My Barbie Country Camper

1969 vintage Barbie Country Camper

1969 vintage Barbie Country Camper

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about things from my childhood; the way the world was and events in my life. I suppose it’s my age and a natural part of growing older. Figuring out how you got to where you are, where your path has led you, finally realizing you have the power to change it if you don’t like it and looking back to what may be perceived as a better time.

However, I like the world I live in now. It’s not without its challenges, threats or abominations but we had those back in the 60’s and 70’s too, without many of the advantages and advances the world offers today. In some cases it was worse. Think about Vietnam. In fact, the world was still reeling from WWII in many ways. At least, my generation was raised by the generations who lived through it and it certainly had an impact on the way we lived and how we were raised.

But I digress. I was actually remembering a funny little incident in my life, very illustrative of the times. I was around six or seven year old. The late 60’s early 70’s was still an era of tradition, ethics, morals and good manners despite the “Hippie Revolution” or social revolution that was exploding at the time. Especially for people like my mother who grew up in a very staunch, Christian household and who still wore white gloves to church on Sunday, put her hair in curlers before going to bed and would never leave the house without a proper slip and girdle under her dress that always sat just below the knee. As proper little girls we did the same, minus the girdle. I hated wearing dresses because I wasn’t allowed to run and play in them and the scratchy stockings we had to wear just about drove me crazy. They were either just a bit too short and sagged in the crotch or too long and bunched. I could never figure out the slip either. Why did we need a dress under our dress? Women sure had to wear a lot of clothes in those days!

Aside from our very proper attire, there were social morals that are pretty much non-existent today. Don’t get me wrong, I think, for the most part this is a good thing. I’m glad as can be that my daughter is not considered too “delicate or emotional” to do the same work as a man and is taken seriously working in what was once considered a man’s field. I’m happy that my son is not expected to be the sole earner and support in his household and that a relationship is now considered an equal partnership.

Some of the things I think we have lost that are valuable are good manners and a sense of social propriety. It bothers me to see young people who are disrespectful to older people. It was a good thing to be told and taught to “respect your elders”. After all, they spent their lives building the world the young people live in and in some cases sacrificing their lives for our freedom. It’s nice to see a young man open a door for a girl. There’s nothing chauvinistic about it. It’s good manners and brings a beautiful sense of decorum to the world that is often not an easy place to live. It’s about respect.

There is also no shame left in anything; again, a good and bad thing. It’s great that a young girl isn’t shamed when having a baby out of “wedlock” and that she can keep that child and raise it and that child doesn’t grow up with a stigma attached to them. But it’s not so good that people like Rob Ford, for example, can plunder through life doing the crazy things he is and still hold the respected seat of Mayor of one of Canada’s major cities. Back in the late 1960’s a man like this would have been forced out of office immediately. But in all likelihood, he would have graciously bowed out on his own accord, ashamed of what he had done.

I remember sitting around the TV on a Sunday evening watching some the family’s favorite shows, like the Wonderful World of Disney, Don Messer’s Jubilee and the Tommy Hunter Show; all very G rated. I will never forget the look of complete embarrassment on the faces of my mother, grandmother and grandfather, the first time a feminine hygiene commercial was aired during this time. I suppose the embarrassment was amplified by the fact that I had to ask what the commercial was all about. Of course my other sister’s would never have thought of asking but I always seemed to be the kid getting into trouble and asking too many questions. I don’t recall what the answer was; probably something like, “be quiet and watch the show”, I just know I felt very embarrassed and realized I shouldn’t have said anything. It would seem silly now but this is very much the way it still was in those days.

So it is no wonder my mom reacted the way she did the day my sister and I decided to build our own Barbie Country Camper. Like all little girls at the time, we wanted a Barbie Country Camper. I’m not too sure why as my sister and I didn’t really play with Barbie Dolls that much. We preferred our stuffed toys that were different shapes, sizes and creatures and who all had their own unique names, personalities and character traits. But here we were, the latest little victims of the advertising industry, thinking we absolutely had to have a Barbie Country Camper or we would just simply die!

So one day, when I came across a discarded box that was just the right shape and size, I brought it to our bedroom which my sister and I shared, and we set about making our own Barbie Country Camper. If mom wouldn’t buy us one, we would make our own! We cut the front of the box open and drew a steering wheel on the dashboard and cut a flap out on the back that could fold down for a table. We cut flaps on the side of the box that could open and close and on top of this, we attached a piece of fabric that could be stretched out and made into a tent, just like in the commercials. Pleased with our work and excited to play we picked up the Country Camper and our dolls and dashed out to the back yard. Barbie drove around the yard, down the side walk and out to the country to go camping. The country was our drive way, in front of the garage. Here we played for hours pretending Barbie and her friends were camping in the country. We found little sticks and pretended they built a fire. We found stones and set them up as seats around the fire. We were in our glory and we had a Barbie Country Camper!

The driveway was in a back alley and our house was on a corner so there was traffic driving by from 3 directions. We were totally safe as no one drove down the alley very fast and we were smart enough to know better than to actually play on the road. We kept our game to the drive way and were found there happily playing when our mother drove up. She got out of the car and we cheerfully greeted her, excited to show her our latest creation. But mom wasn’t smiling. In fact she looked downright mad. She marched over to us and asked where we got the box. She told us to pick up our things and get in the house NOW! Then she took our beautiful Barbie Country Camper and stuffed it into the trash. We were devastated! Our mother was not a mean or unreasonable woman, so we couldn’t fathom why she would throw out our treasured Barbie Country Camper that we had worked so hard to construct.

It wasn’t until we got into the house that mom explained to us the inappropriateness of playing with a Kotex Napkin box in our back drive way for all the world to see. Mom wasn’t mad, she was embarrassed and ashamed! I don’t recall exactly what she told us or how, I just remember feeling terrible ashamed. Maybe not so much for myself but for my mother. I realized that we had done something to embarrass her. After that, any construction projects were undertaken with regular, brown, nondescript boxes.

Sometimes I Like Surprises!

Do you remember the pop band The Lovin Spoonful from the 1960’s?  I was pretty young when they were popular and their music hit the charts, but I still remember hearing their songs on the radio even if it was just background sound in my child’s mind.  Now, I realize their music characterised the lifestyle of the era and instantly transports me to a specific time and place when I was 4 or 5 years old.  Songs such as Do You Believe in Magic, Daydream and Summer in the City, with their part folk part pop sound, reverberate with everything that was happening in the world during this golden decade of social awareness that would change the world forever in a way that society had never seen before and may never see again.

So what brought me to think about this band and their music at this particular time?  An out of the way back ally restaurant in Kingston, Ontario called Chez Piggy.  Yes, that’s right, that’s what I said, Chez Piggy.

It really is in a back alley of sorts and if you don’t know it’s there or if you aren’t looking for it, I can’t imagine how you would ever find it.  We were looking for it, so we found it through the technology of my iPhone’s map app.  We were looking for it because my companion had heard such good things about it and was determined to dine there on our brief stay over in Kingston.  Being a trained chef and connoisseur of good food and good wine he was intrigued by the hype around Chez Piggy and discovered the restaurateur had published a cookbook.  He sought out that cookbook just a few months prior to our trip and was further intrigued by the Mediterranean cuisine within its pages.  He was excited to meet the restaurant’s owner and discuss the recipes on the pages of the cookbook.

I am sorry I did not get the name of our server, because she was like an encyclopedia on the history of the restaurant and its owner.  She advised us that the building itself was 200 years old and had been restored by the owner and his wife, who by the way, was 10 years his senior although “she didn’t seem it”.  The reason the restaurant is in a back alley is because it’s actually the livery stable in back of the house that once belonged to a wealthy man.  The walls are limestone and the ceiling high and slanted.  There are 2 levels; we chose to sit on the upper level that was likely the hay loft at one time.  There is a fabulous, outdoor, courtyard patio encircled with twinkle lights.   Had it been warmer and not raining I would have insisted we sit outside.  But inside the light was wonderful, the ambiance amazing and the food spectacular even though it was not Mediterranean. The selection was wonderfully eclectic.  I had seared sea scallops which were perfectly tender and flavorful  in a lemongrass coconut milk sauce.  My partner opted for Doro A’Licha which is Ethiopian Chicken.

Wanting to know why the menu wasn’t the expected fare my partner asked if ownership had changed.  That is when we discovered the owner had died 10 years ago, his wife 2 years later and his daughter now ran the restaurant.  This man was obviously someone special because she talked about him in a way that you understand that he was someone who lived his dream, encompassed a passion for life and made an everlasting impression on the community in which he lived.

“He was larger than life”, our server explained.  “He was so boisterous and the leader in everything, getting his friends and family to do things they never would have done on their own.  It is very quiet without him here.”

So what did this man and Chez Piggy have to do with the band Lovin Spoonful?  Well, the man was Zal Yanovsky, the lead guitarist and one of the founding members of Lovin Spoonful!  It astounded me that someone with such an illustrious background, owned and operated a restaurant in Kingston, Ontario in such an obscure almost secretive manner.  Many pop stars and celebrities own restaurants and use their fame and status to promote it.  But in this instance we never would have known if it wasn’t for our server.  Take a look at Chez Piggy’s website and there is no mention of who Zal Yanovsky is or what he has done.

So this fact alone prompted me to research Zal.  I was only 2 or 3 when Lovin Spoonful was at the height of their fame so I had no real knowledge of the history or details of the band.  I just remember hearing their music on the radio and relating it to a carefree time in my life and the world.

What I discovered was this; Zal was an extraordinary person who lived a full life even though he died of a heart attack at the relatively young age of 57 on December 13, 2002.  In fact, read a bit about this man and you will discover he probably lived more in his short life than many people do in 87 years.  He was full of energy, creativity and charisma.  No wonder our server missed him.

He performed with the likes of Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot of the “Mamas and the Papas” and Kris Kristofferson.  I watched some old video footage on Youtube and discovered he was a scene stealer!  And not in an obnoxious “I’m a big rock star” way, but just this raw, genuine, love of life enthusiasm.

I also discovered that he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 with fellow band mates and that many of his piers considered him one of the greatest guitarists of all time; a relative unsung hero.   John Sebastian, Lead singer of Lovin Spoonful has been quoted as saying, “Zal could play like Elmore James, he could play like Floyd Cramer, he could play like Chuck Berry. He could play like all these people, yet he still had his own overpowering personality”.

Other interesting trivia about Zal include the fact that he was a Canadian in an American band and his first wife was Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs who may be best known for her role as  Hetty King in the TV Series Road to Avonlee which was based on the books of my favorite author L.M. Montgomery.

There was something magical and wonderful about my very brief layover in Kingston.  The city itself is beautiful and historic and I certainly would love to go back to do a real vacation there.  Zal and Chez Piggy were fascinating and my company was so surprisingly interesting and worldly.  I heard stories about New York City, Georgia and New Zealand.  These are the experiences in life I enjoy the most; the ones which are so incredibly, unexpected.  There is no real plan around them and you have no expectations.  They are just a complete and wonderful surprise!

Kamloops 2011 Western Canada Games

Souvenir Program Inside

After nearly 2 years my stint with the Western Canada Games is finished.  What a great experience it was, full of opportunity to try new things, meet new people and really get to know my community.

My final project was the production of the Games’ Souvenir Program, a wonderful magazine that we are all proud of.  Kamloops Daily News was absolutely fabulous to work with!  Their Publisher, Tim Shoults is one of the most professional, competent people I have ever worked with.  Our Artistic Designer, Shelley Ackerman was perfect.  It is so seldom that you find a graphic designer that understands exactly what you want and then takes it one step further.  The sales team brought together so many impressive advertisers from every aspect of the community.

I’d like to say the content is interesting and a good representation of  Kamloops, the sports community and the Tournament Capital!  I had such fun writing the stories within the Program, I hope you enjoy reading them.

If you are interested in a hard copy of the Program, please contact me and I will have one sent to you.


A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I was thinking today about the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”.  What prompted this thought was a something I saw on my walk to work one morning.  I passed a vacant lot, surrounded by a high, chain link fence.  The lot was edged with several tall trees and was overrun with grass and weeds.  In the centre were two large oil tanks standing about ten feet apart from one another.  One was, or once had been white and the other a pale blue.  They were the sort of long cylinder shaped tanks used for holding diesel or propane for heating buildings.  Both were covered in graffiti.  Not the unique, art that my son would create, but rough, street art.

There was something about this scene that intrigued me.  Was it the feeling of abandonment?  There was something about the overgrown lot, the trees, the weeds and the tanks that gave me the feeling of something old and forgotten; a quiet, isolated place hidden by the trees from the busy street that ran by it.  Yet there boldly painted on the sides of the tanks were the wild, modern, drawings of someone who had found this place. 

I wanted to take a picture but realized the camera that I almost always carry with me was sitting on the table at home.  As is always the case in these situations, I had looked at it that morning as I was dashing out the door and thought “I should bring it”.  But I was in hurry and my logical mind reasoned that I wouldn’t need it that day.  But of course I did, and in fact more than once.  First here and then later that day when someone I was doing a story on had to change our interview time to that day instead of the next.

So there I was with this unusual, fascinating scene before me and no camera; no pictures to share and that is when I thought “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

But is it really?  A picture is a picture.  No matter how well it is taken, whether it’s black and white or in color, unusual, everyday, whatever the subject matter it is laid out in stark, visual imagery.  No matter how perfect or creative, how beautiful or ugly it is what it is and each individual who looks at it sees more or less the same thing.  It may make each person feel something different but they will see it exactly in the same light, color and content.

Had I taken a picture of the graffiti covered tanks and posted it here, everyone would se them exactly as I had.  But to describe this “picture” in words, here on this page, no two people will see the same image in their minds eye.  A person’s imagination is such a unique and individual thing that no two people will get the same message or paint the same picture.  And like a photograph, no two people will feel the same thing.

So a picture may truly be worth a thousand words, but perhaps a few words are also worth a thousand pictures.



Bleeding Hearts

Gardens are enchanting places of quiet solitude and provide some of the best physical and mental therapy going.  I have a garden of my own, which on our second year in this house, is beginning to look like a real garden.  It has yet to reach the status of my neighbors’ who is an elderly gentleman with 25 + years invested in his. 

I saw him out and about the other day and couldn’t help snapping a photo as he seems to be the epitome of the “gardener”.  Looking at this photo conjured up images, feelings and smells of all the gardens I have experienced in my life.

The Gardener

My grandmother and mother instilled, if not a love for gardening, at least a reverent respect in my sisters and me with my youngest sister definitely inheriting the gene.  My first memories are of the big, backyard garden at my grandparent’s house, where we lived for about 6 years during my formative years.  My grandmother had an amazing green thumb which produced the neighborhood’s most enviable garden and yard each season.  At the time, I took it for granted that you planted something and it just grew.  Now, as an adult, I realize the hours of effort and devotion required to produce a garden of such standards.

Each year, I watched as my grandmother and mother planted rows of seeds that miraculously grew into a swath of vibrant greenery and produce.  They planted, watered and weeded until, in the fall the fragrant, earthy harvest began.  Sometimes we were allowed to sit with them on chairs in the back yard shelling peas or de-stringing beans.  Thinking back on it now I realize it is these small, routine tasks of life that can connect us from generation to generation; these “things” that never change.  My great, great grandmother, I am sure, planted, harvested and prepared her vegetables in much the same way as we did and future generations will.


There is a nostalgia associated with gardening, for me.  When I am out there preparing the soil, planting the seeds, weeding and watering, it is a time similar to meditation and I come back from it feeling renewed and rejuvenated and having had a visit with my grandmother who has been gone for 10 years. 

The Family Artist

I am SO proud of my son!  Well, in actuality I’m proud of both my children.  They are both such remarkable people who have never given me a day’s grief.   They are naturally good, honest, kind and smart.  However, my son has recently been recognized in a pretty exciting way; with a full page, color article in our local paper. 

My kids both have very creative spirits and come from a long line of artists.  Their father sketched and carved.  I was a ballerina for about 14 years and have done some painting and sketching as well.  My grandfather was an artist and sign painter during an era when signs were all still painted by hand.  My mother, grandmother and oldest sister are all quite accomplished pianists…..Josh seems to have gained all the artistic genes that ever existed in our two families.

A bit of history on Josh from the perspective of someone who’s known him forever; I can hardly remember a time when he wasn’t drawing!  He was drawing before he was really walking.  He started clambering around on furniture like babies do when they go from crawling, to standing with aid.  He found a pencil and paper on the coffee table and that was it!  He started drawing.  I suppose his very first attempts at putting pencil to paper were scribbles but it wasn’t long before the scribbles became concentrated lines and it wasn’t long after that these lines started to resemble images. 

I don’t ever remember him holding his pencil or crayon in a fist as most young children do; he always held it the way an adult or artist does.  He never drew stick people or stick creatures, they had form right from the very start.  His early drawings were of his surroundings and things familiar to him such as his family, our dogs and horses.  Then he discovered Stan Lee and Marvel comics!  His fascination with Spider Man and Wolverine had him sitting at a table, hunched over a paper, for hours at a time.  Our house was always full of stacks of papers, strewn across every available surface.  Some had complete drawings, others bits and pieces of half finished, discarded work.  The thing that fascinated me about Josh right from the start was how everything he drew came out of his head.  He didn’t sit with a book or picture next to him for reference.  Every image came right from his own imagination, through his pencil and onto the paper. 

His more recent work has an obvious graffiti, urban art and skate board culture flare to it.  Over the years he has most certainly developed his own unique style that takes elements from all of his influences and combines them with a bold use of color and perception that in my mind even contains hints of Van Gogh.  So here is the article on my son!

The Men in My Life

I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself lately; a quality I abhor and try not to tolerate for too long.  But for now, I feel the need to go off into a dark corner, all alone and “lick my wounds” so to speak before I pick myself up and get on with the business of living. 

So I’ve been doing just that and in doing so have been reviewing the men in my life.  Going down the list and analyzing my history, I realized that ALL of the very important ones have disappointed or hurt me.  Right from the very start of my life beginning with my father who, although he is a good man and is now a big part of my life, was not present while I was growing up.  Then into my teen and young adult life with boyfriends.  Now there was something I wasn’t prepared for!  Then there was my husband of 20 years; well that’s something I could go on for days about or not say a thing about……..I prefer to not say a thing.  And lastly to that one, true love of my life who finally, and completely shattered what was left of my poor heart. 

So there I was feeling very sorry for myself when I came across this picture someone had posted on Facebook!  I took a long, loving, look at the tall, slim, young man in the photo.  His cap put on backwards and pulled tightly down over his red hair, his impish grin, his easy going almost graceful gate, evident even in a photograph and I realized something!  This is one man who could NEVER disappoint me!  My son!

Drew Venables

Recently I had the pleasure of interviewing a young man who competed in the Western Canada Summer Games.  He plays volleyball which unfortunately is not a very popular sport here in North America, outside of highschool and university.  As he has graduated he is no longer playing.  

I feel pretty good about the article.  I think it is well written and I so enjoyed meeting this very genuine, nice, young man.  The image I have of him doesn’t do him justice as he has since shed the dreads and looks very clean-cut.  Most importantly he was very happy with the article.  So here it is.  Just thought it is something worth sharing. 


Drew Venables

Drew Venables is the perfect example of the spirit of sport competition and embodies the Kamloops 2011 Western Canada Summer Games’ motto “The Games begin with YOU!” 

This soft-spoken, impressive, young man has a quiet, charm that instantly puts you at ease despite his 6’7” stature.   He comes across as confident, capable and driven.  It is therefore understandable that he is a natural leader and has aspirations to coach volleyball in his future. 

Born and raised in Kamloops, Drew quickly rose to the top of High School Volleyball competition and was named Athlete of the Year during grade 11 and 12, while maintaining his standing on the Honour Roll.  He attributes his love of sport and desire to compete in volleyball to his two older brothers who influenced him and challenged his skill, as well as his parents who are also avid athletes.  

At sixteen Drew competed at the 2003 Western Canada Summer Games held in Selkirk, Manitoba.  This was his first introduction to multi-sport competition at a high caliber level.   He and his teammates were quite comfortable with their status as top athletes in their hometown of Kamloops, but here they were one of hundreds of others who excelled in their sport; it was an inspiring experience. 

Two years later Drew followed the natural course and competed at the 2005 Canada Games in Regina Saskatchewan.  He notes that the Canada Games were even bigger and athletes got a taste of what it feels like to compete in an event like the Olympics.  The press coverage associated with this level of competition was something that really impressed Drew and his teammates and reinforced the realization of the level they were competing at. 

When talking about his experience at the Western Canada Games and Canada Games Drew recalls, “Competing at this level you learn how to be an athlete.  You realize what it takes to be successful in your sport.  You learn all about nutrition, exercise and the level of physical and mental dedication it takes to be a professional athlete.” 

Drew recently graduated from the University of Manitoba on a scholarship where he completed a four year Bachelor of Arts Degree.  During his time in University he played Setter for the University of Manitoba Bisons where once again he excelled and received many awards.  

An inspiration to young athletes from all sports, Drew has a passion for team sports and clear ideas of how being involved can influence a person’s life.  Coaching appeals to him because he is a strong leader and sees where he can be a positive influence in bringing a professional level of competitive spirit to young athletes without the high stress and pressure that is sometime associated with competitive sports.  His own story is strong support for the importance of and the opportunities that Western Canada Games provide for our country’s aspiring athletes.  

Drew’s future plans include coaching Men’s Volleyball in Kamloops along with Pat Hennelly, the men’s coach at TRU.  Drew will very likely be coaching Team BC’s men’s volleyball team for the Kamloops 2011 Western Canada Summer Games, meaning he will have come full circle.