Georgia is still on my mind.

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So, we’re back from our road trip …. I left my millions thousands hundreds possibly-double-digits of fans hanging with my farewell post about a month ago. I was feeling overwhelmed by the headlines, and really needed to get away. Well, I don’t think the world has improved since then – but my state-of-mind has. I guess I just needed to get away.

As we always do, we packed up our car with too much of everything and headed for the never-known-to-fail McDonald’s breakfast kick-off. Then, we hit the road. It was a brilliantly beautiful day – the sky was a perfect shade of blue, punctuated by puffy white clouds and a sun like the Cyrkle’s “Red Rubber Ball”. Retro Casey Kasem from 1971 gave us “Hot Pants”, from Georgia boy James Brown. (Take a moment to enjoy the Godfather of Soul in all his sweaty, bouffant, bare-chested glory. It’s on me.) We came across a cute little park, where we stopped to eat our everything-that-won’t-last-and-can’t-be-frozen picnic lunch, consisting of items like a lone banana, an entire bag of carrots and sandwiches with way too much ham on them. After a romp on the playground equipment, we were driving again, and sharing a brief snicker about the overly earnest, children’s-bookish town name “Constableville”. This year, we’ve introduced the concept of Fiona and Bridget having control of the radio for a half-hour each. Fiona ventures into rock and alternative occasionally, but Bridget is firmly a pop fan. So, we heard Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” three times in one day. We would go on to hear it about twenty more times over the next couple of weeks. We settled in a Best Western Plus in Johnson City, New York. The pool was set up for lane-swimming, so we occupied a lane to cool down. We got a few dirty looks, but we were behaving – so who cares? We had dinner at Ground Round, with its endless popcorn, and talked about how much we loved being on the road again.

We had good intentions of attending mass the next morning, but Piggy (a stuffed pig with a ribbon around her neck that Bridget bought Fiona with a handful of change at a white elephant sale years ago) was missing. We couldn’t leave without her. She had apparently spent the night in a lost-and-found bin after being dropped in the parking lot the day before. After recovering Piggy, we hit Pennsylvania with its rolling green mountains and farmland. I enjoyed the perfect lunch – a buttery, crispy grilled cheese sandwich, creamy tomato soup and a giant dill pickle – at Country Friends Café. We entered rural Maryland to Luke Bryan’s awfully cheesy “Huntin’, Fishin’ and Lovin’ Every Day”. The general consensus in the car was that country music (well, this branch of it, anyway) is no good. I disagree, and – as you may have noticed – I firmly believe I’m right. In Frederick, we stopped rolling, and checked into a Motel 6. The girls and I enjoyed a swim (Ryan often uses that time to be alone, aloneness being scarce on road trips). We sank gratefully into the cool water after a hot day of travelling. Two other families shared the pool with us. One with a sleepy baby who wanted nothing but his mother, and one with a heavily pregnant mother wrangling a toddler who insisted on “fwimming” by himself. I lounged in the sun, occasionally cracking an eyelid to make sure two sleek heads were still above water, and marvelled at how things change. I remember well when I had a three-year-old and a baby hanging off me, both of them petrified of the water and seemingly trying to drown me and each other at every turn …. Dinner was at an expensive steakhouse called Red Horse, but the crab cakes and garlic mashed potatoes were amazing – so I forgive them. Much as I try to stay away from current events while on the road, over Starr Hill’s taster pack that evening, Ryan and I couldn’t help but discuss Baton Rouge. The harsh reality of being black in America, the gut-wrenching terror of being a cop in a country where anyone could be packing heat and you have a target on your back.

The next morning, after driving into Virgina fueled on eyeball-burning, hair-sprouting motel coffee, we hit a farmer’s market and bought gorgeous peaches and blueberries

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We had a picnic lunch of gas station fare in the shade, and later a visit to a Tastee Freez (oh, the E abuse) in Gordonsville. At a gas station, a man lounging on a bench asked where we’re from. When he heard we’re from Canada, his eyes grew wide and he said “oh, I know – you guys gonna make them two in the back do some of the drivin'”. In Oxford, North Carolina, (unofficial state motto: “a Baptist church every eight paces”), we checked into the King’s Inn, and ate at George’s Family Restaurant. The star of that meal was the pasta Bridget and I shared. Spinach, mushrooms, pine nuts and chicken came together to make something beautiful.

The next morning, we discovered that Piggy was missing again. This time, she had slept in the parking lot next to a vending machine. This seemed like less of a big deal once I had downed a few slugs of the coffee in my hand. I sometimes wonder if I could quit coffee and be like those freaks who don’t need it. Then, I try to go without it for about three minutes in the morning, and I know I shouldn’t even try. While driving, we heard a commercial for a preschool that allows parents to check in online to get updates and videos throughout the day. Ryan said that’s the next step for parents who have a video moniter, and Fiona elaborated: “that’s for stalker parents who are desperate”. Sadly, I think they’re right – even more sadly, I think there’s quite a market for that sort of thing. Whatever happened to just asking your kids about their day?

Sometime that afternoon, we crossed into the wet, hot, stifling, smothering dirty south. Swimming at our Quality Inn pool, and dinner at Chili’s, were highlights. On the other hand, so was watching cockroaches scuttling in and out of pools of light outside our room later, while enjoying Thomas Creek amber ale. Either we’re easy to please or we’ve been broken down …. ? The end result’s the same, so we won’t worry about it. At the continental breakfast, over a biscuit smothered in sausage gravy, I chatted with a guy about American politics. He shook his head and said “Trump crooked, Clinton crooked. Ever’body crooked. Votin’ like tryin’ to decide which disease we wanna die of.”

We made it to Georgia that morning. The welcome centre was huge, and manned by a woman who did her best to sell her state. Her enthusiasm was contagious, and all four of us excitedly thought of what we might do during the coming days. I gathered my usual collection of maps and brochures to pour over in the car. Our first stop after the welcome centre was another welcome centre: a 200-year-old house (in fact, the oldest house) in Athens. We were looking for Weaver D’s Automatic for the People Café. Many music fans will recognise that phrase …. We toured the house because we could, and moved on. The restaurant was tiny, with no air conditioning – but those industrial fans cooled things down just fine. There were long tables covered with checkered oil cloth, and Weaver D himself was manning both the counter and the fryer. We all had fried chicken. For side items, I chose mac-n-cheese and collard greens. Weaver D’s food was amazing. It was soul food perfection, served with tall styrofoam cups of ice-cold lemonade and fresh, hot cornbread.

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We left Athens for Macon, stopping at a tiny gas station along the way where we bought malt liquor in mason jars (lemon and strawberry flavours). Our beer that night was Hopsecutioner, made by Terrapin of Athens. It was strong, and challenging – and it stood up well to the hot night. The next morning, it lingered in my head a little – but dissipated easily without ruining my visit to the Tubman African American Museum. This collection of memorabilia and art is wonderful, and the museum is arranged well. We watched two short movies, one about Harriet Tubman and one about Rosa Parks (Fiona’s personal hero). Though the stories were filled with cruelty and suffering, they were presented in such a way that they glowed with hope and pride. The music exhibit contained information about Georgia’s many black entertainers – Otis Redding, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Ray Charles. Little Richard’s piano was on display, with a sign that said “do not play Little Richard’s piano – he’ll know.” I joked that perhaps Little Richard himself was in the piano. Fiona gleefully backed me up, and we almost had Bridget believing it.

After a kickin’ chicken sandwich at a Zaxby’s, we were on our way to the coast, passing increasingly swampy land the further south we moved. Dinner was at a Toucan’s Ale House (our first one), where I enjoyed a mouth-watering barbeque sampler plate and some Sweetwater Georgia Brown. We later watched most of Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. It is discouraging that this angry, grating, freakishly orange man could one day be America’s president.

The next day, after picking up a Subway picnic lunch, we went in search of one of Georgia’s famous beaches. It took us quite a while to find it, as the signage isn’t great. The drive around St. Simon’s Island was pretty, though – pastel bungalows, and glimpses of a stunning blue ocean through strange, stunted, twisted trees draped with Spanish moss. The girls and I played in the waves, and beach-combed, while Ryan indulged in his favourite beach activity – sprawling to music. The salt water and sun exhausted us before we left the island, so we didn’t go far. Just to Kingsland, the highlight of which was the well of melted butter in the middle of the mashed potatoes I ordered at a Longhorn. Golden, salty, greasy heaven. Munich happened, but I shoved it to the back of my mind. Mass killings are yet another thing from which our road trip allowed me to escape – just for a few days.

The next day was laundry day …. And, as with pretty much everything, laundry is more fun on the road. Begging change in the parking lot, filling dodgy washers from thirty years ago with our nasty, worn-too-many-times clothes – knowing our suitcases will smell fresh for at least a day after the whole process is over. While the ancient dryer scorched our garments, we enjoyed of a dose of “Golden Girls” (the beloved TV trend of last year’s trip). Then, we were off to Albany, the childhood home of Ray Charles. En route, we stopped at a Sonic and drank thick, cold milkshakes while listening to 1973’s retro Casey Kasem. Mine was a peanut butter fudge shake, and I really can’t think of anything that would have improved it. That night, drinking our way through a Sweetwater taster pack, we discovered a series called “The Sixties” that kept us up late. Who knew that there were people other than JFK shot the day he died? Well, ok, possibly American history buffs knew. And people who lived through it. And many others. Maybe this is something only Ryan and I didn’t know – but we know now. Thank you, CNN and Tom Hanks!

Another Sunday – another failed attempt to attend mass.We found a church, but apparently the schedule on the website was out-dated – the place was empty. We went to a park instead. Not quite a church, but – after all – “the groves were God’s first temples”. These groves were proof that we were a long way from home. The air rang with strange insect and animal noises. There were unfamiliar bugs mating every few steps, and a bat flapping around even though it was mid-day. There was a pond that looked distinctively alligatory (yes, that is a word – I have made it so), and we steered wide of it. We visited an impressive monument to Ray Charles. A statue of Ray playing the piano slowly rotated while his music played continuously. Fountains surrounded the statue, and spreading out in several directions from the statue were walkways painted to look like piano keyboards. Appropriately, the interpretive plaque’s text was presented in both English and Braille.

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After a quick trip to Subway, we were on our way to Florida. After reaching Florida, we stopped at a gas station selling the usual assortment of decorative knives, guns, dust-covered eighties toys, garishly dyed shells – and cold pop. Given that it was 38 ̊ C even before considering the humidity, I felt no guilt about purchasing – and eagerly slugging – a 32 oz diet pop. Shortly after that, driving through Williston, we saw a sign for the unfortunately named delivery business “Big O’s Package”. What were they thinking? Then again, that night we rented a room in the Withlacoochie Motel. Maybe it’s a theme? Though I am unable to say the name of the place without snickering, I have to admit that the Withlacoochie Motel is adorable. (Real keys! On cheap plastic keyrings! Plastic chairs outside every room inviting people to just be!) We had the pool to ourselves, which is – of course – our favourite pool experience. We ate dinner in the slightly-tacky-but-sweet seafood joint next door. Ryan and I introduced Fiona and Bridget to fried alligator, which we enjoyed with a side of Cajun mayo. That night, over tangerine beer (yes, it exists – and it’s good) outside our room, we saw a hercules beetle attempting to plough through a plastic chair, heard a rattler warning us off, and encountered what we are almost certain was a baby bobcat. Nature firmly welcomed us to Florida.

You may be wondering why we went to Florida. Wasn’t Georgia the point of our trip? Well, yes – but we found ourselves with the ability and time to finally visit a place that’s been circling my mind like a plane wanting to land for years: Weeki Wachee. I was introduced to it by the video of a song among Ryan’s Top 500 songs: “Low C” by Supergrass. However, far from the crumbling bygone I was expecting, Weeki Wachee had a line-up around several blocks by 9 a.m., and there was a lot to see and do. We were there for the mermaids, though, and what a show! I’ve loved mermaids for years, and the little girl in me was enthralled.160161

Of course, this being the United States of America, the mermaids were not only graceful, talented and beautiful. They were also patriotic.

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Before leaving, we had our picture taken with the suspiciously dry Mermaid Chelsea.

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After brunch at an IHOP (red velvet pancakes …. *swoon*), we were moving north again, to Valdosta. We checked in to, bizarrely, a building that held both a Super 8 and a Days Inn. After a swim in the mercifully cool and refreshing pool, we had dinner at the Smok’n Pig.. We had ribs, brisket and pulled pork with eight different sauces, as well as seasoned fries and fried okra. The whole meal was amazeballs even before the dessert: peach cobbler topped with pecans and brown sugar, the best of Georgia à la mode.

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That night, we watched Bernie Sanders try to get his adoring fans to join Team Hilary, and then a horrible show about why planes crash. Because, you know, who needs to sleep?

The next night was spent in Carrolton, which we had visited on our honeymoon (thirteen years ago). At that time, we were camping, and there were only two of us. This time, we were in an Econolodge, and we have doubled in number. On our way there, we pulled into one of the tackiest gas stations I’ve ever seen (and that is saying something, given my considerable experience with gas stations of all stripes). There was a stick of burning incense wedged into the lotto ticket machine, and roll-on body oil in at least 25 scents. Fiona and Bridget went to the washroom, and gleefully reported to me that there was a vending machine selling Horny Goat Weed (whatever that is) and Black Jack condoms. After my trip to the washroom, I can confirm that both of these items were for sale – complete with full-colour cartoon illustrations (yes, a cartoon condom with facial features). In keeping with the tone of the joint, I bought a tall can of Natty Daddy malt liquor. 25 oz of booze for $1.89. Ryan said “it’s your head”, but I quite enjoyed it – and my head was fine down the line. The heat was still trapped in the concrete on the ground outside, but we detected the faintest whiff of cool in the air, and we soaked it in.

The next day, there was that funny feeling of things speeding up when you’re on a road trip, that sense of time flying away – a feeling I have never liked. Lunch was at Las Palmas, with good tortilla chips and salsa, and a chicken con queso dish that I adored. In the afternoon, we passed through beautiful mountains with clouds so low it felt like we could have reached up and grabbed them. We ended up in Dalton, “the carpet capital of the world”, and kind of ignored that designation. Our primary interest in Dalton was moonshine. The distillery had been in operation over a hundred years. The owner, complete with ZZ Top beard, was affable and eager.

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He explained how they make moonshine, and how they apply flavours, and offered unlimited samples. He was happy that we are Canadians, saying that Canadians really know how to have fun (“even women”). We tried several flavours – butterscotch, caramel (will someone please tell me the difference between those two things), peach, cinnamon – and some kind of 140 proof barley-based booze that blazed a burning trail down my throat and gave me goosebumps. We couldn’t buy hooch directly from the still, because of local liquor laws – but we could buy a souvenir from them for about $25, and be given a bottle of moonshine as a thank-you for visiting. It will be a real treat some Saturday night to crack the seal on our cinnamon ‘shine ….

That night, we were in Atlanta. Our hotel was just a five-minute walk from Turner Field, and when we got there we were pleasantly surprised: it turns out that if you show up less than 2.5 hours before the game and you agree you’re going straight into the stadium, you get your ticket for $1. For $4, we attended a Braves game! We had hot pizza, cold beer and frozen yogurt for dessert with at least eight kinds of candy on it. It was a relief when the blazing sun went down, since we were sitting directly in it and roasting through the first few innings.

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Next day, we made short work of S0uth Carolina, and ended up at a Days Inn with a beautiful pool and not much else. But if you’ve got kids and it’s blisteringly hot, if you’ve got a pool, you’ve got plenty! We enjoyed a Texas Roadhouse, Buckshot Amber and a show about a serial killer named Felix Vail. No wonder I don’t watch TV generally …. The next day, we ended up with the mixed blessing of a cloudy day, and I determined my outfit by smell-test (something unheard-of in the rosy beginnings of a road trip). So, here I sat in my least-smelly dress, enjoying the mellow feeling in the car and the coffee to go with. In Spring Creek, there were generously-stuffed hoagies, and a deluge of rain. We arrived late to the Sacred Heart of Jesus church, but we made it. A nice feeling …. After that, there was dinner at Los Toltecos, and Double D IPA – and “The Seventies” on CNN on which to geek out.

Our last full day on the road, there was a cool, grey mist through West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. For lunch, up a winding mountain, there was Cracker Barrel, one more time. Then there was nothing for the longest time – because the area was so isolated. On every road trip, sometimes more than once, there is that moment when you are pretty sure you’ll have to pee roadside. This was one of those moments. That evening’s dinner was at Friendly’s. A wonderful road trip indulgence, complete with ice cream for four.The next day, we were back in Canada with a border guard saying “welcome back, guys” – and reminiscing about our wanderings. It was great to see that our house was still standing, and have spaghetti on our own patio, and sleep in our own beds – but I have a feeling that, if the option had presented itself, another day on the road would have been eagerly greeted with my second-least-smelly dress and a smile.

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My words seem to have dried up.

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I have a notebook that I carry with me everywhere I go. I pull it out of my purse often, to scribble – or build on – ideas for blog posts. When I use an idea, I scratch it out. There are many ideas in my notebook that have not been scatched out. Yet I have not written a post in a month …. Each time I try, something awful comes screaming to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, and I can’t think of anything to say.

France.

Belgium.

Afghanistan.

Pakistan.

Iraq.

Bangladesh.

The Philippines.

France again.

Africa, all over the bloody continent.

Syria.

Russia.

America, America, America – and its cursed love affair with guns.

Trump.

Dallas cops dead. Black lives matter. All lives matter.

Plane crashes under mysterious circumstances.

Hostages taken, used as collateral – and murdered while cameras roll.

Children abused, children missing, children murdered.

Each time some new, awful headline leaps out at me from the newspaper or the internet, I try to make sense of it. I think about how I might frame it – what I could say about it. Then, I think about how many ways I’ve said the same damn thing over the same damn things – and I wonder what’s next. Heavy-hearted and just plain tired, I shrug and move on, because there isn’t anything else I can do. I have no comfort to offer because I’m fairly certain the next spectacularly rotten failing of humanity is just waiting to extinguish whatever tiny flicker I can coax to glow. And I’m not about to join the ranks of slacktivists hashtagging memes and feeling like they’ve made a difference when all they’ve done is add to the noise …. I can’t see that being satisfying or even meaningful.

So I guess I’m taking a break from writing …. ? I’m about to hit the road with my three favourite faces – our road trip is just minutes away. When I’m on the road, I tend to stay away from the internet. I get the odd bit of news from the free newspaper that some hotels hand out with their morning offering of coffee and muffins (or stale donuts or decisively firm pastries or, if we’re far enough south, biscuits and sausage gravy), or the radio. Ryan or Fiona or Bridget might announce something to me. But I won’t be drowning in it like I am here at home, wave after wave of sorrow and cruelty crashing over me while I start to understand why so many people tune out and watch videos of kittens.

I’ll be back. Life is still beautiful – and filled with things for me to get ornery about, too. And I will, of course, have to report on all the crazy, weird and wondrous things I come across as we wander across the map of North America. In the meantime, I pray peace and compassion and good will for us all.

 

All parents come a little too close to the gorillas and alligators sometimes.

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It’s been a month since I last wrote anything more than a one-line love note or a grocery list. It’s not that I’ve been too busy to write, or that there’s been nothing to write about. It’s just writer’s block, really – or maybe plain old laziness. In any case, I’m back today because of two animals: a gorilla and an alligator. By now, the stories are well-known. A four-year-old boy visiting the Cincinnati Zoo climbed into the enclosure of Harambe the gorilla. The gorilla started dragging the boy around. Zoo officials made the heart-wrenching decision to save the boy’s life by shooting Harambe. A two-year-old boy visiting Disney was snatched by an alligator while wading in a lagoon. His father fought with the animal, but was no match for it. Divers recovered little Lane Graves’ body yesterday. The parents of both children have received harsh criticism – and, in some cases, pure cruelty – from around the world. These days, anyone with an opinion and an internet connection can say whatever they want to a massive audience in a matter of seconds. In some cases, of course, what people have to say is enlightening and uplifting. Other times, it’s as if we’ve handed a bullhorn to bullshit.

In all honesty, I am often quick to judge, myself. My first thought when I heard about these incidents was to wonder where the parents were and what they were doing. The more I thought about it, though, the more I felt the uncomfortable sensation of my own pointing finger turning back to me. There are no perfect parents. On our confident days, we just know we’re doing a damn fine job. Other days, doubts gnaw at the edges of our underslept, overstimuated minds, and we feel like we’re doing everything wrong. The truth is, as usual, somewhere in the middle.

If the mother in Cincinnati had caught her son by the back of his shirt as he was scaling the barrier, if the father in Florida had picked up his son just seconds earlier, they’d be just like the rest of us – laughing uneasily about a near-miss, and deeply grateful that nothing bad happened. Because it happens to all of us. A few seconds here, a few inches there, a last-minute detour – and it could have been us and our children. In solidarity with these parents, I present my own gallery of gorillas and alligators:

  • When Fiona was just days old, I accidentally dipped her face below the bathwater. My mother noticed before I did, yanked her out of the bath and pounded her back until she sputtered and wailed. Would I, inexperienced, hormonal and sleep-deprived, have noticed in time if my mother had not been there?
  • A few months later, Fiona rolled off the couch onto the hardwood floor. I just didn’t know she could roll yet …. What if she had landed on her soft baby head?
  • Strolling along on a sunny day, Fiona’s car seat (with her in it) was ejected from her stroller as I rolled it over a bump, because it wasn’t connected to the stroller properly. She flew through the air, landing face down, and I cried with gratitude when I saw that somehow she was ok. She could so easily have not been ok.
  • Fiona just about severed Bridget’s pinky finger playing a door-slamming game. (And can somebody, anybody, tell me what is so amazing about slamming doors? Every time the girls get together with their friends, there’s always some point where I find myself yelling at them to stop slamming doors.)  Blood everywhere, screaming, stitches – and where were the parents? Having a coffee in the next room. Yes, that’s right, we were in a different room than our 3- and 1- year-old daughters, relaxing – and one of them got badly injured while we were at it.
  • Bridget had not one, not two, not three, but four allergic reactions to eggs before we figured out that eggs were her issue.
  • Fiona once opened the car door on the highway. And it wasn’t rush hour, either, so we were going full-speed. Thankfully, she was strapped into her booster seat, and the wind quickly forced the door shut again.
  • I turned my back for the length of time it took to tell Fiona to put on her shoes, and Bridget fell off the toilet straight onto her face. She still has a small scar on her forehead from the edge of the trash can. I suppose it could have been worse ….
  • Fiona toppled over on an escalator, tumbling down a few steps and crouching in fear as she neared the bottom. She bawled while I hollered at her from my place at the top of the escalator, clutching Bridget, to stand up and get off the escalator when it reached the bottom – and I was petrified that her hair or clothes would get caught.They didn’t. She listened to my frantic, barking instructions, and stepped off unscathed, aside from a few nasty metal-teeth gashes.
  • Bridget tried peeling potatoes …. and peeled a deep strip of skin off her finger. She bled copiously, and I worried about potential infection from dirty potato skins for days afterwards.
  • Fiona recently had an anaphylactic reaction to …. something. Her appointment with an allergist is in November, so I guess we’ll know then. Her reaction was not recognized until her face was swelling up and she was wheezing – because neither Ryan nor I thought she was that serious when she said she was winded from her time at the park.

The girls have been left alone in the house, and in the car. There’s been carpet burn because we weren’t close enough on the stairs, road-burn because we weren’t in reach during bicycle incidents. We’ve arrived at our destination and seen that one or the other of our daughters wasn’t strapped in properly. We’ve found ourselves in a scary situation because one or the other of the girls is choking on a food they weren’t ready for yet – or crammed in too fast. Both girls have broken away in a parking lot or across a street. They’ve both disappeared in stores. More than once, I’ve scanned the horizon at the beach and waited breathlessly for their sleek, wet heads to surface. They go to the park by themselves, and I wonder while they’re gone whether this is a healthy part of their development or me jumping the gun for convenience. Both Ryan and I have been distracted while driving. In fact, find me one person on the face of the planet who has not been distracted while driving kids around! But we’re ok. The kids are still living, breathing, fighting, lipping back, making messes and eating money – by the grace of God, by the hand of fate, by a hair, by the skin of their teeth. What would the headlines look like otherwise? I remember my brother almost falling into the Grand Canyon, and my father catching him by the back of his overalls. Stupid family drops preschooler in the biggest hole on earth. I remember being on a trip to Florida with my family when I was a child, and parking beside a beach and dashing for the cool blue water. My mother lingered behind and read a sign that warned of the danger of a Portuguese man o’ war infestation. She called us back to shore, and explained that this was not a good place to swim. We moved on. Stupid family ignores warning signs, swims in infested water, loses child to venomous creatures ….

There are so many times when the outcome could have been horrendous, heartbreaking, crippling. But it wasn’t. We got away. These families didn’t, who knows why – and they deserve our sympathy, not our ridicule. Imagine the emotions of the mother in Cincinnati as she saw her child at the mercy of a 450 lb gorilla and waited helplessly to see what zoo staff would do. Imagine the desperation of the father in Florida as he fought off the alligator. His son was dragged into the water by a prehistoric reptile, never to be seen alive again. What punishment could be harder than that? Yet asshole armchair quarterbacks do not hesitate to add to the pain by blaming the parents, who were doing their best.

In as much as we are all Nigeria, Charlie Hebdo, France, Syria, Orlando …. we are also all that mother, that father. The only thing standing between us and them is the luck of the draw. We are humanity, and the death of one diminishes all of us. Love and mercy today. That’s all.

Something’s gotta give …. why not let it?

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By now, we’ve all heard about Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau’s plea to the Canadian public for more help. She receives so many requests for appearances and speeches – and, one imagines, the mere pleasure of her company – that she feels overwhelmed. She describes having to choose between causes and events because she can’t support all of them – in her words, she “can’t be everywhere”, being the wife of the prime minister and the mother of three young children. Her dining room table has become like an office, she says, and she needs an assistant to help her handle it all.

Reactions vary. Some people are snickering over her plight, and have created a couple of snarky hashtags on the subject: #PrayForSophie and #SophieStrong. Others are enraged that she would dare ask for anything at all, considering that she already has a chef, household staff, two nannies and an assistant (in all honestly, one wonders what that assistant is doing at the moment). Surely she’s got time to open letters and grace functions. Rideau Cottage has 22 rooms. Can’t one of them serve as an office for Sophie? A few have suggested that she take some of her husband’s generous salary and pay an assistant with that, or that she start charging for her time so as to foot the bill for whatever she needs to keep the show on the road. However, a sizeable number of people are in support of granting Sophie’s request. She is already very busy, given that her presence as the prime minister’s wife is expected at everything from dinners to galas to international events – and three kids will keep any woman on her toes. On top of all that, she has lent her intelligence, charm and pretty face to increasing the exposure of a number of worthy endeavours. Anyway, doesn’t Michelle Obama command a staff of two dozen? Stop bellyaching and give her that extra assistant! Those who are hesitant to agree that Sophie should have an extra assistant, for whatever reason, are accused of tall poppy syndrome (or, less poetically, plain old sour grapes).

My own feelings on the subject lie somewhere in the middle …. It seems that Sophie’s heart is in the right place. She knows that she possesses a great deal of social sway, and she wants to use it to help others. She recognizes that, as the prime minister’s wife, she is in a unique position to share her considerable talents to the betterment of society. And it takes balls to ask for help if you’re not poor or abused or a visible minority …. In addition to all that, Sophie coming forward admitting that she can’t juggle everything people have tossed her way since her husband became our prime minister has shone a spotlight on the invisible work many women do and what it’s really worth. This is a good thing, since unpaid  (and, unless it’s Mother’s Day, unnoticed) work comprises a significant amount of what many women do with their day. Feminists have long lamented how often women carry the lion’s share of duties relating to the home and childcare and (increasingly, as gaps in the system widen) eldercare, in addition to bringing home half the proverbial bacon.

On the other hand, she’s not the only one – by far – who finds her days too short for the many calls on her time. Many people find it difficult to fulfil even their basic obligations to their family and their workplace without burning out. Many of these same people also make an effort to donate money and time to charitable pursuits. This money and time usually has to be diverted from other areas of their life. If I give $50 to the Salvation Army, I may not be able to give $50 to the Mission – or spend $50 on a new dress. Spending Friday morning helping our local food bank means I can’t show up at my daughters’ school to read to the kindergarten class or supervise a trip to the library, or stay home in my pyjamas and write a blog post. If I have a spic-and-span house, I’m probably serving hot dogs and dippable veggies for dinner. If, on the other hand, I’m making a beautiful meal from scratch, I probably havn’t cleaned the oven or washed the floors. And if I’m on a date with Ryan, an outing with my girls or a bender with my girlfriends, chances are that nothing is getting done. Because you can’t have it all. Nobody can. Not even the prime minister’s wife.

Choosing priorities is a fact of life for everyone. Nobody expects Sophie to go to everything, all the time. She’s only one person, and reasonable people know that. Sophie herself should have learned that by now. You can’t please everyone, so you must choose your priorities. (And isn’t that a great song? You’re welcome.) Finite resources are a reality of life. As for comparisons to Michelle Obama, she’s the first lady. That position doesn’t actually exist in Canada. Not to mention that America has ten times the population of Canada …. Michelle probably receives a hell of alot more invitations, solicitations and obligations than Sophie. Sophie wasn’t elected, Justin was. Some of her perceived duties may fall more in the category of expensive hobbies than necessities. She might just have to work with what she’s got ….

I suppose I’m also somewhat disappointed in Sophie for her approach to having it all. As a working wife, and mother of two children, there are many times when I feel like I just can’t do it all. So I don’t. I keep the house reasonably clean and the food decently healthy, and I try to make eye contact when my family is talking to me. Sometimes, I do special things, sometimes I just get by. Something’s gotta give, as they say, and I don’t have the option of plugging the dam with another assistant (I don’t even have one). Isn’t that a more realistic approach? To say that I can’t have or do it all, so I’m going to move my resources around until I’ve covered the basics, and then pick an extra or two if time and things warrant? Maybe the expectations dumped on the average woman wouldn’t be quite so heavy if more women said no, rather than begging for help to achieve the ridiculous and perpetuate the myth.

When you’ve got two girls ….

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From the moment we found out Fiona was on her way, Ryan was gunning for a girl. He wanted a girl so much that he had no idea what he would do if the baby turned out to be a boy. I kind of wanted a boy, but I’m pretty sure the pink outcome was meant to be. All the self-styled clairvoyants who come out of the woodwork when a woman has a baby belly predicted that it would be a girl. When we thought about names, we came up with about a dozen for a girl – and only three for a boy. When she screamed her way out of me, Ryan was allowed to announce the sex, and did so with a line that still makes me laugh – “it’s a girl …. I think”. As soon as he said that, before the nurse placed her in my arms, I knew I wouldn’t have traded her for any number of boys. I still wouldn’t.

Flash forward to my second pregnancy – Ryan and I both wanted Thing 2 to be a girl. We had been living with a baby girl for over a year, and we couldn’t think of anything better. (Well, aside from sleeping in or drinking coffee while it was still hot – but that horse had bolted, and closing the gate was no longer an option anyway.) Other people really wanted the second baby to be a boy. Some people said “that way, you’ll have one of each”. As if children are collectables. Others said “oh, well, this one has to be a boy – for Ryan”. Ryan, who wanted a girl even more this time around, because he actually knew what he was wishing for. As if a man’s life is not complete unless he’s left behind an anatomically correct copy of himself. In any case, when Bridget was yanked out of me (a breech baby who refused to turn, born at a hospital where there was only one doctor with any experience in natural breech births – yes, please, I’ll take that scheduled c-section), and we saw that we had another girl on our hands, we both had tears of joy in our eyes. Another girl! A sister for Fiona! What a blessing Bridget was (and is).

Of course, Bridget was about a week old when a few people asked us if we were going to try for a boy. And is it just me, or is that a really icky question? “Yes, I know you’ve just spent the better part of a year pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl just days ago and you’re probably super-stoked about that, but are you going to have unprotected sex again anytime soon in the hopes of conceiving a human with a penis?” Anyway. In the eight years that we have been a family of four that includes two girls, I have learned that there are some things you never have enough of when you live that way.

1. Ear plugs. Though they are close, Fiona and Bridget have their share of conflict. When they cross swords, it’s loud and high-pitched. I often tell people that they make noises only dogs or dolphins could interpret when they’re upset with each other. They don’t pound each other like my brother and I used to do. They use emotional weapons. They natter and chip away at each other. They fling accusations and cruel jabs around like confetti at the saddest, most annoying party you’ve ever been to. They mutter things under their breath, then refuse to repeat them while the offended party demands double-digit times to hear whatever was muttered. They know exactly where all the buttons are and how to push them. Whatever you do, though, do not get involved. You will regret it. You’ll come along, wanting to be a hero, with your casual “hey, now, what’s all this” – and they will steal all the air in the room and paste you to the wall with their rapid-fire account of what really happened, interrupting and shrieking atop each other until your eyes cross and you’re tempted to feign death to make it stop. For double the noise, let them have one of their friends over. Then they start to resemble a siren as they chase each other from room to room. Also, there is all that talking. Girls talk and talk and talk, with nary a concession to punctuation or even the need to breathe, and every single thing they say is utterly fascinating to them and therefore you must stop everything and soak it in. For as long as it takes. Come to think of it, I never stopped doing that. Must add ear plugs for Ryan to the shopping list ….

2. Tissues. In any given group of girls, at any time of the day or night, someone is guaranteed to be crying. They are so sensitive and dramatic that a single look can contain a paragraph of the unspoken, all of it to be taken personally. Don’t like the game everyone’s playing? Cry. Two people are talking and giggling? It’s totes about you. Cry. Your friend’s crush likes her and yours doesn’t know you exist? Cry. Other girls have a plan and you havn’t been included (yet)? The teacher cleared her throat and it was so directed at you? There’s a YouTube video featuring orphaned kittens? Your hair won’t go the way you want it to? You don’t like any of your shirts? It’s Thursday and you wanted it to be Friday (yes, this actually happened in our house recently)? Cry, cry, cry. (Like that bit of Johnny? Me, too.) “My green shirt is …. well, it’s just too …. green. I don’t think it was this green last time I wore it. It was my favourite shirt, too. I’ll never get another shirt like this, not ever. I hate this shirt. I hate all my shirts.” Pass the tissues.

3. Glitter. They put that shit on everything. Artwork, hair, skin, nails, siblings, pets. You can get it in a spray can. Imagine the fallout …. I don’t have to imagine because we had that once, and the results still shimmer and wink at me from our walls and ceiling. Glitter is like an infectious disease that is resistant to all medicines – once you’ve got it, you’re a carrier for life. Our house has not been glitter-free since Fiona was a toddler. Next time you’re at my house, ask me to show you where the glitter is. Currently, there’s some on the upstairs bathroom floor because Bridget spilled a container of it while trying to put it on her lips. There’s also a more-or-less permanent dusting of it on the laundry room floor because they have clothes with built-in glitter that rubs off in the washer and dryer. Consequently, I have glitter on my clothes. The rugs in their bedrooms have received a generous dusting, as has the carpet in the basement. And yet if you ask them what craft supply they need most, about three-quarters of the time they’ll say glitter. Or glitter paint. Or glitter glue. Sometimes I feel like I live inside a disco ball. Sparkle, sparkle!

4. Storage space. Glitter is just the beginning. Fiona and Bridget have multiple lotions and perfumes. They have about fifty pairs of earrings, and multiple necklaces and bracelets to match. They’ve got bath stuff and hair stuff and face stuff and nail stuff – 24 different shades of nail polish, to be exact. (And before you conclude that Ryan and I are raising shopaholic princesses who spend a good chunk of their time and all of their money in pursuit of retail therapy, please note that not a single bottle of nail polish was purchased by either of them. They are two of just three grandchildren on either side of the family (and their baby cousin, Scarlett, is still too young to do anything with cosmetics aside from eating them). They have fashionable aunties. Nail polish is a popular item in loot bags, and they go to alot of birthday parties. Doesn’t take long to get to double-digits bottles.) Along with nail polish, they each have nearly a dozen lip glosses. They’ve got several pairs of shoes and boots each, and a pile of hats, scarves and belts. My stuff is crowded out, smothered, consumed by their stuff. They’ve got a menagerie of stuffies. They keep everything because everything is so special. More tissues, please. They have valentines they received in kindergarten from children they wouldn’t know from a hole in the ground anymore. They have sparkly rocks and pinecones and lucky buttons – and, thanks to Ryan and their Uncle D, a growing collection of beer caps. They have over a dozen Barbies and Monster High Dolls, and all the things that go with them. Their bookshelves are literally overflowing with books they might never read again but they have to keep them because ….

5. Hair junk. Between Fiona and Bridget (and me, of course), there’s alot of hair in this house. Hair clogs up our vacuum cleaner. It clings to the furniture. It lands in our food. Tumbleweeds of old hair blow by when we open a window. It needs to be contained. This isn’t easy when styles change regularly, and you’re dealing with 8-and-10-year-old girls who change even more often than styles. Headbands, bandanas, scrunchies, bun donuts, butterfly clips, barrettes and bobby pins must all be available in every possible size and colour to answer to any hair situation at all times. We have brushes, combs and rakes. We’ve also got hairspray (in plain, blue, pink and – natch – glitter), and we’ve got hair wax for the newly-embraced-at-our-place side bang. We’ve got mousse, and curl-lock, too. There’s colour cream in purple and green, and hair chalk in ten different shades. At the end of it all, we’ve got de-tangler. You might need that if you’ve used even a fraction of our cornucopia of hair junk.

6. Nail polish remover. As mentioned above, we’ve got two dozen bottles of nail polish. In addition to that, we have nail stickers and – of course – nail glitter. Bridget paints her nails every two or three days. On a related note, she smudges her freshly painted nails on everything every two or three days. In a striking coincidence, she uses copious amounts of nail polish remover – you guessed it – every two or three days. Because she is trying to be delicate with her still-sticky nails, she handles the nail polish remover gingerly – and the lack of a firm grip results in frequent spills. She uses whatever remains in the bottle to clean up the smudges. I buy an econo-sized bottle of nail polish remover about once per month. I’m high from the smell of it about five days out of every seven. Fiona never really cared for painting her nails until about a week ago. Now she has lovely midnight blue nails, and she likes them that way. I may soon need a nail polish remover pipe run into my house, topped up every couple of months by a truck, like we used to do with oil for our furnace.

7. Self-confidence (at least, if you are their mother). For one thing, daughters are blunt. You are an extension of them, a piece of their life cycle. They see you as both their example and their cautionary tale. I knew that it was time to start working out again when they told me my ass wobbled when I walked. I know when my hairstyle or outfit isn’t working for me, because they let me know. They ask me when I’m going to paint my nails again because the old polish is chipped. One morning, Bridget fearfully asked if I was going to wear that when I picked them up from school the following afternoon. I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, nothing wrong with that, but my hair was in a messy bun and I wasn’t wearing earrings – it just wouldn’t do. On the other hand, they still say things like “she was pretty, Mommy, but not as pretty as you” and “I hope I look just like you when I grow up” and “I love your style”. I guess I do have my moments …. The main reason, though, that you need self-confidence if you are the mother of daughters is that they are so perfect. Their eyes are clear and bright, their smile is doll-like in its perfection, their hair has highlights that every woman over the age of 19 has to squeeze out of a bottle and apply every four to six weeks. They havn’t mangled their eyebrows yet, like we all somehow end up doing in spite of the warnings of our mothers. Their skin is flawless and golden, stretched tight over their muscles and bones as smooth as a clear sky. They are all legs and arms and ponytails. I’ve got crow’s feet and laugh lines and grey hair. I’ve got a jiggle in my wiggle that’s probably never going away, and I wear the indentations of my pillow and pyjamas for a good hour after I wake up. Their sun is rising; mine is inching toward the horizon.

I imagine there’s alot more Ryan and I need that I havn’t thought of, and things I don’t know we’ll need as they grow up. I look forward to hearing from other parents of multiple girls, and learning as I go. Don’t make the stories too sappy, though. We’re perilously low on tissues here. We’re one botched craft or serving of asparagus away from running out.

Sleeping with the enemy: reading “The Feminine Mystique”

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Ok, so the title of this post is a tad dramatic. I wasn’t sleeping with Betty Friedan – it was more like serious flirting. And I’ve never thought of feminists or feminism as the enemy – though I’ve been mightily irked by them at times. I have often thought that many feminists claim to support the choices women make, but only if they are the right ones. Women fixing their own cars, renovating their own homes, breaking sporting records, building careers, getting political? That’s great! Generations of feminists are behind you every step of the way! Women enjoying traditionally feminine pursuits such as cleaning, cooking, tending flowers, crafting? Dialing back their dedication to their professional life to pay a little more attention to their children? Spending money and time to look nice not only for themselves – but possibly for a date? That’s setting back the cause of feminism – being a traitor to women! You are underachieving, and you’re a man’s dupe, to boot. I have also taken issue with the fact that, for some feminists, feminism means more than equality – it means putting men down to lift women up. And, of course, we’ve all heard the irritating stories of feminists actually becoming angry with men over offers to give up a bus seat or hold a door open.

However, I am a reader – anyone who’s spent more than five minutes getting to know me knows I love reading. And how could I resist a book that was labelled one of the “ten most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries”? My inner child has always made an effort to touch what she’s been told to stay away from. So, I bought Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique”, and dove into it. I assumed I’d disagree with Friedan on nearly everything, but a good reader suspends judgement – so I tried to keep an open mind. I found, to my surprise, that the book was well-written and contained some solid food for thought.

I had to get around a few things to really embrace the book. Friedan writes with a poorly concealed angry edge. There’s an exhausting amount of talk about sexuality and the ability (or inability, as the case may be) to achieve orgasm. She uses examples that seem extreme. Vast numbers of women who really can’t think of anything to do with themselves after their youngest child no longer needs them, so they dye their hair blonde and have another baby. Women who coddle their children so much that their boys (though they hate their mothers) can’t ever leave them and their girls have no one to look up to. Women who do their children’s homework for them so as to satisfy the academic itch they never dared scratch during their own education. Women who use the time saved by all the modern appliances to think of more housework to do. Women who have no outlet other than sex – and, sex being the only excitement, seek it everywhere, all the time. Women so shallow and insipid that, when asked about their lives, thank God for things like “two cars, two TVs and two fireplaces”. Friedan claims that she, herself, gave up academics to become a wife and mother because her date said “nothing can come of this [their relationship], because I’ll never win a fellowship like yours”. This seems like a very small thing on which to base such a drastic decision.

She shockingly compares the plight of housewives to that of concentration camp inmates in the twelfth chapter, entitled “Progressive Dehumanization: the Comfortable Concentration Camp”. She is careful to say that, of course, being a housewife is not as bad as being a concentration camp victim – but she lost me at the first mention that there could be any comparison between the two.

She seems to think that the answer to every woman’s problems is a career. In the final chapter, “A New Life Plan for Women”, many of the solutions offered to women trying to balance career and family and the home are contingent on money. Many women cannot splash out on a maid or a cook or a nanny, and higher education is financially beyond them, too – but Friedan leans heavily on these things as supports for broadening the minds and lives of women.

In spite of the hyperbole and hysterics, Friedan is generally aware of the various phases of women’s lives and how our needs change in response to these phases. She doesn’t push women to live grim, sexless, solitary lives – she offers ideas for balancing education, careers, children, husband and self. She does not suggest that only one kind of lifestyle is acceptable for women, she is advocating for choices –  for women to have the opportunity to live life whatever way they wish. She doesn’t put men down. She censures women who do, lamenting that the “man-haters” distract from the true purpose of feminism and stir public sentiment against feminists. In several parts of the book, she mentions the role of men in women’s lives as a positive thing, and thanks men for supporting feminism and the women they love. She raises the idea of a masculine mystique that affects men as negatively as the feminine mystique affects women, and calls them “the other half” of what feminists are doing. She encourages women and men to come together in the common struggle for everyone’s rights.

Friedan makes some interesting points about how the concept of women’s liberation was stronger before and during the two world wars. Then, a shell-shocked world longed for the comfort of home and tradition – and women retreated from the progress that had been made to make homes for the returning soldiers. She brings together a number of threads, everything from the education of women to become wives and mothers to what she calls “the sexual sell” – the dependence of advertisers on perpetuating the feminine mystique. Think of all the ads we now laugh at, for everything from coffee to carpet sweepers –  the ads featuring the doe-eyed (usually blonde) housewife with her finger in the eureka position and her face all lit up because now she knows how to get her silverware truly shiny or how to get rid of that ring around the bathtub. We think these ads are funny because it seems ridiculous to suggest that you are not living up to some standard if you aren’t taking care of your family in this way by using this product. Well, once upon a time, these ads were real – new ones being generated daily – and real women were reading them, thinking what they were being told to think, and subconsciously using consumption to become the womanly ideal these companies relied on to stay in the black.

As I was reading the book, a memory came back to me. I was working for my home town, one of those employ-a-student projects that many small towns run every summer. I was making a little under $5 per hour, as that was the minimum wage at the time, for doing a variety of jobs. Everything from cleaning the fire hall to running the community channel bingo to painting the playground to tidying up the cemetery to chopping a mountain of squid into rings to deep fry and sell by the plateful at the town fair. Only in Newfoundland …. Well, one of the things I ended up doing was helping to lay the foundation for a new building. This was hard work. Lifting heavy bags of cement, mixing it, pouring it. Even though I – and the other girls – were side-by-side with the guys every step of the way, doing everything they were doing, we took alot of teasing. The guys minced about, talking in high voices, pretending they couldn’t do this or that because “it’s a girl thing”. About halfway through the day, they switched to teasing us about being manly and asking us if they could see the hair that just had to be on our burly chests because we were doing “a man’s job”. We were concentrating on our work, not goofing off, and accomplished more than they did. They grudgingly admitted that we did a decent job before we all went home. That evening, I wrote in my journal: “It’s unfair. Being a girl working with guys on a manual labour project, you have to be twice as good as they are to be considered half as good.” This was a revelation to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but the fact that I was allowed to give this job a try was due to the efforts of previous generations of crusaders. And the fact that all the guys could do about it was tease the girls, and the fact that I was being paid just as much as the guys were …. Also, the fact that I was saving this pay to fund the science degree I was about to obtain.

Though I don’t agree with everything Betty Friedan wrote, her book reminded me that I owe a debt of gratitude to generations of feminists. For better and sometimes for worse, I am (and have always been) fiercely independent – I like doing whatever I damn well please, and heaven help the person who tries to tell me I can’t. I may not choose to do all that I can do, but I have a choice. I can vote. I can marry and divorce whomever I please. There is no career path out of my reach simply because I am female. I can be as girly (or masculine) as I want, and so can Fiona and Bridget. Ryan doesn’t have to hunt, fight or do the heavy-lifting to be called a man and respected as such. We can all be ourselves, and this is partially due to the barriers feminists – female and male – knocked down.

A little more research should have gone into this move ….

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I was going to write about popsicles today. It seemed a seasonally appropriate topic …. However, as is so often the case, something else caught my eye, leaped to the forefront of my mind, spilled onto my keyboard and into my blog. Specifically, an article in the Ottawa Citizen about a man named François Bordeleau, and his family. They recently moved to Barrhaven, and they have a complaint: there are not enough city-offered French-language recreational programs for his children:

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/french-laugage-city-recreational-programs-lacking-in-ottawas-west-end

“It’s just not enough,” says Bordeleau. “I felt pissed off because you figure, why the hell can’t I get the services that I feel that I’m entitled to, and that anybody else that speaks the other official language can get very easily?”

I have a few problems with his side of things. First of all, there’s the word “entitled”. It is defined as having a right or claim to something. Does François Bordeleau feel that his sons learning to swim in French is a right? His sons playing on a French soccer team is right up there with air, water, food and dignity? Living in the capital of a bilingual nation, the Bordeleaus are entitled to essential services in their choice of English or French. Signage, paramedics, hospitals, policing, notices from the city, by-law information and officers, the city’s website – these things should be in both English and French. And they are. Any sort of municipally funded recreational program is an extra – a privilege. Municipally funded recreational programs at convenient times, in convenient locations, in a language other than the one predominantly spoken – that’s not even an extra. That’s a frill.

Another problem: François Bordeleau states that it’s easy for “the other official language” to access a wide variety of recreational programs, time slots and locations. Of course, it is! Newsflash, M. Bordeleau: the “other official language” is the most common one spoken in Barrhaven. There are far more people looking for programs in English than in French, because there are significantly more anglophones than francophones in this particular area of the city. As the article mentions, the French community in eastern Ottawa is far more robust than that of Barrhaven – and French services and programs expand correspondingly as you move in that direction. The City of Ottawa does an excellent job of serving and promoting the notion of a bilingual community – where it is warranted, based on demographics.

This is a map of Ottawa, colour-coded to cite the percentage of francophones living in any given area. The Bordeleaus, living in Barrhaven, are part of a community in which francophones comprise less than 15% of the population:

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Which segues into my final problem with François Bordeleau’s problem: he did a poor job of choosing a place to live, and now he wants the rest of us to fix his mistake with our tax dollars. The headline, which reads “Barrhaven ought to have been the perfect place for François Bordeleau and his wife to raise a family”, is not true – if something is perfect, it should not inspire complaints. If you want conveniently timed and located French recreational programs, you probably should move to a place where the francophone community is well-established. There is much to consider in the process of moving. Before you choose a community, you should do your research – make sure it suits your needs. The Bordeleaus could easily have found out whether there was sufficient support for French recreational programs in Barrhaven before buying a house there. Instead, it appears that they made their move blindly, and are now whining that it’s not what they wanted. No sympathy here.

Related question: How easy is it to find English recreational programs in Quebec? Shouldn’t be a problem. After all, the “other official language” is well-served there, right?