Saturday, January 30, 2010

H: Helper!

My sister's kid is an awesome little helper...If only she'd come over and shovel out my parking spot...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A little list from dear 'ol dad...

This is an actual list that my dad left for me when I cat/condo-sat for my folks awhile back.

Please read #3...

Why would you let me cat/condo-sit!?

Monday, January 25, 2010

W: I'm a Winnipegger...

So I have this dream; once I am done school I want to leave. I want to immigrate to another province, far away from this stagnant city, that seems to know me all too well.

I don't hate Winnipeg. I am actually quite fond of it, but I'm bored. -- I've lived here all my life, and the older I get, the smaller this city becomes.

I'm starting to feel claustrophobic.

I want to experience other parts of the country/world, before returning to my roots after life has chewed me up and spit me out. (That's what usually happens to most Winnipeggers that try to escape, right?!)


I want to naively wander into the world, trying to make something of myself like so many other people do, only to realize that Winnipeg is in my blood. I want to go somewhere, be swallowed up by buildings and swarms of people, and brag about it when I come back for Christmas. I want to become a metro-snob, only to have to eat my words later on in life, when I arrive "home" after I didn't make it in the "real world."

Perhaps I will make it if I try. Heck, if I do, maybe I won't ever come back!

But, I'm being realistic here folks; I'm a long-john wearing, Tim Horton's loving, clearance shopping Winnipegger. I am appalled by my $560 rent, and I hate public transportation. I complain in the winter. I complain in the summer. I bash this city, but furiously defend it when outsiders do. I grocery shop at the 24-hour shoppers drug mart, and fight any kind of change. Oh, and I brag to everyone that I know someone who knows someone who dated Chantel Kreviazuk, and that I went to the same high school as Neil Young.

I'm a Winnipegger, I always will be. But, if I have my way, I'll take a few years off!

Ah well...

I guess we'll see what happens.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Beeper Spence


So often the faces of people who have been victims of crime fade away with every new and tragic story that replaces theirs. There isn't enough room in our minds to remember the countless victims of crime and violence. Yet, for some reason or other, certain stories just stick with you.

When I was 15 or 16, I remember the story of a boy who was fatally shot while walking in his north end neighbourhood late one night. The kid's name was Joseph Spence, but everybody called him Beeper. His story always seemed to stick with me, carrying a great deal of significance, even though I didn't know him.

Perhaps this was because of the tragic circumstances of his death; or perhaps it's because he was so close to my age. I don't know.

Beeper was gunned down by a group of teenagers who claimed to have mistaken him for a rival gang member. His killers, who were just kids themselves, were out hunting for revenge that night in July of 1995. Tragically, Beeper Spence was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and died as a result of a gang retaliation that had absolutely nothing to do with him.

After his murder, Beeper Spence became the poster child for lost innocence, and victims of gang violence. Images of the smiling 13-year old were splashed all over the news, and a media frenzy erupted over the tragic circumstances of his death.

I got to meet Beeper's mom Nancy the other day; she is a soft spoken women, who devotes her time to her other two children, her four grandchildren, and to the memory of her late son by managing the Beeper Spence Community Centre on Robinson Street in the north end.

Nancy Flett was a doting mother to her only son and two daughters. She was the mother who volunteered with her son's baseball league, and made sure that her kids never had holes in their socks. She taught her boy, who had just started his first paying job with the Boys and Girls Club, how to be responsible and to take care of himself.

Perhaps one of the most important things I learned about Nancy was contrary to the impression I initially had about her when I read her son's story in numerous articles, is that she was and still is a good mom. I made the unfair assumption that she had somehow neglected her boy, since he was out in the wee hours of the morning at such a young and vulnerable age. I'm not sure if my assumption was the result of my own close mindedness, or if it was a failure on the part of the media to report that aspect - why Beeper was out that late - in the countless articles written about him. It never made sense to me, but I never questioned it, and only assumed the worst. After speaking to her, however, Nancy told the story about the night she lost her son, and she blatantly said that she would have never let 13-year old Beeper wander around at that time of night.

In fact, Nancy didn't know her son was out, wandering around in the north end at 2 a.m. on the night he was killed. She hesitantly let him sleep out, after talking to the other parent to ensure that her boy was going to be kept inside after dark. They were just going to order pizza and watch movies, she was told. Beeper would be fine.

She trusted the fact that Beeper would be taken care of.

For Nancy, life changed dramatically after Beeper was killed. The death of her oldest child 15 years ago sent her into a deep depression that left her broken and full of despair. Even after years of healing, her loss still stings as though it just happened. Her eyes still well up with tears when she speaks about the little boy with the big heart, who wanted to help kids when he grew up. During those conversations, she gets this far away look in her eyes, where you know that she isn't even speaking to you anymore, rather she is revisiting her boy in the depths of her memory; a place that he will always be.

The days before his death still play over in her head; that summer was the summer that Beeper was well on his way to becoming a young man. With his first job under his belt, doing what he loved to be doing, life looked so good for Beeper Spence.

"He wanted to spend his first paycheque on a stereo," she said. "I told him that I wanted him to buy himself some socks and underwear with some of that money, and that after he bought what he needed, he could buy the stereo if he had enough left over."

Nancy wanted to teach her boy how to be responsible and how to take care of himself. She told him that he needed to check his drawers to make sure he had enough socks and underwear before he spent his hard earned money on a stereo, and Beeper complied. They agreed that he would have enough to buy the stereo, and Nancy even took him to the store to look at it before he got paid.

"It was the biggest stereo they had," she said with a reflective smile on her face.

Tragically, Beeper Spence died before he ever received his first paycheque.

"The Boys and Girls Club gave me his cheque after he died, and I went out and I bought the stereo he wanted for his sisters," said Nancy, noting that the rest of his hard earned money went towards his headstone.

This is not how Nancy Flett imagined it would be. Before he was killed, Nancy's biggest concern for Beeper was that he would fall off his skateboard, or that he would hurt himself while he was doing typical 13-year old boy stuff, not that he would be gunned down in cold blood by a van full of gang members.

He deserved better than that.

In the years following Beeper's murder, the road to recovery for Nancy has been a long and painful one. That night will never go away. She is forced to remain knowledgeable about her son's killers, who have all spent the last 15 years passing through the revolving door of the criminal justice system, and who had no remorse for the little boy that they killed.

She is still Beeper Spence's mom; death didn't take that away from her. However, instead of spending the last decade and a half watching her son grow, she has spent it ensuring that he will not be forgotten.

She has found strength in her daughters, and in traditional Aboriginal healing practices. And her advocacy efforts, geared at helping other youth from a similar fate, are what keeps her going.

I never thought I'd meet Beeper Spence's mom, cause back then we lived on opposite ends of the world. Yet, meeting her was a profound experience for me. Her bravery, and her passion to do her boy right is truly inspiring. The love that she still carries for Beeper is evident, and just as she was lucky to have him, he was also lucky to have her.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I used to be an advocate...

In this Photo: Grace Macatangay, taken by me

I used to be quite the advocate for people living in lower socioeconomic conditions. -- It all started with an epiphany I had about wanting to change the world during my first year of University. I seriously thought I was going to change the world (oh idealism!) and I figured that I would start my Gandhi-esque task by volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest.

I became impassioned about poverty, and the people living in poverty.

With Harvest came many opportunities; I got to be an unofficial spokesperson in a way, speaking publicly about my family's previous experiences with poverty, and advocating for those who are entrapped now. I also learned so much, and devoted so much of myself to the cause.

Volunteering for Harvest was probably the one time in my life that I actually felt my absolute purpose. I felt alive fighting for something I whole-heartedly believe(d) in.

In the last couple of years I have become extremely busy. I haven't been able to go to Harvest, and I my knowledge of poverty issues seems to be fading; the passion is there, but the knowledge isn't.

Recently I immersed myself in another cause that might be a better fit for my chaotic schedule (details soon!) -- I don't know how much of myself I'll be able to give, but I am excited at the prospect of being able to make a dent in my plan to change the world...One step at a time right?!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

S: Sisters.

My sisters are the best. (And yes these are bad pictures of all of us, but they're funny...)

Come home soon CJ!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In the Chamber...

Last night I went to a play called "In the Chamber." I didn't like it.

Well to be perfectly honest, I hated the first play. It was a one man monologue about a man who had cooped himself up in his hotel room and was making a video for the owner of the agricultural company. (I had a hard time understanding some of it, and will probably botch my description of the premiss...) But this man works for some Manitoba agriculture company, and he gets an "epiphany" after a hog barn fire kills 15,000 pigs. This man spends an hour ranting and dropping the F-bomb about how inhumane the industry is. And, I agree with the message, but the play actually made me angry; it seemed like it was something that was sponsored by PETA. The impression I got was not that this writer of this play was trying to share a message, but rather that the writer was imposing his views on me (and the rest of the audience) and I had to pay $10 to hear them.

Like I said, I support the message (I saw a really good documentary on the subject that turned me vegetarian for eight months...) But in this particular play, the message was lost in translation (to me anyway.)

It bothered me a lot.

The second portion of the play was another one-man monologue about a man who had just quit his job at the Health Sciences Centre. This man is at a dinner party with his (imaginary) friends and colleagues, and as he gives his speech about his ex-wife Juanita, and their son who died at the hands after heart surgery. The man manages to drive his imaginary friends away, one by one, by offending them. The story is actually good, and I was actually enjoying the play, until it too seemed to become an agenda for him to rant about his beliefs. -- He lost me when he started bashing Justice Murray Sinclair. (I'll call my own bias out on that one, but I love Murray Sinclair!)

I assume the writer lost his son after a complex heart surgery and was trying to tell his story, but I got annoyed about his opinion on the inquest.

This is probably just my bias.

The beginning of the play (Which I didn't mention earlier because I have no idea what it was even there) was a man and a woman in a bed. The man steals the covers, and then he gets this huge hard-on under the covers. The woman starts to "take care of things" for him, and he is yelling something that I couldn't make out. Then the woman leaves, the man wakes up and a voice (that sounds like a bad imitation of Arnold Schwarzenegger) talking to him. I couldn't really understand what the voice was saying because
the audio was bad, and the voices accent was REALLY bad. But I was confused. Super-duper confused.

I didn't like the play; it was too long, used too many technical words and terms, and the message seemed to have and agenda.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

M: Me too!

Police officers want time on the clock to spend at the gym.

So do I.

Are you listening place of employment? I want to get paid to hotify myself and get healthy. (Yep, I just made up a word...HOTIFY!) -- I work 10 hour shifts (like the police) and I too find it difficult to hit the gym with my busy work & life schedule.

I'm pretty sure we should enact this as my work place.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

P: Pet Peeve: The Knock-Off.

I hate knock-off's.

This is kind of a strange pet peeve to have, but I really do hate cheap knock-off merchandise! (Especially handbags and purses!!)

I remember a long time ago I went to the Pal with a group of girls, and one (who had just returned from overseas) was sporting a Louis Vuitton handbag...Well, errr, um a knock-off of a Louis Vuitton handbag.

All night this girl bragged about her new bag, which she claimed to be real.

"Blah blah blah, my "Louis Vuitton purse..." Blah blah blah."

It was irksome. Her bag was bad quality, and if she truly believed it was real (and paid a lot of money for it) I feel bad for her.

I admit that I'm not into designer labels (which is probably why I find knock-off's so offensive) But really? Really?!? Knock-off's are tacky.



Saturday, January 9, 2010

H: Haunted.

I have been thinking of Edward Redhead all day.

His story has the tragic underpinnings of the Phoenix Sinclair case; another child failed.

Their stories do differ immensely; Phoenix was a little girl who was brutally abused, neglected, tortured and eventually killed by her mother and step-father. And Edward was a ward of family services, living with a foster family in the city, and died alone in a house fire, on the Shamattawa Reserve, that was allegedly set by his 16-year old cousin.

They differ immensely, but the end is the same. Tragedy.

Both were just kids; wards of the child welfare system. And both were failed miserably.

What is fucked up is that, in the end, these innocent victims will become the poster children for the war between the "red man" and the "white man."

This has got to stop.

I know there is no simple solution. I know that in order for change "education" and "systemic change" is a dire requirement. I know that these ideas are nothing new. But something needs to happen so that no more people -- children -- die as a result of a faulty system that never changes.

I know I keep rambling. I know I offer nothing new to this table (in regards to a solution), but I am overcome with complete and utter sadness as how deplorable things are.

I am absolutely haunted by this story, and stories of the past like this. (Ironic and perhaps foolish to admit, considering that I want to be a journalist so badly, I can taste it...)

I have so much to say, I just don't know how to say it...

Friday, January 8, 2010

T: Tragedy


An 11-year old boy is dead. He died in a house fire on the Shamattawa reserve, an isolated northern community approximately 750 kilometres away from Winnipeg.

This little boy, identified as Edward Redhead, was in the care of family services at the time of his death, apparently orphaned by his mother who committed suicide.

A 16-year old boy has been arrested in connection with the fire.

I am so angry right now.

This little boy fell through the cracks of a system, died alone in a shabby house engulfed in flames, and his absence went unnoticed. He wasn't reported missing for a number of days.

This story is tragic disparity to the core, and yet in a week or so his name will be forgotten from the headlines because something else will have happened by then.

I don't want to sit here and blame the government, or the "system", or the illusive "white man". But something has got to change. -- And I know it's hypocritical coming from me, considering that I have lived in the comfortable city all my life. I know that I don't know what it feels like not to have heat or drinkable water. I admit that I have no idea what it's like to live on the edge of the province, in the middle of nowhere, isolated. But I do know that something in the faulty system needs to be changed. (Perhaps the first thing would be to move beyond blaming the "system", and actually creating a process where change is made...)

With this little boy's tragic death comes the question of how can something like this can happen. -- I can't even put into words how devastated I am.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I need an opinion...Tomorrow.

I should really blog more.

I get really paranoid about posting my thoughts and opinions online though. -- One of the many things that university has taught me is that nothing is ever certain; and one thing that I learned in college is that whatever I do say, I have to be very careful about how I do it!

Uh, no comment?!

Seriously though, I do need to start having an opinion.

Although not tonight, cause I am EXHAUSTED!


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A: Ah-choo!

I have a cough due to cold!

Also, I lost my voice; it's kind of hilarious, cause I sound dreadful!

Oh winter!

Monday, January 4, 2010

A night off...

Well, school started today, but I took a night off from everything, and just vegged.

I watched the Bachelor, Conveyor Belt of Love and an expose on cheerleading, and the hazards of being a cheerleader. (I'm pretty sure I dodge that bullet...)

I'm totally ashamed of the garbage TV that I watched. I think I actually got dumber.

But to be fair, I have been working hard all Christmas break, and feel entitled to a night of absolute rubbish.

I'm going to bed now; here's to another intense semester!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Twenty-Ten. Bring it on.

The best thing I ever did for myself was deciding to go back to school. I don't regret one second of it, even if it means that I am no longer "financially comfortable"...

Over the last two-and-a-half years, I have encountered so many incredible things in my life; self awareness, knowledge, empathy, opportunity, confidence, relationships, etc. -- It's like I've become a whole different person than the girl I used to be.

There have been hardships in my life over the last two-and-a-half years, and I expect that they ("hardships") will continue throughout my life (That's just life, right?!), but the way that I look at problems and life's little "curve balls" is so different than the way that I used to; the hard things in life are the things that make you stronger.

I have no idea what 2010 holds for me, but I look forward to meeting new opportunities, and confronting challenges along the way. You only live once, you may as well take it for all it's worth...