Friday, 25 September 2009

Make it so

I am in DE-NIAL. 
No, I am not talking about the longest river in Africa, I am talking about the slow death of summer. I say slow because after having 33+ weather on  Wednesday, only to have a high of 16 this weekend, I have thoughts of Mexico, fruity drinks and cabana boys (not necessarily in that order).

I love the summer. I love the sweltering heat. I love the feeling you get when you are driving in your car that has no A/C and you feel like you are melting in your seat. I love when I walk into my apartment, it's hotter on the third floor than it is outside. Above all, I love complaining about the heat (and everything else, but more on that another time).
I used to live in Ontario where the summer was unbearable, the smog was unbreathable and the sun was like a cruel beam coming from the Starship Enterprise (or for you Star Wars fans, the Millenium Falcon, which to my recollection, blew apart the Death Star).

Anyhoo, the fact of the matter is, I love the heat and I miss the sweat. 
Alberta summer's are nice, but they are much different than those in Ontario. Albeit as short as the summer season is here, I will take what I can get. This year, I got very little and I am not pleased. I feel ripped off.

We are now officially in the fall season and I am not happy about it. Yes, fall is pretty. The weather may even be tolerable. But following fall (say that three times fast) is Old Man Winter.

To me, OMW (Old Man Winter) sounds like a crotchety old man, probably not to handsome, lives alone, not dating anyone special and has no cable. OMW is an unhappy fellow who likes to spread his misery onto others. If I had a phaser, I would have no problem taking him out.
I do not ski, I cannot skate (think of Bambi on ice but worse) and I do not enjoy long walks on the beach in -20 weather. I hate boots, baggy coats, wet mittens and trying to start a car that, could it speak, would say, "You're kidding me, right?"

The Farmer's Almanac states for the winter of 2009/2010, it will be an "Ice Cold Sandwich Winter". Like Homer Simpson, I do enjoy a good sandwich, but not an ice cold one. This winter is supposed to be "colder and drier than normal" in the prairies and "bitterly cold and dry" in the Ontario region. Like the statement, looking toward the upcoming changing of the seasons is making me feel a little bitterly cold. But that's normal.

In the end, I have to suck it up.

Winter comes every year, and as Canadians, we should accept the fact that were our country located in the Southern Hemisphere, we would be better cricket players than hockey players. 
But we are in the north. We are the True North Strong and Free. We can take the cold, we can drive on snow covered roads, and in the end, we will mass produce better hockey players than anyone else on the planet. It comes with the territory.

If only the territory was located a teeny tiny bit to the south, I might not be so grumpy about it.

**This blog is dedicated to my only fan outside of my parents, Louise. We're glad you're home. Live long and prosper**

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Cemetery Vandalism

To some people a headstone at a cemetery may just be a large piece of cement; to others it is a memory of a sibling, parent, grandparent, significant other, friend or child.

They represent a final laying place for those who have passed away.

Last week seven headstones at a cemetery near Calmar were vandalized leaving thousands of dollars in damage for one family.

This is not the first time headstones have been damaged near Calmar, a few years ago Calmar Community Cemetery was vandalized leaving numerous families left to replace headstones, while flowers, wreaths and other items placed by graves in memory of someone were gone or ruined.

Among one of those headstones was one belonging to my cousin Rebecca, who was taken far too early and left behind a family who spent good money on a tombstone and flowers in memory of her.

When I talked to my Auntie about when her daughters headstone was vandalized all she had to say was how heart breaking it was.

“It is absolutely devastating to get that call from the grounds keeper to say ‘come down, daughters grave has been wrecked’.”

I will be the first to admit I have done some very, very stupid things growing up, sometimes hurting people who likely didn’t deserve it, even if I thought at the time they did.

One thing I knew even as a dumb, reckless, immature child was that death is never a joke, and the emotions that arise when a person loses a loved one is not something to mess around with.

If you are drunk, stoned or just stupid and want to break stuff, do everyone a favour, go home and ruin something that means the world to you.

 Photo above: One of the headstones damaged last week near Calmar. Photo taken by Carole Morris-Underhill


Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Air emergency

An Edmonton-area teen pretends to be a casualty of a mock plane crash staged at the Edmonton International Airport Tuesday morning. About 80 drama students from Leduc Composite High School and Bev Facey Community High School in Sherwood Park volunteered to act as victims in the scenario, which was designed as a training exercise for regional emergency services and airport personnel. (Alexandra Pope/Sun Media)

Friday, 11 September 2009

Where were you when ...?

This morning, I woke up at 7 as usual, laid in bed until 7:30, got up, ate a bowl of cereal, checked my email, poured my coffee into a thermos and headed out the door.

I drove my boyfriend to work, headed onto the Whitemud, sang along with the radio and started to plan my day in my head.

I thought about the interviews I had to do, the conference I would attend in the afternoon, and allowed myself a moment of excitement at the thought of tonight's party. It never occurred to me that there was anything remarkable about today, anything significant other than the fact that it's Friday.

And then, as I was turning off the highway at my usual exit, the radio station played a series of sound clips — a woman screaming, a news anchor saying "Smoke is pouring out of the Pentagon," a woman saying "And then he said, 'I just called to tell y'all I love you,'" a man yelling "Oh my God, there's another one" with screams audible in the background. A weight immediately settled across my shoulders. September 11. How could I have forgotten?

It's been eight years, but my reaction to the sound clips is still visceral. 9/11/01 was a day that changed the world — it changed lives, it changed policy, it set countless stories in motion. And, on a more personal level, it was the day I woke up out of my childhood and truly began to think about the world around me.

I was 15, in my second week of Grade 11 at my high school in Mississauga, Ontario. I was walking with my friends to our second-period music class. It was about 9:45 by then. We passed another kid in our grade who was leaning casually by the water fountain outside the gym. "Did you hear?" he said. "The World Trade Centre's been bombed by terrorists."

It's a sign of how deeply self-involved I was then that I couldn't even picture the World Trade Centre in my mind. I had never been to New York City and no one had ever sat me down in front of a picture of the skyline and pointed out the twin towers. Why would they?

We walked into our classroom and made a beeline for the teacher, who was sitting behind the piano.

"Jonathan said the World Trade Centre was bombed by terrorists," I said by way of greeting.

Our teacher didn't skip a beat. "I don't know anything about that," she said.

As more students trickled in, there was vague chatter about a terrorist attack, but the teacher launched straight into the lesson and there was no more time for talk.

The class ended shortly after 11. I was hungry and looking forward to my third-period lunch. The vague bombing talk had been forgotten. I was heading to the cafeteria when our principal's voice came over the PA system.

Calmly, without preamble, he informed the silent hallways what had happened. Planes had flown into the twin towers of the World Trade Center earlier that morning. Both had collapsed. Another plane had crashed into the Pentagon; a fourth had crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. Thousands were believed to be dead. The situation was still developing. Students who wished to contact their parents and leave school early would be permitted to do so.

The principal ended his address by asking everyone to observe two minutes of silence immediately following the announcement.

I looked around. The hallways were jammed with people on their way to lunch or their next class. People were hugging, some were crying silently. Others leaned against the lockers with blank faces. It was a long, tense, suspended moment. I had to close my eyes.

I took my lunch outside and sat on the front steps of the school. It was a beautiful, sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. Some of my older, more knowledgeable friends talked over my head about the attacks. Unfamiliar words — "Syria," "Osama bin Laden," "jihad," "Saddam Hussein" — drifted down to my ears, meaningless without context.

I stayed at school for the rest of the day, watching CNN. My English teacher tried to encourage us to talk about our reactions to what we were seeing but conversation was thin on the ground. For probably the first time in my life, I had nothing to contribute. I didn't understand any of what I was seeing and hearing. Everything around me — the classroom walls, the desks, the novels and plays stacked on the shelves, the bowed heads of my classmates — seemed improbably normal. After such a momentous and tragic event, shouldn't the laws of gravity have been overturned? Shouldn't the sun have just set at 10 in the morning and refused to come up ever again? How could it not signify the imminent end of the world?

I still experience a moment like that every September 11. It feels wrong somehow to treat it as just another day. The date should be retired from the calendar, like the jersey number of a beloved hockey player. We should skip straight from Sept. 10 to Sept. 12 the same way high-rise apartments omit the thirteenth floor.

I've told my personal 9/11 story countless times. It's not particularly dramatic or moving; I was still a kid with a kid's bewildered, self-interested awareness of world events. But it still feels constructive to remember, to consider the world we inherited that day upon the spectacular death of innocence. It imbued me with an energy to know, to learn, to understand, to combat ignorance, especially my own.

We were all there that day, in one way or another. What did it mean to you?

Weekly Roundup — Sept. 11

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

• Leduc and district RCMP welcomed a new regional commander, Insp. Chuck Jackson, to the force Aug. 10.

• Local MPs are preparing for a possible fall federal election.

• Leduc County council will borrow $3.5 million from the province on behalf of the Leduc Foundation to finance their three-year affordable housing plan.

• The Leduc Public Library is offering an outreach service to the housebound.

• The City of Leduc is gathering feedback on changes to Leduc Assisted Transportation Services, including a possible fare reduction.

• A trial date has been set for an Edmonton man accused of stabbing a Co-op taxi driver in Nisku last month.

• Second Glance clothing has made a financial contribution to the upcoming Visualeyes Youth Conference, which aims to motivate local students and teach them about good decision making.

• In sports, the Chinese national curling teams have chosen Leduc as their training ground in the leadup to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver; the Red Deer Rebels and Edmonton Oil Kings played an exhibition game in Leduc last week; and a local track star placed fifth in his event at the recent Canada Games.

• Goofy Alberta musical comedy duo Lewis & Royal will play a free show in Leduc Sept. 19.

• Calmar is considering changing its water utilities bylaw to protect landlords whose tenants renege on their payments.

• A longtime employee of ATB Financial celebrated his retirement last week.

All this and more in the Sept. 11 issue of the Rep!

Friday, 4 September 2009

Weekly Roundup — Sept. 4

Here's what's making news in Leduc and area this week:

• Local school boards are waiting to find out how an $80 million cut to Alberta Education's budget announced last week will affect their operations this year.

• RCMP will be stepping up their presence in school zones this week to give drivers a refresher on speed limits.

• Laura profiles local punk band California Lane Change, who won the Battle of the Bands at Leduc's first Rock the Rails youth event Aug. 27. Also, check out our photo gallery with tons of pics from the event.

• Leduc County council has provided staff with guidelines for the county's 2010 budget, including a $250,000 contingency fund for Capital Region Board projects.

• Are you prepared to take up the Terry Fox challenge?

• Local school boards are updating their pandemic plans in advance of the fall flu season and are expected to include some guidelines for dealing with the H1N1 flu virus.

• Alex has a feature about Leduc County's Bridges mentorship program, which provides support and guidance for women living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

• City of Leduc council turned down a request by the owners of the Prairie Professional building — partially destroyed by a June 12 fire — for more than $10,000 in tax relief.

• Leduc County and the Town of Beaumont are embarking on a joint sustainable growth study.

Construction is underway on a new elementary school in Thorsby.

• In sports, the Atlanta Thrashers have their eye on Leduc minor hockey alum Travis Toomey, who is heading to a scouting tournament this week.

• We have updates on the Bobcats', Wildcats and Ti-Cats' weekend football games; and despite not making the finals, the E2 Crude/West women's rugby team dominated in the B-division playoffs last week.

• And in your weekly crime and punishment update, a Leduc man racked up more than $3,000 in fines for playing his stereo too loud.

All this and more in the Sept. 4 Rep!

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

California Lane Change

Last week I attended the first ever Rock the Rails hosted by the City of Leduc. I didn't expect the turnout to be that great, and I was very wrong.
Not only were there some pretty great bands, the Skatepark was packed and there were several other activities.
Nine bands took part in a Battle of the Bands. The winner was a local group, California Lane Change.
They won over the crowd with two covers, Check Yes Juliet and The Middle, and with an original Stars and Swing Sets.
The had energy, stage presence and a huge crowd of girls screaming.
I met with them Monday night, and what I thought would be a quick 20 minute interview turned into a hour and a half.
These five guys are more than just a band, they are best friends.
With all the Will Ferrell movie quotes, different food combination explanations and debates about One Tree Hill and the OC, the time I spent with them didn't feel like an interview at all.
They all love music, sure they all love different types of music, but that's what makes a great band, different backgrounds.
These guys aren't in it for the fame or the fortune. They like music, hanging out with each other and having a good time, and that is what makes some of the best bands.
Joe, Kyle, Matt, Tyler and Kevin are talented guys who I expect to see a lot more of in the future.
Check out their Facebook group California Lane Change and become a fan to stay up to date with upcoming shows.

Back to books

Bells were ringing all over Leduc this morning as students headed back to school for another year. The Rep was out bright and early to capture some of the excitement.

Amber Mayer, Madison Pittman and Courtney Beierbach, all 11, are pleased to be at the top of the food chain as they enter Grade 5, their last year at East Elementary School.

Jayden Bayrack, 7, and younger brother Graysen, 4, couldn't wait to get back to East Elementary School. Graysen had been looking forward all summer to wearing his new Team Canada sweater.

Ceanna Brunes, 5, discovered the perfect cure for the first-day-of-kindergarten jitters: a hug from pal Emma Bianic, 6.