Settling the Nature vs Nurture debate?

In about a month, Colin will officially be a teenager. Eep! My own age doesn’t make me feel old, but watching my kids turn into actual people sure does.
As the boys get older, they become more and more unique – there are obvious genetic similarities, and they have some wonderful things in common, but they are clearly very different people, with different senses of humour, different ambitions, different philosophies, and so on.
I realize that this observation is not a revelation.
In the past few months, both boys have started talking about their future plans, and while the sudden interest in their future selves is shared, their visions reveal just how different they are. Colin’s plans are relatively short-term: he plans to visit several important theme parks over the next decade, perhaps even taking time off between college and university to tour the American parks. Beyond that, his plans are pretty vague.
Robert, on the other hand, has decided that he will (a) go to university so he can get a better-paying job, (b) live at home as long as possible because it’s cheaper, (c) get a small apartment when he does move out, to save money, (d) get a job that pays at least “thirty bucks an hour,” and (e) move to California.
Colin’s plans strike me as what one might expect from an almost-teenager. Robert’s plans, meanwhile, strike me as what one might expect from a survivor of the Great Depression.

40 is the new 40

Well, another year has come and gone, and it was a year worthy of reflection. Some say that life begins at 40; others claim that 40 is the new 30, while a few see 40 with fear and loathing… I’m not sure that any of these sentiments really represents my own feelings about 40.
Last year, as 40 approached and then arrived, I embraced it with a vengeance. For me, 40 was all about liberation – some of it earned, some of it recognized, and some of it grabbed by the throat.
Professionally, liberation came in the form of tenure, which, I am very keenly aware, came faster than it did for the previous generation of teachers, because my foray into teaching was timed, albeit entirely unconsciously, to coincide with the flood of retirements in the Cegep system.
I suspect that it is symptomatic of us Gen Xers that settling into our careers comes later in our lives than it did for our predecessors – we’ve taken longer to finish school, partly because we’ve gone further post-graduation (both because we can, thanks to loans, rich parents, and expanding academic horizons, and because we have to in order to get the jobs that required fewer credentials from our parents’ generation) and partly because we’ve come to recognize that the school-job-family pattern does not necessarily have to be completed in any specific order. We’ve also had to wait around for the Boomers to get out of the way before we could move up the professional ladders, and while we were waiting, we’ve worked in myriad fields, some of which didn’t exist before the IT revolution, and discovered that it’s hard to settle into a career that hasn’t really been defined yet.
On the home front, things are settling into familiar, comfortable place, but at the same time, the family is solid enough that we can shake things up and take the unfamiliar situations in stride. Life with a dog has already become familiar and comfortable, and we have certainly won the canine lottery with Edgar. He’s got the happy puppy energy, but he’s smart and well-mannered, and learns quickly (with the exception of how to deal the the cats, who have been very clear with their lessons, to no avail).
The boys are both finished school for the summer; Colin has just completed his first year of high school, and Robert is, as he says, “technically a Grade 5-er now.” We’re looking forward to our first home-based summer in a few years; we’re not going to the UK this year, so we get to stay home and swim, and bike, and rollerblade, and play with the dog, and take the lizard out in the sun, and so on, all summer long. We still have some family issues to resolve, but we’re actively working on them, and we’re optimistic. As the boys get older, my liberation comes from their liberation – they are more and more independent and capable, and sometimes I’m so proud of their achievements and abilities, I can’t believe that these amazing people were made by me.
Of course, the family life has a solid foundation in a marriage that is almost 16 years old now. What can I say about Dr. T? Directly or indirectly, all the great things in my life are thanks to him. He indulges my whims, supports my efforts, and almost always remembers to take out the garbage. Sure, he still can’t fold a towel (it’s all right angles, what is so frickin’ difficult??), but I love that after all this time, we still hold hands and finish each other’s sentences. I also love that every time I propose some new personal modification – from haircuts to tattoos – he begs me not to change a thing because I’m just fine as is, but every time I come home with said modification, he falls in love with the new me.
One of the most liberating things about turning 40, for me, was the realization that it doesn’t really matter what other people think is age-appropriate behaviour. I think, to some extent, I already knew this – as demonstrated by more than one occasion of raucous dancing to the Ramones at various weddings over the last decade – but the prospect of 40 made the idea very real. I have friends who seem to see 40 as an “it’s all downhill from here” milestone, but for me, it’s as if 40 was the landmark I needed to reach to dispense with everyone else’s idea of who or what I am. All the things I thought I just couldn’t do, I did, from taking up scuba diving to piercing my lip.
When the principal of Robert’s school, who also happens to be a friend and a colleague on the Governing Board, saw my Monroe piercing, she was taken aback because it “just doesn’t seem like” me. At first, I was a little surprised – she has always struck me as an open person who is a little ‘different’ herself – but then she went on to ask more and more questions, and confessed that she’s always wanted a tattoo, but always talked herself out of it – which sounded very familiar to me!
I think that the freedom of 40 is partly derived from knowing that I don’t need to worry about people taking me seriously – I have proven myself professionally and personally, and anyone who doesn’t recognize my worth isn’t going to change his/her opinion because I do or don’t have a nose stud or a tattoo (or two).
The final liberating aspect of 40 comes, in part, from the same knowledge. I have learned (or am learning) to say “no”… or at least, to say “not right now.” Last year, I determined that I would leave the Governing Board, only to have the principal lure me back with barbecued corn and flattery – but at the last meeting I made it official: I am not coming back next year. The plan is to continue saying “no,” or “maybe later,” rather than leaping at every opportunity only to find myself overwhelmed and resentful. Fingers crossed…
Upon reflection, 40 was everything I hoped it would be, and more, thanks to a very solid network of friends and family and colleagues. Since they’re all still around, I’m expecting nothing less from 41!

In praise and defense of impulse

I am an impulsive person.
Sometimes, this means that I come home with a new pair of unintended shoes.
Other times, it means I come home with something a little bigger, like this:
I know that some people, such as my mum and my very dear friend the Domestic Goddess, find my impulsive decisions unnerving, and although they may not think I understand their concerns, I really do. It’s just that impulse has served me very, very well, lo these many years.
Many of my friends thought it was crazy to marry Dr. T as quickly as I did – we were married about nine months after we started dating. Here we are, 16 years later, and so far, the leisurely repenting is working out – and working out better than the subsequent marriages of a few of the friends who thought we were too impulsive.
We bought the first house we looked at. We tried to be “practical,” telling ourselves that impulse buying might be OK if you’re looking at a great pair of Nine West platform pumps, but impulse buying a house was ridiculous. So we diligently visited a slew of other listings in our price range, and hated them all. We gave up, and went with our hearts. We’re still living in that house, and loving it, and it’s tripled in value, just to keep the non-impulsive crowd happy.
Change of career? Impulse – and now I am tenured, working on a Masters in Education, not to mention a couple of fascinating projects, and loving my job, which, I think, I am pretty good at (prepositional sentence-ending notwithstanding).
Children? Impulse – and here, we count our blessings, because we know from vicarious experience that it’s not always as easy as it was for us to conceive, and our kids are smart and funny and fun (most of the time 🙂
Animals? Impulse – Heidi was brought in from the cold, quite literally, over 13 years ago, and has turned out to be the bestest kitty ever. She was tolerant with babies and toddlers, to say the least, and is a tiny, furry ball of affection, despite the Clint Eastwood glare. Mehitabel, whose story is recounted below, came home after a five-minute conversation with the Domestic Goddess (she may have actually thought Mehitabel would only be with me for a couple of days, but I knew better).
And now, Edgar.
About a week and a half ago, Colin came home from school and announced that he would like a pet – Robert already has Drago, the Bearded Dragon (an impulse buy last November).
Now, this wasn’t as simple as “let’s all hop in the car and stop at the SPCA.” Robert is allergic to dogs (and horses, which is less of a problem), and he’s allergic to cats and dust, so we’re already overloading him in our cat-filled home by the highway. Colin didn’t want his own lizard, because that would be unoriginal. So I said we could research hypoallergenic dogs, and see if there was a pooch out there for us.
There was. Edgar is a six-month old Standard Poodle whose previous people didn’t have time for a dog. After a lot of Internet research, and a few phone calls to dog-owning friends, I had settled on the Standard Poodle as our breed of choice – hypoallergenic, good with kids, cats and other dogs, big (no purse puppies for me!), relatively calm indoors, and very smart and trainable.
I sent out applications to a few local rescue operations, and started trolling kijiji, which is where we found our boy. I contacted the owner, and on Tuesday evening, we went to meet Edgar, and judge whether or not Robert was reacting to him. To her eternal credit, despite her own misgivings, the Domestic Goddess drove me and the boys to meet Edgar, and ultimately bring him (and his multiple accessories) home.
Edgar is now settling in nicely – he’s licensed, my vet had judged him to be happy and healthy, he’s had his first clip (and last one at that groomer, but that’s another story), he’s scheduled for the Big Snip, and the whole family is enrolled in a training class.
Here’s the thing about being impulsive. When I decide something is a good idea, I want to make it happen now. That said, I also am conscious of the consequences – so while Edgar’s homecoming seems to be wildly impulsive, it was, in fact, based on a lot of research and reflection. Yes, he’s nominally Colin’s dog, but I know that Dr. T and I will be taking care of the dog more often than not. Yes, a dog is a lot more work than a cat, but our lives are settling down in terms of careers and school, and we are prepared and willing to take on the responsibility. Yes, this is a commitment – but every big commitment that I’ve made, I’ve made on impulse. So far, so good.
There is a downside. Ironically, the downside is the little impulsive things – those Nine West shoes, or the quick stop in the bookstore, or the just a little browse through Etsy. Those are the little impulsive decisions that add up to rather unpleasant credit card bills, and I know that Dr. T would be happier if I were less impulsive sometimes. But then, he was an impulse decision too, so he has no reason to complain 😉

Plus ca change…

Naturally, as we near the end of the semester, my inbox is filling up with dead grannies and desperate pleas for more time, more insight, more input, more instruction, more, more, more.
In most of these cases, I do my best to be understanding, flexible and helpful; however, every semester there appears at least one student whose last-minute missives just rub me the wrong way. This term, that role is being filled by Omar.*
Omar began this semester by being absent for the first eight classes – one week before the term began, he sent me an e-mail explaining that he was “stuck” in the Middle East with his family, and could I please let him know what he missed. Since he was due to return to Canada shortly after the first week of classes, I assured him that he’d be able to catch up – but then, new messages arrived explaining that he’d be further delayed, and suddenly his arrival coincided with our first essay assignment.
The course in question is an Introduction to College English, a required first English course for all our students. Since it is prerequisite for all other English courses, students typically take it in their first semester, and that means the fall. “Winter 101” is notoriously weird – the class tends to be filled with students who have failed the course, but only a small segment of that population failed because of actual problems with the skills – most of them tell me that they failed the course the first time around because it was “too much” on top of their program courses, or they were “adjusting” to college, or they got a new part-time job; in other words, they bailed out of the course and just didn’t finish it. The result is that the winter course has some students who have turned over a new leaf and are over-the-top keen, other students who are still bored out of their skulls by all things literary, and a few students who oscillate between the two extremes and tend to flame out two weeks before the final paper is due.
All of this is to explain that I cut Omar some slack at the beginning of the semester, and rather than telling him it was too late for him to catch up, I went out of my way to create a special electronic package of readings, so he’d have a chance to read the stories upon which the first essay was based.
I should have listened to the alarm bells that went off in my head when he wrote to ask me if I really meant he had to read all six of the short stories I sent.
Now we’re at the end of the semester, and Omar is barely passing. A week before our last class, I calculated who was missing what in terms of the small, online assignments I give over the course of the semester, and told each student which ones s/he could do to boost his/her mark a little. A few students, including Omar, stayed after that class to clarify the instructions for the missing assignments.
Omar, after a week, sent me this:

Hi miss can you pls tell me what exxctlybi have to still post up on Lea I’m really confused thank u

I replied:

Hi Omar,
You can still post the following assignments:
-the essay analogy
-the “Everyday Use” heritage story
-the personal poetry song analysis

…and got this in return:

okay sorry im a bit confused..
what aws the essay analogy? and for everydays use, do i answer the questions in the back? and for the poetry song i just choose a song and send the lyrics right?

At this point, I was getting to the end of my patience. I replied:

First, read the forum instructions in your blue text. If you are still confused, try reading some of your classmates’ posts. If, after that, you still don’t know what to do, send me another message.
You have to understand that (a) you are very late with this course work and (b) I have spent the semester giving everyone as much instruction as needed for every one of these assignments. It is quite frustrating for me to have to explain everything all over again for the benefit of one student who didn’t bother to do these exercises when they were assigned.

A day later, I get this:

k sorry…
for my essay, i seen your comments and everything but im having a hard time re-constructing my outline

I took a deep breath and replied:

Hi Omar,
I am sorry you are having a hard time, but I can’t help you based on a single sentence – a hard time with what, exactly? Please remember that I teach more than one course, and all of my students have submitted outlines, so there’s not much chance I’m going to remember what your outline was, nor what my comments were. You need to be more specific.

His reply was “i sent you the outline”
Sob. I fear at this point I let my frustration get the better of me – my reply:

So did a lot of other people. What, exactly, are you asking about?

The essay, of course, is due tomorrow. Any bets on (a) how soon the extension request arrives and (b) how many heinous grammatical errors it will contain?
*Stealing a page from my good friend Siobhan, I have given Omar a pseudonym.

Duplessis is alive and well.

So the Quebec Liberals have introduced Bill 94, which, if passed, would prohibit anyone with a covered face from providing or receiving public services. In our socialist state, “public service” means education and health, among other things – so no face, no healthcare, no teaching or learning, no driver’s license, and so on.
While the language of the bill does not specifically target Muslim women who choose to cover their faces for religious reasons, the bill is clearly a response to the “reasonable accommodation” issue, which reared its ugly head a couple of years ago with the now-infamous Herouxville doctrine and the sugar shack that (quite reasonably) accommodated a group of observant Muslims by making a special pork-free menu and providing a prayer space during the group’s visit.
Several of my fellow Quebecers, through letters to the editor and radio call-ins, have voiced their support for Bill 94. The standard argument in favour of the bill seems to be “if they come to our country, they should act like us.” When in Rome, as it were.
Ok, where do I start?
This is NOT a matter of choosing to be Canadian as opposed to Muslim. Canada is a place. Islam is a religion. One can be Canadian and Muslim, just as one can be Canadian and Jewish, or Catholic, or Wiccan. People who “come here” aren’t converts, they’re immigrants.
Secondly, the idea that this bill somehow sets Quebec up as a secular state, as our premier would have us believe, is disingenuous – we’re already a secular state, and that’s precisely why we (as a state) have no business telling people what they can or cannot wear, in terms of religious expression (not to mention that freedom of religion is enshrined in our national Charter of rights and freedoms – is Charest planning to whip out the notwithstanding clause when this matter, as it inevitably will, shows up in court as unconstitutional?).
Finally, the whole matter of telling Muslim women what they can/cannot, should/should not wear is so distasteful it hardly bears discussing. The fundamentally paternalistic condescension is nauseating. It’s leftover colonialism – you’ve come to our country (which assumes that there are no Canadian-born Muslims) to escape the oppression of your country (which assumes that, well, other countries, i.e., non-Western/North American/white countries, are oppressive); the niqab/hijab/burqa is a symbol of male oppression (which assumes that women are forced by their fathers or husbands to wear these things) and we’re going to set you free (which assumes that women don’t really choose to be Muslim).
And how are we going to set you free? By telling you what to wear.

Plan A: Make a Plan

The new semester is about to start, and I am ready. More or less.
I tend to be among the first to order text books, prepare course packages, and submit course outlines. I respect deadlines. I like to know that the “big” prep is taken care of, and that I won’t be frantically making copies ten minutes before class begins, or trying to find texts to work with for two weeks while the bookstore tries to track down my last-minute order.
(All of this is notwithstanding unforeseen and uncontrollable issues, such as being assigned courses after the deadline to submit orders, or publishers who discontinue a text but don’t inform their customers, or unscheduled machine maintenance at the printshop that takes two weeks… all of which I have experienced firsthand.)
I also spend about a day planning the schedule of major assignments for each course, from which I reverse engineer the reading schedule, and then the quiz schedule, and so forth. This is actually one of my favourite parts to getting ready for the term – I can see the whole semester, planned and precise, and I feel ready. I know where we’re going to be by the end, and the path to get there is clear.
Here’s where the “more or less” comes in…
It’s usually right after I plot the semester, and have that little glow of readiness, that panic sets in – what did I forget? Is there a ped day/holiday/scheduling glitch that I have overlooked? Is there some personal commitment that I have now scheduled a heavy correcting load on top of? Have I scheduled too much? Not enough?
The next wave of panic comes along about then, when I try to figure out how to cope with the first two or three classes (I am convinced I have written about that minefield already, but I cannot find the entry…) and stay on schedule, as opposed to doing next to nothing for a week and a half and then playing catch-up for the next fourteen weeks.
And, as usual, the final wave of panic – how to keep the semester on track despite all the other things I’m trying to juggle? Things are winding down with one project, but I’m submitting my research proposal today for my M.Ed., which means (fingers crossed) collecting and analysing data this semester, and then there’s the Liberal Arts curriculum project – I love this project, but so far it keeps getting pushed back onto that back burner by things like cegep a distance and major school change. This semester, though, it has to be front and center.
I’m ready… more or less.

How making a spectacle of yourself pays off

I’ve said it before, I will say it again – the Internet is a wonderful thing.
One of my recent net gains (get it?) is the wealth of long-lost friends I’ve reconnected with through Facebook. I resisted social networking sites for a long time, primarily because all the invitations I got came from students. While I love my job, and most of my students, I don’t really think I – or they – will benefit from seeing their celphotos of the bathroom floor of some downtown club with lax doormen.
But then one shiny morning I got an invitation from a long-lost friend. A grown-up. So I bit the bullet and signed up for Facebook.
Lo and behold – this is where they’re keeping everybody! It’s like Toronto, but on-line. Everyone’s there. I have reconnected with high school friends; coming from some one who steadfastly ignored all the 20-year reunion hoopla because “anyone I want to see I see pretty regularly, thank you,” this is a big deal. I had forgotten how many great people I went to school with, and I am glad to find them again.
I have also rediscovered friends from my bachelorette days – former roommates, university and college buddies, and theatre cronies. Once upon a time these people were part of my daily life, and it’s kind of a shock to realize how easily we lose those people. It’s nice to know that it’s just as easy to find them again.
One of these is my dear friend Lisa. She and I were once thrown together in a host of theatrical affairs, but once I stopped working in theatre, we lost touch. Now we’re back in touch, and all of this semi-coherent babbling has been a lead up to a plug for her new blog, Blob 2 Babe. In her own words:

I eat because it’s tasty!! I’m a Taurus, a sensualist by nature. I wanna see, hear, touch and smell stuff and if I like it, I’ll taste it! (For all of you that don’t think food makes noise – ladies and gentleman, I give you SIZZLING BACON. I rest my case…).
My problem is sheer inertia. This body has not moved too much in two years, so really what did I expect?
But it’s that moment, and we’ve all had it, when we realize that the mirror we’re looking into isn’t at the carnival. It’s an average mirror and this is what we look like.
Yikes! Eep! Yow! And finally, WTF?!?!?
So I’ve decided to take control and embark on a sane, no-nonsence, slow and systematic course of action. Good old fashioned excercise; cardio, weights, and some yoga thrown in but mainly for the cute clothes. I do not relish the prospect but if I have folks cheering (or jeering) me on, I think I might manifest my destiny of babe-dom.

Not only do I think that Lisa is a good, fun, upbeat writer, I can relate to her objectives, and I believe in the power of going public. After all, 2153 days ago, I started publicly counting my days without smoking, and that seems to be going well.
So go read, enjoy, and cheer, please.

Just don’t cast Redford in the title role

Many years ago, before our kitchen was “done,” we had no cupboard space, and I used the top of the fridge as a makeshift storage area. I kept two or three baskets on the fridge, filled with bags and boxes of spices, lentils, noodles, and the like.
One fine summer afternoon, the back door was open to allow the sun and fresh air to come in – and the wildlife, apparently. My friend and I walked into the kitchen to discover a squirrel perched on top of the fridge, reaching for a bag of walnuts.
He looked at me. I looked at him. I said “those are not yours. Put that down and move along.”
And he did… my friend promptly dubbed me “Reasons with Squirrels” (a la ‘Dances with Wolves’).
Now I may have to trade that title in for ‘Cat Whisperer.’
About a month ago, the Domestic Goddess rescued three kittens and their mother from under her neighbour’s porch, and brought them to the Animal Health department at the college where we both work. The Animal Health people cleaned up the kittens and spayed the mother, then DG took the kittens to her mother’s apartment as a temporary home.
The mother, according to the Animal Health experts, was feral and the best thing to do was to release her back into her territory, i.e., the neighbour’s porch, since she’d never be tame enough to adapt to living as a pet. I offered to take her home and house her in our downstairs bathroom for a couple of days while she recuperated from the surgery.
So, hissing and spitting and yowling, she spent the first night in our bathroom. The next day, I found her curled up in the sink, and although she hissed at me, she didn’t make any aggressive moves. I fed her, and left her alone. Two days later there was still some hissing, but there was also this:
Perhaps not so feral, after all?
Within days, I was leaving the bathroom door open and she was rubbing against my legs when I arrived with food. The next step was to open the laundry room door so she’d have access to the whole basement – and she quickly discovered the cat-friendly access to the large storage closet, and took up residence on one of our suitcases.
She’s been here almost a month now, and we’ve gone from hissing and growling to purring and kneading. She’s keenly aware that there’s another cat in the house (although Heidi is either completely oblivious or completely secure in her position as Number One cat), so she’s been very cautious about exploring upstairs, but I think it’s safe to say that it’s only a matter of time before she’s sitting on Colin’s homework and demanding water from Dr. T at 3 a.m.
Her name is Mehitabel. 2009-12-10%2014.30.26.jpg

Twenty years ago, I was in a very different place. Geographically, I wasn’t very far from where I am now, but personally, I was light years from here. My students now weren’t even born.
Twenty years ago, I didn’t know I was a teacher. I didn’t know I was a mother. I didn’t know I was a wife.
Twenty years ago, I was just starting to rebuild a relationship with my mother, after a turbulent adolescence.
Twenty years ago, I was a student, exploring the world and all it had to offer, if I would just take it.
On December 6, 1989, a very disturbed man walked into the Ecole polytechnique and destroyed 14 lives. Those 14 young women, whose only transgression was being intelligent and female, never had the chance to discover the world or themselves.
They didn’t know. They didn’t know what the future held – how many babies never happened? How many innovations were never conceived? How many rifts were never mended?
They didn’t know that being a woman was a crime punishable by death.
They say that time heals all wounds, but I think that what really happens is that time smooths the jagged edges, so it’s not quite so painful. The pain is what teaches us – we might not remember, really, just how painful it was to stick our hand on the burner, or to put our tongue on the cold signpost, or to stub our toe against the coffee table, but we learn. We learn to put on the oven mitt, or keep our tongues away from cold metal, or to walk around the table.
Time will not, and should not, heal the wounds of December 6 1989. I hope we’re still learning from that day.
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.png Geneviève Bergeron
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngHélène Colgan
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngNathalie Croteau
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngBarbara Daigneault
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngAnne-Marie Edward
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngMaud Haviernick
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngMaryse Laganière
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngMaryse Leclair
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngAnne-Marie Lemay
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngSonia Pelletier
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngMichèle Richard
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngAnnie St-Arneault
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngAnnie Turcotte
20px-Purple_ribbon.svg.pngBarbara Klucznik-Widajewicz

One flu over the cuckoo’s nest

It seems that the only thing spreading faster than H1N1 – a.k.a. the Swine(less) Flu – is hysteria.
I blame the government, for once, as opposed to the media. The media, it seems to me, has done its level best to deal with the onslaught of ‘updates’ issued on a regular basis from Health Canada, the WHO, and, here in Quebec, the Ministry (whose web site it, it must be conceded, very useful and informative).
While the government has issued several statements regarding the relative mildness of this strain of flu, they have responded to the initial global panic, which started in late spring (remember? That was when anyone who had been to Mexico for Spring Break was shunned and people started wearing face masks on planes), by rushing to release the H1N1 vaccine in vast quantities.
This is where the story becomes the stuff of disaster movies. The release of the vaccine is a complete fiasco. Initially, the public was told that there was a strict priority list – but then any public official who spoke on the subject assured us that no one would be turned away from a vaccination centre, even if they were not pregnant, chronically ill, or otherwise immuno-compromised. As a result, everyone showed up on Day One, those who should have been top priority were turned away, on-hand supplies of the vaccine were depleted in record time, and people kept tripping over the headless chickens.
So now the public officials are saying that the priority list is being strictly enforced, so anyone who’s not ‘high risk’ should stay away from the vaccination centres.
The problem, however, is with the vaccination centres themselves. Whose bright idea was this anyway?
Here’s what should be done: the vaccine should be given to all school children in school, the way the Hepatitis and Gardasil shots are distributed. Boom – all the school age kids whose parents want their kids vaccinated are done. The same could be done at all Cegeps and universities – at least once every semester, the same campuses host Hema-Quebec (the provincial equivalent of the Red Cross) for the blood drive, so surely an on-campus vaccination centre is feasible. In the same vein (ha ha), vaccination centres could be set up on-site at any business with, say, more than 500 employees.
On-site centres, like the blood drive model, could be set up quickly, run for one day, and the be dismantled and sent on to the next site. We could hire nursing and med students (and give them a chance to practice with needles and crowd control) to staff the travelling centres.
If we set up this kind of distribution plan, we would have a significant segment of the population vaccinated within two weeks, rather than two months. The remaining members of the population could easily be vaccinated at smaller, local centres, like our several CLSC walk-in clinics.
I have two kids – one of them is high-risk, because he has asthma and a number of allergies. The other one is home from school for the second day because he has the flu!
There is no way that I am going to venture into the three-ring vaccination circus at this point. My younger son will either get the flu from his brother, or not. At the first sign of respiratory distress, I’ll bring him to the emergency room. It seems to me that the overcrowded ER, and the long wait we’ll no doubt have to endure, will be a walk in the park compared to the vaccination centres – not to mention that despite his “high-risk” designation, my son is not eligible for the vaccination for another ten days. Too bad he’s not a hockey player in Calgary.
The fact is – as the media, to their credit, have been trying to tell us – H1N1 is a flu, and like most strains, is mostly harmless. Yes, there have been deaths, but there have been far fewer than with more common strains of the flu – yet the vaccination panic makes it seem like H1N1 is the Black Death revisited.
At the same time, I’ve heard otherwise-rational colleagues warning people not to get the vaccine because it’s full of mercury (it’s not) or it’s untested (it has been tested).
Bottom line? Get informed, and don’t give in to panic. If you think you might have the flu, don’t rush to the ER – start here.
Don’t think I am not taking the H1N1 issue seriously – I am. It’s in my home, and my son is very much on my mind. We are being vigilant. We’re just also trying to be rational.
Be healthy, in body and mind.