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I wince when I hear people refer to the events in Ottawa this past Wednesday as “Canada’s 9/11.”  And I’m glad that I’ve only seen the phrase “10/22” used once in print.

What happened on Wednesday was tragic.  Senseless.  Troubling.  An event indeed worthy of reflection.  A man opened fire in our national Parliament, and died in a place that I myself have walked by.  And it could have been so much worse.

While I’m saddened about what happened, I do not feel like Canada’s innocence has been shattered, or that the Canada I live in today is any different than the Canada that existed before Wednesday’s events.

I don’t feel the sense of terror and impending doom that I felt on September 11, 2001.  I just feel sad.

A lot has been written since Wednesday, but there are two articles that best sum up my feelings on this week’s events.

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf, writes in “Canada Should Keep Calm and Carry On“:

One feels for Stephen Marche when he writes, in Esquire, “The Canada I believed to be so safe, so secure is gone. All of that was the Canada of my youth. This is Canada now.” The way he feels is understandable.

It is also irrational and needs to be understood as such.

The murder of 2 people does not mark a new era. It does not render one of the word’s safest countries unsafe. It does not make one of history’s most secure nations insecure. We cannot know the future with certainty, but everything we know about the present and recent past suggests overreacting to these attacks poses a greater threat to Canada than terrorism, much as the Iraq War killed more Americans than 9/11, cost more money than 9/11, and did more to weaken us than 9/11.

The panic that followed 9/11–that most of us felt–was at least informed by the fact that America had never suffered an attack like it. The notion that Canada has just broken with a halcyon past when it was safe from even two murders is historical amnesia.

“This was not the first time Canada’s parliament had been a target, nor was it the biggest terrorist attack in the country’s history,” The Economist notes. “An inept bomber intent on killing as many MPs as possible blew himself up in the same building in 1966, and an armed man hijacked a bus and fired shots outside parliament in 1989. The 1985 bombing of an Air India flight to London from Toronto, in which 329 people died, remains the largest terror attack originating in Canada.”

Then there was the FLQ crisis, which Americans would regard as one of the most gripping parts of Canadian history if we knew any…

More significantly, for our purposes, “Canada’s most recent major gun tragedy occurred in June, when 24-year-old Justin Bourque, armed with a semi-automatic rifle, shotgun, and crossbow, shot five Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers in Moncton, New Brunswick, killing three.” But there’s no suggestion that the killer was a radical Muslim, so the world was mostly oblivious.

I’ve often noted that even in 2001, the year of the most successful terrorist attack in U.S. history, Americans were orders of magnitude more likely to be killed in a car crash. Today it’s worth remembering that for the last year, five years, ten years, or 20 years, Canadians were significantly less likely to be harmed by terrorists than a car crash involving a moose. I cannot promise that the moose menace won’t be overtaken this year by the terrorist menace, but presuming as much from attacks that killed two people isn’t just irrational, it is irresponsible fear-mongering.

It’s funny that the FLQ crisis also came up when I was talking about the week’s events with a colleague of mine.  I also pointed out that the chances of any Canadian being killed by a terrorist remains about 1 in 17 million.

I’m still not even convinced that the gunman that ran into Parliament was really a terrorist.  All of the information so far seems to point to someone that was possibly mentally ill, but the fact that he recently supposedly became a Muslim convert has overshadowed the other details of his background that show a troubled young man.

While the three political parties understandably played nice in the hours after the attack, there was a notable difference in their addresses to the nation that same evening that point to the possible political ramifications of Wednesday’s events.  The Conservatives quickly grabbed on to the Islamic extremism element, while the NDP and Liberals weren’t as quick to point fingers.

While I’m interested in how this will play going into next year’s federal election, there’s lots of time to reflect on that.

As I was about to read the following Scott Gilmore article from Maclean’s, excerpts of which are posted below, I thought about Norway’s reaction to the murder of more than seventy of its citizens, many teenagers, and what Canada could learn from it.  My thoughts turned out to be somewhat prescient:

The morning after the horrific Oslo terrorist attack three years ago, the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg declared that the only proper response was “more democracy, more openness, but not naivety.” That is what Canada needs now. That is what has made Canada great. It is not the height of our walls nor the impregnability of our buildings, it is our openness. As Paul Wells poetically wrote,  “you can’t keep a country in lockdown, not while preserving the things that made the country worth having in the first place. Much like its capital precinct, Canada is a big open field, too.”

Before we demand that all the other potential terrorist suspects are rounded up, let us remember that it was the very issue of individual freedoms and the arbitrary seizure of “freemen” that led England’s barons to rise up and demand the Magna Carta, the beginning of the constitutional system that Canada cherishes so much. Ironically, by trying to safeguard our parliament, we would be undermining the ideals upon which it was founded.

Our leaders, and those who are charged with protecting us and our institutions should take down the police tape. Continue to be vigilant and prepared and, yes, be less naïve. But be more open. Remove the barriers.

Return the honour guard to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Lower the fences so we can better see the Peace Tower. Invite Canadians back into its Parliament. Make Oct. 22 an annual open house. A day when all Canadians can walk through the House of Commons, to appreciate the carved stone and oak, to touch the now bullet-pocked walls of the Hall of Honour and to meditate on what it means to be both strong and free.

Maintaining freedom requires strength.  May we as Canadians demand that our politicians remain strong and determined to keep our nation’s openness.

Deron Mayo, Brian Peters,

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

I sat down a few nights ago to try and put down some thoughts about the Riders/Eskimos game, but I couldn’t really figure out what to say.

Now I do.

See, the Riders/Eskimos and Riders/Stampeders games had a lot in common.  The biggest commonality?  Collapses by the defence in the second half.  

Against the Eskimos, the Riders led going into the second half.  Against the Stampeders, the Riders led going into the fourth quarter.

And then it was as if the Eskimos and Stampeders started actually trying and the Riders couldn’t stop their momentum.  The result?  Two more losses.

On the bright side, the Riders’ offence looked much less anemic.  Yet the special teams continue to leave yards on the field and the Riders can’t seem to play a solid 60 minutes.

The Riders are now off until November 8, when they play their last game of the season at home against the Eskimos.  They need the time left to fix what isn’t working and stop the free fall before heading into the playoffs.

Now for Things That Worked and Things That Didn’t…

Things That Worked

  1. 1st half running game – Keith Tosten made his season debut and didn’t look out of place.  Too bad the Riders didn’t bother using him in the second half.
  2. Chris Getzlaf – Seems it took until Week 18 for Getzy to hit his stride.  He scored his first TD of the season (!) and had 100+ yards.
  3. Brian Peters – Another monster game from the kid who keeps getting better and better each game out.  Add another 10 tackles to his season tally.
  4. Ricky Foley – Hit 50 career sacks.
  5. Kerry Joseph in Quarters 1 to 3 – 300+ passing years, more than ANY Rider QB (including Darian) has thrown all year.

Things That Didn’t Work

  1. 4th Quarter defence – Yuck.  When your offence scores 27 points, you should win.  The Stamps drove the ball down the field at will in the 4th quarter.
  2. 4th Quarter Kerry Joseph – Three picks.  Need I say more?
  3. Second half offence – Why go away from the running game when it was working?

Mis-plays of the Game:

I think most of the 4th quarter would qualify.

OFFENSIVE STAR

#89- Chris Getzlaf, Slotback

First 100 yard game of the year, and first TD of the year.  The Riders need a healthy and productive Getz for the playoffs.  Hopefully his performance against the Stamps is a catalyst for him and the rest of the receivers down the stretch.

DEFENSIVE STAR

#97 – John Chick, Defensive End

Got back in the sack column and had a couple of great tackles and hurries.

SPECIAL TEAMS STAR

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has the worst special teams of them all?

The Riders, you say?  I wish I could say I was surprised…

NEXT GAME: vs. EDMONTON:  The Riders have a well-deserved break and a chance to really prepare for the last game of the season.  Edmonton likely won’t play many starters in order to rest up for the playoffs.  I expect the Riders to play most of their starters so that they can try and end the losing streak and build some momentum going into the playoffs the following week.  If the team doesn’t come out hungry and determined on November 8, I predict a very early playoff exit.

cbc-s-chanss-lagaden-took-this-great-shot

CBC’s Chanss Lagaden

This year, fall has turned into an endless summer…

Links

Faith & Spirituality

Antidepressants as means of grace – Sarah Schwartz

Culture, Society & Life

Aziz Ansari is a feminist because he believes in equal rights (and that’s how words work)

Jennifer Lawrence shames nude-photo thieves, via nude photo shoot – Megan Garber

The headlines are sad, but life is good

‘What Women Want’: A brief history – Megan Garber

When anxiety hits at school – Lucy Dwyer

Politics, Economics & Law

An MP wrestling with his vote on Iraq – Aaron Wherry

Rescuing democracy? A look at politics in Canada – Jane Hilderman

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All I really care about this week is that this lovely group has a new album out.  If you want to know what I’m doing, chances are pretty good that I’ll be listening to it.

 

sacked!

Photograph by: Graham Hughes, The Canadian Press, The Leader-Post

I don’t understand.

How can a team that nearly came back to beat the league-leading Calgary Stampeders last week turn around and be so lackadaisical against an inferior team?

COME ON, GUYS.

*Sigh*  I’ve said it once, and I’ll keep saying it: the offensive game plan is not helping these young QBs out at all.  The plan is to basically keep the young’uns from using any of their supposed talent (and I say supposed because when all you do is hand the ball off, it’s hard to tell whether or not you have any throwing capacity).  I don’t understand it.  LET THE BOYS PLAY, COACH.  Given the beat downs this team has taken over the past couple of weeks (with the Calgary game being the very odd exception), why not let the young’uns off the proverbial leash and see what they can do?

Because, really, COULD IT BE ANY WORSE??

We’re already losing.  And by a lot.  The worst thing that happens is that we continue to lose.  On the positive side, there is the possibility that we might a) win; and b) find a good young QB that we actually want to continue to employ.  This whole “can’t let the young’uns loose because they might lose us the game” mentality is ridiculous seeing how badly we lost against the Alouettes yesterday.

I want Kerry Joseph to start on Sunday.  If the team isn’t going to put enough faith in its young’uns to let them throw the ball, then they’d better put in the veteran and let him loose.

Now for Things That Worked and Things That Didn’t…

Things That Worked

  1. 1st quarter – That opening drive looked pretty slick, didn’t it?  Hope you enjoyed it – that might be the best drive we see for awhile.

Things That Didn’t Work

  1. Offence after the 1st quarter – The fumble took the momentum and that was it.  If this team wants to make any noise in the playoffs, it’s got to be a little bit tougher on the mental side of things.
  2. Defence – I don’t usually call out our defence, especially over the last few weeks given how much they’ve been on the field, but they had multiple opportunities to try and quell the Alouettes momentum and they couldn’t do it.  There were at least two sure interceptions that went through defender’s hands.

Mis-plays of the Game:

There were far too many this week to list.

OFFENSIVE STAR

#26- Anthony Allen, Running Back

He had a rather brilliant first quarter.  But after that, everyone knew he was getting the ball 90% of the time, which stifled any further production.

DEFENSIVE STAR

No one

When you get lit up for 40 points, no one gets a star.

SPECIAL TEAMS STAR

#38 – Tristan Jackson, Defensive Back

He got a lot of practice on kick returns on Monday.  He gets a star just for surviving.

NEXT WEEK: vs. EDMONTON:  The Riders got shut out just three weeks ago by the pesky Esks.  Since Edmonton hammered Winnipeg 41-9 and the Riders’ offence against Montreal looked far worse than Winnipeg’s offence was this week, I imagine the Eskimos are going to win this one by a lot.  Definitely bet on Edmonton to cover the spread this week.

Autumn Scene near Mountains

Every year on this day my Facebook feed fills up with people being thankful for their family, friends, partners, kids, and so on.  For whatever reason, I can’t seem to make myself do the same.

I know I’m not a terribly grateful person, although if we’re all quite honest with ourselves, I imagine few of us truly are.  I’ve come to realize that being grateful requires more than a simple post on a Facebook feed on Thanksgiving or a short prayer before a meal.  Being grateful requires reflection, and I’m not sure we’re wired that way.

A true spirit of gratitude must be cultivated; saying ‘thanks’ every once in a while does not make a grateful person.  A one point in my life, I kept a ‘gratitude journal’ for approximately one year.  Every day before I went to bed, I wrote down 5 things that I was grateful for that day.  At first it started with the usual: friends, family, food, shelter, yadda yadda yadda.  But as the year progressed, my lists became less germane and more thoughtful.  And I could sense a shift in my thinking.  Something about making that list everyday seemed to make me happier.

There’s lots of research out there that links gratitude to being happier.  Why?  Maybe it’s that being aware of all that we have to be grateful for makes us more content with our lives.  Or maybe it’s just the simple act of being more aware.  Gratitude journals force us to stop and think and actually write down those things for which we are thankful.  The act of writing makes it not only clearer in our minds, but forces us to be present for those few moments.

So what am I grateful for?  Everyday it’s something different.  These days, though, I am most grateful for being in a good place mentally and for a job and career that seems to be tailor-made for me in many ways and that I find challenging and fulfilling.  And just writing that down has put a smile on my face.

I realize I’m more than a little late to the whole podcast thing.  My rather lame excuse is the fact that while I like to be rather trendy fashion-wise, I am loathe to jump on the bandwagon of pop culture trends.  Maybe it’s a bit snobbish, or maybe it’s simply a means of trying to critically think my way through the massive wave of media we’re bombarded with on a daily basis.

Regardless, I’ve recently discovered how much I love podcasts.  Every few weeks I spend 3 hours in my car driving to my parents’ farm, a 6 hour round trip.  I need something that keeps my attention during those hours, and the radio doesn’t often seem to be able to do the trick, unless I’m listening to some sort of talk radio.  As there are endless things to talk about, you’d think that talk radio wouldn’t be so repetitive.  WRONG.

It hit me a couple of weeks ago that I could listen to podcasts while I’m driving.  Well, duh – why didn’t I do this earlier??  Oh me and my pride…

Anyway, here are some of my favourite podcasts.  If you have some suggestions, please let me know!

The ‘At Issue’ Panel

atissue

Call me a CBC-lover, I don’t care.  The ‘At Issue’ panel is the best political panel on Canadian politics in Canada.  Period.  Andrew Coyne, Chantal Hebert (loooooooove her and can’t wait to read her new book) and Bruce Heyer spend 10-15 minutes each week discussing the ‘view from the Hill’, so to speak.  They’re candid, engaging and offer fresh perspectives sans party talking points.  If you want actual political punditry and a short yet thought-provoking discussion on the week’s political stories, this is the podcast for you.  It’s also available in video form for those of you that like visuals.

Slate Gabfest

slate

For whatever reason, I’m fascinated by American political culture, and general American culture, too.  I think it’s the product of living so close to a global hegemon (one never gets to say ‘hegemon’ enough in daily discourse) whose pop culture quite obviously affects that of Canada but hasn’t had the same impact politically.  As much as I love watching ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’ (more about that below), sometimes I need a bit of a discussion rather than one viewpoint.  The Gabfest’s recent discussion on the Scottish referendum is highly recommended.  And while the discussion mostly centres on American politics, American culture always comes into play, making this podcast a perfect blend me.

The Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart

daily show

This is a very new podcast.  There have only been four episodes to date, but I’m already a devoted follower.  Each episode is hosted by a different correspondent and a writer or producer.  The behind-the-scenes look at how stories are produced and covered is not only fascinating for this Jon Stewart fan, but it offers a more candid and different perspective on reporting and media coverage than most mainstream outlets.  And the interview with Jason Jones talking about how he actually got to interview former Mikhail Gorbachev was priceless.

Those are my favourite podcasts these days – what are yours?

mental_illness_awareness_week_Header

It’s no secret that I have had my struggles with depression and anxiety.  I wrote about my experiences a few years ago.  Hitting ‘publish’ on that post was one of the most frightening yet freeing moments of my life.

Unfortunately, the stigma against mental health remains, and I feel somewhat called to help reduce that stigma.  One of the ways I can best do that is through writing about my experiences, normalizing them for others and putting a face to what most people is a faceless problem.

I am successful.  I am a young professional with a well-paying job and lots of responsibility.  Academically, everything I’ve touched has basically turned into straight As.  I am musical.  I am articulate (I think).  I am fun, have a great sense of humor and can talk your ear off if given the chance.

And I am one of the last people that you would ever think would struggle with depression and anxiety.

When we think of mental illness, we tend to think of people that live in poverty, people that have addictions, people from abusive backgrounds, and people who use it as an excuse.  We rarely think of those ‘normal’ people like me that desperately try to keep mental illness from overtaking their life and dimming their hopes and dreams.

Mental illness has coloured a lot of my decisions over the past couple of years.  As I get older, I get a bit smarter about how I manage it, and I’m learning what my triggers are and how to deal with the inevitable ups and downs.  I had a relatively minor down period this past spring, and while I was frustrated, I finally felt like I had the tools and support systems in place to deal with it; I finally felt like I had a bit of control over the depression and anxiety, rather than feeling like I was letting them lead me around on a leash.  After a decade of fighting tooth and nail against them, I felt like we came to a bit of a truce, albeit an uneasy one.

I’ve come to realize that I need to work with my mental health, rather than against it.  This is difficult when you’re a driven, Type “A” personality with control issues and a constant need for validation.  Whereas in years past I would be involved in countless activities from morning ’til night, I’m now very selective about what I do, and I ensure that I have lots of down time.  A few years ago, I would have thought I was lazy; now, I realize that rest is an essential means of self-preservation.

However, I still have a lot of work to do and a lot to learn.  Sometimes I do the exact opposite of what I know I should be doing out of sheer spite and defiance, kind of like how a diabetic thumbs her nose at her disease when she scarfs down a bunch of sugary foods that she knows she shouldn’t. The fact that I have a chronic illness doesn’t always compute, especially at times like now when I feel rather normal.

But ‘normal’ is relative, as I’ll never be the ‘normal’ person I was before that first panic attack.  While my body doesn’t bear any physical scars from my struggles, there are many emotional scars and wounds that, while healing, are susceptible to tearing open at any given time.  I sometimes wonder if I will ever again have the freedom that I used to feel, when the only thing standing between me and the world was my own willingness to step outside the door.

I don’t know.  What I do know, though, is that so far, whenever depression and anxiety have tried or even kept me from walking out that figurative door, I’ve somehow always managed to eventually go back and step out on to the doorstep.  And that perseverance gives me some comfort that I can face whatever comes next, and that I’ll always be able to find my way back outside.

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