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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, 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.