Top Picks BC Family Day 2017 photo bc family 2017_zpsp0g9eefc.jpg

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca / Editorial

On February 13th your family has two options.  Stay home and relax on one of those rare days when nothing is scheduled.  Or get out and take advantage of the sunshine (hopefully) or community activities.  Community centres across British Columbia will be putting on free activities and many sites and tourist locations will be offering reduced admission and special activities at their sites.  If your family is on a tight budget, BC Family Day can be a good opportunity to squeeze in opportunities that don’t happen at other times in the year.

Enjoy your BC Family day, have fun and have a good rest – whatever you decide to do.


BRITISH COLUMBIA: Government funded free activites at local community centers around British Columbia. (It’s worth checking out what’s going on in a neighbourhood community centre.)

BRITISH COLUMBIA: Go for a nature walk in a local setting or farther afield. Choose from settings by a lake, river, ocean, waterfall, marsh/bog/wetland, or through a forest, large park or mountain setting.  If you’re going to an area that’s on the edge of the wilderness, bring the appropriate emergency hiking supplies, including a compass.  Cell phones won’t always work once you are farther away from a cell phone tower. In the Lower Mainland, there are a number of communities where you can find attractive walks along the Fraser River.

BURNABY: Burnaby Lake Regional Park (Arts and crafts activities can be combined with a walk around the lake)

BURNABY: Burnaby Village Museum Carousel (Crafts, heritage carnival games, a children’s entertainer and unlimited carousel rides at one low price. Pre Registration is recommended.  The museum will be closed.)

BURNABY: Lower Burnaby Mountain hike (Free to join. There will be hot chocolate and light refreshments afterwards.)

CHILLIWACK: $5 Chilliwack Scouts Pancake breakfast, 9 – Noon, Chilliwack United Church Hall, 45835 Spadina Avenue.

DELTA: WinSkill Park (Obstacle race through the park. Registration required.)

FORT LANGLEY: Fort Langley (Complimentary Canada 150 admission for everyone, plus special activities are planned)

LANGLEY: Campbell Valley Regional Park (Arts an Crafts activities can be combined with a walk in the area)

LANGLEY: Greater Vancouver Zoo (There will be 3 special talks and admission is 30% off.)

LANGLEY: Fraser Valley Family Day (Admission by donation. Face painting, obstacle course, music and visits from Vancouver Stealth, BC Lions and Vancouver Giants players.  Proceeds from admission tickets support local charities.)

MAPLE RIDGE: ACT Theatre (Free Lantern making workshop and craft)

NEW WESTMINSTER: Anvil Centre (Science World on the road and a large variety of arts focussed activities.) See page 2 of brochure.

NEW WESTMINSTER:  Queen’s Park Greenhouse (10:30 – 12:30 PM) Tour the greenhouse and make a small lettuce garden to take home.

NEW WESTMINSTER: Fraser River Discovery Centre (Gold panning, science talk, puppet show, a walking tour and other events. Registration is required for the 1 1/2 hour walking tour along the Fraser River.)

NEW WESTMINSTER: River Market (Activities, games, crafts and programmes.  If you’ve always wanted to learn how to make soap, there will be a 1 hour drop in class. Cost $12.50.)

NORTH VANCOUVER: Lonsdale Quay (Family Day market featuring local artisans, a farmers’ market, a pancake fundraiser, balloon animal twisting, musical performances and a variety of vendors. 10 – 3 PM.)

NORTH VANCOUVER: Cypress Mountain (50% off Skooter and Child Lift/Trail/Tubing tickets)

NORTH VANCOUVER: Capilano Suspension Bridge (BC Family Day rate of $85 for two adults and one or two children ages 6-16.  A visit to the bridge includes the treetops and cliffwalk sites.)

NORTH VANCOUVER: Seymour Mountain (Children 12 and under and a maximum of 2 children per paying adult can access free children’s lift tickets after 2:30 PM.)

NORTH VANCOUVE: Grouse Mountain (50% off for admission for BC Residents, and many special activities on the day)

RICHMOND: Gulf of Georgia Cannery, Steveston (Free general admission.  Age restrictions not listed on their website. Check out the Britannia Shipyards as well.)

RICHMOND: Richmond Children’s Festival, Richmond Cultural Centre ($5 admission which includes a number of special events. An additional $12 adds on admission to a special Circus West performance)

RICHMOND:  Steveston Community Society (Pancake breakfast, free.  Registration is required.)

RICHMOND: Richmond Nature Park (A scavenger hunt and treasure hunt in the bog has been scheduled. Admission by donation.)

SURREY: Surrey Nature Centre (Nature walk, story time and indoor/outdoor activities.)

SQUAMISH (BRITANNIA BEACH): Britannia Mine Museum (Includes 50% off admission.)

SQUAMISH: Sea to Sky Gondola in Squamish and Ski Callaghan Nordic skiing (Both locations are offering 50% off admission and other activities)

VANCOUVER: Vancouver Art Gallery (Includes $5 off admission and free admission for children 12 and under.)

VANCOUVER:  VanDusen Garden (open 10 – 4 PM)  and Bloedel Conservatory (open 10 – 5 PM) ($5 combined admission or $3 admission to one site. Create a bird feeder, visit a world class Elizabethan hedge maze and enjoy indoor games and face painting.)

VANCOUVER: Commercial Drive (Free admission to special BC Family Day activities at the Britannia Ice Rink and local merchants are offering special deals for the day.)

VANCOUVER: Vancouver Giants (There will be a post game family skate)

VANCOUVER: Vancouver Museum (Free admission for youth 18 years and under)

VANCOUVER: Science World (Includes 25% off admission.)

VANCOUVER: Sun Yat-Sen Chinese Gardens (It’s a perfect time of year to visit the gardens, following Chinese New Year.  Children 5 and under and Seniors 65 and older will get free admission)

VANCOUVER: Pacific Spirit Regional Park (Visit a campfire and learn about plants and animals using stories and songs.)

VICTORIA: Royal BC Museum (Special Family Day events are planned to take place at the museum)

VICTORIA: 14 BC Family Day Events

WHISTLER: Audain Art Museum (Special afternoon art felt event, free with admission ticket)

WHISTLER: Whistler Blackcomb (50% off lift tickets for BC residents)

WHISTLER: Save $50 on accommodation in Whistler

WHISTLER: Family Day activities in Whistler

OTHER: Most communities have HIGH STREETS where you can find one-off shops featuring local and British Columbia’s artisans. For adults and parents with older children, a stroll through a high street and a stop at an interesting cafe can be a fun way to spend the day.  Some popular areas are Kitsilano; portions of Broadway (near McDonald), 10th and Sasamat near UBC and 4th avenue; South Granville Rise (although these shops are a bit more name brand); Commercial Drive; Ambleside and Dundarave (because you can also walk on the boardwalk); and, Chemainus and Comox on Vancouver Island.

***Please check an organization’s website before heading out to ensure that details of  the event are accurate and haven’t changed. Many of these events are at a specific time and some require registration.

What is your favourite activity to do on BC Family Day?  You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

The Unsexy Life

Travel Comments Off
Jan 302017

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Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca / Editorial

The last trip outside of British Columbia that anyone in our family took – other than 2 road trips to the San Juan Island and Oregon respectively – was 10 years ago. My husband and I went to a family wedding party in our honour in northern Alberta and we flew to Athens and various Greek islands for our honeymoon.  Since then it’s been a matter of logistics and monetary concerns that have kept us within a 100 mile radius here in British Columbia.  (If you’d like to see what that 100 mile lifestyle looks like, check out the Instagram.com/BCFamilyca account.) We live in a beautiful part of the world and enjoy visiting with family on Vancouver island once a year. Otherwise we explore natural settings closer to home.

Sure, other people in our situation are tossing a few diapers in a bag and heading to the airport with one toddler aged twin under each arm.  That just hasn’t been our story.

I grew up in a foreign service family and know the value of traveling and exploring other cultures.  In our own family, here in BC, we live a multicultural lifestyle; study a second language (and others too); celebrate many festivals from different countries throughout the year; and, constantly learn about different cultures.

So there have been no flights to X or Y.  No trips to Hawaii, Mexico or Cuba.  No jaunts down to Disneyland, Vegas or Palm Springs.  No photo spreads on Facebook about our trip to Paris or Tokyo. No quick whirlwind visits tying in with a class reunion overseas or someone’s destination wedding. No couple trip down south while the grandparents babysit. No girls’ trip to a winery or guys’ trip to see a baseball game in Toronto.

These facts make my family very unchic in some people’s eyes. Not long ago I met up with a couple from out of town. We spent a lot of time talking about their professional and personal interests and the new changes in their lives.  And they asked us…. um… well nothing, to be honest.  It must have seemed that our lives hadn’t changed, in their eyes, since the last time they saw us. They just didn’t ask us anything about ourselves.

Surely we can’t be successful or truly middle class if we live like this.  What the heck must we be doing to not be able to pull any of these scenarios off?  But I also know that a lot of other BC families are doing the same. The cost of living, real estate, transit and food, and children’s activities in BC is high.  Stable, long term, well paid jobs in BC are not plentiful. A lot of families are carrying heavy debt loads.

We haven’t sold it all and taken off on a boat or backpacking trip around the world.  And despite putting in many years of work working for the man between my husband and myself – oh yes, I have the resume to prove it – there will be no pension in the future to finance more traveling.  (Side bar.  84% of British Columbians work for small businesses.  I wonder how many of them will have pension financed travel in the future?) We’ve got our eye on running a healthy budget and not abusing credit card use. It’s not sexy or gripping stuff but it’s not a bad thing either. And it’s not that other globe trotting families  with household incomes under $100,000 a year are not living within their means. Maybe they’ve paid off their mortgage. Maybe they have lower overhead in other ways. It’s also not that our family have other priorities such as eating out at fancy restaurants or buying lots of clothes and tech toys. ( I use a non-WiFi activated phone on a $20 per month plan.  When I found out recently that I could download a Mandarin-English dictionary complete with character search into my phone, I almost cried.)  In our family living within our means is simply about breathing easier.

I’m not relaying some deeply personal information here.  If you’re shrewd, pay attention and hang in our hood, you’ll observe this fact about our family and other families we know.

Our story is the story of many British Columbians  – and not just those who are living in low income households. It’s not a sob story and it’s not about discussing a 1st world problem.  It’s just a story about a lifestyle that’s not uncommon but is also not often acknowledged.

That’s all.

How does your family juggle budgetary concerns, logistics and travel plans? You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Reunions and get togethers. photo lost and found a_zpszrolsujl.jpg

This year has been the year of get togethers, anniversaries and reunion invites. I miss more than I can attend but that doesn’t stop me from pondering the social considerations and politics of getting together with long lost friends and relatives.

How do you feel about getting together with friends and family after being apart for many years?

This year I had the opportunity to travel and attend a family function that would have meant meeting people I haven’t seen in many years. “But of course they want to see you?  They know you.  But they don’t know me and don’t stay in contact.  I even read a comment shared by one of them that she goes to family events and doesn’t recognize any of the people. Why should I spend the money to go? They never stop by when they’re driving through.”

It was a wasted effort.  It didn’t matter what I said.  I was seen to be the negative one for not getting the vision.

I have mixed feelings about the prospect of reunions and get togethers. They have the potential to be a lot of fun but there are also pitfalls.  The people I knew best most likely will not attend. Past experiences have proved this theory to be true.

Plus the people I chummed around with most often have either moved away or have fallen head first into their busy careers. I have the “I’d love to get together. I’m just so swamped right now.” e-mails to prove it. In the intervening years we have pretty much fallen out of touch, as the saying goes.

Of course you can get together after not meeting up for years and pick up where you left off. But sometimes the lack of any communication creates an awkward situation.  You don’t really know how their career or personal life has been going.  No, you’re not even privy to random and never terribly revealing – on a personal level – Facebook posts. You haven’t stayed abreast of the news about their growing children. The list of pitfalls goes on.  One couple I know told me some years ago that they weren’t interested to take part in social media efforts.  Why would they want to stay in touch with someone with whom they haven’t socialized in 15 years?  In a few years (and not many at that) it will have been 15 years since I’ve last seen them.  I’m guessing I should add myself to that “why bother?” list.  It’s a shame because I really did enjoy their company and I think we could have maintained some exchange of friendship and information long distance.

At least we’re contacts on LinkedIn.

Friends are close for a reason, a season and a lifetime.  Some friends keep a strong connection long distance, even after many years of absence.  But not all good quality friendships are destined to go that route.  And that doesn’t mean that anyone is at fault.   Of course I’d love to have the opportunity to meet up but how should I act? How deep should our conversations go? Should we renew closer contact after the get together? Maybe they won’t want that and I don’t want to be the one making them feel obliged.  What should I do when I meet people like this at a get together? What will happen if you’re comfortable with the awkward lack of connections but the other person harbours ill feelings? Will they avoid talking with you or keep the conversation painfully cool and impersonal?

And then there’s the truly uncomfortable issues.  I’ll admit that I have a good memory. So it’s hard to forget those times when people said to me “Gosh we were following what happened.  That person/group of people really didn’t treat you very well.” Great – you suspect you hadn’t warranted the treatment that you received and now you have the proof.  Of course we should forgive and move on but do people change?  You’ll be getting together with some people who weren’t terribly friendly with you in the past.  Should you be chummy with them now as if nothing happened?  After all, you’re all fellow family members, colleagues, dorm roommates or alumni. Meanwhile your support group – the people with whom you’d like to meet up – most likely will be a no show.

I should just go, talk to people who seem pleasant, hit the appetizers and leave.  Or maybe I could squeeze in my spouse and children into the event and hide behind them. There’s nothing worse than staying away for all the wrong reasons.  Or are they wrong?

Ugh.  Sometimes it’s easier to just not… you know…. who will miss you? Your absence will be noted and the party will go on just fine.

How do you react to these opportunities? Do you just put on an optimistic face and stride forth?  You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Have you read the blog post about the 10 types of moms that the blog author plans to avoid? Yes, the one with the click baity title. The one with the “I don’t mean anything by my conversation and questioning – I’m just curious” angle.

“I think we should amend that definition [of curious] just a little bit to something along the lines of, “eager to learn or know about something that pertains to you.” (Kat Boogard, Muse)

Asking about something that pertains to someone else could come across as nosy if you’re asking the other person to reveal personal information that doesn’t need to be shared. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have these conversations about sensitive topics with other parents.  But maybe asking for an elevator speech right off the top is not the best approach. If you take the time to get to know someone over time – and after many hours of conversation – there’s a good chance that you’re going to hear what it’s like to parent multiples, raise a child with special needs or any other topic that comes to mind. (Just thinking back to that “hey mums, you’re so touchy – I’m just curious and genuinely want to connect” post.)

The person who asked if I was my children’s nanny and then proceeded to ask a lot more questions about how they came from somewhere else (once informed that I wasn’t a nanny) wasn’t being nosy. Careless and inattentive? Yes. Nosy? Not so much.

What about the person who asked me if I’d used drugs in order to have twins? I “Oh you mean did I have intercourse before my children were conceived?” Or, putting it more bluntly, “Are we talking about my sex life?”

Yeh…. pretty nosy.

The person who keeps asking me more and more questions about how I met my husband, not accepting the answers that I have given, is being nosy.  Why do I say that? It’s the “yes but where/how…” replies that are repeated that are a dead giveaway. And by the way, most likely I have no idea how he/she met his/her partner. Does it really matter?

(His/her is awkward. I’ll continue using “her” only but this topic involves both genders.)

Spend time getting to know someone, and you might gain the insight that you are seeking. You’re also likely to see that person in action, interacting with children or revealing what life is like for her. Everyone’s entitled to have different feelings about certain types of questions. Some people don’t care if you ask them how they procreated, for example. Others do.

What’s the solution? Someone who barely knows your name or barely knows you, asks you a nosy question. You can tell that the information request is just about that person fulfilling a need for information. It’s not because there is a hope that you will start a meaningful friendship.  How should you respond?

  • Look back at the person silently but don’t answer.  Reveal a flash of a distracted look, like you were thinking about something else and didn’t hear the question, and then change the topic.
  • Give a vague answer back.
  • Give a vague answer back and (if you’re feeling irritated) ask that person the same question. Watch the squirming begin. It happens every time.
  • Ask “why do you ask?”.  This reply doesn’t work for questions that have a simple premise.  But it can work sometimes.

It’s always best to avoid deciding that you don’t want to talk with someone and get to know her just because she doesn’t want to pony up about certain areas of her life.  Deciding to write a post proving that these sensitive feelings are a bit much,and you really care, is not going to help your case. It’s likely that you don’t know and might never fully understand why someone doesn’t want to talk about a specific personal topic.

It would take a long time to walk those 1,000 miles in her shoes.

Let a person reveal herself, over time, in a way in which she feels comfortable.

Your patience will be rewarded.

You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

 photo autumn 3_zpslszwhccq.jpgMid Autumn Moon Festival artwork that my daughter completed in 1st grade.

Pamela Chan, Editorial/BCFamily.ca

The sky is blue and the clouds haven’t rolled into the Lower Mainland yet.  It’s a perfect day to get outside and enjoy the sunshine.  It will also be the perfect night for moon viewing and celebrating Mid Autumn Moon Festival.

Mid Autumn Moon Festival is a Chinese festival that is celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month in the Chinese calendar.  Each year – according to the Gregorian calendar used in Canada – it will fall in either September or October.

I first noticed this festival when I was a graduate student at UBC, living in a graduate student college called St. John’s College.  St. John’s houses 160 graduate students, post doctoral researchers and visiting scholars. During the time of the festival, there would be a special banquet for the residents and a cultural performance was held in the college’s lounge.  One year I recall seeing musical presentations, a play and listening to a sung recital of poetry, which was particularly beautiful.

After I met my Chinese-Canadian husband, I decided that it would be fun to celebrate the festival in our own way.  This is the recipe for our celebration that we have developed.

  1. Have mooncakes on hand. My mother-in-law kindly supplies us with cakes every year.  They are very beautiful and look lovely displayed on a tray.
  2. Choose poetry to recite. The poems don’t have to be about the moon necessarily, although that’s always nice.  But they should be written by Chinese poets from centuries past. It’s always interesting to hear the thoughts of people who lived long ago.
  3. Bake a cake or cupcakes and decorate them with a moon inspired design.
  4. Set up lanterns on the balcony. I have pretty embroidered lanterns from China that I like to use.
  5. Set out the cakes and have blankets on the chairs.
  6. Invite everyone to come outside when the moon viewing is optimal. If there is some cloud coverage at night, you have to watch to make sure you don’t miss your opportunity.
  7. Read a traditional Chinese story for children. (We liked to read The Empty Pot*, by Demi.)
  8. Read the poems and admire the moon.
  9. Eat!

It’s that easy and that simple.

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You can develop any traditions that you’d like and you don’t have to be Chinese to celebrate.  At this time of the month, the harvest moon is at its roundest.  It symbolizes families coming together and many do get together to have dinner, look at the moon and eat mooncakes.  This is also the time when rice is harvested, so the celebration – as one Chinese woman explained to me – is a version of the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday.

How do you celebrate Mid Autumn Moon Festival?  You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!


Mid Autumn Moon Festival in Coquitlam (BCFamily.ca)

Fly me to the moon – Mid Autumn Moon Festival (BCFamily.ca)

Mid Autumn Moon Festival History and Origins

How to make Chinese mooncakes

* BCFamily.ca uses Book Depository affiliate programme links.  Book Depository sends books to Canada, and worldwide, using free (!) worldwide shipping.

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Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca / Editorial

Ten years ago Misery Monday was a thing on social media.

“I hate my job.”

“My job is boring me senseless.”

“My love life is non existent.”

“I hate Mondays.”

In 2016, we can pretty much say that Misery Monday is officially dead.

“I love my job.”

“I love working for my company.”

“Here I am on a business trip in fabulous location X.”

“My company won an award lately. Did I mention that I love my job?”

You can imagine how this style of sharing information would play out in the personal posts.

Some might argue that people really feel that way and want to share their happiness.  Why rain on their sunshine?   Fair enough but if you don’t feel the same way, simply be silent.  There is no other option for you. (Unless you want to be muted or “unfriended/unfollowed” online.) Because that’s how it rolls in 2016.

But you can complain about the cost of real estate and being busy.  Everyone’s complaining about that.

It’s all about leaning in, being upbeat, projecting success, being inspirational and basically loving life.  And if you’re really savvy about social media and mix the personal with the professional, you’ve already branded yourself across multiple channels.  Your updates are fed to your grandmother and that stylish colleague of yours in Berlin.  It’s one size fits all. With glass half full in hand, you maximize all possibilities in your life.

Call me grumpy but sometimes I want to read about or share a good old grumble.  And I know that it’s not the wisest thing to be bad mouthing your boss or the office.  In the last ten years there are lawyers out there who have been focussing, almost exclusively, on helping employers to go after employees based on the latters’ online ramblings. Jobs are being lost.

So that’s that then.

You are not allowed to – and probably shouldn’t – admit that your job is soul destroying.

If you’re job hunting, make sure that you express how much you are loving the process. You’re not aghast at the terms of the job postings you’re encountering.  You don’t mind the prospect of a yet another 3 hour daily commute using multiple modes of transit.  You’re not depressed by the wages that are being offered and the lack of job security and benefits.  Yes, you’d love to work as an intern for three months, without pay.  You’re not encountering ageism, sexism, racism or any other ism as you try to secure a job.  And make sure that any of your public discussions on these points make your enthusiasm obvious.

Because you know that your digital foot print is being watched and researched.

It might not be a legal point, but apparently it’s just not so positive of you to complain about the dating scene, how your family treats you or any of these potentially prickly topics. Such honesty could reflect poorly on you, as a professional.

While we’re at it, it seems that every day I read a post about how married couples should be getting to know each other in the biblical sense, multiple times per week.  You’ve read the dire predictions about the potential for divorce; stale, platonic relations; and, poor health. Even the Pope has weighed in on this topic.

So no pressure on this score either and no complaints about that layer of pressure on top of everything else you’re juggling.  While you’re leaning in and balancing your public and private life, you will not admit to feeling stressed and overwhelmed and you will not let life get in the way of – you know – the Pope’s advice about your bedroom activities.

Go ahead and share about your date nights and your romantic getaways.  If you’re single and on the dating scene, write about how much you love to meet new people via dating apps.

And if you have a blog, pump out those Ten Tips articles on a topic of your choice.

What about all that encouragement and – perhaps – gentle advice that your mates could have given you if you admitted that everything isn’t rosey chez vous?  You won’t be getting that either because remember – it’s not 2007 anymore. We’ve evolved since then.

Be authentic online. But don’t be – you know – too honest.

And if you’re feeling grumpy on Monday well … just stay away from your Facebook profile.

And Twitter… Instagram… Tumblr… E-mail.

Hand write a letter.  Yes, there’s a plan.

And then recycle it.

You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

 photo canadian flag_zpsgcmwjay8.jpg

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

Sundown in the Paris of the prairies
Wheat kings have all their treasures buried
And all you hear are the rusty breezes
Pushing around the weather vane Jesus
(Wheat Kings by The Tragically Hip)

When I introduced my 6 year olds to the music of The Tragically Hip, it was the stories that was my focus in the telling of their story. I really wanted my children to appreciate their music but I knew that music is a personal taste.

My children have 2 Generation X parents – both of whom like a wide variety of music going back many decades.  One of my childrens’ favourite songs is “Disorder (Live in Birmingham) by Joy Division.  That’s how it rolls at our home. And I love that they love that song.

I’m a Queen’s alumna and while I don’t know The Tragically Hip band members personally, my following of the band goes back to their early years and has personal twists and turns. Just recently I found out that while at Queen’s, they lived in the same dorm that I lived in. I was pretty chuffed.

Proof of my full-on fan status ;)

I first came across their music when I was a member of a local television production crew in Kingston. I was at Queen’s at the time and had signed on to be part of a series of shows highlighting the work of local Kingston artists. A fellow crew mate was studying film at Queen’s and showed me a project he was working on – a video that was for a band called The Tragically Hip. The band has always been known for strong visuals in their videos, so it’s not surprising that the images I saw are fixed in my memory.

Later on I would see the band in small venues, concert halls and in a large outdoor setting. I’d spent all day outside at the day long concert.  It was just me and 30,000 other people I didn’t know. By the time the band took the stage – which was right in front of me – it was dark and we were ready for The Hip’s magic. They didn’t disappoint.

I really wanted my children to like their music but most importantly to be interested in the stories that their music tells and how they told them.

And they didn’t say “oh mummy, I don’t think so”. They got it. They listened. They had questions. They remembered the lyrics from day-to-day and can sing along with their favourite parts.

They were patient with me while I tried to not cry while trying to talk about the songs. “Wheat Kings” always makes me teary eyed and now there was Gord’s medical prognosis.

We talked about the stories behind the songs.

We talked about what it means to be unjustly accused.

And they like the guitar riffs….

This Canadian mum couldn’t be more pleased.


Looking for a place to happen: Canadian stories behind Tragically Hip’s lyrics

What’s your personal connection with the music of The Tragically Hip? You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

Just give me the news
It can all be lies
Exciting over fair or the right thing at the right time
Everything is clear
Just how you described
A world possessed by the human mind

(A World Possessed by the Human Mind, by The Tragically Hip)/

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

I’ve been taking photographs since I was ten years old. By the time I was 15, I’d saved up enough money to buy a Canon SLR. When I leave my neighbourhood area and travel farther afield, I still tend to haul out my digital SLR. At a time when most people have discovered that they like to take photographs, and camera phones are the norm, I suppose this makes someone with an SLR look rather serious.

This is what I told myself when I was yelled at while visiting a farmer’s market on Vancouver Island.

I’d never been to this well known market and was looking forward to picking up some gifts to bring back for my neighbours and friends. A visit to a Farmer’s Market is an opportunity to find unique produce and crafts.

So a Lookie Loo I was not.

Whether in Damascus, Baghdad, Manila or British Columbia, outdoor marketplaces – in public spaces I should point out – have always been a fun place for me to take photographs.

Now I get that in this era of people taking a lot of photos, it might get a bit tiresome to have someone about you taking ANOTHER photograph. This is where pen and paper come in handy. Just as you would find at the last stall by the entrance to the Great Wall, if you don’t want photographs taken near your person and your stall – put up a sign. Don’t yell “You are a RUDE person.”

That’s what happened to me. Just minutes earlier I had asked a stall keeper if I could take a photograph of her stall.  She said “yes’. In a busier area of the market, a man with an officious voice announced to all and asunder that I was a rude person for taking photos.  No signage was in clear view.  Apparently fast forwarding to loud, public shaming was a more satisfying approach.

Or should I say “etiquette shaming” because apparently this is a thing.

If you step out of line or do something that has been perceived to be rude, a person with a self-assessed higher sense of appropriateness will be happy to share his or her opinion that you have been rude.

In a recent HuffPost piece, author Caren Lissner wrote:

“Why do people feel such a compulsion to scold or shame a stranger for a supposed infraction that’s minor or none of their business? When we scold or shame, we make two assumptions:

a) The person we’re scolding is someone who routinely (rather than rarely) acts without regard for society, and
b) it’s our job to teach them how to behave so they won’t do it again. In doing this, we miss a grand opportunity to give another human being the benefit of the doubt.”

Yes – why indeed?

Lissner’s post resulted in a multitude of comments supporting the notion that a person who holds a door open should be thanked.  It’s always the way.  If someone says “I’m offended”, the common response is “oh well then.  You must be justified to feel offence.” The supporters missed Lissner’s point. The person who walked through the door replied that the person holding the door admonished her before she had even had a chance to say “thank you”.

In other words, the  person holding the door felt a judgement against this women rise up quickly. “She’s a self centered woman who doesn’t have manners and I’m going to let her know”.

“I take photographs for my personal use”, I told my etiquette shamer at the market. The fact is that very few of my photographs go onto a site I manage that has a commercial component. And they tend to be landscape and flora topics.

This wasn’t a case of a self-focussed person [IE me] hating to be reprimanded. People are free to stretch the concept of public space if they really don’t want something happening there. If an issue feels personal or if it’s one that has meaning to that person, he/she should take action to make their position clear from “the get go”.

Signage: “Please don’t smoke in this vicinity.”

Signage: “No photography, thank you.”

Have community events become so commercialized that a minor act – taking photographs for personal use at a public market – has become some kind of threat in a commercial or privacy sense.

Even if I was going to share photographs of the marketplace on Instagram, for example, wouldn’t that help to promote the market and drive potential shoppers that way? But if you don’t buy into the “word of mouth via social media” approach, again I say “get out that pen and paper and start making a sign”.

Simple and sweet. “Sorry. No photographs in this area.”  Point to sign.


There is a whole body of literature on the topic of street photography and taking photos in public spaces.  Stopping to say “may a take a photograph” each and every time is neither expected nor realistic.  It’s a standard that applied more when you are taking a photograph that focusses on one person in particular.  And by focus, I don’t mean two people kissing on a street in Paris.

Nobody yelled at me when I went shopping and took photographs at the souks in Baghdad and Damascus.  Or when I strolled around Saltspring Island when I was a teenager, with my old SLR in hand, taking photos of anything that caught my eye – including flowers at the edge of peoples’ gardens and public spaces.

Gosh darn it – I miss the good old days.


To see examples of my photography, visit the Red Bubble BC Family Facebook page or the website itself.

If you like photography, check out the photography board on the BC Family Pinterest page.

Do you feel that the increased interest in taking photographs has created a negative backlash against photographers? Have you experienced “etiquette shaming” in public that you feel was disproportionate to the circumstances, heavy handed or even inappropriate? You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

 photo bcfamily collage_zps9bunojxw.jpg

Prince Charles and Prince Harry in the garden at Highgrove, 1986.

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca

“Gardening is like painting.  You need to get the paint on and not muck about.” (Prince Charles)

Garden season is in full swing as gardeners are putting in long hours caring for their window sill, patio, balcony, backyard and/or community garden.  There is no end to the ardening tips posts on social media and – if you’re like me – you probably lust after gardens like the one started by Prince Charles at Highbury, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire.

In a recent interview on BBC Radio 4, Prince Charles spoke about his garden at Highbury; his childhood experiences with gardening; and, some of his new ideas about encouraging children (including his grandchildren) to garden.

When Prince Charles and Princess Anne were children, they were given small garden plots where they could grow a basic garden.  He has fond memories of spending time in the garden and kitchen garden with his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother at Royal Lodge, Windsor Great Park.

Prince Charles has launched Prince George down the gardening path by having him help to plant a tree or two – including a balsam poplar tree. They shoved them in the earth (to use the Prince’s terminology).  Every time Prince George comes to visit, Prince Charles can have a conversation with his grandson about how much the tree has grown. In this way he hopes that his grandchildren will take an interest in gardening.  Prince George and his sister Princess Charlotte can use the impressive and recently refurbished treehouse in the garden at Highgrove that was once used by Prince William and Prince Harry. Their grandfather has also installed a handmade artisan’s shepherd’s hut.

At Highgrove and in Scotland, Prince Charles designs gardens based on what would appeal to a child – including paths, interesting features and even a maze at Dumfries House.  He likes to see a garden from a child’s point of view because he has “such happy memories about bits of garden” at his grandmother’s house, and he remembers from his childhood that children adore mazes.

“Try and take the rough with the smooth. Because no two years are the same.  So what was a disaster one year will probably be a success the next year.  So don’t despair.  Do you know what I mean? Nature’s quite interesting like that.” (Prince Charles)

Embed from Getty Images

Other Tips From Prince Charles:

  • It’s always fun to follow a path that curves. A garden is like a staircase and vistas matter.
  • Give a lot of thought to where you want to place ornaments in your garden.
  • Work with nature to help keep everything in balance.
  • Using too much fertilizer might be counterproductive.
  • Use nematodes as nature’s assistant to help deal with slugs (or in our case here in BC – European chafer beetles).  Plus birds love them too.
  • Give back from what you take. This last tip reflects that fact that Prince Charles has been dedicated to the sustainable and organic gardening and agriculture movement for decades.

Do you have any favourite childhood memories about gardening? How do you involve the children in your life in your gardening activities?  How do you design a garden to appeal to a child? Where are your favourite gardens to visit in England, British Columbia and elsewhere? You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!


BCFamilyca gardening board on Pinterest

Official Highgrove website

Highgrove: Discover its Sustainable Secrets (video)

Marigold cottage, Sutton-on-Sea, an English garden that, like Highgrove, has been three decades in the making.

The refurbished treehouse next to the newly installed shepherd’s hut.

Pamela Chan, BCFamily.ca/ Editorial

In the spirit of Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice, no one can make you feel bad about yourself without your consent.

This is a good strategy but it’s not always easy to follow – especially when you’re putting yourself out there with your creative output and feeling vulnerable.

Surround yourself with people who have your back. photo go where_zpsvnpqjktb.jpg

I’ve been actively involved in creative projects in a keen way for most of my life.  Here’s what I’ve observed about coping with critics and fear of failure.

  • If your artistic efforts makes you feel joyful and satisfied, you’re on the right path.  Other people’s assessments don’t matter if you’re benefiting from the time you spend facing creative challenges.
  • If someone doesn’t like you or – more likely – feels competitive towards you, they’re not going to care too much about what you’re doing.  So the next time you get shade thrown your way, consider the source.
  • Some people have foot in mouth disease. They will say pretty awful comments to you directly without filtering their opinions.  And these comments are not necessarily accurate or warranted.  Surround yourself with positive people who have your back.  Be open to receiving constructive criticism but from the right quality of source.
  • Teachers do not focus on all of their students equally.   If you “click” with your teacher, that person will go the distance for you and support your development.  If your teacher either doesn’t notice you, is more focussed on other people or has an impression of you that doesn’t work in your favour (I’ve experienced this), your art will not reach its full potential.  You might start to feel downhearted about your efforts and self critical.  There are many different types of education opportunities out there from evening and day classes to special themed trips and longer term residency programmes.  Choose your teachers carefully.
  • Don’t ignore the worries you have about criticism in your head.  Life coach Marie Forleo suggests that we should make a note of these potential criticisms (or actual ones we’ve encountered) and write them down.  Be clear with yourself about why you are doing what you are doing. Most likely you’re not creating a product to meet the approval of millions of Apple product users.  If even a few people appreciate your work, you’ve created a positive experience for them as they interacted with your art.
  • Don’t hold yourself back because you’re afraid of criticism or being rejected.  There are many ways that you can put your creative output out there in a way that feels comfortable for you.  You can join an art club (think painting, writing etc).  You can submit your work to be included in a local art show.  Your local newspaper is always a good resource for news about opportunities. (Yay local newspapers!) Try to read a hard copy.  It’s easy to miss information when you’re skimming through a website. Always keep your eye on local bulletin boards and watch out for flyers at the local library. You can share your artwork on e-commorce sites used by artists such as Red Bubble (here’s my page) or Etsy.  You can start your own website. (If you are an artist, be careful about how you upload photos of your work.  Watermarks and disabling downloading are a good idea.) Unless you’re a famous person who values privacy, what is the benefit of keeping your work all to yourself? When you step out into the light, you gain valuable feedback and even tips from other artists.
  • There will always be people who have pursued their talents longer than you have or, perhaps, appear to be more talented.  But there are just as many people who have never tried what you’ve been doing, or could barely keep up with you now.  Don’t diminish what you’re doing by comparing your efforts to those of people who’ve been kicking the can longer. Keep your head down and keep going. Day by day, your skills will improve.
  • Cream and other substances are rising to the top. Using social media tools, savvy self promoters can get the word out about what they’re doing.  If you’re creating substantial pieces of work but you’re not getting your name out there, people won’t find you. A half-way there effort to promote yourself could lead to disappointing results.  Don’t take a limp response from others as a form of criticism. It may be that you need to self-promote or in a different way – and not repeatedly in the same place.
  • Don’t confuse silence with criticism. If you tell your friends, colleagues and family members about your work and ask for support, don’t be surprised if less than 10% engage with you in some way. Easy ways to engage would include speaking with you directly; sending you a message or E-mail; liking your Facebook page or update; sharing your information with others; or, leaving a comment online. There are many reasons why even the people who know you don’t respond to your efforts to create awareness about what you’re doing.  Often the reasons aren’t about you.  And if their understanding is misplaced – for example they think you don’t need their support or they confuse promotion with bragging – you’re not going to change their perspective.  I have a small core group of friends who support me from afar unfailingly. Appreciate the support of that 10% for the gift that it is and remember to extend the same courtesy their way.  When someone you know says “I just did this or that”, it might be one of the few times that they actually speak about their own accomplishments.  We assume, too readily these days, that people are showcasing and bragging. When it comes to support, reciprocity is always welcome and a good idea.
  • Be inspired by other people’s achievements and think about taking action. When you see someone else making an effort or taking a risk, ask yourself how you could do the same.  How can you carve out time or opportunity in your life to take on your creative pursuits?
  • Take note of famous peoples’ struggles. I appreciated reading about an author of a now famous novel that was made into an Oscar award wining movie.  It seems that her novel was turned down by agents 60 plus times. It got to the point where she didn’t even think that her husband believed in her.  She persevered without announcing to others what she was doing.  It’s heartening to know that a rocky start and even slim-on-the-ground support isn’t uncommon.
  • Join online chat groups and social media groups where you can seek support and exchange ideas and tips. You’ll often find that others are facing the same challenges.
  • It’s OK to work in private at first but please do not embrace the notion that only success should speak for what you do – and that you shouldn’t toot your own horn.  BLOW YOUR OWN HORN.  Goodness knows other people with less to report are grabbing the microphone regularly and with confidence. Let people know what you’re doing when they ask “what’s new with you?”.  Share contact information about your online websites or group page.  Establish a connection on LinkedIn. And take advantage of community opportunities (like some of the ones mentioned previously) to gain exposure.

I’ve been involved in creative output my whole life.  (You can catch a glimpse of part of my artist’s resume here.) I mostly focus on fine art and photography. As one of my children (age 6 1/2)  reminded me just yesterday, as an artist you have to have faith in yourself and your skills.

How do you stop fear of criticism from affecting your creative output? You can comment about this posting on the BCFamily.ca Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!

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