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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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Guest Contributor, Neil Patel

Family Learning – by Neil Patel

Video can be life changing

As a father, I’ve found video to be an incredibly powerful tool to educate myself and my family. When it comes to parenting, and helping instill my commitment to “learn something new every day”, video has been one of our most effective tools.

Issabella, my daughter, used to suck her thumb daily. At the age of 5, and the night before she started kindergarten, she came to my wife worried that she would embarrass herself with her new friends by sucking her thumb. My wife, Nina, tasked me to help her stop. Instinctively, I thought video of the long term effects of sucking her thumb – what her teeth might look like as she got older as well as the impact this habit could have on her thumb – would help in parenting.

The videos are quite confronting.

It was an emotional, but impactful, moment – she cried – and she made the decision to stop that day. Did I mention she was FIVE? 

She asked me if she could still suck her thumb at bedtime, I told her absolutely “it is your decision”. The very next morning, she came to me, proud as punch, “daddy, I didn’t need to suck my thumb last night!”. With the help of her twin sister, Mackenzie, she’d gotten through the night without sucking her thumb.

That was the last time we talked about the matter and she never sucked her thumb again.

As a family, we use video to create quality family time. Our kids have learned how to cook via video.  Each Saturday we cook together at home. We will pick a Jamie Oliver recipe, then find videos on Youtube to help the kids learn skills in the kitchen; how to cut onions, vegetables — and even how to “easily” separate the egg yolk from white.

As we entered 2017 it was decided that we would start the day with something new in our family routine.  Enter the daily TedTalk.  Stay with me here.  Each of us choose our topic and from Monday to Saturday we get our daily dose of “Ted”.

This has been incredible — effective in teaching our kids important life skills as they grow to become great people and something we do together. In the blink of an eye Ted has become the best part of our morning, and something we can do as a family for the rest of our lives no matter where we live.

Try watching a daily TedTalk and see the impact it has on your family.

I would love to hear from anyone who is using video — or anything really — to help their family bond and learn new things.


Neil Patel is the Founder and CEO of Kabuni, a company that is changing the way we decorate our lives. (It’s not only for the wealthy!)  Supporting designer and artisans – while giving back to the community – Kabuni is worth a moment of your time.  (you will be hooked)  Neil and I met by chance, and immediately felt we’d be lifelong friends.  He’s an inspired leader, a visionary and … all around beloved human.  His commitment to family and leadership are awe-inspiring.

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Guest Contributor, Shana Selwyn

Life of a Freelancer – by Shana Selwyn

Image: Squaredpixels

I never intended to be a freelancer…I’ve never had any entrepreneurial aspirations, I’ve always been content to be a ‘worker bee’ at every company I’ve every worked for.

Radio. It’s what I love the most. This love was cultivated over 13 years at CFOX, 10 of them as the traffic reporter/female presence on the Larry & Willy Show. I literally LEAPED out of bed every day at 4:30 a.m.. (who wouldn’t love to spend the first 4 hours of every workday laughing?) When that relationship ended it came as a complete blindside and I was shattered. 13 years? I was a ‘lifer’. I had loved my job more than anything else (not a smart thing by the way) and I suddenly I could barely function. I got the flu, stayed in bed for a week, and cried as if a boyfriend who I had been devoted to for 13 years had just broken up with me for no reason.

Which is exactly what it felt like.

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Guest Contributor

Time and Space – by Al Vitols

Getty Images

Time behaves in an interesting manner. Years ago I too had my office at home, and the following is a description of a sequence of events that happened, some form of which, more than once.

As I finish getting dressed in Wranglers, the cowboy brand of blue jeans, in the bedroom to go to my office, it is difficult to ignore Schooner, our Golden Retriever, who, in a language that is unmistakable, pleads to have his tennis balls thrown for him to fetch.

On the ball-launch site, the back sundeck, I chuck a ball toward the back fence, close to the P.G.E. (Prince George Eventually) railway tracks, where the bush is the thickest. This involved stepping over a very large fir branch blown down by the previous night’s sou’wester.

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Guest Contributor, Wendy Vreeken Banham

A Daughter’s Priorities – by Wendy

Image: Mark Winwood (c) Dorling Kindersley

Winter gardening (or, a daughter’s priorities)

I’ve been meaning to write a column about winter gardening for weeks now, but when I sit in front of the blank page, all my brain is full of are these four words:  My Mother has cancer.  So, I admit it, this isn’t a column about gardening at all.

My Mom’s foot starting swelling back in June.  Soon afterwards her whole leg started filling up, then the other foot, and the other leg, and finally, her abdomen.  There was a seemingly endless parade of medical appointments, and eventually, a referral to an internal medicine specialist.   He told us a CT scan would reveal the answers.  When we received our date for the scan, it was a very long two months away.

By then my Mom had already lost her quality of life.  She could no longer go to her regular exercise classes with her beloved girls. She could barely get her feet into oversized running shoes.  Only one pair of pants would fit over her oversized legs, belly and bottom.  She was tired.  Doing anything was an effort.  My normally active, healthy 83-year-old Mom had finally turned into an old lady, relying on her three children and their partners, and her huge circle of loving friends and neighbours for virtually everything.

Eventually I took my Mom for her scan.  We were to wait two weeks for the results.  Two weeks!  What happened instead was that we ended up in the ER after an episode of severe pain just a few days later.

I will never forget when the extremely kind and gentle ER doctor pulled the current around us and said, “unfortunately I have some bad news.”  I grabbed my Mama’s hand and held on tight.

How her life and ours has changed in four short weeks.  She has already had her first round of chemo.  There is a dizzying array of hospital visits, for blood work, chemo and visits with the Oncologist.  She is also getting house visits from a nurse, a physiotherapist, and a very kind and respectful woman who helps her have a shower.  On the chemo days, there are drugs.  Lots of drugs.  And many boring hours to fill.  But we’re told her Lymphoma is very treatable, and by the end of treatment she should have her quality of life back.  I sure hope so.

Meanwhile, I never got around to writing about the bulbs I like to plant, much less actually planting them.  I never got to tell you about my favourites.  The ones that have worked out, and the ones that, well, not so much.  My bulb garden is taking the winter off.

Instead of tending my garden, I am tending my Mother.  We all are, and we hope that she flourishes.

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Guest Contributor, Pete Quevillon

The Sport Parent – by Pete Quevillon

Image: Dog Productions

Don’t be “that” Sport Parent

The sport parent. A seemingly innocuous term that often is synonymous with a vision of a screaming soccer mom or hockey dad delivering a spittle laced tirade at a referee who has missed a call or a coach who isn’t giving their child sufficient ice time or god forbid; a child who has failed to score on a breakaway.

As someone who (full disclosure) has worked in the amateur sport system for over 30 years and coached all ages from the 5 year old tee ballers to the varsity high school basketball level, I am imploring you to resist the inevitable temptation to be that crazy parent! I know how difficult that may be when you get caught up in your child’s sport activity…I may have crossed the line a time or two myself over the years…but I beg you to resist the urge to lose your mind on the sidelines! Should this happen, I can only hope that someone captures it on video and that get to see how completely crazy you will seem. In this age of rampant social media, you do not want to be one of 2017’s most viewed Youtube videos of Parents Gone Wild. Continue Reading

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Guest Contributor, Phil Chadwick

Why do you do what you do? – by Phil Chadwick

img_5124 img_5125Why paint?
Why not? Apparently that simple answer will score 100% on a psychology exam but that is not good enough for me.

It is not just the challenge of trying to improve and make the next canvas your masterwork. It is not for financial gain because if that is all you want, you are probably going to be very disappointed. Maybe it is about unlocking the power of the right side of your brain? It could be about learning how to see the positive and negative shapes in your drawing – really learning to see the beauty of the world around you.

For me, the main reason is just to make memories. Mostly these memories are about the places I paint. But they could be about the paddle to get there or the people with me – or the weather. All of the things that went into creating the art are part of that memory. I actually write these things down after every painting. They say that memory is the first thing to go. I don’t know but I am not taking any chances. Continue Reading

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Dr. Yvette Lu, Guest Contributor

Fall Back Tips – By Dr. Yvette Lu


Image: Underwood Archives

Every year when it’s time to “fall back”, I rejoice a little. After all, it means an extra hour of sleep in the morning, and for a person who lives in a culture that secretly celebrates sleep deprivation, an extra hour of sleep is a guilty pleasure.

We all know how much sleep we need, but many of us still have trouble getting enough. Most adults need 6-8 hours of sleep each night. Those of us who don’t get enough sleep can accumulate a sleep debt.

If you have a sleep debt, you may be one of the people most affected by the time change, but not necessarily in the way that you think.

Studies show that people have disrupted sleep, decreased sleep efficiency, and less sleep overall for the first week after the time changes, both in the fall and in the spring.

The problems are thought to be related to the disruption of the sleep cycle and decreased sleep quality. The time change may cause people to take longer to fall asleep and wake up more after falling asleep. It can also cause daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and fragmented sleep, especially for those who already have a sleep debt.

The sleep disruption can last for a week or longer, leading to sleep loss as bed and awakening times adjust.

Long sleepers seem to be better able to adapt to the time change. Short sleepers, people with poor sleep quality, those who are sleep deprived, and early risers tend to be most affected and have more difficulty adjusting to the time change. Evening people will have an easier time adjusting to the fall transition and morning people will have an easier time adjusting to the spring transition.

Most of the studies have been done on the switch to Daylight Saving Time in the Spring, and have shown increased numbers of car and pedestrian traffic accidents, workplace injuries, suicides, and heart attacks, and decreased work productivity on the Monday after the switch, as well as poor performance on test scores the week after the time change.

Most of the issues are likely related to fatigue causing decreased attention and concentration. Fatigue can also worsen mood disorders. The heart attacks may be due to the lack of sleep affecting stress hormone levels. Decreased work productivity was observed as increased cyberloafing, which is non work-related internet surfing. This may be caused by reduced sleep impairing a person’s ability to self-regulate counterproductive behaviours, like procrastination. The spring time change also requires people to drive on darker roads in the morning, and the increased number of traffic accidents may be related to both fatigue and reduced visibility.

For the switch back to Standard Time in the Fall, one study showed an increase in car accidents the Sunday night, but a decrease in the number of car accidents on Monday morning. The authors were unsure why there might be an increase in car accidents on Sunday, but postulated that it may be caused by people staying up later than usual due to the time change and becoming fatigued.

Another study showed a decrease in heart attacks on the Monday morning, possibly related again to the change in stress hormone levels with an hour of extra sleep on Monday. Many people, however, are unable to take advantage of the extra hour of sleep in the morning and wake up earlier than they want to since it takes time for our body’s circadian rhythm to adjust to new sleep and wake times.

Here are some tips on how to adapt to the time change:

  • Get more rest in the week leading up to and the week after the time change. Take short naps if needed, not more than 20-30 minutes.
  • Catch up on your sleep debt prior to the time change. To do this, sleep in for several days in a row. Sleep until you awaken spontaneously and feel alert.
  • Adjust your sleep and wake times gradually in the week before and after the time change. Parents can adjust their children’s bedtimes gradually 10-15 minutes each night.
  • Circadian rhythms are affected by light. Be around natural light during the day and turn down lights in the evening. This will help your body adjust to the time change more quickly.
  • No lighted screens (eg. mobile phones, tablet devices, computers) a few hours before bed. Lighted screens activate the centers in your brain that keep you awake.
  • Exercise during the day.
  • Sleep and wake at the same time every day.
  • Avoid caffeine after early afternoon.
  • Have a bedtime routine.

Also, with winter coming, here are some other things to watch out for:

  • Seasonal affective disorder: moodiness or depression that is caused by the change in the season and lower light levels.
  • Vitamin D levels: We don’t get enough Vitamin D in the winter in Canada from the sun, so consider taking Vitamin D3 supplements or get more in your food. Food sources of Vitamin D include milk products, fortified products, egg yolk, and oily fish.

Chronic sleep loss is associated with reduced performance, increased risk for accidents and death, and detrimental effects on psychological and physical health. Studies have shown increased numbers of car crashes and workplace accidents, as well as increased immunosuppression, heart disease, and obesity with chronic sleep deprivation. The time change is an opportunity to examine your sleep habits and schedule, to catch up on sleep debt, and to establish new habits. Select one thing that you want to change about your sleep routine, set a goal, and make a positive change in your sleep habits to improve your quality of life.


More info on how to get better sleep and sleep hygiene:

More info on the impact of time changes on behaviour:

More information on Seasonal Affective Disorder:

More info on Vitamin D:

Dr. Yvette Lu is a Family Physician in Vancouver, BC.

website: | twitter: @yvettelu

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Guest Contributor, Wendy Vreeken Banham

Fall Garden – by Wendy Vreeken Banham

I love my garden. Not like I love my husband or my children, of course. But it is hard to beat the joy of being outside with my hands in the dirt.

It’s truly my happy place enjoying when weeding beds, deadheading flowers, and generally finding ways for the garden to look as beautiful as possible.

The payoff is so cool. I admit it, I love it when guests come over and say, “wow!”
My garden is far from perfect.


Here it is back in August, at its peak. Well, actually, a lot of the perennials had already finished blooming, but it still looked pretty nice.

Now, not so much.

Now, usually, I’d already be in cleaning up mode…but this year, I’m of mixed mind.

Recently an article spoke about letting your garden “be” in the Fall. Just letting it do what it does, in all its messiness. It offends me a bit.

I’ve always had a ‘scorched earth’ approach to Fall cleanup. Everything must go! Seedheads, begone! Long tall spent flowers – off with your heads! Dahlia tubers – out you get; time to get comfy and cozy in a nice box, away for the winter

This year I’m thinking, maybe I will just let it be.

I will stay busy digging up those dandelions and the clumps of grass that seem to grow in my garden beds – and Dahlia tubers, yes, those need to get dug up, cleaned off, and put away.

Other than that – I’m going to let it be. All of which would save me a tonne of work!

Why? Because all of that spent vegetation in your garden beds is actually terrific habitat for bugs. Those seed heads are great food for birds. Ladybugs, who eat Aphids in the Spring, need a place of refuge for the Winter. Bees, that are increasingly endangered, need a place to overwinter. Snakes and frogs are looking for a home as well. The more you dig up spent perennials, the more habitat you destroy.

So this year, I’m taking the opportunity to be a bit lazy under the guise of being environmentally responsible.

I’m hoping this new approach can actually be a boon to the bugs and birds that form the bottom of nature’s food chain. So, I’m going to do the world (and my back) a favour, and be lazy for a change.
Happy gardening!

About Wendy:

I’m from a previous generation of news gals who really enjoys this new site. My passion is now gardening, as I sit on the edge of retirement. I’ve worked with Kristina Matisic and Corinne Newell, and am thrilled to add my name to the list of guest contributors.


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