An Open Letter to London, Ontario City Council Regarding Green Bins

Dear Councillors,

I would like to applaud you for the recent expansion of our recycling program in London. The increase in recyclable products that will no longer be polluting our landfills will have a long term benefit for us all. Thank you for your forward thinking and your concern for the environment.

With all due respect, this is why I am troubled by your decision to once again shelve a green bin program for London, and I implore you to reconsider.

London is a growing city, and in a growing city there is a growing population. From the growing population comes growing waste, and from the growing waste comes growing landfills. From the growing landfills there is a growing environmental problem, and from the growing environmental problem there is a growing cost. Why watch the problem inflate when we know how to deal with it now?

I am sure you have been presented with several fact sheets on the reasons why a green bin program is environmentally responsible, and how up to 65% of landfill use has been reduced in other green bin friendly cities. You know that slowing down the growth of the landfill will help the land and homes around it retain a greater property value, and you understand that the city will benefit from long term savings. So why say “not now”?

If the promised 0% tax increase is holding you back, then I ask you to reconsider the freeze. We can afford the small increase that would be seen on our tax bills, and we will reap the benefits in the long (and short) term. What we cannot afford is to be short sighted when it comes to matters of our city and the environment.

Please, be leaders of vision and show the same long term thinking you showed with the decision to increase the recycling program. Please make the right decision, and do it for the good of the city, not a lofty promise.


Jo-Anne Bishop

(will be forwarded to the Mayor and members of Council)


Review: Josh Groban, Straight to You Tour - July 19, 2011

On Tuesday July 19, Josh Groban made a stop at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ontario with his "Straight to You" tour. Thanks to the JLC, I was able to see the concert and meet Josh Groban himself, asked only in return to write a review with my thoughts on the show. This is part of an initiative the JLC is taking that began with the Black Keys concert just a week before: engaging JLC concert goers and asking them to share their opinions and feedback through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and blogs. I was one of four "JLC Reviewers" selected via Twitter, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity.

When I heard Josh was going to be playing at the JLC, I was filled with mixed emotions. I enjoy his music and think he has a phenomenal voice, and considered purchasing tickets for the show. But I couldn't do it. My heart wrenched with the thought. Josh Groban was one of my dad's favourite performers, and the timing of the show fell almost on the 4th anniversary of my dad - who was in the last stages of lung cancer - being admitted to Palliative Care. Josh Groban's music was something he and I shared, and I sang the song, "You Are Loved" to him whenever we spoke on the phone.

When nominated by friends on Twitter to be selected as one of the JLC Reviewers, my initial reaction was to say, "No!!!" I didn't think I could sit through the show and not be a wreck of emotion. But I stifled the reaction, swallowed the lump in my throat and put on my brave face when the JLC said I had been selected. A friend, who knew the story of my connection to Josh's music said, "It's serendipity. You are meant to see this show. You just don't realize it."

I'm not sure if it was serendipity or just plain luck (mixed with some dumb luck, as I was in a car accident on the way to the show - a blog for another time), but it was a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity that I'm certainly glad I did not pass up.

Opening for Josh was an act who was seen just a few weeks before on the TV show "America's Got Talent". ELEW, a very talented (and humble) pianist who calls his style "Rockjazz" slowly warmed up the crowd with some interesting and passionate pieces. Opening with "Mr Brightside" by the Killers, the crowd was quiet and watching with curiosity. A few songs later the crowd came a little more alive with ELEW's rendition of "Sweet Home Alabama", which led into a quirky snippet of the Gilligan's Island theme, which drew laughter and applause. ELEW plays with great passion, often on his knees, arms outstretched with silver bands up to his elbows, and face up to the sky, never looking at his hands.

A woman seated behind me said of ELEW, "I think he's having an out of body experience!". I think we all did by the end of his set, which contained more gems such as Coldplay's "Clocks", U2's "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and my favourite little montage featuring bits of "The Pink Panther" theme, "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies', "Paint it Black" and the theme from Peanuts. He concluded his performance with a "Smells Like Teen Spirit"/"Favourite Things"/ragtime piece. With each song, the applause was warmer and louder and by the end of the show the most common comment I heard was, "He was brilliant." I agree.

We were ready and pumped by the time the set change was complete and Josh Groban emerged from a side door close to our seats. He took a seat at the piano on a small hydraulic stage set directly in front of us. He looked around to every corner of the room and thanked us all for coming with a genuine warmth. He opened with the song, "Changing Colors" by Canadian band 'Great Lake Swimmers', followed quickly, and after much applause by the beautiful "February Song". Before launching into his third song, he told a story about a Norwegian cyclist who had won Tuesday's leg of the Tour de France, noting that the cyclist was riding a bike made in Canada.

The hurdle I needed to face, "You Are Loved", came next. An interesting arrangement straying slightly and creatively from the album version. He performed it beautifully and yes, folks, I was a wreck.

A song later, Josh was on the main stage talking about his Canadian connections, giving huge thanks to David Foster and Celine Dion for their hand in his early success, and mused about making it into a drinking game. Wearing black jeans, a white t-shirt with a black jacket and black Adidas running shows, Josh looked at ease on the stage telling stories and jokes in between songs. He talked about how he wanted to bring an intimate feel to his concerts for this tour and find a personal connection in arenas. I would say he accomplished that at the JLC on Tuesday.

Escorted by his personal security, Josh walked through the crowds easily interacting with people. He stopped at one man on the floor and said, "You look dragged here. You alright?" The gentleman replied something to the effect of, "Sing The Prayer and it'll be fine." Josh said, "I'll sing if you sing it with me!" He continued walking, making a few wisecracks and charming the crowd. When he returned to the stage he remarked how polite London was. "Toronto was a little grabby!"

"Bells of New York", "Higher Window" and "Alla Luce del Sole" preceded a touching tribute to service men and women, and the song "War at Home". Beyond that, we were treated to a side of Josh not often seen. A 13 piece ensemble took over the stage while Josh momentarily disappeared. They played a beautiful instrumental of "Live and Let Die". Josh suddenly reemerged to play a drum solo, effectively proving he is more than a strong vocalist and pianist.

Josh, as a part of his connection plan, asked questions submitted by fans in the arena via text messages. The questions were selected during the concert and presented to him to read and address, and added more opportunity for Josh to show his comedic and personable side. A few songs later, he was running through the crowd gathering fans for the stage. He joked with them, seated them on blow up couches he said were for the crew, and served them drinks - wine for the two married couples he chose, and milk for a 12 year old girl. The end of the show was nearing and he serenaded them with the songs "Broken Vow" and "Per Te". He took a bow and left the stage only briefly before returning for his encores of "Play Me" and his huge hit, "You Raise Me Up."

The crowd - a full house - was incredibly receptive through the entire show. Josh was able to find the connection he was aiming for, and delivered a positive concert experience. He is a natural talent and true performer. He is growing as a musician and I look forward to seeing what he comes out with next. For me, this experience was slightly serendipitous, and largely cathartic. I now have a new memory of Josh Groban, and I do believe my dad would have wanted that for me. Thank you, Josh and ELEW, for a fantastic evening and safe travels on the rest of your tour. Don't forget that you are loved in London, Ontario.

Thanks again to the JLC for such wonderful experience to see this show and provide a review. If I were to rate the concert on a 5 star scale, I would give it a 4. The entertainment value was there, but I found the sound (vocals in particular) a little off, and I was straining to hear the lyrics over the music.


I thought I'd share a few more of my favourite photos from our recent trip to Rondeau. We took a guided canoe hike one evening on Rondeau Bay and were treated to a cloudy, but pretty, sunset.

This is where I find my tranquility. Just me, the air and the people I love...

Good bugs...

Since my last post was about nasty, icky bugs, this one will be about nice, beautiful bugs. The kind we don't take time to appreciate often enough. We did a little bug and butterfly hunting on our recent trip to Rondeau Provincial Park, and this is what we found.

This butterfly looks like a Monarch, but it's really a Viceroy. A Monarch butterfly is toxic to it's predators, but this butterfly's only defence is it's "stolen identity". It relies on the Monarch's good looks (or bad, depending on your vantage point) to keep it from being eaten!

Alice turns over every leaf looking for something interesting. Under this leaf she found an exoskeleton of a Cicada.

On a nearby tree we found a Cicada nymph ready to shed his outer layer and find his wings!

Blue damselfly, hanging on for dear life against the wind.

I believe this is called a Question Mark butterfly, but I'm not entirely sure. Can anyone confirm?

A red dragonfly spotted on one of our hikes.

On first glance, you might think the photos below are of bird droppings. But don't be fooled! It's really a Swallowtail larva. The larva will have 4 molts and it's body will transform once again. In the next stage, it turns green and is almost camouflaged by the leaf. Once it has gone through it's pupal stage, it emerges looking like this:
(Sadly, they were too elusive all week and I could not get a shot of my own.)

“The way a child discovers the world constantly replicates the way science began. You start to notice what's around you, and you get very curious about how things work. How things interrelate. It's as simple as seeing a bug that intrigues you. You want to know where it goes at night; who its friends are; what it eats.” - David Cronenberg

Always remember to laugh...

My mum always had great advice. She knew what to say in every situation, and usually delivered her advice followed by a quote. (Now you know where I get it from.) Her favourite - recited every time we were in some sort of teenage distress - was, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger." I rolled my eyes at 16. I live by it today. She really knew what she was talking about! Well, she agreed with Nietzsche, anyway.

I swear, I have heard her speak through me sometimes when consoling friends. I'm sure they have heard it too. And last night I could hear her speaking to me as I suffered through the mother of all nightmares no parent should have to endure - head lice! Oh, I know. I was spontaneously itchy from the mere mention too.

I could hear her quote Nietzsche as I hung up the phone with the ECE teacher at Jack's daycare and realized I had a heck of a night ahead of me. "It won't kill you, Jo-Anne. It will only make you stronger."

My mind made a quick list of priorities as I left work:
  • Pick up Alice and tell daycamp she might not be back this week.
  • Pick up Jack and apologize profusely to staff.
  • Silently curse the parent who's kid is responsible for this mess.
  • Hit drugstore and get every product and appliance known to man that will rid children's heads of these disgusting little beasts.
  • Throw in toy for kids, for pain and suffering. Add chocolate bar for me.
  • Come home and begin daunting task of nitpicking.

As I suffered through the horrifying procedure, my mum's voice came to me again. This time she said, "You've got to laugh, Jo-Anne. ALWAYS remember to laugh!" Her other favourite piece of advice, and the one I have relied to get me through life the most. "Always remember to laugh." You can find humour in almost every trying situation. You really can, if you try. Unless it is going to kill you, don't stress. Stress kills. Laugh it off.

My kids are pretty funny, whether they mean to be or not. They are easy going, but on that odd occassion they can give me a good run for my money with a hearty meltdown. I had mentally prepared myself for the worst, especially with Alice who hates getting her hair brushed on a good day. Jack's reaction to the "de-lice" plan was surprisingly excited. "COOL!!! I'm going to be BALD!" I shaved his head with a #1 clipper, then began the shampoo treatment. He was patient, hillarious and allowed me to pick his head after it was washed like a mama monkey cleaning her baby. Good boy, Jack.

Alice resisted a little at first, worrying I was going to shave her head too I think. She was reluctant to agree to a haircut (I wasn't combing all of that "stuff" out of her shoulder length hair), but soon gave in when I explained how much combing was going to be involved over the next couple of hours. She is now sporting a cute little bob and has informed me I should be a "haircutter person". After the cut her only concern was for the loss of the poor little lice bugs and their unborn lice babies. I'm serious. Some kids have a passion for life, mine has compassion for lice. It's beautiful and disturbing, all at once.

"I know we have to get these little bugs out of my hair, and I really do want to stop itching, but, well... I feel sad that we have to kill them. I mean, it's sad that they will die because, well, they just need somewhere to live too and something to eat. I don't want it to be my head, but, well, it's just sad, you know? Poor bugs."

I teach the kids compassion, but for me, last night, that was going a little too far. Buh bye, buggies. And don't let the lice comb squish you on the way out!


It was disgusting and trying of my patience, oh yes, but it made a memory to last a lifetime. Yeah, not one I'd prefer to have, but one I'm sure every parent (sadly) will have at some point in their life. And some day that parent - me included - will dispense their best advice on a frantic mom or dad who is facing his/her first case of head lice, grossed out and mortified. When you do, don't forget to tell them this:

"That which does not kill you will make you stronger. Remember to laugh about it later!"

Always remember to laugh.



It's in my blood

I claim that human mind or human society is not divided into watertight compartments called social, political and religious. All act and react upon one another. - Mahatma Gandhi

My dad was a political, social and religious kind of guy. He was always busy in our city with some committee or another, sitting on boards for this and that. He was a Free Mason, had a love for politics and many political friends. He was outspoken, but never spoke without knowing what he was talking about. He was a man people either loved or hated - there was rarely a grey area. He taught me a lot about politics and religion, and showed me the door to find knowledge and form opinions for myself. (Which later proved to be very much different from his...) He gave me the key.

Mum was no slouch either. While not as "active" as dad in the social/political arena outside of the home, she was vocal and often put pen to paper. Mum was an activist. A lobbyist. A letter writer. She usually knew what she was talking about, and she was very good at getting her point across diplomatically. Mum passed on that gift to me. How to be honest without being ignorant. How to be kind and mindful of other's feelings and situations. How to speak up for what you believe in and say it eloquently enough to be taken seriously, even if you are not always right or agreed with.

Politics, society, religion. It's in my blood.

Dad and mum encouraged my decision in University to change my area of focus from French and Spanish to Political Science. The interest had always been there, and although the languages would have served me well (I still sometimes kick myself for stopping french courses all together - damned hindsight), they knew I had something deep in my heart for politics. As early as 12 years old, I loved to educate myself and others on issues that affected us all. I remember delivering speeches on Child Abuse, Euthanasia and Dr. Martin Luther King, all before grade 8. I loved public speaking and had a knack for not looking as nervous as I felt. I entered every competition I could, even though I rarely won. I did it for the love, not the glory.

I developed my interest in religion very young as well. We grew up in a house next to a church, so of course that piqued my curiosity. Why did those people come in and out every week, and what were they singing about? I started attending the church, St Paul's Anglican, at a very young age and didn't miss a Sunday or holiday service. I still have my "3 Year Perfect Attendance" pin somewhere around here. Although I have "turned away" from Christianity, I still keep it as a reminder of all I learned in the church, and it's relevance to my life today.

I think I heard someone gasp when they read that last paragraph. "You turned away from Christianity?! What do you mean??" I mean this: I believe in Jesus Christ. He was a great prophet of peace, just like the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him. <-- Is it okay to write that in there for any Muslim readers who may pass upon this blog?), Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi and many other great religious leaders. But I no longer consider myself a Christian, despite the fact I was baptised in the Presbyterian church and attended church and bible study classes for a good 20 years of my life.

I realized in University that I could no longer subscribe to a religion that wages wars on other religions, preaches intolerance to other races and homosexuals, and that controls their followers with fear. Those who would cast judgement on others for not believing and behaving exactly as they do. Those who believe that the simple act of going to church and professing their faith makes them better and holier than the rest of society. It's not for me.

"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car." - Anonymous

And no, not all Christians feel or behave that way, I know that. I was one. One who held the ultimate value of Christianity deep in my heart. To love, unconditionally. To help my fellow man, selflessly. To spread the word of peace, peacefully. But the hatred I saw between so many groups, the bickering, fighting and posturing of who is right and who is wrong, well, it turned me off religion completely.

After my mum passed away, I began studying Buddhism. I wanted to know and understand reincarnation after a psychic friend of the family informed me that one day, I would reincarnate my mother. I became deeply moved by the teachings of the Buddha, and the philosophy behind Buddhism. Buddhism, technically, is not a religion. It is a commitment to a way of life. A philosophy born of common sense. Today I think of myself as a "Humanist with Buddhist leanings". I will not subscribe to an organized religion again. To quote His Holiness the Dalai Lama, "My religion is simple. My religion is kindness."

The belief that religion and politics are and should be separate is a little misguided. Religion, after all, is political. Think about it.

About 8 years ago, I began my family and seemed to lose my time and interest for political matters. I kept up to date on all that was going on and continued to educate my friends, family and anyone who would listen on the facts (with a healthy dose of opinion, of course!), but I really lost a lot of the spark that had been there post graduation. I feel lately as though my spark has been reignited, and the flame keeps growing every day.

It's exciting.

I said recently that I would like to run for office in 2014...maybe. I will need these next 4 years to decide where my heart really lies in the arena of politics. Am I an activist? Am I a leader? Or am I an advisor? Right now I lean more to the latter. I am a debater, a reasoner, able to rationalize and negotiate. I love (love, love!) taking a problem, analyzing it from all angles and not stopping until I find a solution. There is nothing more satisfying for me than finding that middle ground. I think that "talent" would be better served in a supporting roll. But I could change my mind. I'm wont to do that now and then...

The door was closed for a while, but wasn't locked. I'm opening it again. A little slowly perhaps, but that's okay. With time comes maturity and wisdom and, although I haven't seen those qualities in many of our elected officials as of late, I believe - for me - it is a necessity to acquire before diving into the business of managing people's lives. My journey will start slowly, taking cues from mum, and will develop over time to be more active, like my dad.

It's in my blood.

Dear Diary...

It's been a full year since I've logged in and written a blog post. A year!! Too busy? Too lazy? I'm not sure. But I'm here, once again, with an itch to write. As always I will give it my best shot, keep writing and keep my creative juices flowing. I can't always promise an interesting read, and I won't, because my writing is entirely self indulgent and for, well, me! Of course you are more than welcome to spectate and comment, and I hope you will.

Blogging reminds me of the diary I kept (or attempted to keep) when I was a young girl. It was sporadic at best, only a little less mature. I found my old diary - a small book with a white "pleather" cover and cute brown bears eating dandylions - a couple of years ago and had a good laugh at some of my entries. Silly girl stuff, you know. "I'm not friends with X anymore" or, "I'm soooo in love with Y". If there is one thing I learned about myself and my childhood reading that, it is how utterly and ridiculously boy crazy I was.

(Ahem. No comments from the peanut gallery out there on that last line. You know who you are, and I know what you want to say.)

So what have I been up to since my last post a full year ago you ask? Lots. Too much to go into so here is the condensed all encompassing list: fall, winter, spring and half of a summer, work, children, daycare, school functions, more work, home renovations, gardening, family weekends away, camping, hiking, playing, canoeing, fun, fun and more fun!

Yep. It's been a busy year.

More blog posts to come, when I think of something of more value to say. For now I must pack. Off on a 5 day camping trip after work tomorrow. Very much looking forward to the R&R, and a disconnect from "life". And perhaps a reconnect with my ol' Nikon. Sadly, I haven't picked up my camera in quite a while. A good nature shoot is long overdue.

Until next time, peace! Be good to each other.