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You belong among the wildflowers

5 Oct

My oldest son turned 9, the big kids started school, and then September just… disappeared.  

October drifted in, drizzly and grey.  A friend posted on my Facebook wall that Tom Petty was in critical condition after suffering a full cardiac arrest.


The day flew by in a confusion of conflicting news reports.  Was he alive?  Was he dead.  When the official family/publicist statement was released, the uncertainty evaporated.  

Tom Petty died on October 2nd at 8:40pm.  He was surrounded by his family and friends and his band members as he passed into the great wide open.

What an odd feeling, to be so downtrodden and devastated by the death of a public figure.  I’m not his daughter or his sister or cousin.  I’ve never met him.

I wasn’t his friend.  But he was mine.

I remember it so well.  Grade 9.  Turning on MuchMoreMusic at my friend Sarah’s house.  It was Pop-up Video and Walls by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers was playing.  A bearded forty-something, sitting with guitar in a blooming lotus prop.  

Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks…

It wasn’t a crush.  Ridiculous. 

It wasn’t a teenage fantasy.  Insulting.  

It was magic.

One of the pop-up bubbles said that Tom Petty was born in 1950.  I thought, while glancing at Sarah’s father’s immense CD collection, well, that’s kind of old… I wonder if Sarah’s dad has any Tom Petty CDs…

He did.

Damn the Torpedoes.  

Hard Promises.

Sarah’s dad let me borrow the CDs and I took them home and immediately transferred them to cassette.  Then I returned the CDs and wore out the cassettes.

Then I began the hunt.  

I slowly but surely gathered up all the Tom Petty I could find.  At that point, Wildflowers was the most recent Tom Petty solo release and She’s the One was the most recent Heartbreakers release.  I found it all, of course.  

What a time to be on the hunt for treasures.  Waiting to hear a song on the radio, waiting for a particular music video, picking up bits of news from the most popular music magazines.  

I had the Internet at my finger tips and yet, it wasn’t just instant gratification.  I’m part of the in-between generation, where I grew up without internet but it became a part of my daily life in my late teen years.  I understand what it’s like to be without but I also understand what it’s like in a world obsessed.  

I scoured eBay for all the old music magazines with any heartbreaker cover stories.  I perused all the second hand stores for cassettes, cds, and records.  I found out the news in both the cyber world and the real world of music magazines.   

I remember in late 1998, this kept popping up in magazines: 

I was awe struck when I realized and understood that my favourite band was releasing a brand new album.  

After my initial Tom Petty discovery, all the music I had collected was pre 1996.  Much of it from the 70s and 80s.  I’d categorized the Heartbreakers into music of the past.  The possibility of new music never even occurred to me.

It was truly a wondrous feeling to go into HMV when Echo was released and buy it with my own money.  

I can’t even pick a favourite Tom Petty album (How would I?), but that one?  Purchased on my own, as a teenager, with my own money.  Much like seeing the video for Walls play for the first time, it was a defining moment.

And brand new music videos to accompany the new album?

She went down, swingin’, like Benny Goodman…

I got a room at the top of the world tonight….

And more albums followed.  

And more videos.  

And one of the greatest days of my life: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert.

And then another concert

And then another 

How lucky was I, to see my musical idol in concert not once, not twice, but three times?!

How lucky am I, that I can listen to any one of the Heartbreakers’ thirteen studio albums whenever I want?  

Or the three solo albums.  

The two Traveling Wilburys albums.  

The two Mudcrutch albums.  

The music videos. The documentary.  The recorded concerts.  The books.  It’s all there.  For me and millions of fans, whenever we want.

Through his incredible legacy, Tom Petty will continue to live.  Every time we press play, it’s going to playback.

How can it have affected me so?

It’s obvious now, isn’t it?

The soundtrack to my high school years and through four years of University.  The music that accompanied me into marriage, motherhood, and eventually, divorce.

What does a person do when experiencing great joy?  Turn on the record player.  What does a person do in times of immense grief?  Pop in a CD.  

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been there with me through the best and the worst times. The songs are tied to specific memories and feelings.  

The words speak of universal themes, yet, feel strangely personalized.  The music appeals to the masses, yet, burrows it’s way into your psyche and feels as if it’s yours alone.

Joyful.  Mournful.  Musical accompaniment to life’s greatest tragedies and triumphs.  

Tom Petty.

I didn’t know him; I wasn’t his friend.

But he was mine.

Rest In Peace, Mr. Petty.  My heartfelt and sincere condolences to your wife, your children, your grandchild, your brother, your band, and to all who knew you and loved you.  

Thank you for the music.  


And as usual, the rule for coming to see me:

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: 










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.

End of an Era

24 Jun

I seemed to have jumped the gun a little bit by posting that beautiful anniversary post last week.  I’ve since taken it down.

The morning after our lovely anniversary date, we went to Pride as a family: 

Later that day, after the kids had gone to Gramma’s house, the marriage was over.

I was devastated and hurt more than I ever thought possible.

By Monday I was angry, more angry than I’ve ever been.

But a couple days later I woke up feeling calm and peaceful and even happy.  I have no idea what’s going to happen next week, next month, or next year, but I’m excited.

I can sleep well at night knowing that I was ready and willing to give it my all; I had no intention of ever giving up and I was committed for life.  But I can’t be in a marriage by myself.  

I also refuse to be bitter and regretful and angry.  My children are my top priority and Jason and I will work together to ensure they are loved and all their needs are met.  

Even though I probably won’t ever understand why Jason didn’t want to keep trying, I know he is a wonderful and committed father.  I’ve never doubted his love for those kids and I trust him completely to be there for them and care for them.

I’m sure I’ll write more about this topic in the future.  For now, it’s onward and forward.

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


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.

That time I almost saw The Force Awakens…

28 Dec

Back in June of this year, Jason decided he wanted to take R1 to a Christmas Eve showing of the new Star Wars movie.  I called my mom, while she was away visiting her dying mother, to see if she could babysit during the afternoon of the 24th.  Don’t worry, my mom thought it was funny.

Part of me knew that Jason was planning this date with R1 as a father/son thing but another part of me just assumed I was going too since I asked my mom to babysit.  

In December I realized that Jason only had two tickets and I was kind of sad.  Closer to the 24th, Jason said he could probably get me a ticket too and the three of us would go together and my mom would babysit the other two after all.  So I started getting excited!

And we did it!  We went to the theatre, got three tickets together and got ready to experience the most highly anticipated movie of the decade!  


Then…the previews started!  And right away I knew we were going to have a problem.  R1 hid his eyes and covered his ears for the duration of the five previews.  I told him the movies are usually quieter than the previews and hoped for the best.

But alas, after the iconic yellow words in space introducing the story, accompanied by the classic Star Wars theme, (spoilers) Kylo Ren was attacking a village and capturing Poe Dameron and R1 was crying.  

In hindsight, we should have known.  He’s been sensitive to loud noises since he was a few months old.  He’s seen other movies in theatre but they always seemed quieter. I hoped that he would just hide his face and cover his ears for the whole movie so Jason and I wouldn’t have to miss it.  But we had to be parents and take our sensory overloaded kid out of a much-too-loud theatre. 


To say that I was disappointed would be a huge understatement.  But then, after the kids were in bed, I saw a picture my cousin posted on Facebook and it helped bring me back to reality.  She posted a picture of a burning candle, one she lit for her beautiful departed daughter who left us way too soon earlier this year.  

Suddenly missed movies don’t seem so bad.  My kids are home with me this holiday season.  A missed movie means nothing.

Then we had a lovely, albeit loud, Christmas Day, followed by The Force Awakens Take Two on Boxing Day.

We couldn’t get the cell phone to take a good movie selfie, but we saw it…and… it was awesome!  

R1 wanted to know about the rest of the movie so we told him and he is looking forward to seeing it in the comfort of our own living room in a few months.

And now we’ve got two little boys fighting over who gets to play Rey in their Star Wars games.


Love like a child

4 Dec

Every generation has moments of tragedy that resonate nationally or even internationally. These are moments felt around the whole world and they stay with you forever.

In 1912, my great grandfather was probably thanking God that all the Titanic tickets were sold out and he and his brothers had to take another boat. As a result, he probably always remembered what he was doing when he heard the unsinkable ship was indeed sunk.


As a soldier in WWII, my grandfather probably always remembered where he was when the war was officially declared over.


People around my mom’s age remember where they were when JFK was shot. Jason remembers where he was and what he was doing when John Lennon was shot and, then again, remembers what he was doing 14 years later when he heard that Kurt Cobain was dead.


I remember what I was doing when the twin towers fell (watching the news in my grade 12 history class) and others of my generation might remember where they were when they heard about the Columbine high school shooting or the Christmas time tsunami in 2004 or what was going on in their lives when Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of New Orleans.


Tragedies are continually happening all around us on smaller scales and every so often (too often) something will happen to make most of, if not the whole, world stop in their tracks and watch in shock.


In the past year alone, there have been over 350 mass shootings in the United States. There hasn’t been a single week that’s passed without something horrible making headlines all over the news, including the horrible events of Friday November 13th.


My children are too young to really be aware of what goes on in the news and what they do know, is usually what I tell them in age appropriate ways. Soon our city will be welcoming refugee families and soon I’ll be gathering up bags of clothes and household items to donate. And, as they always do when I start filling bags, the boys will ask where it’s all going. And then I will tell them, in an age appropriate way, what happened in Paris. And Beirut.  


Will they remember? Will it impact them? Maybe. But there will be plenty more tragedies in the years to come; there will be something that sticks with them. They’ll be able to ask each other, “Do you remember when…?” and they’ll nod knowingly and exchange memories of where they were and what they were doing. 


And how privileged am I to be picking the time when I will reveal various world events to my boys? And how privileged are they to be able to shrug off the news if they want? It really doesn’t affect their day-to-day lives. There are millions of children all over the world who should be so privileged.


But there is hope.


While lying in bed a few nights ago, cuddling and chatting with R2 as he slowly drifted off to sleep, his eyes popped open and he said, “Do you want to know what I’m thinking about, Mommy?” I said, what, and he said, “I’m thinking about the whole world and how much I love everybody!” Then he closed his eyes and went to sleep.




If only we could all see the world the same way that a four year old can.


Hope for humanity lies in love like a child. Even Jesus said it, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Yup, right there in the bible: Matthew 18.

A New Government

22 Oct

On Monday the 19th, Canada elected a new government.  Stephen Harper and his Conservatives are out; Justin Trudeau and the Liberals are in! 

Canada’s new Prime Minister and First Lady


Thunder Bay North and surrounding areas will now be represented by Patty Hajdu:   


Bonus image: Patty with PM Trudeau

Thunder Bay South and surrounding areas will now be represented by Don Rusnak:  

Now, I am not a political savant, nor am I skilled in debate and argument, but I’m thrilled with this new government.

I’m not delusional in thinking that new politicians will solve all our country’s problems.  Nor will any government be able to please all its citizens, but change is good.  Especially after a decade of Conservative leadership.  

I truly believe Harper was ruining the country and cared only about the elite and big business.  I voted for the NDP because I agree with most, if not all, of their ideals.  But I’m not disappointed in the outcome.  Far from it.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been talking to the boys about the election.  They’ve been seeing the signs all over the city and asking questions and I’ve been answering them as age appropriately and simply as possible.  

They asked me many times why I didn’t want to vote for the “blue” party (Conservatives) and I tried to explain it without saying things like, “Because Harper is a megalomaniac bent on destroying everything we hold dear!”  I told them that mommy and daddy were sad about the harmful rules and laws enacted that damage the environment, endanger science and knowledge, hurt women’s health, universal healthcare, the fate of our veteran soldiers, and the disregard for the First Nations of Turtle Island.  

(For lengthy and detailed information about the damage done by Harper’s government, check out and Or even a simple google search.)

Before long, both boys were trying to kick down the blue signs they saw around the neighbourhood and I had to explain to them that people are allowed to have their own choice even if we believe it to be the wrong choice; we have to respect our neighbours.

The night after the results were in and we learned about our new government, R1 was in the tub and I heard him say to Jason, “Daddy, did you know that we are now represented by a woman and an Ojibwe man?  This is a day that will be written in the history books!”

I tell you, my heart nearly burst when I heard that.  My eyes welled up and I felt incredibly proud.  And he’s right, we’ve made history by being represented by both a woman and a person of colour and I can’t help but hope that this is the start of a revolution.

I do realize the irony of a rich white man being the leader of a revolution, but in addition to Don Rusnak, there are nine other First Nations representatives around the country and numerous women.  Things are changing, bit by bit!  I also realize that the Canadian government has been going back and forth between Liberal and Conservative for decades and that the Liberals have endorsed some problematic bills, but I am still trying to stay positive.

I want my boys to grow up in a world where they can have dreams and work hard to achieve those dreams.  But I believe it’s just as important for them to see women and minority groups in positions of power.  I’m very excited to see what Patty and Don can do as they lead our area alongside Mr Trudeau.

The new Prime Minister has been making some pretty amazing promises and is a self proclaimed feminist.  I know he’s a politician and he can’t possibly keep all his promises, but like I said, I have hope.  Trudeau has committed to having a large portion of women as cabinet ministers and has promised to call an inquest into the missing and murdered indigenous women of Canada.  He is also pro-choice and I believe it’s vital for government to keep rules and regulations to a bare minimum when it comes to reproductive health.  

It’s so important for children, both boys and girls, to have upstanding men in their life who model respect and decency to women and people of colour.  For instance,  my three boys have a wonderful father and will grow up seeing how he treats women as equals.  This will impact how they will act as adults.  Jason also tries to treat all people with respect and kindness and the boys are watching.  May they grow up to be kind and decent men extending respect to people of all backgrounds, be they Ojibwe, Metis, Inuit, Muslim, or Hispanic.  Be they able bodied or not, be they women or men or transgendered, be the gay or straight or somewhere in between.

And now, with my boys and the rest of the country watching our new leader, I have such hope for the future.  I know that’s a lot to put on your shoulders, Mr Trudeau, but I think you’re up to the task.  

Much love and respect to your family as you begin moving into your new home and your new roles as the first family of Canada.

Ps: my boys loved the light sabers!