Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Celebrating Bold Women

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, by Sara Jewell.

When I was 18 years and browsing through a used bookstore in Ontario, a man walked behind me and touched my bottom. I put it down to accidental touching in the row between low shelves but when he walked by me again, and I felt my bottom grabbed a second time, I knew it was deliberate.
My mother was at the counter paying for her books and I went to stand beside her but I didn’t say anything, not to the man, not to my mother, not the owner of the store.
Don’t cause a scene. Don’t embarrass your mother. It’s your word against his.
I remember thinking these thoughts as I stood there, knowing what he did was wrong, that it was a violation of my space and my body, but I kept silent. At 18, I already understood there was no point in speaking up.
I wish I’d been bold enough to holler at the man, “Stop touching me, you creep.”

I share this story as one reason for why we need International Women’s Day, held every year on March 8. It’s not because women hate men and it’s not because women think we can do a better job than men.
We simply want fairness and respect, and to live and work without fear.
Women in politics receive far more abuse online than their male colleagues, including threats of rape, violence against their family, even death.
A man posted a crude and demeaning comment on the Facebook page of a vocal proponent of women’s rights, only to be called out for celebrating the birth of his daughter in a post a week earlier. “Do you want strangers speaking to your daughter this way?” he was asked.
When a woman speaks out – in a column, in a song, in a speech, through poetry, on social media – she opens herself up to the worst kinds of attacks, often being called the worst names and threatened with rape, even death.

The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day celebration is “Be Bold for Change”.
Like bossy and bitchy, “bold” is a word that takes on negative connotations when associated with women. People (that general, meaningless denomination that holds so much sway) don’t like bold women; they are forward, mouthy, demanding, and persistent.
Until women can speak up without worrying about being ignored, dismissed, or denigrated, we need a day set aside to celebrate the achievements of women in all areas (social, cultural, economic and political) because this awareness, this public standing up to say, “Hey, look at what we’ve done so far,” helps motivate other women to speak up for themselves and for each other.

My friend Jane and I recently saw the movie, “Hidden Figures,” about three black women who worked as mathematicians at NASA. They were bold, even as they had to defer to the white people who employed them. They spoke up, even when it put their jobs at risk. They changed the world by helping put a man on the moon.
Nothing changes if we don’t speak up. We go nowhere without boldness.
Oxford holds its International Women’s Day celebration this Saturday, March 4, while Amherst’s is Friday, March 10. The first step towards boldness is showing up.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Kids, Kids, Glorious Kids

Three day old Clover, a Pygmy, is content and quiet.

It was the best voicemail ever: "Hi, it's Theresa. We have baby goats if you want to come meet them."
Do I? I couldn't get there soon enough.

As I drove away from the Wood's home on Mount Pleasant Road, Mark laughed at me.
"So you had an afternoon of zen goat meditation?"
Definitely. I was frozen from sitting inside a drafty barn for two hours but who could ever get enough of holding little baby goats who are warm and snuggly and quite content to lay in your arms or on your lap?
And fifteen minutes after I'd left the barn and was on my way home, Autumn, the Saanen I'd spent much of the afternoon petting because she seemed to want it, gave birth to twins. So there will be more zen goat meditation in my near future.
Like, this afternoon.  You can never get enough baby goat love.

I'm holding Violet's lovely daughter, Ahsoka. One day soon, I'll get to milk Violet.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The New Kitten

Ready for a nap on the chair in my room.
Discovering the birds on Nana's balcony.

I love an orange kitty.
I love my black-and-white boys, I truly do, but there's something about the marmalade strips that makes my heart happy. Blame on my dad: He had an orange cat so a home doesn't feel complete without one.
When Santa didn't have an orange kitten to leave me on Christmas Eve (and I checked my stocking thoroughly), I thought maybe my husband would come through for Valentine's Day, but the look on his face suggested he was not on board about getting a third cat. An "adoption day" a couple of Saturdays ago offered no kittens and a woman told me that orange cats were usually male. I needed a female so it seemed as if I would be out of luck. I decided to wait until the spring crop landed into the local rescue organizations and see who turned up.
Then on Valentine's Day, the LA Animal Shelter in Amherst posted photos of a bunch of new kittens on their Facebook page, and there she was: my little orange kitten. Millie.
We call her "Emily" -- but we call her a lot of other names like Mimi and Pinky and Pumpkin. She doesn't actually respond to any name, not even her shelter name.
Typical cat. 
After a couple of days of hissing and staring and chasing, Millie is part of the family and the boys are playing with her, and I suspect she's already running the household. She's as much fun as a kitten is supposed to be, but if I have to say to the dog one more time, "It's just a kitten," I'm going to scream.
Let's all just be chill like Mill. 

Keeping an eye on the downstairs from big brothers' perch.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How To Love Where You Live

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, February 15, 2017, by Sara Jewell.

The Oxford Walking Club meets every Monday night at 6 pm at the gazebo.
Waiting in line at the bank one summer afternoon, I overheard an older man ahead of me complain about the flower baskets hanging all around the Town of Oxford.
“What do we need those for, anyway?” he growled. “A waste of money.”
It would have been a waste of time to point out to him that they make the town look good; welcoming and friendly as well as pretty. Who wants to live in, or visit, an ugly, rundown town? Would anyone be proud of that?
This man’s griping came back to me as I read Melody Warnick’s new book, This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live. I picked it up after Cumberland Public Libraries posted the book cover on its Instagram account, figuring I could skim read it for a column. 

Turns out, I can’t put the book down. This Is Where You Belong is fascinating and although its focus is the United States, it absolutely applies to Oxford and Pugwash and Amherst and Halifax. In fact, I’m saying this book should be read by every mayor, councillor, and community leader in every municipality. If each person who reads this book puts one idea into action, we’d notice a huge difference in our towns, and in their residents.
The book focuses on what Warnick calls place attachment and its role in whether we like where we live: “It’s the way we imbue places with meaning and memory,” she writes. “When people help create their place, they see themselves reflected in it.”
Warnick provides personal stories, statistics, and actual Love Where You Live experiments to demonstrate ten basic place attachment behaviours: Walk more; Buy local; Get to know your neighbours; Do fun stuff; Explore nature; Volunteer; Eat local; Become more political; Create something new; Stay loyal through hard times.
She stresses that being involved creates connection with a place; people are less likely to complain there’s nothing to do if they are participating in community events.
According to Warnick, the most challenging question is: “What would I show off to tourists?” She says this is where small towns can flounder.

As I read this book, examples of how the Town of Oxford has created opportunities for place attachment kept popping into my head. Walk more with the Oxford Walking Club; Get to know your neighbours (past and present) through Eleanor Crowley’s historic walking tours of Oxford; Explore nature using the TransCanada Trail; and Do fun stuff at the Strawberry Festival.
Not to mention this: The gazebo in the middle of town that outraged many people as a waste of money, a target for vandals, and an insult to the old building  that used to be there? It’s one of those little things that make people feel satisfied with their town. 
Warnick calls this fact a bombshell: “The three qualities with the strong correlation to place attachment were social offerings, aesthetics and openness.” Basically, when residents think their town offers stuff to do, looks nice, and is welcoming, they feel most attached to it. So, kudos, Oxford, for hanging flower baskets, creating a town square and organizing festivals; those are exactly the kinds of things that make (most) people love where they live.

Hopefully as you read this column, you realized how much your own community -- wherever you live -- does to try and provide a sense of identity and connection to where you live. The examples I provided are limited only to Oxford because of my word count for the newspaper, and it's not even a complete list. 

I can't stress enough that community leaders everywhere should read this book. Ten chapters and every one of them is full of ideas and inspiration and encouragement. I'm not done the book but I was up at 3 a.m. for a mug of warm milk and read the chapter on volunteering. Our county is full of wonderful, committed volunteers who do so much to keep events and organizations running: food banks, Communities In Bloom, the animal shelter and other animal rescue groups, festivals (like the winter festival this weekend in Amherst - yay, winter!), the Cumberland County Exhibition, and breakfasts/suppers. Our communities, large and small, couldn't survive let alone thrive without volunteers.
I'm going to keep reading and being inspired (so glad I created the authors' event this weekend in Oxford - doing my part to create place attachment), and I hope you'll get on this bandwagon as well.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Impending Storm

Sure, the sky was bright blue today
and clear,
not a cloud in the sky,
not a sign of impending doom.
The field spread out under
sunshine and sparkling snow.
A perfect winter's day
made better by the anticipation
of the storm,
knowing it's out there,
it's coming,
knowing what's coming,
the Red Bar of Doom on the online forecast
announces the blizzard event.
Inside, the smell of bread and beans,
preparations for shut in,
perhaps even powerless.
So there was another walk, 
at the edge of the storm,
at the edge of the day,
through the woods,
with the weight of the unseen storm
on my shoulders,
the drift of cloud through the trees
as it creeps closer
while the rabbits and porcupines and deer
leave nothing behind
but their prints in the snow. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

When Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

We had a wee problem with our chimney flue last night, as we listened to the wind pick up and waited for the snow to start flying around.
"I smell smoke," my husband said just as I was about to start sneezing. Usually a wood furnace only makes me sneezy when the air outside is heavy and damp.
Fortunately, our problem was dealt with quickly and efficiently by half a dozen members of the Oxford Fire Department. We didn't even have to evacuate.
It was a strange experience to be sitting at my desk in a room on the second floor at the end of the house, transcribing an interview onto my computer, while men with flashlights went up and down a ladder outside the window.
But even when the smokes gets in her eyes, a writer writes.