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Our Children

20 May

Over the past few years, we’ve watched open-mouthed as young black men have been gunned down in the United States.  

One was an unarmed father of five, selling cigarettes.  One was trying to walk home from the store.  One was a 12 year old boy in a park. There are so many others.  It was heartbreaking to hear about again and again.  Canada, as a country, grieved with the parents.  

We grieved from afar but also patted ourselves on the back because that kind of awfulness just doesn’t happen in Canada.  

After all, our gun laws are stricter.  

After all, we’re just so darn nice here.  

After all, we embrace multiculturalism and diversity.

We say sorry if we bump into each other; we tell each other to have a nice day, eh!

But truthfully, we are no better.  Not really.  We proudly proclaim Canada as the epitome of human rights, while ignoring the very people who were here first.  

2017 marks Canada’s 150th birthday.  150 years as an official country.  To many that’s a major cause for celebration.  For others it’s a stark reminder of broken promises, residential schools, missing and murdered indigenous women, reserves with never ending boil-water advisories, and dead children.

The children.  Oh my heart just breaks thinking about what their parents and family members have gone through.  Are going through. 

The past decade in Thunder Bay has seen nine teens pulled from the same river.

These are their names: 

JETHRO ANDERSON

CURRAN STRANG

PAUL PANACHEESE

ROBYN HARPER

REGGIE BUSHIE

KYLE MORRISOW 

JORDAN WABASSE 

TAMMY KEEASH

JOSIAH BEGG

These names are important.  

These young people need to be remembered.

Nine young indigenous teens, ranging from 14 years to 18 years old.  All of them were in Thunder Bay for schooling (or appointments) and far from home.  They were away from their families.  They ended up in the river.

Why?  Why did these young people end up in the river?  Were they pushed?  Were they drinking?  Were they alone?  Did someone push them?  Was it accidental?  Suicide?  Murder?

I have no answers and no solutions.

What I can do, however, starts at home.  I have three white (perhaps) heterosexual sons.  

At this point in their lives, they barely understand the concepts of racism and bigotry.  We talk about it in age-appropriate ways and they have a basic understanding that some people are treated badly because of their skin colour or where they were born, what they believe, etc.  They think it’s unfair. 

Like any parent, I worry about my children.  One thing I don’t often think about though, is whether or not my sons will be shot by police officers.  Or whether or not they’ll end up in a river.  

I mean, it could happen, but it’s statistically improbable.  I just don’t spend time worrying that my sons will get shot by police officers or attacked because of their skin colour.  Nobody is going to call my sons derogatory names becsuse of their skin colour.

This is my privilege.  

I recognize it; I own it.

I don’t know what the future holds.  But today I’m telling my almost nine year old about the young boy who was pulled from the river, like the many before him.  

I’m talking to him about safety and personal responsibility.  Soon I’ll tell him that if he’s in a scary situation, he can ALWAYS call me or his dad or his Gramma. 

I don’t know what happened to Josiah and the others, but I do think about the what-ifs.  Was he alone? Was he with a friend?  Did he have a cell phone?  Was he unable to call anyone for help?  Did he call and nobody came?  Was he scared?  Did he know he was about to die?  Was he even aware of what was happening?  

That poor child.  His poor mother.  

It’s so easy to look at this situation and dismiss it outright because it happened to someone else.  But that someone else is still a person.  He’s a son and brother.  He had hopes and dreams.  He had friends.  

Josiah was Sunshine Winter’s child but really, he was our child.  A child of Canada, of Turtle Island.  All these children are our children.  This country is hurting and has been for centuries.  

We can’t change the past, but we can work towards a better future.

The children are the future, we can’t let them down.

Let’s do this.

***

Resources if you’re interested in an overview of the current situation:

Fifth Estate Segment discussing police activity in response to the deaths of these teens.

Article about the most recent deaths causing concern about police practices. 

An article about the inquest launched into the deaths over the last ten years.

To the Oscars!

11 Jan

A few years ago, when I was just starting out with reader giveaways, my friend Michelle was one of the first volunteers!

I wrote about Michelle and her handmade skin care line here, but let me do a bit of a recap.

Here’s what Michelle looked like when I first met her:



Ugh, isn’t she adorable?!

Michelle is concerned with the environment and living responsibly; she had a strong desire to create an all-natural product for all types of skin.

Michelle turned to beeswax to nourish the skin and BEE23 was born.

The mission of BEE23 as explained by Michelle,

In blending the spirit of today with the wisdom of yesterday, we will inspire, create and grow in consideration of our local and global community. At BEE23, our creations are borne from the natural synthesis of timeless plant essences, nuts and vegetable ingredients in a beeswax base.

We offer a collection of solid perfume alternatives that are free of synthetic chemicals and additives. We know anything applied onto your skin will go into your body, so our products are made without the chemicals that cause dryness and irritation. Our body balms are designed to nourish and heal your skin, rather than damage it. We value the ingredients nature provides for us, so you can rest assured that you’re buying environmentally beneficial products.

*

Since our initial giveaway, Michelle has been living in Toronto with her family, growing her business and treating life as one big magical adventure.

This is what she’s looking like now!  


Do blonds have more fun or is she trying to emulate the golden pollen upon which her namesake feasts?

The most exciting bit of honey on Michelle’s plate right now is her campaign to bring BEE23 to the Oscars this February!

You know how….  at all these big award shows, the wealthy movie stars and musicians are given gift bags full of swag?  I’ve heard some of those gift bags are worth thousands of dollars!  Well, Michelle wants in on those gift bags!

Do celebrities with stacks of cash and strings of emeralds need all those free products?  I’m gonna go with….no.  

However!

I’m thinking a lot of the products in those elusive goody bags are items put out by small businesses, trying to make it mainstream and trying to make a living.

A small business such as BEE23.

Michelle would love it if her products could find their way into a celebrity gift bag!  

Ideally what would happen is that someone like Jennifer Lawrence will try out some BEE23 Body Balm and fall in love and DEMAND to be the new spokesperson in partnership with Michelle and her humble Canadian company.

It could happen.

But first, Michelle needs to raise some money.  

She has a Gofundme campaign and she’s halfway to the goal.  

Visit the campaign page if you’re so inclined, to learn more about it.  Throw her five or ten dollars if you can!  

Let’s help our Canadian girl get her products into some sweaty celebrity hands!

And OF COURSE, Michelle wants to give one of my readers an amazing BEE23 product.

Specifically:


Please comment on this post to be entered into the draw!  Contest closes Monday January 16th at midnight.  Winner announced on the 17th.

She’s the Queen Bee, my friends: a magical bit of blond pollen and she’s bringing her beeswax to all the people, including Hollywood celebrities!


Visit Bee 23 on Facebook and the World Wide Web, online shopping is available.

Naked Kitty 

6 Sep

Several years ago, while working at an LU Radio yard sale, I started talking with a young woman who had a radio show.  We had a lovely visit and…I’ve actually never seen her in person since that day!  

She left the country for an extended period of time and then came back.  Then she moved to another province and started a life there with her husband and her hairless cat!

But we’ve kept up with each other through the magic of social media and I’ve heartily enjoyed following her on Facebook and Instagram.  She also has a blog!  We’ve had some great conversations in the time since she moved away!

Sara has always been a crafty and creative person and she’s always been quite interested in makeup and skin care.  Combine those interests with a love for natural and green products, and Naked Kitty Naturals was born.  


The business logo (and name of the company) was inspired by Sara’s cat, Pop Tart.  

Sara’s been having lots of fun experimenting with and creating all kinds of different products.  They smell great and they feel good on your skin!  

Please visit Naked Kitty Naturals on Facebook and Instagram, or visit the official website. Naked Kitty isn’t actually a local business but you can shop online through the website.  If you’re reading from Saskarchewan, check out the Facebook page to see what kind of craft sales and markets Sara will be attending.

Visit Sara’s makeup and skin care blog as well: My Minimalist Face!

Several months ago, Sara asked if I’d be interested in giving some of her new products away to a lucky reader.  

Of course I was!  But then life got a little messy and I put Naked Kitty on the back-burner, with Sara’s blessing.

But we are both ready now!  And here’s what you could win!

citrus and peppermint lip chap

best ever face cleanser

happy glow toner

rosemary’s underarms natural deodorant

soft salve


Now, normally, to enter a reader giveaway, all you have to do is comment on the post.  But that’s not how this is going to go down!
Stay tuned because tomorrow all will be revealed!

Travel Blogging: pictures

13 Aug

Cheers!

kitty cat selfie


We don’t want to go home!

Birthday Blog Extravaganza!

28 Jul

A week from today is my birthday!  

In honour of ME and how fabulous I am, I’d like to give away something special.  Or, more specifically, several somethings special!  

What can I say, I’m just a giving person!

I’ve got a nice little handmade totebag full of handmade and locally sourced treasures, all ready to be delivered to one very lucky reader!

Let’s meet the contributors!

1. boy Roland is like Thunder Bay’s own Miss Congeniality: pleasant and kind to everyone, whether it be a friend or a fan or a client.  He knew early on that he wanted to make a living as an artist and his hard work and dedication has really paid off!

Over the last few years, boy Roland (a close contributor with the Die Active art collective) has made quite a name for himself around town.  His art is prolific and it’s showing up all over!  It’s like you can’t open a local magazine or walk down a street without seeing some boy Roland art, and that’s not a bad thing!

It’s always such a treat to see this guy’s signature style as you peruse the Walleye, notice a back alley mural in downtown Port Arthur, or pop in to New Day Records or Espresso Joya.  

It’s also a treat to hire boy Roland for a special customized piece of art.  He’s getting busier and busier as he realizes his dream of being an artist in-demand, but there is a chance he will have time to create something for you.  And if he doesn’t, he’ll turn you down in such a way that you’ll feel like you won the lottery anyway.

These dapper owls would make a great addition to any home!


***

2. Nancy Freeborn is a woman of many talents. Honestly, I don’t think she should be allowed to be so talented and so beautiful because it’s really not fair to the rest of us! This girl can sing and dance AND she creates amazing jewelry. She’s also a loving wife and mother AND she works at Hey Sailor where she models the clothing and makeup with sass and confidence.  

Nancy doesn’t have a Facebook business page but if you’re interested in seeing what else she has made, you can search “Nancy Freeborn” on Facebook; her album of handmade jewelry is open to the public.  Or, if you’re so inclined, you can visit Hey Sailor where some of Nancy’s jewelry is for sale (you can talk to Nancy if she’s working ) or pick up a business card that has a direct smartphone code for the Facebook jewelry album. 

Some of her creations are adorable and cute, like little polymer raspberry earrings; some of her creations are incredibly classy and sophisticated, like long beaded necklaces. There’s even something fun for the geeks, such as these golden snitch earrings! I have the matching necklace!  


***

3. Regular readers will recognize Tara of HC Creations from her many Eating Dirt appearances. She still does a lot of beautiful handmade jewelry but recently, she’s expanding her horizons to be a representative for the buskins company: Buskins by Tara. Buskins is mainly a leggings company, but also has shorts, skirts, and shirts.  

Tara is always busy with raising her two sons, but still finds time for occasional jewelry making and is doing a great job finding various clothing items to keep her many clients happy!  She is such a kindhearted and beautiful soul, you’ll want to do business with her for sure!

Recently Tara had a booth full of clothing and jewelry set up at the busker fest.  If you follow her on Facebook, she will keep you updated about upcoming craft show and festival appearances.  

Here you have a pair of capri leggings (fits size 0-12) and an adorable Baltic Amber bracelet.  If you need a size bigger than 12, Tara can accommodate you!


***

4. Amy Vervoort, the creative mind behind Olives and Bananas, has been through hell and come out the other side with her imagination intact. 

At one time, my dear friend lived what some would consider a picture-perfect life, yet tragedy struck when her infant son was taken far too soon.  Unimaginable pain led Amy into some dark days, but through the joy of welcoming a new baby, she found that she was able to see beauty in the world again.  

Amy spontaneously picked up some crochet hooks and started teaching herself simple patterns of baby hats and accessories. Simple patterns led to more complicated creations, which led to needle felting! Without any professional lessons, Amy has entered a world of whimsical and fantastical woollen creations. She is ridiculously talented and pretty much succeeds in whatever creative crafting she decides to try!

Joy and happiness practically burst out of each little woollen creature and this adorable little jellyfish is just one example of what you can bring into your home. Visit Amy on Facebook and Instagram and bring home some joy today, don’t delay!


***

5. Kyle Lees is a local artist and illustrator, specializing in comics and prints.  

A few months ago, I joked that I’ve written about every artist in town EXCEPT Kyle!  Trust me, it was funny.  And while I do love a good joke at Kyle’s expense, I believe it’s time to rectify (haha!) the situation and zero in on this unassuming gem of a guy.

As a quick side note, Kyle, Bry (mentioned further down in this post), and Merk (from a previous giveaway) have a podcast called Zero Issues, which is worth listening to if you like comic books and or/super heroes and/or funny stuff!

He’s talented, he’s funny, he’s dark, he’s insightful, he’s irreverent. His art is sometimes deeply moving and almost always hilarious. Who knew that simple drawings in a delightful cartoon style could evoke such a wide variety of emotions? 

In order to keep up to date with Kyle’s art sale appearances, it’s best to like his Facebook page. While there, please peruse the offerings because you can make special print orders AND he has been known to do some fabulous commission work.

And one of his slightly off-colour (hah! It’s black and white) prints could potentially come reside at your home very soon! 

***

6. Meagan B used to be the brains (and brawn) behind Sweet Beginnings, the creative baby product endeavour that offered adorable cloths and accessories for the wee ones in your life! 

Meagan’s little kids are getting a bit bigger and she’s letting her own personal interests dictate what goes on in the sewing room now. 

Of course Meagan, a beautiful and talented self taught seamstress, still loves her kids and she likes making things for them, but Sweet Beginnings has been transformed into Made by Meag!  

Meagan focuses primarily on amazing (and often geeky) purses and bags.  They are available through Meagan by custom order and there is a small selection at Hey Sailor (link above).  If you like the Facebook page, you’ll be in the know about Meagan’s craft/market/convention appearances.  

One look at these bags and you’ll want one in every pattern!  I myself have a Star Wars themed purse and have commissioned a Harry Potter themed clutch.  

Maybe I’ll be able to give a full sized purse away one day, but for now I have something smaller, but still just as cute!

Dalek coin purse!  Or a makeup bag!  Or a reusable snack bag!

***

7. Bry Kotyk is a local writer and artist, author of Welcome to Hereafter.  WTH was established as a unique web comic in 2009, where Bry was able to keep readers updated on the newest developments.  

As more and more comics were posted to the site, Bry realized he could actually publish his work in the form of a graphic novel!  In Welcome to Hereafter, Bry imagines what it would be like if God lost his job and is suddenly thrown into life as a retiree, reconnecting with his son Jesus and a host of other deities.  

It’s such an amusing concept, though some might find it blasphemous, it’s actually quite delightful!  Just like Bry!  He’s delightful, talented, and just bursting with a joyful imagination!  

Bry sells his graphic novels and other various prints but he also decided to see if there was a market for this mug!  It’s what God uses in the Hereafter!  Maybe you’d like to sip your morning coffee from a mug proclaiming you as number 1 God.  After all, I’m sure you are the master of your domain!


***

8. Driftwood Designs by Kayeleigh is one of my favourites!  

Kayeleigh is a creative soul who sees something in nature and feels her artistic muse take over.  Particularly driftood, but other things as well, speaks to Kayeleigh and asks to be transformed. 

 Kayeleigh likes to take her family out on scavenging expeditions, where she drags a wagon behind her and fills it up with driftwood just waiting to be given a new life.  In her spare time, she uses a wood burning kit (She’s a self taught pyrographer!) to etch meaningful symbols and words into the wood.  

Sometimes, as in the picture below, it’s on slices of wood and not driftwood, but the effect is striking nonetheless.  Here we have a Christmas tree ornament (or more simply put, a hanging ornament) with the sleeping giant burned into it, and a little tree magnet.  

These two small pieces would make adorable little additions for a lover of nature and local art.  Please visit the Facebook page and be inspired by what Kayeleigh can do with wood!  

If I knew Kayeleigh better, I’d make an in appropriate joke here, but we are only just getting to know one another.  So please, let’s be adults and refrain from making jokes about what Kayeleigh can do with wood, ok?!

***

And there’s extra stuff too!

Season Fairy stickers by Australian artist Selena Fenech.  She’s definitely not local, but I have based two of my tattoos on her artwork.

The best stain remover ever!  Smells so good and even works to get out blood!  Not local to our area, but it is from a Canadian company.

Tibetan prayer flags!  These are just pretty and potentially very meaningful, depending on your beliefs and values.  Available for purchase at Wojo’s Mojo on Algoma.
***

And finally, the totebag, courtesy of Katie from Sew Whimsical.  

Regular readers will, of course, remember Katie from my very first blog giveaway and many special appearances over the last several years.  

Katie is presently concentrating on a career in teaching , but she is still active and excited about sewing. She still takes custom orders and would love to make something special for you or your loved one! 

She has contributed this adorable and versatile bag to the birthday giveaway!  What can you do with a cute handmade bag?  Your only limitation is your imagination! 

What did I do with this bag from my beautiful and talented friend Katie?  I stuffed it full of wonderful local art (and some other stuff) for a very special reader giveaway!

Last time I did my birthday giveaway, I did it on my actual birthday and told people they had to wish me happy birthday in order to be entered in the draw.  

Today isn’t my actual birthday however, so in order to be entered into the draw, you have to leave a comment on this blog post telling me what you’d buy me for my birthday if you won the lottery!  

The contest will close August 3rd at midnight and a winning name will be drawn the next day!

Wonderful Woman Spotlight: Kaitlin White of Wee Ones Sleep Solutions and Bellyicious Doula & Post Partum Services

7 Mar

In R3’s nine month letter, I mentioned that he was having some issues with napping and sleeping through the night.  I talked to my friend Kaitlin about R3’s sleeping issues because she is a certified baby and child sleep consultant!  

We had a real nice conversation that was half about my baby’s sleep and half old friends catching up.  It was really nice to talk about what’s going on with R3’s schedule and have someone offer time tested suggestions and advice.  A lot of what Kaitlin said to me was common sense and things I’ve heard before but it was nice to have it reiterated from someone I trust and who’s been studying child sleep for years.

I first met Kaitlin as a 14 year old freshman in high school and we shared plenty of classes together over the following five years: lots of laughs and lots of fun! Come to think of it, I still have a binder full of notes she passed to me in the halls between classes.  That was the olden-days version of texting!

After high school, Kaitlin went away to University and then took a job in Western Canada.  Then she made her way back to Thunder Bay for a few years and started focusing on a career change.  She decided being a school teacher wasn’t the life she wanted and that working with growing families was where her heart was leading.  

Kaitlin started training as a doula around the time I was pregnant with my second.  Shortly after R2 was born, Kaitlin received her certification as a doula and felt called to build a life in Eastern Canada, way over on the East Coast.  After researching various locales, Kaitlin realized that there was a real deficit on the East coast in the labour support department and she wanted to be there and help make a change.

She’s been in the Moncton area for five years now and has established herself as a well regarded doula in an area that was lacking.   

 Her personal business has grown beyond labour support to family support with regards to healthy sleep practices.  From The Bellylicious Facebook page (link below), you can learn a bit about the valuable services Kaitlin can provide. 

 And good golly, look how organized she is!!!  

     

   

 Kaitlin knows that a family’s health and well-being often revolve around sleep and she has studied extensively under global sleep expert Dana Obelman. She’s now qualified to consult about baby and child sleep and she helps families get the rest they need!

The cool thing about Kaitlin’s sleep consulting business, is that you don’t have to be in the Moncton area to take advantage.  Over Facebook, Kaitlin and I arranged for a specific time for her to call me and she was able to provide her initial free assessment over the phone.  Kaitlin could literally offer her consultation services anywhere in North America!

And please, take a look at these credentials:  

 

If you’re near Moncton and looking for a qualified and compassionate doula, you can find more information on the Bellylicious Facebook page, here!

If you’re interested in gentle slutions to facilitate rested babies and children, you can get more information on the Wee Ones Facebook page, here!

Every labouring woman deserves support!

And…

A well rested baby is a happy baby and a well rested family is a happy family!

Thank you Kaitlin, a truly wonderful woman, for offering these essential services to parents and parents-to-be!

For Better or For Worse

22 Jan

Last night, in this bleak month of January, Jason and I had the opportunity to see Lynn Johnston give a talk at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.  The show is focusing on the comic art and career of Lynn Johnston and is being circulated across Canadian galleries by the Art Gallery of Subury. 

I swiped these photos from the Art Gallery Facebook page

    
   
LU Radio had the opportunity to interview Lynn on Wednesday and Jason got to meet her and talk to her then.  I had to stand in line to meet her like a regular peon (hah!) but she was so gracious and drew a little charicature in my book. 

 Just look at her!  She is a tireless work horse who signed books for over an hour after the talk she gave about her life and career.  She’s hilarious and gracious and kind.  We spoke for a few minutes and I thanked her for her work.  

In other words, I didn’t say everything I was thinking.  I know, I know, I know…

You’re thinking, Leah, YOU didn’t say everything you were thinking?!  I don’t believe that for a second!  

But people, it’s true!  I’d love to rave and gush to everyone whose work has been such a huge part of my life, but a meet and greet line up isn’t really the time or place.  Sometimes I am able to reign it in.

But in my mind, I was thinking…

Dear Lynn, thank you thank you thank you for being you!  

Thank you for being a creative and funny little child who grew up into a woman who laughed and made jokes through the tough times and for putting all that life experience into your art.  

Your For Better or for Worse comic strip has been a part of my life since I could read and it’s been there every since.  I started out identifying with the tiny kids in the comic and as I grew, they grew along with me.  Now I’m back to the beginning, identifying with the parents of the tiny kids.  I’ll be able to see my own kids grow up again alongside those comic strip kids.  Who knows, maybe one day I’ll be welcoming grandchildren, just like John and Elly did.  

You captured so many universal life experiences in a tiny rectangle of newsprint for years and I’m so lucky I can relive those moments over and over in your published books.  

Thank you for making me laugh and for making me cry.  Thank you for being there whenever I needed you; thank you for being an amazing kindred spirit and a perfect inspiration.

I’m so happy I was able to be there last nights hear Lynn talk.  Her words were exactly what Jason and I needed to hear during this tough time.  Things will get better for us!  It won’t always be this tough!  And always remember to keep laughing, whatever kind of shit life drops into your driveway (an actual quote from the Lynn’s talk)!

If you get a chance, you should stop by the art gallery to see the comic exhibit.  It’s brilliant and fascinating.

Annnnnnd, while you’re there, be sure to check out a little exhibit featuring five local artists!

Unconstrained!  Five emerging local comic artists: 

boy Roland

Merk

Kyle Lees

Callen Banning

Andrew Dorland (I’m sorry, I can’t find a Facebook page, please see the comments for information about Andrew)
 

Now, of course, our walls are already teeming with art from boy Roland, Merk, and Kyle Lees, but it was great to learn about Callen Banning and Andrew Dorland!

And if you go to the gallery, remember to check out the third exhibit, Garments of Everyday Life – handmade garments by First Nations artisans.