“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

Auntie Says…With change, comes social responsibility.

Marijuana? Cannabis? Pot? Blunt? It really doesn’t matter what it’s called because in Canada it’ll soon be legal. For many who have prescriptions for medical cannabis creams, pills, oils, tobacco etc., the merits and positive affects, and usage, of the drug are not in question. The prescribed ongoing use under a doctor’s care is a great alternative for some patients to find relief from chronic pain or other medical issues. I’m sure it’ll be such a positive thing for them not having to deal with the illicit label associated with their medication.

The reality is though, that not all marijuana, or cannabis, users are the same. There are those that take it with a prescription, there are recreational-weekend users, the once in a while puffers, and then you have the trend of the wake and bake/daily (and often all day) user who are not under any medical supervision and/or personal scrutiny for their behavior.

For those that don’t know, the term ‘wake and bake’ (aka morning glory), is all about preparation. Before you go to sleep, you ready a joint/bong/bowl/pipe (whatever method you prefer) of marijuana, making sure it’s within reach so you can smoke it immediately upon waking. Some say the high achieved through wake and bake is superior, more intense, and lasts longer because the body absorbs more THC since it’s in a fasting state and isn’t fully awake. Others say it just kickstarts their day.

My concern about the wake and bake is that it may not stop there. Is it just a morning thing or is it all day? every day?

If it goes into all day, I say—you have a problem because your ‘habit’ (that’s a gentle word for addiction)—affects not only you, but others as well.

Life, and living it, is about finding a balance. If you’re getting up every single morning and reaching for your weed like this, you need to have a look at your life. If you wake and bake and then go into an all day smoke-fest, sadly you’re missing out on opportunities because you’ve become a functional stoner.

If you had a partner who woke up, rolled over in bed, and took a long swig of tequila every morning—just to calm their nerves before facing the shower or getting out of bed—would you be concerned? Then later, in traffic, she gets tense so pulls out the tequila and takes a couple of shots—just to take the edge off—an hour later she has an exam at school—oops, better have a few quick sips to get rid of the jitters. Every hour or two—just quick shots to get through the day. I mean come on, alcohol is legal—right?!

Would you wonder if they were impaired after drinking all day? Take that same scenario and replace the drinking with smoking pot. Does it make it any more acceptable? Would you be concerned? Are you impaired?

I know that marijuana can relax you or have a euphoric affect, but it can also bring on anxiety, panic, paranoia and memory loss. It also causes cognitive and physical impairment. It slows your reaction time, affects your co-ordination, slows your decision making, screws up your ability to judge distances, and can lower your blood pressure—all of which can present problems when doing your everyday activities. I recognize it’s different for everyone.

Smoking dope, with a wake and bake and all day/everyday, affects not only you, but those around you. Heck, even Woody Harrelson, the dope smoker extraordinaire, quit smoking because, as he said in Variety Magazine, “it was keeping him from being emotionally available.”

Sometimes you need to stop and think. Would you want the doctor who’s doing your vasectomy in the morning to wake and bake? or how about the semi-truck coming towards you on the freeway— or your kids school bus driver — did they partake in their morning glory? Does any of it make a difference to you?

You need to remember that pot is addictive and you can become dependent on it. One common argument is that marijuana is just an herb and can’t be harmful or addictive because it’s all natural. That argument doesn’t float. Nature produces a long list of indulgences from nicotine, to sugar, to opium—all highly addictive.

As legislation and regulation come down the pike there will also be more enforcement. Are you ready for that? The police will eventually be checking for THC levels while driving etc. There’ll be many changes that come with legalization and it’s not going to just be a free for all.
Long term medical and scientific studies of usage, affects, and benefits will be done and available for us to learn from.

It’s an exciting time of change in our country. That change comes with the social responsibility of exercising our personal growth, ability to make wise choices, and defining our own boundaries. You all know where Auntie stands.

Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the south Okanagan. Email: faye.arcand@icloud.com or http://www.fayeearcand.com
Faye Arcand
faye.arcand@icloud.com

*Published by Black Press