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Writer-s-Bloc

A path in the park

Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve

By Sally Quon

There are days I want to get into the minivan and drive, drive, drive. 

And then there are days I just don’t want to stray too far from my coffeemaker. Know what I mean?

I stumbled upon the Winfield Creek Habitat Preserve one day last summer and promised myself I would return. So many birds!  Given the proximity to my coffee machine, it seemed like a good day to go.

My plan was to take my coffee and my beach blanket, find a spot in the park to set up with my camera and journal, and wait for the birds to come to me. 

I remembered there was a small clearing that seemed perfect. 

But by the time I got to Winfield, I was having second thoughts. I couldn’t remember exactly where the clearing was. 

It occurred to me that by the time I put my camera in my purse with my keys and my journal, hauled out the big lens (in its own case; it’s rather heavy), grabbed the blanket and my coffee – that was a lot of luggage to be hauling around on a trail, especially with my limitations. 

I draped the camera around my neck, threw the big lens over my shoulder, and tucked my keys in a hiding spot. No journal, no blanket, no coffee. Oh, the things we’re willing to sacrifice…

The parking area was occupied by a number of California quail families, all of which scurried off into the undergrowth before I could get my act together. It was a promising sign. There were sure to be a lot of birds.

I made my way slowly down the trail. I could hear a number of different birds, but the leafy canopy prevented me from seeing any of them. 

I wasn’t worried though. I knew once I got to the clearing, I would see plenty. And the trail was lovely, winding its way through the mixed forest. 

Breathing deeply, I let the fragrance of the trees fill me. That scent is like a drug and I’m an addict.

Early signs of autumn were visible — leaves beginning to turn, bushes heavy with rose hips – but for the most part, it was still green. As near as I can tell, there are three separate ponds connected by the creek. 

  • The first pond was empty. 
  • The second pond was covered with bright green algae. 
  • The third pond was full of ducks.

Where the heck was that clearing? My legs and lungs were both feeling the burn. It felt like I’d been walking for a long time. It had to be close.

I wandered through a stand of Ponderosa pine and red cedar, turned a corner and there it was. The tall grass sparkled in the sun. Sparkled. Because it was wet. Nope. I’m not wading my way into tall, wet grass. I probably shouldn’t be disturbing the native plants, anyway. This was a nature preserve, not a park. 

I plopped myself down on the dirt path next to the clearing. I desperately needed to rest. I could probably still see the birds from here. The strange thing was, I couldn’t hear any birds. Well. This didn’t work out at all.

I sat there for a while, resting my legs and wondering where the birds had gone. Birds tend to get quieter as the day gets longer, but surely, I hadn’t been out here that long.  Awkwardly, I got to my feet, thinking about the coffee I’d left in the van. 

That’s when I saw him. No wonder the birds were quiet! 

Just ahead of where I had been sitting on the path, I saw what I thought was a pile of deer droppings.  Drawing closer I realized that the poop was made up of partially digested cherries. That wasn’t deer. 

That was bear. 

I made it back to the minivan in no time. Not because I might be sharing the park with a bear, but because the path is a loop. Had I gone the other direction when I started, I would have arrived at the clearing before my legs had a chance to say anything.  

Live and learn.

Sally Quon is a Kelowna writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in Canadian Geographic Magazine and Nature Alberta's various birding brochures. She has essays coming out in two upcoming releases — Caitlin Press BIG Anthology, and Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Forgiveness Fix.



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How to help prevent suicide

Suicide: What you need to know to help your children and teenagers

Sept. 8-14 is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Tuesday is recognized as World Suicide Prevention Day

By Tracey Maxfield

Every 40 seconds a person dies by suicide.

This means that in the next hour, 90 people will have died by suicide, at the end of today, 2,160 will have died and at the end of this week, 15,120 children, teenagers, young adults, adults and older people with have died by suicide.

In fact, among children and teenagers five to 24 years old, suicide is now the second leading cause of death.

Today, in the U.S., 16 teenagers will end their lives by suicide, and 3,041 students in Grades 9-12 will attempt to end their lives by suicide.

Why is this happening? Why are our children and teenagers dying by suicide?

Sadly, there is no one single reason. Whilst genetic make up, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), bullying, substance addiction and mental illnesses/disorders play major roles, kids today are facing stressors and challenges the likes of which we never experienced when we were growing up.

The combination of all these life stressors can throw their perspective off balance triggering overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and helplessness, of a loss of control and a pervading sense of doom.

The Center for Disease Control, released a statement in response to the suicide epidemic in the U.S. stating:

A combination of individual, relational, community and societal factors contribute to the risk of suicide including a family history of suicide or child abuse, a history of mental disorders (especially depression), or alcohol/substance abuse, feelings of hopelessness, impulsive and aggressive tendencies, isolation, loss, physical illness, local epidemics of suicide and easy access to lethal methods (firearms).

Suicide

Suicide is the act of ending one’s life. It is usually planned and intentional. Suicide is not a mental disorder/illness, but, more often, the unfortunate outcome of a mental disorder that is often not recognized or is not treated effectively.

There are three components to a suicide plan:

  • Ideation
  • Intent
  • Plan

It is important to note that suicidal thoughts and/or attempts are not a normal and expected response to every-day life stressors.

Most teenagers who attempt, or die by, suicide have communicated their distress or plans to at least one other person.

The presence of suicidal thoughts must be taken seriously, it is a sign that the child/teenager needs help from a trained mental health professional.

These communications are not always direct; therefore, it is very important to know some of the key warning signs of suicide.

Suicide Warning Signs

The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) uses the acronym “IS PATH WARM” to identify the warning signs that a person may be suicidal:

I – Ideation about suicide
S – Substance abuse, e.g. alcohol, drugs
P – Purposelessness in life
A – Anxiety or feeling overwhelmed
T – Trapped, feeling there is no way out
H – Hopelessness or helplessness
W – Withdrawn from family, friends and activities
A – Anger or rage
R – Recklessness e.g. engaging in unsafe, risky or harmful behaviours
M - Mood change

Suicide Facts

  • In children/teenagers with a substance use disorder the risk of suicide is 5 to 6 times higher
  • 90% of children/teenagers who died by suicide had an underlying mental illness/disorder
  • In 2017, suicides amongst teenage girls hit a 40-year high
  • Since 2000, suicide in teenagers age 15-19 years old has increased 28%
  • Suicide ideation and self harm is common in teenage girls with Conduct Disorder
  • Suicide risk is 10 times more likely in kids with Asperger’s
  • Death by suicide is seven times higher in kids with Autism (ASD)
  • Children and teenagers with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia are at a significantly higher risk for suicide.
  • After the debut of the TV series 13 Reasons Why, there was a 19% increase in internet searches on “how to commit suicide”
  • Suicide, especially amongst children can be contagious. Five per cent of suicides in kids are influenced by contagion from suicidal peers or cultural depictions of suicide

What is most important to remember, is that when you are trying to end your life by suicide, there is still a part of you that does not want to die. But at that moment, you just cannot continue to live with the never-ending pain and sorrow.

The sense of hopelessness and loneliness is so overwhelming that death by suicide seems to be the only way you can end the pain and heartache.

If you have suicidal thoughts:

  • Remove yourself from your location
  • Call a trusted friend or family member
  • Call a local crisis centre
  • Go to your nearest Emergency Room (ER) or call 911, or local emergency number

If you know someone who is expressing suicidal thoughts:

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Call a local crisis centre and/or emergency police services
  • Take the person to your nearest ER department
  • If the person has already self-harmed, call 911 (or local emergency number) immediately

​​Post Care

  • Follow up with a physician or psychiatrist
  • Follow the healthcare plan e.g. therapy, medications
  • Consider counselling and/or participation in a support group
  • Contact the local Mental Health Association, or your own local mental health branch.

Tracey Maxfield is a nurse, speaker, author and mental health/stop bullying advocate and educator. In 2017, she wrote a column for Castanet called Dementia Aware and in 2018, published her first book Escaping the Rabbit Hole: my journey through depression. You can check out her videos and blog at www.traceymaxfield.com. She can be contacted at [email protected] 



Vancouver Island adventure

By Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel

On the first day of holidays, my true love sank in quick sand, and our dog got zapped at the Air B&B's dew-covered land.

On the second day of holidays, my true love, dog and I, were, thankfully, in-ci-dent free.

Day one started normal enough. We went to church, and the Air B&B proprietor, whom we will call Ralph, offered to watch our dog while we went to the service, which was great.

While we were away, all hell broke loose when he let the dog out in the fenced yard and forgot that the electric fence was still on.

The wire was juiced in one section to keep the raccoons out of the pond; otherwise they would go fishing in his stocked pool.  He remembered his error just as Tig'ger went over to the fence.

Horrified, he yelled stop, but too little too late, and she touched her nose to it and got a good jolt, then took off running.

She thought Ralph zapped her deliberately and for the rest of our stay with him, she would not go near the good-hearted, disabled fellow, even when he bribed her with treats.

Due to Ralph’s physical limitations, he couldn’t get to the power source to shut it off fast enough, and injured his foot while trying. The poor, dear senior felt terrible for traumatizing the dog.

He finally coaxed her into the house and she stayed put in the bedroom that we were renting and would not come out.

After that experience, she eyed him suspiciously and would growl softly when he came near. She didn't understand he was trying to prevent the shocking experience, and didn’t intentionally zap her.

We returned to a remorseful Ralph, and a sulking dog. We then took her off his hands and went to the beach in Parksville, where more trouble awaited.

Being land lubbers originally from Alberta, we were unaware of the water that lurked below the sand. I thought it was freaky to see water bubbles form around my feet as I walked, but we carried on. Len went ahead, and sank into the quick sand.

The sand suction cupped him real good, and he lost one shoe then another; with each step, he sank past his ankles. He’d lift one foot and sink it again.

It took every ounce of his strength to get out. The dog thought it was a game and she ran circles around him and wrapped her leash around his legs. He was lassoed, unable to move.

I was laughing my head off. Suddenly, I realized the situation was dire, and said some prayers aloud.

Len managed to unhook the leash from the dog’s collar and unwrap himself, and with grim determination retrieved his shoes from the muck, nearly plunging in, head first.

With each step, he would sink again and again and, finally, with a loud grunt and groan hurled forward, onto drier land.

It was hard getting all that sand out of his shoes, and we cautiously made it back onto the rocky shoreline.

Len was exhausted, so we climbed up onto a grassy, open field and were harassed first by a guard dog that I prayed would not jump the fence.

As we walked gingerly on the edge of the grass, we were then yelled at by a man who said to get off his neighbour’s property.  Len politely explained what happened, but the guy said it wasn’t his problem.

All blooming heart, I tell yaw.

We climbed back down onto the rocks and to the safety of the vehicle, breathed a sigh of relief and drove away.   

I could not help but wonder what day two would bring.

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel is a Glenrosa woman whose dog, a mini Australian shepherd, when not running circles or bouncing off electrified fences, saved her from a bear two years ago.



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Just say no to new

By ​Tara Tschritter 

Ahhhh, home renovations. The very thought conjures images of chaos, dust, decisions and delays.

So why would anyone in their right mind ever embark on such a journey? Well, it turns out there are a number of very compelling reasons.

Many of us love the idea of reducing our impact on Mother Earth. Why buy new when we can refurbish and reuse?

Trends toward online marketplaces and brick-and-mortar re-stores are on the rise, for good reason. Most of us agree that our homes and our communities have more than enough things. If we can reuse what is existing, we respect our planet and our future.

This values-driven reasoning for renovating is often complemented, or even replaced, by more practical reasons for choosing renovation over a new build.

Reusing existing infrastructure is more convenient, accessible and often more affordable than building new.

Some homeowners leverage existing home equity to obtain loans to complete their renovation project. 

Using our existing asset frequently costs less than starting from scratch.

In addition, homeowners may be able to stay in their home while a renovation is being completed, eliminating the need to pay for temporary accommodation.

Upgrading to energy efficient insulation or windows etc. can reduce monthly utility bills.

If you are considering a home renovation there are some important things to consider.

What is your goal?  Do you hope:

  • to generate revenue
  • to increase the comfort, usability and style of your home
  • to increase energy efficiency
  • or are you sprucing up to sell?

The amount of time you plan on living in your home post renovation should be considered in relation to your goal.

Don’t ever overlook good design

We have all driven by houses and thought, egad, that new façade is no better than putting lipstick on a pig.

Ultimately, timeless and tasteful design ensures that the time, money and resources you put into renovating your home do not go to waste.

Nobody wants a home that looks like a compilation of a million little patchwork jobs rather than a well thought out, intentional design.

Another thing to consider is possible hidden costs

Do you have the budget to deal with getting old electrical up to code or asbestos removed?  Are there any possible structural issues?

Ensure you have a good contractor assess these issues prior to beginning your job.

This pre-emptive assessment is the best way to avoid getting in over your head.

When putting money into your home you are wise to consider if you will get a good return on your investment. The reality is that our homes are likely our biggest investment.

When treated as such, our home-improvement project choices become more practical and beneficial over the long term.

As a small space construction company, we first became interested in renovations with the realization that the concepts of living in smaller spaces and renovating existing spaces both accomplish many of the same goals.

We can consume less, reduce our monthly utility bills, generate income and feel better about our environmental legacy. 

“At its best, preservation engages the past, in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” — William Murtagh

Tara Tschritter is the owner of a Kelowna base contracting company. Little House Contracting specializes in building and renovating small homes. Find out more at www.littlehouseco.com



More Writer's Bloc articles

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About the Author

Welcome to Writer’s Bloc, an opinion column for guest writers to share their experiences and viewpoints with our readers.

Do you have something to say that is timely? of local interest? controversial? inspiring? foodie? entertaining? educational?

Drop a line. [email protected]

Opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent those of Castanet. They are not news stories reported by our staff.



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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