Sunday, June 17, 2018

Happy Father's Day, Dad

There are two pictures I have always believed sum up the relationship between my dad and I perfectly.

In the first I'm months old. I'm laying next to him in bed with a shit-eating grin on my face, a huge puddle under me. His expression says, "Ah well." Mom always said when she took that pic all she could think was, "Shit. She's just like him."

In the second I'm probably three years old. I'm sprinting through the tall grass in our backyard, same grin. Dad stands in the background, hands on his hips and the same "Ah well" expression.

Today is Father's Day, and I feel the need to tell a little bit about my dad, Roy.

My mother will always say, "You're just like your father," and I cannot imagine a greater compliment. Though I carry my mother's fire, looks and loudness, I know what she means.

Unlike me, my father has always been a soft spoken man. I have hardly heard him raise his voice in my 36 years, unless it's telling me to turn off a hockey game that's going poorly, ranting about the fishery or politics, or my mother has spoken her trademark sentence: "Do you know what you should do now?"

As long as I can remember, my father has been a hardworking, intelligent man, always stressing the importance of working hard and kicking ass. A fisherman since he was 13, splitting his time then between the boat and the fish plant, he has always been a man who never shied from hard work, and was well read in his down time.

And he is brilliant. The man can clear a Jeopardy! board like no other, is a library of history, and reads more than anyone I've ever met. He always has.

He always stressed the importance of music and books to me. He bought me The Doors boxed set when I was barely old enough to read the lyric inserts, and would read to me every night. Books and music were two things that were never a waste of money, and if I wanted either he found a way to get it.

One of the happiest moments I can remember is buying him tickets to see George Jones, his favourite musician, and the look on his face when he opened the card and realized what it was:

He bought me my first pony, picking mom up at the plant on her lunch break and simply saying, "Yeah, we have a horse now."

He encouraged every sport I ever wanted to play, and never went easy on me when I was sooky or didn't play well. If I couldn't handle it, I shouldn't play it.

He took shots on me, decked in goalie gear, with mom's tea buns as the neighbours watched and mom hid her face in embarrassment. Never much of a baker, that one.

Hockey. That was always our love. When I was tiny, mom would take me to the arena to watch dad play and I would hand him Shopsy's beef sticks over the glass as he skated by when the whistle blew. I'll never understand how he ate them while he was playing and didn't crumple from heartburn. But he did.

I remember the heartbreak one evening when my babysitter had to call the arena to get dad because mom wasn't feeling well at work, and only then did I realize he didn't play for the Detroit Red Wings. I guess Carpenter's Home Hardware was almost as glamourous.

He would go away for tournaments, returning with medals and trophies, always bringing me a He-Man or She-ra doll when he could.

And he would insist Bob Probert was one of the best to play the game.

Then there was the fishery.

The fishery is as embedded in our family as our name. My father fished with my grandfather and, when my grandfather passed away, he took the wheel.Mom would take me to watch him sailing out past the pier, and let me sit on the VHF radio in the evenings.

I'll never forget the first time he took me to Trepassey with him to move the boat and we went across the harbour. He let me hold the wheel and I felt like a superhero.

And though it was an industry we all loved, and one that was beautiful to me as a child, I knew there were politics because dad would return from committee meetings and tell me about the issues, hand me issues of the Union Forum so I could read about it. As I got older and started asking questions, I knew there was much more to the industry than the boats sailing through the harbour.

Fast forward to today:

It has never been more apparent to me that I am, indeed, like my father.

We'll sit, debate fisheries issues, compete over the Jeopardy! board, play TV bingo, drink at the island in the kitchen, and share in a mutual hatred of all things Leafs and Sens. He might be a Wings fan but he's a realistic one.

His morning ritual consists of going to the Wings message board, typing, "Blashill fired yet? Nope? K." and carrying on with his day.

I know I have been blessed with strong, hardworking parents who taught me lessons that have gotten me where I am. I don't know where I would be without them both, honestly, and their strength through my times of weakness, their lessons (easy and hard).

And I know I certainly wouldn't be where I am today without my dad. I wouldn't have the appreciation and knowledge of the industry I hold dear, I wouldn't appreciate a fine book, a fine drink, or a fine debate.

I certainly would never have the strength and guts to take life by the horns.

Thank you, dad. Thank you for all you've done and continue to do. Thank you for the constant lessons. When mom walks into the kitchen, sees us both half cut playing TV bingo and ranting about the NHL and says, "You're just like your father," I'm never prouder.

 "Hungover? Sin."

Friday, June 15, 2018

"The ballot is stronger than the bullet..."

When Rogers TV's Erin Sulley reached out to ask if I would participate in a panel for their "Women Leading Change" series, I was more than flattered. I would join MHA Cathy Bennett and City Councillor Hope Jamieson to discuss the roles and experiences of women in politics and the political movement. I questioned if I belonged there.

But I said yes.

Yesterday was easily one of the most empowering days I have had in a long time.

As we sat waiting, about to film a panel discussion that would air internally for Rogers staff all across Canada, the chairs placed for St. John's staff began to fill up - and with women came an equal number of men. That in itself indicated this was about to be a very important discussion.

We shared our experiences - our backgrounds, why we do what we do, who has helped us along the way, what we would do differently, what we see as the opportunities going forward.

And the hour flew in shared stories of support, hard realities, facts, hurt, harassment, and hope.

The United Nations states that only 22.8 per cent of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, a slow increase from 11.3 per cent in 1995.

22.8 per cent.

As of January 2017, only 18.3 per cent of government ministers were women.

As of June 2017, only 2 countries have 50 per cent or more women in parliament in single or lower houses.

Our own province is "ahead" of the game at 25% - 10/40 sitting Members of the House of Assembly are women.

Women are champions for issues such as affordable childcare, paid domestic violence leave, pay equity, putting an end to gender-based violence, and a whole plethora of issues where a woman's experience and voice at the table are necessary to paint a full picture.

Yet, we have work to do.

Is it because women are the primary caretakers and affordable childcare is lacking? Is it because of the type of backlash women get in the public eye is sexualized, violent, and women simply do not want to put up with that bullshit?

How can we encourage more women to put their names on the ballot?

Newfoundland and Labrador has an opportunity for change in 2019. God knows we need it. St. John's showed us it was possible with a record number of women elected in the last election - and a record number of veteran councillors unseated for new, fresh ideas.

We can do it.

But we need our voices at the table.

I have often said lately I feel we are at a watershed moment of change. Though it may not feel like it when we see the news, read the headlines, watch our neighbours to the south have children torn from their arms and put in internment camps, we have an opportunity for change and social movements have never been so powerful and determined.

Women and men are marching.
Children are stepping out against gun violence.
Victims are speaking out against their abusers

And all are supported amidst the detractors.

Yesterday's panel was powerful, and women and men alike came up afterward to tell us what a wonderful, important conversation it was.

The best comments came from the men in the room who simply said, "I never thought about that," or simply, "We need to be better."

We also need to realize there are a lot of good people out there with good ideas, a will for change and skills to bring to the table. We need to support them, mentor them, and get those names on the ballots.

Only then will we create change.

And it's coming.

Huge thanks go to Rogers TV for the opportunity, and huge thanks to everyone who came out in studio and online.

And huge thanks to those who are creating and supporting change.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Let it Be.

2018 was going to be great.

And now, 6 months in, 2018 has been a year where everyone seems to be struggling to find the good. When we said goodbye to the septic tanks that were 2016 and 2017, bidding adieu to what seemed like constant misery, 2018 said, "Hold my beer."


And the little victories, even the big ones sometimes, seem to be swamped by a constant shit storm. It's easy to feel like they are winning.

For whatever reason, when VOCM just played "Let it Be" it felt like a gut punch I can only compare to hearing "Fiddler's Green" the day Gord Downie died.

I guess that's just it - we have to let it be.

We have to keep fighting and pushing through.
We have to keep helping one another.
We have to keep reaching out for help, and to help.
We have to keep our heads above water.
We have to keep surging forward.

And, by doing so, we will come out the other end.

I always try to remember one of my favourite quotes from Mr. Rogers: "“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

We can all be helpers.

If you are struggling or need to reach out to someone, there are options:

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention:

In Newfoundland and Labrador there is the 24 hour Mental Health Crisis Line: 1-888-737-4668

And reach out to your friends and family. I promise nobody will turn away.

I hate you, 2018. But there isn't really a whole lot I can do about it.

"Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom,
Let it be."

Tuesday, June 5, 2018


"Work hard, be powerful, and you will be great."

Those words were said to me at a young age by a teacher of mine who I still thank for being where I am. He spoke volumes in very little words, nurtured what he saw were my strengths and taught me lessons I carry with me.

My parents and family did the same, and I am forever grateful.

I believed them.

But, sometimes life tells you that is moot.

I have been blessed with strong women in my life. I serve on the Board of the St. John's Status of Women Council and I am forever in awe at the diverse, powerful, kickass group of sisters who sit around the table and discuss activism and policy to benefit our fellow women. We are trailblazers who follow the path beaten by women who sat around kitchen tables in St. John's and strategized ways to smash the barriers that were placed in front of us.

And we lost one this week.

The first day I walked in and sat around the table, I remember being in awe of Tammy Carpenter. Her strength, wit, power and dedication to improving the lives of women in any position were all breathtaking. She was a powerhouse, and someone I always considered myself blessed to have gotten to know. When her absences were frequent I never imagined that cancer could take down such a force of nature, such an icon for women's advocacy, and such a wonderful person.

But it did.

And today, Kate Spade died.

There are those who will say we should not grieve "celebrities" or be affected by their deaths. But, when someone who thrived on colour and making the lives of others brighter takes their own life, we get a punch of reality.

I've never owned a Kate Spade product. I've rolled my eyes at those who would spend that much money on an accessory. I have never been a person who could justify such a luxury.

But, Kate Spade was a person. A woman. Successful. A woman who's colourful world was not enough to battle her demons so she put a noose around her neck and left this world behind.

It's a stark reality.

We are told to be strong, to fight, to be powerful. Yet, our demons, diseases, all come to take us down and tell us it does not matter.

And it's often hard, in times like these, to see the good.

Be kind to one another. And love. In the end, that is all we can do.

Through tears this week, I saw a powerful message from a strong sister who has faced her own trials over the past months:

"This living, it is messy. But it is beautiful."

And that is what must carry us through.

If you are struggling, reach out. Nobody is alone in this. We're all in this messy place together.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Out of the Box



Yesterday morning, in my overtired 4 am to-the-airport state, I open Twitter to a tweet from the "Voice of the Common Man" (VOCM), so aptly named it's one of those "if you don't laugh, you'll cry" monikers.

"Question of the day: Should teenage girls be permitted to get an IUD for birth control purposes?"

I did a double take. Were we talking about Improvised Explosive Devices? Had they made a typo?

No b'y.

VOCM, a local media outlet, was asking their readers, in a province already exposed for its hot takes on issues such as the "scandalous" rainbow crosswalk in Springdale and the "daring" LGBTQ2S+ presentation in Middle Arm, if teenage girls should be able to *gasp* take advantage of one of the more effective and modern devices of birth control and reproductive health.

As you can imagine, I nearly needed a Xanax. My blood pressure went through the roof and the pitbull came out (pitbulls are loving dogs, by the way, and I in no way support breed specific legislation, but they are also gloriously loyal and will defend to the end).

Get. Out. Of. My/her. Box.


"IUDs are one of the best birth control methods out there — more than 99% effective. That means fewer than 1 out of 100 women who use an IUD will get pregnant each year. IUDs are so effective because there's no chance of making a mistake. You can't forget to take it (like the pill), or use it incorrectly (like condoms)." - Planned Parenthood

I am not a teenage girl.

I have, however, been one (many moons ago).

I was a teenage girl with periods so bad I deliriously beat my head off the porcelain of our bathtub to try and stop the pain before doctors injected shots of Demerol into my ass and discussed the options.

IUDs, Depo Provera shots, birth control pills - all were offered as options by doctors who compassionately educated me in the side effects and possibilities of each. I did not choose an IUD, but I know plenty who have and for a miriad of reasons. I did not choose one because my mother had nearly died with one due to a genetic issue, one I am unsure I carry. It wasn't worth the risk. My choice had NOTHING to do with the method.

Guess what, folks? It's none of your business what any woman, teenage or adult, jams up her box, injects in her arm or ass, or swallows in pill form. None. NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS.

IUDs are an effective method of birth control and also an effective method of managing many other health issues a young woman can face.

At the end of the day, if a teenage woman is experiencing unmanageable pain with her periods, or she is out banging half the town, it is no one's business but her own and her loved ones. She can make that choice.

Not you.

Women revolted and, in record time, before noon on a Sunday, the Question of the Day was taken down.

I will offer no thanks to VOCM. A news outlet should have enough sense not to ask that question in the first place and, without the backlash of numerous women and allied men alike, we'd still be watching the colourful polls rack up in "yes," "no," and "unsure."

B'ys, stay out of our uteruses (uteri?). Stay out of our boxes, our lives, our choices.

Whether we are 14, 36 or 75, GTFO. Batter. Seriously. You don't belong here.

Also, if anyone is familiar with the IUD implantation procedure, they would also know there will hardly be a line of 13 year olds lining up to have their cervix and uterine wall dug at.


Some day, some how, maybe people will realize that a woman/girl's sexual choices, activity and birth control methods are her's. Some day.

Maybe I'm being hopeful and optimistic in this septic tank of a world. Maybe.

Until then, if a young girl wants an IUD, let her have one. It is none of your business, no matter her reasons. Gynos will not implant one without informing of side effects and possible unintended consequences. Not every teenage girl who seeks an IUD will wind up with HIV as we watch Allan Hawco star in our Newfoundland and Labrador equivalent of "Philadelphia," all of the social media warriors crying, "BUT WE TOLD YOU SO ON THE VOCM QUESTION OF THE DAY!"


Get out of my box. Get out of hers. And go mind your own business.

Everyone woman and girl deserves to make her own sexual choices and to do so without the backwards, judgemental eyes of the local media and critics following her through the door.

/end rant