Auntie Says…

Movies can be a source of education and social awakening.

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Auntie Says…The movie “Indian Horse” was an eye opener.

Auntie Says… Learning more about the dirty little secret.

I love going to the movies. Last week I ventured away from the typical Hollywood fodder and chose to see the Canadian film adaptation of Richard Wagamese’s novel “Indian Horse”. This is the story of Saul Indian Horse, a young First Nations boy torn from his Ojibway family and placed into one of the most notorious Catholic run Indian residential schools in Ontario. The movie was transparent in nature as it depicted the verbal, physical, and sexual abuse, as seen and experienced by Saul. It didn’t dwell on the actions perpetuated by the nuns and priests, but concentrated on the affects that it had, not only on him, but on the First Nations community as a whole. 

I thought I knew Canadian history quite well but I was left to squirm in my seat and ask why. Why did this happen? Why didn’t I know that Indian residential schools were around for almost a hundred years, the last one not closing until 1996? Did I miss that lesson in school or university? I certainly don’t remember studying (or being made aware of), the Canadian government’s aggressive assimilation practices involving First Nations people. Perhaps I was so wrapped up in my own life that it wasn’t on my radar, but I feel like a dirty little secret was happening in my own backyard and I knew nothing about it—and I know I’m not alone in my ignorance of this history.

Saul, like the other children, is alone. He’s isolated away from his family, language, and culture. He is witness to the horrors of fellow residents being caged, tied up, and even taking their own life.  As a distraction he becomes fascinated by the game of ice hockey. He studies the game and works hard to learn to skate and play. The rink and the game are his safe place—it’s his escape from the misery of his everyday existence. 

As a young man he is recruited by the Toronto Maple Leaf farm team and seemed destined for a professional hockey career. He was met though, with toxic and bigoted treatment from his teammates, audience, and media, to a point where Saul began to fight more than skate, and he eventually left the game. The magic of the rink was gone and his personal demons, along with the nature of society, took him down a path of self-destruction. Faced with blatant racism and prejudice, Saul fell into a life of alcoholism and homelessness which were mere cloaks for his childhood traumas and true pain. 

The movie was hard to watch. I wanted to reach into the screen and pull that little boy away from the situation. I wanted to protect and shelter all of those children. I wanted to stop the tears, the hurt, the pain. I wanted to return those babies to the laps of their mothers and fathers, their grandparents, and aunties. I wanted to scream at the unfair treatment foisted upon others due to ignorance, preferential powers, and discriminatory behaviour. I could hear weeping in the theatre and it’s then that it becomes real—it becomes personal. This isn’t just some whimsical film, it’s our history—not just the First Nations population, but the history of every Canadian. 

It was poet Maya Angelou who said “… when you know better, do better.” It is a time of educating, healing, and moving forward. The discussion is open. If you get a chance to see the movie let me know what you think. Note: this movie is rated 14A for a reason.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. Reach her at faye.arcand@icloud.com or fayeearcand.com 

After that break-up you need to take a full year off to heal.

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Auntie Says…You Can Do Anything for a Year.

A few weeks ago my nephew came over for a visit. He’s 27, handsome beyond words, and very gregarious. He’s just one of those guys you want to be near because his energy is welcoming and positive and his smile always genuine. We chatted and got caught up but I knew he was circling around something that he wasn’t quite sure how to say. 

After a while, he couldn’t hold it in anymore. “We broke up,” he said referring to himself and his girlfriend of five years. He let the truth lay there on the floor in front of him—by now he was slouching and the energy that normally radiated from him had waned.

I could see the heartbreak behind the bravado and knew I needed to tread lightly. With the painful truth out there, we decided to go for a walk. The dogs (pets are such a good distraction, aren’t they?) were running and we chuckled and asked a lot of remember when? We have so many memories between us. His dad (my younger brother) died when he was six. After that, he  and his brother spent an extended vacation with me every summer.

“I’m not sure it’s over,” he said out of nowhere. “I think I still love her.” His voice was a whisper and he was staring at his shoes. 

Oh man, I could see how much he was hurting and I wanted to tell him that it would be okay but the physical pain is palpable. It’s been said that you can’t die from a broken heart but anyone who’s ever experienced it, sure feels like they’ll be the first to prove medical science wrong. The gut-wrenching agony is real whether you’re thirteen, thirty, or seventy and it takes time to heal.

Five years together is a long investment of time, emotion, and self and isn’t something to simply brush off without thought and careful consideration. I could see that he was struggling to make sense of it as he tried to lighten the mood by talking about his new job. The sadness in his eyes remained though.

“I think you need to stay single and celibate for one full year,” I told him. “Take the year for yourself to explore what direction you want to pursue.”

“One full year? I can’t date, or be with anyone, for one year? Seriously?” He was incredulous that I’d suggest such a thing. 

“Yes, take a full year off and concentrate on yourself. By jumping back into another relationship (or even the previous one) before waiting a year, you’re not 100% committed to the new person because you’re still wounded.”

He didn’t answer me. He didn’t have to. His eyebrows were raised in question, a smirk plastered on his face, and the continual nod—it was official—he thought I was nuts. I had to laugh because he obviously didn’t get the point. We continued our chat about his future plans and dreams.

To him, taking one year away from the dating/relationship world sounded daunting and impossible but it’s a period of time easily measured and one that can be committed to. It’s long enough to be significant and life changing, while short enough to be manageable. You can do anything for a year.

The pain and emotional toll of a break up should never be trivialized by rushing into another relationship or even back to the same one. The one year commitment to yourself can slow your impulsivity and shows maturity in dealing with your own issues before getting involved again.

“But what if I meet the love of my life before the year is up?”

“If she’s the one, she isn’t going anywhere,” I said. “Be friends and get to know each other. If she respects you and your decision to wait a full year, your future relationship will be stronger.”

He gave me a big hug and the smirk was replaced by contemplation. I think he heard most of what I said—time will tell.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached at faye.arcand@icloud.com or www.fayeearcand.com  

All women should be celebrated, and not just on Mother’s Day.

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Auntie Says…A Mother’s Day Message

Auntie Says…Celebrate all women this Mother’s Day

When I think of Mother’s Day I’m torn between so many images. I can picture little kids carefully cutting out flower pieces to glue to the front of special cards they’re making for their mom. I think of fancy hotel brunches with mouth watering feasts, or gifts from dad of sparkling diamonds laying on a bed of deep blue velvet. I envision long line-ups at the ice cream parlor, and of course, the ever-popular breakfast in bed with the burnt toast. I can hear the laughter of my ninety year old mother-in-law who still lights up a room with her infectious grin. And then there’s the memories of my own mom, who passed away almost four years ago, which bring a smile and sometimes a tear. 

My mom always got swamped with gifts on Mother’s Day. The dining room table would be filled with huge bouquets of fragrant flowers and there’d by boxes and bags everywhere. The phone would ring all day and the calls would all be for her.  

“You kids need to save your money,” she’d say as she buried her face into the roses. “It’s all so beautiful but I don’t need all this fancy stuff.”

I always enjoyed buying for her though because she’d mothered eight kids and as a result had gone without many extras over the years. Several other families brought gifts to my mom on Mother’s Day too. See, our home was busy with neighbourhood kids all the time, and mom also babysat. People wanted her to know they appreciated her and the day to do that was Mother’s Day. 

The commercial side of Mother’s Day is actually quite exclusionary. The ad campaigns we see online, in store, or hear on radio are a forced projection of what “mother” is. While to some, it simply represents the female parent, to me it’s a universal concept that looks more at the act of nurturing and growth and not just as the prescribed role. I suppose I’m switching the noun to a verb. Mother v. mother. (thanks to all my English teachers).

Everyday, our children have female role models in their lives that are not a parent and each is special in her own right. The act of mothering (nurturing, loving, and guiding) is often instinctive and passed to children from grandmothers, aunties, teachers, sisters, friends, and caregivers—each sharing different and unique experiences, history, and influence.

I’d like to propose that this Mother’s Day we all begin to recognize and thank women in our lives for the contribution they make to the upbringing of our children on a regular basis whether directly or indirectly. 

Text your sister and tell her how proud you are of the mother she’s become, or slip an anonymous card into the door of a single parent you know—tell them they’re doing a great job and that you admire her child’s manners or behaviour. Every parent loves to hear good things about their kid. Speak the truth and be sincere—nothing stinks more than an artificial or hypocritical compliment. 

Email your friend and let her know how special she is and that her caring attitude toward your own child is appreciated. Years ago, I received a hand-made card from one of my son’s friends telling me that he thought of me as his second mom. That specialness and memory will never be lost.

Pick up the phone and call your Auntie and let her know how important she is in your life. If you don’t want to call now you can wait for “Auntie’s Day” which is on July 22, 2018 as declared and promoted by New York author and “savvy auntie”, Melanie Notkin. 

I guess the whole thing is, that though Mother’s Day is special and I’m glad it’s set aside for the recognition of moms, kids have more than just a parent to thank for all of their learning and growth. 

To every woman in my life, past and present, you’ve all made an impact one way or another and made me who I am today—I thank you. To every woman in my son’s life, thank you for your nurturing, wisdom, and caring. Happy Day to all who mother.  

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached at faye.arcand@icloud.com or http://www.fayeearcand.com

Auntie Says…ANGP? Tis the season.

It means All Night Grad Party. I know, I know, you don’t need a lecture about safety, drinking, drugs, or making smart choices. After all, you’re a senior and about to graduate…you know it all.
I also know that every year a parent is met at the door by a police officer and told that their graduating teen is dead or injured because of an accident at some bush party or a choice made to get behind the wheel drunk or stoned. There’s also the lifetime sentences caused by alcohol/drug fueled sexual assaults, permanent disfigurement from a crash, fights, or humiliation through video and social media.
Take a second…stop and think. Don’t get so caught up in the build-up and “tradition” of all night parties that you lose perspective that you’re graduating so you can start a new life…not end it.
I’m not saying that you can’t party. That’d be unrealistic just make sure you do some planning and be smart. So, here’s a check list for you.
1.)  Know who you’re with. That sound so simple and straight forward, but you’d be surprised how many young people will get into cars with a group of strangers all because there’s a common theme of ‘party’. Stick with your friends and make a decision together to stay that way. Keep an eye on each other. That’s what friends do.
2.)   Know where you are. Again, this sounds so simple, but if you’re going to a bush party in the middle of nowhere, for example, the roads all look the same at night and you could easily get lost. Do you have enough gas in the car? Also, will you still have cell service?If you’re out of range then it’s even more important to pay attention to point #1.
3.)   Know who your DD is. Every time you go out you need a designated driver. If you have a group of friends then you can rotate and switch it up. If you’re in town, make sure you have someone to call. I don’t care if it’s the third cousin of your best friends brother in law…have someone reliable and mature enough to pick you up if trouble surfaces.
Note to parents/aunties/friends: If you have an agreement with a young person to call you **no matter what time or circumstance** to pick them up…just do it. Don’t lecture or judge or ground because believe me, next time they won’t call.
4.)   “No” means No….that goes for everyone…male, female, or otherwise.
5.)   Drugs, to me, are a loud resounding no. If you’re at a party, you need to know what’s going on around you and not be so hammered that you can’t see straight. With so many pills, and even marijuana, being laced with fentanyl, it could be the end. That would really suck.
6.)   Are you going to the ANGP to be part of the crowd or because you want to? The parties aren’t mandatory and are not a rite of passage. They’re a reason to get drunk, act stupid, and make an ass of yourself. Think about it.
7.)   Don’t forget…it’ll all be recorded for prosperity. Do you want your boss to see you passed out? or you Auntie to see you naked and running through the fields. Umm…I hope your answer is no…’nuf said.
8.)  Find an alternative to the ANGP. Grad committees did this by adding in and supporting Dry Grad. There are many ways to celebrate and have fun with your friends without getting wasted and putting yourself (and possibly others), in harms way.
9.)  Don’t be a statistic. You don’t want to be that roadside memorial tribute with the fake flowers and half filled balloon flopping in the wind. A dead teenager kills all their potential. Get it?
10.)  Last, but definitely not least…have some respect for yourself and others. Stop and think about how your actions, words, and choices are a reflection of who you are and how they can affect another.
Have fun, but be safe.

 

*First Published on June 16, 2017 by Black Press

“Cancer” and “Child” don’t belong in the same sentence.

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Auntie Says…With caring comes vulnerability.

It’s a Tuesday morning and I just left the Penticton casino. No, I’m not a gambler. I went to the pancake breakfast fundraiser being held for Wills Hodgkinson, a local boy who’s fighting cancer at the Vancouver Children’s Hospital. I don’t usually go to these kinds of things—in fact that was my first. I guess I’ve always felt such events would be attended by family, friends, co-workers—that sort of thing, and me showing up, being a complete stranger, seemed a bit weird, maybe even intrusive. I’ve always been one who preferred to show my support from the sidelines. 

Today was different though. In fact the entire week has been a weepy one for me. I don’t know if it’s the Humboldt Broncos tragedy or the picture of seven year old Wills sitting beside an RCMP officer looking up with those big, round, trusting eyes. When I think of either situation I’m reminded of the vulnerability of life and the pain that comes from caring. 

I knew I couldn’t be in Saskatchewan but I could attend a pancake breakfast fundraiser. When I saw Wills picture—his eyebrows raised, not quite in question, but in awe and wonder—I felt drawn, compelled even, to somehow connect. I think what I saw in Wills was every child I’ve ever known and loved. I look at the picture of a little boy, dwarfed by the man-sized police cap he’s wearing, and don’t see the suffering, or the fight he’s facing, just the innocence of a child loving life.

So, I went alone to the pancake breakfast. I had no idea what to expect going to such a fundraiser. Upon entering a young girl asked me if I wanted to sign a card for Wills. Again, my answer normally would have be no—he doesn’t even know me, why would it matter? But I picked up the pen and wrote to him. I told him that I’m in this fight with him. As I was printing as neatly as I could, I held back tears and turned my back so no one would see. I stuffed my donation in the box and then grabbed a plate of pancakes and a cup of coffee. I was relieved that a small booth, tucked in the far corner, was empty. It allowed me to sit away from others so I didn’t feel like I had to talk to anyone. Even though it was a public community fundraiser, I didn’t want to appear nosy or meddlesome—I simply wanted to offer my silent support and then slip out.

I nearly accomplished my mission when a lady approached my table. She smiled and held out her hand to shake mine and said, “thank you so much for coming, I’m Wills Grandmother.” Well, that was it for me. The lump in my throat that I’d forced down returned and I couldn’t speak. Suddenly, holding the hand of that little boy’s grandmother, I became a quivering mess. My biggest fear had come true—I looked like the idiot stranger blubbering in the corner over a kid she doesn’t even know. I felt so stupid—and completely vulnerable. The grandmother patted my hand and smiled. She comforted me and then told me that Wills was having a good day and the family was taking everything one day at a time. She exuded a quiet confidence and strength that made me think that Wills was very fortunate to have this lovely lady in his life.

She pointed out all Wills fellow students who were there to help with the breakfast. “He’s really a lucky boy. He has so many friends,” she said. She then told me how his classmates gave Wills an iPad to communicate with the class and that they were planning a field-trip down to see him. She thanked me again and moved on to other guests in the room. I sank back into my booth wiping away my tears and thought of all the kids who’ve passed through my life. My son, many nieces and nephews, and the children of friends…too numerous to count.

While there’s no way to reconcile such a huge disease being foisted onto such a little person, I hope that the fundraiser helped. Supporting means something different for everyone. It may mean donating, volunteering, or perhaps saying a prayer. It’s personal and private, though we all recognize that the one suffering is actually a representative of the possibilities for any of us. 

Stay strong Wills. Your parents have named you well—with a solid will comes determination and strength. You’re in my thoughts little man. xo

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. You can reach her at faye.arcand@icloud.com or www.fayeearcand.com  

Auntie Says…The term “bully” is over-used and doesn’t mean anything anymore.

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Auntie Says…Bully? How about tormenter or bulldozer?—it’s a better fit.

There was recently an article in the news about a school bullying incident that escalated to the point of involving the police. Apparently the Principal and staff could see the situation getting out of hand and chose to use every resource at their fingertips. Bravo. 

The Administrator and staff aren’t miracle workers and realized their own limitations in dealing with a simmering situation. Having outside support is huge in taking a stand against the unrelenting bullying that some students inflict and others suffer.

It was the comments following the article that I found to be most insightful. Many said they were teaching their children to fight back—‘knock the other child down’ they said ‘and then kick them’. While the comments didn’t shock me, they made me sad in that there is a misunderstanding as to what is actually happening in the schools and it makes me think that we need to re-think the word “bully”. 

The word is used to conjure up the image of an overly aggressive kid who pushes a smaller one down and steals the ball. That kind of hands on school-yard posturing hasn’t changed over the centuries and is only part of the picture. Parents telling their kids to fight back are not wrong because they’re giving their kid permission to have a voice. It’s a matter of “how” they fight. Hands on doesn’t work and chances are the kid retaliating will be the one who gets in trouble. We’ve all heard it—he started it—but it doesn’t make a difference. Having someone treat you badly is not ok and screaming bloody murder until an adult arrives (or the aggressor leaves) is an option.

 

Bullying has evolved over the years. It doesn’t necessarily mean hands-on, violent confrontation—it’s become sneakier, slimier, and more silent. Imagine someone walking by your work station every day, several times, whispering, ‘you stink’ or ‘I’m gonna get you’… always out of earshot of any authority figure. What if you were being deliberately ‘nudged’ in the hallway—just enough to throw you off balance—constantly. It’s sometimes done with a smile by someone who’s considered a “good kid” and not necessarily your likely suspects. It can be like a game or power play to them. Imagine going to work everyday and having your co-worker treat you like that. What if, every single day—over and over—you’re told you should ‘go kill yourself’…‘go off and die’…‘no one loves you’? That’s a slow erosion of an individuals self worth and confidence. You might want to punch them in the face in the lunchroom, but then what?

I remember reading about a woman who was the target of an online hate attack. She said that though she knew all the words were false, it ate her up inside. Every time she turned on her computer it was there…mocking her. While computers and phones can be turned off, the hateful whispers, innuendos, the seemingly innocent jabs in the hallway, or the open mocking by individuals, doesn’t go away. The question I ask, is whether or not this nonviolent/hands off bullying is being viewed as being as serious as a bully knocking down a kid and stealing the ball. I’m not sure it is and I think it’s worse—much worse—and frightening.

Maybe we need to change the word ‘bully’ to ‘thug’ or ‘goon’…how about ‘bulldozer’? 

The real question is, what satisfaction do these bulldozer kids get out of making someone else feel like crap? I know one person had commented on the recent bully story saying that the home life of the tormentor needs to be the focus. I totally agree. The focus needs to be off the act and on to the wrong-doer. They’re inflicting life long pain for what we all see as ‘no reason’, but there has to be some pay off. I’d like to know what it is.

If you have a story to share…let’s chat.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the south Okanagan. Contact her at  faye.arcand@icloud.com or fayeearcand.com

U.S.A. Student Activism–March On!

Auntie Says…My thoughts are with the American students. March on!

Columbine. That word pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

It was April 1999 and I’ll never forget seeing the images of terrified high school students running for their lives. I, like everyone else, was horrified and sickened, but It got worse—much worse. School shootings in the U.S. became, I hate to say it … commonplace.

While for the most part I don’t talk politics or religion, my heart and voice are with every student in the U.S. marching and protesting for a safer tomorrow. I’m optimistic as I witnessed the planned walk out one month to the day after the Florida school shooting. It was an illustration of choosing a course of action in solidarity and it makes me proud.

The young people of today are the voters of tomorrow. Getting angry about the abhorrent gun laws, political rhetoric, and the seemingly lackadaisical attitudes surrounding school shootings is not only necessary, but required, for change. It takes a lot of courage and tenancity to take those first steps against the status quo and I applaud these young people for what they’re doing.

Like many, I’ve wept as the body count rises in the name of U.S. democratic freedoms. Even from a  distance where I don’t feel the same physical (gun violence) threats, I can still understand the grief faced by so many —too many. I seriously don’t know how they all cope and carry on after such harrowing circumstances.

In Canada, we don’t face the same fears about school shootings, but we still feel our neighbor’s pain and the aftershocks of grief and anger. For every individual that dies, there are survivors—the other students, the family, the teachers, staff, and first responders—forever changed in a way that we can only imagine, but there’s also the public. Let’s not forget the average person watching the tragedy unfold on TV and how it affects them. It’s a mood of uncertainty and helplessness suffered by millions of people in both the US and Canada. It’s a sad truth of the day.

Even if you don’t think your kid is aware of the news and current events, believe me—they know. The kids talk about it to each other and in class. They watch YouTube .It’s not a secret and yet as far as I know, the schools here don’t do anything like security drills or heightened vigilance. Who knows how much all the school gun violence south of the border is adding to the anxiety and depression for teens everywhere?  After a televised incident, I’d bet that all the teachers and administrators walk back into the school with a heavy heart. How could you not? It doesn’t matter where the incident occurs, it affects us all.

When I see the anger and determination on the faces of those young people marching, it gives me hope. Hope that there will be change. Hope that someone amongst those students, is a strong and forever leader—a compelling voice—that will bring about positive transformation. I also hope that the protest continues until it’s voice is so strong that it can no longer be pushed aside or ignored.

We joke about having ‘first-world problems’—school shootings should not be one of them. Let’s pray that the students voices raised in protest will be heard and acted upon. #NationalWalkoutDay #StudentsForChange #EndGunViolence #AuntieSays

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan. She can be reached at faye.arcand@icloud.com  or www.fayeearcand.com