Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Ashley Simpson: Female Lives Matter

On July 22, the family of Deana Mildred Wertz reported her missing from her home on Yankee Flats Road, which is part of the community of Salmon Arm, B.C.

Deana was last seen in the early morning of July 19, 2016.

She lived not far from my cousin Ashley Simpson who vanished three months earlier. A lot of people are asking: is there a predator on the loose in that small community? Is it just a coincidence that two women went missing from that same rural road?

There are differences in both cases. Ashley is a young (33-year-old) Caucasian woman from Ontario. Deana is described as First Nations. She is middle aged (46-years-old).

But that is where the difference ends.

It is a frightening coincidence that has re-opened the wound for the Simpson family. They still hold out hope that Ashley has simply lost her way, but every time one of these police alerts pops up, their hope dims.

If Ashley had not disappeared on that spring day, I would not have known about Deana or paid much attention to the plight of the missing and murdered women of British Columbia. I am ashamed to say that. Like many people, I have become desensitized to this kind of violence. There's too much of it; after a while we stop taking it in.

But the anguish experienced by Ashley's family -- cousins I had never met -- have made this personal for me. Over the last three months, I got to know Ashley from videos, Facebook posts and photographs. Her plight has forced me to examine my own prejudices and assumptions about women who go missing.

Ashley is a hard-working, well loved woman, a free spirit who has touched many lives with her sense of humor. She is missed, and must be found.

Deana, I'm sure is just the same. She is a mother, a friend, a vibrant person in her own right.

The families deserve to know what has happened to them.

For more information about Deana, or Ashley please visit the B.C. RCMP page. The report is posted below.

If you live in Salmon Arm, pay attention, get involved, report anything suspicious.

Remember, it could be your daughter, your mother or your sister.

Female Lives Matter.

On July 22, 2016, 46 yr old Deana Mildred Wertz was reported as missing to the Enderby RCMP. It was reported that Deana was last seen in the early morning of July 19, 2016 at her residence on Yankee Flats Road.

Deana Mildred Wertz description: as First Nations, 5'2”, dark, shoulder-length hair, brown eyes and last seen wearing a grey T-shirt and grey cut-off sweat pants.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Deana Mildred Wertz is urged to contact their local police, or Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS). Media Release:

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Life in the Labrador Lane

Scott chose Finnigan from a dysfunctional litter.
His mother was a Bernese Mountain Dog, purebred. His father came from unknown lineage.
Papa was a rolling stone. He rolled into Finn's mother's yard, did the deed and escaped without offering any child support.
Finn may look and smell like a Labrador Retriever, but undoubtedly, there is something else in there. The vet thought Daddy might have been a Great Dane.
Still, his offspring masquerades as a Black Lab.
And he's good at it.
It's always hard to pick from a litter. I mean, all puppies are cute, right?
Finn made a good impression. He nuzzled Scott's hand and licked him all over. Clearly, he was far superior to his brother who spent our visit chewing wires on the tractor.
Finn, on the other hand, seemed sweet and loving. That was until he got in the car and promptly puked all over Marissa.
Since adopting him four and a half years ago, we have had many names for him.
Idiot. Asshole. F!@khead.
His incessant barking, I believe, has caused me irreparable hearing loss.
He wipes the table with his tail, and assaults Sophie the Pug on a regular basis.
He eats poo.
But like all Weirdos Who Masquerade as Labs, Finn has some truly great qualities.
First of all, he is a star athlete who can jump and catch a Kong in mid-air or trim the trees outside.

He is an excellent watchdog who regularly reminds me in his own noisy way that dogs are essential background characters in all advertisements on television.
Finn can also tow a 270 pound swimmer around a Quebec lake by his tail, and otherwise spend hours looking for his Kong in shallow water when its location is evident to everyone but him.
But perhaps his best quality is his ability to mend a broken heart.
Finnigan took on this role for me last year when I lost my beloved pug Gordie.
As I watched Scott drive away from the lake with my ailing boy, knowing I would never see him again, I took to the water and prayed to the mountain to take away my sorry.
I don't know if God heard me or not, but Finnigan certainly did.
We walked together for hours in the shallow water, back and forth. Finnigan never left my side, not for a moment.
He performed all his goofy tricks: trimming the trees, chasing the ducks, and scouring the lake for fish. While he couldn't take away the pain, he eased it like Ativan on an empty stomach, or a tequila shot on a sandy beach.

That stupid black nose. That pointy head. That smile, minus part of a front fang, lost in a titanic battle with the Kong.
After that day at the lake, all was forgiven.
He had done the job he was put on the Earth to do.

Today, I saw something that made my heart sink a little.
Finn was having trouble with his mouth, and started making a yakking manoeuvre.
I thought he was choking, but realized that there was something wrong with his jaw.
Then he went to bark, and couldn't. It seemed to hurt too much.
So today, he is lying at my feet looking so un-Lab like.
I feel I need to return the favour, to keep him close until we get this figured out.
I think his Kong days may be numbered.
There won't be any throwing the thing in the air and watching him catch it with his big strong mouth.
For it is the adored Kong that may be the villain of the piece.
Putting away the Kong will make him miserable for a few days because he is Kong obsessed. Like most Lab-imitators, Finnigan doesn't have an off switch.
He insists on catching it over and over. In the sun, in the heat and the rain, he is like the mailman who delivers smiles, and gasps and hoots.
Not today my friend.
Today, it is my day to be the boss of him.
I will take away the Kong, hoping it will live another day.
Because it is the love of Finnigan's life, as he is the love of mine.
Safety first. At least for a while.
Good luck with that, Rose.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Ashley Simpson: Three Months Gone

Every morning, John Simpson wakes with the birds to get in a little fishing before he starts work as a chef at the Longhouse in Huntsville. For John, this annual summer assignment is heaven on Earth, and he brings along the family.

This year, little Emma is helping him out along with other family members. She is thrilled to spend time with her Grandpa and has become a very skilled little fisherperson. Emma is a little girl with a grown up job. Instead of goofing all summer, she's decided to work with her Grandpa making muffins and other treats.

John is a lucky man, some would say, with a big family, and a brand new grandchild who was born just last month. What more could he ask for?

Truth is, John is an injured bird who is missing his wing. When he looks around the kitchen at the Longhouse, he expects to see his daughter Ashley who has been by his side cooking and entertaining all the kids who come to this resort each summer. This year, Ashley somehow lost her way, may have lost her life. She has been missing since late April -- nearly three months now -- and there is still no sign of her, not a clue, not a shoe, or a hair.

She was the victim of either an accident, or foul play, after she disappeared from her temporary home in Salmon Arm, B.C. where she was working at a hotel, and living with a boyfriend. The police suspect she was murdered, but the family is still holding out hope that somehow a miracle will happen and Ashley will walk out of the woods, and into the Longhouse with some kind of strange story.

She is one of the missing women of British Columbia. Most of them are presumed dead, and have left this Earth without a trace. The families look for clues. They sometimes hear their voices in the wind, and their laughter in the splashes of water; they see them in rainbows.

For John, wife Cindi, their children and friends, life will never be the same. As John said recently, while his heart is broken, life must go on. He continues to live because it's what parents of the missing do.

They fish with their granddaughters. They serve the world in their own way. They try to make sense of what has happened.

They know despite good fishing, and the smiles of granddaughters, that the world is an ugly place.

They cry.

And they wait.

Perhaps for days, or months, perhaps forever.

A fundraiser for Ashley Simpson's family will be held on July 30th in Thorold, Ontario.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Turning sixty; I'm not that kind of senior

This morning, I broke my reading glasses, first thing.
So I went to the dollar store and bought four pairs for seven bucks.
The lady insisted that I pick from her private collection which was under the counter. These glasses were two bucks each instead of one.
Oh well, what's a little splurge on a girl's 60th birthday?
In my younger, pre-senior days, I would have taken the glasses-breaking-thing as an omen of doom. But today I saw it as an opportunity to get reading specs in a variety of colors.
They'll match the bedazzled sweat suits that are on my bucket list which includes among other things, bus trips to yarn factories, sing-a-longs, bingo games, mall walking, visits to the Experimental Farm to take in some corn shucking demonstrations and flower arranging.
Oh, let me clarify.
That's the bucket list of things I have no intention of doing now that I've entered the sixth decade.
I'm not that kind of senior.
I am an arrested 17-year-old who can't wait for weed to be legalized.
I play video games, and I'm learning French on an iPhone app.
I mix patterns intentionally.
I recently got a hair style that makes me look like Joan Jett, or Rod Stewart, I'm not sure which.
This afternoon, I intend on getting pissed as a newt with some of my old friends from the National Press Club. I just have to make sure I have some Depends in case I pee myself.
You see, I'm not one of those little old ladies who gets a blue perm and meets her clones for pinnacle.
I'd rather have the worms play pinnacle on my snout than do anything that involves cards.
I'm not into yoga, either.
Nobody's going to stuff me into a pair of tights, or get me to Zoomba.
Give me a marg, put on the Apple Music, and watch me dance as if everyone is watching, cause I just don't give a shit.
There is nothing that is genteel about this old bitch.
Be warned, I just get worse with age.

In these 60 years, I've learned a few things. (Forgive me, in advance for meandering.
This mind, it seems, has a mind of its own.)
Now sit down and listen, don't let me repeat myself cause I'll probably lose the thread.

  • Keep in shape. The most important thing a person can do is to keep her body in shape in case the Grim Reaper happens by.  
  • Eat properly. Eat salads made of stuff people used to throw out in the garbage: kale, broccoli stems, all that crap that my Grandad would have put in the compost.
  • Poop regularly. Remember that the stuff you put in your mouth must come out the other end efficiently. Otherwise, it will make a nest around your navel.
  • Drink moderately. Oh, just do the best you can.
  • Walk. At least 10,000 steps a day or die trying.
  • Love and live for your family. They really are the only people who will care for you when you smell bad.
  • Laugh long and loud. Think you can't do it? Look, here's a baby!

Princess Squish

I am so grateful to have been given the chance to live this long without being taken out by a major health care calamity, or worse, a toilet seat from the Space Station.
There have been a few near misses, and I'm grateful to God and Son for watching out for me on a half dozen memorably dark days.

My very best wishes to all of those who have read this blog over these many years.
May you enjoy good health, wealth and happiness in the future.
With Donald Trump around, you'll need all the help you can get.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Father's Day: Sometimes love is thicker than blood

Ever since I was a wee kid, I dreaded Father's Day.

When you're a fatherless daughter, you don't get to join in any of the fun, or make cards and homemade gifts.

Thank goodness, Father's Day was never celebrated in my public school. We always made some sort of homemade gift for mom on her day, but dad never got a mention. I guess that's because fathers in the early Sixties weren't around very much.

A lot of other people's dads were veterans who returned shell shocked and distant. They drank or sat and watched television instead of coaching Little League.

I never knew this growing up. I'd always had the impression that most dads were kind of assholes not like the dude in Father Knows Best.

In fact, if I am to be honest here, I can say that after watching other kids' dads, I was glad I didn't have one. Dads scared me. They were like clowns with balloons that popped. For a lot of kids, dads were always disappointing them.

There were some stellar dads, of course. There was my cousin Will who took me along with his gaggle of unruly children on vacations and to the zoo. There were my cousins Butch and Skip who were doting fathers. And there was my Grandpa, who always had time for me and could cut hair and fix a car and grow a mountain of fruits and vegetables on our tiny little farm.

Grandpa used to let me slather his back with menthol rub brought to us by the Fuller Brush man. He took me along fishing for smelt, and we sat side-by-side cleaning the stinky fish. He also taught me to make sandwiches made of handpicked mushrooms, and bacon.

Grandpa was the greatest dad I could have had.

My grandpa chose to stick around and help me grow up straight.

My dad chose a different path. A six pack and car.

He might as well have had a gun.

He left a hole in me the size of Kansas.

And I never got over it.

So Father's Day makes me sad.

Strange cause I didn't even know the guy.

All I know is he was the leaving man.

Today, every school is filled with kids who have dads who are missing in action.

But in my school, we were the only ones who were raised by a single mum. I was ashamed, and his loss scarred me for life, always made me feel lesser, robbed me of what other kids had.

His death informed my choices. I was always looking for him in the eyes of older men, one of whom I married. He became the father of my children.

I was so happy to be married, to know that my children would never grow up like me without a father.

Turned out, I was wrong.

Their father was a leaving man, too.

He stuck around long enough for them to miss him, then he disappeared into the ether.

The kids haven't seen their dad in five years.

Like my own dad, he robbed his kids of a childhood, of memories of being loved, and taken to the park, of family trips and walks down the aisle.

They see him occasionally on the news, or read about him in the paper.

But they have never been worth a phone call, a card, or present. He didn't even bother to call to tell them that their grandfather died this year.

Maybe, I was right.

Maybe dads are assholes.

Maybe the kids would have been better off knowing their father was dead.

It's hard to comprehend how a man could choose to leave his children in that manner.

Fortunately, our story has a happy ending.

Scott came through in the nick of time.

He turned out to be the staying sort of man.

He helped heal my heart and, eventually, mend the shattered hearts of my children.

It wasn't easy.

The kids were teenagers, and resented him a bit at first.

But now they love him as much as anyone could love a dad.

He taught my boys how to be better men, and showed my daughter how a man should love and treat a woman.

He took everything we could throw at him, and didn't abandon us.

He just loved us more.

And that makes him the best father of all.

The kind that steps up.

To the leaving men, I say, good riddance.

Don't let the door slam you on the ass on the way out.

To the rest of you dads, especially to the ones who step up, I say good on ya.

You are heroes to your children, and your grandchild.

Sometimes love is thicker than blood.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Orlando shootings: Love is still the answer.

That is the number of people I know who are missing and presumed dead.
That one person is my cousin Ashley Simpson.
Fifty is the number of dead at the hands of a deranged gunman in Orlando, Florida.
Fifty-three is the number of wounded in that horrific act, a senseless rat-a-tat-ta of a man who wanted to kill people for no other reason than they chose different people to love.
Regardless of whether we mourn the one or the many, we are living in a war zone, and waging a war against an evil we cannot defeat, an evil bred from the brain or the loins, an evil that has no respect for humanity.
There is no difference between the ONE we are mourning and/or remembering and the 50/53.
We are all fighting the same battle.
We are all quietly weeping, feeling helpless against the rage of the beast the lies inside men and women who chose to kill, and maim and dismember.
But we must remember.
We are not helpless.
We are powerful.
And our voices need to be heard.
We must rise up against evil at every turn.
Whether it is to quash the bully in pre-school, or defeat a maniac in the polls.
We join hands, in love, and faith, and truth.
In the face of hate, we chose love.
In the face of violence, we choose peace.
And in the presence of evil, we choose good.
We cannot make sense of what is nonsensical.
But we can, each and everyone of us, choose the path of the righteous, the path of kindness, the path of collective friendship.
It is far too easy to lay blame, to categorize an act in one way or another.
It is too easy to blame religion or zealotry.
It's all the same.
They are all hate crimes committed by bigots or religious fanatics or by those possessed by psychopathy.
Let us not engage in a war of words or engulf ourselves in political fanaticism.
We can choose to love, we can choose to hate, or best of all, we can choose to join together in a collective voice, to love everyone as we would love ourselves and our families.
Out of chaos and out of evil, we will emerge victorious.
It's hard to imagine on a day like this.
But love is still the answer.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Ashley Simpson: Please sign this petition to help her family

Those who read this space regularly know that my family is frantic with worry about my cousin, Ashley Simpson, who has been missing 40 days now.

Both her boyfriend and her landlord reported that she had left with no money, no car, no resources from her Salmon Arm, B.C. home after a domestic dispute over money. Since then, there has been no trace of her. The RCMP now considers this a homicide investigation, but the family has not heard any updates from them in more than three weeks.

Just after she disappeared, her father, relatives and friends set out from St. Catharines on a long trek to B.C. to find her. They all left their work, and their lives, intent on finding Ashley who had always kept in touch. It was completely out of character for her to lose touch.

Her parents have been consumed by worry. They have been unable to work, and are having a hard time functioning. As a result, they are now relying on donations from family and friends to keep the wolf from the door.

Imagine if Ashley were your daughter, or sister. I know if one of my kids was missing, I would be unable to eat or sleep, let alone work at the hard jobs these folks do every day. That is why one of our cousins set up a GoFundMe page to help them. While the campaign has brought in more than $4,400 dollars, it is not enough to sustain the family through this ordeal.

You can help.

You can sign petition below, which recognizes the difficulties faced by families who are traumatized by crime and asks the federal government to lend its financial support to temporarily financially support them.

The petition, by Ricci Smith, states the following:

I think it is time for our Canadian government to help families of missing women in Canada financially. It cost money to locate a missing person and the police obviously don't have enough resources to keep up on the current number of missing women in Canada. If you could just put yourself in the family shoes for 10 minutes you would realize how much of a financial and emotional strain it is on everyone involved. Most families of missing loved ones cannot function on the day-to-day basis with no sleep can't work. I think it's time that we help out our fellow Canadians and friends and families of missing women. Maybe a volunteer task force. Criminal injuries can take years. These people need money as soon as their loved one goes missing. Time is everything! Please sign this petition and see if we can get some more attention drawn to this very important cause.