Save Dean’s Voice Campaign Launched

My brother Dean has ALS. He’s only a few years older than me, and he’s been dealing with the dreaded disease for 9 years. I had no clue what it was at first, and when I read, “fatal, 2 – 4 years life expectancy,” I cried for days.  It was Dean who had to live with it, day by day as his body changed and  he began loosing his ability to do things we all take for granted.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (also known as ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or motor neuron disease) is a disease that gradually paralyzes people because the brain is no longer able to communicate with the muscles of the body that we are typically able to move at will. Over time, as the muscles of the body break down, someone living with ALS will lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, swallow, and eventually breathe.”

(Dean standing fourth from left with my 3 other brothers and dad)

My brother is my hero! Dean is a fighter, and he’s proven to every doctor and every nurse that he can live, and will live.  We’ve transitioned many times with  the idea of acceptance, and I know now that Dean can have as long a life as he can believe for himself, and that we can believe for him.

As long as Dean wants to live, and has the care that he needs to see each day, he will live.

I found much needed hope when I watched the movie, “The Theory of Everything ” about world famous scientist Stephen Hawking who today is 75, but found out he had ALS in his 20s when little was known about it. Hawking has defied the odds, and so has my brother.

I’m in touch with my Dean night and day, yet I’m a 12-hour drive away.  Through the use of a computer  head-mouse we used to talk via Skype every day, but now that I no long work from home, we’re not able to talk as much.

(Screenshot! Dean’s birthday 2015. Mom and I talking over Skype with Dean, my brother Wayne and Dean’s son Curt.)

So where are we today? 
 Dean is starting to lose his voice. Up until  now, and even with a tracheotomy, he was able to communicate vocally to us. We knew the day would come that he would be harder to understand, and that eventually his vocal cords will no longer work. Today it’s easier to communicate with him via email, Skype or Facebook message. His typing skills have improved immensely in the past year.

The computer is his lifeline, and we need to ensure he has it to communicate.

Earlier this year, Dean was gifted a refurbished computer, which enabled him to have monitors set up in his room so he can communicate with hospital staff via his keyboard  to text on the monitor (many of the staff have English as their second language).

(Dean’s birthday party in 2016)

Dean’s situation is becoming more urgent!  The only muscle Dean is still able to control in his body is his neck muscle.  He is starting to find challenges with this. It’s becoming paramount that he be able to communicate with the use of his eyes through eye-control mouse technology.

Here another reason why it’s so important:

One night I received a distressing Facebook message from Dean, “I’m in trouble. Call the front desk,” is all it said. I scrambled to find the hospital phone number. After several attempts I got the right hospital desk and they went to check him.  When you lay silent, and cannot speak, the world becomes a scary place. I want my brother to have options.  When he was finally able to tell me what had happened, he said he thought he was not going to survive that night.

It’s paramount that he can speak to the staff, and to anyone via the internet when he needs to. We want to be ahead of the curve and be ready for his next transition. 

In order to move to the latest eye-mouse technology Dean needs  a new computer that will be able to handle his new software and hardware.  He’ll need new monitors, and monitor arms, etc.  He needs access to the computer for when he’s laying in bed, and when he’s in his wheelchair — along with the new computer and parts, both locations are an extension of Dean and need to be equipped.

(Dean in summer 2017)

Here’s how your donation will give Dean his voice.  

Dean needs:

2 Tobii cameras , 2 monitors (recommended by Tobii), Cuzzi monitor arm (hospital grade over bed monitor), monitor arm from amazon, for wheelchair drive up monitor, computer with Bluetooth, word prediction onscreen keyboard, external Wi-Fi storage, anti glare tablet for wheelchair text-to-speak programs, 2 battery operated Wi-Fi cameras, installation and tech time. Wheel chair batteries. Ongoing tech support.

Can you help? Big or small, it all counts. Thank you for your support! Please share this pageDONATE HERE.

Sincerely,

Robbin  (Dean’s little sister)

Wait, there’s more! 
p.s.  Through Dean’s improvement with communicating through a computer via his head-mouse, he has started to assist me by performing social media  tasks for one of my  online businesses. I know with the right technology, Dean’s continued practice,  along with his desire to find daily purpose, he will be able to find online work before too long. Let’s help him make that happen~

(The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was truly inspiring, giving so many sufferers acknowledgement and raising vital funds for productive research. )

My brother knows me, and I like it

A collage I put together for a presentation I was giving on my life’s transitions.

My birthday has come and gone this year, but I just came across this post on Facebook that my little brother (I have three older brothers – all just as amazing) posted as a tribute to me on my 54th in March.

I want to cherish this writing, so have chosen to publish it here. It’s not everyday we can hear a loved ones speak about you. Often that is reserved for our funeral.  I particularly like to do similar on family birthdays, to let people know how we feel about them, and to let them know that we are aware and understand the strides they are making or are attempting to make in life.

Nollind wrote, “My sister Robbin Whachell turns 54 today. While conventional minds might say she is entering the latter part of an already full life (and maybe needs to slow down a bit), it’s evident to me that she is just getting started with a whole new life in a whole new world unfolding before her.

In a simple word, Robbin is a pioneer, just like her parents before her. Perhaps unbeknownst to many, she has been peripherally settling and cultivating a new home in the wilds of a new world for many years, while sustaining herself and her family at the same time within the conventional old world. As such, she is a living bridge between what has been and what will be, giving others a wonderful glimpse at the future emerging in our present today.

Seeking more personal meaning beyond the limited identity and confines of the traditional work world, Robbin branched out within her social life, enabling her to spread her wings and achieve a heightened vision to help the communities that she cared about the most. While some might say this was time wasted due to a lack of monetary compensation, she saw and felt something greater within it, something priceless that stretched far beyond economic value to a deeper, social value.

While I’m sure Robbin herself still feels like she has many miles to go on her transformational journey, it is without a doubt that each day her purpose is becoming stronger with clarity. Yes, the wilds of this new world are a chaotic, confusing, and uncertain place but each day her purpose, as her internal compass, helps her slowly map this new world and her new identity, giving them both a deeper sense of meaning and empowerment to her life.

In closing, I just want to refer to a couple of quotes by Marina Gorbis from her book The Nature of the Future. These quotes epitomize what Robbin is becoming and already is. She is a pioneer, a leader, living and leading by example. She is an advocate of a better world by building and living a better world out of her own life. She is a teacher, showing others the time and patience required to weave a better, integrated life whose social fabric can contain the complexities and uncertainties of the future to come.

Happy Birthday Robbin!

“In the past we’ve been advised to leave the personal and social at the door when we go to work. But the new work is all about the social and personal. It draws on the power of personal connections and the diversity of personal tastes, talents, and quirks.”

“What the pioneers of socialstructing are doing looks less like management and more like community organizing. Yes, good old-fashioned community organizing, but with a new set of tools and motivations. And their efforts are more akin to social movements than to managed organizations. Much of the motivation for building and contributing to socialstructs comes from a sense of urgency and greater purpose. This drive has often grown out of a particular vulnerability or personal experience of founders, making them into powerful advocates for their causes.”

— Marina Gorbis, The Nature of the Future

A collage I put together for a presentation I was giving on my life’s transitions.

Mom’s moved into a seniors home


And so THIS HAPPENED this week!

Mom is now in a senior’s home. She’s been asking for for several months, and a recent turn of events, and the progression of her dementia and short-term memory loss made for necessary quick decisions.

Although I thought her being with me was the best for her, I’ve had to come to terms that as my life gets busier, and my children move out of the nest, she needs companionship, and soon, 24 hour attention.

She feels good about the move, and I am trying to adjust. #parentingourparents

Green Embassy of Australia highlights B.C. First Nation’s plight with Kinder Morgan

Australian designer Kuvan- Mills with the great-grandchildren of Chief Dan George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, BC, Canada. (Photo left by Arun Nevader / photo right by Dustin Photography)

Vancouver, B.C. — World Water Week has just concluded and although many events took place around the world close to rivers, oceans and streams, the fashion runway may be one of the last places on people’s minds when it comes to water and conservation.  Enter Zuhal Kuvan-Mills from Australia and her Green Embassy ‘ Empty Oceans’ collection…

Environmental activist, fashion designer and artist Kuvan-Mills believes art and fashion impact our emotions and can move us to value our blue planet. Currently supporting the world’s leading direct action ocean conservation organization, Sea Shepherd (Australia) she said she was compelled to return to west-coast Canada for Vancouver Fashion Week after hearing about the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion and its threat to local waters.  This is the Perth designer’s fourth time down the runway of Vancouver Fashion Week, and her Empty Ocean’s collection is in perfect sync with water conservation, and she wanted to share that with the Vancouver audience.

Zuhal Kuvan-Mills wears a Sea Shepherd Australia t-shirt with her models at Vancouver Fashion Week on March 26, 2017 (Photo: Dustin Photography)


“Vancouver has such a rich and beautiful coastline that should be protected for generations to come. I know that the First Peoples of its territory are as connected to their land and water,”  said Kuvan-Mills who connected with Charlene Aleck of Tsleil-Waututh First Nation during her stay.  Aleck’s daughter Ocean and granddaughter Maya, ad her niece Jasmine were asked to walk the runway.  The three, are the great (and great-great) grandchildren of a the late native leader, Chief Dan George.  The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a Coast Salish band whose Indian reserve is located on Burrard Inlet in the southeast area of the District of North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

The Green Embassy runway show opened with a poignant video by Conservation International which reminded us of the beauty of the ocean, and why we need her. As the video closed,  the First Nation youth walked together down the runway in their traditional regalia covered by one large fishing net.

Maya, Ocean, and Jasmine of Tsleil-Waututh Nation on the runway for Green Embassy’s “Empty Oceans” collection at Vancouver Fashion Week (Photo: Arun Nevader)

“I am grateful to the work of Zuhal Kuvan-Mills,” said Charlee Aleck, who is an elected Councillor for her nation after the runway show, “‘Empty Oceans’ brings awareness to how we are treating/polluting our oceans, and the state of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. She shares our concern and the imminent threats to our salmon bearing rivers and Salish Sea from the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. ‘What will we leave our children?’ Empty nets?” continued Aleck. “I feel truly blessed to have met this beautiful soul, the passion Zuhal has put into this very important message – water is life!”

“I aim to support and help indigenous communities across the world,” says Zuhal. “The children under the fishing net represents the future of the First Nations, they are being destroyed by all types of abuse and destruction to oceans,” said Kuvan-Mills. “Black coloured fish net was selected to represent death and destruction to the natural environment (coastal waters) for First Nations. It was also over the children like a black cloud as now they are under great danger of losing their coastal waters to pollution with yet another Kinder Morgan pipeline.”

(Photos: Dustin Photography)


It is her hope to create a collaborative event between the First Peoples of both Canada and Australia whereupon dance, music, fashion and the arts can be shared.

Models graced the runway to a mix of sounds of First Nation drumbeats and Aboriginal didgeridoo. Fabrics were soft and flowing like water, in blues and ocean colours, or light and creamy like the sand and sea. Bow-ties, bows, sashes or sleeves were made from re-purposed fishing net remnants. Some dresses were made of recycled polyester sourced from trash, plastic bottles, ad drift / ghost fishing nets. There was the lightest of silk pieces that whispered down the runway, while the woven items were strong and edgy like the ocean’s coral and shells, or soft and warm like the sun’s reflection on the shoreline.

The fabric of many of the coats, jackets, hats and vests were collected, hand spun, processed and dyed by Kuvan-Mills herself on her farm in Perth where she raises alpacas, a domesticated species of South American camelid, similar to the llama. Her dyes are made from vegetation, like flowers, leaves, or vegetables, finding inspiration within the textile crafting traditions of ancient times.

(Photos by Arun Nevader)


Green Embassy is Australia’s first internationally recognized organic fashion label who base their work on the protection of nature, and natural resources, while focusing on bringing public attention and education to environmental issues.

In November 2017, Kuvan-Mills will launch the inaugural Australia Eco Fashion Week in Perth. During her stay in Vancouver she explained her methods at Kwantlen University and Blanche Macdonald, and met with many designers, to inspire them to turn toward ‘slow fashion’ and join her for the event.

Green Embassy has been seen on the runway in Paris, London, Beijing and Vancouver, and with more and more concern being placed on fast fashion and the environment, Kuvan-Mills is quickly becoming a sought after guest speaker, and has been interviewed for television on SBS World News and national radio on ABC, Australia. In 2016, the Empty Oceans collection caught the attention of Pamela Anderson, who has her own foundation to help environmental causes.

Real people – non models wear Green Embassy at Vancouver Fashion Week. (Photos by Arun Nevader)


Kuvan-Mills’ commitment to sustainability, organic agriculture, art and slow fashion is expressed in each extraordinary textile piece as a labour of love.

I am so very proud to be connected to this show and that my daughters were able to walk for this amazing designer who has so much heart, passion and vision… I look forward to visiting her  in Australia.

(Photos by Arun Nevader)


Listen to a short clip of the designer talking about her dying process at a Vancouver media event.

Watch video of part of the finale walk on the runway at VFW.

Me wearing Green Embassy at Vancouver Fashion Week. The show was on my birthday on March 26! In the photo taken by Victoria Clements I am holding a Harl Taylor BAG made from natural fibres from The Bahamas. The photo on right is the same vest for a photo I included in my article “Am I Anti-Pipeline” written on my blog about my thoughts around pipelines. It was taken on Burrard Inlet where I dragon boat and where the Kinder Morgan station is.

Read  Am I Anti-Pipeline?


Connect with Green Embassy:

greenembassy.com.au/

facebook.com/greenembassyfashion

twitter.com/greenembassyau

Winter morning in the forest…

On my morning walk along Hoy Creek Trail, after checking on the salmon at Hoy Creek Hatchery this morning I was blessed to witness this sight.  I just love light coming through the trees. It’s magical…

This very old stump above is a favourite spot for photos any time of year and children can even climb within this stump.

I love the colourful contrast of white snow on this bright green moss.

snow-on-moss-tree

The forest was alive with the sounds of chickadees, and I was pleased to capture this little black-capped chickadee hopping along a moss-covered tree branch chirping and nibbling.

 

Merry Christmas from Robbin and Co.

The tree is decorated, the cookies are made, the gifts are wrapped; now all that’s left is to wish you a Merry Christmas!

I took this photo above in our front room on one of our rare snowy and chilly nights just days ago.  It looks like Christmas perfection, and luckily my head elf / youngest daughter got us moving towards Christmas this year by picking out the perfect tree, decorating, and even doing a lot of the shopping and wrapping for us!

I’ve been reexamining Christmas and what it means to me, in particular as our world changes so rapidly around us. Although I was raised Catholic, on the surface Christmas appears to be a day we work towards, to come together and share gifts we’ve purchased or made, and eat, drink and be merry. The time together is the real gift however, and it’s should be done more often. I am grateful that Christmas gets us all together, but I am becoming more of the mindset to just leave all the present shopping for birthdays!

Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni's house... (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)
Photo: Christmas 2015 at Tohni’s house… (Jackie, Tohni, Patrick, Brian, Nathen, Lorraine, Loryn, Mom)

My children are all young adults now, and it’s been a long time since I’ve written a Christmas Letter.  This year marks over 5 years that I have been back in Canada after life in The Bahamas, and no regrets. I love being home and I love my country.

My mother Corae has been living with us since September 2015 and all is going well. She turns 83 on December 23rd. For those that do not use Facebook, mom’s become quite the star as I share stories about her under the hashtag #ParentingOurParents.  They are tiny little excerpts of my life as I grapple with trying to be a good daughter, while what seems to be, ‘parenting’ my aging parent.

This year The Bahamas took the brunt of Hurricane Matthew, and I took my ex husband Brian into my home! For those not aware, Brian has Parkinsons, and his health spiraled downhill rather rapidly this summer. He’s been back in Canada since October and although glad to be home, and with family, he has a long road ahead. I’ve been helping him transition back to the real world as he awaits his new healthcare assessments. He’s improved a lot just by being here.

My eldest Loryn (26 years) is now a married working woman, and is speeding through life not only on the snowboarding slopes, but she’s progressing very quickly in her career as a banker. Go see her at HSBC if you are looking to invest.  She and Lorraine (a nurse) have purchased their first home, as well as their first car. The girls live conveniently just down the road from us.

Tohni (now 24 yrs) has been enjoying life in the fast lane and lives in East Vancouver. She’s in a great relationship with Patrick and has been co-managing a fun restaurant called The General Public on Main Street in Vancouver. Do stop in to see her, she’ll give you a super discount. This year Tohni worked her butt off so she could take in as many music festivals as she could over the summer, and traveled a couple times to the USA.

Nathen (22-yrs-old) is studying now at Simon Fraser University and is working at Vision Electronics. Go see him, he’ll also give you a good deal!  While taking on a full course load, he managed to move out last month, so his life is full of responsibility.  He lives just up the hill from us. His present goal is to become a chiropractor like his father, but he said he’ll see how things progress.

Jackie (20-yrs) is the last egg in the nest and has been a huge support around the house with helping take care of her grandmother and father. She’s been working at Dynamite women’s clothing at Coquitlam Centre and is still keeping up as the voice of the ‘community calendar’ on 98.7 FM. She can be heard every hour, on the hour at ckpmfm.com.

As for me, life is full on! I’m still working TheBahamasWeekly.com and this year we celebrated our 10th anniversary. I had hoped to get back for a celebration but the hurricane took care of that.  I’ve taken on several other clients that I do writing or social media work for.

Some 2016 highlights
Some 2016 highlights

This  year I was elected president of the Hoy-Scott Watershed Society which manages a salmon enhancement program in the woods near my house. I love my volunteer work there, and have been furthering the HSWS public relations by building and managing a new website, Youtube and social media accounts. Check us out at hoyscottcreeks.org.

I’ve just completed my first year of dragon boating with the 50+ Nothin’ Dragon Masters, and loved every minute of it.  I raced with the team in 4 or 5 festivals this year, which was very exciting. Our oldest teammate is 80. I’ve also been playing soccer with my daughter Loryn on a Div. 3 team once a week, and it’s special time with her and my favourite game. I took my love for the Coquitlam Crunch, a hiking mountain in our city, to new heights by co-chairing the annual event, the Coquitlam Crunch Challenge, and was featured in the city’s promo video. In fall of this year I joined Ultra Throw, a brand new local club of 20+ athletes training and competing in javelin, shot put, discus, hammer, and weight throwing. In 2017 I will start competing. I am excited (and scared) of this, as competing in sport ‘solo’ is brand new to me.

As for my love life, when a girlfriend from the Bahamas asked if I was dating, I said, “I’m open to it, but any group I join, or people I meet, the guys are either gay, already in relationship or married.” Another girlfriend suggested I join the dating group, “Events and Adventures,” to which I chuckled and replied, “My life is already an event and adventure! I don’t need to pay for it, and I don’t have the time in my schedule.”  Another girlfriend suggested I try online dating. I tried that once – went on one date, and although it was fine (meah), I’ve resolved to waiting to see what life doles out. So yes, I am happy and single.

In 2017 I look forward to keeping my life afloat, and also have some long-range writing goals I hope to get started on if I can find the time!

Below is my interview with Tri-Cities Community TV featured on Shaw TV where I talked about #ParentingOurParents, my salmon work, The Bahamas Weekly, and dragon boating. Click the image to view or HERE.

My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV
My interview with Cathy Cena on Tri-Cities Community TV

Whether I’ve seen you this year, or not; whether we only communicate now and again, or via social media; thank you for being in my life.  Have a wonderful holiday season!

Parenting Our Parents

I moved back to Canada from the Bahamas in late summer 2011; and before winter 2012, I moved my mother in with me.  She was not thrilled about living in the Vancouver area because she doesn’t like the damp climate.

“I’ve raised seven children; been butchered up by the doctors after being in the hospital sixteen times,” she likes to remind us, even though seven of those times were to deliver babies. “Vancouver weather just makes my bones ache.”

But  mom agreed to move in with me anyway, and we were living in a high rise on the 33rd floor.   “The bird cage,” she quickly dubbed it.  She loved the views, the sunrises, but hated everything else about it.  All that said, mom’s health improved week by week, likely due to the regular and varied meals we made, and the love received by her grandchildren.  She didn’t like going out much, and I’m no sure if it was the high rise life that was foreign to her, but the woman I knew as my mother always had a gypsy adventurous spirit and it killed me to see her be so idle while I worked on the computer during the day.

That Christmas she went to ‘visit’ her sister in Edmonton for two weeks and flew the coop by refusing to return.  I can’t say I was surprised.

On a warm May day in 2015 walking through Hoy Trail in Coquitlam. I took mom on a walk through the woods and she said, "This spot is so beautiful you should take a picture."
On a warm May day in 2015 walking through Hoy Trail in Coquitlam. I took mom on a walk through the woods and she said, “This spot is so beautiful you should take a picture.”

Mom only lasted two weeks with her big sister and then moved in with a girlfriend.  She stayed there in Edmonton, ended up in the interior of BC for a bit with another girlfriend, and went back to Edmonton until 2015. In 2014 she put herself into the hospital at one point, and the doctors found nothing wrong with her. It was hard to deal with as we wanted her in BC, but she refused to come, and refused to live with her friend again.  The doctors suggested they find senior housing for her. The wait was a few months, and I know it was hard on her.

Finally a place came up in downtown Edmonton, and my sister and I went out to set mom up in her new home. We went out and shopped and got it all ready for her, even buying her new clothes. The seniors facility had all the amenities and no cooking was allowed in her room. Thank goodness as she had been starting to leave pots on stoves, etc.

It wasn’t long before mom said she didn’t like their food, and didn’t’ seem to engage in any of the social activities they had on every day. I could tell when I called she was depressed.  All of her children, live in BC except my brother who lives in Edmonton, but has ALS and lives in long-term care.  If anything urgent were to happen with mom’s health, we’d have to fly in. I continued to express my concern about this with her.   Finally mom agreed to move to B.C. but wanted to live in Abbotsford instead of Vancouver, as she assumed it gets less rain.

Made with love! Every morning I put out breakfast for mom. Home made steel cut oats with raisins and flax; some kefir; coconut milk, stewed prunes; and her vitamins. She's only on one medication for her high blood pressure. Mom is always served first at any of our meals.
Made with love! Every morning I put out breakfast for mom. Home made steel cut oats with raisins and flax; some kefir; coconut milk, stewed prunes; and her vitamins. She’s only on one medication for her high blood pressure. Mom is always served first at any of our meals.

We found the best seniors home in our budget and were able to get her in when we wanted.  My brother drove out to get her things and put her on the plane.  This was the spring of 2015.  Within only weeks at her new place in Abbotsford, mom was complaining about the food, and the staff. She was mostly upset that the units had only walk-in showers and no bathtubs. She’s been a bathtub girl her entire life.   Again, I could hear the depression setting in, although I was driving out to visit her one day a week, bringing her home on a weekend overnights, as was my brother who lives in Abbotsford.

Then our roommate moved out of our home, and  in my heart of hearts I knew my mother should be with me.  I talked to my siblings about it first.  We all agreed she had to stick out 3 months at the seniors home first, so she would understand her actions better and have time to assimilate the transition into my home .

When I asked her if she’d move in with me again, she burst into tears. “I thought you’d never ask me again, after living with you the last time,” she said.   She stuck out the 3 months and moved in with me last year in September.

This Friday mom turns 83 and she’s finally calling our place ‘home.’ She stopped answering the phone saying, “Robbin’s place” and now just says, “Good afternoon.”

Mom’s been institutionalized, and expected meals to be on time, at certain times, even though I told her she’s living with family now and we are all busy.  Things will not always be on time, and she’ll have to learn to go with our flow. We still have to remind her of this.

Out for a walk in February 2015. After winter she was not wanting to walk much, so I had to get out with her to get her back in the swing of daily walks.
Out for a walk in February 2015. After winter she was not wanting to walk much, so I had to get out with her to get her back in the swing of daily walks.

She’s eased up a lot, and her health is getting better and better, although her short term memory has not improved much.  She’s begun sharing her stories (over and over as she forgets), and has also begun going through some of her things like photographs, and has starting giving them as gifts.  I truly believe that if we care for and live with (or near) our parents, this is how our family stories get passed from generation to generation.

I started writing about mom under the hashtag #parentingourparents on Facebook, and since we baby boomers are all taking care of, or assisting our parents in their final years, my writing seems to  strike a chord with those either dealing with similar, or those who appreciate the insight of what to expect.  Some of my writing is touched with sadness, but much of it  is laced with irony, laughter, and a lot of love.

Taking care of my mother is the least I can do. I am lucky she is still in great health and has her mobility.  It is now her time to rest, reflect, share her stories and enjoy life, the way she wants to.   I often want for her to enjoy life the way I think would be best for her … and she quickly lets it be known if those ideas are going to work for her, or not.

She’s one stubborn woman, but then so am I…

Mom woke up very late yesterday... and seemed to be in a zombie state. I had breakfast laid out and she told me she was going for a walk. "Before breakfast?" I asked. She went on her way, and I thought she must be mad at me for something...? She came back in and said, "Oh a bear got into the garbage cans last night. I hardly slept." I guess she didn't want to wake me up. I went out and sure enough our bins were knocked over. They are right outside her bedroom window. At least she wasn't mad at me :P Later I took her for a walk by Lafarge Lake and we only got as far as the first park bench and she said she had to stop because she was so tired. I hold mom's hand these days, as it gives her that extra security when we walk. "If you don't slow down, you'll have to carry me," she says every time. I left her watching the ducks and did a fast walk on my own. She slept like a log last night :) #parentingourparents #bearscare
Mom sitting in the park at Town Centre, Coquitlam overlooking LaFarge Lake. She was tired because a bear got into our garbage the night before. I did the lake loop on my own.

Here’s one of my favourite #ParentingOurParents pieces from 2015:

Tucking in my 82 year old mother the other night after putting in her eye drops from her cataract removal, I gave her a little squeeze, and she said, “Oh my that feels good. I don’t get many hugs these day.”
Then she said, “Thanks for taking such good care of me.” I turned out her light and held back some tears on the way to my bedroom. #ParentingourParents

[To find more of my #parentingourparents entries, go to your search bar at the top of Facebook and put that hashtag in and hit ‘Return’ – please note that there are others using this hashtag also.]

Am I Anti-Pipeline?

It gets frustrating when I hear people make statements about others being ‘pro-pipeline’ or ‘anti-pipeline’, as it’s not that cut and dry.  Many that argue for the expansion of pipelines often justify themselves by asking if you enjoy your heated home or your car, or they ask if you use plastic.

Of course we have benefited from pipelines and have lived and progressed in many ways with the heavy use of fossil fuels.  My father helped put in roads and pipelines in the north of Canada. The oil industry provides an income to my nephew and many of my childhood friend’s families, as I grew up in Alberta.

Pipelines are not going away overnight, and every so-called ‘anti-pipeline person’ knows that. However we have to start making a change, and like any other revolution through time, the change will come, one step at a time. Personal choices are key. How we live, what we purchase, what we eat, all affect the whole. We must stop new pipelines to come into balance and make that turn for a greener tomorrow – to begin the reversal from what has wrecked havoc on our environment.

Sure we’ve seemingly benefited by the use of fossil fuel, but it was at a cost to our environment. Today more and more are divesting and directing their money away from fossil fuels. My brother’s company is pioneering in this movement.

Pipeline in the 1950s, Manitoba, Canada (Photo from the Whachell family album)
Pipeline in the 1950s, Manitoba, Canada (Photo from the Whachell family album)

We have the know-how to go-green through alternate means, and keep fossil fuels in the ground. However we are creatures of habit,  who like to cling to the old ways, and ridicule those who take a stand toward change. We are being egged on to remain complacent by those attempting to debunk new ideas, as a financial loss is at stake (for some). In a world where social media has us inhaling ideas like breathing air, we must be mindful.

Here’s one case in point: The Wall Street Journal, known to be a highly respected publication has a recent article titled, “What the Dakota Access Pipeline Is Really About” where the writer, Kevin Cramer goes on to say that First Nations were consulted; that it’s not about protecting water; etc, etc.

Yet, look at what Wikipedia tells us about the ‘writer.’ I was shocked to find this: [Cramer has been described by Reuters as “one of America’s most ardent drilling advocates.”  Cramer supports an increase in oil and gas drilling on public lands and supports cutting taxes for energy producers. He is opposed to what he characterizes as overreach by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In May 2016, Donald Trump asked Cramer to draft his campaign’s energy policy.  He wrote Trump’s energy plan, which focuses heavily on promoting fossil fuels and weakening environmental regulation. The plan also vows to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement and repeal U.S. regulations aims at controlling the carbon emissions which cause climate change. Cramer was “one of a handful of early Trump endorsers” among House Republicans.”]

Yet the Wall Street Journal just let’s Cramer have his way with us…

I encourage everyone to watch the free documentary  on National Geographic channel called Before the Flood by Leonardo DiCaprio. American actor DiCaprio admits in the film that he’s likely been one of the worst abusers of personal use of fossil fuels. Many will just stop right here, because I’ve even mentioned his name. That’s where we go wrong. We get so narrow-minded and hear one thing that is negative about someone (often from a ‘debunker’), and we check them off our credibility list.

First Nations people paddle in front of Kinder Morgan on Burrard Inlet during the Salish Sea Gathering in 2015. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)
First Nations people paddle in front of Kinder Morgan on Burrard Inlet during the Salish Sea Gathering in 2015 hosted by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Traditional unceded Coast Salish territory. (Photo: Robbin Whachell)

Another person I am tired of hearing be bashed is David Suzuki. Suzuki said, “By deciding in favour of the fossil fuel industry, the federal government is rejecting climate science and ignoring overwhelming community and First Nations opposition.” This man has given his life to educate us about the preciousness and intricacies of our planet, our bodies and our minds, yet people say he has a ‘hidden agenda’. Really? For what? If the man is exposing those that exploit our world’s greatest assets, don’t you think those that are gaining monetarily will attempt to make him look bad anyway they can, and at any cost?

What irks me most about pipelines like the Dakota Access, and Kinder Morgan is that the very few rich, get richer at the expense of the land, and the people that enjoy or live on that land, in particular the First Nations people. It only takes one (1) spill to ruin an environment, possibly forever.

I am opposed to Kinder Morgan for those same reasons, and because of the expected increase to tanker traffic in an area we hope our future generations can enjoy as much as we do.  I personally paddle in that inlet and see firsthand the marvels of nature on land, and in and on the ocean. I also work closely with my local wild salmon sustainability program, and I want my grandchildren to see these amazing fresh and ocean water fish return into our streams like we do today.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs said in a recent letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, “You cannot truly believe that the Kinder Morgan sevenfold increase in tanker traffic is not a real risk to the B.C. coast, to everything that Coast Salish Peoples hold dear, including the fishing and tourism industries, to the orcas, shell-fish harvesting and the dynamic life systems in the ocean and on land…”

Burrard Inlet is enjoyed by the public. People kayak, canoe, row, and dragon boat along the waterway. This is my dragon boat team, the Nothin' Dragon Masters. (Photo: Erica McCarthur))
Burrard Inlet is enjoyed by the public. People kayak, canoe, row, and dragon boat along the waterway. This is my dragon boat team, the Nothin’ Dragon Masters. (Photo: Erica McCarthur))

It’s upsetting and just plain wrong that First Nations people of the affected areas are not being consulted in these big pipeline deals and are lied to by our government.

In the end, I have friends (and possibly family) that likely think I am naive and uneducated. Perhaps they are right.  I am no economist, scientist or marine biologist, and I don’t like labels. I know I lean more toward humanism and naturalism, “Pro-People” or “Pro-Planet.”

I am not simply, ‘anti-pipeline’ because it’s more than just about pipelines and profits, it’s about people and our planet.

[Focused Fashion: In this photo I am wearing my new Green Embassy sleeveless Organic Alpaca felted jacket made in Australia! This jacket is part of the “Empty Oceans Series” and 1/3 of its purchase goes towards Sea Shepherd Australia. Please support efforts to keep our oceans safe for seals, whales and dolphins.

About Robbin Whachell…

Best Intentions

BEST INTENTIONS — So last week I traveled to Grand Bahama riding on a mountain of stress. I had spent close to an entire week at my computer chair following Hurricane Matthew and reporting information to our Bahamas Weekly readers, and group members on the Facebook page “Bahamas News and Events.”   I went to Grand Bahama, not to report on the hurricane aftermath, but to get a friend off the island who was in a very bad way health-wise. During my 24-hr trip en-route to Grand Bahama, I managed to get online only a few very brief times. And it was during this travel to the island that I screwed up on an article I posted regarding a client’s business, and subsequently I lost this 10-year client.

Flying in to Freeport after realizing the upset I had caused had me feeling sicker in the pit of my stomach than seeing the devastation of the island after Matthew. I went in person to apologize, and try and explain that my heart was in the right place the entire time. That my sole intention was to assist my client. I have to face that I screwed up. Some times people are not willing to forgive or work with you to make things right again. I have to accept that. All I can do is move on, and continue as always, with my best intention.

I want to share a lovely note (there have been many) received today from a Grand Bahama resident:

“Robbin,  Thank you so much for having kept everybody informed around the clock during the hurricane. It was a very important source of info for many people on and off island,  We did rely on your posts all through this ordeal. That was real dedicated and professional journalism and you deserve a medal for this work. Heartfelt thanks.”

I have many friends that are my family on Grand Bahama, and the other islands of the Bahamas. I do not deserve a medal… Through my concern and love for them, I was simply assisting the only way I knew how. It was the least I could do…

How to Call Your Parents

celeste-on-the-phone-600x300I know it sounds easy, but why is it so hard for so many of us?

Our parents are aging. They don’t want to be a bother.  You often hear seniors say, “Oh, my kids are very busy with their families, and I don’t want to bug them.”  Sadly many people do not talk to their parents for months or even a year at a time.

What is even more bewildering to me is that some people say, “But if I call, I don’t know what to say.  I don’t know what to tell them.”

Our parents are aging, and their minds and bodies are changing. As we become seniors, we become more childlike.  Our parents need us. It’s payback time.

A child needs is food, touch, warmth and love.  Our parents deserve the same. They gave it to us.

If we can step up for at least the love part, then a phone call is very important, especially if our parents are living alone, as a widow, or widower; and even if they live in a seniors home or care facility.

If you need that nudge, here’s my basics on how to make that call:

  1. Aim to keep it short. Tell them at the start that you can’t talk long, but you called to see how they are doing.  “Hi mom, I can’t talk long, but you’ve been on my mind, and I called to see how you are doing?”
  2. After they answer (they may just say they are ‘ok’), ask them what they’ve been up to. They may not tell you much. Expect that, because for some, they may also not remember.
  3. Have three questions in mind to ask. Write them down if you have to. They may flip it over to discuss you, as not to talk about themselves, but try and get those three questions in during your call.
  4. Have three things to tell them about your life. Write them down if you have to. ie. 1. Your daughter Mary graduated from med school 2. You got a call from an old friend you hadn’t see since childhood  3. Your plans for an upcoming vacation.
  5. Some parents may bring up old grievances. If that should happen and you hear the old record player starting up yet again, then ‘keep it short’  – as you intended. It’s okay to say, “Hey mom, sorry to cut you off, but I have to run now. I’ll call again soon.”  (and yes you will!)
  6. Always tell them you love them before you hang up, no matter how the conversation went. Some people never hear “I love you”  enough, or are often afraid to say it to others, but your parent needs to hear it. So just say it, because it won’t hurt.  The more you say it, the more natural and easy it becomes…”I love you mom.”

Make that call today!

(Check out the hashtag #ParentingOurParents on Facebook to get a peek into my life, living with and caring for my 80+ mother)

I believe in a better world…