Wednesday 31 March 2010

Mental Health issues- the elephant in the room

It is terribly important that we recognize the elephant in the room: the Black Dog of Depression. I wrote about my health issues, while taking care of failing parents. Sinking ever lower, each time an event or circumstance slapped me silly, it is hard to rise above the way our bodies cope with stress and social-emotional issues.

My divorce, being bullied by my principal, dating in my 40's, then: moving, finding a new job, working with sexually precocious teen boys, giving palliative care for my mother and father within 9 months, it all took its toll on me. I was working full-time, as a teacher, with many years working with special needs students. A strong advocate for this fragile children, I felt I made a difference.

I think this is true of all the social work professions. When you deal with those down and out, ill, when your work so important, you cannot help but give your all. I have read two blog posts, by health care workers, that illustrate how pervasive this silent issue has become. No longer can we ignore it.

The Black Dog - Churchill named it first, TERN writes of her depression

Depression - the black dog - not fitting in - ups and downs

TERN offers advice, well-placed. As an emergency room nurse, she knows stress and pressure. Just listen, do not judge. There, but for the grace of...[name your deity].

I, too, fought thepowersthatbe, and ended up in depression due to normal life circumstances. My students with ill-health, dealing with bereavement issues, divorce, those in foster care who popped in for two months, only to be sent to a new foster home, kids who lived in poverty, and kids desperate to meet birth parents. It is a heavy burden.

She is right: a listening ear is the best thing. I faced antagonism and angry bosses who demanded I do more, more, more. I faced those who did not understand.

With few role models, and fewer mentors, strong women, whose leadership makes a difference, stand alone in the world still. My advice: stand strong, plant a garden, dig in the earth, walk in the sunshine and the light. Know you are a beautiful person, and you are loved.

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Whistleblowers — what can you hear them?

In the realm of the ridiculous...from Canadians for Accountability

 Some of their more prominent cases include:
  • Jim Black: An Ontario Teacher Punished for Speaking Out Against Child Abuse
  • Perry Dunlop: An Honest Policeman Punished for Speaking Out Against Child Abuse
  • Ian Bron: Transport Canada Marine Security Whistleblower
  • Mark Halfacree: Canadian Pari-Mutual Agency Whistleblower
  • Hugh Danford: Transport Canada Aviation Safety Whistleblower
  • Kevin Gauthier: Air Canada Whistleblower
This organization, Canadians for Accountability, has been approached by 30 whistleblowers. I know, from when I was bullied by my boss/principal, that you are spitting into the wind in many workplaces. Interesting cases.

About Whistleblowers

Some Canadian Whistleblowers
A few of the many courageous Canadians who have attempted to protect the public interest by telling the truth.
The Whistleblower's Ordeal
The typical trajectory of a whistleblower, from valued and conscientious employee to unemployed and discredited pariah.
Harassment and Bullying
Harassment and bullying are often used in reprisals against whistleblowers. Fortunately there are many resources – videos, books and websites – that can help you understand this destructive phenomenon and how to protect yourself.
Self-Help Resources for Whistleblowers
Important information for anyone facing this dilemma: whether to follow their conscience and speak out at great risk, or to keep quiet and know that others may suffer as a result.
Whistleblowers: Heroes or Traitors?
FAIR Executive Director David Hutton presents a summary of what we know today about 'grand' corruption, how this threatens Canadian society, and about whistleblowing as a key anti-corruption strategy.
(View 41 minute video or read a transcript.)

The ME generation

I love TERN's posts!

In the 90's, of course, we didn't want to bruise anyone's self-esteem, we ceased to 'fail' kids, or hold them back, because research showed they didn't learn any better this way, separated from their peers. Yet, when will they learn? There are no second chances, retests, tutoring in life.

I think that the work ethic has swung on a pendulum. MEN used to work overtime to get ahead, then, when women entered the work force, we set limits on over time and gave respect to our families.

I have perceived, that with the increasing demands of the ME generation, there is a reluctance to actually do one's job. Not only that, but the language that is used.

"Perfect" (Well, not is is not. Bing me my food and I'll tell you if it's perfect"
Try "Thank You, for your order."
"You are Welcome."

Now, if it's not in my contract, I can't do it. Praise the Lord that we pay overtime to some these days, not always those who deserve it, mind you. Multimillion dollar bonuses? YES. To those who haven't deserved it. Because it is in the contract. Signing bonuses? YES.

I remember flying on a short, non-700 series airplane, flight attendants had finished their quick snack-serve, and they sat at the back, talking.

On the other hand...there are the whistleblowers, to whom few seldom listen!

*I'm with you, TERN, ban electronics in work places where they do not fit. This is personal business on company time. Crackberry, indeed!

Flora and fauna of spring

Things are greening up. Despite a bit of ice on the lake this morning, it has since moved off. With few bugs on the water, no fish jump: like glass with no wind.

The seagulls soar by with the sun shining through their wings.

The buds are beautiful.

Skies are such a wonderful blue!
 The cats are thrilled to bits with open pavers, on which to roll and scratch their backs.

But it is the flowers that foreshadow growth and colours to come, that mean the most to me!
I love my lawn ornaments, usually buying one per season, they follow me from property to property. This is JOS. Our Thyme of the Season girl.
MWT White
Lots going on in My World Tuesday, with raccoons digging up the flower beds in dusk and dark, looking for grubs. The clover is coming back, greening up nicely, soon it will be fodder for ducklings and goslings.

Monday 29 March 2010

Disparities between have and have nots

I regularly like to read NEWS from other parts of the world. I am blessed. This man is working hard to spread the news in his part of Africa. We take for granted our technology and our benefits of living in a developed country. What a fabulous man! Click on the link for more photos.

What a fabulous way to teach others. This is a snippet from a Deutsche-Welle item.

Liberian blogger uses blackboard to inform

Großansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Sirleaf is driven by a passion to inform

Alfred Sirleaf in front of his blackboard Without a computer or a printing press, Alfred Sirleaf publishes daily news in Liberia's capital Monrovia. Motivated by the poverty that surrounds him, his mission is to provide people with free access to information.
Sirleaf is the creator of Daily Talk - a newspaper measuring two by three meters. It consists of three huge slate boards, which hang from a hinge outside his shack. Just before rush hour, he writes the news of the day up on these boards.
The project has been running for 10 years now, and Sirleaf calls himself the Blackboard Blogger. He is without doubt the first of his kind in Africa, and perhaps the world.

The ducks came back...

I captured a shot of Oscar and Myrtle flying in for a visit. Oliver greets me at the shore. After this, the wind came up, the ice went out.

The ice was still on the lake this morning, Sunday, March 28. Oscar and Myrtle returned this past week. They flew by, only to swim around the point from the other bay. In the middle of our chat, Oscar took off, only to return, quaking loudly. Oliver, ever the busy boy, was on guard.

A little ice on the rocks

I can't believe it! One day and the ice is gone. The ice, forced by the wind up onto the rocks, makes some pleasing patterns.

Here is a video from March 14, 2009, for comparison!

Sunday 28 March 2010

Crime and Punishment: Corrections Canada or Punishment Canada?

I was listening to an interesting CBC Sunday Edition show. It intrigued me, since I am volunteering at our local minimum security prison. I teach a Creative Writing class. It has proven quite an education for me, as well.

There are many issues in the media spotlight, which differs from the agenda that the politicians, or the public are keen to examine. Your point of view, of course, depends upon the stakeholder group from which you belong:

Are you a victim, the family of a victim, a law enforcement officer, a probation officer, the public, the media, or a politician? All of us have a stake.

The statistics:
  • 70% in jail do not possess a high school certificate
  • 80% have addictions
  • 2/3 have mental illnesses
Other statements I heard:
  • You can't punish your way into a safe society.
  • We've spent $2 Billion on a long-gun registry, to sustain it is a small $3 million/year, the sunk costs are, indeed, sunk. The Canadian Police Association wants these guns registered.
  • Despite the Jane Creba murder, on Boxing Day, 2007, in 2006 gun murders were down by 46%.
The politician's knee-jerk reaction is for mandatory sentencing.
We know that politicians do not have to do a good job, they just have to be seen apparently doing a good job. This issue commands a lot of emotion, not the best motivation for change and improvements to a system.

The government also wants to close the 6 prison farms in Canada. Two of the six are near Kingston. These provide meaningful work for those incarcerated. Whether inmates are plunked in a cell, or given work experience, would seem the difference between punishment or corrections. These are transferable skills. They can be applied to life experience. For those without skills, knowledge, education, such routines: working hard, working with animals, working on the land, is a good use of their energy. They produce food, perhaps becoming contributing members of society for the first time in a long time.

There are many excellent programs by Corrections Canada. There are many volunteers who seek to work with those whom society have ignored, by-passed and plunked into jails. They work with families. One such program is one whereby inmates read bedtime stories aloud, which are then sent home for their children to listen to. How many perpetrators are victims of dysfunctional families? I love this idea. They work with inmate's families to help them navigate the system.

Restorative Justice vs. Punitive Justice.
This is the debate: Is this Corrections Canada or Punishment Canada?
CAC Annual Report 2005-2006
, provides details on how citizen feel we can improve the system. It is the politicians who use this topic as a wedge issue, to conquer and divide constituents and gain sound bytes.

Restorative Justice has been seen to make a difference to both victim and perpetrator.
CACs provide impartial advice to CSC managers on the operation of correctional facilities and their impact on surrounding communities. CAC members fulfill this role by regularly visiting correctional facilities, and meeting regularly with offenders, local union representatives, and with local CSC management and employees. CACs also advise and assist local, regional, and national CSC managers to help with the overall development of correctional facilities and programs, and of the impact of this development on the community.

For those with drinking and driving convictions, there is no sentence that will bring back a victim, or ameliorate a family's grief. What is the point of mandated sentencing? What is the point of a sentence declared 'too short' or 'too long'? There is no sentence that will bring them back. Each case is different and requires individual decisions, including parole.

Statistics have shown that many who offend, re-offend. It is a logical discussion, since we know that many addicts are not 'cured'. It one has mental health, educational, or addictions issues, very few are made better by incarceration, but it does protect potential victims.

What are societal goals, then?
  • To prevent it from happening again.
  • To keep a perpetrator from re-offending.
  • To protect potential victims and their family.
  • To correct the behaviour.
  • To reduce crime.
  • To reduce addictions, mental health issues, to educate and train those without skills
It is difficult, determining what is right. We all deserve a second chance, one man told me he learned that money is less important than family. He sold drugs for money; gave up his family life as a penalty. He learned his lesson, he said. Family is more important and incarceration was no fun. I wish him well.

The car, the child, the ocean


Sitting in the car, overlooking farmlands, the child moans, "Are we there yet?"

"Not yet, be patient! Three more giant steps today, two more sleeps." This was the only way she knew to explain it. There were 5 giant steps in their trip the first day. They began the trip the day before, hoping to take it easy, enjoying the sights and sounds of the country. It is a concept difficult for adults to master: time and distance. Living in Toronto, they preferred not to stop in the big cities. The small towns were the ones where they could stop, park, and give him a bit of a run.

They were on their way to their vacation in the Maritimes. Gineen, whose family was from Halifax, hadn't been home since she'd escaped her home. Andrew was the one who broke her free from the small town minds. The gossips, the redneck ways of her neighbours, made her skin crawl. It rankled her that in this day and age a mixed marriage was a shock. It shouldn’t have been. Yet, in her small town, the menial jobs were held by people of colour. Pockets of racism existed even in a country that patted itself on the back for being the multi-cultural Peacekeepers of the world. The schools were judged by the socioeconomics of the area. She loved Toronto, where rainbow faces decorated the streets. Where food, sounds, smells, and faces celebrated the one humanity.

"Andrew, slow down! You're tailing the guy in front."

"Take it easy, woman! Don't take it out on me!"

Anxiously, she wrapped her coat more tightly around her. For a spring day, it was chilly. Frost had appeared overnight in a season that promised to be early. The creeks, normally full at this time of year, were sadly as low as her spirits. This would be trouble for farmers, families, and tourists, alike. Wildlife hungry for food, tourists hungry for entertainment, the foxes and coyotes, finding their territory invaded by two-legged pests, were learning to adapt. Snow remained in pockets here and there, but not enough to raise the water table. The melting snow gone from the sides of the road, but there were places where the sun did not shine. Her happiness, as dim as her prospects, had shone like the early rising sun when she first met Andrew.

In the skies, raucous ravens were harassing another pair. The tree tops sang with their loud cries. Flying in circles, circling like hawks, the raven’s rebuttles reflected the anxiety of the season. That desperate instinct to reproduce dominated their condition. Their loud 'CAWs' echoed on the forest edge, as they flew above, shrieking at the attackers, flying around and overtop one another. They mate for life. Destined to spend their lives together, they stand up for each other. They know their place. They battle the enemy together, putting the newest pair out of their territory. We all need a space of our own; we all need someone to cover our backs.

Their cries weighed heavily on the woman's heart. Shrieking at her husband had been their main means of communication lately. Mating for life was a dismal prospect. She was 19, desperate, married the first man she dated. Her ticket out of a small, dead-end town, was a man cruising through on business. The fruit of her union, the sweetest little boy ever.

Gazing longingly over the land, laid bare by early settlers, the dormant fields embraced her. It was Andrew's idea, to take the child home to grandparents. Of course, they talked on the phone, they'd Skyped their way from his infancy to his youth: fun times watching his growth, her parents had lauded his spunk. A gregarious child, he loved to ‘Kype with Gamma. He had shown off his language skills, new words, and vocabulary, words that never included racist talk, or hostile accusations of abandonment.

Aligning paper to computer screen, he would show off his scribbled drawings, from random mandalas, he could now draw arms and legs on his figures. He had demanded a visit to these distant grandparents. Hard convincing a child that the computer screen bridged a distance of several provinces.

Andrew was a good man. A software engineer, he knew the ins and outs of his world. He often travelled, and was highly sought by several companies, hoping to protect themselves from hackers and spammers. His brief stint in Halifax had led him to her. Her knight in shining armour, he would save her from a life of morbid navel-gazing. She’d gone with him to Toronto, finishing her education while pregnant. Determined not to fall into the cycle of ignorance and poverty, she was determined to get a degree.

cold, crazy critters

These are busy times in our neck of the woods. Things are going swimmingly.

´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸¸·´¯`·.¸ ><((((((º>

Most critter are hopping about.

Birds are flying hither and yon.
The evergreens are greening up. Buds are about to burst.

The squirrels, however, are running amok.
I'm not sure what that means  (amok?), but it applies to this little black squirrel, seen in the forest. She has a purpose, methinks.

I noticed her on a dead tree ripping off bark. She ran away, her mouth stuffed with her prizes.
Can you see it?!

Then there were issues around the bird feeder. The red squirrel was totally unafraid of me...
Sitting there stuffing his face!

I need a name for him: he is a regular visitor and has an understanding with the cats.

But the woodpeckers were having a bit of a difficulty. There were two species present, three birds total. Very convenient for identification purposes!

I can never remember how to differentiate the two, without working at it.

I researched it again: the Downy is the smaller one, with the more petite, pointy beak. It can be nearly 17 cm long (6.5").

The Hairy Woodpecker is the size of a Robin (20 - 30 cm / 8 - 13 "), and is the larger of the two. Its bill is bigger, longer and stronger in proportion to the Downy. The Hairy bird has a strong comma mark on its shoulder, too.

How does one remember? You go to Cornell and check out their photos, or...

I figured out that the letter 'D' is nearer the beginning of the alphabet, and this is the smaller bird. The larger Hairy is further along in the alphabet. Not a bad mnemonic device! Let's see if this old bird will remember it...  :-Q

These 3 were fighting, landing on the tree branch, and giving  another the eye.

This was terrific, as I could compare them. Can you see them?
One is up the tree trunk, the other on the lower branch.

At the same time, the Hairy one was on the suet, pecking merrily away. They often have a bit of a run-in as they meet mid-flight, on their way to and from the feeder.

It looks like the one finally gave the evil eye, and off the little Downy flew in a blur of wing and feather!

Meantime, down at the lake, Oscar and Myrtle were busy. Oscar doing a bit of preening.
Good to see them back again.
They are the second, after the cold-tolerant mergansers.

It will be nesting time and they'll be busy later, but for now they hang about, hoping for the clover and water hyacinth to begin growing.

He's looking good these days. I love the jade/blue colouring of his head.

Saturday 27 March 2010

What does your belly button say?

The poor girl, we bother her all the time when we Skype.

What does the bear say?
What does the duck say?
What does Oliver say?

What does Gramma's coffee say?

The quick red fox

I suppose it was quite slow and sleepy. Stopping by the side of the road (Highway 518- near Sprucedale, McMurrich/Monteith, ON), it waited for us.

I had an iPhoto malfunction, and despite having the time to take close-ups, and change the regular lens for the zoom, plus starting up my camcorder, while Mr./Ms Fox sat there, I apparently lost all my photos.

Mind you, having taken 200 photos in a hour and a half was excessive, but my computer wasn't happy!

These are screen shots from my video. Pretty poor quality, but better than nothing!

Many critters are around, remember to watch for them on the highways and slow down!

Horse grazing in Gravenhurst.
The mergansers are back, swimming in open lake water.
Camera CrittersWe had a terrific drive north. Some snow left, but it is disappearing quickly.

For more Camera Critters, click on the badge meme!

Friday 26 March 2010

Corvid Resources

I was listening to a fascinating story on CBCs IDEAS program.They were speaking with a researcher who found that the ravens passed on learned behaviour: harassing the researchers who had previously banded generations of birds years ago.

This led to my photos and post...

Hacker and writer Joshua Klein talks about the intelligence of crows and his invention of the crow vending machine. A bit bizarre, one wonders....
whether he is a white-hat or black-hat hacker...I reserve the right to doubt!


In The Company of Crows and Ravens. John M. Marzluff and Tony Angell. Yale University Press, 2005.

  • Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from The Urban Wilderness. Lyanda Lynn Haupt. Little, Brown and Company, 2009.
    . Boria Sax. Reaktion Books, 2003.
  • Crow: Encounters With The Wise Guys of the Avian World. Candace Savage. Greystone Books, 2005.
  • Bird Brains: The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens Magpies and Jays. Candace
  • Savage. Greystone Books, 1995.
  • Ravens, Crows, Magpies, and Jays. Tony Angell. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1978.
  • Mind of the Raven: Investigatoins and Adventures with the Wolf-Bird. Bernd Heinrich. Cliff Street Books, 1999.
  • Ravenson: A Naturral and Fabulous History of Ravens and Crows. Catherine Feher-Elston. Northland Publishing, 1991
    Kevin McGowan is a behavioral ecologist who studies birds, especially the social behavior of crows in Ithaca, New York.

    The story of the pitcher and the crow. More fact than fiction.

    Oxford Team Discovers Crows Can Use Complex Sequences Of Tools To Reach A Reward

    Wild crows in Japan have a refined technique for cracking nuts.(Dropping them in traffic!)

    A Murder of Crows

    Watch this film online.   45:12 min

    Raucous Crows from the tree tops

    I have found it fascinating, skywatching nearby crows and ravens. The genus Corvus, includes the most intelligent of the birds, including the use of tools, and demonstrating above average intelligence.

    The genus includes jackdaws, crows and ravens, and magpies (the latter of which: are absent in Muskoka!).

    I wanted to understand the difference between the American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and the Northern Raven (Corvus corax) , both of which share Muskoka's ecosystem, according to Peterson's Field Guide.

    On a cloudy day, they are a stark reminder of the beauty of light and shadows, as their image is reproduced in open water between ice floes.
    American Crow

    Northern Raven
    43-53 cm (17-21”)
    Completely black, purplish in sunlight, with large, chunky, strong black bill and feet.

    Woodland, farmland, grove, shore
    As far north as mid/central Ontario (summer) and northern Ontario.

    A loud caw, cah or kahr

    55-68 cm (22 – 27”)
    Wedge-shaped tail
    Hawk-like in its flight (gliding/circling)
    Roman nosed bill, goiter-like neckfeathers.
    Boreal and Mt. forests, coastal cliffs, tundra. Does not venture much to southern Ontario.

    Croaking cr-r-ruck or prruk, metallic tok

    Why, you might wonder, does it matter? Crow, raven...well having been corrected a couple of times, I really began to wonder. I still wonder, BTW! This video show the difference in size.

    I was listening to a fascinating story on CBCs IDEAS program.They were speaking with a researcher who found that the ravens passed on learned behaviour: harrassing the researchers who had previously banded generations of birds years ago.

    This is an excellent post on ravens of the north.

    They are considered the most intelligent of the birds[3][4] having demonstrated self-awareness in mirror tests (European Magpies) and tool making ability (Crows, Rooks[5])—skills until recently regarded as solely the province of humans and a few other higher mammals.

    Corvids are found worldwide except for the tip of South America and the polar ice caps. The majority of the species are found in tropical South and Central America.

    They are all over the streets in town. And have been a problem in cities, too.

    Talk to the animals...this is what they/we sound like!

    skywatchFor more skywatch posts click on the meme badge, for more (video) and resources:

    visit my RESOURCES PAGE for a book list!

    Wednesday 24 March 2010

    Now what do you think they are up to?

    Has to be new signage for the G8!

    Can't wait!!!

    While the deer are less visible, with snow virtually gone, I still drive checking the ditches for them.

    Some dude in a BIG pickup truck was nudging my rear bumper, I pulled over to let him pass. With the sun right there, blame a teacher if he cannot read it!

    ♪♫ Sign, sign, everywhere a sign...♪♫
    Oh, no. It's only a graphic!

    He passed me, and ramped up his speed, again.
    The next sign (no photo!) said 'Deer Winter Area = 8 km'.

    I slowed down, better to breath the fresh aroma of spring, when I spotted HIM slowing down. Off to the speedy truck driver's left were two deer waiting to cross the road. He seemed to get the point.

    He slowed down for about 3 km, then revved it up to warp speed again, late for something.

    I paused to watch the deer cross the road. grabbing my camera, clicking as fast as I could.

    They are amazing, are they not?

    After driving around the area last weekend, I spotted my friends, the deer, in the middle of the road! Irony of irony.
    My, my, after leaving my Hospice Client who said there were few in the area now.

    Our friends in Wahta were saying the same thing: driving around, looking for deer or moose, then spotting one in your driveway.

    I blame the cosmic joker!!!

    Truth is, slow down, be careful. This is the season for critters abroad.

    From a guest post about a deer accident:

    We were at the hospital for 8 hours. She had no broken bones, did not need any stitches but we helped the nurse remove between 50-75 pieces of chard glass from her face.[His wife]

    These are big creatures, judging by the size of the tracks beside my boot. I posted previously about a memorial: a moose collision that took the life of an OPP member.

    Don't pick them up
    let them be free
    the way mother nature
    meant them to be

    Watch for lots of folks on the roads!!!