Tag Archives: respect

My Big Fat Life: Tired of Saying Goodbye

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, June 18, 2012

I have wished many people well in my career, and have been wished well by many. At the CBC and here at NBCC, I’ve said hello and goodbye more times than I would like to count. People have said ‘so long’ when I’ve moved jobs or locations, and I’ve said ‘see you soon’ to many who have retired or changed jobs.

The difficult farewells happen when someone becomes more of a friend than a co-worker.

It will be hard to say goodbye to Andy Leblanc.

Two years ago Andy was hired to teach television journalism at NBCC Woodstock.

Andy is a powerhouse of knowledge and has an abundance of drive. He’s a lifelong journalist, honing his skills as a young ATV reporter in New Brunswick. Back then Andy was passionate about politics and had a head full of questions and hair. (Sorry Andy, I couldn’t resist!) He went on to manage locations for CTV, and came back to his native New Brunswick a few years ago to allow his wife to pursue her career dreams.

Goofing around in the television lab at NBCC Woodstock. Instructor Andy Leblanc is ready for his close up as journalism student Geoff Stairs captures a candid moment in class.

He was only with us two years, but what a two years it was.

We pushed students to strive for excellence and found more platforms for their work. Andy recreated our website. The students worked hard making www.jschoolnbcc.ca a place where local people came for breaking news they couldn’t get elsewhere. We operated like a newsroom; students created multimedia series, we took trips to Fredericton and Juniper, students produced weekly television shows, covered breaking news, mastered social media, and they shared the news they collected with regional papers and television and radio stations. We tried to mimic the industry as much as possible in our classrooms. I know we succeeded, and provided the best education possible for our young journalists.

Once a reporter, always a reporter – it’s a saying I’ve heard many times from colleagues who have left the business to pursue other avenues. Just because we’re standing in front of a classroom doesn’t mean we’re no longer journalists.

While I worked at starting a magazine, Andy continued to build his “ultra-local” concept. His vision would provide an avenue for small communities to share local news. On more than a few evenings Andy was doing what our students were doing – covering events in his community and publishing stories to his local website. Andy also became president of RTDNA, a national organization representing Canadian Broadcasters, while he was with us. I think we both related to our students better because we were still ‘doing it’ – still chasing, and writing, and working in journalism.

Andy will leave NBCC this month to become the news director for CTV Atlantic.

I will miss him more than he realizes.

We have the same ‘got-to-know’ character flaw that turned us on to reporting in the first place. We love our craft. We respectfully argued about politics and law, we discussed the latest news and current events, and we debated how stories were approached and covered. We both viewed the world differently but similar when it came to the public’s right to know.

We were good for each other – in the teaching sense. His constant drive and work ethic inspired me and made me push my students a little harder. I, in turn, was able to (sometimes) get him to slow things down a bit, getting him to see the need to give students a little more breathing room; reminding him that television was not the only medium they needed to master.

Many (all) students considered him tough (“a hard-ass”), but they also respected him. They understood his ultimate goal was to their advantage – he wanted to see them succeed beyond his classroom.

Working with Andy made me feel like my old, reporter-self again. I have beautiful co-workers at the college, but no one who loves news like I do. For the last few years there were few I could debate politics and news coverage with on the same level as I could with Andy.

Andy was a breath of fresh, overachieving, journalistic air.

In the end I am thankful for his new position at CTV. Our journalism program was cancelled last month and Andy’s lack of seniority would have probably meant a pink slip in June of 2013, just as the last NBCC journalism grads cross the stage.

I can’t talk about the loss of my program just yet. The feelings are still too raw. But I am glad that Andy’s talent will not be lost or misplaced. We can still debate news coverage over the phone, and I will continue to tease him about the hair he used to have via email and Twitter.

While it won’t be the same as having him in our NBCC newsroom, it will make the departure of my co-worker and dear friend a little easier to manage.

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: 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: Things look pretty good through the eyes of my children …

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner on Monday, November 8, 2010

Click here to go directly to the Fredericton Daily Gleaner version of my column

Christmas morning 2008 was an odd one for my family. My husband woke up at about 2:30 a.m. with stabbing pain in his abdomen.

We had to go to the hospital.

I was thankful my older daughter was home for the holiday so we wouldn’t have to wake the young ones, bundle them up and put them into a cold car.

Even though you think you can call your neighbours, day or night, with any kind of emergency, I don’t think I could have brought myself to call someone at 2:30 Christmas morning.

I went downstairs and woke Kristen to tell her what was going on, trying not to alarm her as I explained why I was up and dressed and holding car keys.

My husband was having a gallbladder attack. It was serious enough for us to spend nearly five hours at the hospital. He ended up having his gallbladder removed the following spring. That morning we returned home just before 8 a.m.

Kristen hadn’t gotten up yet, so she wasn’t able to explain to the little ones why we weren’t home.

Kathryn and James were up, had already dug into their Christmas stockings and were waiting for Kristen to get out of bed. They didn’t want to wake her themselves. They had been in our bedroom and already figured out we weren’t in the house.

When we walked through the door we were surprised they weren’t worried.

“Kristen isn’t up yet!” they chimed.

“Can we open our presents now?”

“Aren’t you wondering where we were?” we asked as we were taking off our coats.

“We figured you were out on a date or something,” said James.

Stephen and I laughed out loud.

The kids and I dig under the tree for presents. Notice I am fully dressed!

A date – early Christmas morning – where we left the house before opening presents – where we weren’t there to see our kids excitement as they opened their stockings?

But that’s what they thought, and I loved them even more for believing that.

I was worried they’d be worried, but I guess I didn’t have to worry at all.

I love how our children perceive ‘us’ – we’re not home so we MUST be on a date!

I remember how great their statement made me feel that day. It felt good to know they looked at us as this loving couple – as a couple who loved each other so much that they had to go on a special date early Christmas morning!

But their perception of us being a loving couple doesn’t come from constant public displays of affection – quite the contrary. We sometimes hug, and we kiss each other goodbye each morning, but that’s about all the kids have really witnessed when it comes to our physical affection.

I think their ideas related to our marriage may come from some of the more basic and simple things we do for each other on a day-to-day basis.

Stephen taking a few snaps of the kids while they open their Christmas presents, a little later than usual.

I have never talked badly about my husband to them or to anyone else. I talk about their dad with a lot of respect and love, even when I may be upset with him. I sometimes cook special things and I’m always picking up a few things at the grocery store specifically for him. I always give up the remote for him and I always let him read the paper first.

And he’s a pretty great guy, too. He has never raised his voice to me. He clears the table and loads the dishwasher pretty much every night in return for me doing most of the cooking at home. He knows I hate taking the garbage out and tries to always do that job, and he always makes sure the kids are involved in trying to make my birthday, Mother’s Day, and other special occasions memorable.

The great thing about our relationship is that even when it’s not at its most passionate, it is always at its most respectful.

We are best friends, first and foremost.

I work at making him a priority because that makes everything else in my life easier. Having a great relationship with my husband means my kids and co-workers benefit – I’m a happier person.

But our relationship is far from perfect. We like to debate things, and we have argued on occasion. We’ve gotten angry at each other from time to time, and have (I hope) demonstrated to our kids that arguing doesn’t mean we don’t love each other, it just means we’re human.

And while the memory of my husband waking me in the middle of the night to tell me something was wrong and that we had to go to the hospital still gives me a horrible feeling at the pit of my stomach, our children telling us they thought we were on a date that morning makes my heart sing.

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: Theresa wonders what would happen if …

New Brunswickers head to the polls today. The election will pretty much come down to these two men. Today, Theresa ponders what it would be like if the province woke up tomorrow and had a 'Dallas' moment, where the recent election campaign was all just a big, bad dream...

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday September 27th, 2010

What would happen if we woke up tomorrow and realized the election campaign we’ve just endured was all just a bad dream and that the campaign was actually not over, but, in fact, just starting?

What would happen if the people asking for our votes decided not to make any promises? What if candidates started their campaigns off with a promise not to promise anything because our province is broke.

What if a main party stated, “If you vote us in, we first need to spend some time getting our finances back on track before we can promise anything?”

Imagine being told, “Hey, we don’t have much money so we’re just going to hold the line for a while, get a few smart economic and societal thinkers together to lend us their time and expertise, and then figure out the best action to take before we promise you anything.”

Just imagine.

It’s all about truth, but just like that famous line delivered by Jack Nicholson, politicians sometimes think, “You can’t handle the truth!”, especially when it comes to provincial or federal finances.

It’s our money. We’re not children. I think it would be easy to understand the basics if we were given the right information. Most of us already operate our own ‘government.’

Mind you our ‘government’ is a bit like a dictatorship, but when you look at the big picture, the running of this province, even the running of this country, is a lot like the running of our own family unit. We have those who make decisions and those who are impacted by those decisions.

When my husband was out of work, we sat down with the kids and in basic terms explained that as a family we have less to work with and that some changes have to be made.

We didn’t get to go to dinner as often, we cut out movie rentals for a long while, and there were no allowances for more than a few months. The kids easily understood and didn’t beg for things.

Our belt-tightening over the last two years went quite well. We didn’t lose the house, we didn’t have to sell a car, and we were able to keep our kids in their regular activities.

We also had to patch rust areas of our van ourselves, we didn’t get to reseed the lawn and we had to hold off on fixing a leaky sink. But we also didn’t hide these financial facts from our kids.

Why do the majority of the politicians, at all levels of government, keep numbers hidden? Even when information is released it’s usually compiled in such a convoluted manner that the regular tax-paying citizen can’t decipher what’s going on when it comes to the province’s (or our country’s) piggy bank.

This has always bothered me.

This scenario is partly our own fault, really. We’ve come to expect things in election campaigns. In some cases, we’ve demanded things. And sadly politicians know that. They correlate what they promise to the number of votes they think they’ll get. And we all lose.

They feel obligated to keep some financial situations hidden for fear of the political consequences. They have to backtrack on promises because they find out the real financial picture when they’re finally in office, and then try to spin certain financial realties so they can save face.

But then we blame them for not following through on impossible initiatives we’ve expected them to produce – sometimes forced them to create – and punish them for trying to cover things up so they don’t look bad for NOT following through.

We treat them like children in this respect, and sometimes they act the part, too.

But we’ve put them here. As a society, we’ve created this.

But it doesn’t have to continue. What if we stop trying to make political races come down to the almighty question, “What’s in it for me?”

What if we elect leaders based on integrity and trust and not who can promise the most or pay for the most political ads?

What if we tell them that the only way they’re going to get our vote is if they earn our trust? What if we tell them NO MORE PROMISES!

I’d love for someone in one of the major political parties to someday begin a campaign with, “I will not promise you anything but my dedication. I promise to do the best job I can. If I can’t do something on my own, I promise to work with anyone who can help me, no matter what their affiliation.”

Parliaments and legislatures should work better than they do.

Everyone – ministers, backbenchers, deputy ministers, prime ministers, premiers – needs to be up-front about our coffers, because the key word here is our – it’s our money.

It’s also our parliament and legislature, and we deserve better.

Just because someone is in opposition should not mean they oppose every good idea that comes across the floor.

That also goes for the party in power. Leaders need to stop shooting down private member bills that improve our situation based on the fact the idea has come from the ‘wrong side’ of the house.

Honestly, if a good bill is brought to the floor it should be passed, no excuses, because it’s to our benefit.

In the end, leaders who foster this kind of co-operation can easily take their record to the voters next time around and be proud of what they’ve accomplished.

Imagine how wonderful a campaign like that would be.

All a candidate would have to say is, “I’ve done everything I could for you and this province or this country. I’ve worked with people, no matter what their political stripe, to make things better for all of us.”

And if my fairytale ever comes true, guess who’d have my vote and my respect?


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 or follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

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