Rainy, Fall Day in the Country

My daughter has taken up horseback riding which requires us to be at the stable by 10:15 Saturday morning every weekend. Normally, running kids to lessons – especially ones a drive away – is an onerous task almost every parent endures. This lesson, however, has turned into delightful activity for both of us. She rides. I photograph.

I’ve become quickly recognized around the farm for photographing just about everything. It is fascinating for me to find beauty in every day things and that’s normally what I search for. This past weekend, however, nature just handed me a cornucopia of colour and beauty that I could not resist. The rain brought out already brilliant colours and the grey skies served as a soft and mottled background.

I stopped multiple times along the highway to capture various shots of fields and forest. I also, to my great joy, found a path – a section of the Russell-Prescott Recreation Trail – only minutes from the horse farm. And what a stunning canopy and carpet of coloured leaves it displayed! Please enjoy the photos below!

Falling Into the Abyss: Discussing Mental Health

The discussion of mental health has come into the spotlight over the past few years. It is being talked about in every home in North America. Everyone has been affected by it somehow, either you know someone with it, or you are suffering from it yourself. After Robin Williams killed himself, instead of simply mourning his loss, people reminded each other that we need to look, really look, at mental health. When a deranged gunman opened fire in downtown Ottawa, people gathered their wits and saw the crime for what it really was – despite what the government tried to make it out to be. It was not an act of terror, it was a rampage by a madman. The gunman fell through the cracks…or, in this case, the chasm of a decaying social safety net.

Sadly, that net has been decaying for a long time, in fact, I’m not even sure if it was ever properly woven, but it’s taken a huge hit most recently. Our government would rather turn our attention elsewhere than face ridicule for how it has single-handedly weakened our social programs to the point where they are barely able to function. People aren’t that easily distracted though and more and more are calling for measures to be taken to help the vulnerable. People are tired of seeing so much misery when solutions are available. Our government, however, isn’t only to blame. Helping those who need it most, appears to be an elusive skill right down to our local governments and institutions. So many who deviate from our so-called norm struggling to function in a society built only to serve the norm get passed around from place to place because no one really wants to deal with them. Psycho-therapeutic drugs are pushed on people; a quick, band-aid solution because the underlying issues are too messy to work with. Even more importantly, the wrong people are suggesting solutions to something which they have no expertise instead of making a simple referral.

Lest you think I’m talking about something that I’ve only read about or heard about, let me tell you something. Someone who is very close to me has been greatly affected by mental health issues – very serious and destructive issues. I’ve seen the effects first hand. This person, whose name I am not using for her own privacy, has a son who is now in the court system because he, too, fell through the cracks. Today she wrote about her thoughts and experiences in an essay which was what prompted this post. Her story is one of heartbreak but also of love. Her writing not only demonstrates her frustrations but her determination. She has included information which could be very useful to other parents who are facing the same problems. Even if you are not a parent with a child who needs help, this article is a true testament to the state of affairs in our country and, as we’ve seen, is a problem that affects us all. Please read her story here and pass the link along so that we can all be involved in this very important discussion. The more we talk about it, the more we will all be aware of where help IS available and who to turn to. Eventually, let’s hope our discussion can help to build a stronger system where NO ONE falls through.

A Mother’s Letter

(Note: Experiences expressed in this letter are particular to the area in which this writer lives. People living in other areas may have different experiences)
Mental Health has entered into our family and reared its ugly head for the last ten years. Before exhausting all our options alone, and becoming frustrated before an incident happened, we had no idea what resources were open to us before it was too late. Your G.P will not usually refer you to a mental health facility/counselor, but will prescribe anti depressants. Ours was brilliant (tongue in cheek) enough to prescribe a medication for ADHD which had absolutely no relevance to my sons issues. He did so with a weak description of symptoms at that time coming from a 13-year-old who was unsure of what he was going through and therefore could not communicate what he needed from our health practitioner. Troubling as well he had parents who believed what he was going through at that age were “growing pains”. We were ignorant to the fact he was indeed showing classic signs of depression, anxiety, anger issues which lead to a black hole of behavioural issues. All before the age of 14. Who wouldn’t realize this was beyond the normal hormone change? Our G.P. prescribed this medication without fully understanding his train of thought and anxiety. He prescribed a medication that had a street value and so began our journey into prescription drug addiction and a temporary but dangerous means of making money independently as a preteen. We stopped refilling once we were aware of what was happening. He still found a way of getting his hands on even the most dangerous of drugs. He is no saint. AND dare I say this. The gateway WAS marijuana. Period. Let the controversy begin, please give me one reason to express my feeling on that.

 

What we have learned and what most parents or individuals don’t know is assistance from a mental health counselor is available to you through your school board. The entire family is afforded six free sessions, separately. That means each member is allowed to seek individual assistance if needed for six weeks, free. This was never offered to us regardless where the information from his OSR (Ontario Student Record) pointed to. Their answer was to permanently de-register my son, through a written letter, no meeting, before exhausting all areas of assistance that we begged and pleaded for since he was seven years old. This then turned into a year and half of trying to locate a school in our jurisdiction to take him on, his special needs, his past history, his education. His education. “No child shall be turned away”. Hm hmm.

 

We supported the Catholic School Board, and when the Catholic schools wouldn’t take him because he didn’t meet the requirements we were told it would be in our best interest to seek registration with the Public School Board and good luck. We then went through every public school in our jurisdiction, only to be told they do not have the funding for his needs and let the Catholics look after it. This is truth. This turned into countless letters to the school board and CC’d to our MP. Nothing came of it and my son was sitting with a grade ten education. We considered correspondence however if you are under the age of 18 you need to be registered with a school board in order to enroll otherwise the cost to you is $500 per class.(based on the resources and channels we went through) He needed over twenty credits. We then looked into a GED (General Ed) class. They were willing to consider his application before the age of 18. We went to countless meetings, we set up a time-table and got as far as registering and a date to start. We then received a letter from the college a week prior to starting. “We regret to inform you however as of January 2013 we can no longer accept students under the age of 18”. Nobody wanted to touch him.

 

Then finally we found an alternative learning program at one of the public schools and only because a close friend mentioned it during a conversation. At least he was a registered student again, but there was no structure to these classes and he craves structure in order to stay focused. My son is brilliant, quick-witted and more than capable of learning. At the age of 12 he completed third in a biathalon with over 2500 participants. He’s athletic, a genius when it comes to math, and his musical talents would blow you away, what he can pick up on a guitar by listening to a song once. Regardless what he has done in his past, I know my son is in there and I love him so very, very much and I’m frustrated that I’m unable to help him, I feel guilty that I, a stay at home mother who was attentive to the point of paranoia, didn’t pick up the signs that would eventually destroy my sons self-esteem, confidence, and mental well-being. This is not an “Oh, woe is me” cry, this is just a mom who feels she failed her son on so many levels and the past four years have consumed me to the point of obsession to help him, but I can’t do that without the proper guidance. There is always a road block where there shouldn’t be when it comes to our children. I’ve said it before and have been very vocal. The time we received help was when his behaviour finally escalated and he found himself belonging to the courts. I no longer have control over a situation that we can help him get out of. Other than to ensure he has a good defence lawyer.

 

THE POINT TO ALL OF THIS – If your child has been identified with a learning disability, you know all to well that with a learning disability comes behavioural issues. Sometimes well beyond parenting. Sometimes too much for a child to bear on his shoulders because he doesn’t understand why he’s like this and impulse behaviour is only a brief satisfaction before suffering consequences. And this is just a fraction of their suffering while as a parent you’re justifying, enabling and making excuses for their behaviour out of sheer ignorance and denial. You have got to play hard ball, read, read, read what other parents going through similar situations have posted or blogged about out of mere bewilderment that it’s happening to them, and sometimes it just feels better when written down, they are the ones who can offer support through experience. Educate yourself, if you don’t understand what your child’s teacher is saying during meetings, tell them to dumb it down so you have a clearer understanding, ask questions upon questions, upon questions and write those answers down. Ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist if he/she is unable to help, surely to God they have information but why is it so damn hard to obtain the information? Know that help is offered through our Mental Health association be it through the school board your son or daughter is attending, be it through the EAP (Employee Assistance Program) – It should be posted in your work place above the WSIB information.

 

Join a parent group, you would be surprised how alone you are NOT. Talk with a child/parent conflict manager, they’re available through CAS (Children’s Aid Society). Most importantly, talk, talk and talk with your child. Something triggers them to misbehave in ways some of us cannot fathom and unless you have a designation in psychiatry you’ll never get it. Know their friends and what their friends are bringing into your home. Those backpacks aren’t harbouring school books. And for the love of God, don’t let them attend the Youth Centre. It’s a breeding ground for fights, drugs, and all sorts of trouble. I don’t think it’s always been like that but when I say it’s not controlled, I mean in every aspect it’s not controlled or monitored.

 

A year ago my son was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, weapons dangerous, burglary. November 15 at 6:01 am our house was raided. We had 15 men from the Police Tactical Unit surrounding/securing our home, we had five officers searching our home inside and out and finally we were evacuated from our home so they may continue looking for whatever it was they were looking for. Search Warrants are not something to take lightly. Until that day, we had our issues but lead a very quiet life, operated a reputable business within the community. One of which we take pride in, it’s our livelihood. One we operate from our home, off a highway our most loyal customers drive to their work place everyday. As selfish as this sounds, I was concerned who was going to see the circus in our front yard and never call us again? We have lost friends who think that our sons actions is something we should be crucified for and charged with as well as he. But we also had our families combined, our friends who stuck by us and have supported us. Who know my son and genuinely care about him and see all the good that is inside of him, who he really is. A good kid, with poor decision-making skills, with low self-esteem, who surrounds himself with like peers because that is where he is accepted. A son whose actions validate what he believes he’s worth.

 

I will say this, I’ve never, ever had a gun drawn on me until that day. And all I could think about was, “what has he done”? To this day I can still describe the smell of the officer who detained me in my bedroom for over an hour. I did not see my son leave the house handcuffed and thrown into a cruiser. Information to us was not allowed to be provided until the bail hearing and even then it was vague. Until we retained a lawyer we didn’t understand the full extent of our sons actions. I was beside myself. I made the hardest decision of my life that day, with my mother beside me. I denied bail and let him spend time in detention until his next hearing. He was able to call me from the facility. I couldn’t talk to him. Conversation was cut short and when I hung up, I cried and I cried hard. How can I save him from this? Who is he?

 

Our experience has taught us, there are so many programs available to our youth. Drug and Alcohol Counselling (this one is tricky because the individual has to go through the process of wanting this help and they will fall time and time again) and therapy and guidance through our Youth Mental Health, the Heads Up program which involves a psychiatrist. These all offered to us, not by court order, but coming out of the mortar when your child messes up big. All these programs that our School Boards are aware of. I still don’t know what the right question would be to initiate this help when talking with your teacher or principal, if this hadn’t happened, we would still not be aware of these programs that help our youth. I’m hoping with the beginning of our Government’s involvement with Mental Health, these programs will be included in orientation news letters and promoted through our schools to make parents aware they’re not alone and help is there.

 

My son has a chance at being offered the D.A.R.E Program for six to nine months as his sentencing. The sad part is, he has to be recommended by a parole officer through the courts. There are countless interviews and applications to be filled out and signed and documentation supporting his purpose for applying before he can be given the chance. Here is something you need to know. Project D.A.R.E offers a youth at risk program. Your school board is aware of this program and should be readily available as an alternative to parents who see their child suffering. With the help of the student’s OSR and through meetings with the teacher/principal you can gauge where your child might be on the risk meter. This program can be initiated through parental referral. Teachers have our children between six to eight hours a day and they see first hand how they respond to authority, how they progress academically, how they interact with peers, who their peers are and sometimes, there are children who act much differently in school than they do outside of school in front of their parents. Such was our case. We thought both our boys were saints. Boy, were we slapped hard in the face when we realized they weren’t. Schools have the resources to help if you have the slightest suspicion your child is slipping into the danger zone. You need to know about these resources when it becomes out of your control. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and be persistent.

 

I wish all of this didn’t happen, but in the same sentence let me say it opened doors for us to get him the help he needs now and we go forward and we continue to be his support. He will be a productive member of society and my wish for him is to thumb his nose at those who thought he was not worth the effort, or a lost cause, or unteachable. Sometimes the biggest bullies are the adults without knowing the effects their words and actions have. And that’s only part of it.

 

What I’m proud of is how he’s handled this situation without so much as blaming anyone but himself. He continues to face the music, which is a hard, hard lesson. He is cognizant of his actions, how much harm he’s done not only to his victim, but to his family. He’s regained the confidence to realize he can obtain his high school diploma with hard work and determination. The hardest thing he had to endure before even considering his future was becoming clean and sober. With the help of the programs listed above, he’s conditioned his way of thinking and feeling worthy and capable of moving forward. His plan remains, as it did when he was a little boy, to join the military. It’s a long road and may have a lot of barriers but I know, he’ll break them down and no matter how long it takes him to achieve a sound, stable, healthy and happy life, he’ll get there. I have faith in him.

 

I’ve written this and if you know me, nothing is ever short and to the point, but if I can help at least one family who have recognized themselves in this, then I feel I haven’t failed my son. He’s opened my eyes and I’ve never been alone, I just didn’t educate myself to know what was out there to help me. I’m not ashamed of sharing this. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to seek the help you may need. Bring forward Mental Health. It may be the most important thing you’ve ever done for your loved ones.

Directory of Helpful Links:
Children’s Aid Society
Project D.A.R.E
Heads Up Program
Addictions Centre

Summer Vacation 2014 – First Leg – Georgian Bay

Hello all! I’m here in Prince Edward Island and have finally had time to take a breath and go through the hundreds of photos I’ve taken in the last week. I can tell you that it’s quite an overwhelming undertaking. However, I did divide them into the different legs of the journey which made sifting much easier. We have crossed four provinces and have driven almost 2,300 km in a week. We’ve visited my Dad in Georgian Bay, taken the kids to La Ronde in Montreal, toured historic Quebec City, made a quick stop in Fredericton, and are finally resting a few days near Alberton, Prince Edward Island before heading back to Ottawa.

Georgian Bay is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places in Ontario. My Dad and his wife are fortunate to have a lovely cottage in the area of Honey Harbour. Although they don’t look out onto Georgian Bay itself, they have a gorgeous view of a smaller bay that is relatively quiet and sheltered. Although the skies were overcast all weekend, it did not stop the kids from swimming. They had a choice of going in off the dock or splashing in the sandy beach area. Aside from 1000 shots of them jumping into the water and searching for fish in the shallow waters, I spent the rest of my time taking nature shots.

The most frustrating thing in the world is to try to take a photo of a Loon. I swear that they purposely taunt me by appearing just close enough to shore that my zoom lens can barely make them out or by popping up right next to the dock when all I have with me is my cell phone. Then, just as I’m about to take the shot, they dive under the water and, after what seems like an eternity, pop up again 6 miles away. So, you’ll forgive me if the shot I’m displaying here is not entirely crisp but it’s the best darn photo of a Loon I’ve ever taken.

Loon Georgian Bay

The other photo of a bird I took was purely out of curiosity. I wasn’t sure what it was. It was soaring like a Hawk but was far too large to be a Hawk. It seemed much too graceful to be a Turkey Vulture, and yet, that’s what it turned out to be. I had never realized that Turkey Vultures have beautiful silvery wings, but as it dove and soared over the cottage, I could see them glistening in the sun. I’m rather glad that, due to my distance from the vulture, I wasn’t able to capture a clear shot of its face. You can, however, see the red around the eye and the yellow beak if you look closely.

Vulture GB_sm

The Muskoka Chair is kind of a cultural icon especially in areas North of Toronto. It is the Canadian version of the Adirondack Chair. There are subtle differences if you look closely. It seems almost like a faux pas if you have a cottage and don’t have one of these chairs. The well crafted ones are very nice and are quite comfortable. I liked the secluded location of this one in the photo and thought, if I had time to myself, I’d like to curl up in it with a good book and enjoy my surroundings.

Muskoka Chair GB_sm

Of course, I have to include a few of the flora as well so here they are – Lily Pads and Daisies.

I’ll return soon with stories and photos from Quebec. 🙂

A Drive to Spencerville

Took a drive south of Ottawa yesterday to see a wonderful Heritage Fair organised by the Spencerville Mill. Re-enactors from different groups converged to recreate events and life from the time of the War of 1812. Spencerville is a beautiful little town and the day itself was full of interesting things to see and do. The re-enactors, themselves, are a wonderful group of people always willing to talk about history and to help visitors feel as though they are a part of the day not just spectators.

Enjoy the photos in this gallery. I’ll have more later in the week…detailed information on the war, the re-enactors, and scenic shots of the area. Gotta love history!

Happy Monday.

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Thoughts on Father’s Day

With my dad and sister 1974.
With my dad and sister 1974.

Well, it’s Father’s Day and, as usual, I’m spending it away from my dad. Life has taken us in different directions, physically. It’s probably been a couple of years since we’ve seen each other, a fact I rather regret. You see, it’s not intentional, it’s just that I have kids and he is getting older so time and ability to travel, on both sides is, limited.  As I write it and re-read it, it sounds kind of lame, really, this reason for not getting together but it’s the truth. We don’t talk often on the phone either. Maybe once a month; twice if we’re lucky.

With all this in mind, you might think we were estranged, but nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I think of him often and fondly. I think he does the same but also with that parental worry attached, as every good father does. When we talk on the phone it’s always a pleasure for me. Hearing my father’s voice is like snuggling up to a childhood stuffy or blanket. It’s so familiar and so comforting…even if he’s reprimanding me in his very subtle, between-the-lines kind of way that he’s very good at.

Yesterday, I drove up to the cottage by myself. I needed to mow the lawn and vacuum amongst other small projects. It was one of those perfect June days; sunny with fluffy clouds in the sky, a warm breeze, crickets and birds singing in the grasses. As I drove along the winding roads of the countryside, I could feel every tension in my body release and I suddenly wondered why. I wondered why it was here, in the middle of nowhere, and nowhere near home, that I felt most at home. I didn’t grow up on a farm but rather a small-sized city. My dad was a history teacher at one of the local highschools. The countryside was a place through which we traveled to get from town to town.

Or was it? Suddenly an image came to me which brought a smile to myself that I couldn’t turn off if I’d wanted to. It was of my dad in a bright orange Cat Diesel Power cap rested just on top of his mat of wavy hair, which, if you knew my dad, was the antithesis of who he really was. But my dad always enjoys the dramatic approach to things; the eccentricities he can conjure. Anyway, that hat marked the days of the auction sales! My mom and dad were both antique enthusiasts and enjoyed running an antique business on the side. Almost every Saturday of the summer we rolled over the hills and through the valleys of Perth, Waterloo, and Oxford counties in our stationwagon (my sister and I sitting unbelted in the very back) in search of sales or for the purpose of setting up at table at a  flea market or antique show.

Auction sales were always  at farm estates, big beautiful open spaces with old homes and old barns. There was always a fence or a tree to climb, and an adventure to be had. My sister and I roamed like gypsy children while mom and dad focused on the goods for sale. I think it was a time when we were the freest. Mom let down her guard a bit and dad seemed happy to just be away from the classroom as a completely different persona. Certainly, my sister and I weren’t always agreeable about going back then, but I’m happy to look back fondly on it now. It really was some of the best times of my childhood and that explains a lot.

So there you are,  Dad, you can dress up all you want but you see how you are in my memories?! 🙂 As a parent it goes to show you that of all the things you do for your  children, the things you do to make yourself happy, if you can include your children, can created the fondest and longest lasting of memories. I’m glad you didn’t abandon yourself, Dad. I’m glad you side a bit on the eccentric. I’m glad you are you and you’re my dad! I’m glad I have you to think about. Thank you and Happy Father’s Day! I love you.

A Summer of Canadian History

MacSkimming Outdoor Education Centre

Summer vacation is fast approaching and the kids are at the age where boredom arises very quickly, especially for my 9-year-old. Years ago, when the kids were smaller, I was very good at planning days around naps. We went on outings to parks and museums, we had structured times for snacks and crafts and, for the most part, the day went very smoothly until the suicide hour (dinner prep time)…of which no stay-at-home parent has much control. That daily catastrophe seems to have lessened with time, happily, but the need for structure, is still relevant…especially for me. As much as I love the freedom of summer, I also have difficulty moving from a structured school year to a completely open calendar. Now lest you think I am one of these parents who schedules their children to death. No, I am not. I definitely believe in the advantages of free play. But there is only an advantage to it if the kids are engaged and not complaining of boredom or not spending all of their time in front of a screen. So, I have decided to take summer by the reigns and ride it out with a theme in mind. Canadian History.

Children’s Museum – The Canadian Museum of Civilization

It may actually be more appropriately named, Ontario History, as Canada is such a huge country with a diverse history, it would take us multiple summers to skim the surface. But, whatever, I’m not putting out a bloody brochure so I shall digress no further. Luckily, Ottawa is a great place to be if you want to delve into the history of the country, the province, and the city. The first place I always think of when someone says they want to know more about Canadian History, is the Canadian Museum of Civilization. My kids love the Children’s Museum, which is a section of the Museum of Civilization. This year, I may, however, encourage them to explore beyond the Children’s Museum. As good as it is for kids, there are so many interesting things in the main museum that give excellent insight into our history. Not only does the museum cover our pioneer past, they have in-depth exhibits on aboriginal history and arctic exploration.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa

The Canadian Museum of Nature, the Canada Museum of Science and Technology, the Canadian Aviation and Space Museum, the Canada Agriculture Museum and the Canadian War Museum are all national museums to which we have access, not to mention Parliament Hill and the Governor General’s Estate. I’m sure we will visit each one but I would like to go beyond the big names and search out the smaller places too that focus on local history. Places like Pinhey’s Point Historic Site, Billings Estate Museum, and the Bytown Museum have quaint charm as well as being great resources for history. A nicely compiled list of Ottawa and area museums to visit can be found here if you are interested. (I should also mention that cemeteries are another great way to absorb local and national history while enjoying the lovely grounds. See my post here on Canada’s National Cemetery here in Ottawa.)

The Mill at Black Creek Pioneer Village

Of course, moving beyond Ottawa, the variety of museums and historical sites is so numerous, I wouldn’t even try to mention them all here. But I will tell you of a few places I have visited that I would highly recommend. About an hour south of Ottawa is the beautiful Upper Canada Village located just outside of Morrisburg. Here you can see and experience the way pioneers lived and take part in fun events like carriage rides, old-fashioned weddings, and bi-plane rides. Further West is Kingston’s Fort Henry. There you can explore the fort as well as get an idea of what living there would have been like in the mid-1800’s. Like Upper Canada Village, it is situated overlooking the beautiful St. Lawrence river and also hosts exciting events like the sunset ceremonies and a military tatoo. Even further West is another museum hub…Toronto. A couple of my favourite places to visit there are the Royal Ontario Museum and Black Creek Pioneer Village. The ROM focuses on natural and world history where as Black Creek focuses on local pioneer history. Black Creek, like Upper Canada Village, as well as being educational, is just a beautiful place to walk in and spend the day. Toronto also has Casa Loma and historic Fort York (which I haven’t been to yet), and even more numerous other places than Ottawa.

Fort William Historical Park

Finally, I can’t not mention Thunder Bay’s Fort William Historical Park. It is one of my most favourite historical sites in all of Ontario. It’s a pity it’s so far away but if you’re ever in the area, do not…I mean it…DO NOT miss it! It’s not like the forts we have here in Southern Ontario, made of stone and full of tunnels and trenches. It is laid out more like a pioneer village and surrounded with a massive log fence. It has a huge courtyard, numerous buildings, a farm, canons, canoe rides, and lots of hands-on activities and other fun and exciting events throughout the summer. I shall not go further into what Northern Ontario has to offer in the way of history as I’m not that knowledgeable. If a reader is from the area and wants to make some suggestions, I’d be delighted to read them. If not, there are online resources like this one which list museums and museum events according to locale.

Also, before I conclude, something that I discovered while doing research for the is post I must pass along to all the parents out there. If your child is attending an Ontario school you can sign up at Ontario Fun Pass and get free passes for many of the museums and historical parks around the province. Go get them here!

Here’s to a fun and adventurous summer that I hope will prove to also be educational. Enjoy the sunshine and free spirit of summer!

(For all those readers not from the area, thanks for reading and if you ever visit, you’ll have a good head start on what to see! :))

The Pain of Getting a Flu Shot in Ontario

They say you shouldn’t write when your frustrated…or is that bake…well, whatever. I’m frustrated and I’m taking a risk by writing so be forewarned but I need to vent.

I heard, before school started this year, that Americans were getting their flu shots at the end of August. Ok, granted, they have to pay for it, but to me, that sounded like a good time. Imagine having your kids immunized before they even start school. That would be so convenient and effective. So, school started and I began asking around to the other mothers (one of them was a doctor), at the clinics, and at the pharmacy, when we could get our flu shots here in Ottawa. No one really knew. Not even the doctors or pharmacists. I thought that was very strange but what can you do if no one knows? I’ll wait a few weeks, I thought, surely by the beginning of October someone will know something.

Nothing. No news but the “Get your flu shot” emails started flying around so I figured, there’s gotta be information soon. It’s now the middle of October and I just found a list of flu clinics that START on October 30th here in Ottawa. So I picked up the phone and called our pediatrician’s office. I asked when flu shots would be available there.
“Are your kids high risk?” She asked.
No.
“Well, we only get enough doses for high risk patients.”
So what if I can’t make it to a clinic, can we get one from the doctor then?
“Once all the clinics are closed (middle of December), if you still don’t have one, call us and we’ll see if we have any doses left.”
So, I basically have to go to a pharmacy or a City of Ottawa clinic (and stand in a long line) to get a shot, or I don’t get one.
“This is the way it’s been distributed.”
Great. Thanks.

Out of curiosity I checked The Public Health Agency of Canada’s website. They have a FluWatch calendar on which they clearly state that “Week 35 (August 28th) marks the beginning of the influenza surveillance season for 2011-12” in Canada. As of that date there were already cases of the flu in several locations in Canada, although not wide-spread by any stretch. But it is still out there. Let me do the math then. Flu season starts the end of August and we can’t get immunized until the end of October. That’s two months of virus brewing fun! Not only do we have to wait until mid flu season, in order to get immunized we have to jump through hoops (at least here in Ottawa) to get immunized. Knowing the general public, who are already wary of the effectiveness of the shot, how many do you think will go out of their way to get it? How does this protect the public? What am I missing here?

Every year we are bombarded with advertising recommending that we get the flu shot, that’s it’s very important to stop the spread of the virus. And yet it doesn’t seem to be a priority of the health agencies and doctors to get us immunized early and easily. I mean, why not have immunization clinics in schools? Why not stock all doctor’s clinics with enough doses to take care of all of their patients? (Of course the last time I tried to make an appointment with my doctor I was told I’d have to wait two months…but that’s another story). Why not have the immunizations available at drug stores at the end of August? Why not make it EASY??? What’s so hard about that?

Of course getting the flu shot is important and is particularly critical if you’re around babies, the elderly, or other people who are high risk. I’m not at all advocating not getting the shot…in case there was any misconception. I’ll be getting one and will likely trudge out to one of these clinics AND I probably won’t be happy about it – in fact, I plan not to be (oh yes, I’m holding a grudge).

Of course I’ll be there…IF I don’t get the flu first!

To Get Your Flu Shot if you’re in Ottawa:
City of Ottawa Clinics
Shoppers Drug Mart Clinics