Slaves to the yellow jackets


So we've had a little problem with yellow jackets this summer. Oye, have we had a problem. The little buggers were entering our enclosed front porch through a hole in the brick mortar, and appear to have built a nest in the wall between the porch and the house. Or maybe in the attic. *ick*
My husband attempted to evict them from our premises by filling the hole they were going in and out of with expanding foam. The hope was that the colony remaining inside would be trapped and die off from a lack of food. However, despite our best efforts, the colony lives on and the inside of our porch is filled with 30+ yellow jackets every day, from morning to dusk. We have strays who are somehow getting in the house, and I swear I kill 10-20 of them in the living room daily.
Now, I have to tell you, this is a huge feat for me. I've never been one to kill insects - spiders, flies and bees alike. Ask Alice, I shoo them out the door or try to practice "catch and release" as often as possible. For the first few days of the "hunt", she would ask me "Do you feel bad, mommy?" In the beginning I did, but after a few weeks I was done showing sympathy to the little invaders. Chorus' of "No remorse! No mercy!" and "Die! Die! Die!!" can now be heard filling the room as I whack them with a Sears catalogue (it's that hard exoskeleton!), along with peels of laughter from Alice and Jack as I dodge and flail at a stray wasp, buzzing around my head.
We've suffered no stings yet, thankfully. It's due to my supreme whacking skills, I'm sure. I'm just hoping they die off soon and we can open the door to our front porch again. I'm tired of being a "slave" to them.
And did you know that yellow jackets poop? Oh man, you should see the mess those pests have left in there for me to clean up. Yeah, you're welcome for the hospitality, jerks.

No fear...

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

I saw a psychic in June who gave me some sage advice. "Jo-Anne", she said, "use your fear as a spur. Stop letting it hinder you, and let it drive you forward." This advice came on the heels of the question, "Are you a teacher?"

"No..." I replied.

"Why NOT??", she questioned.

Fear, I told her. The fear of not getting accepted to Teacher's College, and wasting my time (and money!) on the application. "STOP!" she told me. Stop being afraid of the unknown and jump in with both feet. My fear, she feels, comes more from my fear of success than my fear of failure. If I'm successful, then what? I don't know about that. If I am accepted I know 'what'. I will be a teacher, and a damn good one at that! It's just getting past that first hurdle that has me terrified.

Well, I've decided (or am in the process of deciding) to put that fear aside. No more dangling my toes over the edge and contemplating going in the pool, I'm jumping in with both feet!


I've always wanted to be a teacher, but didn't think it was possible after I switched my major in University from French and Spanish to Political Science. Over the last few years I have learned, however, that I can teach primary grades (JK-6) with my degree, which is exactly what I would like to do. A little more research recently has shown me that my grades - which I was concerned about - are not really an issue.

The teacher's college here in London requires a 70% average in your 10 best courses. A few calculations yesterday helped me determine that I am sitting at a 75.3% in my 10 best courses. Better than I thought!

So I am no longer afraid to apply - whatever happens, happens. Que sera, sera, right? I'm wondering now though if I should apply for next fall or the fall of 2009. My reason being: competition. I thought I could get away with a "mature student status", seeing as I have been out of school for 10 years. However, there is no such "perk" that is considered. We are all looked at equally based on those top 10 course grades. I wonder if waiting an extra year and getting some volunteer experience at a school in would up my chances of acceptance.

Decisions, decisions. It shouldn't be this hard, and sadly I think I'm making it harder than it needs to be. It's that stupid "fear" again. I will conquer it, and I will emerge victorious!!!!

I hope...


Ahhh, the great outdoors!

But the place which you have selected for your camp, though never so rough and grim, begins at once to have its attractions, and becomes a very centre of civilization to you: "Home is home, be it never so homely." ~Henry David Thoreau

What a lovely way to end an otherwise sombre week - camping! On Friday, my husband and I packed up the kids and drove out to a little campground right here at the tip of the city called Fanshawe Lake. Since it was Jack's first experience sleeping in the great outdoors, we decided to stay close to home - just in case. I am pleased to say that he was fantastic, actually slept in the tent and had a great time.
But I will tell you, camping sure has changed a lot from when I was a kid. We had seasonal sites that we practically lived at for the summer months, and while we stayed in a trailer and not in tents, we essentially "roughed it" while we were there. No tv's, phones or central air. We didn't sit around for very long, and were never complaining of being bored. There were always kids around to play with, the pool to swim in, trails to discover and wee creatures to be caught.
It was an entirely different story where we were. Every person that passed, young and old, had a cell phone stuck to their ear, and at least 60% of the seasonal campers had air conditioning running in their trailers. There they sat in their cosy, cool campers watching CNN.
........ CNN???
You read that right. Through trailer windows I was able to watch CNN, Much Music and the Golf Channel this weekend. I was shocked at the shear number of Bell ExpressVu dishes I saw around the park, and how many people were sitting in their trailers watching the TV from morning through to night.
You're camping people! Shouldn't you be building bonfires, roasting marshmallows and weenies and hiking through the woods? Astonishing...
Anyway, we had a fantastic time and learned some great lessons. First and foremost, "Don't leave garbage in your dining tent!" Skunks can and will get in to find it. Oye. We had 3 little visitors on our first night due to my lack of sense in not removing our garbage. Thankfully the wee beastie didn't make off with more than a bag of grapes, hot dog buns, and didn't spray!!!

Another funny lesson I learned: When you hear the women from the campsite next to you talking about you and your children in the washrooms, walking out of a stall and seeing the surprised expressions on their faces is absolutely priceless. Thank goodness they weren't talking nastily about us - just lightly complaining about Mr. Jack's 6 am wake up "call" (which was more like a banshee scream!).
Each woman had their opinions on how they would have handled an 18 month old child letting out a solitary primal scream at 6 in the morning, from taking him into the car and telling him "no", or to doing just what I did - telling him gently, "Jack... shhhh... come lay down with mommy...". One woman commended me when I appeared from my bathroom stall, stifling my own giggles at their surprised (and somewhat embarrassed) looks.

"You're a good mom!" she said. I blushed and thanked her, and asked what I did to deserve such kudos. She explained to me that she liked the way I handled the kids, didn't yell at them "like the mother across the road" from us at the campground, and how happy they appeared to be. I appreciated the compliment, and winked at the lady who said she would have handled things differently. (I wonder if she would have preferred I had muzzled Jack.)

We'd like to try and get back for one more camping session there this summer. It was truly enjoyable, and it didn't feel at all like we were still in the city. It's amazing what beauty you can find in your own 'backyard', and how it can transport you a million miles away from everything. How restful and calming. Sometimes I think I would love to live that way...

How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! In such places standing alone on the mountain-top it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make - leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents or piled stone - we all dwell in a house of one room - the world with the firmament for its roof - and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track. ~John Muir

They called him "Mr. Goodwill"

The picture inserted is called "The Paycheck" by Norman Rockwell. The cheque in his hand reads "Goodwill". This is one of my all time favourite Rockwell images (for obvious reasons), and it now adorns my wall. Thanks, Dad.

This is a story that was published in the Sarnia Observer on Thursday, August 9th. I was very touched by the words the reporter wrote, and astonished to see such a beautiful article written about my dad's passing. I had to share it.

JACK POIRIER Thursday, August 09, 2007 - 16:00 Local News -

He was known as Mr. Goodwill. John Gifford, a 69-year-old Scotland native, devoted the better part of his working career to serving Goodwill Industries Essex-Kent-Lambton and the people it assists.

Following a lengthy battle with cancer, Gifford died last week at the Bluewater Health palliative care unit. His humble, yet fierce work ethic, served as an inspiration, says Goodwill executive director Kevin Smith.

"He was a man who was passionate about everything in his life," he said. "His legacy will live on."

Gifford served with the agency for 19 years, retiring in 1995. He was Goodwill's first executive director and was the architect of Goodwill's work experience program.

Gifford recently told an Observer reporter that the program helped prepare countless people for successful careers.

"Everything he did, he did with enthusiasm," Smith said.

He said Gifford worked hard to convince local employers to give Goodwill clients an opportunity. His work sowed the seeds for what is now a successful program that provides employment opportunities for people with barriers to employment.

Gifford also expanded the retail operation, moving from a small store on Victoria Street to a larger site on Christina Street.

Yet, he always credited his dedicated staff and committed board of directors for the agency's success.

He was recognized last year with an award named in his honour, the Gifford Goodwill Award, which recognizes local companies for hiring individuals with special needs.

"When he wanted to get something done, he made it happen," Smith said of Gifford. "He was a fighter."

His courageous battle with cancer surpassed doctors' expectations by more than three years.

Gifford also worked as an educator with Alexander Mackenzie high school. His community activism was well regarded, having assisted with the Highland Games and serving as a committee member with the Canadian Cancer Society.

Gifford also worked at State Farm Insurance and was a member of Elks Lodge, Masonic Liberty Lodge 419.

"John's passing is a loss to the community," said Smith. "We're going to miss his laughter and his passion for life."

Rest In Peace, Dad

It is with much sorrow that I announce the passing of my father, John Gifford. With the sorrow comes relief, however. For four years he battled the lung cancer that controlled his body, and now the battle is over. It is his time to rest.

Thank you for your messages of condolences and your friendship. It is appreciated and will be remembered always.

John Douglas Gifford, April 25, 1938-August 2, 2007

Surrounded by his loved ones, after a long, courageous battle with cancer, John Douglas Gifford of Sarnia passed away at Bluewater Health Palliative Care, Sarnia on Thursday, August 2, 2007, at the age of 69.

John came to Canada in 1956 at the age of 18. He loved Canada so his family followed. He lived in Brantford prior to coming to Sarnia in 1971. John worked at Alexander Mackenzie Highschool, assisted in the Highland Games, worked at State Farm Insurance, was a member of the Elks Lodge, Masonic Liberty Lodge 419, was the Executive Director of Goodwill for 19 years and was a co-owner of Mr. G’s Coffee Shop with his wife. After retirement he worked as a Shuttle Driver for Bailey Toyota where he found a new family. He was also a committee member with the Canadian Cancer Society for 5 years.

Beloved husband of the late Barbara (Edwards) Gifford (1997) and partner of the late Velma Heath (2003).Dearly loved companion of Marielle Parsons.Loved father of Rob Gifford and his wife Ellen, Kim and her husband Richard Jackson, Ian Gifford and his partner Carol, and Jo-Anne and her husband Brad Bishop.Dear grandfather of Kevin and his partner Sarah, Kirstin, Jensen, Haley, Jarrett, Alice and Jack.Loving brother of Shirley MacDonald. Predeceased by his parents Mary and Robert Gifford. Also survived by several nieces and nephews and many close friends.

Cremation has taken place. A memorial service will be held at St. Paul’s United Church, 360 Devine St., Sarnia on Tuesday, August 7, 2007 at 12:30 pm. A time of fellowship with the family will be held following the service.Family and friends will be received at St. Paul’s United Church on Tuesday from 11:00 am until 12:30 pm. A Masonic service will be held at St. Paul's United Church at 10:30 am prior to visitation on Tuesday.Sympathy may be expressed through donations to the Canadian Cancer Society or the charity of your choice.Memories and condolences may be sent online at Arrangements entrusted to SMITH FUNERAL HOME, 1576 London Line, Sarnia, Ontario (519) 542-5541.

Gone from this earth, but never forgotten and always in our hearts.