7.31.2021

friends and family reunion road trip: day eight: long-distance friends meet up in san francisco

Yesterday, after we dropped the pups at daycare, Allan and I took the BART into the city, but got off at separate stops. Allan was meeting a blog-friend (someone we have met before, and went to a game with the last time we were here, in 2010), and then had an appointment at Kayo Books, a mecca for collectors of pulp paperbacks. Allan always hunts down used book stores when we travel, but this was a special find, something he's wanted to do for years. (As usual, I had no idea of this until we planned the trip.)

I stayed on the BART one stop further, then took a Muni Metro train that turned into a streetcar, to the Sunset-Irving area. Once outside, it was very hilly, so I had a great view of houses and neighbourhoods. I always get a little buzz from being by myself on public transit in a city. It's a little feeling of freedom and adventure, and I love it.

It was cool and foggy, and I was glad I brought an extra layer. Summer in San Francisco! According to Snopes, Mark Twain never said the famous quote attributed to him about "the coldest winter" but when it's late July and you're chilly in this town, it's easy to think he did. (Snopes needs help, by the way. If you use their service, please consider helping them survive.)

I found the Posh Bagel where my friend D and I were meeting. A word about Posh Bagel: this may be the first time I've seen garlic bagels, onion bagels, and salt bagels outside of New York and Montreal. These are authentic bagel flavours that, in most places, have been replaced by the "everything" bagel. They're a busy chain, whipped up a great and fast breakfast sandwich, and are dog-friendly. Well done, Posh Bagel!

D is a really interesting person. He emigrated to the US from Korea as a young teen, and was part of a very Conservative Christian church. Sometime around the time we met online, he began questioning some of those teachings, especially around the personal enrichment of the wealthy pastors, and the hypocrisy of Christians supporting the death penalty, the US invasion of Iraq, racism, and so on. 

When Resident Bush ran for re-election, D voted Democrat for the first time. He now belongs to an affirming church, and has really opened his mind to new ways of thinking. He has read a lot of history and politics, and always brings fresh ideas and perspectives to our conversations. Also, he loves animals: we originally bonded over dogs. We met in person when I visited A (FADOJ) in southern California. I'm grateful I met D's dog, the amazing Noah, who is now gone.

D and I talked for a solid hour. One tidbit that was especially interesting to me was about the Korean-American community and racism. One of D's family relatives, an uncle I believe, told him how the US Civil Rights movement paved the way for more open immigration for Asian people. He said, Black people spilled blood, Black people struggled and died, so you could live here. When you see an African-American in "your" neighbourhood, you shouldn't question his rights, you should get down on your knees to thank them. I found this so moving. And really, it's a perspective we should all have. All freedom struggles are related. David said he always thought he was "self-made," but now realizes that none of us are.

D and I meant to wander around the neighbourhood, but mostly we sat inside and talked. We could easily have talked for another hour. We walked a bit in the neighbourhood, a tiny bit in the nearby botanical gardens (without paying for entry), then found a bus. I thought I would need an Uber or Lyft to my next meet-up, but it turned out to be another super-easy public transit ride. 

The bus went through The Haight, which I haven't seen in years, so that was a fun treat. This was once the epicenter of the hippie counterculture, but of course all remnants of that are long gone. It's now a funky district for shopping, eating, and hanging out, very colourful and vibrant. 

From there, I transferred to a different bus (free transfer with the Clipper card or any Muni card) and headed for The Mission, to meet up with A and her wife M. All three of these friends (D and A/M) are here from Southern California, using our visit and the baseball game as an excuse for a vacation. Yay! Super yay!

A, M, and I converged at Mission Dolores, and took a tour. A and M have a project (a mission) (groan) to see all 21 California missions, picking up fridge magnets and getting a "passport" stamped at each one. It's interesting to see how these Christian institutions now incorporate an understanding of the Indigenous people whose cultures their predecessors obliterated. The Mission church itself is not wealthy or opulent, and it's a significant part of US and California history. But... it's a tough thing to see, knowing what we do.

I was eager to see some of the murals in the Mission (or Mission District). I love street art and somehow on all my trips to San Francisco have never seen these. I did see a few from the bus window: so cool to see bright bursts of art in random places! On a tip from the person working in the Mission gift shop, A, M, and I found a long alley lined with at least a dozen mural panels on each side, all political with social-justice themes, each by a different artist. It felt like a giant graphic novel. 

I was really missing our camera, which we accidentally, stupidly left at home in Port Hardy. It would have been great to get both details and wide-angle pics of these murals. On the other hand, I am very grateful we have cameras on phones now! (Photos below.)

After this, we went back to the Mission. While we waited for Allan, A looked for restaurants for our late lunch / early dinner. With Allan at a used book store, and only one phone between us, I was a little concerned that he'd be very late... but he was right on time. Surprise, we are all grown up now! Allan had our backpack plus two cloth shopping bags filled with books. No surprise there!

We walked to the restaurant, seeing at least one mural along the way, then sat in a covid-constructed outdoor dining booth for some Peruvian-Mexican food, including a pitcher of sangria. We laughed a lot and had a really good time. Plus I got to hear the origin story of A and M, and how M, returning to school as an adult, connected with her Mexican heritage for the first time. Two beautiful stories that had me both laughing and teary-eyed.

I hate goodbyes: they crash right into my abandonment issues. I get all choked up and weepy, and remind myself how fortunate I am to have these enduring friendships, and to have such privilege, to travel to see friends. My sadness at goodbyes is a reminder about love. 

From the Mission, Allan and I picked up a BART train, zipped back to Berkeley, picked up two extremely overjoyed pups, and spent the evening unwinding in the cottage. Allan showed me his book haul -- stacks of vintage pulp paperbacks, plus three large hardcover books about pulp paperbacks. (Books about books!) I wished he had shown us these at dinner. The cover art and jacket copy is hilarious.



 
 

 Some murals from the Mission.

Maria!









The Yelamu and Ohlone were among the many Indigenous people of this area, now all gone.





Words at the top of the murals form "We rise up and we won't stop."








This is difficult to see, but it's anti Israeli Apartheid and pro BDS.

This mural is obviously influenced by Picasso's Guernica. Love this!!



A contemporary Mayan mural.


This music-themed mural was elsewhere in the Mission.



7.30.2021

friends and family reunion road trip: day seven: dodgers vs giants!

Yesterday, family and friends from different areas of my life were brought together, through our plans -- and through baseball! 

We dropped the dogs at the daycare place in the late morning, then headed back to the BART station. (I noticed that regular parking is $3.00, which means the reservation service is double the normal cost.) We took the BART to the Muni Metro. 

From the train I saw many homes in Oakland with memorial murals for victims of police shootings, painted in ways that would be visible from the train.

There were a few people on the BART who might have been going to the game, but the Muni was a full-on game-train -- families and groups of friends in jerseys and hats. Allan and I have been on many such trains in many cities. I was a little choked up with nostalgia, and joy that this is happening again. 

In the ballpark, as we walked to our seats in a packed crowd, the large majority of people were not wearing masks. I was amazed (although I shouldn't be -- people have very short memories). We kept ours on until we were outside at our seats. Even then I felt a little weird taking mine off, but I did. Later, when I went inside for food, I put my mask on and noticed some other people doing the same. The concession workers were all masked, thank goodness.

At the game: niece C (my sister's daughter) and spouse J, there on vacation; nephew J (my brother's son) and spouse C, who live in the Bay Area; A, my very dear friend who I have known since 1983, and her spouse M, my first time meeting M; D, my friend who I know from blogging; and Allan and me. A, M, and D all live in the Los Angeles area, and used this game and my trip as an excuse for a trip to San Francisco.

My friend A is mentioned several times in this blog, likely from before we moved to Canada, and again when visited her in Southern California, on two separate trips. A few lifetimes ago, she and I used to go to Yankees games together, when we all lived in New York City, with a different group of people, all of whom are still in touch and close with each other in different ways. We haven't seen each other in many years, and -- true to our history -- half-watched the game while gabbing.

Allan, of course, does no such thing, although he manages to score every pitch while still being somewhat social. Allan and D, who is a big Dodgers fan, watched the game together, which was cool, and the cousins sat together. We purposely got seats in two rows, rather than nine seats stretched out in one row. Successful party planning!

This was our third visit to this ballpark (2003, 2010, 2021). We've also seen a game in Candlestick Park, where the Giants used to play (1988) and at least one game in Oakland (2003). (Did we see two games in Oakland on our 2003 West Coast roadtrip? Allan will know.) 

The Giants play in a beautiful park, which at this point should be called Your Corporate Name Here Ballpark. For the three games we've seen there, the park has had three different names. The ballpark is beautiful. The revolving door of "naming rights" is a disgrace.

The Giants wiped the floor with the Dodgers, winning 5-0. One minor disappointment: we didn't get to see former Red Sox hero Mookie Betts, who is injured.

After the game, A and M took off (we will see them today), and the rest of us walked further away from the ballpark, so we could find a place not mobbed with post-game partying. We found a cafe, a local chain, got iced drinks and took over a corner. At the game, we had been in the sun the entire time -- slathered with sunscreen and most of us wearing caps, but still hot and thirsty. It was great to hang out together without the game, too. 

There's something else about this coffee chain. Allan will guest-post. (Suspense!) 

Outside, we said goodbye to niece C and spouse J, who we won't see again on this trip. It was so wonderful to intersect with them. I love all my niece and nephews so much. 

Then Allan and I walked with nephew J and spouse C to their car, through an area of San Francisco we don't really know, along the canal. They drove us back to our car at the BART station, which is on their way home. We'll see them again on this trip, too.

Then we picked up two very happy dogs, stopped at Whole Foods for food for dinner, and hung out in the cottage. I thought we'd be hitting good restaurants for dinner every day on this trip, but after a full day at doggie daycare, it's better for Cookie and Kai to snuggle in at home. It's a little disappointing, given the limited restaurant options in the remote area we live in, but the dogs come first. (Yes, Cookie and Kai, that's how much we love you!) We've also been tired from long days out and about, so staying at home is also a chance to rest and recoop.

We've been away for a week and still have a week of vacation in front of us. Most people I know don't take two continuous weeks of vacation, but I wish more people would. It's very different from a one-week vacation; you get into a different mindset, where the concerns of work and home feel very far away. I am proud to say I have not checked work email once the entire time we've been gone!

7.29.2021

friends and family reunion road trip: a story about the digital divide

I separated out this story, because I didn't want to give the impression that it ruined our day -- and because I wanted to properly explicate it. The events were of minor consequence to us personally, but of major importance in the world at large.

We hit a technology snag, and it was a perfect example of how the digital world -- and the absence of paper, analog options -- frustrates and excludes people. It was the kind of thing I see happen in the library all the time. This is about access, and the barriers that prevent large segments of our society from full participation.

I am rarely on the other side of this divide, and at least I can afford to lose a little money in the process, but it royally pisses me off on behalf of others. This massive social change has taken place, very rapidly, and in our current society, it's all been designed for the profit of a few companies (and likely a few choice corrupt individuals working in government), and for the "convenience" of educated, middle-class people, with no thought to all the people who the change leaves behind.

Here's what happened. 

We wanted to leave our car at the BART station. The information we found online seemed to indicate that we needed to reserve a parking space. After a while, with time and patience, I found out how to do this online. I paid for three days of parking at $6 per day -- a good deal. 

The website said we needed to print the permits. In the FAQs, I learned there were no machines to print parking receipts at the stations, although these are quite common these days. The FAQs suggested saving the permits as a pdf and printing them yourself. Notice how the "hidden competencies" to navigate this system are piling up.

I'm guessing most people reserve parking on their phones, and I already know that most people don't have printers. Maybe they can print permits at work, but not everyone can do that. 

The link to "print this permit" went to the first screen -- where you begin the process of obtaining a permit -- i.e. it sends you around in circles. There was no way to create a pdf. A screenshot would not have helped. There was no way to print at all, except through a link.

After dropping off the dogs at daycare, we came back to the cottage and happened to see the host. I asked where we could print something -- hoping she would offer to do it -- and she suggested a nearby copy shop. We found that fairly easily. I went inside. I was the only customer there. The owner was on the phone in what sounded like a personal phone call (but perhaps wasn't). He didn't greet me or ask how he could help me or say "I'll be right with you". He just continued talking on the phone.

I said I needed to print something and he gestured towards a sign with the copy shop's email address. I knew what he meant -- that I could email him my document at that address -- but (a) I couldn't do that because I didn't have a file, and (b) that is destroys customer privacy, so there must be a more secure way to print. 

With the (presumed) owner still on the phone, I said I didn't have a file, only a link. He waved at a computer. Not only is this absolutely awful customer service, but what if I didn't understand what he meant?!

Here comes the kicker.

I logged into my Gmail account, but because I was using a new device, I needed to verify my access by letting Gmail send a text to my phone. The phone that died on the ferry to Nanaimo. 

I see this happen all the time in the library, with people who cannot afford phones. We are all expected to have smartphones and 24/7 access to the internet. But what these everyday essentials are very expensive. They stretch the budgets of some, and are completely out of the question for many.

Back in the car, we discussed our options. By this time, the parking reservation had already expired, so there was no point going to heroic efforts to print the stupid thing.

We drove to the BART station, and were very surprised to find a huge, mostly empty parking lot! There were 20 or 30 cars parked in the reserved section, and many spaces in the non-reserved section. We parked, intending to buy parking for the day -- even though we had already paid for a spot.

Inside the station, we navigated how to buy a Clipper card. Signage was minimal, and the screens had limited information. We did it, of course, but it is clearly a system designed for people who already know how to use the system. Anyone else would need someone walking them through the steps. But of course there is no one to do that, no city pays anyone to do that. (Sometimes in the busiest, most touristed stations in New York and other cities that rely on tourism, there will be an "ambassador" worker to help -- which is awesome. But 99% of stations are not going to have that.) 

We bought a card -- which is $3.00 just to buy, plus the dollar value you add to it. Using the card gives you a discount -- a discount only available to people with who have credit cards and digital skills. At least San Francisco has free transit for kids and seniors. Most cities don't.

Paying for parking? Only available after you've passed the transit turnstiles and only by cash. What. The. Fuck.

I was happy to leave the car there without a parking slip. I could tell that would be fine. Allan was antsy about this, thinking we might get a ticket or be towed, but I had a strong sense that neither would happen. 

On the train on the way into the city, we talked about all of this. Allan said, here's what should happen in order to take public transit: you go to a station and get on a train. 

He's right. Public transit is a public good. It's something we want every town and city to have and every person to use. It should be fully accessible and free.

But private corporations see public transit as an opportunity for profit, and those corporations hold governments in their pockets. So public money -- our taxes -- are shoveled over to private companies. Those companies then take perfectly workable systems, systems that have been working for decades, and in some cases for more than 100 years, and "modernize" them to make them "convenient". And in the process of modernizing, governments allow systems to be created that exclude huge segments of our society. 

I personally love transit cards and I use them whenever possible. But I recognize that they are exclusionary. They are instruments of privilege. And wherever these cards are introduced, they very quickly become not options, but necessities. The parallel, analog system is allowed to wither and die. (See also, two-tiered health care.)

We did not get a parking ticket, and we now know we can leave the car in the BART parking lot for "free", thereby not completely wasting the $18 we spent on invisible permits. But, as I hope I have made clear, that is not the point.

friends and family reunion road trip: day six: san francisco

Ah, San Francisco, how I love you. I love the energy of this city, its unique beauty, its mosaic of people and cultures and vibes. Just being here today was so fun and energizing.

We had a late start and a frustrating morning (more on that later), but eventually had the dogs in daycare and ourselves on a BART train. It's an easy trip in, around 25 minutes. We bought Clipper cards, good for all transit in the region, which, if you can do it, is super convenient. We walked a bit downtown, heading for Chinatown, but once the walking became very steep, as it often does here, we hopped on a bus. Masks are mandatory on public transit, which is fine by me! 

I wanted dim sum, and we had a short list of places that came highly recommended. Insiders say the best dim sum in San Francisco is in Richmond, but we're not connoisseurs. Plus I enjoy seeing urban Chinatowns. San Francisco is said to be the first in the country, and it doesn't disappoint. Narrow, crowded sidewalks (masks on!), and shop after shop crammed with dried seafood, vegetables, teas, herbs -- dozens and hundreds of barrels and jars and baskets. All the stores seem to sell the same things. There are also dozens of bakeries and tiny lunch spots that cater mainly to locals.

None of the places I had written down panned out -- one had a long line of hipsters (we all have the same internet!), one was too tiny and crowded, one out of business. We picked a place at random, ordered a few of our favourites, and were surprised that to learn we had ordered individual pieces! In other words, when we wrote "2" next to the shrimp dumplings (har gow), we didn't get two bamboo steamers, we got two dumplings! So we ended up with just one small plate with four or five little goodies. That turned out to be enough -- although I wouldn't mind having the same thing again as soon as possible.

We picked up a coconut bun at a different bakery, then walked through Chinatown to the edge of North Beach, then picked up another bus, and took it all the way to Crissy Field

Crissy Field, part of the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, is a long strip of sandy beach and tidal marshland adjacent to the Bay, with a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge to one side, and Alcatraz and the city Skyline to the other side. It's all public space -- no shops, no condos, no logos. Nothing but beauty and wonder, and other people (and dogs!) enjoying the same. It's one of our favourite places. We've also been in San Francisco before Crissy Field was created, and it has added so much to the Bay. It's so sad that so many cities have ruined their waterfronts by privatizing every inch of space. 

There were many people out enjoying the sand, surf, and view -- many lovely dogs to admire -- and many pelicans flying just above the water. And of course, the Bridge. The Bridge! The dramatic span, the distinctive colour, the ribbon of fog. I don't care how many times I've seen it, it is simply spectacular, and always rivets my attention.

We had a long walk out towards the bridge and back, enjoying the scenery and the birds, and watching dogs play in the surf. We decided to have sushi for dinner, or we thought we did, and wanting to have really really good sushi, searched online, found a few places to try, consulted our bus map, and walked another long-ish walk, through a beautiful neighbourhood near the bay, where we picked up a bus.

I love riding city buses -- it's great for seeing an overview of neighbourhoods. We were on the bus for a long time, heading towards the Castro and the Mission districts. We got off the bus in the Castro, thinking we were going to get another bus... and I ran out of steam. 

Fortunately there was a cafe very nearby. One iced coffee and one iced tea later, I decided the sushi hunt was over, we were heading back to Berkeley and would grab dinner there (at least that was the new plan). We were right near a Muni Metro, which we took to Embarcadero, intending to get a BART train back to Berkeley. 

Feeling revived, we strolled to the Ferry Building, a huge, historic building that's been re-made into a marketplace. We have seen it before, on our last trip to the area in 2010 (for a family wedding). It's beautiful and spacious, with all local vendors. It skews a bit upscale, but not so much to be super exclusive. There are often performances, events, craft vendors, and the like in the plaza. 

We strolled around inside (masks on), and ended up at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants. We ordered four tasting-sized glasses (the equivalent of two glasses each), some cheese, meat, and bread plates, and were very happy and content. 

After that, we got a BART train back to Berkeley. Our car was in the parking lot (without a ticket, story to follow), and picked up the dogs. They were, of course, wildly happy to see us. We stopped at the local Whole Foods and I went in to pick up many boxes of my favourite herbal tea which is not sold in Canada (on my to-do list for this trip), along with popcorn, ice cream, and wine. All the vacation essentials!

In the evening we hung out in the cottage, nailed down some plans for the next few days, and I was asleep well before 10:00.

7.27.2021

friends and family reunion road trip: day six: ashland to berkeley

This morning, after packing up the gear and the dogs, we went to my mother's place for a short visit before leaving town. She loves seeing Cookie and Kai, and it's great to see her every day that we're in the area.

After more goodbyes, we headed to the Ashland Dog Park again. This time Cookie and Kai were yipping and whining with excitement as we pulled into the parking lot. Not quite the hysteria that accompanies trips to the beach, but still... two very happy and excited dogs.

After some play and some romping, we were back on I-5 South. It's about 4.5 or 5 hours to the Bay Area, an easy drive. We're staying at another VRBO cottage, this time in the Elmwood area of Berkeley. The neighbourhood is gorgeous -- huge trees, large old houses with lush front gardens, very walkable. The cottage is large and pretty amazing, separated from the host's house by a beautiful patio garden. The dogs are allowed to be loose in her yard, but it's not secure enough. She Who Cannot Be Contained would be touring Berkeley in no time.

This cottage is probably a prime example of housing that would have once been a great rental, maybe for two students or a couple, but is now a vacation rental, further depleting the housing stock in an area already squeezed for space. I know some people want travelers to boycott Airbnb and VRBO -- a nice idea for people who don't travel. Public pressure on city councils to restrict vacation rentals seems to be the only way, an uphill battle pitting housing activists against the tourism and hospitality industries, not exactly a level playing field. It's a problem that can't be solved on the consumer level. (Cut and paste that sentence for future use. Telling people to voluntarily inconvenience themselves is not a sound strategy for change, in my view.)

After settling in a bit, we (all four of us) walked down to a locally famous burger joint called The Smokehouse. There's a Whole Foods and a Trader Joe's in the area, and I love both, but I knew we'd end up overbuying, especially since we'll be out and about almost the whole time we're here. The burgers and dogs were very good! 

Tonight we're sacked out in the cottage, drinking craft beer and cider we picked up in Oregon. We have a busy few days ahead, with lots of plans, lots of people, plus books and baseball.

family and friends reunion road trip: day five: hanging out in ashland and talent

On Monday, we started the day at the Ashland Dog Park. Kai and Cookie had a great time. It was their second time there, and they were more comfortable and up for socializing. There were lots of beautiful dogs of all sizes, and people were friendly but not intrusive. Just lovely. It's also so wonderful to see our dogs are completely relaxed around other dogs -- no fear, no aggression whatsoever.

We went into Ashland and met my mother, my sister, and two nieces for lunch. Unfortunately this meant leaving the dogs in the car. Of course the windows were all open, but it was still very hot. Lunch was fun, but we were glad to get them back to the air-conditioned cottage.

After hanging out for a while, we went back to my brother and sister-in-law's, and hung out on the deck. The group kept growing, so we had the chance to visit with lots of folks. Wine bottles and water jugs were plentiful. Leftover chicken, lamb, shrimp, and tempeh appeared. The grand-niece came home from camp and entertained us. As it grew late, the group dwindled until we all finally went to bed.

* * * *

The VRBO cottage was perfect, and it turned out to be a five-minute drive to my brother and sister-in-law's place. There are dog-friendly hotels everywhere these days, but having a little house is the best. Five stars all around for this host. 

It is very hot here, but so dry! I marvel at being outside in 28, 30, 32 C degree weather without sweating and without being too uncomfortable. I am usually overheated at 25 C. It also cools down at night, so sitting outside is lovely. That's also different! In NYC and the GTA, when it's super hot and humid during the day, it will stay that way all night, too, so there's no relief.

It will be much cooler and more humid in the Bay Area. I love San Francisco and am excited to be going back. It was also a lot easier to say goodbye to the Oregon crew, knowing we would see them on our way back. 

With two of the couples -- one niece and spouse who live in California and one nephew and spouse who live in New Jersey -- I had to say goodbye for who knows how long. I'm grateful I spent some time with them in the last few days. But I wish I could see them more often.

family and friends reunion road trip: some things I've seen

 Seen on many lawns and in many windows:

 
I saw a few in my mother's senior community, which made me happy.

* * * * 

Seen on a front-yard fence near the Ashland Dog Park:











Seen in the approach to every town and city so far: tent encampments. Whole villages of people without homes.


7.26.2021

family and friends reunion road trip: day four: birthday party at a winery

This was another big family day, and a wonderful one. 

We took Kai and Cookie to a dogsitter who we found through Rover, the Airbnb for dogs. She has a sweet little older house with a big fenced-in yard, and was very relaxed and easy-going. I had already told her about Cookie (a/k/a She Who Cannot Be Contained), to be on the alert for digging, and to keep her double-collared on walks.

This was the first time these pups have been left at someone's home, rather than a doggie daycare place where there are lots of other dogs to distract them. They seemed perfectly happy and comfortable, trotting around in the backyard, sniffing everything, and we made a quiet getaway.

My brother and sister-in-law had booked a private room at a local winery. The food was very good, the wine was cold and plentiful, and the company was outstanding. My brother asked me to make the toast, which was a fun challenge, since I hadn't prepared. It seemed to go over well.

My mother seems somewhat overwhelmed by all the goings-on, but also seems very happy. She had presents for my own birthday, including this cute "librarian bookend".

When we picked up the dogs, they were (of course) thrilled to see us, but they were also relaxed and not stressed. The dogsitter said they were well-behaved and no escapes were attempted. At night they were completely wiped out from their big adventure.

I've said this many times in this blog: I didn't grow up in a particularly happy family. Certainly there were good times, and I do have many happy memories. But the head of the family was a tyrant and a bully, and also mentally ill (although there was no awareness of that at the time). His issues and behaviour controlled our lives in myriad ways. Family gatherings were generally riddled with anxiety, fear, and abuse. These fun, happy family gatherings, free of fear and anxiety, are something I've only experienced as an adult. To both love and like my family is something I am truly grateful for.

7.25.2021

family and friends reunion road trip: day three: an amazing day in southern oregon

We've run out of adjectives to describe the day. Amazing, incredible, awesome. A celebration. A love-fest. It would have been special and meaningful any time, but coming after the pandemic, it was profound.

After a quick breakfast in the cottage, we headed straight to my mother's place. She lives in a retirement / assisted living community in Ashland, about 15 minutes from where we're staying -- and more importantly, 15 minutes from the rest of the Oregon family (all transplants from the eastern US).

This was the first time I had seen my mother since she stayed with us in the summer of 2019. We were set to make this trip in April of 2020, postponed because of covid. It's the longest I've ever gone without seeing my mother, and throughout the pandemic, in the back of my mind, I wondered if I would ever see her again. What a joy and relief to hug her!!

We saw Mom's apartment for the first time, which is simply amazing, with huge, spacious rooms, and a balcony with a view of the mountains. This was just a brief visit to say hi. Nephew M and spouse J were coming over to take her out to breakfast, for some special Grandma alone time. So we got to see them, too. 

After that, we took Cookie and Kai to the Ashland dog park. It's a really nice park, large, grassy, with a good water supply, some shade, and lots of friendly dogs. We knew it wouldn't be a great day for the pups, so I'm extra glad we did this.

In the lovely little neighbourhood near the dog park, we saw a moving Black Lives Matter display, and I stopped to take pictures (to be shared in the future).

Next up, another stop at the Medford Food Co-op, and we were off to my brother and sister-in-law's place in Talent, only a few minutes from where we're staying. 

M and M live on 50+ acres of land with a storybook view of a valley and mountains. They are Land Stewards; their land is used for grazing pasture, a vineyard, beekeeping, and other sustainable uses. They have an amazing house, and on the same property, our nephew D, partner R, and their daughter S live in a small cottage.

Also staying at their place: nephew J and spouse C, and niece E and spouse T, who all live in northern California. 

We last saw brother/sister-in-law M and M when they visited us on the Island in 2019, and last saw their adult children and partners in 2016 -- our Vancouver/Oregon trip. That was the first (and until now only) time we saw our grand-niece in person! Pretty amazing! At that time S was 14 months old; now she is 6!

The only wrinkle for us is M and M keep their house pet-free, and there would be no way to keep them safe, loose on the property. This is Cookie, after all! We set up our tether-stake in some shade near the house. Cookie and Kai could see the house and anyone on the deck or patio, but weren't part of the fun. It was also very hot out, so we had to make sure they were always in shade and had plenty of water.

We periodically checked on them, and Cookie's line would be tangled around trees and bushes, and she'd be straining on a tiny bit of tether. They'd be super happy and excited to see us, we'd untangle Cookie and get them both settled... only to disappear again into the house.

After a few hours, the rest of the crew showed up: my sister J and partner J, niece C and spouse J, and nephew M and spouse J. I hadn't seen since these folks, my sister's adult children, since the last family weddings in 2018! They brought with them the guest of honour, my mother C.

Once everyone was assembled and a lot of the barbecue preparation was done, champagne (both regular and alcohol-free) was poured all around. My brother made a beautiful toast, the perfect mix of earnest and humourous, and we all lifted a glass to Connie.

We also toasted to other milestone birthdays, which my brother announced by birth month: 70, 65, 60, and 40. Pretty cool!

As the internet says, "you won't believe what happened next". Nephew J stepped up to toast, and he announced that he and C are pregnant, expecting their first in January 2022! Everyone gasped and cheered and exclaimed! Tears of joy and hugs all around. It was an incredible surprise: only their parents and the west-coast siblings knew. Our grand-niece S has been the first of the next generation of our family; now there will be two.

After more talking and hugging, and checking on the dogs, we assembled everyone for a big surprise for my mom: I had coordinated a Tribute video. All of us who were present, plus some extended family and very dear friends, had recorded videos telling C what she means to them, what they love and admire about her, and sharing special memories. Doing this through Tribute gave people incentive to create lovely videos, and made it easy to coordinate and assemble the final product.

For my mother, this was a complete surprise, and for everyone else, the first time they had watched the completed video from start to finish. It was... indescribable. Loving, meaningful, very moving. I totally lost it, weeping, more than once. No surprise there!

Allan and I ended the completed Tribute with this short video showing all our dogs through the years, over a jazz-piano version of the Happy Birthday song. Our nephews and nieces, and of course my mother, all remember our first dogs, Gypsy and Clyde, and everyone gasped and exclaimed to see their pictures. That turned out to be a really nice touch: everyone mentioned it to me later in the evening.

After a while we went outside to the deck and patio to eat. I felt Cookie and Kai had had enough. The temperature was cooling and there was plenty of shade, but being tethered... not so much fun. Allan walked them around for a while, then we brought them up to the deck, and tied looped their leashes around deck-posts to secure them, putting them much closer to the action. We moved a few chairs to their corner, so we could visit and gab with each other while including them.

After eating, we had one more surprise for the day. We brought with us some small gifts from the U'mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay, for everyone there. (All the purchases pay royalties to Indigenous artists.) We're not huge on material gift-giving, but this was something I really wanted to do, to show my appreciation and love, and to share a little bit of Indigenous Vancouver Island culture with my family. Everyone was very happy and appreciative, which made me feel great. We gave grand-niece S a puppet (very culturally relevant to the Kwak'wala-speaking peoples), which she promptly named, and didn't take off her hand for the rest of the evening.

By the time it was growing dark, Cookie, Kai, and I were all beat. It wasn't hard to leave, knowing we would all see each other the next day, for the next round of celebration!

7.23.2021

family and friends reunion road trip: day two: everett, washington to talent, oregon

I am happy to report that today was far less eventful. 

The most important thing was to get on the road early. We know from past experience (our first trip to Vancouver and Oregon in 2016... where the idea to move west was born!) that there are two major traffic areas on this stretch of 5 South -- Sea-Tac and Portland. The plan was to get up very early, start driving immediately, and be past Sea-Tac before the major morning rush.

This is not an issue for me, as I am normally up at 5:00 a.m. Sleeping until 6 or 6:30 is late for me. Allan, however, is most definitely not a morning person. Waking up early is painful and difficult for him, so I was very grateful to be out the door by 6. We stopped at one of the famous coffee shacks that are everywhere in the PNW, got back on 5 South, and didn't stop until we were in Lakewood, south of Tacoma. 

I brought the laptop to breakfast, and executed my cunning plan: logged into my Telus account to change the plan on Allan's phone, emailed friends and family we're seeing on the trip to tell them my phone is out of commission and give them Allan's number, got my email set up on Allan's phone, and installed the apps I need to make the trip work. All before our food arrived. 

Which is not to say I worked quickly. I could have knit a sweater before our food arrived. Or someone could have, someone who knows how to knit. Black Bear Diner chain: a long wait for mediocre food. But again, happy to be there, and even happier to use their wifi.

After breakfast, we gave the dogs their breakfast in the parking lot, and got back on the highway. As we were slowly driving past Portland, I had a brilliant idea: why not find a dog park in the area and give the pups some exercise and fun.

Now here is an example of technology improving our lives in unexpected ways. I was able to use Allan's newly data-enabled phone to find a list of fenced-in dog parks in the Portland area, chose the southern-most one -- and we were about three-quarters of a mile away from exit we needed! Amazing timing. Google navigated us to Willamette Park, a huge and beautiful multi-use park on the Willamette River. The fenced in dog area was just a large square of sand with no shade, but our dogs were very happy to run around for a bit. Cookie especially seemed very happy, bouncing around, awkwardly chasing a toy, so happy and relaxed.

It was sunny and pretty hot, so after a short time, we put the dogs' leashes on and walked on a shady bike/walk path. We took them to the boat launch -- many canoes and kayaks on the river -- so they could wade in and cool down. Cookie was eyeing a family of ducks, but no dice. She Who Cannot Be Contained will not be off-leash on this trip unless surrounded by visible fences!

After the park, we couldn't find an entrance to 5 South, and had to take a connector highway north, get off, and U-turn. Worth it!

The rest of the drive was uneventful. We picked up some supplies at the Medford Food Co-Op, and discovered we were only 10 minutes away from the cottage in Talent that I had booked, pulling in around 7 p.m.

It's a lovely one-room cottage, very comfy, everything we need, and surrounded by fields and orchards.

Seen on a highway billboard: MARXISM, YOUR TICKET TO A POVERTY LIFESTYLE, with a picture of Uncle Sam.

7.22.2021

family and friends reunion road trip: day one: port hardy to everett, washington

Our epic road trip has begun! Excited? I'm over the moon. 

This was the trip we were supposed to take last year, but... covid. This year it's even better: a celebration of my mother's 90th birthday, with all her children, grandchildren, their partners, and her great-grandchild, all converging in southern Oregon to celebrate together. Thanks for coming along.

On Thursday we were up early, packed the dogs and the car, and hit the road. Everything took longer than expected, as it usually does, but we made a few mistakes. Most notably, we should have called ahead and picked up our food at Ideal Cafe (our must-visit as we drive down-Island), but instead we hit this extremely popular joint it at lunch hour. The wait there was just enough to mess up our timing for our ferry reservation. The next later sailing was full. Rut-row.

Allan did some fancy driving while I checked all the different ferry sailings and came up with Plan B. We pulled up to the ticket booth exactly two minutes after our reserved time. And... we were the last reservation allowed on the ferry. The kindly BC Ferries worker admonished us but let us in. Whew!

Taking the ferry from Nanaimo to Vancouver is not the preferred way to make this trip. Ideally, we would take the ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles, Washington, saving many hours of driving. That Victoria ferry, however, is an international trip, for tourists and travelers, and is still not running. So we're driving more, but we can still get to Southern Oregon in two days. We were pretty happy to be on that boat!

And here comes my second mistake, albeit one I could not have anticipated. I turned off my phone to conserve the battery. When I turned it on, it began an update... then crashed. And died. It would not turn on, and none of the tricks I know would revive it. I tried and tried and tried... nothing. It's a rock. 

So now we're traveling without a paper map, and all the information -- where we're staying, directions, and so forth -- are in my email. On my phone. I look back fondly at the days when I used to print out all our reservations, directions, and whatnot, and put them in a plastic sleeve. (Yep, I've always been a librarian waiting to happen.)

So we have no map and no information.

Allan's phone doesn't have data. In fact we have a data blocker on his phone. 

I have my laptop with me, but obviously for that we need wifi.

So we land in Vancouver and figure we'll follow the signs to the border. From there, I know we're staying in Everett, Washington, just north of Seattle. And -- only because I saw the subject line of a reminder email -- I know the name of the chain hotel we've reserved! I didn't even open the email, but I did remember the subject line. 

There's only one highway all the way from the US border to southern Oregon: I-5. So all we need to do is find the border, and get I-5 south. From there, we'd exit the highway in Everett, and if we don't see the hotel from the highway, we'll ask at another hotel where to find ours. If that didn't work, we'd find someplace with wifi and get my email on the laptop.

We pulled in to the first hotel we saw, and the desk clerk printed directions, and we were only 10 minutes away. (This was our first reminder of how friendly people are in the Pacific Northwest US. I had a friend in Seattle who called it pathologically friendly, a phrase I loved and immediately adopted.)

It wasn't much of a room, but we were quite glad to get there. 

I was still stressed about my phone, but I came up with a plan. And we were exhausted and then it was morning.

7.19.2021

indigenous peoples day at the kwalilas hotel in port hardy

On Indigenous Peoples Day, the day of the summer solstice, we attended a ceremony held by the local First Nations communities outside the Kwa'lilas Hotel, the beautiful Indigenous-owned hotel in Port Hardy. I purposely didn't bring a camera, thinking photography was prohibited -- only to discover that because this was a public demonstration, not being held in the Nation's Big House, photography was acceptable. I did take a few pics with my cell phone, but these barely count as photography.

I am sharing the June 25 cover and colourful centrefold published by The Eagle of the Port Hardy event and at an event in Alert Bay. 


These photographs were taken by Kathy O'Reilly, publisher of The Eagle, used with permission.





These photographs were taken by Robin Quirk, 
Robin's Eye Photography, Alert Bay, used with permission.






7.18.2021

what i'm reading: the heartbeat of wounded knee: native america from 1890 to the present

 

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is a fascinating nonfiction. Part hidden history, part contemporary journalism, plus a dash of personal memoir, this ambitious book offers a new perspective on the Indigenous peoples of North America, in both the past and the present. 

Historian and journalist David Treuer, who is Ojibwe, has dug deep into a misunderstood past, and surveyed a nuanced present, to create an important narrative that will be new to most readers. 

* * * *

The book that is echoed in Treuer's title, Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, is likely the most famous work ever written about Native Americans. It's always been on my to-read list, but when I would think about reading it, it felt so heavy. Similar to how I feel about Holocaust literature, I didn't want to engage. Now I'm glad I never read that book, because I've learned that most of it is myth and misconception.

The first part of The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee could be titled "A People's History of Native America" -- a Howard Zinn-style counter-narrative, re-telling the story of contact and westward expansion from the Indigenous point of view, highlighting resistance and resilience -- and there was plenty of both. 

Treuer unearths a hidden history of resistance that is stunning and inspiring. The resistance was as relentless as the forces stacked against them. Indigenous people used myriad forms of creative resistance against invasion, removal, and the destruction of their cultures. In the face of monumental, inescapable change, they regrouped and reinvented themselves again and again, over decades and centuries. Some chapters of this story are undeniably horrible and dark, but it's a more nuanced story than the one you likely already know and believe. 

Throughout, Treuer pushes back against the more typical narrative of ruin, defeat, and despair. He also engages in some surprising myth-busting and truth-telling about modern and contemporary Native America. 

* * * *

We know that, post-contact, the Indigenous people of North America were killed by both outright slaughter, by the destruction of their environment (such as the mass buffalo slaughter), and by disease. I knew that Native peoples had no immunity to smallpox, but I had not considered that while westward settlers were spreading infection, a smallpox vaccine was already in use. Some infection was intentional, but even unintentional infection was preventable.

"Guns and germs," however, are only part of the story. Indigenous cultures were also killed by: government edict, legal sleight of hand, forced (and botched) assimilation, forced re-education, the systemic destruction of access to cultural necessities, a ridiculous number of treaties signed then ignored, and even by well-intentioned, paternalistic do-gooders. 

One piece that I found particularly galling is how, after a US government push for Nations to become self-sufficient -- or to use dominant channels to regain the self-sufficiency they had lost -- the same government passed laws that made it absolutely impossible for them to do so. 

In one example, Menominee tribes practiced sustainable forestry in the deep woods of Wisconsin and Michigan. 
Oral history has it that a kind of spiritually based sustainable-yield management system was put into practice shortly after the reservation was established in 1854. According to a tribal leader, Charlie Frechette, the Menominee invoke this practice as part of many of their ceremonial proceedings: "Start with the rising sun and work towards the setting sun, but take only the mature trees, the sick trees, and the trees that have fallen. When you reach the end of the reservation, turn and cut from the setting sun to the rising sun, and the trees will last forever." The proceeds from the first trees they cut and sold went to buy flour. The tribe was in a position to use the resources it had left in order to take care of itself and to remain self-sufficient.

The government, again working in direct contradiction of its own stated ideology (weren't Indians supposed to learn "I" and not "we," and the value of buying and selling?), quickly put a stop to Menominee logging . . . In the government's view, land was to be cleared of trees and then planted. This was the path to civilization. It was also a path to disenfranchisement: the timber barons in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota wanted to sell the timber themselves and reap the profits. 
Again and again, across eras and geography, Nations were prepared to adapt, and were successfully adapting, only to have the rules changed when private interests wanted to clear the way for more profit.

* * * *

Here are some random tidbits that were of particular interest to me. 
  • I learned that Robert La Follette, a socialist, and arguably the greatest American to ever serve in the United States Senate, was also great ally to Indigenous people. I love when different threads of my interests intersect in such positive ways. 

  • Here is a great capsule explanation of a commonly held, destructive misconception about financial payments to Nations.
  • A settlement that was recompense for previous federal and private mismanagement and unlawful seizure of land and the assets on it was now recast as a reward to be granted to submission or withheld for insubordination. This failure of imagination is more pervasive and insidious than has generally been recognized, and it is shred by Indians and non-Indians alike. Such concessions made to the tribes in recognition of the horrors and tribulations of the nineteenth century, or colonialism more generally, are not pity payments or proto-welfare. Treaty rights and all of the benefits that accrue from them arise from the treaties themselves -- according to the U.S. Constitution, they are the "supreme law of the land" and the tacit recognition of the inherent rights Indians possessed long before the coming of the white man. The Menominee had the right to exist, the right to government, the right to social services not because they had suffered but because some of those rights were inherent long before they were brought to the treaty table -- and because others were received from the Americans in exchange for the right to settle Menominee homelands.

    Had those rights been honored, the Menominee could have become the most fabulously successful tribe in the history of world and the U.S. government would still have been obligated -- by international law, by precedent, by its own founding documents, and by the treaties is signed -- to honor the provisions in those agreements.
  • The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is full of examples of how steadfast Indigenous resistance, over the long haul, succeeded in changing laws and had a far-reaching impact on cultural survival. The dogged persistence of Maria Pearson, a Yankton Sioux woman, led to the passage of Iowa Burials Protection Act of 1976, which pushed back against the "the state, museum culture, and academic mind-set that (at best) saw Indian remains as a scientific opportunity rather than as human remains." At roughly the same time, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1982, gave Indigenous people the right to worship as they chose (yeah, 1982). These two laws made it possible for activists to win the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) in 1990.
NAGPRA was, like a lot of legislation, meant to right historical wrongs and to curtail those ongoing. For instance, it initiated an official process for the return of Indian remains and funerary and non-funerary and religious objects held at state and federal institutions and in any museum or collection that received federal funds or grants. It also established procedures for the treatment of Indian remains and objects discovered during construction on state and federal land. Last, it made the trafficking of Indian remains a federal offense (though possession of remains is still legal). Although imperfect, this legislation has had a profound effect on the tribes themselves and on their relationship with the federal government. To date, the remains of more than 57,847 Indian people, 1,479,923 associated funerary objects, 243,198 unassociated funerary objects, and 5,136 sacred objects have been repatriated, in what continues to be a powerful and significant homecoming for tribes across the country. Armed with such legislation, tribes can finally try to make whole, however imperfectly, what has been broken. And coupled with the growth of Indian education and the move to put more and more power in Indian hands, the legislation created a sense that centuries of hostility from the state directed at Indians were at last giving way to some restoration of Indians' ability to control and protect our cultural patrimony.
  • The story of the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the incidents at Pine Ridge Reservation were revelatory to me. Here, Treuer goes into too much detail for my interest, which I suspect is an attempt clear up a muddied history, to put on record the facts as he has uncovered them. Those facts are not certainly not a proud moment in Native history. This attests to Treuer's willingness to embrace all of that history, not only the bits that portray Indigenous people in a positive light. For me it also raised questions about progressive people's support of AIM, which most of us know little or nothing about, merely because it sounds like something we should support. In reality it was a petty, corrupt, randomly violent, misogynist organization without widespread support or anything approaching a mandate. Apparently many Native people joke that AIM stands for "Assholes in Moccasins".

  • The contemporary stories at the end of the book are brilliant. These are stories of people who are blending environmental activism, food culture, health and fitness, and other serious and necessary contemporary work with traditional ceremonies, helping to restore and reclaim their own heritage while helping people regain physical and mental health. These stories are incredibly inspiring. They're also especially exciting to me because I'm aware of similar efforts taking place where I live. Indigenous people continue to rediscover their heritage and to fold that rediscovery into reinvention. If you read this book, even if you lose track in some of the middle-distance, don't miss the stories at the end.
* * * *

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is and does many things, so if a reader finds some parts more engaging than others, that's to be expected. I loved the first part of the book, the Howard Zinn-style myth-busting. Parts of the more modern history, such as some of the American Indian Movement stories, I would have liked less detail, and gave those parts a light read. When the narrative catches up with the present, I once again found it fascinating and riveting. If, like me, you find some parts too detailed, I encourage you to skim and stay with the book. It's well worth your time.

I heartily endorse these pullquotes from published reviews:

"In a marvel of research and storytelling, an Ojibwe writer traces the dawning of a new resistance movement born of deep pride and a reverence for tradition. Treuer's chronicle of rebellion and resilience is a manifesto and rallying cry." — O, The Oprah Magazine
 
"Part of the magic of this book stems from Treuer's ability to move seamlessly back and forth from the Big Indian Story to the voices of living Indians explaining to us, and to themselves, what it means to be Indian, American, and both at the same time. . . .  open[ing] a window on the contemporary Indian world, in its dazzling variety, and infus[ing] the book with a kind of vividness and punch rarely found in narrative histories. . . . It's hard to imagine there will be a better, more compelling look at Indian country than this one anytime soon." — The Daily Beast

"A gripping medley of academic rigor, reporting and memoir, Treuer's fascinating and unconventional account of Native American history burns with a passionate sense of resiliency." — Washington Post

7.17.2021

"at your library" in the north island eagle: a chance to win great prizes, just for reading

In my last column I highlighted incentives being offered by the Vancouver Island Regional Library (VIRL) for kids to read, and for teens to stay engaged in learning, through the Summer Reading Club and the Teen Summer Quest. I briefly mentioned the Adult Summer Reading Challenge, and some readers of this column wanted more information. Nothing makes a librarian happier!

The Adult Summer Reading Challenge (ASRC) is a fun and easy way to keep your summer reading on track, to branch out and read something new, and to explore more of what VIRL has to offer.

Like the classic Summer Reading Club for children, the ASRC is called Crack the Case. It’s set up like a BINGO game. You can download and print a BINGO sheet, ask library staff to print a sheet for you, or play online at virl.beanstack.org/reader365. You’ll need to set up a Beanstack account with an email address and a password.

After that, all you do is read to complete squares, lines, and even the whole card, to win draw slips.

If you’re participating on paper, visit your branch to fill out draw slips.

If you’re playing online, every time you complete a “badge”, you’ll be automatically entered into the draw through your Beanstack account.

No matter how you play, each BINGO square = one draw slip. Each BINGO line = a bonus draw slip. Each completed puzzle sheet = a bonus draw slip. And each completed whole BINGO card = an entry for a VIRL-wide prize of $100 at the bookstore of your choice.

If you read something that qualifies for more than one square, mark it down for every category it applies to. 

The ASRC web page is full of resources and suggestions to help you complete your challenges. Some of the challenges are:

** Read an eBook. Read on a computer, your phone or tablet, or a dedicated eReader. Library staff can help get you started.

** Read a graphic novel. We have them for all ages, including graphic memoirs and nonfiction.

** Read a book by a Canadian author. This is easy to do, as there are so many great Canadian authors, spanning all genres and styles. See the ASRC website for lists and suggestions, including mysteries, award-winners, literary novels, books by Asian Canadians, books by Black Canadians, books by local BC authors, and more.

** Read a mystery. We’ve got lists of British and Irish mysteries, Canadian mysteries, “cozy” mysteries, literary mysteries – you name it! Ask our branch staff or search the catalogue on your own.

** Read a book that was recommended to you. This could be a recommendation from a friend, library staff, a display at your branch, or an online source like Goodreads or Book Riot. Anything linked on a ASRC list counts – and might earn more than one entry!

** Listen to an audiobook. Check one out on CD from your branch or download one from the Libby app or the Overdrive/Libby website.

** Read a magazine. Browse in your branch, find one at home, or try an eMagazine.

** Cook a new recipe from a cookbook from the library. Head to the 641 section and a bit beyond. Cookbooks are arranged by type of cooking. Our staff will be happy to show you where to find them.

** Read to a family member. This could be your dog, a plant, or your best friend. Family isn’t always related by blood!

There are more categories, too, like books made into movies, award-winners, young adult, humour, and a “summer” read. You can even earn prize entries by reading outside or staying up too late. That’s something we don’t offer on the children’s Summer Reading Club!

"at your library" in the north island eagle: summer reading fun for all ages

Summer Reading Club is back, and it’s not just for kids. Children, teens, and adults can all find fun reading challenges – and prizes – at your library. Even infants and toddlers can get in on the fun.

SRC is all about motivating kids and their families to read during the summer months. The reason is simple: kids who read in the summer do better in school in September! Reading keeps kids’ brains exercised, keeps them in learning mode. This is true no matter what they read – silly stories, comic books, mysteries, or world record books. It all “counts”. What’s the best thing for kids to read? Whatever they enjoy most!

Babies and toddlers can participate too! It’s never too early to begin “reading readiness” for your children, grandchildren, or any children you spend time with. Reading readiness prepares kids for school success. All you have to do is read with your children! Let them see the pictures and help turn the pages. Ask them questions about what they see on the page. Sing and be silly and fun. It’s great for bonding, and it helps their young brains develop.

Joining SRC is simple. Just come to the library, pick up a package, and start reading! Kids track the days that they read, and earn prizes for reading daily. This year’s theme is Crack the Case, and there are some fun mystery activities planned.

Registration is not required – but if kids want to register, they can do so at bcsrc.ca.

Teens ages 12-18 can join the Teen Summer Quest. Teens can stop by their library and pick up a map of Middle Earth, or download it at virl.bc.ca/tsc.

From there, they’ll complete fun challenges to earn points. The more challenging the task, the more points earned. This year’s prizes are super: 3rd Prize is a $100 gift card to any bookstore, 2nd prize is a 7th Gen iPod Touch, and the grand prize a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3 Headphones. 

Teens can track their challenges on paper or online. Questions? Email teensc@virl.bc.ca or visit the library branch.

Adults can also Crack the Case with VIRL’s Adult Summer Reading Challenge BINGO. You can print a BINGO sheet, or play online, on the fun mobile app Beanstack. For more info, go to virl.bc.ca/adult-summer-reading-challenge. If you’re reading anyway, why not sign up for a chance to win a bookstore gift card?

So whether your child is 8 months, 8 years, or 18 years, whether you’re in your 20s, 50s, or 90s, or anywhere in between, your challenge is simple. Read. Enjoy. Enter. And maybe win.

"at your library" in the north island eagle: the library celebrates national indigenous people's month

Still catching up on posting my columns.

The recent horrific discovery in Kamloops of the remains of 215 Indigenous children, buried in an unmarked mass grave, brought home the horrors of the Residential School system. Many people in North Island communities may be retraumatized by this news, and those who are not directly impacted may still experience profound grief, anger, and sorrow. I know I personally have, and still do.

This chilling news came on the eve of National Indigenous People’s History Month (NIPHM). Canadians celebrate National Indigenous History Month to honour the history, heritage, and diversity of Indigenous peoples in Canada. It is also an opportunity to recognize the strength of present-day Indigenous communities. National Indigenous History Month is a time for learning about and appreciating the contributions First Nations, Inuit and Métis people have made in shaping Canada.

The VIRL NIPHM Challenge

Throughout June, VIRL invites you to take actions to further your understanding of local Indigenous communities, and the ongoing affects of colonization, and to engage with the many talented Indigenous content makers, artists, and creators.

There’s a resource list full of choices to help you – and a great prize draw as incentive.

The VIRL resource list includes books, movies, reports, articles, podcasts, games and more. You can use the NIPHM Challenge Booklet to track your progress.

How it works – what you can win

Each challenge you check off equals one entry into the prize draw. 

Each completed booklet gives you five additional prize entries. 

Your local library branches will be holding draws for gift cards from local Indigenous businesses. Challenge records submitted by the end of June will be entered into a grand prize draw for a $100 gift card for U’mista Cultural Centre in Alert Bay.

You can complete as many tasks as you like, and every task you check off counts for one prize entry.

List includes videos created by local students

The extensive resource list includes ideas for adults, teens, and kids. On the kids’ list, you’ll find videos created by students at the Gwa'sala-'Nakwaxda'xw School in Port Hardy. I hope you’ll check out these sweet and wonderful videos!

During the month of June, when you visit virl.bc.ca, you’ll see both Pride and National Indigenous History Month on the landing page. The beautiful graphic “Raven My Friend” was created for VIRL by Métis artist Jean-Paul Langlois. Mr. Langlois has made a downloadable version available on the VIRL website.

You can also bring home a Take & Make weaving kit, and learn by video with Elder artist and weaver Violet Elliott / SNU’MEETHIA. If you weren’t lucky enough to snag one of the kits with harvested cedar, you can participate using ribbon. See your favourite library branch to pick up your kit.

7.09.2021

"at your library" in the north island eagle: summer reading fun for all ages

Summer Reading Club is back, and it’s not just for kids. Children, teens, and adults can all find fun reading challenges – and prizes – at your library. Even infants and toddlers can get in on the fun.

SRC is all about motivating kids and their families to read during the summer months. The reason is simple: kids who read in the summer do better in school in September! Reading keeps kids’ brains exercised, keeps them in learning mode. This is true no matter what they read – silly stories, comic books, mysteries, or world record books. It all “counts”. What’s the best thing for kids to read? Whatever they enjoy most!

Babies and toddlers can participate too! It’s never too early to begin “reading readiness” for your children, grandchildren, or any children you spend time with. Reading readiness prepares kids for school success. All you have to do is read with your children! Let them see the pictures and help turn the pages. Ask them questions about what they see on the page. Sing and be silly and fun. It’s great for bonding, and it helps their young brains develop.

Joining SRC is simple. Just come to the library, pick up a package, and start reading! Kids track the days that they read, and earn prizes for reading daily. This year’s theme is Crack the Case, and there are some fun mystery activities planned.

Registration is not required – but if kids want to register, they can do so at bcsrc.ca.

Teens ages 12-18 can join the Teen Summer Quest. Teens can stop by their library and pick up a map of Middle Earth, or download it at virl.bc.ca/tsc.

From there, they’ll complete fun challenges to earn points. The more challenging the task, the more points earned. This year’s prizes are super: 3rd Prize is a $100 gift card to any bookstore, 2nd prize is a 7th Gen iPod Touch, and the grand prize a pair of Beats by Dr. Dre Studio3 Headphones. 

Teens can track their challenges on paper or online. Questions? Email teensc@virl.bc.ca or visit the library branch.

Adults can also Crack the Case with VIRL’s Adult Summer Reading Challenge BINGO. You can print a BINGO sheet, or play online, on the fun mobile app Beanstack. For more info, go to virl.bc.ca/adult-summer-reading-challenge. If you’re reading anyway, why not sign up for a chance to win a bookstore gift card?

So whether your child is 8 months, 8 years, or 18 years, whether you’re in your 20s, 50s, or 90s, or anywhere in between, your challenge is simple. Read. Enjoy. Enter. And maybe win.

7.07.2021

in which my plus-size clothing works for me one last time

I recently lost a lot of weight* and am selling all my plus-size clothing. 

Over the years I have donated many items and sold many others. Whether to donate or sell is just a quick gut-instinct decision, based on an item's condition, its resale value, our current finances, and my mood. 

Because I have to buy almost all new clothes, earning a bit of income through sales offsets some of that expense. It also reaches many more people than the one thrift shop in town can.

Like any good re-sale transaction, these items will be a good deal for both buyer and seller, keep a few things out of landfill, and extend the life of some usable goods.

Anything that doesn't sell, I'll donate to an organization such as Dress for Success, or something similar.

Where to sell... or not

In our area, there's no Craiglist or Kijiji -- only Facebook groups. Indeed, there's no anything except Facebook. I've learned that in many small communities, Facebook is the internet. This is sad on so many levels. At the library, introducing customers to new-to-them internet services is often a tough sell. But for local information, Facebook is everything.

I wasn't keen on posting my clothes on Facebook, for the same reason I don't share social media locally: privacy. That is, the total lack thereof in these small communities. I do use the local Facebook buy/sell groups, but for some inexplicable reason, selling my clothes felt too personal. So I thought I'd see what other options exist.

From past selling experience, I know eBay is full of used clothing for sale, but with eBay there are always mailing costs. Mailing costs to the US are prohibitive, and eBay Canada is much more limited. At some point it occurred to me that there must be apps exclusively for used clothing sales.

Are there ever. There's a plethora of such services. (An excuse to use the word plethora!) Unfortunately for me, most don't apply to my situation.

Most of the resale clothing apps are after-markets for high-end designer goods. Some are even more specific, such as designer shoes or bags (pocketbooks), and some only accept clothes from a specific list of designer labels. This seems odd to me, but the whole universe of designer labels is alien to me.

There are also apps for sales of single-use garments, like prom dresses and bridesmaid gear. 

Then there are the apps that didn't make it: all the "best places to sell your used clothes online" stories (such as this one) feature apps that no longer exist. 

And finally, some are not available in Canada. 

Weeding out for all these reasons, I was left with three options: myWardrobe, eBay, and Facebook. I decided to go for all three.

Too much phone

The most time-consuming part of the process, by far, was taking pictures of all the clothes -- front, back, any details, plus a close-up on the label. Once that was complete, it was easy to list everything, although it took many hours. It was much easier to do via smartphone than it would have been at a computer. As a general rule I prefer a keyboard to onscreen typing and I am not an everything-by-phone person, but in this case, using apps simplified and streamlined the process.

After posting everything using the myWardrobe and eBay apps, I decided to also put everything on Facebook anyway. 

The privacy issue still niggles at me, but I'm putting it aside for the ease of the local transaction. Dealing with the post office in our little town is not difficult, but it's still better -- easier and less expensive -- to avoid that if possible.

I should note, too, that it's only the clothes that I feel shy about. I've sold and given away many things through the local Facebook buy/sell/trade group. Just recently we gave away a lawnmower after upgrading ours, and sold a headboard -- apparently a much sought-after item -- after a company shipped it to us by mistake. 

So I love the local marketplace groups. I just felt uncomfortable hanging up my clothes in public, so to speak. But yesterday, someone in town popped over, scooped up 10 tees, handed me some cash, and was on her way. It was a quick, friendly, simple transaction, as all my local selling transactions have been, whether through Craigslist or Facebook. I just needed to get over it.

When we moved from our last rental house in Ontario into an apartment, I sold ten years' worth of outdoor equipment we had accumulated -- lawnmower, patio furniture, garden tools, wheelbarrow, tarps. I sold every last item, which helped with moving costs.

Come to think of it, every one of our moves, beginning with New York City to Canada, then every move since, has been a bonanza for folks who trawl Craigslist, Freecycle, Trash Nothing, Kijiji... and now Facebook. 

I never post my selling links on this blog, but if you're in the market for plus-size clothing, feel free to get in touch.

* Story is here.