Let there be light


It’s the height of summer and the sun is shining, the heat is blazing upwards of 35 degrees. The big picture windows at the front of the Francis house and glass patio doors to the back deck let natural light flood in.

It’s a bright, sunny day, but every lamp in every corner of the house is turned on.

Comfortable in her familiar surroundings, three-year-old Nora zips around the house without a care, climbing on the back of the sofa, climbing on her mom. She shows off her blue fingernail polish that matches her toes, her mom’s toes, and, coincidently, mine.

Dad tries to distract her with a blue Freezie, but the excitement of all the colour co-ordination revs her up even more. She’s as happy and excitable as most other three-year-olds.

But come twilight, it’s like an instant switch. While other kids will be playing and shrieking outside for another hour or so, Nora becomes uncomfortable, starts slowing down, curls up on her mom or dad’s lap.

That’s because Nora has a rare, inherited eye disease called Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis. It causes night blindness for Nora. It’s a condition with severe vision impairment and degenerative blindness that will get worse over time.

Continuing reading Nora’s story: Let There be light: Rare eye disease leaves three-year-old in the dark as she waits for treatment to come to Canada


Objectivity in Journalism: present the facts

Holistic Health 101.JPG

I’ve written an article on the topic of holistic health, published the day after a disparaging piece on alternative medicine appeared in the National Post. 

Little did I know the day before my article entitled “Holistic Health 101” was published in The Chronicle Herald (Tuesday October 1), that the National Post would print a piece headlined “Naturopathy is poised to ‘disrupt’ health-care status quo, proponents of controversial practice say”, with subtext: The commentary comes as an Alberta couples’ acquittal in their toddler’s death is raising fresh concerns about the rise in the use of alternative medicine

Now, I don’t want to go there. That story is heart-wrenching, extreme, tragic,  and yes, I believe those parents were neglectful, naive, and irresponsible. They failed to provide the necessities of life for their son. This post is not about that. This post is about journalism. 

Essentially the NP article is talking about the rising concerns of the use of alternative medicine. Rising concerns because the practice is “bad” is what the article is emphasising. I would argue that what is concerning is using ONLY alternative medicine. What bothers me is that the article is a sensationalised, one-sided attack article on a profession. It’s biased. That article doesn’t present any of the context I got out of my work. 

I interviewed a lovely Naturopath, whom I was connected with through the Naturopathic Association of Nova Scotia. She was completely forthright that “the holistic healthcare model is meant to be in conjunction with our conventional medical care with our GP [general practitioner] at the helm.” 

There is an obvious clash when you put the other article up against mine. The articles are conflicting in tone, yet my article is not trying to tell anyone whether holistic health care - including naturopathy - is good or bad or wrong or right. It’s sharing what holistic health care - including naturopathy -  is. Informing (hopefully) readers about something new they might not know about or understand. So they can learn something. They won’t learn or understand anything impartial about naturopathy or alternative medicine from the other article, and I think that is damaging. 

Listen, I’m sure there are NDs, or more specifically “naturopathy enthusiasts”, as the article quotes, who take things to the extreme and are careless and harmful, the awful story out of Alberta makes that case. And I’m sure there are GPs who do the same. But you can’t just lump everyone into the same category, dump on an entire profession, wipe your hands and call it a day. Especially when the time is not taken to properly educate yourself, or your readers, on the given topic. 

Straight out of the gate, the writer of the National Post articles says “its [Naturopathy] practitioners have a “philosophical aversion” to prescription drugs.”  Yet the ND I spoke with says they are not anti-drug. “If the medication is the best cure for that issue than I am pro-drug, 100 per cent.” 

The National Post article defines naturopathy as “based on the supernatural, vitalistic belief that “nature cures” but my source says “Holistic health care incorporates all aspects of health in analyzing what’s happening...Naturopathic medicine is a unique primary health-care system that combines modern scientific research with traditional and natural medicine.”

The ND states “In an ideal world, everyone needs a naturopath and their GP,” and points out how unfortunate it is in Nova Scotia that a lot of people don’t even have access to a GP. 

From the National Post piece: “For Caulfield and others, the idea of turning primary care over to naturopathic medicine is unnerving.'' Of course. But is that what a reliable Naturopath would intend? 

Case in point- I sent my husband the National Post article and he was getting himself all worked up about alternative medicine and naturopathy and its associated apparent claims, as per the article. But then when I reminded him about my article, and the position it presented, he agreed it all sounded very reasonable. So what if he’d only read the other article? That’s what scares me. 

From a journalistic standpoint, it’s so important that we tell the whole story. Present the facts. Be unbiased. Objective. Impartial. At the very least, hope that readers are aware of what they are reading and where it comes from. 

DIY Sea Glass Art

Summer is drawing to a close, but it’s still nice enough for beach walks to comb for treasures, like sea glass! Back in the spring I met with artist Susan King of Ceilidh’s Sea Glass Creations on assignment for the summer issue of East Coast Living magazine. We talked about her love of this ‘jewel of the sea’; she’s been collecting sea glass since she was a little girl. She shared some info on sea glass and tips on collecting it. She also showed me how to create my own sea glass art.

Learn how to make your own here, step-by-step: Crafty Sea Glass Picture

The sea glass King uses is natural, collected mainly in Cape Breton at beaches in the summer. White, green, and brown are the most common colours. Blue, red, orange, and yellow pieces are harder to find.

The sea glass King uses is natural, collected mainly in Cape Breton at beaches in the summer. White, green, and brown are the most common colours. Blue, red, orange, and yellow pieces are harder to find.

Ensure whatever sea glass you collect is cooked, sea-glass-speak for rounded without sharp edges, says King.

Ensure whatever sea glass you collect is cooked, sea-glass-speak for rounded without sharp edges, says King.


Off the press

A few community pieces I’ve yet to share, some oldies but goodies:

More to come!

I’m sorry if some of the links won’t open for you, if you’ve viewed all your freebies. I know that’s frustrating but the newspaper is a business. I do like when my work is filed under ‘premium content’ (doesn’t that sound fancy?) ,and journalism isn’t meant to be free…writers do need to be paid! Subscribe to the paper and you won’t miss any articles.

School's out for summer

It’s our first official school-year summer vacation! And it’s a summer that looks unlike any we’ve ever had before.

It’s our first official school-year summer vacation! And it’s a summer that looks unlike any we’ve ever had before.

It’s the Monday-est Tuesday ever but I’m not complaining. But I am panicking, just a little. It’s the first official day of summer vacation. The weekend and the Holiday Monday didn’t count, because that was a regular long weekend holiday.  Now it’s Tuesday and for the first time in 10 months the girls are out of school. It’s our first official school-year summer vacation! And it’s a summer that looks unlike any we’ve ever had before. 

Sure, I’ve been freelancing year-round, but this is the most freelancing I’ve ever done, and I’m doing a lot of it. Far too much too balance at the same time as the kids, my mental sanity, and the safety of my children. The past six summers, I’ve been home with the girls and freelancing on the side and it’s been manageable. Awesome, actually. Summers are the best part of stay-at-home parenting, if you ask me. Basically living in the backyard, beach days, day trips. It’s helped to have some teacher friends with kids who are off and friends on maternity leave. But that amazing season of life has passed, which makes me a little sad...the days are long and the years are short, or so they say. But I’m working - writing! - and it feels good. And I’m super grateful with what we have arranged for this summer. 

Because she’ll be starting pre-primary in September, we wrapped up Rosie’s full-time journey at pre-school. If Anna is going to be home from school, Rosie might as well be here with her. Plus  my rate is way cheaper than pre-school. Actually I guess it’s exactly the same. Instead of paying for her to attend, I’ll keep her home and the money in the bank! Shame the standard of care will decline. jk, jk. Kind of. The grandparents have ever so graciously offered to help out this summer. Between two days with my parents and one day per week with my MIL, I’ll be able to work full-time three days a week, rather than five days just during school hours. I’m confident I can get the same amount of work done with longer, uninterrupted work days and by adding an evening, weekend, or extra babysitting here and there when needed. 

I’m happy the girls will get some time with their grandparents, time with me, time for playdates, and time to be bored. Anna’s in a couple different weeks of day camp to give her something adventurous to do with some friends. Rosie’s still too young. But I’m still looking at three solid days to work and two days off to spend time with the girls, lapping up the summer. It’s the best of both worlds and a balance I am looking forward too. (Please check in on me in a few weeks. These could be famous last words). But hold on. I am actually lol-ing at myself right now as I re-read what I just typed. Rewind to “two days off to spend time with the girls.” HA HA HA. Reality check. These won’t be days OFF. These will be days filled with endless sunscreen applications, constant snack and meal prep, cleaning up, struggles to get out the door, sibling fights, whining, threats, and tears. Probably mine. Matt’s predicting it will be  2pm on our first day at home when he will receive my “I’m done” text. Give me some credit. I’ll at least make it to 4p.m! Hopefully our days together will also be filled with swimming, beach days, ice cream, playgrounds, water fights, and reading stacks of books. 

At the end of the day…there’s always wine.

At the end of the day…there’s always wine.

My thought/hope/prayers are that if I’ve handled the kids five days a week in the past, two days a week will be a breeze. Especially being granted three whole days to do my own grown up thing. The key will be to stay on top of my work so I can focus on my days with the girls, which will be a challenge. While flexible, the freelance life is unpredictable. And stressful. Sometime’s sources can only talk on certain days at certain times. Sometimes opportunities will pop up, deadlines will loom. So I’m going into this summer with an open mind to go with the flow and try not to stress. It’s summer vacation for my kids but I need to be the most organized I’ve ever been to make this work. So yes, it’s already Tuesday and omg it’s already Tuesday?! I have deadlines to meet! See? Already panicked. But at the end of the day...there’s always wine.  All of the wine.

Based on how insanely fast the school year went, I believe summer’s going to go by in the blink of an eye. So to all the work at home parents balancing your kids summer vacation, I salute you. May the odds be ever in your favour. May the force be with you. I’m here with you (lunch date anyone? Kidding. Nobody’s got time for that!).  I don’t know about you but I’ve already booked a very important vacation day for myself. It’s called the first day of school and it’s going to be all mine! From 9-3pm, anyway.