Kids should be seen and heard

no need for caution

I live with my husband, two kids and two dogs in an old house with a back and a front yard. There have been times, many times, that I’ve longed for the simplicity of our condo days when we weren’t constantly working on stuff around the house like we are now. I guess I should be careful what I wish for.

My friend Lindsay Bell, wanting to downsize for similar reasons, moved from a house to a condo this past October and was excited to find a nice one close to her children’s school that was also near a park and the aquatic center. With many other children living in the building, and tons more in the vicinity, it seemed ideal for her young, active family that consisted of a five year old and an eight year old.

Little did she know that she’d soon be battling the condo’s strata council for her children’s right to play on the greenery outside the complex.

“I had asked for a safety sign above the garage, something like ‘slow down’ because people of all ages have almost been hit by cars coming and going. What we got instead was a sign that says ‘No Grocery Carts, No Bikes, No Scooters, No In-Line Skates.’”

Now faced with summer holidays and a concern as to where her sons and all the other kids from the complex could get some fresh air, she was informed they would have to be supervised at all times or go off the property.

“This isn’t a retirement condo,” she said. “There are about 20 to 30 kids living here and they’re not even allowed to play on the grass outside the complex with a harmless beach ball unless a parent’s standing right with them.”

Whoever is running the show in her complex is a far cry from the management of the low-cost apartment dwellings I grew up in when my brother and I were the same ages as her boys. Some of my fondest childhood memories are from that place where we could play outside on the building’s property from morning to night, only coming in for meals and bathroom breaks.

Children from the age of four or five would play with their pals while our folks worked or cleaned or did whatever boring old grownups did, and we’d play kick-the-can, cops and robbers and Charlie’s Angels in the fresh open air.

Lindsay would have loved that place for her sons. But now she’s stuck with a beautiful condo in a complex where they can’t play outside unless she’s with there too.

Children need to run around and blow off steam, and in this day and age when so many of them are cooped up inside playing video games and watching TV, our society should be making it easier for our kids to be kids, not harder.

“They’re more worried about esthetics than safety,” Lindsay said about her strata council and the new sign they installed. “I told them that a shrub can be replaced, a child can’t.”

Not ready to give up, she’s hoping there will be a change made to the bylaws if there’s a 75 per cent vote among owners in favour of allowing kids the outdoor breathing room they deserve.

“I’m not asking them to be okay with our kids destroying the grass with scooters and bikes and skates,” she said. “But they should be able to safely play outside their own home with other kids who live here too.”

I’m hoping she gets the 75 per cent vote required so those children can play like I could – like my son and daughter can – and like every child should be able to do. Turn up the sound of kids playing outdoors, it’s music to my ears.

Lori Welbourne is a syndicated columnist. She can be contacted at LoriWelbourne.com

If I had a million dollars

My husband came home last week and asked if I’d bought a lottery ticket. My initial reaction was to tell him no because I never remember to buy lottery tickets.

“Why do you ask?” I inquired.

“A million dollar ticket was sold here,” he said.  Ah, isn’t that nice, I thought, I hope the winner was a nice, poor person.

About five minutes later I remembered the cashier at the gas station asking me if I wanted to buy a lottery ticket. For the life of me I couldn’t remember when that had happened, or if I’d even said yes. I imagined I must have because I rarely say no and I reached for my purse.

Inside my wallet was the lottery ticket I had in fact bought. I bet I’m the winner, I said to myself, immediately imagining what I would do with the money.

In those brief ‘I wonder if’ moments I really understood the appeal of gambling.  The idea that a large unexpected chunk of money could alleviate some financial burdens and make life so much easier in the blink of an eye was a fun fantasy to participate in.

By the time I reached the store to check the ticket, I had pictured myself hiring a housekeeper, a dog walker, a bookkeeper, a nanny and a couple of assistants to help me with my business. I’d also helped some friends and family, paid off my mortgage and debts, and was sitting on the beach in Hawaii drinking a Mai Tai, watching my kids frolic joyfully in the surf.

“Not a winner,” the clerk said gruffly, slapping the ticket on the counter and crushing my dreams.

I wanted to ask him if he was sure and to try it again, but I knew the outcome would be the same and he wouldn’t be pleased with my request.

“Can we buy one of those?” my nine-year-old daughter Daisy asked, pointing at the scratch tickets under the glass.

“Sure,” I said dejectedly, buying two and handing them over to her to play. Using a penny to uncover the X’s and O’s, she won nothing on one and $2 on the other.

With her $2 winnings I bought another two for her and the same thing happened again.

“We have to go,” I explained to her after buying two more tickets. “Bring these with you and you can check them in the car.”

Excitedly she scratched them as we were pulling out of the parking lot. “Nothing?” she exclaimed as she finished scratching the second ticket. “How could I get nothing on both of them? That’s so unfair!”

“That’s gambling for you,” I explained. “Winning is possible, but it’s much more likely you won’t win than you will.”

“Can we stop at the corner store for some more?” she pleaded. “Please Mom? Please?”

I looked back at her and could see the potentially dangerous gambler’s glint in her young eyes and remembered hearing once that one of the healthiest ways to gamble was with a spade and a package of garden seeds.

“Why don’t we pick up some daisy seeds and plant those instead?” I suggested.

“Okay!” she said with excitement. “But I’ll water them, okay? You’ll forget.”

I’d be willing to wager she’s right about that.

CLICK HERE to read about the real winner of this million dollar ticket!

For more columns, blogs, cartoons and videos visit her at LoriWelbourne.com

 


United for a common goal

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a Canadian and I don’t love hockey.

So why am I writing about Hockeyville for a second time? My only explanation is this: community spirit is contagious.

Believe me, if it wasn’t, I’d be writing about something else entirely. I’d be writing about a topic that any North American could identify with since my column publishes beyond my hometown and I don’t want to bore my readers with articles they can’t relate to.

But who hasn’t at some time been caught up in the frenzy surrounding a special event in their own city, whether it be a festival, a parade or a sporting event? And who hasn’t known someone who’s miserable about all of it in the face of other people’s joy?

As thousands of my fellow residents have banded together in the last five months, writing letters and logging countless hours in an effort to win the bid for Kraft Hockeyville, there are a few who spend almost as much energy complaining about the whole idea.

If you’ve never heard of Hockeyville, it’s a contest sponsored by Kraft that gives smaller communities across Canada a chance to win $100,000 in arena upgrades, gain national exposure and receive the exciting opportunity to host an NHL game at their very own rink.

At this final stage of the contest, my hometown of West Kelowna is one of the five finalists and the frenzy here has hit impressive heights. And while it might appear that it’s because of the prizes being offered, I believe it’s because of the strong camaraderie being felt in a community that once felt very divided.

In my mind it’s proof that positive energy and working for the greater good can affect people in powerful ways. But not everyone.

“I think it’s stupid,” a grumpy gal told me one day. “It’s a huge waste of time. People need to get a life.” Oh well, you can’t please everyone.

For fun I went out and conducted interviews with people and public officials channeling her grouchy attitude. While I wouldn’t want to live my real life that way, she was a fun character to play for a few hours.

Being negative is tough. I know this because I get that way from time to time and it’s physically and emotionally draining. Switching gears to a more positive attitude isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

And the effort so many people have put into winning this contest has been worth it too. One of the things that divided our our new municipality a few short years ago was deciding on our name. That resolved, there’s now an overwhelming majority of us excitedly united and hoping to be called Hockeyville. Win or lose, that wonderful solidarity is an amazing prize that’s already ours.

To watch the video of me being a grumpy grump reporter, please visit LoriWelbourne.com

Community Spirit Scores Goals

Canadians are known for their love of hockey, and if my family is any example, that perception is bang-on. It’s a little less so with the black sheep of our family, namely the one whose words you’re reading right now.

I could never quite understand the immense appeal hockey held for my parents and my brother and just about everyone else in my world. But I could bandwagon with the best of them and became almost obsessed with the Vancouver Canucks when they were playing for the Stanley Cup back in 1994. And I was lucky enough to attend every home game they played during that series.

Now living in the much smaller town of West Kelowna, going to an NHL game isn’t as easy for me as it used to be.  But I can still hop on the bandwagon – and Hockeyville has me jumping on with both feet.

Okay, I’ll admit it, I didn’t even know what Hockeyville was until last week. But once I found out I was hooked, and the reason had little to do with hockey and much to do with community spirit.

It’s the coming together of people and the mutual excitement they feel about something positive that draws me in and makes me want to contribute.

For those of you wondering what Hockeyville is, please, allow me to enlighten you. Actually called Kraft Hockeyville (since Kraft is its sponsor),  it’s a nationally-televised contest on CBC that encourages small towns across Canada to compete for a terrific grand prize: $100,000 in upgrades to the local arena, a broadcast spot on Hockey Night in Canada and the honour of hosting a pre-season game between two NHL teams in their arena.

Just last week it was announced that West Kelowna was bidding to become Hockeyville 2012, and already the community is getting involved.

But it’s going to take a lot to capture the attention of the judges who will undoubtedly be inundated with stories from hockey lovers across the country, all hoping to win the coveted prize for their own hometown. Even those individuals who aren’t overly interested in the sport itself, should support West Kelowna’s bid, especially for the national attention and resulting economic boon it has brought past winners.

“The deadline for submitting stories, videos and pictures describing West Kelowna’s love of hockey and why we should be chosen is January 31, 2012,” said Andrew Deans, the director of operations for the Westside Warriors. “Our goal is to break the existing record and have 2000 submissions before that date. That would make them take notice of the amazing community spirit we have here.”

To show your support, register and submit content to KraftHockeyville.cbc.ca

If someone like me, who isn’t a hockey enthusiast, can get swept up in an event like this, I can just imagine how much influence true fans could have in bringing Hockeyville to the Okanagan. It’s all about community spirit – and we have that in spades … or should I say, blades?

To hear what other think about this, please watch my video at LoriWelbourne.com 

Thanks to the candidates

I grew up believing that all politicians were egotistical, thieving liars. Not because my parents taught me so, but because that was a common societal perception. I’m not sure when I recognized that this was not actually true, I only know that once I did, I felt compelled to defend them, much like kids who get picked on in the schoolyard.

Yes, some politicians are egotistical, thieving liars. But so are some doctors, firefighters, teachers and just about any other profession out there. To think that all politicians fit this negative stereotype would be completely inaccurate.

Yet, according to the website Dictionary.com, the second meaning of the word politician is this:  “A seeker or holder of public office, who is more concerned about winning favour or retaining power than about maintaining principles.”

Wow. It’s no wonder such a small percentage of people choose to pursue a career as a public servant.

Over the years I’ve met many politicians, from the local level to the national, and almost all of them have been well-intentioned, hard workers who either had developed a thick skin, or were in the process of doing so.

“You can’t take things personally,” said one of them. “And if you don’t learn that early on, it’ll eat you alive.”

When it comes to representing the people, politicians are inherently at a huge disadvantage popularity-wise because there’s no way they’ll be able to please everyone, and some of the people they’re unable to please will lash out aggressively.

Due to voter apathy, politicians in our country continue to be elected by the minority of people. This means that even though they’re representing all of us, it’s commonly expressed that perhaps they wouldn’t be if the majority had ventured out to vote. This is hardly the fault of those elected, but it adds to the resentment they are exposed to.

And the public is fickle. When the global economy is in a crisis, for example, it’s easy to blame the elected officials – even the ones at a local level.

The other thing impressed upon me growing up was to never talk about religion or politics in polite company. I understood the logic to that the first time I ignored such advice, and experienced a friendly debate progress to a heated argument  with someone I barely knew.

But sharing ideas and beliefs about two of the most influential factors on our human existence is important and should not be avoided. I think it should just be conveyed with more respect.

It’s okay for us to have different opinions and to not agree on everything under the sun. What’s not okay is shoving our beliefs down another person’s throat and casting judgment where it doesn’t belong.

Tolerance and communication are paramount to getting things done in this world, and I am grateful there are people willing to put themselves out there on our behalf, particularly if they continue to listen to those they represent.

There’s obviously many good reasons that 99.9% of us would never run for public office, but imagine our world without them.

With our municipal elections now over, I thank all the candidates who put themselves out there for a job so few of us would ever want. I think the majority of the people would agree: “Better you than me.”

To watch my third and last parody video playing a mayoral candidate who “stands for stuff”, please visit LoriWelbourne.com