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Jody Vance

Claire Martin

PDA – by Claire Martin

I’m a hugger.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that even if I meet you with a handshake, I will generally depart with a hug.

This is absolutely not an inherited trait. I come from a family of true British stiff-upper-lippers (!) who generally frown on tears and find hugging far too intimate for comfort. My hugging is, in fact, an attribute that my family simply considers an amusing personal “quirk”, and no doubt blame much of it on my time in Canada!

I don’t know when or how I got into the habit of hugging, but I do clearly remember certain events in my life where PDA’s – everything from a simple hug, to seeing couples hold hands, became powerful symbols of love, comfort, and humanity.

In the late 80’s for example, I clearly remember watching Princess Diana one night on the TV news, defiantly holding the hands of Aids patients in an east London hospital when many still believed the disease could be contracted through casual contact. I was impressed by her dignity and conviction. But mostly I was impressed by the unspoken offer of love and strength given by simple touch.

This past summer, I found myself alone waiting for skin-graft surgery in Lionsgate Hospital. It was literally a “Hot August Night”, but I was scared and consumed with “what-if-thoughts” for the next few hours. A nurse came over and saw me trembling under my hospital gown. Despite the warmth of the evening, I was chilled. “Ah honey,” she said, “let me get you a blanket”. She came back moments later with a warmed blanket and tucked me in. She then took my hand and asked me about my day. We talked, well, she talked for a few minutes. She never once let go of my hand. I could feel her warmth gradually seep into my fingers, and I literally clung on for dear life.

When we are at our most vulnerable, a simple touch is an absolute sign of humanity.

Two days ago, on the Seabus coming home from work, an elderly couple got on and sat opposite me. Their knees were touching and they were holding hands. Every now and again, the woman would reach over and whisper something in her companion’s ear. He would smile and respond with a tighter grip.

I tried not to stare. But it was simply lovely to watch a couple so obviously still in love and enjoying each others company.

I’m writing this as current world and political events would lead us to believe that we are hurtling towards an unholy mess, that there is little good left in the world, and that decent humanity is a thing of the past.

I want to reassure everyone that we’re ok. Character is, in fact, defined not when times are good, but when they are bad. And as the wonderful former First Lady of the United States said, “when they go low, we go high”… Yes, ma’am!

Mantra for this year then is as follows:
“Go High”
“Show Character”
“Hug lots”


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Jody Vance

Live TV is the BEST – by Jody Vance

Getty Images: MARK RALSTON

Having spent the better part of my career doing live TV I can attest to it being quite a rush.  It’s amazing when it goes well and when it doesn’t, as long as the subject matter is not life or death, it’s an adventure.

Last night’s Academy Awards certainly counts as an adventure in Live TV.

First, it must be said: I loved Jimmy Kimmel hosting.  Jimmy looked comfortable and prepared — I very much enjoyed his Matt Damon schtick. He seems unflappable even on that massive stage known for swallowing up even the best of the best.  Full disclosure, I wasn’t much for the tour bus segment, but that’s just me. Schtick like that seems like a massive time-waster.  You cannot tell me those weren’t plants….etc…etc.  I thought Kimmel was on point with his Trump jabs too, they were hilarious and yet not hateful. (#merylsayshi)  The candy stuff added quick whimsy.

Today, of course, no one really remembers much of that …everyone is talking about the Final Act of the Oscars 2017. Even if you didn’t watch it live, you now know how La-La Land producers were handed the Best Picture Oscar when, in fact, Moonlight had won it — on paper.  What a fantastic train-wreck to witness LIVE on TV.

Everything goes still.  Awestruck wonder hits.  Could this happen to Hollywood royalty the likes of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty….there to present Best Picture, on the 50th anniversary of their film Bonnie and Clyde?  The golden age of Hollywood represented as the biggest award in Hollywood is presented — that’s when the train goes off the tracks?

Their introduction was classic, filled with that slow cadence saved for stars who owned the screen when silence was golden.  There was Beatty’s quasi-political statement of tolerance and equality, followed by the usual produced piece introducing the nominees.

Cue the Live TV drama.

Did you see it as it was unfolding?  Some suspected that Beatty might be having a bit of a “senior moment” during an, almost uncomfortable, epically long pause.  Did you see the confusion?  The look into the camera (to the control room) then to the wings (to stage managers) his silent cry for help?  Some assumed it was a bad joke .. him stretching his time on stage, but no.  His last gasp for assistance was to show Dunaway the card he’d pulled from the red envelope — unfortunately she was in the Oscars Presenter’s Moment (likely assuming that he was giving her the honour of announcing the winner.) He wasn’t — he was looking for her to HELP HIM handle a highly unusual situation.

The card read: Emma Stone – La La Land.  Dunaway read: “La La Land”

Beatty appeared to be giving show producers every signal in the playbook that “something isn’t right here”.  When he tilted the card to Dunaway, he was looking for an opinion – not an announcement – but how was she to know? When has their ever been a WRONG ENVELOPE at the Oscars?

You know what happened next, the Producers of La La Land rejoiced and gathered on stage. Only to notice that there was chaos ensuing behind them. The Representative from PricewaterhouseCoopers lurking with the stage manager and Kimmel…  Live TV baby!

“Moonlight won”.  The very eloquent Producers of La La Land made it clear, and gave us all an incredible Oscar Moment.  Snatching the gilded card from Beatty’s hands and dramatically turning the official placard to camera, as proof.

Everyone in the audience had their phones out to record the moment. (as if it weren’t covered by a zillion cameras!)  The Oscar Gaffe of 2017 will have folks talking Oscars for days/weeks/months/years to come.  It’s now eclipsed the Snow White Open debacle from 1991! 

Today it is the folks from PricewaterhouseCoopers who are in a spotlight they really don’t want.  This their statement today on Twitter:

We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred,” the accounting firm stated. “We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and [host] Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.

This is Live TV people.  Anything can happen.  This is why it’s such a rush to pull off a “well oiled machine” show, like say, Hockey Night In Canada.  Broadcasters (indeed The Media) make this look easy, it’s not.

Hilariously off the cuff – Jimmy Kimmel blaming Steve Harvey was so defusing.. (referencing his Miss Universe debacle of a winner announcement)  Warren Beatty standing tall to the microphone and being very crystal clear on what happened, and why, explaining himself immediately, the viewer along for the ride.  Live TV.  Don’t you love it?

We re-watched it all, did you?  Are you still talking about it today?


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Charlotte Phillips

Don’t get old – by Charlotte Phillips

The significant difference between how life begins and how life ends might be that a baby has no idea what it can’t do on its own and an elderly person knows exactly what independence they are losing with each passing day.

For the past 2 weeks, I’ve been caring for my 94 year-old Mom who suffered a stress fracture of her lower right leg. Before she could be treated for the broken bone, she had to endure a flu outbreak at the hospital she was admitted to. The ordeal tested Mom’s will to carry on and challenged my tolerance of the health care system that is trapped under the weight of its own dysfunction. Continue Reading

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Adopt A Pet, Kristina Matisic

Victor Pet of the Week – by Kristina Matisic

Hello! I’m Victor, formerly known as Marcellus. I’m a Lab Chow cross, originally from Fort St. John where I was found as a stray. I’ve been transferred to the BC SPCA Burnaby branch and I’m awaiting to meet my fur-ever family!

I can be nervous around new people, especially men or people in uniforms or hats. Hate hats! I like to be introduced to new people slowly, so that I can gain my confidence and my trust. I can be good with other dogs, as long as we have a proper introduction.

I like to keep an eye on things, guarding my area, so I like to have a fenced, secure yard. I also love walks, but need a bit of a tune up when it comes to walking on leash. But I learn fast! I am good off leash, and I love to play and be goofy. And my toys? I like to carry those around with me when I can. All that said, I also like to spend plenty of time indoors, snuggling with my peeps.

As you may have noticed, I’m a little bit chunky because I’m so food motivated. I do need to get my weight down. Ugh, so hard! I’m looking for a gentle guardian who will help put me on a healthy diet and give me plenty of exercise. I need to slim down for my long term health!

I think I’d do best with a woman’s or a gentle man’s touch, someone who is an experienced and kind guardian.

If you’d like to meet me or learn more about me, just head to the Burnaby BC SPCA. I hope to meet you soon!

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Jody Vance

11th picture challenge – by Jody Vance


I’m fighting the third nasty bug to hit our house — this time a chest cold — so, today’s blog offering is a little fun inspiration to chew on.

As I sip my 5th Red Rose Tea with honey and lemon…..perusing Facebook I come across a thread by a friend asking “What’s the 11th photo in your library, right now?”  I decided to play along, and loved my 11th so much I decided to share the post on my timeline. Honestly, I’m absolutely beaming (between coughing fits) at the pictures filling up my social feed.

Words cannot convey how nice it is to take a break from the political news and views swallowing up our social media pages.

Please accept this simple post as a reminder to look at your life — the unedited, unfiltered, unposed.  Just take a look at photo that just happens to be the 11th, and post it here in the comments.  Feel free to give it some context — or just let it be — up to you.

This is my “current 11th”….

I love that is shows something that I do every day.  I walk the dogs, I breathe in the fresh west coast air, I reflect on life — where I want to go, who I aspire to be.

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Guest Contributor, Lisa Salazar

Realities vs. Choices – by Lisa Salazar


People gathered at the Peace Arch Border Crossing Sunday afternoon, January 12, 2017 to express concern and opposition for recent American immigration policies and attitudes impacting immigrants and refugees. This peaceful demonstration had originally been planned for January 5th but had to be postponed due to poor weather conditions. Photo by L. Salazar

The land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? The True North Strong and Free?

On February 1 I was jolted out of hibernation by a Facebook message that read: “Lisa, I should warn you that I suggested your name to the organizers of the rally on Sunday when I heard they were looking for a trans speaker. I think you’d be awesome!”

The event was only four days away and was to take place at the Peace Arch Border crossing. The “No Ban No Wall” rally, as it was called, was meant to denounce recent U.S. policies and attitudes towards refugees and immigrants. I had heard of a peaceful protest being planned for February 5, but hadn’t really given it much thought since it was also Super Bowl Sunday and U.S. commercials weren’t getting bumped for the firs time ever. I didn’t want to miss them. And what did being transgender have to do with that theme of the rally anyway?

Then, a short time later I received an email asking if I would like to say a few words and if so to send a short bio for the speakers line up on the web. They were inviting people from as a diverse cross section of Canadian society as possible. Reading some of the other names was humbling; I felt honored to be included.

Yet, it was with about as much enthusiasm as agreeing to getting a root canal I accepted. Though I’ve spoken to large groups before, it’s always been conferences and workshops that deal with transgender and spiritual issues. I’ve never spoken at a “demonstration” of any kind. Part of my trepidation, I must admit, was paranoia. What if there were government agents taking pictures and writing names down? Perhaps not an irrational fear under the circumstances.

What pushed me out of my comfort zone was my conviction that my privilege as a member of Canadian society comes with responsibilities. How immigrants and refugees are treated is therefore every bit my business, whether I am transgender or not. Anytime a group is singled out as the scapegoat and I remain silent, I become complicit and I squander my privilege.

Before you get an elevated impression of me, I must confess that being a cynic comes easy for me. For example, I can’t help but mock the misplaced patriotism of military jets doing flyovers at football games or hearing someone belt out a national anthem like an X-Factor competitor. I just shake my head and gag.

Maybe it was because of memories from previous Super Bowl games these things were on my mind when I sat down to write my speech, hence the title.

It came as a relief when I heard the event had been cancelled due to the snow storm that was forecasted for the region. Had it all been for naught? I was sorry for the organizers and commiserated with all the other persons who had probably stressed like I had about what to say at the event. The snow came and blanketed the South Coast and it took several days for life to get back to normal. Early the next week I got the news; the event had been rescheduled for the coming Sunday. On February 12 the rally went ahead and we got to speak.

Below is an excerpt from my speech; I was encouraged to put it out there by people who spoke to me afterwards. I’ve posted it on my blog and shared it on a contributor-based site. I was content to leave it at that. Earlier tonight I shared the link privately with Jody Vance and to my surprise, she invited me to share it with her friends at—with a bit of the story. Thank you Jody!

“…Like every single person who has ever lived, I had no choice in which country I’d be born in; Nor into which religious tradition. I did not get to choose my parents, I had no choice over my mother tongue. I had no choice when it came to the color of my skin. I did not choose my sexual orientation And I did not choose to be transgender.

Of all these things I have listed, only one did I choose for myself. I chose to become a Canadian citizen. I had no choice over anything else on my list.

Isn’t it ironic, indeed, isn’t it tragic how the very things none of us get to choose are the things which historically have been used to justify vilification, then discrimination, then persecution, and ultimately—and potentially—annihilation and erasure?

Isn’t immoral how any one of these un-chosen things can become a liability when a group needs someone to blame for their woes and needs a convenient scapegoat?

That is what we are witnessing today, and it’s not just the immigrant and the refugee who is being singled out. The same mentality that has resulted in the Ban and the Wall is casting a wide net. Women’s reproductive rights, race relations, LGBTQI rights, to name just three, are threatened…

…I am particularly aware of how my trans and non-binary friends in the United States are losing protection from discrimination, medical coverage, and access to public restrooms, to name a few.

The seriousness of the situation cannot be underscored enough. I personally know of one 21 year-old trans woman, who one week after the new President took office, chose to end her life.

She could no longer imagine a future for herself. Executive orders wiped out her access to trans-related healthcare, and she feared future executive orders would make her life less safe.

Her parents buried her on Monday, January 30th. This was so unnecessary. This is tragic. This is so incredibly sad. Her name was Amber.

It is a travesty how so many people in America are suddenly made to feel devalued, marginalized, ostracized, rejected; hopeless; and like the convenient scapegoat!

When I trained to be a multi-faith chaplain, I chose to embrace the radical and downright scandalous teachings of inclusion proclaimed by Jesus, the Nazarene.

He dared to challenge the notion of exclusion on the basis of where someone was from, what they did for a living, their economic or social status, or how they chose to live authentically. He spoke against intolerance. He challenged the gender hierarchy.

He championed the inherent worth of every person, of the prostitute, the beggar, the leper, the physically disabled, the tormented by personal demons, children and the aged.

More importantly, he invited us to seek the face of the Divine in the face of the orphan, the widow, the imprisoned, the hungry, the untouchable, the homeless and the refugee.

This was good news to me.

But these are not the good news I hear coming these days from those who are consolidating power in the United States. Indeed, these are not the good news coming from those who support these policies, yet claim to be Christian.

Shame on them for their hypocrisy!

What happened to “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Do unto others as your would have them do unto you?”

I am sickened by how some in the United States—and Canada—have been emboldened to spew out their bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and islamophobia, in recent weeks—with tragic consequences.  While we shook our collective heads at the headline: “Hate crimes soar after the election,” we were jolted by the senseless shootings in Quebec City!

Our countries are better than this. 

The United States’ anthem ends with the phrase “The land of the free, and the home of the brave.” A similar sentiment is expressed in the Canadian Anthem, “The True North strong and free.”

Would that both refrains be true and not just wishful, empty claims in patriotic songs.

There is nothing freeing about banning or rounding up people on the basis of their creed, race, or color. There is nothing brave about building walls or placing handcuffs on grandparents and children. 

Let these refrains inspire our two countries to be lands where there is freedom from rejection, marginalization, discrimination, and violence for being different. Let our countries be known as lands where one’s freedom does not come at the expense of another’s. This is true freedom.

Let our countries be known as lands where one’s bravery is not measured by valor in the battle field alone, but by the resolve that it takes to welcome the refugee and the alien, the courage to protect the marginalized, and the generosity to feed and house the destitute. This is true bravery.

Let our countries demonstrate their strength by how they lift the burdens off their neighbor’s back. This is true strength.

So let’s be truly free; truly brave; and truly strong.

But more than anything else, let our compassion be what truly defines how we as “Brethren dwell together in Unity!


Lisa Salazar, MAPPL — Lisa Salazar trained as a multi-faith chaplain as part of her Master Degree at Vancouver School of Theology. She is a transgender advocate, author and educator and sits on the Board of Directors for Qmunity, BC’s queer resource centre and also PFLAG Vancouver. She blogs at

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Jody Vance

Explaining the inexplicable, to kids – by Jody Vance.

Every time my fingers touch this keyboard I’m drawn to rants about the latest actions of 45.  There’s always something to comment on, react to, fact check — we are all a bit fixated, aren’t we?

Wait, what’s happening here?  You need to listen to the ENTIRE news program, on radio OR TV, to get past 45.

Yes, it’s been a chaotic month of 45….

What is it doing to us?  Are we being desensitized? Are we becoming, on some level, accepting of the open ugliness that this Administration is putting forth?

What’s it doing to our KIDS?

Not sure about yours, mine is watching — and he’s stressing about it. He talks about it daily.

Rightly, or wrongly, I involved him in all of the run-up to November 8th election, we watched the coverage and discussed what we were witnessing.  He mused about many things: “Why isn’t Hillary Clinton doing her concession speech first, isn’t that how it’s supposed to go?” – the first of many questions (since) that I’ve had trouble answering.

While many “boycotted” the inauguration, we watched it.  We talked about it.  He noticed that 45 is “kinda all about himself and not really about the People.”

I’m beginning to have similar issues with what’s happening here in Canada.  There is a concerning narrative blooming in our country.  You can feel it too, right?  We cannot ignore that.  The USA got 45 because folks assumed that ugly narrative “couldn’t possibly win power”.

Indeed, we have our own issues to “stand up for” and it’s scary how some of the ideals of south of the 49th are creeping into our Canadian culture.  To be clear, this is not a reference to PM Justin Trudeau, love him or hate him, he’s been cooooooool under some serious political pressure so far.  (In particular I enjoyed him holding his ground on 45’s signature handshake, but I digress…)

Have you seen the photos/stories (Huffpost is one) of the asylum-seeking family coming across the boarder, in freezing weather, in Quebec?  Heart wrenching, gut-punch of reality, isn’t it.  Can you imagine being so scared to stay in the US, so desperate to leave, that you are willing to wrap up the littles and walk — in subzero temps — to get to Canada.

I’m trying to explain to a 9 year old why these families are fleeing the United States of America!  How do you do that? It’s mind boggling to me that we are in a time where folks feel the need to escape the United States OF AMERICA.

It is with this in mind that I’m shocked, seriously stunned, at the latest poll in Canada asking about our country taking in refugees.  This is not cool.  I’m not showing this to my kid, mostly because I don’t know how to explain it.  It’s my sincere hope that this poll doesn’t dominate the news cycle, on our Canadian Broadcaster, (we watch a lot of CBCNN together) as it’s just that “flashpoint story” that fans the flames of racism and bigotry.

I know my wee lad will ask: “How do we not open the doors to those fleeing danger, fleeing bombs, fleeing dictatorships committing crimes against humanity?”

What the hell do I say to that?  “Well, son, the 40% are mostly entitled, spoiled, racist, un-educated, healthcare-covered Canadians who fear people?” (very much a question of an answer).

The negativity is frustrating.  The narrative is appalling.

I really don’t know what to say on this topic except — where is the humanity?

C’mon Canada, we are better than this.

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Charlotte Phillips

Bodger – by Charlotte Phillips

January 26, 2017 8:00am

I am listening to you eat your brown crunchy things that we buy at the Canadian Tire Store. You’ve always sounded the very same when you eat. You push a mound of mini chunks across your silver bowl three times, then you take just two morsels in your mouth and turn away to crunch them a few times before swallowing them and pausing to consider having some more. Continue Reading

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Claire Martin

Stuart McLean – by Claire Martin

Getty Images: Bernard Weil

Everyone has a story.

Stuart McLean has more than one.
Stuart McLean wrote, and voiced books, that spoke to us all.  Spoke to us about a simpler, easier, more honest time.
Long before “fake news” and “alternative facts” were commonplace, Stuart McLean was entertaining us with funny, genuinely sweet, stories of small town family life.
They were all so very true, so very Canadian.
My favourite Vinyl Cafe story is not a podcast.
It was the late ’90’s and I was driving to Vancouver with my best friend Susan. She had never been to the west coast and we were going to have a road-trip and an adventure together. She had bought “Home from the Vinyl Cafe” to read en route. She was reading out loud in the car as we came towards Kamloops – and had started the story “Road Trip – Cat In The Car”.
We laughed so hard as Susan was reading, we had to pull over on the side of the road. About half a kilometer coming into Kamloops – here we were – two fully grown women, pulled over on the highway, out of the car, laughing so hard that we were both bent over, crossed legs, laughing at each other. Susan was practically yelling her way through the last piece of the story. It took us close to 15 minutes to compose ourselves and drive into Kamloops.
It is one of my most favourite memories of our road trip.
I first met Stuart at a CBC promotional event. He was, as always, utterly understated – and sidled up to me and said: “You and Peter are pretty funny you know”! I was stunned – I had no idea that someone of Stuart’s ilk would watch “The National” let alone even enjoy the late night banter that Peter and I shared.
He was, as his stories are, genuine and honest and sweet.
But that’s not the point of this note.
Stuart McLean was battling melanoma. I had been informed late last year as to his diagnosis. I had sent him a brief note of well-wishes.
I can not comprehend that the disease that has given me just a few scars has silenced such a great man.
It is a reminder that life is short and sweet and to be enjoyed.
RIP Stuart.
Dave and Morley will live on.
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Jody Vance

Petitions to get BC in line. – by Jody Vance

Getty Images: Chris Cheadle

I love my family, and anytime I can spend with them — I will take.

With that out of the way, I think it’s STUPID that BC’s family day is on a different Monday than the rest of the country.  Ya, ya, businesses here offer “deals” to BC Families (on the ski hill) because they want to sell out TWO weekends rather than just one — yadda yadda…that’s corporate Bullsh*t.

What about families who are split between provinces? They don’t even get to have family day together for an extended long weekend!  What about those who “have to work” because their companies are based in, or affected by, other provinces?  The “down-sides” go on and on. Our Premier, Christy Clarke, says that public consultation showed that we didn’t want to stand in line with other vacationers from Canada (and the US, as they celebrate George Washington’s Birthday), well guess what: The mountains were packed, we all stand in line.

There is a petition to have family day changed to line up with the REST OF CANADA...find it here.

This is just one more of the ever increasing head-scratchers that come with living in my home province.

After living in Ontario, for 9 years, I had a major view of how very different the rules are there vs. here.  Now, I’m not saying that it’s necessarily “better” in the east — but there are a few things that, perhaps, BC could align with.  IE: FREE MEDICAL for ALL RESIDENTS.  It’s called OHIP.  You live there for 3 months and you get your card.  No “monthly fee” — none of that.  I cannot wrap my head around how the BC Government (whomever is in power, whenever) can argue that our Province needs families to pay monthly fees when the rest of the country doesn’t!  This is an issue we should all be marching for.  Being lucky enough to be able to afford MSP this isn’t something that hits my family — but I do imagine just how many are stretching their grocery money “that much farther” to cover the family’s MSP payments.

You can join 65,000 others on the petition to fix THIS in BC, here. 

End rant (for this Hallmark non-holiday).

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