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Sunday, September 23, 2018

I can't not do this.

Many of you know that last October I was elected to council here in Fort McMurray. Over the last year I have dedicated myself to my new role as councillor, and yes, a year in, and I'm still loving it. I know it sounds silly, but I still can't believe it. I'm so lucky to say that my job is working for the residents of the Municipality of Wood Buffalo. It's an honor I promise I will never take for granted.

But I'm going to be honest, the last couple of months I have felt like something was missing, and I couldn't figure out what it was. Luckily I have wonderful friends and when I started vaguely saying that I felt something was off, I started getting feedback that I should be writing again. But I brushed them off. But then over the course of the last few days when I really started thinking about it, I realized that I do miss it. I miss the connection and the interaction. 

So I'm not sure yet what this will look like, or how often I will get to post, but I do know a few things that you can expect. As a councillor, anything I write will respect the office, and it will not be a reflection of the rest of my councillors or the mayor. As a councillor, I will never, ever write about anything related to labour, legal or land as we are never suppose to speak about such things publicly. It has been hard over the last year when I am asked some questions and I cannot share information. There are have been some huge issues that we faced as a new council over the last year, but because the courts are often involved, we cannot speak about it. When those things happen, I will let you know that I just can't talk about certain things. 

I do want to share information that people can use. Even in the last few days I have attended some events, and afterwards people have said, "I wish I had known that was happening, I would have liked to go." So I will share events, and when I attend events or public meetings, I will share my thoughts on the material shared. 

The question that I am most often asked lately is about my weight loss, so I will definitely writing about that as well. Otherwise I will follow my old patterns, and share recipes, life stories, and whatever comes up in my day to day comings and goings. 

This week I'm not sure how much I will get to post, as I will be attending the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association(AUMA) convention in Red Deer. It will be fun to start sharing some of these types of events with everyone. Ironically before I was elected I was not sure of the value of these conferences for elected officials. Last year when I attended, we were able to meet with several Ministers and we were able to get some movement on several issues that were outstanding in our region. This year we will do the same.

Tuesday morning I will be attending the Grand Opening of the Elsie Yanik school at 331 Callen Drive. It starts at 10:30, and is open to the public. I was lucky enough over the years to have many meaningful conversations with the amazing Elsie Yanik. I am so happy that this new school will bear her name. In her quiet gentle way she inspired many to live better lives and to do more for their community. 

Thanks to my family and friends who encouraged me to get back to my writing. It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't write, but it literally feels like life is wrong when I'm not writing. I have been writing over the last year, but nothing that I would share with the public(as I always have done with journals, etc). My next big leap is that I want to share some fictional stories that I have written over the years. I just need the courage to finally let them go out. 

I'm already excited for this new journey, I hope that you will tune in! 


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

And I don't mean election time, I mean it's time for Matt Minglewood baby!! For the next three nights in Fort McMurray Matt will be taking, and owning the stage at the Boomtown Casino.

Over the years I have shared my love of Matt with all of you. I have told you about how he plopped me up on the hood of a truck at the shore in Mabou Harbour the first time I met him and talked to that 7 year old like I was the best fan he ever had. I wrote about how when I was going through chemo and a bone marrow transplant he drove hours for me to have my one last wish, to hear him sing Me and the Boys.

Me and the Boys was played at our wedding, during the births of both our sons, and many nights of kitchen dancing with our family. All the kids have seen and met him over the years, but this weekend is going to be so sweet to go with both the boys "legally" for the first time. And I will take to the dance floor with them with complete and utter joy.

If you have never seen Matt play, you really must come out, it's a time you will never forget. And for those from the East Coast, it is magical. It's a taste of home, and you get to see all your good time rowdy buddies!

But even further to all that, this weekend we can say thank you to Matt and the band. Last year after the fire the residents of Cape Breton organized a fundraiser for Fort McMurray, for us...and they gave in a huge way. Matt headlined a concert, that was full of an amazing amount of talent. They raised over $250,000!!! For those who may not know, Cape Bretoner's have huge hearts, but for them to raise that amount of money to give back to McMurray is just phenomenal. This weekend we can say thank you for that tremendous gift, we can get out and have some fun and dance all at the same time too!

I will see you on the dance floor, I will be the redhead with the "Vote Verna Murphy" button on!

To see Matt's part of the concert(and to get you pumped for the weekend), skip ahead to the 3 hour mark.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Lessons Learned

So as many of you have noticed, and messaged me about, I have been away from my writing. A combination of things happened last year, and to be honest, my heart just wasn't in it. Even when I wrote some columns I just felt that I couldn't stir any passion. But in the last couple of weeks, I started picking up my journals again, and then I found myself waking up in the middle of the night to jot down some thoughts. And just like that, my love had returned.

To be honest, it could have been some type of writer's block. After the fire, I went into overdrive, and was working a great deal, but was also overextending myself in a variety of ways, which is my way of dealing with anything...get busy. But there was also another life lesson in amongst the events of the last year, and I wanted to share it so that you don't do the same thing that I did. It was kind of an a-ha kind of moment when I actually started writing about things the last couple of weeks.

Last year, at the height of many emotions in Fort McMurray, someone had written me an email, and questioned me on "who I thought I was" and my writing "ethics" in response to a few things that I had written. And I let those words seep into my way of thinking, and not in a good way. I literally started thinking that I had no right to be giving my opinion on events in town, or political happenings. I felt that so many others had lived through much worse than I did last year, so why would anyone want to hear my opinion on things, or care what I thought. And then in writing about it all the last few days, I realized a few things. The main one being that the persons that emailed me last year to question me so much have had very little to do in my life in the months since then. They do not interact with my children, they do not ask me how my day was, they do not land with a bottle of wine on my hard days, because they have no idea what my life is like on any given day. I had given my power, my words to people who had no right to it. I thought I had learned this lesson years ago. I have been a strong, opinionated woman for a few years now, what had happened? Well, a lot. And now suddenly, I feel like we have so much to catch up on, I have so much to tell you.

A few months ago, when I announced that I was going to run for council in the fall, I had to give up writing for the Today. I had done the same when I ran in the by-election two years ago, and I think it's fair. But I miss it terribly, and many have contacted me almost every week to ask about what I thought about something that happened at council, or at the provincial level. And I realized a few other things. One was that I love talking about politics, and everything political. And just because I am running for office doesn't mean that I have stopped having opinions on things. People may not always agree with me, but over the years I have learned so much from discussions with those same people, so it has always been a benefit in some way. Also, people have often come to me because I am honest, and try to have a balance approach to whatever the issue is. People liked me because of my openness and my honesty, so why shouldn't that continue when I am looking for their vote?

On the political side of things, now that Nathanial(my son's) graduation is over, I am ready to ramp up the campaign. I will be hitting doorsteps, thinking of creative ways to meet more people and sharing my platform in the next couple of weeks. If you want to meet me for a coffee, chat on the phone, or get involved with the campaign please feel free to email me at vernamurphyforcouncil@gmail.com, or phone me at (780)838-1782. I know I have my own barriers to overcome, like the fact that I don't believe in posting every single thing that I do in the community(I am still thinking that is good Catholic guilt and a Cape Breton upbringing also at play), I hate getting my picture taken, and I often would rather be in the back volunteering than out front making sure the crowd knows I am there. Lately I have been watching videos where people approach things with humour, and honesty, and I was thinking maybe I should start doing a series of videos about local issues, and about who I am. They will not be professional, or polished, just like I am neither, but they will be honest, and hopefully funny at times(and no, Tim, my hubby, will not be appearing.

One other thing that I wanted to talk about today was about this blog. I had gotten a business license after we returned after the fire last year, and was working on advertising and being an affiliate. But once I started thinking about running, I put it all on hold. I didn't want people to think that I was taking money from some companies for ads in relation to my campaign, or that I was writing some stories to seek attention for my campaign. So I shelved it all. Running for council, for me is something that I will never do again if I don't win this time around, so I really want to do it justice, and by the book. Even if it's only in my head, I want my campaign to be one that I am proud of, and one that no one could question the motivations of things that I do. It may sound silly, but I want to be a candidate that people know they can trust to say one thing, and then actually do the same thing in follow up. I want people to say, "That woman has integrity."

The last few months have been jammed full of lots of changes for me, and everyone in my house, and I am excited to start sharing all of that with you again. And I am even more excited to take you along with me during the next few months, as I think they will be some of the most exciting in my life. I feel like everything has turned for me in the last 6 months(except for the house issues that you will hear about as well), and I am so happy to be back in control and moving forward. I hope you will all join me by either reading about the adventures to come, or play a part in them personally.


Saturday, March 4, 2017

What a Hero looks like.

Last night I had a moment sitting in front of Paul Spring when I thought I might completely break down in tears. I could feel them gathering in the corner of my eye, and I was taking some deep breaths so as to not make a complete fool of myself.

I had once again taken a minute to try to find some words to say thank you to him for all that he has done not just for our family, but for all of the Wood Buffalo region. His usual response was, "It's my job." And while I understand that he has been doing it for so long, and he does it so professionally that I think he just doesn't understand the ramifications that his "job" has on families.

Let me start from the beginning. Four years ago this May someone had told me that STARS, the well known air ambulance service did not serve the Fort McMurray region. Like many, I thought the person was wrong, and immediately started looking into it. I ended up calling Paul to ask him directly about the medevac service that we had in Fort McMurray. We talked for over an hour and a half, and I was dumbfounded by the information that he shared, it was the beginning of my fascination with the service in Fort McMurray. Never in a million years did I think at the time that we would ever be needing the service for anyone in our family.

Just two short weeks later I had just left a meeting at the hospital, when I received a call that Tyler was in emergency and had been hurt at work. I had just texted him earlier that morning about what I was making for supper, so my first thought was that it wasn't bad, it just couldn't be, I would know. This was the spring of 2013, and we were in the middle of the flood situation. Once Tyler's coworkers began to arrive, and we talked to doctors, we realized it was a horrible accident, and when the ambulance couldn't reach Tyler, it was Paul who flew in to airlift him out for help. At the time, Paul was working on getting his pilots trained for night flights, so that we could have a 24 hour dedicated service. H.E.R.O was born about two years ago, and stands for Helicopter Emergency Response Organization. The goal for the organization was that once it was set up, the funding, and everything attached to the medevac would be a sole entity, not connected to Phoenix. In fact, probably the only thing that I have disagreed with Paul over the years is that he is too modest, like painfully so, and he does not want his name connected to the service, and shies away from media or any attention about all that he does for our region. I think he should be telling some of the amazing stories of dramatic rescues, or even all that he did during the fire. Many do not know that he saved people in Draper by going and landing when they were surrounded by flames to take them to safety, and he did the same for patients at the hospital who were critical.

I could go on and on all day about the stories that I have heard over the years about this service. But here's some important points. If Paul had not taken on the initiative, we would not have medevac service here in town, never mind a 24 hour service. Now imagine if you or your child were in an accident say up north while camping, or south of town on highway 63. Would you want to sit beside your child and hold their hand for 2 hours while waiting for an ambulance? Well, our Tyler laid there for over an hour waiting for that ambulance. HERO's log shows that it took them 11 minutes to get to Tyler, and they made it back in 10 minutes. The difference is life saving. People that are having heart attacks, or strokes don't have the time to be waiting, and when airlifted and receiving medical attention more quickly, their recovery time is quicker, and their outcomes are better. So that means less time in the hospital, so all around the taxpayers win.

The hurtles are that people just don't know about this amazing service. And then funding such a service is an enormous burden. One that HERO has carried alone until this weekend. I'm not sure how it played out over lunch one day, but I am sure that it was Paul could not say no to Ramona Morrison, and she set the wheels in motion.

Ramona is a Fort McMurray legend, she has raised millions of dollars for our region, and started things like the Festival of Trees. After the fire, Chef Michael Smith had reached Ramona on Mother's Day to make sure she was okay, and he said that once things settled down he would come out to help however he could. The East Coast Lobster Party was eventually born, and will happen tonight at Shell Place. And I cannot wait to see how the residents of Fort McMurray show their love to HERO for all they have done in the last few years.

Paul's biggest cheerleader, and supporter is Andrea, his wife. I had met her a few years back, but in the last few weeks I have come to love her as much as I love Paul. Their dedication to the community just amazes me. Even at the end of the evening last night, they were the ones carrying things to storage or cars, and looking after last minute details. And while I loved Paul for saving Tyler, I think my respect for them has grown tenfold because they just stepped up when no one else did, and carried that burden without ever complaining. In fact, I remember about two years ago being quite upset about some funding that was suppose to come and it fell through. I was ranting about it to Paul, and he just said, "All we can do is our best, and getting upset isn't going to help any patients, or anyone else. We just need to keep moving forward and hopefully someday, we will be supported." Never angry, and never negative towards those that did not step up even after they said they would....never.

So tonight, I hope that funding is raised, and the word gets out about what HERO actually does for all of us here in Fort McMurray. Ramona, Andrea, Paul, Shelley, the HERO team, and everyone else who I have met in the last few months in preparing for tonight, you all amaze me, and I love you all. Your work ethic makes me want to do better in life, and I am so proud of all that you do for our community. Ramona, you are a special star in Fort McMurray, I have a whole new respect for you, and I will now need your biscuit and oatcake recipes if you don't want us constantly dropping by for tea.

And my final words go to Paul and Andrea. You have worked so hard on this event, but I realized last night that you have been working at this level for years behind the scenes. I will never find the proper words to say thank you, because I know that if it wasn't for Paul's commitment, and Andrea's support of that, Tyler would not be here. And he is just one of the lives that you have saved over the years, so I'm sure there are 100's of others who feel the same way as I do. I hope you are able to enjoy tonight, although it's kind of like a wedding, so much work, and you don't really get to sit back and enjoy it. At least take a minute to look around and realize how many lives you impact. Thank you, you guys are the best.

Paul and I at the grand opening of the airport three years ago.

One of my favourite pictures of Tyler and Nicole.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

This is what re-birth looks like

Many weeks ago, I applied for a business license from the Municipality of Wood Buffalo to begin a new adventure. I had been approached many times about ads on this blog, or becoming an affiliate, and the timing never seemed right. But then just after Christmas, I decided to make the leap. I am guessing that I would have had my license some time in May, but as you all know, The Beast stepped in and wracked havoc again on my best laid plans.

Yesterday I returned home to Fort McMurray since the first time since we left by flight on May 5th from north of our city at one of the camps. I will tell you the story of how we made our way out at another time, but tonight, I wanted to talk about driving up Highway 63 to reach home yesterday.

Our oldest, Mitchell, had received a call about returning to work, and we had still not gotten our car back from the camp site, so we decided to drive him up to his truck, and retrieve our car. The drive up was fairly quiet given the early morning get up, but as we neared the city and started to smell the smoke again, we all sat up a bit straighter and started to watch the tree line a bit closer.

When we finally hit the turn off for the airport road and started to see the remnants of what the huge fire had left in it's path, I fell silent. Mitchell and Tim chattered and pointed out the losses to each other along either side of the road. I am convinced after the last month that men and women are totally wired differently. As we made our way down Beaconhill, and into the downtown area I felt a lump in my throat, and my eyes tearing, but it was not from the smoke or air quality. The amount of loss for the people in Beaconhill, Waterways, Abasand, Saprae, Wood Buffalo and Parsons hit me like a wall once I started seeing just corners of the total damage from the drive down the hill. And as we made our way to the camp parking lot I sat trying not to cry for all that had happened during the last few weeks to our community. We switched around, made sure Mitchell was safely on his way and I started back south towards Edmonton in the rental car, while Tim drove our car in case it was smoky. In the last few years my lungs have gotten worse, and this past winter I struggled with breathing on several occasions due to my issues, including asthma.

My first reaction as I came back south from site was to get in the far right lane to go up Confed as I got closer, it was just automatic. But the RCMP had the exit blocked and I was reminded to keep south. By the time I reached Gregoire, I was crying. I wanted to stay so badly, but in the short time I was in the area, my breathing became heavier, and I had to break out my puffers. I cried because I had to leave, I cried because I couldn't go see if my house was okay, I cried because I felt guilty for still having a house when so many lost theirs, and I cried because it feels like our community had been through a hard enough 18 months even before the fire happened.

I had my little pity party, and I turned on the radio and felt sorry for myself and Fort McMurray all the way to Wandering River. And then I stopped to get gas, and some air, and it was crazy busy at that little stop. And I looked around at all the work crew guys heading north to help rebuild our city, and had a moment.

If you have read this blog in the past, you know that we have had our own personal challenges over the years. And standing there in Wandering River, looking across the parking lot as my husband, Tim approached me I realized that we would be fine. I could have died from having a bone marrow transplant, he could have been killed instead of badly injured by a drunk driver, our little girl could have passed away from complications when she was young, but we are fine. We have a home to go home to once we do whatever we need to do to make it safe, and we will go back.

When you have a transplant, you celebrate that date like it is a new birthday. Every time I hear the word, "re-entry", for some reason, I think "re-birth".  So today, June 1, 2016, I am declaring it a new beginning, again, for the Murphy family in Fort McMurray. We remember life "before" and "after" the transplant, the accident, and now we will add the "before the fire" and "after the fire" to the mix as well.

And on an even more personal level, this blog will be reborn. Before it was always "Around the Kitchen Table", because I had envisioned it would contain the conversations that people had at their own kitchen tables. From here on in, my new blog will be known as "Murphy's View From McMurray" for a few reasons. Months ago when I asked friends for their ideas, they all said that I should have my name in the title somewhere, and over the last few weeks I really wanted to make sure that Fort McMurray was included as well. Because through all of the last month, and everything that happened, I know that I love being a Murphy more than ever, thanks Tim, and I love being from Fort McMurray more than I ever thought possible. The way that my heart swells with pride when I think about our community, well, I think I will just have to dedicate myself as we all head back to trying to capture how deep that feeling of pride really runs. It will be hard to put it into words.

I know that this new "rebirth" will be full of challenges, great people, lots of love and hope. I also hope that it will be full of laughter, fun, and lots of sharing so that we all realize we are not alone with whatever we are going through. My goal with the new blog was to capture more stories of the people, businesses and events around town, and now more than ever I am committed to that goal. Months ago I had visions of having a grand launch day, and a big announcement. But today, June 1, with re-entry starting it suddenly hit me that I didn't need a big announcement, because life is full of every day moments, and huge tragedies, so I will start this journey today, with Fort McMurray, and it's residents. There is not one single doubt in my mind that we will rebuild, and we will help those most devastated in the weeks and months to come. Because we are Fort McMurray, and that's what we do.

As I got back in the car and started my drive back to Edmonton for another couple of weeks, this was the song that came on the radio, so I turned it up, and thought about how Fort McMurray will be there for us, whenever we all decide it is safe to go home.





Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Northside Rec

I had a speech all set for tonight for the council meeting, but I don't think I am going to be able to make it, so I thought I would share any way.


I come here tonight as a mom, not a council geek, and not a resident who is worried about the future of our city. Just a mom, who stood in her kitchen this morning and told her 16 year old son that it was likely that Phase 2 of the Northside Rec plan would probably be halted by council tonight. And do you know what his reaction was, he said, "It's been so long now it doesn't matter anyway." And I answered that well, some day maybe his kids would use it, and to that he answered, "If I have kids I don't know if I want to raise them here at the rate things are going." It was like a punch in the gut, and I feel partially responsible.

You see when the municipality posted the online survey for the design of the Northside Rec, and held the engagement sessions, I encouraged our sons to participate. I told them that if they didn't participate, they wouldn't be heard, and that you can never get what you want if you don't speak up. I told them that their voice mattered. I told many residents in Fort McMurray the same thing the last few years, "get involved" I said, "make sure you vote" I said. And when they did participate, and engaged with this project they were loud and clear that they wanted this rec centre on the north side. There was no denying it at any level. But what has administration done? Killed it. And tonight, if council votes with the recommendation, they will not only kill a rec centre, they will further alienate the people of Fort McMurray.

Don't come asking me next week why people won't stay. Stop trying to figure out why they are mad. It's because they continue to not be heard by administration, and sadly by their representatives on council.

For years I have corrected people when they said that the current council wasted money on the weather catcher and the expropriation of the downtown core. I have patiently explained that it was last council that made those decisions. But if council votes to kill this project tonight, at the cost of well over $5.5 million, I will only pause and wonder at what they have accomplished during their time in office.

And how do I continue to try to get my children, and possible residents of Fort McMurray to engage, when tonight I am feeling so disillusioned myself?