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Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair, a retired teacher, writer and columnist will be the special guest at
Retraite-en-Action's
"Déjeuner des flyés", Friday June 5th at the Canadian International Hockey Academy, 8720 County Road 17 in Rockland. Breakfast starts at 9:30 (cost 6$) and Alberte will present "Accroche-toi à ton espoir" around 10:00.
(The presentation will be in French.)

Alberte grew up in Beckett's Creek, between Cumberland and Rockland. She will be sharing her life experience through some truly difficult years. Married at 19 to a manipulative young man who was later diagnosed as bipolar, she will share the hardships of a ten-year marriage that ended with her husband's suicide. She will explain how she was able to find the courage, the strength and serenity to go through those hardships and still be able to blossom and later write about her experience in order to share with other women and give them hope and the
chance to find their way.

This conference was presented for the first time at the Cité collégiale for International Women's Day, March 8th 2013. Alberte will share some of her favourite quotations and the books and authors that have inspired her through the years. Copies of her books will be available and she will be
honoured to sign them for you.

The general public is welcome to attend. For more information you can contact Chantal Richer
at 
chantalisa@retraiteenaction.ca



Hope and gratitude
"Once you choose hope, anything’s possible." — Christopher Reeve

(June 2015) I was asked some interesting questions lately, questions that led me to ponder the answers and to review some facts about my life. The question that set off a flurry of questions was asked at a breakfast last week. I was showing my novels to a group and a lady asked, “What prompted you to start writing?”

Although writing has always been a part of my life because I love words, I had never thought of writing anything significant. I was very proud of a poem of mine that had been published in our high school year book. But what made me decide to write a novel was the need to free myself from the hurt and the betrayal of a marriage gone wrong. Seven years after my first husband’s suicide, I had learned of yet another painful betrayal, one that left me reeling with anger. I certainly didn’t want to live the rest of my life with this heavy burden so I decided to write “Le jardin négligé/The Neglected Garden”. At first, I just couldn’t get past the first three chapters; it was too painful… One day, I switched over to a wonderful journey, going through my first trip to Barbados photo album. I had been so grateful for that opportunity that I decided to integrate it in my novel and the story flowed like the pristine waters of a mountain stream.

(Click on pictures to see:
«Alberte at 30, starting her life over and practicing gratefulness,and
»finding nature and photography, always a wonderful therapy.)


Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you,
and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed
to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”

I was able to leave the past behind, let go of the pain, forget about the abuse, the lies, the control… I was able to fly higher and reach for the sky. And indeed life responded by giving me an award for that first novel.

Another question I was asked was, “What is your favourite passage from that book?” Of course, there are several but one of my favourites is this one:

“The sun was already setting. Golden rays of sunlight pierced through the early evening clouds and dappled splendid hues unto the dancing Carribean waters. Anne hurriedly took off her sandals and thrilled to the feeling of walking barefoot on the warm sands of the deserted beach. She enjoyed its coarse, granular texture of countless billions of tiny crushed coral particles mixed with sand. She preferred this type of beach to the fine powdery white ones. Their polished appearance lacked the character and history of this one. Anne perused the waters that lapped at her feet and felt revived. A strange new consciousness of opposing forces emerged within her: that of her own vulnerability and her inner strength combined.”

"Hope springs eternal in the human breast." (Click on pic to see Alberte today...)

It is so important to be able to look at hardships as stepping stones to something better. And of course, nature is always therapeutic. I really enjoyed this little piece of advice:

“Learn a lesson from your dog. No matter what life throws at you,
burry that poop in the grass and go on your way.” Isn’t that the truth?

Open your mind to the possibilities life has to offer. A dear friend sent me the video of Patrick Hughes, a young man who didn’t let his disabilities stop him. I had seen the video before but once more I was moved to tears by his story. It reaffirmed my belief in miracles and I’m very aware that they happen when you open your mind to miraculous possibilities. (Click on pic or link to view video.)

At the beginning of June, I will be presenting my conference “Accroche-toi à ton espoir” (Hold on to your Hope) to Retraite en Action (Action in Retirement) in Rockland. I am grateful for that privilege and I am looking forward to reconnecting with some people from my childhood days as I grew up in that area. I have come a long way and hope to inspire people to be more grateful and to hope for the best because,

“You’ve got to have hope.
Without hope life is meaningless.
Without hope life is meaning
less and less.” (Unknown)

Snowdrops... a symbol of hope


You have more strength within you than you know. Put it to good use. Share it with others and be grateful.

Blessings to all! Looking forward!
(P.S. You can find details of my June presentation in the column at right... click here.)

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.
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Here are some of Alberte's past columns

Exceptional Mothers: Mothers live ordinary lives in an exceptional way (May 2015)
Contrasts... from Canadian winter to Barbados' southern sun
(April 2015)
(Take a virtual tour of the Barbados, as Alberte describes the colour and activities)
Whatever it takes, let's make it happen! (March 2015)
What a difference in lifestyles!
(October 2014)
Sexual Assault Awareness

Intergenerational Storytelling

Amazing Women from the past to the present

We have survived the “end-of-the-world”! Now what?

Treasure your family memories

Making a difference: philanthropy is still alive and well

Have I told you lately that I love you? (Have I told you lately that I care?)

Artists sharing their passion
Animal wisdom and children - Parc Oméga, Montebello
International Women’s Day at Place Sarsfield

How would you rate your smile?
Art & Nature: the perfect combo
I’m finally ready… to talk about ALZHEIMER’S

Tea, Coffee and me
Happy New Year... Life is a journey

A dream come true for Christmas

Finding time! It’s still a challenge

Bah Humbug! Watch out for Christmas indigestion!
Exceptional Mothers:
Mothers live ordinary lives in an exceptional way
(May 2015)
It is with pride and joy that I offer you my article on "Exceptional mothers".
"Happy Mothers' Day" to all the wonderful moms of this world!

"Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home" — Mother Teresa

(May 2015) Today I would like to salute all the wonderful mothers of this world because motherhood may be the most difficult challenge women face during their lifetime and unfortunately, young women are often ill-prepared for it.

I remember, as a young woman, dreaming of the perfect family: three children, a loving husband and a beautiful house full of laughter. Like an unforgiving hurricane, destiny would soon reduce my dreams to shreds and make me a widow and single mom in a single day. But being a mom was the experience I have valued the most through the years.

Motherhood is not very often mentioned in fairy tales and when it is, it often points to a lack of feminine nurturing or even outright cruelty, yet women all over the world have risen to the task in an exceptional way. In order to become a good mother, one needs to have a combination of inner strength and maturity or as Maya Angelou called it:

"Mother wit! Intelligence that you had in your mother’s womb.
That’s what you rely on. You know what’s right to do.”

The first step in becoming a mom is a long gestation period of nine months. And then, mothers go through the painful process of giving birth and yet, instantly marvel at their newborn child. They go through sleepless nights and a never-ending routine of caring for a totally dependent human being, doing the housework, cooking, shopping and managing the everyday ups and downs of family life, all the while keeping their spouse happy and content and the relationship on course.

No wonder, women often feel exhausted, stressed and often stuck all alone on the ship called FAMILY. Some even drift into depression or go around in an endless circle of misery. But a good mother pulls herself together. She knows, as Pablo Coelho puts it, that:

“The simple things are also the most extraordinary things,
and only the wise can see them.”

Yes, motherhood requires wisdom and insight and young mothers are wise to reach out to their own mothers, sisters, friends and community for support. Sharing childcare eases the burden and prevents burn-out. Many of us didn’t have that privilege and as working mothers often felt overwhelmed. I try my best to support my daughter, a working mom with six children between the ages of four to sixteen. To me she is a real hero! (Click on pic to enlarge.)

“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” (Paulo Coelho)

Exceptional mothers are awesome creatures! They thrive on love. They can handle chaos. They are willing to go all out to give their children the best, even if it means constant sacrifice: nurturing, accompanying, teaching, feeding, supervising, guiding, encouraging, comforting, advising, entertaining…

I laughed when I found this little tidbit about success that can easily apply to moms: “Be calm and serene on the surface but pedal like a fool underneath.” I think it pretty well sums up the everyday life of a lot of moms. Mothers work hard to keep things together. Tenacity and courage keep them going even if they have “had the biscuit” on a very trying day and would rather retire under the covers and sleep for twelve hours… or cry themselves to sleep. (Click on pic to enlarge.)

So on Mothers’ Day, remember to celebrate all these mothers, young and old, who live ordinary lives in an exceptional way! Blessings!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

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Contrasts... from a Canadian winter to the Barbados sun (April 2015)
( As you read Alberte's article, you can also tour the Barbados virtually, through the links she has provided.)

“We are so constituted that we can gain intense pleasure only from the contrast…”
(Sigmund Freud)

(April 2015) Some people will tell you that you appreciate summer more after a rough winter. Some people will tell you learning to love winter is all about changing your attitude. Well, let me tell you I hate winter and have had enough of it, thank you! I’m sure thousands of Maritimers would agree with me. Now if we could only get Mother Nature to respect the calendar date for spring, I would have stopped complaining, but we got -27C weather with bitterly cold winds right after spring’s official arrival. Spring seems so close and yet so far away!

I wasn’t planning to go away on vacation this winter but after suffering through minus 40 degree weather with ever vicious winds, dangerous driving conditions, cars that wouldn’t start (not mine), I decided I had had enough and booked a two-week vacation in Barbados with my friend Marjo. We left in total darkness on the 18th of February. The flight to Toronto was smooth and for our flight to Barbados, we were offered a good deal that bumped us up to the VIP section. Marjo and I have often said that there are no coincidences in life, just perfect synchronicity… and so our trip was full of wonderfully synchronized happenings. The first one was meeting Robert, a wonderful gentleman from Halifax who oversees a construction contract in Barbados. Robert’s initial flight had been delayed because of a vicious snowstorm. As destiny would have it, we struck a conversation that went back and forth during the whole flight. At one point, I mentioned my novel “The Neglected Garden” and the fact that Barbados had been inspirational in its writing. Robert was quite interested and thought of a friend who would really enjoy it. As synchronicity would have it, I had a single copy of the book in my carry-on bag and offered it to him.

From snow on the home roof, to flowers in Barbados...
(Click on the pics to enlarge.)

Now for contrasts! Having left Ottawa in total darkness and sub-zero temperature, we arrived in Barbados to a glorious, sun-drenched island delight. Going through customs went well despite the fact that five different airlines had landed one after the other. On arrival, at our Balmoral Gap apartment, my dear friends, Therry and Lynn from Montreal, greeted us and we all went to Blakey’s for dinner. No more boots, heavy coats, scarves and gloves! My greatest pleasure was slipping into my sandals, a short-sleeve top and capris. The evening air was soft and warm and the sound of the crashing waves could be heard in the distance. No more of this cold, colourless white stuff we call winter! Instead, the soft hues of a Barbados sunset.


(Taken from the author's room. Click on pic to enlarge.)

The next day, we went grocery shopping and then met with my very dear friends, Mary-Lou and Ron from Arnprior, at Haagen Daz. As it turned out, Ron was very well acquainted with two of Marjo’s brothers. We marvelled at the fact that we live in such a small world and there are no coincidences. No matter where you go, you end up making connections! That evening, Marjo and I took a first walk down the superb seaside Boardwalk to Naru’s for dinner.


(What Alberte saw... click on pic to enlarge.)

The following days saw us walk down the Boardwalk to Rockley Beach to enjoy the ocean and the Barbadian sunshine. No more boots! We walked barefoot in the sand… one of my favourite treats. No more heavy coats, just a swimsuit and a straw hat. During our first visit at the beach, we chatted with a gentleman from Ottawa who told us this was his 46th year in Barbados.

“To appreciate life, share it with others.” (Austri Basinillo)

One of the highlights of this first week was reconnecting with Glyne Murray, former Barbados High Commissioner who was posted in Ottawa when “The Neglected Garden” was launched in 2005. Mr. Murray and his wife, Lynette, had been my special guests at the launch. After reading passages of my novel to my guests and thanking me for describing his country and its people so well, he had invited me on a promotion tour which would materialize in 2006. What a pleasure to see him again, introduce him to Marjo and share “bits and bites” of our personal journeys! Glyne proudly showed us his new book “Barbados – Customs to Treasure”. Before he left, he promised to take us out to lunch at Pelican Village the following week.

What a vacation offers is freedom from everyday responsibilities! The heavy winds of responsibility often buffet us, sometimes knocking us down. Taking a break to disconnect usually renews depleted energies and changes one’s outlook. Instead of lack of sunshine, you see bright skies ahead. This year, as in North and Central America, weather was very unsettled and Barbados experienced more rain showers than usual but we learned to dodge them as they never lasted long. For example, one day as we lounged on the beach and it started raining, we crossed over to “Swagg’s” where we had a delightful lunch, then went back to our beach chairs to enjoy more sunshine.

At the end of our first week, my friend Carole from Hull joined us. It was her first time in Barbados so we had planned more activities for that week. Our first outing was dinner at Picasso and karaoke at the Accra Hotel. When we arrived, the owner of our apartment, Hallam, was singing “Rambling Rose”. Again, we connected with an Ottawa couple, Lise and Michael. Barbadians have music in their soul and the singers gave superb renditions of classics from Nat King Cole to Tina Turner, Frank Sinatra and more. The last song of the evening had such a catchy rhythm that people got up and started dancing. I had warned Carole and Marjo that an evening of music and dance was a must during our vacation so this was our prelude to a dance night.

The following Tuesday, Mr. Murray picked us up and drove us to Pelican Village which used to be a bustling arts community. Lynette, who owns a little bistro/tuck shop there, greeted us with a great big hug and offered the day’s menu. I chose flying fish with sweet potatoes and salad. Delicious! Their friend Tony, a Barbadian who lives in Ottawa and was vacationing in Barbados, joined us for lunch. We had a great time! Glyne and Tony have a lovely sense of humour so there was lots of laughter and good conversation. When we talked about our plans to go dancing at the Southern Palms, Lynette and Tony said they would try to join us there.


Lunch at Pelican Village! From the left: Tony, Lynette,
Carole, Alberte, Glyne Murray and Marjo.
(Click on pic to enlarge.)

After lunch, we walked over to Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados. We walked down Broad Street, took a few photos and went over to Cave Sheperd to purchase a few souvenirs and duty-free Barbados liquor. On that day, I was wearing a light cotton blouse and a “skort”. The temperature was in the 27 to 28C range, maybe a little warmer in the city. In the souvenirs department, we came face to face with a Muslim family. The lady was wearing a black, full-length niqab while her daughters wore head scarves. It sent shivers down my spine. How could she possibly wear such a garment in this kind of weather? The memory of an evening dinner at a favourite restaurant flashed in my mind. A Muslim family of four had been seated next to our table. The lady wore a black niqab and gloves. I couldn’t help watching and wondering how she would eat her dinner. When their dinners were served, she proceeded to lift a corner of her veil and with a gloved hand slowly took one bite. Then her husband made her switch places so she would be turning her back to us. I cannot believe a woman freely chooses to wear those garments. It is beyond my understanding. I find it to be an oppressive garment that should have been abandoned centuries ago.

The next day was a busy one. We went to the beach in the morning and met a lovely couple from Ottawa, the Brendons. In former years, I had met a mix of Brits, French, Germans, Americans… and Canadians. This year, my new contacts would be overwhelmingly Canadian. I guess we all needed to run away from our miserably cold winter! Come afternoon, we got our trusted driver, Ron, to drive us to the Sheraton Mall and then to Southern Palms for a buffet dinner and dance. I was pleased to hear the much appreciated “Syndikyt” band would be providing the music. At eight o’clock, when the band started playing, we warmed up the dance floor. And lo and behold, Tony showed up with three of his friends. Barbadians have this innate capacity to move effortlessly to calypso, reggae and any other music and so we really had fun dancing with Tony and one of his friends. (The other two didn’t dance!) My wish fulfilled, I went back to our apartment with the satisfaction of having danced to my heart’s content.

The next day while Marjo and Carole toured the island, I relaxed and called home only to realize my daughter was sick with a cold and devastated because her best friend was dying. Again, I was reminded of contrasts.

“You couldn’t have strength without weakness, you couldn’t have light without dark, you couldn’t have love without loss.” (Jodi Picoult – “The Tenth Circle”)

I knew I was needed at home! That afternoon, I met Mary-Lou and Ron for lunch at Bert’s Bar and Restaurant and met their friends Mary-Lou and Garry. Our vacation days were now counted. Another beautiful day at the beach, a little shopping for souvenirs and lunch at Tapas with Carole where the seaside scenery is gorgeous… fishing boats, steamships and patrol boats and the turquoise waters meeting the deep blue waters… Days were just zipping by!

For our last full day in Barbados, Marjo and Carole went up to visit the Crane and since I had been there twice, I stayed behind to wish Mary-Lou and Ron goodbye, walk the Boardwalk one more time and relax before going back. Along the way, I met a lady from Perth and her sister-in-law from Montreal. They were faithful Barbados fans also. We had a wonderful chat and when I told them I truly loved Perth, I was invited to drop in for tea next time I went to visit. Everyone we met, Barbadians and tourists alike, were kind and friendly. I walked the rest of the way to Balmoral full of gratitude. It only takes one person to make my day and I had met lots along the way!

Finally that evening, time to share a last evening with Therry and Lynn who had been kind and caring all through our vacation. We all piled into Ron’s taxi and headed for Harlequin Restaurant in St. Lawrence Gap, under rainy skies. I wanted to take it all in: the ocean, the beach, the flowers, the people, the friends, the food, the music… and make it last.

But nothing lasts forever and after our last goodbyes to Therry and Lynn the next day, it was time to return. The trip back seemed longer but only because I was leaving Barbados. My “Neglected Garden” poem resonated in my mind:

“Sunny Barbados
Land of my dreams
Here on your sunny beaches
I watched the sun rise and set
And, embracing your beauty,
I experienced your peace
And felt soothed
By the song of the sea and wind.”

“Joy and sorrow are next door neighbours” (German Proverb)

On March 14th, beautiful Manon, my daughter’s friend and grandson’s godmother died. Life is full of contrasts but in sorrow, we find strength and support. We weather the storms and come out stronger and wiser and continue to love.

P.S. Marjo and Carole, I really enjoyed your company and I want to thank everyone who shared special moments with me during this journey. I am “a richer person for having been me in a land of dreams. Beautiful Barbados!”

Blessings to all!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

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Whatever it takes, let's make it happen! (March 2015)

"Countries with more gender equality have better economic growth. Companies
with more women leaders perform better. Peace agreements that include women
are more durable. Parliaments with more women enact more legislation on key
social issues such as health, education, anti-discrimination and child support.
The evidence is clear: equality for women means progress for all.”
(United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon)

(March 2015) One of the themes of this year’s International Women’s Day is « Make It Happen » and purple, which symbolizes justice and dignity, is the chosen colour for this year’s event.

Even in our modern society, gender equality is still something that needs to be worked on. Certain responsibilities are overwhelmingly left up to women in all societies… one of them is caring for children, the helpless, the sick and the dying. I would like to pay homage to every woman who has embraced the role of caregiver during her life. Caregiving is not always something you choose; sometimes it is trust upon you and it can change your life in a dramatic way.

I remember hearing about my maternal grandmother caring for her sister-in-law and this despite the fact that “Grand-mère” had ten children of her own. Clémentine, who was deaf and mute, was not an easy person to live with, sometimes throwing temper tantrums and hitting “Grand-mère”. There was no social system in place in those days, therefore elderly parents, handicapped siblings and children became the responsibility of family or relatives.

Despite the fact that today’s health care system offers many services for the sick, the mentally challenged, the handicapped and the elderly, the ensuing caregiving still remains mostly women’s responsibility. They visit regularly, accompany the person during doctors’ and other appointments and special outings… They shop for clothes and basic necessities, bring special treats, do laundry… and the list goes on.

This can have a major impact on women who already have a family, a home, a career, social responsibilities… Is it any wonder that some women experience burn-outs or feel depressed? And the sad thing is who takes over when they can no longer cope? Yet, women continue to take charge and they continue to advocate for change so that our world becomes a better place to live in.

Major change is always slow coming and takes years to finally become reality. Take, for instance, the right for physician-assisted dying for people who suffer unbearable pain, suffer from a serious degenerative disease or as the Supreme Court’s wording goes: “for patients who are grievous and irremediably ill”. Finally, the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that mentally competent patients suffering grievously have the constitutional right to “equitable access to doctor-hastened death”. You may well remember the case of Sue Rodriguez, some twenty-one years ago when she asked to have medical assistance to end her life and was turned down by the Supreme Court of Canada. In 1994, as ALS ravaged her body, she decided to take her own life with the help of an anonymous doctor.

Since then, determined Canadians have taken their lives into their own hands to end their suffering, either by letting themselves die by refusing food and water or by travelling to a country, like Switzerland, where assisted end-of-life is authorized as was the case with Kay Carter. Gloria Taylor who suffered from ALS also challenged the law. “What I fear is a death that negates, as opposed to concludes, my life. I do not want to die slowly, piece by piece.”

I really sympathize with the families and the caregivers of individuals who are suffering and know they will never get better – only worse. I witnessed the ravages of Alzheimers’ disease that turned my father, a proud farmer, into a helpless vegetable. In the days before he died, I saw him twice in an incredible dream where, dressed in a resplendent white shirt and dress pants, he stood on the grounds between the farmhouse and the stable and barn. He was healthy and sported a radiant smile. I have always wondered if he had an out-of-body experience on those two nights… before he passed away.

Now, what are the chances that the Harper government will move on this? Government needs to move forward and make it happen. We probably need strong-willed women such as the respected, former senator, Cairine Wilson, a “federal” Kathleen Wynne or a Canadian version of Angela Merkel… or a different government that relates better to Canadians’ needs and desires.

Whatever it takes, let’s make it happen!

P.S. I just love Patrick Lamontagne’s editorial cartoons. If you care to see more, go to: www.cartoonink.com

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

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What a difference in Lifestyles (October 2014)

“Dance. Smile. Giggle. Marvel. TRUST. HOPE. LOVE. WISH. BELIEVE. Most of all, enjoy every moment of the journey and appreciate where you are at this moment instead of always focusing on how far you have to go.” (Mandy Hale)

(October 2014) On a fine September afternoon, I joined five of my cousins at the Outaouais Golf Club in Rockland. I wanted to find out more about my maternal grandmother, Alexina (Lacasse) Filion. She was also my godmother and by the time I got to know her, she was living in Rockland and her health was poor. She suffered from asthma and angina. But Jacqueline, Réjeanne, Claire Alice, Yolande and Aline are slightly older than me and their memories go back to when my grandparents still lived on the farm in Clarence.


Grandmother was a very proud woman, mother of ten children, who worked tirelessly. Life on the farm was a never-ending series of chores to be done on a daily basis. They raised cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, chickens, turkeys and some rabbits. There were no utilities in the house or the stable: no running water, bathroom, electricity or central heating. A well supplied the water that was carried back to the house and the stable. Firewood had to be brought in daily to feed the wood stove which was used for cooking and heating.

The summer kitchen was used during hot days. Oil lamps and candles were

used for lighting. All meals were made from scratch. Grandmother churned her own butter, salted pork, prepared marinades and preserves, baked her own bread and pastries… In the spring, maple trees were tapped so that maple syrup could be made and stored for later. They butchered their own animals. Nothing was wasted. She made head cheese (pig’s head meat suspended in a jellied stock) and blood pudding (black pudding) and much more.

In this photo from left to right: Cousin Jacqueline (Laviolette-Séguin), Alexina and Ubald Filion and cousin Réjeanne (Laviolette-Horler). Click on pic to enlarge..

Grandmother was a very proud woman, mother of ten children, who worked tirelessly. Life on the farm was a never-ending series of chores to be done on a daily basis. They raised cattle, horses, sheep, hogs, chickens, turkeys and some rabbits. There were no utilities in the house or the stable: no running water, bathroom, electricity or central heating. A well supplied the water that was carried back to the house and the stable. Firewood had to be brought in daily to feed the wood stove which was used for cooking and heating. The summer kitchen was used during hot days. Oil lamps and candles were used for lighting. All meals were made from scratch. Grandmother churned her own butter, salted pork, prepared marinades and preserves, baked her own bread and pastries… In the spring, maple trees were tapped so that maple syrup could be made and stored for later. They butchered their own animals. Nothing was wasted. She made head cheese (pig’s head meat suspended in a jellied stock) and blood pudding (black pudding) and much more…

Not only were her culinary skills recognized but she was also known as a marvelous gardener. Her garden was divided into neat squares bordered by flowers. There was always a wide variety of vegetables and small fruit to be enjoyed and to be canned or stored in the root cellar. She made sure to bring her favourite plants inside for the cold season and decorated old tobacco tins in a most inventive way using putty, seeds and pits from fruits such as peaches and whatever she found pretty.

When the sheep were shorn in the spring, the wool had to be washed, carded and spun before it could be knitted into warm socks, tuques and mittens, sweaters and scarves. Sewing was a must. Grandmother made clothes for herself and the family. And if that wasn’t enough already, she embroidered bedspreads and pillow cases, tablecloths and aprons and some of the girls’ clothes. Laundry was a real pain: first you had to heat enough water, fill the wash tub, then scrub the clothes using a washboard... Clothes were hung to dry outside on the clothesline but in very cold weather, they were then hung inside to finish drying so that you had to more or less duck under the longer pieces hanging in the kitchen.

Transportation was also difficult and the family had to rely on the horse and buggy or the sleigh during the winter. My grandmother did not hesitate to drive the horse and buggy to Rockland to sell eggs and produce at the general store in return for staples such as flour, sugar or molasses… or attend the Sunday church service in Clarence Creek.

Despite all this, Alexina loved life! Her faith inspired and grounded her. She loved her family and enjoyed the company of friends and neighbours who often dropped in. She always had donuts, cookies or pie to serve with brewed tea. On special occasions, she would offer dandelion wine to her guests and invite them to stay for dinner. Evening sing-alongs would often erupt, to everyone’s delight.

You may have guessed that my grandmother/godmother was my hero and although I was only five when she died, I still feel her love and admire her courage.

Now fast forward to today! This weekend, I attended the Fifty-Five Plus Lifestyle Show at Ottawa’s EY Centre with cousin Réjeanne and Diane, my sister. We were instantly greeted at the door and given a bright-blue bag in which to collect our free “goodies”. The exhibitors were varied and catered specifically to our age group. There were healthcare professionals offering various services and products, travel companies offering all kinds of travel packages from the exotic, faraway places to closer-to-home Canadian venues. Real estate agents, car dealers, bank and funeral home representatives and many more were there hoping to attract new customers (Click on pic to enlarge.)

Ottawa and the region has seen a marked increase in retirement homes and senior condominium communities. Many of them were there to extoll the advantages of their places and offer a free meal in exchange for a visit of the premises. For those who are still wanting to live in their own home, various companies offered services such as renovations, housecleaning and repairs, organizing your home (decluttering) and picking up your “junk”…

There was something for everyone there! I made sure to stop at my favourite booth “Scents of Spain” where Julie Lanouette and her husband offer a wide variety of essential oils and the best joint and muscle cream and spray that you can buy. I was proud to introduce these products to my cousin and my sister.

What made this event so much fun was the scheduled entertainment all through the day. For instance, there was a Frank Sinatra tribute offered by Gil Albert and country-style music by Gail Gavin. We sang along to “Quand le soleil dit bonjour aux montagnes” which Gail then offered in English. We decided to sit down and enjoy lunch while Nadine Banville presented her Marilyn Monroe show. Later in the afternoon, the Fred Astaire dancers really put on quite a performance with ballroom and Latin dances. I love dancing and it gave me itchy feet. I swayed and moved on the spot to the music. I loved it! The last entertainer of the day was our very own Wayne Rostad who was also the MC for the show. Wayne soon had us singing, clapping hands and laughing at his Ottawa Valley stories. We really had fun!

Now take a moment to compare this to my grandmother’s lifestyle and you realize that we, today’s seniors, have a whole lot of opportunities that are available to us. Whether it be housing, transportation, health services, travel or entertainment, it’s all there, offered on a silver platter… providing you have some cash, of course.

Next Saturday, I will be attending a gala. For me, the most exciting part of it will be the live music and dancing. As I have said, my feet are itching to dance again. I hope you do too!

P.S. My granddaughter, Lea, will be making a special presentation in her English class tomorrow. The theme is « My Hero ». She invited me to listen to it yesterday. I was moved to tears when I heard her subject was me. I was deeply touched and reminded of this famous quote: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone, but what is woven into the lives of others.” (Pericles)

Enjoy life and all it has to offer! TRUST. HOPE. LOVE. WISH. BELIEVE.

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

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Sexual Assault Awareness

Sexual Assault Awareness
“The mind, body and soul know that there is a right way to love and be loved."
(Lucie G. Spear, A New Legacy for Incest Survivors)
(April 2014) As I write this introduction, I am reminded that Rehteah Parsons, a beautiful 17 year-old former student of Cole Harbour District High School in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, attempted suicide by hanging on April 4th, 2013. Rehteah died on April 7th of that year when taken off life support. What caused such a beautiful young teen to end her life? The villain was gang rape photographed and later posted. What ensued was constant and humiliating bullying and harassment. (Click on pic to enlarge.)

Sexual assault can happen to anyone, irrespective of gender, age, education, sexuality, culture… It includes sexual assault, rape, unwanted sexual touching, incest, sexual harassment, cyber sexual harassment, stalking, indecent or sexualized exposure, voyeurism, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and degrading sexual imagery.

Sexual violence is not about attraction, intimacy or desirability. It is about power and control and is defined by the absence of consent by the victim. Sexual violence can occur in any relationship, whether it be a marriage, an established relationship, a casual date or a chance meeting. Statistics place men as perpetrators in 99 per cent of the cases while 81 per cent of the victims are women. Sexual violence affects everyone: the victim and the immediate family, friends and neighbours, coworkers and acquaintances. (References: http://carleton.ca/equity/human-rights/policy/)

Shockingly, more than half of all sexual assaults take place in private homes. Unfortunately, cultural belief systems and traditional attitudes around sexual violence often lead to blaming the victim or encouraging the victim not to make it public, thus letting the perpetrator off the hook or excusing him. As a society, we must become more aware, more responsible and take a stand against all forms of sexual assaults because they are crimes.

This brings me to a particularly insidious form of sexual assault: incest! The perpetrator in this case is most often known to the child: the father himself or a sibling, an uncle, a grandfather... For the perpetrator, opportunity is essential so he will orchestrate time alone with the child so they can have some privacy. He will then use his power and authority over the child, often making the child believe it is acceptable, special and fun. Of course the child is sworn to secrecy, which opens the door to repetition. The perpetrator may offer rewards, tell the child she is special and dearly loved and threaten that the family will dissolve if ever the secret is discovered. This may go on for months, even years, causing ongoing damage to the child’s sense of self.

When disclosure happens the child may be asked to retract or forget what happened. I know two women who incurred their mother’s wrath when they dared to disclose their older brother’s abuse. The mother-daughter relationship was ruined and nothing done to protect the child. Other family members may gang up and threaten the child if he or she pursues the allegations. The perpetrator may use verbal abuse or harm the child who is then caught in a “bench vice” situation that causes more painand anguish than relief.

My dear friend, Lucie, was a victim of incest from ages nine to fourteen at the hands of her own father. This damaging experience created repressed anger at being victimized and damaged her self-esteem for years to come. As a consequence she became numb and deaf to the common joys of childhood and adolescence. Fear became a constant. She felt guilty and it distorted her perception of what a normal, close and intimate relationship should be. What she didn’t know at the time was that other siblings in her family were going through the same traumatic experience.

Thankfully, Lucie decided she would not live her life in the downward spiral of negativity and self-loathing that can result from incest. With the guiding help of trusted professionals, Lucie faced the demons of her past, rebuilt her self-esteem, tore down the protective walls she had built around herself and opened up to a new life exempt of lies and shame with the confidence that true love was within her reach. (Click on pic to enlarge.)

Writing came later as she felt the need to reach out and help victims of incest. In her book “A New Legacy for Incest Survivors” Lucie G. Spear (her pen name) shares her journey to recovery. The book serves as a source of inspiration for all individuals who want to put a stop to the senseless crime of incest and the silence surrounding sexual abuse.
“My heartfelt compassion and understanding goes out to all incest survivors. The mind, body, and soul know that there is a right way to love and be loved. I dedicate this book to all of you, for your courage in changing your legacy,” says the author.


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Do you need help?
In case of emergency, should you need help for yourself or someone else, you can call the Ottawa Rape Crisis Center. Here is their website:
http://www.orcc.net/aboutus.

In Prescott-Russell Centre Novas is there to help. Although the center is francophone, it is open to any woman who needs help. They can put you in touch with the Ottawa Rape Crisis Center, arrange for transportation or have a professional meet you at their center. Here is their website address: http://www.centrenovas.ca.

I highly recommend Lucie’s book:

  • A New Legacy for Incest Survivors * by Lucie G. Spear
  • Publication Date: March 10, 2011
  • Trade Paperback; $19.99; 168 pages; 978-1-4568-8432-1
  • Trade Hardback; $29.99; 168 pages; 978-1-4568-8433-8
  • P.S. The book is available in English and French from a number of sources, including:
  • Xlibris, Amazon.ca, Google Books, Ebay, and Chapters/Indigo (as a Kobo eBook).

(Editor's note: If you do a Google search using "Lucie G. Spear", keeping the quotation marks, you will find a plethora of references. And if you use the same reference and click on Google's 'images' option, you will also find many graphic images of Lucie's book.)

Blessings to all!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

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Intergenerational Storytelling

“If future generations are to remember us more with gratitude than sorrow, we must achieve more than just the miracles of technology. We must also leave them a glimpse of the world as it was created, not just as it looked when we got through with it.”|
-
Lyndon B. Johnson

(March 18, 2014) My granddaughter Lea and I had the pleasure of participating in an intergenerational storytelling project organized by the RAFO (Rendez-vous des aînés) this year. We chose a theme and developed a story about an event dear to our hearts. I chose my first visit to Disney with my daughter over thirty years ago; Lea chose a weekend with her mom at Mont-Tremblant last year.


Alberte Villeneuve and her granddaughter Lea share their stories

On Tuesday, March 11th, we presented our stories. People who were present enjoyed our narratives and came over to congratulate and thank us for sharing during the lunch that followed.


Sharing a moment with the hosts... Alberte, Pierrette Boisvert, Lise Landel, and Lea

Ever since we started this project, the lifestyle differences between my generation and my grandchildren’s have played out in my mind. I was born on a farm in Cumberland, in the post-war era. At that time, my grandpa was alive and lived with us. I have some good memories of him, even if I was only three when he died… We had electricity but the farmhouse was not equipped with a bathroom. We were bathed in a metal tub placed in front of the furnace during the cold season. There was no water heater either so you had to boil water on the stove. Needless to say, this bath was provided only once a week on Saturdays since the next morning, we went to church. We didn’t have an electrical fridge back then... it would come later, along with a freezer. Instead, we had an icebox so my parents had to buy blocks of ice that had been cut up during the winter and stored in sawdust. We didn’t get a television till I was five; before that, entertainment came from a huge radio cabinet with a very scratchy sound or going over to Mrs. Séguin’s house on Saturday. They had a TV.

There was no central heating in the house, just a kitchen stove (wood and propane) and a small furnace in the dining-room area. That heat didn’t travel well to our bedroom, so my sister and I would freeze in the wintertime. Our party-line phone was a large, wooden wall unit where you had to call the operator for outside calls. Each of our neighbours had a different ring to advise the call was for them. I think ours was three rings. There would be snooping on the line so we were advised not to talk about anything personal. Everything was secret with our family. Still, our dad often said we were lucky to have a roof over our heads and three square meals a day! Many didn’t have that luxury.

What a change from the lifestyle my grandchildren have! Their house has six bedrooms and three full baths. Only the two boys closest in age share a room. Today’s modern kitchens have everything, including the dishwasher. There is no shortage of vehicles, cell phones for calls, texting and taking photos, computers with internet, TVs, DVDs, Ipods, electronic games… Everyone showers or bathes every day and all have their own towel and facecloth set. Mom does laundry every day thanks to the heavy-duty washer and dryer.

Quite different between my generation and my grandchildren’s are the tasks and responsibilities that are expected. The password on the farm was “There’s work to be done!” We each had rotating chores, such as feeding the chickens and collecting eggs, rounding up the cows for milking, feeding the calves, cleaning the milking machine, weeding the garden and flower beds, mowing the lawn, picking veggies and fruit, doing dishes and housecleaning. I learned to drive a tractor at age five. My dad would tie me to the tractor seat and let me drive forward while he loaded the wagon with hay or oats… If I had to stop, I would jump with both feet on the “clutch”. I couldn’t reach the brake! I became very proficient in the use of farm machinery, often spending days in the fields, cutting, raking and baling hay by myself or working with my dad and brother when the bales were loaded directly to the wagon. Some neighbours appropriately called me Dad’s Hired Hand! But we were never paid for our work. Our parents’ attitude was, “We gave you life; you owe us!” I would earn money driving the tractor for other farming neighbours, picking strawberries at a nearby farm, babysitting or housecleaning for neighbours. And as soon as that happened, I was expected to buy my own toiletries, books and some clothes. Otherwise, you did without.

We didn’t go out much either! Our outings were limited to Sunday mass and visiting family. Of course, we enjoyed visiting aunts and uncles who had children our own age. At the end of summer, we went to the Ottawa Exhibition at Landsdowne Park. The Aberdeen Pavilion was a must. We were more interested in the rides but were only allowed one ride and one treat. I would often choose the nuts and chocolate-covered ice-cream bar. I longed to see more of the world!

My grandchildren’s life is not oriented towards serving their parents. Their parents offer them all kinds of opportunities to grow, develop new skills, see and experience new things. They started young to take classes in dancing, gymnastics, martial arts and play basketball and baseball. Lea does competitive dancing while Brice and Logan are into competitive basketball. Of course, they are expected to do some chores at home but these are geared to their age and skills and some chores are rewarded. This way, the children learn to manage money, to save some and spend some. Family outings and trips are fun and educational whether they be vacation travel or going to the cinema, amusement park, museum or a concert. They participate in family, school and community life and share visits back and forth with friends. They each have their own books, toys, games, skates, skateboards, bicycles… but they also share.

Coming back to our storytelling, Lea’s story was about a most wonderful weekend spent with her mommy at the Mont-Tremblant dance competition at the Fairmont. Having her mom all to herself was a special treat as she has five other siblings. That they won first place in musical and third place in jazz was the icing on the cake!

For me, the defining event was the one that gave me a chance to be a child again since I had been made to be responsible so young. The story related a time when I was a 33 year-old widow (and teacher) going through a difficult breakup, compounded by a family problem. When my principal ordered me to go away for the Christmas holidays, I was dumbfounded and thought it impossible till my cousin Ronnie told me his sister was going to Disney with her son and would appreciate company. Everything fell into place and Adèle, my daughter, and I had the most wonderful experience we could ever share: five days at Disney, then Cypress Garden, Busch Gardens and Christmas in Fort Lauderdale where Lorraine’s father was staying. As Fyodor Dostoyevsky so aptly said, “The soul is healed by being with children.”

And for those who think we are raising a bunch of narcissists and selfies, I say: “It all depends how you go about it! Teach them well, love and guide them and they will become wonderful citizens of the world.” And as Margaret Mead pointed out, “Children must be taught to think, not what to think.”

Blessings to all!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

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Amazing Women from the past to the present
"If a woman is sufficiently ambitious, determined and gifted – there is practically nothing she can’t do." - Helen Lawrenson

(March 5, 2014) March conjures up memories of strong women who have touched my life in some way and amazing women I admire. Let’s start with someone I never met in person but admired:
Cairine Reay Mackay Wilson, Canada’s first female senator who at one time lived in Cumberland where I was raised. A mother of eight, Cairine Wilson performed extensive volunteer work and was instrumental in the foundation of the “Twentieth Century Liberal Association” and the “National Federation of Liberal Women of Canada” of which she was president from 1938 to 1948.

She became a Senate member in 1930 and was a senator for over 30 years. Cairine Wilson was best known for her support of the causes of refugees. During the Second World War, as president of the League of Nations Society of Canada, she spoke out against the Munich Agreement’s appeasement of Hitler and arranged for 100 orphans to come to Canada for which she was offered the Cross of the Legion of Honour by France. Throughout her career, she supported issues involving the rights of women and children and more progressive divorce legislation. She was a strong proponent of Medicare. In 1949, Wilson became the first female delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She died in 1962. I wish I could have met her. (
Click here to read more about Carine Wilson.)

Another amazing woman of that generation was Rockland’s Dr. Annie Powers. One of the first Franco-Ontarian women to become a general practioner, she provided medical care for Rockland and surrounding area residents for over 30 years. After a 10-year teaching career, she decided to follow in her father and two brothers’ footsteps and became a doctor. Dr. Annie Powers made house calls and did not charge “hard-on-their-luck” patients, going as far as providing food and heating oil in desperate circumstances.
(Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

A well-respected and much admired lady, her interest in education was evident throughout her life as she was involved as a school board trustee for 25 years and donated a 150-volume medical encyclopedia to the Montfort Hospital.


My memory of Dr. Powers is very special! At the end of my Teachers’ College year, I did some substitute-teaching at St. Antoine School in Cumberland. A thunderstorm erupted while I waited for the bus to go home one day. As a result, I got sick with what turned out to be tracheo-bronchitis. After two days, I could hardly breathe anymore. My mother called Dr. Powers who made a house call around 8 pm at night. She promptly examined me, gave me an injection and chided my mother for waiting so long. “Half an hour more and she would have needed a tracheotomy,” she told her as she ordered her to humidify the room. To this day, I am grateful to this dedicated country doctor.

(
NOTE: Dr. Powers was a "Family Physician at Hôpital Montfort from 1953 to 1978". - See more at: http://www.hopitalmontfort.com/en/physicians-biographies#Powers.)

Another lady I greatly admired was our neighbour,
Mrs. Winters. She was a university graduate, a rarity for women at that time. Even though she was retired, she owned her own car. My father thought it was ridiculous. I disagreed! I did housecleaning for Mrs. Winters. I worked hard and she didn’t pay me that much but she took an interest in me and gave me sound advice. Two pieces of advice stand out in my memory to this day: “Make sure you get a good education and don’t let the Church dictate what goes on in your bedroom when you marry.” She was my mentor!

Among my favourite people, my
Aunt Jeannette deserves a special mention. She and Uncle Conrad worked tirelessly, side by side on their farm in Curran. Since Uncle had a full-time job in the construction business for years, they would get up at four in the morning and milk the cows till he left for work in Ottawa. She would finish the chores, serve breakfast to the kids, and make sure the milk got to the cheese factory. Then, her daily household chores began. A wonderful mother, housekeeper, cook, gardener, caregiver, nurse, confidante…, she never complained. She prayed for everyone; people trusted her devotion and her caring ways. She was my inspiration when life challenged my strength and endurance as I struggled alone with unexpected events. Aunt Jeannette is still a shining star for family and friends, a living testimony to enduring faith and a reminder that “Tough times never last, tough people do!”

Now, fast forward for an update on amazing women on the move! I will certainly be following Olivia Chow, former Toronto councillor, now an NDP Member of Parliament, widow of our beloved Jack Layton. (Click on pics to enlarge.) I think we need more women in politics because our present government is getting into all sorts of controversial and insignificant moves. Just check the Flaherty budget! You’ll understand. Listen to Elizabeth May’s speech regarding the Fair Elections Act. We need more amazing women to step up and shake things up because the Conservative government is not only stagnating, it is attempting to change our country to the American way of survival of the fittest. Our country was always known as a country that took care of people who could not take care of themselves. That is who we are!

As for my closest amazing women, let me include
Ginette Gratton who has done a wonderful job of shining a bright light on amazing people, many of them women. Her TV program “Ginette Gratton reçoit”, formerly “Pour tout l’amour du monde” is a reflection of her unconditional acceptance of our cultural diversity and all it has to offer. (Click on pics to enlarge.)

Nicole Fortier was recently awarded the “Coup de Coeur” of the Gala Personalités de l’année 2013LeDroit/ICIRadio-Canada. In 1979, she was a founding member of Orléans’ MIFO (Mouvement d’implication francophone d’Orléans) and later did the same thing for La Société franco-ontarienne du patrimoine et de l’histoire d’Orléans.

In January of this year, she received the Ottawa City Mayor’s
City Builder Award. Congratulations, Nicole! More...

Mireille Roy (CTV Amazing Person) has devoted her retirement years to helping women and children in two hard-hit villages of Haiti, Grand Goâve and Taino. There, she teaches sewing, knitting, crochet, embroidery and rug-making to local women and young girls. Working hand in hand with “Les artisans de paix internationale”, Mireille has raised money to renovate the community centre and add a brand new sewing-room. The soccer field is greatly appreciated by the children who also learn crafts and get support with school work. To learn more about Mireille’s wonderful project and, donate if you wish, visit: http://www.fondationapi.webcentre.ca.

To all these wonderful women and many more, my own daughter included, I admire you! I thank you! As the
Dalai Lama says, “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.

Blessings to all!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.
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We have survived the “end-of-the-world”! Now what?  
(January 2013) “Friday evening! We’ve had a whopper of a snowstorm, but other than that, I’m still safe and sound. The Christmas tree is lit, so are the outdoor lights. All is calm, all is bright! Christmas is coming and I only have a few more gifts to wrap.” (December 21st, 9:16 p.m.)

Dear friends, we are still here! Having celebrated Christmas and New Year, we now look forward to this new beginning. Out with the old and on with the new!
(Click on pic to enlarge)

Much was said about the end of the world occurring on December 21st 2012. I laughed when Denis Gratton (Le Droit) mentionned a call from a distraught woman who was very worried about this possibility. Denis joked that you could always take this opportunity to max out your credit cards and go on a trip to Hawaii, Australia, or Tahiti… or you might want to tell your boss exactly what’s on your mind. You might treat yourself to the most outrageous “poutine”!

Unfortunately, many people took the threat seriously and spent hours obsessing about the “perceived” Mayan prediction that the world would come to an end. When I visited Chichen Itza in February 2007, our guide insisted the reason the Mayans had stopped keeping track of their perpetual calendar divided in “baktuns” (394-year cycles) had nothing to do with the end of the world. Why the abrupt cessation? It was unclear: crop failures, natural disasters, climate change or brutal wars between rulers… no one knows for sure. What we do know is the Mayans moved on and settled elsewhere.


I agree with Genaro Hernandez, one of the celebrants who welcomed the new day in Chichen Itza on December 21st. “This world is being reborn as a better world.” Ivan Gutierrez, who was also present affirmed, “We are in a frequency of love, we are in a new vibration.”
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Humans are the ones who created paranoia around this. In “Would you be an angel?” I wrote: “Too often, we react to the unexpected by getting mad, by seeing only the negative aspects of a situation, by becoming anxious, depressed or paranoid... ” And opportunists are always there to feed on mass paranoia. Some scientists and religious leaders use paranoia to manipulate their followers. Companies used the “Prepper” movement to sell survival kits, shelters, guns and munitions while others offered survival training. The film, video game and toy industry also cashed in on the catastrophe mentality. I can’t help but wonder if all this played a major role in Adam Lanza’s paranoia and final shooting rampage. His mother, a “survivalist”, had trained with weapons and taken her son to practice. I can only imagine the atmosphere in that household!

In the clutch of paranoia, “We momentarily forget that to every problem there is a solution. We cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel if we let ourselves be dragged down into a slower, lower, more negative energy.” (Would you be an angel?)

So where do we go from there? At the June 2012 “I Can Do It” weekend in Toronto, Doreen Virtue talked about a new era, one where we will question everything and Wayne Dyer assured us that the universal law that created miracles has not been repealed. So I will trust that great things are in the works.

The upcoming 2013 Chinese year of the Water Snake predicts an improving trend. “Natural or man-made disasters and energy of hostility will be reduced. A new sense of peace will fill the year. Countries will display more diplomacy and goodwill among each other and there will be sufficient resources for a new prosperity to prevail.”

Wishing you love in everything you do! Cheers!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.
 
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Treasure your family memories  

(December 2012) When I was little, I used to hide in our bedroom closet where a huge box of family photos was kept. I would try to identify the women, men and children in the photos. Some I could recognize easily: Aunt Manda and her gorgeous red hair, her husband Louis and my grandparents. Some photos had obviously been taken in a studio by a photographer. I would examine the ladies’ hairstyles, their fancy dresses and laced-up shoes, the men handsome in their Sunday suit and white shirt with bow tie, well-groomed hair and mustache trimmed. The children looked angelic: girls in their pretty frocks with ringlets of hair down to their shoulders and boys dressed like tiny adults.

My paternal grandfather owned a Kodak camera and loved taking pictures. My grandparents had moved to Thorold, Ontario where grandpa worked as a foreman on the construction of the Welland Canal. After the infamous 1929 Stock Market Crash, he was able to purchase the furnishings from a once rich lady whose husband died of a heart attack while listening to the radio broadcast of the market collapse. Things changed once the Conservatives were in power. Grandpa lost his job and decided to return to the Ottawa region where he bought a farm in Cumberland and raised dairy cattle and chickens. The family had enjoyed their Southern Ontario lifestyle and getting used to farm life was difficult, especially for Aunt Alda, the second of four children.

My aunt Alda died on the 23rd day of September at the ripe old age of 93, the last of father’s three siblings. As we congregated in the St. Joseph Church in Orléans, we realized that an era was coming to a close. And so it was that we started sharing stories about our family. When my mother died last spring, I inherited that special box of photos along with the 8mm films my dad used to take with his camcorder. In the box of old photos, I found two large-size photos of the Welland Canal construction site where Grandpa almost lost his life when a wall collapsed. The two men with him at that time were crushed to death. Grandpa was saved by a beam that fell overhead and prevented him from being crushed too.

My grandparents died young, unlike Mrs. Yvonne Bedrossian who celebrated her 110th birthday this month. A survivor of the Armenian genocide, Madame Yvonne appreciates being a Canadian after living as a refugee in Syria and then moving to Cairo. I met Mrs. Bedrossian and her daughter at the St. Louis Residence, in Orléans, the day of her 108th birthday. She was wearing a pretty blue dress she had knitted herself along with matching hat. I can only imagine her life story… Living history! My own grandmother died at age 52. Grandpa was only 62.


This is the author's father and grandfather during the harvest

With this box of old photos, I will try to piece together my family’s history by identifying family members immortalized in those treasured black and whites. With the help of other family members, I will try to draw a clearer picture of the previous generations for my daughter’s and my grandchildren’s benefit.

As for the 8mm films, my intention is to have them converted into digital format and transferred unto DVDs. My grandchildren would love to see those home movies of Grandma and her family. Another part of my project will be learning more about my great-grandparents and their families. A quick peek at Ancestry.com has already yielded some secrets. I hope to find more because as Edward Sellner advises: “We inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within us this inheritance of the soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise.”

Cheers!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.

 
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Making a difference: philanthropy is still alive and well
(Valentine's thoughts...)
 
By Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair
True North Perspective

(June 22 2012) — It was with great pleasure that I read an article on Dave Smith in the June issue of the Fifty-Five Plus magazine. I have admired Dave Smith ever since I was a young teacher starting her career and discovering the social make-up of Canada’s capital. Trying new restaurants was part of the experience for this young farm girl who hadn’t had a chance to venture very far. Nate’s Deli was one of those places. I always marveled at the celebrities, both politicians and stars alike, who had frequented this place. I thought there must be something more than the excellent food! As I soon discovered, the man behind the business was a force to be reckoned with... a man of the world who was just as comfortable with the very poor as he was with royalty.
Read more...

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.
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Have I told you lately that I love you?
(Have I told you lately that I care?)

(Valentine's thoughts...)
 
alentine’s Day, many people toast and celebrate love! Restaurants are busy, stores sell tons of chocolates and millions of love cards but… that is not the real stuff love is made of!!

It’s about feeling love, being in love and sharing love. Love is simple yet powerful but if it is to be durable, it needs to be nurtured on a daily basis. We often associate Valentine’s Day with lovers but it encompasses everyone, from your lover, your spouse to your children, parents, extended family, friends and professionals that provide quality care or services to people who have touched your life in a special way. Teachers, for example, are the ones who receive the most valentines!

I read a lovely passage from Petites douceurs pour le coeur. The quote seemed to be from Mother Teresa. It says that one must not imagine that in order to be real, love must be spectacular. What love needs is durability. In order to last, love must be true and true love needs to constantly reaffirm itself.

The lovely analogy of the oil lamp with its light shining bright because of the constant flow of tiny drops of oil that feed it really spoke of lasting love as I see it. When a lamp dries out, the flame sputters and the light dies. Similarly in a relationship, if love isn’t sustained, one partner will say: “You are not the one I once loved. I don’t know you anymore.”

And what are those daily drops of oil that sustain love? Communication is certainly an important one. “Expressing your feelings in an open and nonjudgmental environment leads to bonding and a heightened sense of intimacy, a connection with the other.” says Dr. Faizal H Sahukhan, a registered professional counselor, author and director of the Canadian Professional Counselors Association. “Effective communication solidifies a relationship. Holding emotions in requires an ongoing effort that drains us mentally and socially.”

I cannot agree more. I need to express my feelings and be understood; I need others to reciprocate and tell me their true feelings. In a love relationship, if the other cannot say “I love you!” and mean it, I clam up and end up saying, “Hell no! That’s not for me! What am I doing?”

If someone’s first love models were bad, there is no reason to repeat them. Dispose of pent-up, toxic feelings and steer clear of resentment. Open the door and trust that you can create a safe haven where there is joie de vivre, happiness, kind and encouraging words, caring gestures like smiling, holding hands, hugging and kissing, helping out. These things should be as much a part of your daily routine as washing, dressing and eating.

“To appreciate life, share it with others.” (Austri Basinillo)

And that doesn’t mean giving up who you are or giving up your space. A loving relationship thrives when there is enough space and generosity for each person (your partner or your children) to maneuver, thrive and grow. Just as an animal cannot survive for long in a trap, neither can a human being endure a suffocating relationship. We all need to breathe.

I will go with the song: “Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love!” In my quest for love, Don and I have reconnected after more than a year of being apart. We were amazed by the intensity of our feelings as if time had stood still and nothing had been lost. All things are possible and we’ll see where this takes us!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.
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Artists sharing their passion
(Art lovers meet monthly to share and enjoy...)
 
sing to life, to its beauty, to each of its wounds and each of its caresses.”
Andrea Bocelli

To find your voice, dance to your own tune, to tap into your inner strength, share it and make a statement that matters, to have faith in one’s abilities… Each month, art lovers meet at the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa’s church on Cleary Avenue to share and discuss with artists from the worlds of literature, music and visual arts.

As you may recall, I was invited to Arts Night as the literary guest last February, along with Angela Verlaeckt Clark, a local sculptor and Lori Lynn Penny, a musician and teacher. Arts Night, which takes place at 7:30 p.m. on the last Friday of each month, eight months a year, offers a unique opportunity to discover local talents. Joycelyn Loeffelholz, who makes these wonderful events possible, opens each evening by inviting interested members of the audience to make a five-minute musical or literary presentation before the guest presentations.

This month, Friday June 24
th, 2011, the literary guest will be a brand new author who has just published her first novel “The Year of the Rabbit”. Theresa Jobateh, a friend of mine, grew up in the Georgian Bay area, in Ontario. The youngest of eleven children, she barely got a word in edgewise and thus discovered writing as a way of finding her voice. In Ottawa, Theresa found her niche in Information Technology, married and raised three children. In November 2003, she was brutally attacked by her husband and nearly died. When he was brought to trial, convicted and imprisoned, Theresa was left alone to support and raise her family. This gave her a different perspective on life and made writing her “exhaust valve”. Her novel was published in April under the pen name of Florence T Lyon. You can access links to excerpts and blog spots at www.yearoftherabbit.ca and meet this new author June 24.

Arlette Francière will be the visual artist of the evening. A professional translator, Arlette discovered her passion for painting at Concordia University and gradually morphed into a talented, expressionist landscape artist, known for her original use of rich and vivid colours. “I discovered a gift and realized that painting was something I needed to do.” Arlette’s preferred theme is the spectacular dynamics between land, sea and sky. She also paints portraits, flowers, still-life and paintings dealing with social issues. Some of her paintings have even inspired poets as in “Sky/Wave” written by Henry Beissel. This is hr impression of the Matterhorn, click to enlarge.

Phyllis Knox, a renowned soprano performing with both chamber musicians and symphonic orchestras throughout Canada will be the third guest. A quote from Stratford Beacon-Herald hails her as “a voice of clarity and lyrical power with a heartbreakingly beautiful legato”.

I am looking forward to this special evening and hope you will join us.

(NOTE: At the time of this writing, Alberte was heading to Orléans to take part in the 5th annual Orléans Art Studio Tour, held on June 11and 12 which she said featured 24 artists at 12 studios in Orléans and Blackburn Hamlet. I will make a point of visiting Angela Verlaeckt Clark’s studio as I am curious to see how her huge seven-foot piece of marble is turning out. I invite you to visit Orléans Art Studio Tour’s website at
www.oast.ca where you will find a site map, the names and addresses of the artist studios.)

Please visit our local artists and don’t forget Arts Night on June 24!

Alberte Villeneuve-Sinclair is the author of The Neglected Garden and two French novels. Visit her website to learn more www.albertevilleneuve.ca.
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Animal wisdom and children - Parc Oméga - Montebello
“Nature is a never ending source of inspiration”
 

pring is finally here! Enough of winter now! No more cold and snow! We want warmth so we can shed those heavy coats, mittens, scarves and winter boots. We want to breathe the fresh air without freezing our nostrils, to lace up our running shoes and explore the outdoors.

On the Friday of March Break, my daughter packed the children and a picnic in the family van and we headed for Parc Oméga on Highway 323, just north of Montebello, Québec. I had never visited this park so I was glad to accompany them. The children were very impressed by the ferry ride that took us from Cumberland, across the Ottawa River to the Québec side. They followed the river’s course along the highway and surmised its majesty.

We entered Parc Oméga around eleven. Well situated, the park is divided into sections clearly laid out on their hand-out map so you can choose the course you want to follow. Our ultimate goal was to make our way to its sugarbush for lunch. Adèle purchased two bags of carrots so the children could feed the wapitis, elks, red deer and Fallow deer, on route. We were advised not to feed the wild boars or the bison.

Members of the deer family are quite comfortable with visitors. They walk up to your car and sniff it out to see if you have anything to offer; they will even poke their head into the car so you can pat their nose. They have become the ultimate beggars! The children enjoyed feeding them.

The conversation was lively as the children identified the different animals. We saw huge bisons munching hay. I was reminded how these strong and courageous animals were once mercilessly hunted by rich hunters who just left them to die on the prairie. (I much prefer the aboriginal respect of nature and the way they treat animals as brothers.) Wild boars were hobbling along on their short legs, sniffing the ground, watching out for their little ones.

We slowly made our way to the sugarbush situated on a craggy hill. The sap was running but the season had just started due to the recent cold weather. We headed for the log cabin where a wood stove made it a comfortable place to have lunch. Two large picnic tables and two beautiful wooden rocking chairs made for perfect accommodation. Adèle and I chose the first table and promptly served the lunch. Two deer sniffed around the log cabin while we ate.

(Note: Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

After lunch, Mommy fed Baby Jessie while we headed over to the sugar shanty to buy some maple taffy. A gentleman was carefully stirring the thickening syrup on a wood stove. When it was ready, he brought the steaming pot outside and slowly spooned the thick syrup over a dripping pan filled with fresh snow. We promptly twisted the cooling delicacy around a Popsicle stick and headed back to the cabin with our treat and an extra one for their mom. The taffy was yummy sweet and real sticky. Lea got some in her hair and Nathan, on his coat. Sticky fingers and all, it was worth it!

When we left the area, refreshed and ready to explore some more, we saw some Alpine ibex on a steep crag. Even the young ones were climbing and, believe or not, so were some of the wild boars. Hoping to see the black bears coming out of hibernation, we weren’t disappointed. There stood a great big male parading on a stone platform and female bears with their cubs on the hillside. One cub was practicing how to climb a tree but without much success. Two others were running to catch up with their mom.

My grandchildren have all chosen a totem animal. Nathan’s is the bear. And like the bear, Nathan is a “bon vivant”. He loves life and he loves to eat. Like the bear, Nathan is the one with the sturdier build and he is very comfortable with being on his own. His capacity to fully concentrate on a game or occupation means he is very self-reliant and can entertain himself for long periods of time.

I was reminded of the bear’s capacity to retire for long periods and not suffer from solitude, something we should practice once in a while instead of always being on the go and running ourselves ragged.

Then we saw a pack of Arctic wolves. Spencer was thrilled. His totem animal is the wolf. And like the wolf, he is a lively and intelligent little boy. For him, family is very important. He often likes to tell me what the others are up to and he loves Mommy and Daddy. As the wolf values the pack, Spencer values the family clan.

We also saw some coyotes. There are some in our area and the children had seen a dead one along the roadside once before. The coyotes were pacing up and down their enclosure, probably wishing they could go out and hunt those lovely wild turkeys in another area. Since they have been re-introduced, wild turkeys have prospered and there were quite a few to be seen. It’s mating season and some of the males could be seen fanning out their tail feathers to impress the females. The park now has a small herd of reindeer and they were quietly resting, free and trusting in a safe environment.

We talked about Logan’s totem animal, the dog… man’s faithful friend. Some dogs, like the husky and the malamute share the same ancestry as the wolf. And like his totem, Logan is always there to help and is extremely responsible when it comes to looking after his brothers and baby sister. You can trust him. He is quick to spot things and in two instances, he was first to notice an animal we were looking for and share that information.

Lea is our monkey, agile and intelligent. She is the eternal entertainer, always imagining something new: writing a story, inventing a new choreography or singing a new song. She loves glitzy clothes but also loves to climb trees and play structures.

And Baby Jessie has been offered the lamb as her personal totem because she makes those funny little bleating sounds and she is very cuddly. Will she be a very patient and trusting soul? It could very well be! One thing I know, if she is offered a secure and loving environment, she will grow up knowing she is loved and loving others. She will learn to trust herself and trust others. There is a whole new world out there for her to discover and the clan will be happy to show her the way.

I invite you to visit Parc Oméga. Check their website for more information and enjoy nature at its best!

P.S. Monday evening, Logan called to tell me there were impressive flocks of wild geese in the sky. He enjoys and appreciates the circle of life and that is good!

(You can contact Alberte through her web site.)
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International Women’s Day at Place Sarsfield  
e inherit from our ancestors gifts so often taken for granted. Each of us contains within us this inheritance of the soul. We are links between the ages, containing past and present expectations, sacred memories and future promise.”
(Edward Sellner)

These words from Edward Sellner could not have been more appropriate in light of this year’s March 8th celebration of International Women’s Day at Place Sarsfield as they also celebrated the 125th anniversary of Sarsfield’s Saint-Hugues parish.

Organizers wanted to honour some of the region’s fabulous women as well as remind us of women who were at the forefront of Canadian history. A quiz was used to test our knowledge of history reminding us, for example, that Roberta Bondar was the first Canadian woman to become an astronaut, Kim Campbell was our first woman Prime Minister, Jeanne Sauvé was our first female Govenor General and
Cairine Wilson, the first woman to be nominated to the Canadian Senate in 1931.

Dinner, served by Desjardins Catering, offered everyone a chance to chat and discover the other ladies who shared our table. Connections were made as it was obvious to all we live in a small world indeed. We talked about people we had known, and their influence on our lives. People who usually stand out in the collective memories are the ones who have made it a lifelong pursuit to be healthy and happy, people who have found balance in their own life and are willing to share their beliefs and their feelings with others… Willing to show the way so to speak! Joanne talked about Katie Zeisig, who at age 86, still teaches yoga in Navan and Cumberland and has been honoured as the city’s oldest part-time employee. I met this fine lady some years ago during one of our yoga sessions and found her to be a truly inspirational person. People like Kathie seem to vibrate at a higher level that energizes and motivates others, and makes them feel better!

Along with the sugar pie and apple pie, the evening’s honour roll started. Seven ladies were honoured. I’ll introduce four of them in this article. Eva Kennedy of Cumberland is my first fabulous woman. Joyce Kennedy, Eva’s daughter, told her mother’s remarkable story in her book “Just call me Eva: The Story of an Uncommon Woman.” Eva Kennedy was a registered nurse trained in New York City, the wife of Cumberland’s clerk and treasurer, Robert J. Kennedy. Known for her extraordinary energy, Eva raised six children during the Depression, cared for the sick and injured, delivered babies (many of them in her own home), was the church organist, offered counseling to numerous men and women in need and often filled in for her husband at the Township Office (without pay).

In the 20s, she started a maternity home and first aid centre in her home which would see her conduct surgery on the kitchen table, deliver and care for more than 500 babies and eventually transform her home into the main medical clinic for the inhabitants and visitors of the village. (
One of her sons became our family doctor.) Her husband’s office also operated out of the family home and Eva often registered payments or official business in the late evening hours. A humanist, she often worried for the plight of others and sympathized with the men who lost their jobs during the Great Depression and were forced to travel to look for jobs. She would leave food for them on her back steps.

Eva’s letters and diaries, a rare legacy about country life, the struggles of the Great Depression and the war that saw her sons fighting in Europe, have been preserved by her daughter, Joyce. A rare glimpse in the life of a most uncommon woman!

The second fabulous woman is Sister Betty Ann Kinsella who founded the Youville Centre. In 1985, she recognized there was a need to provide single teenage mothers with accommodation, daycare for their infants and toddlers and social services that would allow them to complete their high school diploma. That year, she brought together the first volunteer Board of Directors and together they worked to realize the dream of opening a centre that combined education, housing and child care under one roof… all done on a shoestring budget. “The Impossible Dream… that is now a reality!” as the 1987 funding campaign posters for the centre announced, a dream that is still a reality with Sister Betty Ann at the helm until 1997. She would come back to chair the Capital Campaign that raised funds for the new Youville Centre on Mann Avenue.

Sister Betty Ann was the recipient of the 2002 Quality of Life Award, the 2006 Investing in People Award and the Order of Ontario in 2011. Indeed, a fabulous woman!

Rollande (Lavergne) Leduc’s story is a story of caring and devotion between a village and an orphan who became a vibrant member of the Sarsfield community. She went on to marry Joseph Leduc and together they operated the General Store and managed the post office while raising their three children. Rollande remains very active in the parish, offering her services for pastoral duties, playing the organ, singing in the choir and welcoming people at the church services. She played an important role during the parish centennial celebrations, particularly with the committee that produced the Centennial Book, a great collection of historic facts and family histories. In 1960, she founded the local Parent Teacher Association and remained president for six consecutive years.

With a flair for writing, a positive mindset and self-confidence, she is very popular, attending senior events, activities with the local “Golden Girls” and keeping up with current affairs. At 94, Rollande is a truly caring and dynamic role model.
(NOTE: To enlarge pictures, do a right-mouse-button click and choose the "view Image" option.)

Germaine (Lafrance) Dessaint’s presentation was offered by her granddaughter, Dany Brisebois who thinks that she is no ordinary woman, but rather a fine example of courage, love, compassion and caring. Like so many women of her time, when she married, she moved in with her in-laws and quickly started a family of her own: twelve in all. They all learned through example the value of generosity and selflessness as they witnessed their mom’s welcoming ways with anyone who crossed the threshold of their home. Germaine has been a Sarsfield parishioner for 68 years and has been involved in many of the local clubs and associations, cumulating friends along the way as will attest “The Golden Girls”. Married for 59 years to Jean-Noël, theirs is a fine example of the ideal relationship, of soulmates… one her granddaughter hopes to emulate one day.

Dany ended her presentation with this summary: “It’s ordinary in this computerized, quantified 21st century to find oneself defined by numbers. Well, Germaine’s numbers are extraordinary: mother of eleven, grandmother of nineteen, great-grandmother of 12, mother-in-law of 8. Woman of 90! Grand-maman Germaine, you are Number One!”

Wonderful testimonials! And our gracious hostesses, Pierrette Bourbonnais and Rita Dessaint also paid tribute to Doucia (Raymond) Daoust, Murielle Desjardins-Vinette and Anetta McDonald, all women of fine character.

To conclude, let me borrow from Christiane Northrup’s “Mother-Daughter Wisdom”: “Our bodies and those of our daughters were created by a seamless web of nature and nurture, of biology informed by consciousness that we can trace back to the beginning of time. Thus, every daughter contains her mother and all the women who came before her. The unrealized dreams of our maternal ancestors are part of our heritage. To become optimally healthy and happy, each of us must get clear about the ways in which our mother’s history both influenced and continues to inform our state of health, our beliefs and how we live our lives. Every woman who heals herself helps heal all the women who came before her and all those who will come after her.”

Blessings to all!

Read more on International Women's Day,
here.

Read about International Women's Day in Canada,
here.

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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How would you rate your smile?  
ow many times have we heard: “I just fell in love with her gorgeous smile! Or, he has such a winning smile!”? A reader recently commented on my latest photo. “I love it! You have a perpetual and very engaging smile that invites people to smile back.” Of course, in order to have an attractive smile, one needs a good set of “pearly whites” and in our family, we have been blessed with good teeth.

My sister, Diane (on the right in picture with colleague Julie Engel), who just turned 60 last week received the ODAA (Ontario Dental Assistant Association) pin and certificate for her 40-year membership. Actually, she has been a dental assistant for almost 42 years and she has been our guide and crusader when it comes to oral health.

For a gal who didn’t know what she wanted to be in life, she never looked back once she started out in that line of work. I often tease her because when she meets someone new, she doesn’t look them in the eye at first glance; she looks at their teeth! She has always been generous with advice on how to take care of your teeth and gums, in fact, she gave presentations in some of my classes when I was teaching and the children loved it. She has always been conscious that good oral hygiene starts when you are young.

Of course, healthy teeth and gums are not just inherited; they have a lot to do with good nutrition! In an article by Iris Winston for the Citizen, she advises that “Many people with bad teeth and swollen, inflamed gums might be malnourished, even though their food intake is high. Too much of the wrong kind of food is just as bad as having too little to eat.”

As Dr. Lynn Tomkins of the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Dentistry explains, “Teeth are formed during the early part of our lives and are, to a large extent, dependent on what we eat, for proper formation. When their teeth are forming, children need adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin C to ensure they develop healthy teeth and bones. This is also true for teens when they develop their wisdom teeth. In addition to milk products, she advocates fluoride in drinking water to make teeth hard and strong and emphasizes the importance of vitamins A and D so that bone metabolism is stimulated. As we get older, we continue to need these vitamins and the best way to get them is from our food. Vegetables such as broccoli and spinach are good sources of vitamin A, while strawberries, tomatoes and citrus fruits are a good source of vitamin C.”

Healthy gums are also very important! Dr. Bruce Ward, president of the British Columbia Dental Association warns that “red, inflamed, swollen gums are like the canary in the coal mine. If the body is not in good shape, the gums are one of the places that it shows first.” Years ago, although my dental hygienist suggested I use dental floss regularly, I was left frustrated because the dental floss would get stuck between my teeth and break. I would give up and skip the procedure, but eventually, my gums started bleeding if I tried to floss. It took one warning from Diane who said the accumulation of bacteria in the mouth can cause inflammation of the digestive system and cause serious diseases in other parts of the body such as the heart! That was it! I went on a mission and finally found dental tape (Total being my favourite brand) that worked marvelously. I became a devout flosser and soon my gums stopped bleeding as I faithfully flossed twice a day.

Of course, brushing your teeth twice a day is also a must. A good toothbrush and toothpaste are essential. Check out the variety; the choice is incredible! You can use an electric toothbrush! There are picks, rubber-tip massagers, all kinds of mouthwashes and more. The thing is: YOU MUST USE THEM! And if you are away and can’t brush, eat a fibrous fruit or vegetable. An apple is a good choice because it stimulates saliva, cleans your teeth and has nutrients to boot. If not, just rinsing your mouth with water will help. All this prevents the accumulation of plaque which is essentially an accumulation of bacteria that eventually causes an acid that erodes the teeth and causes cavities and bad breath.

Regular visits to your dentist will ensure your teeth and gums are healthy, plaque is removed, teeth are polished and any tooth decay is repaired promptly. In many cases a fluoride treatment is offered as part of the prevention package. Orthodontic and cosmetic dentistry also offers solutions to those who are looking for that “million-dollar smile”.

So if you indulged your sweet tooth at Valentine’s Day, don’t worry but don’t make a habit of it. If you do eat sweets, it is recommended you have it with your meal because the increased flow of saliva helps wash away and dilute the sugar. Good news for tea drinkers: drinking green tea can protect your teeth. And if you need to snack, choose sugar-free snacks such as plain milk and buttermilk, fruit and raw vegetables, plain yogurt and cheese, hard-boiled or devilled eggs, nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, melba toast or salads.


So smile! You never know who will smile back!

Cheers!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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Art & Nature: the perfect combo  
ook deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.” I smiled when I read Albert Einstein’s wise words in the advertisement for the 2011 Canadian Museum of Nature Exhibition: “Nature into Sculpture” on display till February 13th at the Canadian Museum of Nature, 240 McLeod St. in Ottawa.

I have this saying written down in my book of famous quotes. The advertisement also tells us: “The natural world has always been a primary source of inspiration for sculptors.” And it is true with most art forms: drawing, painting, photography, weaving… Nature’s masterpieces have always been a source of inspiration and have provided the raw materials: wood, clay, stone, fiber or metal that sculptors in turn “cut, chisel, bend, shape or mould” into works of art.

I was happy to visit the Nature into Sculpture Show last Sunday because my friend, Yohanna Loonen had three pieces on display and the artists were present. I hadn’t visited the museum since its reopening after extensive renovations so this show provided the perfect opportunity to do both the show and museum visit.

The sculptures were quite varied and well displayed. Yohanna greeted us warmly and showed us her artwork. She joked about her two ceramic trees and said they looked like they belong in “Dante’s Inferno”. Her third one of a man sitting and holding what looked like a snake was superb. There was something for everyone! I think my favourite was a huge and colourful Raku piece.

Yohanna is a multi-talented artist who paints, sculpts, draws and writes. She includes gardening and cooking as art forms and I agree. To her, art is the perfect medium in which one can express feelings of joy, fear, anticipation, happiness, disillusionment.

Born in Holland, Yohanna has had the privilege of admiring works from masters such as Rembrant and Vincent Van Gogh in famous art museums. Art transcends everyday life and offers a glimpse into the artist’s soul by exposing the genius behind the ordinary human being. This art, in turn, inspires us. Van Gogh, according to Yohanna, is the Master of all times in that department and I tend to agree with her. The proof is in the pudding: Van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for $82 million U.S. but Vincent only sold one of his paintings during his lifetime. This is the sad irony: others benefit from the talents of a genius. Most artists live in poverty and only gain recognition after their passing.

For Yohanna, being able to express her feelings through art is a joy and a unique therapy. She particularly enjoys the autumn splendour of this area. Every autumn, she heads outdoors with her easel and pastels and reproduces the kaleidoscopic colours that made her fall in love with Canada: the crystal blue of lakes and rivers, the earthy tones of our vast lands, the towering evergreens, the reds, bright orange, rust and gold of our deciduous trees. She says she never saw anything comparable in Europe. “My heart fills with joy at seeing these colours and I must PAINT them!” Yohanna draws inspiration from her favourite Impressionists such as Paul Cézanne.

Sadly enough, Yohanna’s mother considered her daughter’s writing and drawings as a waste of time and urged her to learn sewing instead. (To this day, she hates sewing!) I can empathize with Yohanna. I had to hide in order to read and write and I had to buy a sketching pad myself with the proceeds from empty bottles collected in the ditches along Old Highway 17 during my youth. My parents never thought to buy me art supplies and the books I owned, including Anne Frank’s diary, came from a collection of books I had won at the famous “Concours de français” held in Grade 8.

There comes a time in life, when you have fulfilled all the practical requirements society or family required of you: a career with a reasonable salary, marriage and a family, a certain social status and now you want to indulge and go back to your early passions whether they be photography, painting, writing, sculpting, woodwork, ceramic, needlepoint or whatever.

This, in turn, will become your special legacy! This will be the true expression of your soul!

Don’t miss out on it! I won’t!

Blessings to all!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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I’m finally ready… to talk about ALZHEIMER’S  
have been toying with the idea of writing an article on Alzheimer’s for almost two years, ever since my sister-in-law, Arline, proposed the subject. “I’m not ready, I explained. It’s too raw! Too close to home…” You see my Dad died in the final stages of the disease. His sister, Yvette, died earlier after fracturing her hip and was spared what I call “the vegetative state” of the disease. Dad’s youngest brother also suffers from Alzheimer’s as does my mother.

So you may understand my reluctance to talk about it! The disease has affected many aspects of our family life and has caused division. When Dad was diagnosed, I was writing a novel about growing up on the farm in Cumberland. My inspiration went down the drain as I took center stage in having him diagnosed. This novel may never be completed unless my grandchildren take a vested interest in the story of how I grew up on the farm in the 50s and 60s.

It took a fine article by
J.C. Sulzenko, “In the dark about Alzheimer’s” to give me the courage to write about Alzheimer in my family. (I will come back to J. C.’s article later.)

As you may know, around 500 000 Canadians suffer from Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. Predictions are that this may double in the next generation. Some worry that it will paralyze the Canadian medical system. One in seven Canadians is now 65 and over and age is a major risk factor linked to the disease.

There are various types of dementia, Alzheimer being but one. My father suffered from Lewy Bodies dementia which is a multisystem disease. The early signs may have showed up ten years before his diagnosis but they were denied or covered up by my mom and Dad, himself. He would, for instance, forget to bring his wallet during an outing, get lost while driving and would become frustrated when you had to remind him again of something. Instead of participating in a conversation, he just smiled and nodded. If you asked him his opinion, he would come up with something way out of line.

Lewy bodies dementia (named after the scientist Friederich H. Lewy) often has a rapid onset as abnormal proteins, clumps of alpha-synuclein and ubiquitin deplete the brain of acetylcholine, causing a disruption of perception, thinking and behaviour. Lewy bodies dementia sometimes exists in conjunction with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Features of this disease, also called DLB, include greatly fluctuating cognition with great variations in attention from day to day and hour to hour. The other frightful thing is recurrent visual hallucinations. These involve perception of people or animals that aren’t there. I remember one day when my parents came over to visit. Brian, my late husband, invited Dad to sit in the living-room with him. Dad chose to sit right beside Brian and all of a sudden, he grabbed Brian’s arm. “I’m being followed by two bad guys”, he said as he looked around and panicked. “There they are! Right there! Do you see them?” When Brian looked in the direction Dad was pointing to, he realized what he was seeing was their reflection in the glass doors of the fireplace. Although my husband tried to convince him it was a reflection, my dad was unconvinced and remained agitated.

Dad was often confused and easily disoriented. One day, we dined at a restaurant with Mom and Dad who soon needed to go to the washroom. My husband showed him the way and when Dad didn’t return, Brian went to check on him. This particular restaurant was divided into two rooms and the one Dad had to cross had a mirrored wall. This totally disoriented him as he looked into the reflection and saw no one he could recognize. He just stood there, frozen and confused!

Soon, everyday jobs became impossible as he forgot the mechanics of chores from his everyday life: how to boost a battery, unlock a door, repair a fence, start the tractor or make a phone call… Even unwrapping a present became a challenge! Frustrated, he would yell at Mom or walk away. He started hiding things like the car keys, clothes or money in order to control the situation. Mom would often panic and yell back or scold him. He became a sloppy eater, had problems dressing himself, prowled around the house at night, frightened and confused.

Mom, Diane and I joined
The Alzheimer Society of Ottawa support group in order to better understand the disease and help Mom cope better so she wouldn’t yell at him, which usually made matters worse. Homecare support services were set up and for a while Dad enjoyed a weekly daycare outing in Ottawa.

Before long, even that wasn’t enough! DLB sufferers often experience problems such as repeated falls, fainting and transient loss of consciousness that can be life-threatening. Dad would often run away and one day while crossing the highway, his legs gave out and he fell in the middle of the road. Fortunately, the oncoming cars were able to stop in time… but he could have been killed.

It was high time to move him to a care facility! We chose the Sarsfield nursing home because my mother could drive there without difficulty and he would still be in a rural environment. The disease progressed quickly. Soon, he no longer recognized us; he became incontinent and needed to be helped during mealtime. The aggressive behaviour persisted and he would become agitated if told differently about something. I remember one day when he was more lucid, he announced that his Uncle Louis had come to visit. His Uncle Louis, a favourite uncle of his, had died many, many years ago. Dad didn’t recognize or remember his own children but for some reason, Uncle Louis’ memory had been clear as spring water on that day.

Dad died in May 2001. Because he had a healthy heart and a good appetite, he lived about ten years after the diagnosis but there was no quality to his life as he moved into a vegetative state. Only music, old favourites such as “You are my sunshine”, would bring a sparkle in his eyes.

Little did we know we would have to deal with Alzheimer’s again but it soon became apparent, except to our youngest brother, that Mom was showing signs of memory loss. She became paranoid and started hiding things, all the while accusing other people of robbing her. Healthy eating suffered as she lost most of her cooking skills. Personal hygiene decreased as she relied on her homemaker for her weekly bath. Her driving became erratic and dangerous as all rules of the road blurred and we had to force my younger brother to take away the keys to her vehicle. As happens in many families, he was in denial. Time to step in again and intervene! I got in touch with social services and asked that Mom be tested. Once diagnosed it became clear that life at the farmhouse was becoming too dangerous, so we decided to move her out. Since Mom’s Alzheimer’s is a less aggressive one, we chose Jardins Bellerive, a residence for autonomous seniors in Rockland, her hometown, where she could still be close to her extended family and friends. She wasn’t happy about the move and would constantly criticize it, all the while enjoying the new-found companionship and social activities. She became very much a flirt, something unusual that eventually made her unpopular with some of the residents.

When it became obvious she was no longer autonomous enough, we moved her to a more specialized facility in Orléans (Résidence St. Louis) where we could visit her more often and she could get the required care. Again, the paranoia surfaced and Mom started swearing, something she had never done before. She kept saying thieves were coming into her room and stealing things. Her phone had been programmed so she would constantly call us with incredible stories. It was a very frustrating time.

Now she is calm; the paranoia seems to have abated but her memory is gone. She cannot muster even a simple conversation as the significance of many everyday words eludes her. She simply laughs and raises her shoulders to indicate she has no clue. Last Sunday when I visited her, she must have asked a dozen times how many children I have. “Only one, Mom!” I repeated for the umpteenth time, showing her pictures of Baby Jessie, my daughter and the clan. She held a photo of Diane’s son with his two year-old boy but had no idea who they were! Even though she always enjoys our visit, it is forgotten as soon as we leave.

J. C. Sulzenko’s “In the dark about Alzheimer’s” mentions that it is important to inform children about the disease. On New Year’s Day, I took my granddaughter with me on a visit to my sister’s place where Mom was celebrating with them. Mom was totally confused and a bit agitated. She kept asking me if I would be taking her home and although we assured her she would go back with her niece, Mélanie, it was of no use. Mélanie was a stranger to her. Lea, my granddaughter, was taken aback by her great-grandma’s behaviour. She kept looking at me with a very puzzled look on her face! When we left, she said, “Grandma, you have to keep doing yoga and writing because I don’t want you to ever forget who I am!”

If only it was that easy! There is one consolation: DLB is not thought to be a strongly hereditary disease but there is no cure for it and like Alzheimer’s, treatments remain palliative in nature. New guidelines have been set for diagnosis because the sooner treatments start, the better as it slows down the progression of the disease. New tests such as brain scans, MRI scans and spinal taps are proving useful in the discovery of biomarkers which can indicate early Alzheimer’s.

The purpose here is to delay the start of the disease to the point of eradicating it. One thing is sure, I wouldn’t wish Alzheimer’s on my worst enemy. When my granddaughter asked if I intended to live till 100, I explained that I wished to live as long as I could be useful, not longer. I hope to be granted that wish as I never want to become a burden to my family or to society.

Research has shown that a healthy heart is linked with a younger brain, so stay healthy! You know the rules: exercise, eat healthy, watch your weight, don’t smoke, visit your GP and get tested, stay connected with family, friends and your social network. Love life!

P.S. By JC | Published: January 17, 2011
Please go to this link at the Hamilton Spectator of January 17, 2011, to read JC's article:
Let children in the Alzheimer’s ‘tent’.

Blessings to all!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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Tea, Coffee and me  
udging from your response, Gaston’s New Year message was extremely popular! Sometimes we do get stuck with relationships that weigh us down or are no longer sustainable and we must break free. I had the pleasure of viewing the movie, “The Young Queen Victoria” last Saturday. Queen Victoria’s mother, the Duchess of Kent, groomed her daughter for the eventual role as a monarch by imposing on her a cloistered life in which she was forbidden to speak to anyone, except in Mother’s presence or that of her strict German governess. Mother’s idea was to rule as a regent but the day of her ascension to the throne, Queen Victoria who was barely eighteen made it clear that from then on she wanted to be left alone and Mother was to back off. Victoria ruled the British Empire for 65 years. This is a perfect example of how we must sometimes impose limits on intrusive friends and family members.

Today, I’d like to offer a complementary 2011 wish: “May you always have a soft place to land!” For me, it has always been “Home Sweet Home”… a place where I can relax, just be me and… enjoy a cup of tea. We all need something soothing when we’re tired, stressed out, bored, overworked, thirsty or feeling sick and tea has always been my magic potion.

I started drinking tea around age twelve. Mom would make a big pot of loose leaf tea. “Trumpet” was the brand… not the best, but good enough. When I got married, I switched to more refined brands such as Tetley. For a long time, my favourite was Earl Grey. I still ask for it when I go to the restaurant. As years went by, research studies proved that I had good reasons to drink tea. Tea contains high levels of antioxidants: polyphenols, flavonoids and catechins which neutralize free radicals that can cause damage to cells and tissues throughout the body. Coffee also contains these antioxidants but when I was younger, coffee would produce heart palpitations, give me the jitters and hinder my sleep. So tea was an obvious choice as it contains far less caffeine and none at all with most herbal teas!

It has now been accepted that six to eight cups of tea per day are beneficial and will not cause dehydration as was previously suspected. It doesn’t matter whether you drink black, red, green or white teas; they all contain antioxidants. My taste in tea has greatly expanded as more varieties have become available. For example, in the morning, I often enjoy Bija’s Yerba mate which contains caffeine and was used by the Guarani Indians of South America to cope with life in the harsh jungle of the Parana River. Argentine gauchos continue to use this tea to stay alert and energized during the day. I find this tea energizes me in the morning. For lunch, I love my Chai tea! My all-time favourite is Celestial Seasonings’ Bengal Spice. This Indian spiced, chai tea is flavoured with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom and a hint of vanilla. I drink it with a touch of milk. Truly satisfying!

At dinnertime, I have chamomile which has a calming effect and promotes sleep. I used to drink it in the evening but since falling asleep is a slow process for me, drinking it earlier, helps. Some teas go hand in hand with a special meal. I always choose Jasmine or Lemongrass tea when having Chinese or Thai food and mint tea with Moroccan food. Peppermint tea is a popular before or after-dinner tea for many who find it soothes an upset stomach and aids digestion. My friend, Juliette swears by Celestial Seasonings’ Peppermint tea which she calls “The Candy Cane tea”. Mint grows in a tiny garden bed, away from the main garden because of its invasive nature. In the summertime, I make refreshing mint tea and serve it cold. I also enjoy green tea with a hint of lemon during the summer.

Of course, herbal teas have been used for their medicinal properties for ages. Try Echinacea during the cold and flu season. You can make a lavender infusion to help relieve the symptoms of headaches or migraines. Thyme will calm coughing and relax an irritated throat. Those are but a few I have tried and appreciate.

These past years, tea houses have become popular. The Gloucester City Center Mall has the Nihao Tea House which offers a wide variety of teas to enjoy on the premises or bring home. I order a Chai Latte when I go there. PAM’s Coffee and Tea Co. also is favourite place as is Second Cup and Starbucks.

Back home today, I enjoyed tea with lunch while I watched the chickadees and juncos at the feeder. The bright-coloured cardinal was there for a short visit also. I read my newspaper and reflected on Haiti’s plight: 810 000 Haitians are still homeless a year after the infamous 2010 earthquake. When will they ever find a “soft place to land”?

Blessings to all! Enjoy a cup of tea with me!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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Happy New Year! “Life is a journey, and love is what makes that journey worthwhile.”
(Author unknown)
 
or years, I have enjoyed the same routine on New Year’s Eve: a quiet evening at home with the Christmas tree lights on, a fire in the fireplace and quiet all around. Before I celebrate the coming year, I review the passing one, not through the journalistic eye which often looks for sensationalism, not through the comedy shows who ridicule everything but through my own experience and perspective on life.

Tragedy came early in 2010. I was in Florida on January 12th when a powerful earthquake hit Haiti. Driving back from Tampa, we experienced but a small sample of how natural forces can create havoc. We were stuck for hours on the highway when an entire section collapsed into a sink hole. But in Haiti tons and tons of concrete collapsed, crushing and killing the local population, some tourists and foreign workers. What ensued was a human catastrophe! Ill-equipped, the country was paralyzed, causing massive logistical problems for foreign aid and rescue teams that were dispatched to the island. While around the world donations of money and supplies were collected, the death toll mounted. Foreign aid workers struggled with lack of security and medical supplies. Desperation soon turned into violence as Haitians were herded into make-shift tent cities… And to top everything, cholera later surfaced.

I realize, in all things, balance is fragile. I proudly participated in the fundraising event that was held at “La Nouvelle-Scène” in Ottawa, on January 30th. I would later contribute a story to an anthology meant to raise more funds for Haiti. When we were invited to talk about this project on Rogers TV23, December 9th, life was still precarious in Haiti. Kettie who lost her mother and sister-in-law during the earthquake now grieved for her father. No one was optimistic about life returning to normal anytime soon. Over 290 000 people have died since that fateful day.

Ottawa enjoyed wonderful weather in 2010! Surprisingly, we also experienced a small earthquake centered near Val des Bois in June. But in many parts of our country and around the world weather created havoc: floods, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, wildfires, crop failures, an 8.8 earthquake in Chili and more. Here, we enjoyed a mild winter, early spring and a hot summer that enabled gardeners to produce wonderful veggies till autumn and finally, a calm start to the winter. We were lucky! Canada registered its hottest year on record.

For the uplifting offerings of the year, the Vancouver Olympics were certainly proud moments for Canadians. I was amazed by Joannie Rochette’s grace under fire. Our athletes made us proud!

Another story that touched my heart was the plight of those thirty-three Chilean miners who were confined 700 meters underground for 69 days. Their courage inspired us and the rescue efforts amazed us. Here was one mining disaster that turned into the unforgettable story we craved!

Michaëlle Jean’s departure saddened me. In my eyes, she has been the most gracious Govenor General since His Excellency George Vanier. My hopes of Harper prolonging her mandate were dashed. Uncomfortable with her charisma, he started singing to beef up his own image and maybe, convince artists he cares about them. (I had a brandy at that point!) Michaëlle Jean will surely be a champion of the rebuilding of Haiti at UNESCO. I wish her well!

This fall, I reconnected with Margaret Trudeau at the Writers’ Festival. I must admit that reading her book “Changing My Mind” was difficult at times. I wish her well also and admire the work she does for Watercan and for the Mental Health Organization in striving to overcome the stigma attached to mental health problems and offer sufferers insights in how to attain a quality life.

Finally, the most disturbing case of 2010 was the evil and sadistic secret life of Russell Williams. To think that such a high-functioning military individual could hide a demented deviance of this magnitude sent shivers down my spine. I chose not to dwell on this too long but I hope his days in solitary confinement afford him endless hours of soul-searching and remorse.

My final analysis of 2010 was a good one. On a personal note, I didn’t accomplish all I set out to do but I’m satisfied and look forward to 2011 with renewed insight and determination. I will soon hold my new granddaughter in my arms and will continue to devote quality time to loved ones and friends. I look forward to new writing ventures and a bit of travel.

After a wonderful New Year Day celebration, I watched The Green Mile on TV, Sunday evening. This film still tugs at my heart strings. “That’s the way it is every day…” admits John Coffey, the black giant on death row, unjustly convicted of raping and killing two little girls…. The film mirrors life’s daily struggle between good and evil. Every day, honest people strive to make a difference as Paul Edge, the corrections officer (played by Tom Hanks) does in the movie. A caring man, he looks after the inmates under his supervision, loves his wife dearly and helps his friends. Limitations often hamper accomplishments. Stringent rules or narrow-minded individuals can spoil efforts to better the situation. In the movie, Percy Wetmore embodies the sadistic and totally immature rookie officer who just doesn’t care and thinks he is above the law. He loves to make people suffer but proves to be an absolute wimp in an emergency. (Bullies are often wimps!) There is also the totally perverted and violent killer, Wild Bill Wharton. Wild Bill ends up shot dead by Percy who goes crazy, then falls into a catatonic state after being punished by John Coffie, a healer and a visionary psychic, who feels intensely the good and bad of the world. After John Coffie performs several miracles and makes his innocence clear, Paul considers letting him walk away. John replies there is too much pain in the world, which he is acutely aware of and extremely sensitive to. He is “rightly tired of the pain” and ready to rest, therefore choosing execution.

John Coffie reminds me of the thousands of people who strive to make the world a better place. They often get weary to the bone because life is an uphill battle and their work is never done. But they must go on, shifting priorities when the task threatens to wear them down.

Dear friends, my message for this coming year is: “Continue to do your best to make this a better world. And in the process, if you need to shift gear or take a different path, go ahead but continue the good work because our world needs healing.”

P.S. I’d like to share a New Year offering from my cousin Gaston:

“There comes a time in life when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy!”

Thanks Gaston! Blessings to all!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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A dream come true for Christmas  
ometimes the best Christmas memories are of Christmas spent elsewhere. Memories of our first Christmas in Florida are among the best and most precious. Adèle, my daughter, was about eight at the time. We were on our own and I suffered from a broken heart, courtesy of a boyfriend who didn’t know what the hell he wanted in life.

My school principal, at that time, used to say I carried my heart on my sleeve. When I was happy, I looked like Pollyanna but when I was sad, I could cry my heart out. A critical situation in my extended family had only made matters worse. M. Groulx called me to his office and listened to my woes. He then suggested I go away for the Christmas holidays. “The more distance the better!” he said. When I argued I couldn’t afford it, his answer was definite: “Go on credit; borrow if you have to, but go! You won’t regret it!”

While I was still pondering this prescription one weekend, my cousin Ronny dropped in for a visit. Ronny and I were very close. We had married the same year and our marriages had failed at the same time. I confided my sorrow and my holiday dilemma. Lo and behold, he flashed a wonderful smile at me! He had the perfect solution to my problem. His sister, Lorraine, was heading to Florida for the holidays. All her reservations were made: Disney with a five-day stay at the Polynesian Village, Cypress Gardens, Busch Gardens with a stay in Tampa and finally, a visit to her Dad who had a winter home in Fort Lauderdale. Ronny assured me she would welcome company as she was traveling with her ten year-old son, Daniel. I called Lorraine and, sure enough, she was ecstatic. All I had to do was buy our plane tickets as all the accommodations had two double or queen size beds. Sharing the costs would benefit both. Lorraine would be waiting in Orlando to pick us up at the airport.

For Adèle, it was a dream come true! For me, an unforeseen blessing… It didn’t take long to buy the tickets and pack our suitcases.

We spent five fun-filled days exploring the Magic Kingdom, Future World, the Land and Epcot Center. It was incredible! We watched the Christmas parade and the fireworks spectacular, met all the Disney characters, barreled down Big Thunder Mountain, rafted down Splash Mountain (one of our favorites), explored the sea and traveled in space at the speed of light. At Epcot, the world was ours to discover. We dined at the Japanese pavilion, ate chocolate éclairs at the French “pâtisserie”, attended a Hawaiian Luau and much, much more. Disney was all decked out for Christmas and the holiday spirit was everywhere. Needless to say, my pain vanished. Daniel was a great companion for my daughter and Lorraine, a divorced single mom, was a true friend and confidant.

When our stay at Disney was over, we drove to Cypress Gardens where we toured the grounds and watched an aquatic show. Busch Gardens was another incredible discovery. Animals of all kinds! Things Adèle had never seen before.

Finally, we drove to Fort Lauderdale where we celebrated Christmas by dining out at the Palace Restaurant (if my memory is correct). We enjoyed the beach and the water park although it was cool. We didn’t care because Ottawa was in the grips of an arctic deep freeze that had caused power outages throughout the region. Many had cooked the Christmas turkey on their barbecue.

As all good things must come to an end, soon it was time to leave. Lorraine and Daniel would stay a few days more with Uncle Leo. Adèle and I came home with memories to last us a lifetime.

Through the years, we have had a few Christmases in either Florida or Barbados. We have enjoyed them all! Now Lea and her brothers dream of going to Disney someday! And they want “Gram” to be there when they go.

Enjoy the season! Believe in angels! I’ve met a few along the way.

Merry Christmas!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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Finding Time! It's still a challenge  
t took a five-hour power outage Sunday evening for me to finally sit in the living-room by the flickering firelight and stop to evaluate my crazy timetable. I have now been retired for ten years, and still, I feel as pressed for time as when I was working full-time. Of course, since then my husband passed away, leaving me to manage everything on my own. My writing career has blossomed with two more novels and a weekly column. The clan has expanded dramatically, from my daughter getting married to expecting Baby #6 to be born in January. I also belong to a dynamic social club, three retired teachers’ groups and several writers’ associations.

People have often said, “How do you manage to do all this?” but despite their admiration, I find that I am often scrambling to get everything done. So I consulted
Dr. Nathalie Beauchamp’s website as she was offering an article called “The Keys to Finding More Hours in Your Day”. She suggests that we write down two columns on a piece of paper. In the first you are to write the following items: sleep, work, eating, driving/transportation, socializing, personal care, meal preparation, relaxation, reading, exercise and any other activity you may take part in on a daily basis. Then, in the second column, write down the number of hours each week that you spend doing each one. WELL! I hate math and I won’t do the calculations but just the thought of how much time goes into those specifics leaves me breathless. And her list isn’t even complete!!

Nathalie warns us that we cannot change how many hours are in a day, but we can change what we do with those hours. She adds, “It is imperative to focus and compartmentalize your time in order to reach your goals. And you must start by setting SMART goals.” I wonder if Natalie realizes that women’s brains don’t work that way! The male brain compartmentalizes; we integrate everyone and everything into our schedule. While I write this article, I am doing laundry. I also took a call from my daughter who needs a few grocery items for her “Breakfast Bunch” tomorrow morning and since I will be doing errands this afternoon, I am only too happy to accommodate her. With six different stops on my list, I’ll have to save what I’ve written so far and come back to it this evening.

Women don’t compartmentalize! They are always there to support others and work another item into their schedule. For example, yesterday was going to be a laundry and gift-wrapping day since this last item had been sidetracked because of the power outage Sunday evening. Well, I managed one load of laundry, called the dentist office to see if I could have a tooth repaired now instead of February. I was offered a two o’clock appointment which I gladly accepted. Moments later, I got a call from University of Ottawa’s
CHUO radio station talk show host, Denyse Marleau. She was offering a radio interview at 6:00 p.m. and I couldn’t refuse! So I stayed in town after my dentist appointment and headed over to CHUO radio station after a quick dinner at the Rideau Center. The interview was great! Should I have refused and focused on my schedule? Of course not!

The problem with women is they wear so many darn hats! They are cook and bottle washer, housecleaner, shopper, chauffeur, supervisor, advisor, accountant, social director and convener, emergency contact person, nurse, decorator, not to mention daughter, wife and mother… I’m sure I’ve missed some! And, believe it or not, they hold down full-time jobs beside. Now that’s enough to make your head spin! No wonder a lot of them get to Christmas with no energy left to spare.

I agree that one must set goals. Dr. Nathalie suggests we set four goals: two health and fitness goals, one mental/emotional goal and one personal goal. Write down why you want to achieve those goals, set three specific action steps that need to be taken for each goal’s accomplishment and pen them into your calendar.

She says, “The majority of people have a general idea of what they want out of life but no plan on how to get it. (That’s true!) 23 per cent have absolutely no idea what they want from life and only 10 per cent have specific, well-defined goals.”

Whether you call them plans or dreams, you need to take the proper steps to make them come true. It’s amazing how once you set your plan in motion; someone will be there to support your dream… A common culprit to making any dream or plan stall is procrastination. It can come in different disguises: family or job obligations, lack of money or energy, overuse of technology (emails, Facebook, Twitter, television, etc.), people who think your plan is out of reach… Your power lies in your BELIEF and your willingness to work at it till it comes true.

This year, I wanted to go to France but the timing was wrong and the opportunity didn’t show up. But I haven’t given up my dream. I bought a new engagement calendar for next year; it’s all about France and features a lot of the places I want to visit. This way, from the start of the year, I will nourish that plan till it comes true. I also had a plan to publish my anthology “Muses from the Blue Shack” by the end of this year. My busy schedule has prevented me from working on the selection of stories and articles and the painting I need to get this book in print. But it will be on my 2011 New Year resolutions list for sure.

Dr. Nathalie compares planning to driving. “If there is an obstacle standing in the right lane as you are driving down the road, what do you do? You have to go around the obstacle, but it is important to get back in your lane as soon as possible. The same goes for your schedule. When the unexpected happens, carefully navigate the obstacles and get back on track as soon as possible.”

And you don’t need a five-hour power outage to re-evaluate your plans. Set aside some time. The New Year is always a great time for doing this! Revise your dream list and its action plan and sail on to your destination.

P.S. I like Steven Covey’s 90/10 principle! 10 per cent of what happens in your life is unexpected things you have to put up with. The other 90 per cent is determined by your reaction and YOU can control your reaction.

I LOVE IT!!

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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Bah Humbug! Watch out for Christmas indigestion!  
t started early! Right after Halloween, the stores pulled out their Christmas decorations, sent out their Christmas flyers, dolled out their Christmas shopping advice. We have all used some of their professional advice to keep our sanity in check until Christmas rolls around.

How many times have you heard: Budget for the gift-giving season? Make a list of people to whom you will offer gifts. Shop early! In Reader’s Digest December “The Spirit of Giving”, we are told to take the time to think about each person, and jot down a few notes about their hobbies, interests and personality. How to choose the gift? Let your budget be your guide - and stick to it!

In our family, we have always made wish lists. It makes shopping so much easier! My daughter fills me in on which gift I can take from that list and purchase for the little ones, herself and her husband. I am almost done with the shopping and will start wrapping soon, having bought wrapping paper at Canadian Tire yesterday and gift cards at the Dollar Store. For the other persons on my list, I try to find something thoughtful which will be appreciated. I always buy a few boxes of chocolate for surprise gifts and, of course, there is always a box of turtles for my godson, an established tradition of many years.

Now for the gift wrapping! This article suggests you think outside the box and try creating “personality” wrapping. That’s all fine and dandy and I try to do this with the choice of wrapping paper and gift card, but I don’t have time to look for wrapping that features the recipient’s favourite colours, hobbies, interests, quirks and unique individuality, nor do I have time to use non-traditional materials. I have always admired people who take the time to do this but I simply don’t HAVE THE TIME!

Then the experts’ advice on holiday meals start arriving…They suggest you keep it simple and, thank God, most people have simplified holiday menus. BUT, there is still some traditional cooking you cannot dismiss… and it takes time to shop for the ingredients, do the actual cooking and store the product for holiday meals. I remember some of our favourite Christmas holidays were those spent in Barbados or Florida. Gifts were simple as the main gift was the trip. No cooking, no entertaining… just enjoying time together in a sunnier climate and having your meals served for us. Ah! I still dream of those vacations! But, back to reality!! I have to make “tourtières » soon. My daughter insists! Pastries have become less popular but date squares are still a must.

Now for getting the house ready! They tell you to keep it simple and although I have adhered to that principle, putting up the Christmas tree and simple decorations will still take half a day. After this is done, the Christmas housecleaning begins in earnest… Not that you don’t houseclean every week, but this time you tidy up more, you de-clutter, you re-organize things…

Then Christmas comes along! You are told to keep the meal serving simple. Serve your meal buffet-style or consider a potluck.

Okay! It’s all fine but what about holiday indigestion? As domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson calls it “the combustible combination”. There’s the Scrooge relative who expects to receive fine gifts but doesn’t want to spend any money on giving, the chatterbox who simply won’t shut up because he or she finally has an audience, the classic narcissist who wants to impress everyone, the martyr who chooses Christmastime to pour out all the woes of his or her world, the drunk who gets obnoxious, the doom and gloom conversationalist who wants to make sure you know 2012 will usher in the end of the world as we know it, the hostile one who is looking to vent his or her anger on someone, the guest who brings his pajamas along and refuses to leave when the party’s over… NO! I’m not exaggerating! If you haven’t lived through these situations at one time in your life, you have been truly blessed!

And what about today’s societal problems like reconstituted families who have to juggle very complicated schedules with three or four sets of in-laws and an uncooperative ex-partner? What about people who are estranged from their families or a close relative, child or parent? Where do you find advice for those situations?

Now, don’t think I’m being negative this year! Not the least, because this reminds me of the fable of the porcupine. Here is the story:

During the coldest winter ever, many animals died because of the cold. The porcupines decided to group together in order to survive. Although they were protected this way, their quills wounded their closest companions so they decided to distance themselves again and began to die, alone and frozen. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by their close relationships because the most important part was the heat that came from the others. Thus, they were able to survive. The moral of this story: The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the one that forms when individuals learn to live with the imperfections and admire the good qualities of others.

So in the end, we must learn to live with people’s imperfections and life’s disappointments! As
Roslyn Franken, an Ottawa-based motivational speaker and weight loss coach advises, one must learn to minimize the stress of the holidays by getting organized, reaching out for help with Christmas chores and letting go of our need for perfection. As Roslyn says, “The biggest gift you can give yourself this holiday season is the gift of kindness.”

Start new family traditions and get rid of the ones that no longer suit your lifestyle or situation. And if you are at a point in your life where you are giving more than receiving, indulge in a special treat: a piece of jewelry, a special outing, flowers, a concert… I bought a gorgeous “ice pink” poinsettia on Tuesday. It now graces the island in my kitchen. I also bought eggnog and will have a first glass to your health tonight. This week, there are four different Christmas get-togethers... This weekend, my Christmas tree will likely go up. And I drop in and get my daily dose of hugs and kisses from the clan every other day. Today, I shared some fun time with Nathan and Spencer, the youngest of my five grandkids.

So be good to yourself and be reminded that the true spirit of Christmas is not commercial, it’s not competitive… It’s all about love and bonding like the porcupines in the fable.

Lots of love! Keep warm, body and soul!

(You can contact Alberte through
her web site.)
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Here is Alberte's latest column as it appears in True North Perspectives