characters, go on some amazing adventures, sit down at some of the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants and have some of the best meals of my life without hesitation. I often find people who are creatures of habit lack the ability to do this and I chalk up the ease at which I step outside of my comfort zone to the frequency of moves made in my young life.

4. You only get out what you put in: As a self-proclaimed expert in all areas of being the ‘new-girl’, I can tell you this is 1000% true. If you don’t try, be kind, stay open, make an effort, there will be no reward in return. If you close yourself off, play cool, be cold, not take that leap of faith, you will forever be sitting on the sidelines – even if it is just the sidelines of the Kings Court game with the super fun crew at recess.

5. The mean kids get theirs too: And no, I don’t mean that you’ll run into them 15 years down the road, working at the local gas station while you’re busy driving your dream car, paid for by your dream job, gassing up at said station, looking oh-so-fabulous…well it might. But, what I mean by this is it’s easy to forget that after the bubble of high school is popped, life has its own way of leveling out the playing field. Not all of those mean kids will realize it right away, but how popular or mean you were in school has little play in real life and it kind of boils down to your brains, skills and drive.

Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion

6. No one knows your older sister: Thanks to the age gap between myself and my BRILLIANT older sister Julia, I was always fortunate to be the first of the sisters to make the mark on any new school I attended…sorry Jacqui and Andreah. Thank goodness. Seriously. After the first round of elementary school, which Julia and I attended together, and her reputation of being a somewhat goody-two-shoes, I was happy that this was also the last as I was less than stellar in the areas of listening and rule following…sorry mom. It was the first time in history that I didn’t have a reputation to live up to – both thrilling and terrifying. While I didn’t know it at the time, I was getting my first lessons in first impressions and I made sure to make my mark a memorable one…again, sorry mom. Thankfully, my understanding of the importance of first impressions has evolved and I feel that I owe my ability to usually nail them properly to the multiple chances I was granted at every new school I attended.

7.  Everything is so temporary: I have not always been the best at putting life’s funny surprises into perspective – something I really am only mastering now and still have far to go. However, much like my stints throughout multiple schools, the realization that situations are only temporary was one I did happen to grasp quickly. Sadly, during one particularly rough year of middle school, thanks in large part to a group of girls to whose standards I just didn’t measure up, I remember sitting on the bench of the baseball field and telling myself that everything would be okay because next year it would be a different school, with a different bunch of kids to fit in with. It was temporary. I’m not sure how I exactly came to this conclusion, or why that memory of 11-year-old me has stuck so well, but it is one that has helped me to face every inch of adversity in my life with a bit less panic than innate Toni would have managed. If life isn’t going so well, just remember, it’s all temporary.

That Charlie, so smart

That Charlie, so smart

8. There will always be that one teacher: For me, it was Mrs. Radkey. As previously mentioned, I was not exactly a teacher’s dream student. I was rambunctious, outspoken and opinionated. I was tough. I had to be. And the majority of my teachers made sure I knew it. The truth being, I was and still am, kind of hard to love. Mrs. Radkey was different – she accepted me, dealt with me in kindness (even when I really didn’t deserve it) showed me patience and love and, for what seemed like the first time, I was thriving in school. She was my favourite elementary school teacher. Not confined to the walls of an institution, every once in a while, special teachers come along – to show us grace, humility, love. To make us come alive in ways we had not yet learned about. These teachers can be partners, friends, unexpected relationships, children, seniors. They come in tough bosses, and kind ones and in the least expected, sometimes temporary people. And, of course, they come in sisters. Be open to the teachers that spend a little extra time with you and make you want to learn whatever lesson they were sent to teach you. Often times it’s a lesson about what’s in you and what you’re really made of.

~ Toni