remembering

 
Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student

Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student

Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student

Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique’s finance department

Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student

Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student

Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student

Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student

Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student

Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student

Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

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Sadly, violence against women continues.

And, sadly, it’s probably up to women to do something about that.

“Let’s not pretend that being hopeful is an easy or straightforward pursuit. Hope can be a fracturing, even a traumatic thing to experience… Experiencing hope may bring oxygen to a stifled set of lungs, but hope also brings the realization that if something else is possible, then the stifling wasn’t necessary or inevitable. Experiencing hope means running the risk of a kind of crushing disappointment and agitated torpor… cruel optimism.
So yes, it’s complicated to be a hopeful feminist killjoy, complicated and necessary.”

Notes from a Feminist Killjoy,  by Erin Wunker

 

 

this is not a review: ‘what milly did’, by elise moser

 
Milly Zantow falls into the category of People You’ve Never Heard of Who Have Changed the World. In this case, the world of recycling. Because Milly Zantow is the person who created a tiny thing called the global recycling standard for plastic,  more commonly known as the-numbers-inside-those-little-triangles-on-your-water-bottles-and-stuff.

It’s what made plastic recycling possible.

But it’s the HOW this all came about that’s jaw dropping. What Milly Did  (a childrens’ book for all ages, including adults in my opinion) by Elise Moser, is an extraordinary story about a woman who, at age sixty or so, decides to do something about the growing problem of plastic in landfills.

9781554988938_1024x1024Turns out that plastic wasn’t recycled because no one thought it could be done.

Enter Milly, an ordinary woman, raised on a farm, who has no experience in anything even remotely related to anything to do with recycling but who just really believes that something can be done.

So she says pfffft  to the naysayers and starts reading about plastic; she studies it, takes courses, learns everything she can then cashes in her life insurance policy, buys a gigantic grinding machine and opens a company called E-Z Recycling where she and a few others do much of the grunt work by hand, seven days a week.

“She called the Borden Dairy Company in Milwaukee and asked them how they manufactured their plastic milk jugs. What did they do when they made a mistake? she asked. They told her they just melted the deformed jug down and reblew it. That was an ‘Aha!’ moment for Milly.”

Moser captures Milly’s spirit as a woman who is in no way ego driven. Nor is becoming rich her motivation; she simply wants to make sense of trash and to that end she does whatever she can to help people recycle, including establishing programs in nearby towns.

Eventually her vision catches on. Various community groups form, tipping fees for landfill sites are established and in 1988 her system for grading plastic is adopted by the Society of Plastics Industry, which means a standardized recycling practice across North America.

The story, of course, isn’t quite that simple. There are many hurdles along the way, people who laugh, who say that what she’s proposing is impossible, and then there are the times themselves, the 1970’s and early 80’s, which aren’t overly receptive, or even friendly, to the idea of recycling. Moser has done an excellent job of telling Milly’s story against this back drop of time and place.

A clever addition to the story are sidebars throughout the book, telling about bridges and boats made of plastic bottles, stats on current plastic usage and where it all goes, yo-yo trivia!, the ABCs of modern recycling, innovations in biodegradable plastic… all bite-sized, very readable for any age, and all to the accompaniment of sweet b&w illustrations by Scott Ritchie.

That this is such an unknown story is mind-boggling. I’m grateful to Elise Moser for telling it. It needs to be shared. I hope the book will find its ways to schools and to homes, not only as an eye-opener to an important piece of history, but to open at least two kinds of conversation… One,  about the problem of a planet full of garbage and, two, the power we have as individuals  to make the world better.

Finally, what maybe I love most about this story is what Milly didn’t  do… she didn’t complain, blame, whinge or whine or suggest that this problem to solve was someone else’s job… 

Or that the difficulties she faced were someone else’s fault.

She just got on with it.

The world could use more Milly.

just a site…

 
In Cavendish, PEI, heart of Green Gables country, with its bus tours, souvenir red braids, Anne Shirley motels and carriage rides with Matthew Cuthbert himself, there’s a scruffy little path off an unassuming parking lot with a simple sign telling you the path leads to the site of the house that Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up in and lived for most of her time on the island. Where she wrote her earliest books. It’s where Anne of Green Gables was rejected a number of times and the only reason Montgomery didn’t give up submitting was because the post office was very near by.

A gem of a place.

dsc00232The path, all brambles and apple trees, leads to a garden and the foundation of the old farmhouse. Montgomery has written, in her journals or letters, about coming around this very corner, seeing the lights on in the kitchen and the feeling of comfort that gave her.

dsc00228 dsc00216-copyThere’s no hoopla. No Matthew, no Lake of Shining Waters.

What there is is a small humble building, part bookstore (thankfully no gift shop) with an excellent selection of Montgomery’s work, and others, mostly about PEI… and part collection of things to look at, photos and letters, etc., that belonged to Montgomery. And there’s a woman named Jennie Macneill who’s eighty something and whose husband is related to the grandparents who raised Lucy Maud. He grew up on this acreage and together they’ve preserved the site and put up signs and built the bookstore and Jennie gives brilliant and heartfelt talks on Montgomery’s life here.

She does this as a labour of love. She’s Montgomery’s biggest fan.

dsc00218-copyNot a whiff of faux Avonlea. No green gables. This is the real deal.

dsc00207-copydsc00205-copyAnd it’s this realness that may be why there are no crowds here. A few people wander in and then out again… One young woman even walks away from Jennie’s talk claiming she’s a fan of Anne Shirley, not the author. There’s a sense of wanting entertainment or to be whisked from one thing to another.

The faux Avonlea a few minutes drive away is busy; I saw it coming in. A bus tour was disembarking.

dsc00221dsc00204-copyNearby are woodland trails Montgomery walked to school, to the post office, to hang out with friends. Only a few people bother to walk them and those that do, speed through. One couple asks me if there’s anything to see up ahead. When I say, well, forest… they turn around and say they’ve already seen enough of that.

But first they ask me to take a picture of them smiling big, hugging. Then they hightail it out of there.

dsc00203-copydsc00202-copy dsc00196-copyJennie says that one of the apple trees is over a hundred years old, that it would have been around in Montgomery’s day. It’s still producing a few apples. She thinks that maybe its enduring nature is because the tree approves of what they’re doing here, that it feels their heart.

dsc00231 dsc00215-copyOn the way out I overhear a woman complaining that there’s nothing here, that it’s just a site… and I wonder what she’s looking for.

I’m sorry I didn’t ask.

i feel like juan du fuca (but in ontario and on land)

 
I discovered a beautiful thing today.

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A library in a town I’ve been to three thousand times. I don’t know how
I ever missed it other than to say I was likely distracted by the bakery.

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It’s in a house built in 1882 for $450. Originally owned by the Waddell family, local furniture magnates. They also owned a hotel in town and had some doings with a cheese factory. Big money in cheese.

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No official library in those days but there was a makeshift sort of lending service using 34 books the townsfolk gathered up and kept in various shop basements where, on various days, you could take out the latest best seller.

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One of the Waddell children, a lad, tried to start a flax business. I like his style. Sorry it didn’t work out.

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And, this is interesting… the Waddell daughter, in 1903, became the first Canadian woman to join the American Mathematics Association, which included women from not only the U.S. but the U.K., Canada and Europe.

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In 1969, the house was purchased by the Township Library Board and voila, presto bongo, the library opened in 1970, looking very much like a house with many books.

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I love how they’ve kept it authentic in feel. The ceilings are high. The floors are original.

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And it’s so, so, so… quiet.  Which is something I miss in libraries. (Whatever happened to stern women with buns shushing everyone??)

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I’m told there was talk some years ago of closing it down because it doesn’t meet somebody’s idea of “adequate usage” or whatever, and the town went ape shit and, long story short, the adequate usage people decided to keep it open.

Going ape shit for a good cause is not to be under-rated.

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And because this gorgeous bit of brick and mortar history—and the slice of sanity it provides—isn’t enough on its own… you’ll be happy to know it happens to sit on an acre or so of treed land with oodles of parking and a large gazebo that begs to be read on.

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As in aloud.

As in what a great space for a literary event.

The Juan du Fuca Literary Event we could call it.

An ocean of flax would be our logo.

And something with cheese.

things that stuck

 
What he taught me:

Keep your vice closed at night.

For anyone without a dad-with-a-workshop, a vice is a clamping gizmo attached to the work bench… He obviously had great hopes for my future in carpentry.

Nail biting and driving don’t mix.

The deal was he wouldn’t teach me to drive until I stopped biting my nails. So I stopped. Then he taught me to drive by yelling at me from the passenger seat. This did my nails no favours.

A parking lot is the most dangerous place in the world.

Especially during the holiday season…

Happiness is a warm potato.

I once found him sitting on the stairs between the kitchen and the back door, eating a just-boiled potato with butter and salt. He shared it with me and as I sat there on the floor with him I thought — I knew  — it was the best thing I’d ever tasted.

Pioneers did too have aluminium foil.

They apparently wrapped their just-caught, so-small-it’s-barely-legal fish in foil then tossed the package into a hole dug behind their rented cabin and lit a bonfire on top, which, by the way does exactly diddly squat as far as cooking fish goes.

Do not answer a question, any question… with just one word.

It’s bloody rude!! he explained. (I think he might have regretted the lesson when I started answering simple questions in paragraphs and chapters.)

Spider!!!!! sounds like Fire!!!!!! when shouted by a small child from her bedroom in the middle of the night.

And when what’s been shouted is clarified, the dad who has rushed into the small child’s bedroom, will say oh for christ sake, is that all  but will take the spider outside before going back to bed.

If you get a chain letter and aren’t sure whether to make-ten million-copies as-instructed-or-you’ll-be-hexed… call the library!

Because the library knows everything. This was pre-internet but, still, libraries continue to trump in my books.

He also showed me that sitting can be an art, whether taking a break during or after hard work; it must be done with pleasure and deep contented sighs, coffee or tea, silence or words, alone or in company, and entirely without guilt. And that if you need a thing you haven’t got, see if you can make it before you go out and buy it. Not to save money but for the satisfaction you get from being clever and using stuff that’s just laying around anyway. He taught me about seeing and wondering and imagining impossible things that might just be possible and he showed me how to laugh until my stomach hurt in the best way and that even the strongest, tallest people in the world will cry sometimes.

In the months before he died I sat with him, a sense of pleasure at being in his company, thin contented sighs mixed with something else, often in silence, with tea, reading Emily Carr’s Growing Pains , holding his hand as he slept.

The things that stick.

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the story of my name

 
Oh, you spell it with a ‘c’…?

And an ‘i’…?

Well isn’t that different.

At which point I usually say yes, I guess so. My dad’s idea. He read it in a book. It was his turn to name the baby. My mum named my sister. Mary.

I was supposed to have a middle name. Lynn. No idea why. Another book probably. He liked the idea of how the two went together Carin Lynn, almost Carolyn but without the commitment.

But he forgot to mention the middle name at my christening or when they did the paperwork. Something.

I’m glad actually. I like having only one name.

Until I was ten or eleven or twelve, I thought that name was Karen. My parents were immigrants and when they enrolled me in school, the school wrote my name as Karen. My parents didn’t want to upset the apple cart with their weird immigrant spelling. They wanted to fit in. And so they let it stand. Never mentioned a thing to anyone, including me.

Until I was ten or eleven or twelve when, for whatever reason, they said Oh, by the way, you know your name is actually spelled with an ‘i’.

It is?? Well I’ll be darned.

So I started spelling it Karin. I still have a few notebooks and report cards that shows this progression.

Then in grade eight or nine I needed my birth certificate for some reason and noticed the Carin spelling.

What’s that about?  I’m not sure who I asked. My mother probably.

If she was stirring something at the time she didn’t stop. What do mean?? That’s your name, what do you think it is?  Stir, stir…

I suggested it was a little weird, didn’t she think???, that I was just now finding out how it was spelled. She, apparently, did not think it was weird.

That may have been when she told me the story of my name.

Or maybe it was my dad who told it.

Either way, it’s good to know how to spell my name. I’m glad I only have the one. And I’m glad it was my dad’s turn to pick.

My mum said her choice would have been Brunhilda.

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