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…