A drop of golden sun

Okay, so here’s something a really good friend will do. Years ago, Rick, Jim and I went to Austria and, yes, we signed up for the Sound of Music tour. And when I say ‘we’ signed up, I mean I signed us up. One of our (my) most prized mementos of the experience was a tiny green bottle of holy water I picked up for a donation at the beautiful church where Maria and Captain Von Trapp were married in the movie. The Basilika Mondsee is breathtaking; somehow smaller than it seemed in the movie, but still quite spectacular. The little green bottle featured handwriting, possibly by the hand of some nun, and a little picture of the Basilika. Fast forward to hauling our Christmas decorations out of the attic last year, only to realize that it had been cold enough to freeze and break the little green bottle. Very sad. My friend Heather announced a couple of months ago that she was going to Austria with her husband Rob and their kids. And that they had signed up for the SOM tour, too! (And yes, ‘they’ really means ‘she’). I told her about the church, not wanting to give away any of the jaw-dropping first impact it would have, but that as a photographer, she would not be able to walk away without dozens of images. And, I said, if they still have the little basket at the back of the church, remember to make a donation and get your little bottle of Weihwasser! She comes home, we meet for lunch, and look what she hands over! Now with a commercial label, the holy water comes in a tiny Jaegermeister bottle, no less. But our Christmas tree this year will be festooned once more with the sound of music. That’s a good friend.

Used to live here

Have a look at this CBC story about two silver-backed Grizzly bears who decided to carry out a little terrorist attack. I lived in Atlin with my family when we first moved to Canada in 1969. This is really unusual behaviour for bears. I remember taking a canoe out with my girlfriend on the Atlin Lake for an overnight on the beach. No one around for miles, it was about as isolated as you can get. We had sleeping bags, set up a campfire on a pebble beach, and watched the northern lights. Sometime during the night, we heard a snuffling and crunching on the stones. She felt something nose around at the bottom of her sleeping bag. Then it was quiet. We never were sure what it was. The Patron Saint of Stupid 11-Year-Olds must have been watching over us.

Good to be home

After a month away basking in our new baby granddaughter’s first weeks of life, it is good to be back home in Saskatoon. Bittersweet, but good. And apparently others think Saskatoon is a pretty wonderful place to visit. You can vote if you think so, too! Thomas Piller with Global News shared this item:

sept-11.jpgUSA Today has chosen Saskatoon, as well as 19 other locations in the country, in a contest to select the top 10 Canadian destinations. Torn between wanting to win and keeping Saskatoon to ourselves, I’m also voting for Whitehorse (where my parents live) and Tofino, where my parents and brother lived in the 1950s (and where I evidently first came into the world, in a manner of speaking.)

Tourism Saskatoon officials announced Tuesday the city was nominated as a contender for the Best Destination in Canada.

“Having Saskatoon nominated as one of the 20 best travel destinations in Canada, shows that our city is truly making a name for itself as a great place to explore,” Tourism Saskatoon media director Aviva Kohen said in a press release.

“Getting named as one of the top 10 in USA Today would be a true honour and help us continue to grow the travel industry in Saskatoon.”

People can vote online once a day for the duration of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice travel awards contest. It runs until 10 a.m. CT on June 19.

The winners will be announced on June 23.

Saskatoon is the only nominee from Saskatchewan. Photo above submitted by Valerie Heart.

More cuts to people in need

Two letters this week, one to the Minister of Health and the other a letter to the Editor, Star Phoenix. We participated in a recent protest of the elimination of the Saskatchewan Hearing Aid Plan, a service Jim has used since he was six years old. For us, it wasn’t free (as it is for people on social assistance). The HAP is a valuable collection of services including audiology, hearing aid fittings and follow-up, education, early intervention, support and advocacy. It served 40,000 people throughout the province. The government, in current slash and burn mode, says for-profit audiologists and clinics can pick up the load. Apparently there was consultations with them and the government responded to their concerns about feeling “left out” on clients served by SHAP, which operates on a break even basis. An assistant in the Ministry called me to say that private audiologists and clinics will offer “competitive prices.” We wonder where Jim will fall on the inevitable waiting list?

Part of my letter to the Minister of Health:

“Because of the ongoing support and expert audiology care Jim has received, he contributes to the YMCA, to a network of friends, and to the city. He was a valued volunteer with Mayor Clark’s campaign, and contributes to projects like the Darcy Bear Community Garden. He enjoys his season ticket to Persephone Theatre. He’s a big Fringe fan, and he has been a volunteer with the Broadway BBID. A large measure of Jim’s success is that his hearing loss has been monitored, accommodated and supported by ongoing services from SHAP that have reflected Jim’s changing physiology and social needs as he grew to adulthood.

It is not enough to suggest that children will be looked after, and that others will simply switch over to private audiologists. Waiting lists will become ridiculous. Audiology services and the augmentation of hearing loss is a life-long health issue. Consistent monitoring and follow-up are vital to ensuring hearing loss does not create barriers to anyone’s ability to contribute to life in this province. Services and support not provided to youth, adults and seniors create ripples that affect health, educational success, social interaction and employment opportunities. Many of the province’s most vulnerable adults are ill-equipped to advocate for their own needs with respect to hearing loss. Hoping that the for-profit system will adequately serve people is ill-advised.”

Rock stars read it

That’s our buddy, San Francisco-based musician Josh Lippi on the road with singer-songwriter K. Flay from Los Angeles, just after their gig in Saskatoon. In town opening for Mother Mother last week, we got to have a visit with Josh, a friend and bandmate of our musician son Ben. They were halfway through a cross-Canada tour and now are on an international whirlwind. We sent them on their way with a ‘road trip care package’ of homemade goodies and the most recent copy of Saskatoon HOME magazine. Rock stars gotta read, too!

josh kflay


a sweet spot

City Perks may be my favourite coffee shop. It seems to be where my pal Amanda and I always have editorial meetings as we work out assignments for upcoming Saskatoon HOME issues. Summer’s will be great! Just last week, as I waited for her, I treated myself to a late lunch piece of sundried tomatoes and artichoke quiche. Yum. Large wedge, only six bucks. And the coffee is always great. I’m only sorry I didn’t bring home any baking this time! Look at this place, what’s not to like? And there’s Amanda, just as full of light and energy as the place itself.


What a great campaign. “Special” is a word that’s always made our family gak just a little bit when people use it to describe Jim and what he needs to live a good life. This wonderful campaign by CoorDown, Italy’s national advocacy organization, was premiered at the United Nations on March 21. Have a look! It’s brilliant. That’s Lauren Potter as the narrator; Jim met her at a Best Buddies conference in Bloomington, Indiana, when she starred on Glee. Nice woman. This article is by Alexandra Jardine:

CoorDown, Italy’s national organization for people with Down syndrome, examines the euphemistic term “special needs” in its latest PSA, using humor to highlight how their needs might not be so different from those of anyone else.

A film by Publicis New York, directed by Wayne McClammy of Hungry Man, imagines various humorous scenarios where Down syndrome people have “special needs” with a twist. They’re massaged by a cat, they eat dinosaur eggs, are woken up by a celebrity or have to walk around in a giant suit of armour. It ends with the message that what people with Down Syndrome really needs is “education, jobs, opportunities, friends and some love.”

The film stars Lauren Potter, the actress with Down syndrome who played the role of Becky Jackson in “Glee,” and John McGinley, best known for his role as Dr. Perry Cox on “Scrubs,” and whose 18-year old son Max has Down syndrome. Also in the cast are Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt, two friends with Down syndrome who created the movie “Spring Break Zombie Massacre,” and Jared Kozak, an actor with Down syndrome known for “Orson’s Last Dance,” “Leader of the Pack” and “Teens Wanna Know.”

The campaign, running on YouTube, directs viewers online to www.NotSpecialNeeds.com, where they can find out more about the real needs of people with Down Syndrome.

It will be presented to the Conference of the World Down Syndrome Day, which takes place March 21 in New York, at the headquarters of the United Nations.