Monday, June 30, 2008

O Canada!


Bump on your Thumb

Who shall be king of the little kids' swing?
Jimmy's the king of the little kids' swing
With a bump on your thumb
And a thump on your bum
And tickle my tum in Toronto.

Who shall see stars on the climbing bars?
Jimmy sees stars on the climbing bars
With a bump on your thumb
And a thump on your bum
And tickle my tum in Toronto.

And who shall come home with the night for his throne?
Jimmy's come home with the night for his throne
With a bump on your thumb
And a thump on your bum
And tickle my tum in Toronto.

--by the brilliant Canadian poet, Dennis Lee, from his book, "Alligator Pie"


To celebrate Canada Day, I've decided to do a short series of posts over the course of this week, that will feature some of my favourite Canadian artists. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Work in progress...


I have a confession to make.

All those weeks of painting my house? Well, the paint may be on the walls, and the furniture may be back in place... but most of the the "finishing touches" are STILL not done yet.

I KNOW.

With all the rain we've had here, and all the time I've not been able to spend in the garden, you'd THINK I'd have at least finished hanging all the pictures. And run up a few pairs of drapes. And dotted a few potted plants around the place.

Nope.

But, today, I think I may have taken one small step forward.

For weeks, now, I've been agonizing to find a way to "finish" the girlies' bathroom, which I painted a lovely, fresh pale-lilac colour. It's really turned out to be very pretty, with a sparkly new mirror that swivels, bright white woodwork, and silver hardware.

But, the walls have remained bare. Mainly because I have been looking for just the right literary quotation to stencil up on one wall in particular. It needed to be a really special quote-- one with wisdom and meaning; one that would stand them in good stead and make them think, every time they look up at it over the next few years.

After weeks and weeks of perusing my library... I finally think I've found it.

Today is the birthday of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who wrote the wonderful novella, "Le Petit Prince" (The Little Prince). The story is narrated by a pilot, who has crashed his plane in the desert. There, he meets a strange little boy who claims to have come from an asteroid. The little boy asks the pilot to draw him a sheep, and thus begins a series of fascinating stories and conversations... mainly about the simple truths that people tend to forget as they grow older, and why it is that grown-ups are so difficult to get along with.

My favourite quotation from the book is this:

"Voici mon secret. Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu'avec le cœur. L'essentiel est invisible pour les yeux."

("Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.")

What a perfect phrase for my three girlies to read every morning, as they stand looking in the mirror, getting themselves ready to face their day. I hope they will always remember how to "see" with their hearts, and discover what is truly beautiful and unique about their own individual personalities, as well as recognizing the most important qualities of those around them.

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.

Yes. Perfect.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Ice cream.


The girlies bounded out of school for the final time on Thursday afternoon, like two sleek little kittens exploding out of a cat-carrier after a trip to the vet. The delight on their faces was a sight to behold, as was the impossible sweetness of their baby sister, who raced up the pathway to hug them 'round the knees in rapturous greeting. She has been waiting and waiting for her favourite playmates to be "free-d" for the past two long weeks, as her little nursery school wound up at the beginning of June, and she's been stuck at home with the likes of ME ever since.

It has been a long and arduous month, here, save the lovely few days "home" last weekend. There were projects to be completed, oral presentations to be performed, and a stream of year-end testing at school. Piano lessons wound up, and the girlies danced beautifully in the ballet school's annual recital. Yessir, there was more than just a little bit of stress to be felt in this household, but miraculously, everything ended up being just fine. Even the littlest "teddy bear" got up on that great, big stage, and remembered every, single step of her dance. She looked so tiny and perfect in her little pink tutu, with flowers in her hair, even if she DID gaze out at the audience without blinking the entire time, like a newborn fawn caught in the headlights of oncoming traffic.

This week has been filled with good-byes, to wonderful teachers, administrators and friends. Our little town seems to empty-out, as of July 1 every year... People tend to drift off to cottage country, or to visit far-away relatives, and my girlies and I can't help feeling a bit lonesome around here for the first little while, until our days fall into some semblance of a summertime "routine".

That new routine kicked off with one of our favourite treats: home-made chocolate ice cream. Because NOTHING says "summertime" like a great, big bowlful perched on your knees, and slowly freezing the bare skin on your lap where the legs of your shorts don't quite reach.

A few years ago, I splurged and bought a beautiful, stainless-steel Cuisinart ice cream maker. It was a gift for my husband for Father's Day, and although it was undoubtedly a self-serving choice of present for me to give, he would be hard-pressed to deny that his tastebuds have benefited greatly over the past several years (and I have his ever-expanding waistline measurements to prove it. He has mine, too, so I won't share them with you).

The evening before school ended this week, the girlies and I ceremoniously placed the drum of the ice cream maker in the freezer, in preparation for a celebratory batch, which we planned to make the moment we returned home the next day. Since we had already consumed all of the divine "Milk Minties" candies that we had purchased at Chocolate Barr's in Stratford the weekend before, I headed for our local grocer's to purchase our second favourite treat in the whole wide world: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. In bulk. We chopped them all up into bite-sized chunks, and the few handfuls we managed to resist eating on the spot, we tossed into the ice cream mixture at the very last minute.

Oh. My. Word.

Now.

If anyone has a quick-and-easy remedy for accute brain-freeze, the girlies and I are all ears.



Simply Spectacular Chocolate Ice Cream

1 c unsweetened cocoa powder
2/3 c granulated sugar
1/2 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c whole milk
3 1/4 c heavy (whipping) cream
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Combine the white and brown sugars, and the cocoa in a medium-sized bowl, and stir to combine. Whisk in the whole milk, until the sugars have dissolved completely, and the cocoa powder is no longer "floating" on top (about 1-2 minutes). Gently stir in the heavy cream, and the vanilla. (I don't like to use an electric mixer for this... if you get too "enthusiastic" and beat heavy cream too hard, it makes the ice cream taste butter-y!!)

Turn on your ice cream machine, and slowly pour the mixture into the freezer-drum... allow it to mix until thickened, about 20-25 minutes. While the mixture is soft and creamy, gently fold in chocolate chips, cookie pieces, brownie bits, or whatever else you fancy, before transferring it to an air-tight container, and placing it in the freezer to firm-up a bit (this takes about an hour or two). Remove the ice cream from the freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

This will make about fourteen 1/2 c servings...
Or, in my case, one serving with fourteen mouthfuls.

Brain freeze! GAAAA!!!!!

Summertime.




"When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive--to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."

-- Marcus Aurelius

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Last Day of School!!

Say it with us, people:

YEEEEE-HAAAAAAAHH!!!!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My very first "Youtube" video...

Well, you will be able to guess where we are this weekend...

Here are six of the little cygnets that hatched from one of the nests I showed you a few short weeks ago. Mother and Father had their babes out for a little stroll on the field below the Festival Theatre, and then crossed Riverside Drive to join us down by the river. They are darlings.

Pardon the fuzzy quality, and slight wobbliness... I will get better at this, promise!

All is well, if rainy, in Stratford. Child Number Two has had a dodgy tummy for a day or so, but luckily, we have a doctor in the house!

Photos to follow, upon our return home...

Friday, June 20, 2008

It's the first day of summer!

Bring it on, baby, BRING IT ON!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"San Francisco, here I come!!"

Please, head right on over to Whymommy's fabulous blog, Toddler Planet, and congratulate Susan today!

This afternoon, a bone scan that doctors performed, in order to rule out the possibility of metastasis, came back NEGATIVE.



Susan, this video snippet is just for you-- because I know you're going to ROCK at BlogHer, San Francisco. Wish I could be there to meet you in person, hear you address the conference, and help you celebrate!

Please, everyone, tell someone you love about Inflammatory Breast Cancer and Paget's Disease of the Nipple, and remember to "Frisk the Fifteenth!"

You do NOT have to have a lump to have breast cancer. Being informed, and knowing what symptoms to look for, could save your life.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cloudy, with a chance of...


I was standing at the kitchen counter making the girlies' dinner last night, listening to the torrential rain drumming on the roof of our house. We've had some doozie storms around these parts over the past week-or-so... Complete with thunder and lightning and small tornadoes touching down.

I've had terrible migraine headaches, just to "top off" the Wildly Fluctuating Air Pressure Experience. Last night was no exception-- and the kicker was, I couldn't take any hefty codeine-laced prescription medication, because I had to drive my girlies up north to the theatre, for the dress rehearsal of their ballet recital.

And so, there I stood, head throbbing, and not thinking too much about the incredible noise the rain was making, two floors above me, on the roof of my house.

Until, that is, Wee Three suddenly burst into the room.

"MAMA!!" she shrieked excitedly, and grabbed my hand, which was holding a knife covered in an enormous gob of peanut butter (I was making sandwiches for the road). Peanut butter slorped all over the place, as she dragged me out of the kitchen and down the hallway, towards the big diningroom windows at the front of the house.

"MAMA!! LOOK!!!!!"

We stared outside, and I suddenly realized why the sounds on the roof were so sharp... The menacing dark-grey heavens had opened, and large hail-stones, the size of $1 coins, were pelting down on the lawn, the garden, MY FLOWERS, and the whole, wide world... My heart sank right down into my shoes, because I knew that many of the less-hardy plants in my garden would likely not survive such a storm.

Wee Three, on the other hand, was absolutely enchanted by this strange and completely unexpected change in the weather. Oblivious to my angst, she turned her little shining face up to me, and said, giggling wildly:

"MAMA!! It's raining POLKA-DOTS!!!"

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

Good Grieg...

video

Today, June 15th, is also the birthday of one of my favourite composers, Edvard Grieg, who was born in Bergen, Norway in 1843.

Although he is probably best known for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt, my own personal favourite piece of Grieg's music is the Holberg Suite, Op. 40. It is a suite of five movements based on eighteenth century dance forms, and was written in 1884 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Danish-Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg. (Pretty major theatre buff, was Edvard Grieg, which is probably another one of the many reasons why I love him so...)

Here is a video of the Kristiansand Symfoniorkester playing Grieg's Praeludium from the Holberg Suite, filmed at-and-around the Lindesnes Lighthouse, in breathtakingly beautiful Norway.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How I spent yesterday afternoon...


Helping Wee Three turn a loooong jump-rope, so that her imaginary friend,
"Emily Yeung", could skip. For HOURS.

(She apparently likes to skip "pepper" best, drat her... Oh, my achin' arm...)

Friday, June 13, 2008

On stage... please?


This morning's pre-school "gradulation" went off without a hitch.

Wee Three agreed to wear a beautiful dress, which is something she doesn't do too often... It's just waaay too much trouble, "being careful" with nice clothes. Who needs fashion, when there's mud to play in outside??

The "gradulates" slowly filed in, in front of the large audience of family members. It was interesting to see each child's eyes turn to the size of small saucers when they were gently ushered through the door, and saw the sea of grown-ups looking back at them. Luckily, the procession was carefully planned, and the three teachers stood in strategic spots to help the children along... Each student walked a straight line from one of the ladies, into the arms of another, and then to the one who would seat them in the correct chair on the little stage.

Wee Three did just beautifully. Unlike last year, where she sat like a tiny statue (because the teachers had gently told the children to "sit still and don't move!!" Always the LITERAL one, my daughter...), she sang all the songs, and even performed some of the actions. She stood, only a little bit shakily, when her name was called, and walked over to receive her diploma and pin. I was prodigiously proud of her, and marvelled at how much she has grown up and gained confidence over these past ten months...

After the ceremony was over, and we had said our goodbyes, I took my littlest girl out for lunch. As we sat at the table and ate, I praised her for her courage, standing up tall in front of all of the "strange" people that morning. And I took the opportunity to mention that she would soon have another chance to get up and perform on a stage: her first ballet recital is this Wednesday evening.

Mother: (encouragingly) It's going to be such FUN! You can wear your brand, new costume, and dance with all your friends on another stage! It's just a bit bigger than the stage you were on for gradulation this morning.

Wee Three avoided meeting my gaze, and grimaced down at her cheeseburger.

Mother: (lightly) Oh, it will be just fine. Your big sisters will be there with you, too. They'll do their dances, and then you and your friends will have a turn. It WILL be fun-- there's nothing to be nervous about. Your teacher will be there on stage with you, and Daddy and I will be out in the audience, cheering you on!

There was a moment of silence, and then Wee Three lifted her chin and looked straight into my eyes.

Wee Three: (taking a deep breath) Well, DAT'S fine. Because you know where I will be?

Mother: (smiling down at the littlest ballerina) Where, sweetie?

Wee Three: (firmly) Under. My. Bed.

Well... perhaps THIS one is destined to be a "backstage rat" like her mother...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

What's Up?

The first of the Oriental Poppies...


Enormous Lupins, in every colour...


Beautiful clumps of Veronica,
which keep the bumblebees busy (and buzzy).

Forgive the sporadic posting of late, but there has been much going on around here-- besides gardening, amazingly!! Once again... because I am weary... I am resorting to the "seven random things" format this evening:

1. It's nearly the end of the school year, which means it is officially "Mummy Panic Season" once more. Not only am I scrambling to make final arrangements for my girlies' upcoming summer activities, I am wildly attempting to jolly them through the seemingly endless onslaught of final school projects that the teachers have decided (in their "wisdom") to pile upon us, last-minute. HOW IS IT that the "Flight and Space" unit comes at the very end of the grade six science year??? Just like the enormous "Gears and Motion" project was due the day before Christmas Eve, I guess... We had to actually BUILD A WORKING MACHINE out of "stuff we found around the house" for that one. Too bad our house doesn't include a mechanical engineer... Guess I should just hush-up, and thank Almighty God that I don't have to help my child re-construct the space shuttle out of toothpicks, dental floss and saran wrap. This time.

2. My little Wee Three "gradulates" from nursery school on Friday morning. "Gradulates" being a new verb she coined recently, which, I've decided, combines the two words "graduate" and "congratulate". Definitely a "Wee-ism" worth writing down for future use.

3. Even though she is "gradulating", I have decided that Wee Three will remain at the little school she has been at for the past two years, and attend their Junior Kindergarten program, rather than starting at the "big" school next year. Even before I found out about the issues that our local public school will be dealing with in 2008-09, my motherly-instinct was telling me that my littlest girl might benefit from one more year in a smaller, more familiar, and certainly more nurturing environment. Although she is bright-as-a-button and eager-to-learn, Wee Three is the tiniest, and among the youngest in her nursery school class. Her current teachers were thrilled when I asked them to have her back for JK, and, quite honestly, so was Wee Three. But, no one was more thrilled than I was about the arrangement, when I went over to our local public school to talk to the principal, and discovered that their kindergarden enrollment had been the equivalent of a rave-party. Yes, the class is SO crowded, that at one point, over a dozen three-and-four year olds were going to have to be bussed to other academic facilities. Which, needless to say, is NOT my idea of a "good introduction" to the big-school experience. However, it certainly confirmed that going with my gut-feeling, and keeping my wee girlie where she is already so happy, was indeed the right decision. **whew** So, we'll defer the angst of public school enrolment for another year... but, knowing the excellent standards of our little nursery, that will be the only draw-back of the arrangement!

4. The girlies' Ballet Recital looms ahead of us next week... The costumes are lovely, and they've been practising their little dances at every opportunity. All that remains is the dress rehearsal, then the grand combat with nerves, and finally, The Performance next Wednesday! The two eldest did wonderfully well in their recital last year, so they "know the ropes"... but it will be interesting to see whether Wee Three will actually get up there and perform "The Teddy Bear Twist" with her peers... I have the feeling that our littlest ballerina will wind up on my knee in the audience, rather than on stage. But, no matter. It's been a marvellous year of dancing, and it's about FUN, after all.

5. TEACHER GIFTS!!! We are fortunate to have many wonderful educators who help our children each week-- not only at school, but for extra-curricular activities, as well. And so, besides the usual charitable donation that I make in their names each year (to the Tim Horton's Children's Foundation, if you're interested), I lost my mind for a few minutes this week, and hatched another plan, as well. I went to Winners (really, I should just be banned from that place once-and-for-all), and purchased attractive, but inexpensive luncheon-sized plates, with matching tea cups for each teacher. The plan is, the girlies and I will bake zillions of home-made cookies, and arrange them artistically on the plates. Then, we'll buy some packets of nice tea, and put them in the cups. Once this little combination is packaged up in cellophane wrap, and topped with a big bow, it should make a lovely present. And what's more, once about a dozen of these things are mass-produced by about three o'clock in the morning, it should make me the perfect candidate for either a frontal-lobe lobotomy, or a comfy padded cell. File THIS one under "What Was I Thinking???!!"

6. I have not been bicycling nearly enough. Even bathing suit season's arrival has not been enough to motivate me. Please. Send. Inspirational. Exercise. Music. Ideas. 'Cause. Mine. Ain't. Working. Thank-you.

7. I have, however, managed to do ONE thing for myself, over the past few weeks... I have become a "Knit-Wit". Every Wednesday evening at 6pm, I leave my girlies in the care of their father (perfect timing, actually, so that HE can do the bath-and-bedtime routine), and stroll over to our little Main Street, where there is the most wonderful yarn shop, EVER. It is located in the ground-floor of an historic home, and is filled, floor-to-ceiling, with all of the loveliest, most interesting knitting and crocheting supplies you can imagine. The beautiful colours and textures of the yarns line the walls of every room, and it's like stepping into a treasure-trove, every time I walk through the front door. Five other ladies and I get together every week, and with the help of the shop's owner, we work away for several hours on whatever projects we've brought with us. I started knitting "seriously" again just after Christmas (I learned as a child, but hadn't done any major projects for years), and have been on a "sock-knitting" kick-- you should see the hot-pink pair I'm nearly finished! But, for this class, I've been making sweaters for the girls. The pattern is quite simple, but unusual, since it is made on a pair of round needles, and knit in one piece from the neck-down (I'll post photos when I'm finished). It's been a marvellous experience, so far-- I just love having a place I can go, where no-one "needs" me, and I can sit, and just relax for a few hours. We all sit out on the pretty little porch, and no-one really says too much, except to softly lament about dropped stitches, or ask a question about a pattern... We just listen to the click of each others' needles, and the evening songs of the birds in the trees. It's heaven, I tell you. I'd take those precious few hours of knit-wittery over a massage, any day.
(Or, maybe that's the "twit" in this "knit-wit" speaking.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Time to break out the "F-Off" bug spray...


Hashing through the Monday morning routine is never a walk in the park for the crew in this house, and this morning was slightly more frazzling than usual.

We had a lovely weekend, filled with dancing lessons, a long stroll around our local village festival, and then a rollicking good time with a house-ful of guests on Sunday. The number of children in our midst by far outnumbered the adults the entire time, and the heat and humidity was so SO intense, we spent every spare moment we could in the swimming pool. We wildly attempted to keep cool (with extra emphasis on that "wild" part), and had a lot of fun doing so... but by eight o'clock last night, two of the three girlies and I were conked out on the enormous couch in the family room, surrounded by the piles and piles (and PILES) of laundry that I was supposed to have been folding, in preparation for the week ahead.

This morning started badly. I was so earth-shatteringly exhausted when my alarm went off at 6.15 am, I sluffed off my early-morning bike ride with one fatal hand-slam to the top of my clock. Hitting the "off" button instead of the "snooze".

Um. Yeah.

When I finally shot out of my sheets and into the shower at eight o'clock, I was in full panic-mode. NONE of the children had roused themselves, and there was coffee to brew, breakfast to make, snacks and book bags to pack, and girlies to... GIRLIES!!! WAKE UP!!

WAKE UP, and GETDRESSED,WASHFACE,BRUSHTEETH!! EATSOEMTHING,FEEDTHEGUINEAPIGS,MAKEYOURBEDS!!
GETDRESSED,YOUCAN'TWEARTHAT,GETBACKUPSTAIRS!! DIDYOUBRUSHYOURHAIRWITHANEGGBEATER, ANDWHENYOUSAYYES,DOYOUMEANINTHISLIFETIME???? WHERE'SYOURHOMEWORK,DOINEEDTOSIGNYOURAGENDAS??


You get the picture. Combine all of this madness with a mental-image of ME trying to get MYSELF into my "personal armour", and the scene gets even less appetizing, I assure you.

We raced out the back door, backpacks flapping behind us, and the soupy 30+ degree humidity hit us like a tidal wave as we entered the Great Outdoors, at 8.30 on the dot.

I re-called the troops, and we marched back into the mud room. Because, in my mentally-defective hysteria, I had forgotten some very important new "steps" in our morning routine.

The girlies now require wide-brimmed hats and a thick layer of sunscreen, to protect them during their outdoor gym classes and recess break. And, because our little school backs onto an enormous park and "The Pond", each child needs a good long squirt of insect repellent, to stave off the thick swarms of mosquitoes that have been plaguing our community for the past several weeks.

By some miracle, I managed to get all of the girlies to school, with all of their required equipment and paperwork, ON TIME. But, as I kissed their little sweaty faces and saw them through those great, big doors... I felt a wave of guilt and worry. Because, our local schools are older buildings... have flat, black roofs that bake in the sun... and most certainly DON'T have air conditioning.

While I was running around all morning, in-and-out of beautifully cool buildings and even my air conditioned CAR for crying out loud, I hatched a plan to spring my kids from their blast-furnace classrooms at lunchtime. Our school operates on the ridiculous new schedule where lunch does not roll around until nearly one o'clock, by which time the children are exhausted and ravenous, and more than ready for a rest. I bring my girls home for their lunch hour every single day. They need the break from the chaotic atmosphere, just as badly as they need a nourishing meal. After an hour at home, they are usually ready to face the remainder of their day... But, I suspected, this nearly-forty-degree-day would be an exception. Sure enough, when my daughters burst out into the playground and into my arms, it was clear that a Ferris Bueller afternoon was definitely in order. They were positively roasting, their little cheeks damp and pink and the backs of their shirts soaked through. They were starving and headache-y, tearful, grubby and pong-y from outdoor play... And to top it off, Child Number Two was sporting an ENORMOUS red bug bite, right in the middle of her forehead.

I took them home, put them all through a nice, cool shower, fed them, and settled them down in front of a movie musical on tv. And when we were all snuggled down together, resting and enjoying the show, I addressed my second child:

Mother: (lovingly examining the large welt on her child's head) Well, that's just incredible. I put "Off Skintastic" ALL over you this morning, and you STILL manged to get bitten! It's amazing those bugs found you so delicious, you were such a wreck when I picked you up from school today... I could smell you even before you came out the door!

Child Number Two: (scratching, then grinning hugely, and snuggling closer) Yup... I'm delicious, all right. SO delicious, the mosquitoes musta PLUGGED THEIR NOSES to bite me!


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Look who came to visit...


... our garden on this hot, hazy afternoon?

I believe this is a Canadian Tiger Swallowtail butterfly.

I must be doing SOMETHING right around here...

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

One of my heroes.

In loving and grateful memory
Dr. Sheela Basrur


Five years ago, my husband and I were visiting friends in the beautiful state of Georgia. After a busy day of sight-seeing and chasing children around, we collapsed in front of the television, to catch the news before hitting the hay.

Suddenly, a story hit the air waves that immediately caught our attention. The American CDC was reporting about a mysterious flu-like illness in China, that was spreading rapidly and inexplicably-- resistant to any and all treatment, and killing its victims.

When things like this happen, half-way around the world, one is concerned, certainly. A flicker of worry leaps up in one's heart, but it usually extinguishes fairly quickly. Surely, in this day and age of extraordinary medical science, this sort of thing could NEVER happen HERE.

Well, to put it simply, it did.

SARS happened. Right here. Right here, in my little community. In my neighbourhood. In my own "backyard".

Within days of returning home from our vacation, we got word that the very first cases of this mysterious illness had begun cropping up in our local hospitals. The first patients died. And then, the reports came that the medical professionals who had tirelessly cared for these patients were sick, themselves.

One of these medical professionals was the father of one of my eldest daughter's best friends. He, and all other people reporting symptoms of the disease were immediately put into (remarkably quickly and efficiently created) isolation wards. Their families were quarantined in their homes. Indeed, anyone having association with people who were ill, were quarantined. Long lists of safety instructions were published in newspapers, on our local health unit's website, and talked about on radio and television. All hospitals and medical buildings were on "high alert". They became places one only ventured to for emergencies so dire, the risk you ran by simply being there was deemed to be less than the benefit you would receive.

Medical staff continued working, under the most difficult conditions imaginable. Putting their own health, and the health of their families at terrible risk. The stress they were under was unfathomable. Some still suffer post-traumatic stress... others had breakdowns, and eventually had to leave their jobs. But the majority soldiered on. Selflessly. They cared for us, and we will be forever in their debt.

It was a truly terrifying time. Indeed, I don't believe I have ever been so afraid in all my life.

We were a community, polarized and petrified. Worried sick for those of our friends who were ill, and at risk. Scared to leave our homes, and move about in "normal" society, for fear of what super-bugs we might contract-- at the time, we had no idea how on earth the illness was spreading.

Thank God for Dr. Sheela Basrur.

Dr. Basrur was the calming force, our guiding light, and our voice-of-reason during those long, dark days. She was our Chief Medical Officer of Health, and it was she who explained our situation-- no only to us, but to the rest of the world-- in a way that we could understand. Her serene composure, and her wise counsel saw us through that dark, dark time. She guided us through the process of "Carrying On", as normally and as safely as possible.

After long days and endless nights of meetings with other medical experts, Dr Basrur would make appearances in front of the media, who were desperate for any and all information. Her tiny, five-foot frame perched behind a microphone, Dr Basrur would patiently explain the day's events and findings... And then, she would look out at us all, and ask, "Does anyone have any questions?"

Oh, we had 'em, all right. And she answered every, single one of them, to the very best of her ability. Day, after day, after day.

She saw us through. And in the end, we "won" the battle against SARS. Because Dr. Basrur, her superb team of experts, and our medical professionals, were on top of things. She never lost her cool. Never wavered. Together, they got the job done.

Steering us through the SARS crisis was far from the only thing Dr. Basrur achieved during her distinguished career in public health. She was not only Toronto's Chief Medical Officer of Health, but became the first Chief Medical Officer of Health to be appointed by our province's Legislative Assembly. She also served as Assistant Deputy Minister for Public Health for the province of Ontario. In 2001, she was instrumental in beginning a program called "DineSafe", a new restaurant inspection system for the City of Toronto. It was she who also spear-headed the Smoke-Free Ontario legislation, which passed in 2006. She did pioneering work on the control of the use of pesticides, which has led to new bylaws being put in place. She targeted the issue of childhood obesity with her ground-breaking report, which raised awareness and set off alarm-bells from coast-to-coast.

She was also a remarkable single mother of an equally remarkable daughter. Which was undoubtedly her greatest success of all.

Dr Basrur discovered that she had Leiomyosarcoma, a rare vascular cancer, several years ago. And it eventually forced her to reluctantly step down from her job, fighting for OUR health, to focus on fighting for her own. We here in Ontario certainly never forgot her, though, even though she was no longer on our television screens and in our printed media on a daily basis. Rather, we would hear about the public appearances she continued to make, and of updates about the progress of her treatment. Once again, she fought tirelessly. In December, 2006, she received a standing ovation at Queen's Park when she arrived to hear the announcement of a new Ontario Agency for Health Protection and Promotion. She was the recipient of the Amethyst Award, the highest award granted to a member of the Ontario Public Service. Only weeks ago, she was awarded the Order of Ontario, and an entire province cheered.

Dr. Basrur lost her fight against cancer yesterday, in Kitchener, Ontario. She was 51.

And at the news of her passing, I can think of no finer tribute to this, one of our most dedicated Public Servants than to say simply:


Thank you, Dr. Basrur. Thank you. You took such good care of us all.

Monday, June 2, 2008

 
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