Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Child Welfare in Alberta

Right now in Edmonton there is a forum taking place to talk about and problem solve around child welfare deaths in our province. (Follow Twitter hash tag #Abchild14)

I cannot imagine the pain that families feel that have a) led to their child being taken from their home b) that the system has let them down and are then grieving the loss of a child. I do not in any way want to discount or diminish those feelings, situations or the pain felt by the parents and the workers that deal with those families. Today I do want to change the focus of this a little bit and talk about another side of child welfare that does not get any consideration. So for the sake of this post I am going to hi jack the online conversation around child welfare and bring up an issue that many families deal with but that our child welfare system refuses to focus on or do anything about.

Here is the question: What if an endangered child is endangered because they have put themselves in harms way?

There are thousands of families (I have no statistics to back this up) in our province that  that are good families. The parent (s) are loving, they spend time with their kids and have a safe environment for their kids to thrive. These same families have teenagers that have decided not only to rebel, but rebel to the point that they have chosen to leave home and live high risk lifestyles.

I am aware of a situation recently where a family's  (who's peers would consider them "healthy, solid and the most loving family I have ever met" ) 14 year old child got involved in an older crowd and got addicted to drugs. The family nearly ruined themselves financially for private treatment, moved more than once to give their child a fresh start, engaged all the community resources available to them and their child chose to leave their home and live with an individual known to police for drug activity. Out of desperation (and based on a strong suggestion from a community resource) this family went to Child & Family Services as a last resort for help. After a month of this child being in this high risk situation with multiple phone messages being unanswered, they were finally told that this child and situation does not fit within the mandate of child services because the parents were not "neglecting or abusing" their child. And that they did not know where the parents would have got the impression that they could do anything anyway.  The parents took their case to their local MLA who advocated on their behalf to get something done. Ultimately the minimal involvement that reluctantly they offered did not help this child or family in resolving their situation.

Many years ago a Child Welfare system was created. That system was abused by adults in authority over children at risk. It was identified that children needed  to have a voice and advocate for themselves. The pendulum has swung too far. Children can now self advocate themselves out of help, support or accountability for their actions. There is absolutely no immediate, lifesaving recourse for parents who's kids fall off the rails.

What are we really teaching our kids when they can leave home at 14  and do whatever they want? They can quit school and live a high risk lifestyle and the adults in the community have no authority or recourse to assist these kids in working through their issues unless they break the law. Then there are consequences.  These are now the kids that are falling through the cracks. We need to change the legislation in this province to service and protect ALL CHILDREN not just those who's parents "neglect and abuse".

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Oh The People You Will Meet!

I live in an interesting place. It's transient... remote and people will do crazy things to get here. Just yesterday I saw a Kijiji ad that stated someone was going to be walking here from Edmonton and was looking for a ride. (It's been -25 all week or colder... are you crazy?) People come here for so many different reasons and from all over the world. Yesterday I met a man we will call Chris as I have no idea what his name is. He is from Louisiana and if I didn't know that as soon as he started talking I had no doubt!

Chris came here to work as an ultrasound tech. He lived in Sask-at-chew-an (his pronunciation)  for 4 years prior to coming here so assured me he is used to the cold. He was very entertaining as he shared his life growing up playing football against Brad Pitt and in college dating Cheryl Crow. In his southern drawl he talked of being on the set of the movie "White House Down" as it was filmed 5 miles from his house and got a free lunch for being and extra. His larger than life persona was refreshing and did his job quickly, efficiently and had us out of the office quickly.

As we walked out of the River City Centre I felt like I had met an amazing story teller. There are so many different people in Fort McMurray and all with very interesting stories to tell... if given the opportunity.
As we prepare for the Christmas season, let's not forget the many people in our communities that have no family around to celebrate. I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone, and invite someone in for a coffee, or meal and remember what Christmas is really about!

Feliz Navidad


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Make a Life not a Living

Yesterday I went to the mall. I saw an old coworker there and asked her how she was doing. Her response was " Awful" Now this lady I have found is naturally a "glass is half empty" type of gal.

Knowing she just moved here in the summer I wanted to get to the bottom of awful. My response back was this " Let me guess, you work and go home and sit and stare at the walls at home"

I was 100% correct. After making some suggestions on how to get involved in the community and make friends (all suggestions and ideas were shot down) I left the store and pondered this.

Now this can be said for any place in the whole world Paris, Auckland, New York... not just Fort McMurray. If all you do is work and sit at home YOU WILL BE MISERABLE. I will say that living here does require some creativity and thought however dissing a community and saying it sucks is an unfair statement if you have not yet really experienced it.

I have moved a lot in my life. There are communities I prefer over others strictly based on layout, amenities, location in the province etc. However, more so I love a place because of the people. The feel of a place is determined by your sense of belonging to it and your feel of connection to other humans in friendship, hobbies, and interests.

Last weekend we went back to Red Deer for a much needed getaway. I was completely overwhelmed at the love we were shown by people we had not seen 5 months. People are what make life rich. It is common for people to come to Fort McMurray to work and make some big bucks. It is harder here to establish and maintain friendships because of shift work and peoples priorities to make money. It's not impossible make friends but can be a challenge.

At the end of your life it is not going to be said on anyone's deathbed, I wish I had made an extra $50,000 this year. I challenge you to make the time to invest in relationships... people....organizations.... hobbies.... faith.. Things that will bring a depth and richness that cannot be bought.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Back in Fort Mac

Wow.. it really happened. I moved to the last place in the whole world I thought I would ever end up. When I wrote last we were attempting to transition from Red Deer to a farm in Olds, AB and as the stomach turns and life gets stranger than fiction, we ended up back in our old stomping grounds.

This is not necessarily a bad thing either. After 5 years of painful commuting, our family is back together again full time. So that is a plus. The downside as is the lifecycle of Fort McMurray, 80% of my friends that resided here before are now gone and relocated down south. I am grateful however that I kept up on other relationships through Facebook and Christmas cards. Atleast there is a little bit of familiar.

We were able to move back into our place here that we had been renting out while we were away so that was a seemless transition although going from 2400 sq. feet to 1400 sq. feet is a bit of a shock to the system and we have spent a considerable amount of energy downsizing our life and belongings. Strangely, this process has been quite freeing. 

I will admit it is a struggle to make new friends and we dearly miss our rock start support system we had in Central Alberta.. but things take time and I am confident that we are exactly where we are supposed to be.

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

City vs Country

Well its been a really long while since I looked at my blog... my life has been entirely too chaotic with so many major life decisions and changes that I have felt like my head has been spinning for the last 6 months. Without getting into the "why" of it all, I can say that enough was enough and it was time for a change.

Some people who know me thought the idea absurd that I of all people would ever desire or be able to function in a rural setting. After all I am an avid cyclist (of course I support bike lanes), love the feel of downtown,  and am big on urban agriculture (community gardens). I also love the idea of local food and even more than that, knowing where my food comes from and how it is handled before I consume it. In saying all that,wouldn't the next logical step for me to start my own small scale hobby farm?

I have loved all of the "benefits" of city living. We have been in Red Deer for almost 5 years and it has been good to us. I have made it my home... I have built some incredible, once in a lifetime relationships (many of them from Twitter if you believe it) and have actively contributed to making Red Deer a better place. But in saying that sometimes we are faced with a crossroad, pinnacle moment where we need to make a really tough decision...... regardless of our personal feelings, regardless of what we "want" and give all that up to do what we NEED to do to better our families and and perhaps those we have not met yet. I feel so strongly about this.... we need to recognize that our purpose is greater than saving for retirement or another trip to Mexico and focus our time investing in people that really need it.

I have felt for a while that my time in Red Deer was coming to a close, not because I wanted it to but because I felt I had fulfilled the reason for moving to Red Deer.... Our life here has been hard and wonderful and I am grateful for it but what I am going to in Olds needs more than an occasional visit. Call me hokey, illogical or whatever but this is something I NEED to do. Am I grieving the loss of my life now?? sure am... but this too will pass.

In saying all this... today was a rough day of transition. We have moved onto our friends farm for the next few months until our house sells,  25 minutes from town and my day to day life is now drastically different. No more... "\let's see how the day goes".... no more spontaneous coffee dates with friends. Today was my first real day living this new reality. Lots of sitting around... doing my friends dishes ... a little bit of work and then what?? AND... THEN... WHAT.... by the afternoon I came out of my room and being in tears told my husband that I needed to get a routine. I need to find "normal" again... whatever that may be... but just hanging around the house and spending a few hours doing some work is not going to cut it... So if you have an suggestions that can make an urban to rural transition a little easier I would love to hear your suggestions.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Real Growth Retreat

Last weekend I had the honor of emceeing an event for a dear friend of mine. My friend Shelley Streit is an author  (Beyond the Rear View Mirror) and has run her own business for over 8 years. Last fall she shared with me her frustration with high end business conferences that while are really flashy and high profile, did not really meet the needs of the attendees. She shared that most of the speakers are usually American and are sure to end their keynote with a sell or pitch.

So the Real Growth Retreat was an "un-conference" for women small business owners IN ALBERTA. The speakers were all Canadian and the cool thing was that they spent the whole weekend participating in each of the sessions and hanging out with all of the attendees. We got to get to know the speakers, pick their brains and just be inspired in one of the most beautiful locations in all of Canada. (Nakoda on the Lake). Ali Pain helped us to better understand ourselves and our weaknesses to help us grow and Jennifer Belanger did an intro to social media .... (she knew things about facebook that I had no idea of). Kim Page Gluckie helped our ladies do Marketing Mapping and putting all of those brilliant marketing ideas into a plan of attack. Patricia Simoneau talked on Branding and the importance of knowing who you are as part of your brand. These are only a few of the speakers that inspired me over the weekend.

The best part of the retreat for me was meeting and getting to know 25 ladies who are just like me...highly motivated, Type A personalities who are driven and are trying to make a difference through their businesses.

The Real Growth Retreat is not just for small business owners. Women who have jobs can also benefit from the personal development and sessions around branding and marketing. I HIGHLY recommend this unique event to any lady that wants to take her business to the next level but isn't quite sure how to do it. You will come away with a clear picture of what needs to happen next and grow your network with quality women who want you to succeed as much as you  do. I feel connected with all the ladies that attended the retreat and am hoping to be invited back again next year.

So save the dates!! April 18-20 2013. Keep checking for pre registration info. The details should be up in the next few weeks. Hope to see you there

Community Gardens

Today was a big day. And by big I mean tiring. Today a dream of mine became reality thanks to the City of Red Deer and a group of dedicated and extremely hard working volunteers from Alberta Transportation.
A many of you know I get pretty excited about things that help create a more sustainable community. So parking my car for the summer and riding the only object I have ever named (my dear Townie bike named Eleanor) is one of those things... the other is local food. We love to say that we have our own massage therapists, or realtors, or lawyers or even our own personal trainers but we don't consider or care enough to think about what is in our food or where it came from. That needs to change. I believe we are doing our children a HUGE disservice by not correcting our kids thinking that cucumbers come on Styrofoam trays wrapped in plastic wrap or that potatoes come in bags already to clean... or that lettuce just magically appears cut, washed and ready to use. What we put into our bodies determines what we get out of them. (end rant)

Back to the gardens.... When I think about living in Red Deer I think about the kind of Red Deer I want my kids and maybe even grand kids to live in. We live in such an individualistic society and we have to try to create "a sense of" community because it no longer exists on its own as a societal norm. Well I'm trying to change that. I want to leave a legacy in my neighborhood.

With the help of Rene Michalak I discovered that my pipe dream of having community gardens could not only be a reality but that there was seed money through the city to pay for all the supplies... SAY WHAT!!?? So awesome. I applied as soon as I could and within a few weeks I had heard that our project was approved! Very cool. But now what?

I started to advertise the beds immediately and before construction even started we already had 10 of 12 beds spoken for by our neighbors. I should mention that I have reserved 2 beds to grow vegetables to be used in food hampers that are given out on an almost daily basis at my work.

So it was at 8 am today that a truck load of supplies showed up and the volunteers showed up and made the magic happen. Today would not have happened if not for the generous help of the 11 engineers from Alberta Transportation, Our facility maintenance manager Omar, Volunteers from Living Stones Church (Milt & Kevin) and The City of Red Deer! I am so full of gratitude and appreciation for so many that caught my vision and ran with it! THANK YOU!!

If anyone else is interested in starting a community garden I would love to share what I have learned with you... you can contact me via twitter @centralabbeth or email