Tag Archives: new brunswick

Forgiveness is hard for me sometimes…

      I am a self-professed bleeding heart. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and I consider myself the queen of second chances. But I admit to having a hard time forgiving Wes McLean.

     This week the 31-year-old Victoria-Tobique MLA pleaded guilty to impaired driving.  He was fined $2,300 and was banned from operating any motor vehicle for a year.  He apologized to his family, friends and constituents and was remorseful in his acceptance of punishment.Image

     The charge stemmed from an incident last February. Police pulled McLean over in Edmunston. He was driving with a blood alcohol level three times the legal limit. This wasn’t just an extra beer. McLean was drunk. This is where my forgiveness gets a little fuzzy.

     Yes, he’s human. Yes, he’s young. Yes, he made a mistake and he’s really sorry.  But three times the legal limit isn’t a small lapse in judgment. To me, his decision to drive that day shows McLean has a huge character flaw – one that still astonishes me. At the age of 31, McLean is part of a generation (my generation) that has grown up in a time where drinking and driving was NEVER something deemed acceptable.He’s had a lifetime of MADD Canada ads, SAFE Grad events, and media bombardment of the serious dangers of drinking and driving.Image

     Yet, on a cold February day, after obviously having too many drinks, McLean, a member of our Legislative Assembly, a man who people in this region trusted and voted for, opened the door to his car, sat inside, put a key in the ignition and drove when he was in no shape to. McLean SHOULD have known better – and he didn’t. And that scares me.

     In my years as a reporter, I sat through multiple trials where THIS specific moment of stupidity and thoughtlessness has meant lives were irrevocably changed. People were killed, families were scarred, and those who caused this pain, while remorseful, were never truly able to make up for the life or lives they took.

     After hearing of McLean’s arrest I remember thinking “WHY BOTHER!!”  Seriously, think about it. If a young man like Wes McLean can make such an error in judgment – a man who, by all indications, follows media, knows the difference between right and wrong, has gained the trust of people, and had years of exposure to anti-drinking and driving campaigns – it makes me question where we’ve gone wrong?

     What have we not done that we should have?  What more should we do to convey the horrors – drinking and driving is serious – it kills – it is against the law – you should NEVER do this? It is when I try and answer these questions that I come to the conclusion that Wes McLean should not be forgiven easily.

     The fact is we HAVE done a lot – as a society we have educated our children, we’ve provided incentives through changes in court sentencing maximums to help deter people from getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking.  I think MADD Canada, high school anti-drinking ‘PARTY’ programs; SAFE grad events, media campaigns and law enforcement spot checks have been SPOT ON. These initiatives are making a difference.

     This is why I believe Wes McLean’s decision to get behind the wheel is more than just a mistake and shouldn’t be forgiven easily.

     I hope the government continues to exclude him from his legislative duties until his driving prohibition is completed. I hope that McLean continues to have to work and work hard to regain the trust of his constituents. I pray that this isn’t just a small ‘bump’ in his road – that his journey to forgiveness is arduous path.


Photo credit: pcnb.ca

     His arrest, his record, and his punishment must be used as an example. We can’t be quick to forgive just because he’s young. In this case I believe we must make him work hard to regain our trust BECAUSE he is young – because he should have known better- because he was educated, because he was exposed to media campaigns, and provided with ample information to understand the consequences and, despite all of this, he STILL chose to get behind the wheel of the car.

      I’m not saying I will never forgive Wes McLean, but it will take a while. I firmly believe that when these kinds of mistakes are made – serious errors in judgment by educated people in positions of trust – the road to redemption SHOULD be a rocky one.

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Political gloves are off….


I told local party organizers I was in – willing to help with the next campaign. There I did it. I can’t believe after spending most of my life in the role of ‘non-partisan’ that I’ve openly chosen sides. Well, Mr. Harper, I can thank your track record for that life changing moment. All my life I’ve been objective to a fault, given people the benefit of the doubt – but no longer. Federally, I’m Liberal – provincially I don’t think I can pick because there is too much sameness to provincial politics. Federally, it’s day and night (and dusk).

Today I watched the Conservatives roll out their first attack ad. Less than 24 hours after Trudeau is elected leader of the party, it begins.

Well played, Mr. Harper …. well, not really – not for you – but well played for ‘us’.

You see, Canadians are tired of the negative crap – and that’s the nicest way I can say it – because that’s what it is – crap. I’m so very tired of feeling like I don’t mean anything to you, Mr. Harper. I teach my kids not to bully, yet what I see your party do on national television goes against all I teach them. Talk about leading by example. Why do you not realize, Mr. Harper, that in becoming the ‘parent’ to Canadians (dictating what we can and cannot do, telling us of your decisions without consulting), you have failed in one of the most important parenting jobs – being a role model.

So I did it – I joined the Federal Liberal Party. I voted for Justin Trudeau last week. I vowed I would no longer sit idly by.

I sat by long enough as a journalist, as a journalism instructor, as someone who needed to prove impartiality. With the journalism program winding down this June, and with the political landscape as messed up as it is, I really and truly can’t sit on the sidelines any longer.

When I saw the attack ad today I was floored. There’s also a website called ‘Justin is Way Over His Head’. Wow…wonder what the ads and the website cost the conservatives….aside from their credibility?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…Trudeau isn’t perfect, but he’ll create a team and lead the country WITH A TEAM – unlike Mr. Harper, who leads by himself and lets his caucus know what’s going on AFTER he’s made up his mind. No, you are right, Mr. Harper: Trudeau cannot run a country on his own because YOU ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO RUN A COUNTRY ON YOUR OWN.

You are supposed to build a team, create dialogue and lead WITH a group of people from across the country WHO HAVE BEEN ELECTED BY CANADIANS TO GOVERN ON THEIR BEHALF. That’s true leadership, and that’s what I want – check that – that’s what I NEED.


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Anonymous Comments on the CBC – My letter to the CBC Ombudsman

October 10, 2012

Kirk LaPointe
Ombudsman, CBC
P.O. Box Station A
Toronto, ON    M5W 1E6

Dear Mr. LaPointe:

I am writing to complain about anonymous comments on the CBC – in particular the rebroadcast of these comments from the CBC.CA website on the provincial television program CBC News: New Brunswick.

People are not required to use their real names in online comments attached to news stories.

CBC Radio listeners who want to comment on stories they hear on the Fredericton morning show are required to leave their name and their phone number on the talk back machine in order to have the comments become a part of a future broadcast.  Comments made on the web and broadcast on the supper-hour news program require no such checks and balances.

The web editor chooses what comments are broadcast.  I also understand the comments are ‘vetted’ before they appear on the website.

While I know they ‘choose carefully’, trying to avoid comments that could cause CBC New Brunswick any legal difficulties, I still question the use of anonymous posts.  I do not think these comments add to the collective knowledge of viewers.

When I was visiting my mother over the Thanksgiving weekend I made a point to watch the CBC television news in Nova Scotia.  There were NO anonymous comments from viewers used in that broadcast.  It was, in a word, refreshing.

I think the use of anonymous comments is unethical – more so when you look at the fact one medium in the same city chooses NOT to broadcast anonymous comments (CBC Radio Fredericton) while another medium chooses TO broadcast anonymous comments (CBC TV).

I have personally commented to journalistic staff at CBC Fredericton about this issue.  I have always been told these are ‘things they struggle with’.  I contend they have to STOP STRUGGLING and cease using anonymous comments.  I have posted on the website from time to time – with my full name.  I have never hidden and never plan to hide my posted opinions.  People need to understand the context of my comments, and they can’t do that if I hide who I am.

I don’t think anonymous comments should be used in any medium – on the web or otherwise – but I take particular issue with the rebroadcasting of these comments on the evening television newscast.  I believe the rebroadcast of these ‘comments’ are not only unethical, but they fly in the face of the journalistic policies of the CBC.  I will use direct quotes from the CBC journalistic policies to make my point.

For instance, the CBC must ensure that it is “ open and straightforward when we present interviewees and their statements. We make every effort to disclose the identity of interviewees and to give the context and explanations necessary for the audience to judge the relevance and credibility of their statements.”

The interviewee policy goes on to state that only in “ exceptional cases and for serious cause, we may decide to withhold such information in whole or in part.

I argue that comments directly under a story become PART OF A STORY.  If the people interviewed have to be identified in the story, why shouldn’t those commenting on the story be identified as well?  Some may argue that these comments don’t fall under journalistic standards because they are User Generated Content and the CBC can legally distance itself from these posts.  But can the corporation ethically distance itself from them?

I counter the comments have become PART of the story, not only by their content, but also by their placement with the story.  People go to the story, scroll down, and there, just a sentence away, is the comment section with anonymous sources adding to the web ‘content’.  If they don’t consider it content, then why is it worthy of rebroadcast within another news program?

This leads me to the section on User Generated Content in news stories.

Again, I contend that the comments become part of the story because of their placement on the website and within a television news program.  I believe these anonymous comments violate the CBC journalistic policy on Verification of User Generated Content in News Stories.

“CBC is responsible for all content on its news sites.  This policy covers text, image, video or audio contributions from the public, which are incorporated into news coverage on any platform.  Material that originates from a non-CBC source is clearly identified as such.  Before text, image, video or audio is published, its provenance and accuracy is verified.

I repeatbefore TEXT, image, video or audio IS PUBLISHED, its provenance and accuracy is verified.

How can posting anonymous comments NOT break CBC policy?  How can you verify anonymous comments when people use fictitious names?  How can the publishing and then rebroadcasting of these anonymous comments be ethical?

The policy goes on to state that in exceptional circumstances it may be difficult to authenticate a contribution and that there may be times where, because of timeliness, or if it is in the public interest, we decided to publish without full verification. We are clear with the audience about what we know. The decision to publish material without full authentication must be referred to the Director.

What service does broadcasting these comments provide to the public when the posts don’t clearly identify what ‘interest’ the person has to the story – how they are connected, related, or even beholden to the politician, company or issue at hand?

The policy also states that the decision to use unverified content, when referring to User Generated Content, must be referred to the director.

How often does this ‘referral’ happen at CBC New Brunswick?

In the 14 plus years I worked at the CBC, I was only allowed to broadcast ‘anonymous’ sources/items/letters/talkback on very few occasions.  Any sources had to be identified, all talkback with CBC Radio had to be identified and logged – especially at election time.  Every time anything ‘anonymous’ went to air, we had to have approval from CBC officials at a higher level.

In its policies, the CBC says it strives to be an ethical broadcaster, but yet allows anonymous comments to be attached to stories and doesn’t require the same kind of rigour and ethical approach to this part of its daily content.

Why does it seem that now, in these days of ‘instant’ news gratification, the CBC has forgotten its principles?

Ethics, like spelling, has lost something in this era of social media.

The CBC lays out its mission and values, stating it strives to ‘act responsibly and be accountable.’  They state they are ‘aware of the impact of our journalism and are honest with our audience.’  It also says the CBC strives for ‘journalistic excellence and best practices in all of our journalistic endeavours.’ 

I argue that anonymous ‘user generated content’ IS a journalistic endeavour and allowing these comments to be posted on their website for the world to see IS NOT a best practice and certainly isn’t journalist excellence.  The CBC is my CBC, and as such I take a lot of pride in it – except on the issue of anonymous comments.

The CBC consistently challenges governments to be ethical in their approach to hiring practices, expense claims, and investments, yet in New Brunswick it cannot practice what it preaches.  If they are ‘aware of their impact’ and were ethical in their approach, they wouldn’t allow any anonymous public comments on their websites, or worse, the rebroadcasting of these anonymous comments on CBC News: New Brunswick.  For me, seeing these comments in two mediums adds insult to injury.

The CBC may believe it is providing a ‘public service’ by sharing the posts, but I argue CBC New Brunswick is doing a serious disservice to our province by allowing people to hide behind fictitious names.

I had to file my complaint with my full name, address and contact information because you, as Ombudsman, do not accept anonymous comments or complaints.

I think the CBC could learn a thing or two from its watchdog.


Theresa Blackburn-Chisholm
Journalism Instructor
Former CBC journalist


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My Big Fat Life: Bullying Canada Needs to Practice What it Preaches

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, May 7, 2012

Bullying Canada needs to live up to its mandate in how it deals with organizations and institutions.

Bullying is indeed a serious matter, yes; we need more education and awareness. I am in no way trying to belittle the cause, but I am somewhat ashamed of the tactics Bullying Canada chooses to employ in furthering its cause.

I know about bullying intimately.  My son was bullied over a six-month period in Grade 7. The situation was solved, but it was a long process.  Repairing relationships doesn’t happen overnight. Repairing a school’s reputation doesn’t happen instantly, either. For the last three years, principal Pat Thorne, vice-principal Jen Pauley and their team of teachers and support staff at Woodstock Middle School have worked diligently in trying to turn the school around.

When I moved to the community of Woodstock in 2006, the school’s track record for dealing with bullies wasn’t the greatest. Over time that changed because of strong and loving leadership, a staff that understands the needs of the students, and a group of educators and support staff who work well as a team for the betterment of all students.  Does that mean bullying doesn’t happen at the school?  Of course not.  Bullying happens everywhere, and I am not sure there will ever be a time when it is eradicated completely.

Bullying comes from socio-economic differences, from a lack of empathy and understanding, from greed and pride and sometimes from a lack of education. Bullying also comes from being bullied. It is a multi-faceted problem that cannot be fixed with a phone call, a suspension or even the threat of media.

I know. It took months for my son to admit the seriousness of his own situation. It took days for the team at the school to talk to each of the students involved and to grasp a complete understanding of what was happening, and it took weeks to set up mediation meetings and begin to rectify the problem.

When it comes to dealing with bullies and those who have been bullied, quick fixes don’t work. Suspensions are temporary Band-Aids, moving kids to other classes’ only mask the situation. Bullying is further exacerbated by the fact that every situation is different and every person dealing with that situation is different.  No bullying incident is exactly the same as another, which means every solution ends up being unique.

And sometimes an issue can’t be resolved to the satisfaction of everyone involved. People are complex beings.

We live in an age where instant gratification is the name of the game. We want things and we want them now.  Bullying is no different. We all want it fixed and fixed yesterday, but as long as the bullying is taking place between human beings, that will never happen.  While many of us would love to snap our fingers and instantly deal successfully with a tough situation, myself included, that will never happen.  Bullying Canada doesn’t seem to understand this.

Last week the organization took a media swipe at the staff at Woodstock Middle School. They were trying to intervene on behalf of a parent.  Bullying Canada issued a news release stating: “We attempted to make contact with both Superintendent John Tingley and School Principal Patricia Thorne but our calls and emails were not returned.”

As a person concerned with bullying in the school system, I was shocked to read this and contacted Pat Thorne and John Tingley directly.  They said they checked with their staff and were told no phone messages were received from Bullying Canada, and at no time did either official receive a voicemail message from the organization.  They did, however, receive one email.

On Friday, April 27 at 8:22 a.m., Bullying Canada sent a note to both Tingley and Thorne. This was the only contact made, according to Tingley and Thorne. Later that morning, at 11:44 a.m., Bullying Canada issued a news release to the media complaining of inaction by the school and the district.  In a later media interview, Bullying Canada spokesperson Rob Frenette expressed his concern that the school was not returning his ‘calls’ and that he was also upset officials would not discuss the situation with him.

How fair is it to widely distribute a media release stating that numerous calls were made when no messages were left?  How irresponsible is it to issue a news release accusing someone of not returning calls after waiting only three hours for a response?  And how can an anti-bullying group expect such a multi-faceted situation to be fixed within a week?

On the day Bullying Canada issued its news release, the school had been dealing with and working toward resolving the issue for five days. My son’s complex situation took nearly six weeks to rectify.

This is not the first time the actions of Bullying Canada officials have worried me. I’ve watched the news reports where they complain about businesses, corporations and schools.  In some instances it seems that if the organization cannot get what it wants, it then threatens media action. It also seems that each time a call is not returned in what the organization feels is a ‘timely fashion,’ Bullying Canada issues a media release.

Rob Frenette issued another news release Saturday, saying it was the family’s decision to issue a media advisory on the fact their concerns were not being addressed. “At no time did anyone from Bullying Canada make the decision to issue the media release,” Frenette stated.

Yet that media advisory was issued under the name of Bullying Canada. How can the organization claim to represent and speak for a family in one breath, but then abdicate responsibility in the next?

Everyone who reads my column knows I am not a malicious person.  My family and friends and co-workers know I am as honest as the day is long. People understand my need to help others, that I truly hate bullying, that I love people who do what’s right and not what’s easy, and that I try to see the best in everyone.

I hope you see this column for what it is: Clarification, education and standing up for what I think is right. Organizations that take the moral high ground in their mandate need to take the moral high ground in the execution of that mandate. Bullying Canada needs to take that message to heart in how it deals with this sensitive issue.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and a New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock.  You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, join her Facebook group, My Big Fat Life, or follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE.


Filed under *My Big Fat Life Column

My Big Fat Life: Forget Gaga: Theresa’s thankful her kids are fans of REAL celebrities!

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, December 19, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, I find myself again counting my blessings.

I am grateful for many things in my life. I am blessed a loving husband and wonderful children. I am thankful for a good job, good friends, and a warm and dry home to live in. I give thanks for having enough food to eat, a job that provides for my family, and for my continued health and the health of those I love.

I am grateful for the kind and intelligent students I am privileged to have in my classroom, I am grateful for the opportunity to write and connect with so many people, and I am especially grateful for the beautiful people I get to meet in this capacity.

I count myself lucky to call His Honour, Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas, and his wife, her honour, Beth, as friends.

I first met the lieutenant-governor at my church, shortly after he was sworn in. He came to a special mass at St. Gertrude’s in Woodstock, at the request of his friend, Father Bill Brennan. As he greeted some entering the church that day, I introduced myself.

“I know who you are,” he said, smiling, “my wife and I enjoy your articles in The Daily Gleaner every Monday.”

I remember turning red, and I remember feeling extremely humbled, and realizing I was a bit speechless in that moment.

I hope I said thank you in our exchange, but I can’t remember if I did.

After reading about the varied history of Graydon Nicholas when he was appointed our lieutenant-governor, I remember thinking how lucky our province is, having a man with such a strong background of caring.

I have covered court for many years in my career as a journalist, and I have also lived in aboriginal communities for nearly 15 years of that career. I have been blessed to know many a “Graydon” in that time span – men and women who fight for not only the rights of their people, but also work toward the understanding of their people by the non-aboriginal community. This constant drive for caring connection is beautiful to witness.

We chatted again at the Atlantic Journalism Awards luncheon, which he graciously hosted at Government House last year. Two of my student’s received awards, and after the luncheon he invited us upstairs to tour the art on display. My students, Graydon, Beth and I talked about wellness that afternoon, and my recent columns about suicide, bullying and mental health.

My nine-year-old daughter came home one day last fall announcing, “The Queen’s FRIEND was in school today!” She was referring to the lieutenant-governor.

And while her original interest was peaked because as lieutenant-governor, Graydon and his wife were able to meet Queen Elizabeth, her interest turned to really liking this man and his wife because of the role they’ve taken on in that capacity. We talked about the Nicholas’ most of that supper hour, and again before bed.

My family knows how much this couple means to me – how much I respect what they do and what they are trying to achieve. Like his mom, my 14-year-old son now follows what the Nicholas’ do – closely watching coverage in the newspaper, on television and on radio.

I knew James really wanted to meet the lieutenant-governor.

When I launched my magazine, agelessNB, we invited Graydon and his wife to the celebration. Earlier in the fall, the lieutenant-governor provided a story for our last page. He detailed the arrival of their ‘Christmas baby’ – his older son who came into the world on Dec. 23, 1969. Graydon really wanted to make the magazine kick-off, but had a prior commitment.

My son was disappointed but understood.

Then, a week ago today, we celebrated the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer at St. Gertrude’s in Woodstock. My daughter had hockey and my son had Army Cadet band practice. I went, but couldn’t tell James that Graydon would be present, knowing he would be disappointed again. Thankfully the mass went longer than expected, and my hopes increased. If the couple were going to stick around after mass, I could arrange a meeting. They were staying, and I dashed off. I was able to pick up James after band and bring him to the church for the reception.

When I told my son what we were doing, he was excited.

It was lovely. They chatted and my son beamed.

On our way home, James admitted this was a pretty special night – and it was.

James got to meet a man who has conviction; James believes the lieutenant-governor and his wife are special because of their beliefs. He likes them and follows what they do because they are trying to create something positive in everything they lend their talents to.

They are ‘celebrities’ to my children, but for all the right reasons.

So as this year comes to a close, I am also thankful that Lt.-Gov Graydon Nicholas and her honour Beth are my kid’s idols, and that this beautiful couple continues to care enough to use their ‘celebrity’ to make a real difference in our world.

I’ll take them over Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber any day!

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE.


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My Big Fat Life: Taking time to feel thankful in the midst of everyday busy-ness

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, September 26, 2011


I had one of those weeks last week.

You know the kind – a week where you don’t know if you’re coming or going, 18 things on your schedule and you know you can only successfully get to 11 of them.

The week where you wear two different socks to work and hope no one notices; where you forget the weather forecast predicted rain for the afternoon and you send your kids to school in T-shirts because it was warm and sunny that morning.

It was that kind of week. The kind of week where you forget to pick up milk so everyone has toast one morning, which depletes the bread for lunches, and you have to dole out money. That week when you had the doctor appointment, and almost forgot, but arrive a few minutes late, relieved, until you discover that you forgot to bring the updated Medicare card, again – something you were reminded about at the last two visits.

My week flew by. With kids having band and hockey and piano and cadets, there was homework, meet the teacher, interviews for a new project I’m working on and physio for my boy.

That doesn’t include the three nights of staying late at work correcting assignments and creating lesson plans, or the quick trip to the hospital to help a friend who has no family in the area. Top that off with helping my own kids with homework and a social studies project, and trying to cook healthy meals for my family … I was ready to collapse.

I cursed myself this week. I made things even busier for myself when I promised to walk as part of the ‘Ball is in Your Court’ provincial wellness campaign. I committed to walking every weekday, on my lunch hour, until December, and last week wondered if I could really do this.

Mid-week I was ready to pull my hair out. Wednesday I arrived late for my walk, walked with my friend Tobi for the first 10 minutes and then finished the last two laps of the racetrack alone.

Wednesday was a nice day – sunny and warm. Wednesday was a day where the breeze came up just as I made the second turn on the track and cooled me as I began to break out in a sweat. Wednesday the clouds were beautiful and fluffy – high and moving fast, changing shape quickly – reminding me of my youth and the many hours spent laying on my front lawn watching the sky do its artistic dance.

Across the fence, as I made my way around the track’s third turn, I heard the beautiful sounds of Centennial Elementary School children. I heard the beautiful sounds of young kids playing and laughing, and I smiled because I knew my daughters voice was somewhere in that mix, envisioning her laughing, running, swinging on the swings … being her perfect, excitable self.

I instantly felt shame remembering how I grumbled to myself in the van as I drove from work to the track that day. That quiet time – just me, my sneakers and the fresh air – reminded me I have to remain thankful and need to slow down sometimes so I can see the beauty and the calm in this crazy, busy life of mine.

And while I could have easily said no to a lot of things this week, I didn’t.

I wonder if my inability to stay still gives me such peace in stillness?

I have no reason to complain, and so many more reasons to be thankful.

I am thankful for the smile that crept across my friend’s face as I sat with her at the hospital and joked that we just solved all the problems of the world after we talked about the health issues of her loved one and cried.

I am thankful for the reassuring smile I get each day from my friend Tobi, who is always positive, always uplifting and always willing to walk with me on her lunch hour.

I am thankful for my daughter sneaking up behind me in the morning after being unable to tuck her in the night before because of a meeting. She wrapped her arms around me as I sat eating my breakfast, quickly whispering in my ear, “I love you” before asking for a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

There are the lovely notes from my older daughter on my Facebook page: “I love you,” “I miss you.”

There is the thoughtful things my husband did last week – like taking my son’s cadet tunic to the seamstress so his badges could be sewn on, hoping to lighten my load (he can’t sew), or telling me to stay home from hockey, knowing I’m tired but feeling guilty about not going – reassuring me that it’s more than OK to rest.

I am thankful for the sweet hug I get from my son each morning after I’ve crawled in bed to wake him, rubbing his back, talking softly about the day ahead so he has a good start to his day even if we’ve argued about homework or chores the night before.

I give thanks for good friends who give me hugs when they know it’s been a crazy week, or continue to drop off homemade beets, or bread, or strawberries, even though I keep reminding them they don’t have to do this.

This week, a beautiful homemade scarf and lovely book made their way to my home, and I felt overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness.

That saying about reaping what you sow sometimes gets lost in the bustle that is our everyday lives. I reap so much more than I sow and need to be reminded of that, especially on those crazy, pull-your-hair-out kind of weeks.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

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My Big Fat Life: A ‘flawed’ wellness ambassador isn’t such a bad thing

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, September 5, 2011


I’ve been asked by the Western Valley Wellness Network to take part in a new
initiative. As part a new provincial wellness campaign through the Department of
Wellness, Culture and Sport, I’ve been asked to be the wellness ambassador for
this region of the province.

I was shocked when they called.

I wanted to ask them if they knew how many times I’ve tried to get healthy
and failed? I wanted to ask them if they knew how much I weighed? I wanted to
ask them if they knew I ate chips after supper last night?

Really, I wanted to ask them if they couldn’t find someone more successful in
taking care of their own wellness?

But then my husband quickly reminded me that my journey is not so much about
what I’ve accomplished, but more about the fact that I haven’t given up.

And that may be the reason I was asked.

If you read my column, you know I struggle. I struggle with weight, with
stress, with trying to be a good example for my children. I struggle with taking
care of my physical health and my mental health and sometimes I get

But you also know I try and try and try. I try to get back on track after
each setback, and I’ve been successful in continuing the journey. I can’t stop
trying to be better at taking care of my health because giving up could mean an
early death. I love my children and husband too much to put them through

So I struggle … every week, every day, sometimes hourly. I struggle with my
weight, with exercise, with wellness.

And writing about that struggle has created a community of people who connect
because they also struggle.

Many of us look at others who are successful at exercising daily; we watch
them eat the right foods consistently, and get enough rest to boot and think,
“Wow … I wish I could do that.”

But we sometimes fail to understand that as human beings we’re all different,
we’re all brought up differently and we all react to life and our circumstances

We can’t all be perfect in taking care of our own personal wellness, but we
can all try and keep trying.

And that’s what I’m trying to do.

Even though enrolling our daughter in hockey again this fall will throw our
family time into a crazy tailspin of rushing around to make practices in the
early evenings when I should be making supper, I embrace the chaos.

Why? Because of what this activity means to my daughter and also what it does
for my own health.

Having to spend a great deal of time at the Carleton Civic Centre on weekdays
means I will spend more time walking. I use the walking track regularly during
Kathryn’s practices. I feel good about going to the rink because we BOTH get
something very valuable out of it.

This fall I’m adding to my walking regime.

I’ve decided that to better care for not only my physical health but my
mental health, I need to take a lunch break every day – no matter what. For the
last few years, most of my lunch hours have been spent at the college – at my
desk – wolfing down food – and working.

This, I have discovered, does not get me anymore ahead of the game. In fact,
not taking a break is harmful. It doesn’t do anything for my students or for me.
I need to physically get out of the building – to get sunshine, to get fresh air
and to take a mental break so I can return to afternoon classes refreshed and
ready to go.

This year, starting Sept. 12, I’m going to be walking on my lunch hour and
would love if you could join me.

If you’re in the Woodstock area, you can meet me at the Connell Park Raceway.
We’ll be parking in the Y’s Men Club near the new fenced-in soccer pitch across
from Woodstock High School. We’ll be walking through the stable area to the
raceway just off Connell Park Drive.

We’re going to start walking at 12:20 p.m. for 30 minutes … rain or shine,
good weather and bad, every day of the week. Sometimes we have to be reminded
we’re not made of sugar and we won’t melt. I have this on good authority that we
will survive walking in a bit of weather. Remember, this is exactly what we had
to do when we were growing up – we walked to school, rain or shine, no matter
what the weather.

I’m taking a page from my friend Susan Pedler of CBC-TV in Windsor, Ontario.
If you watch The National, you’ll know that Susan set out, as part of the CBC’s
Live Right Now campaign, to walk every weekday for six months. She asked viewers
to join her. You can watch her journey online – just Google ‘Live Right Now
Susan Pedler.’

I’m sure you can guess what happened. Susan slept better, felt better, made
friends, changed lives and lost weight. It transformed her life. She was excited
when I called her and encouraged me to go through with this when I told her
about the idea. She was also very humble when I told her how much she inspired

I’ve committed myself to walking every lunch hour from Sept. 12 through to
Dec. 16 – four months – and see where it takes me.

I may officially be your wellness ambassador, but I’m still on my own
journey. I think I’d prefer the title, “wellness cheerleader and friend.”

Either title, I just hope some of you become motivated enough to join me next
Monday at the raceway. And if your lunch hour doesn’t jive with the times, or
you live in another community, I challenge you to start a walking group where
you are and let me know how you make out.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College
instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at
theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.


Filed under *My Big Fat Life Column