A couple of weeks ago I was happy to be able to join my mother and aunt in attending the Women’s Canadian Club of London Spring Luncheon in London, Ontario. It was a real treat to go to something with adult women and without a small child in tow! And I got to see Margaret Trudeau speak in person to boot.
When we got to the luncheon the crowd of about 700 women was an awesome sight. In Victoria it’s rare to see a group of that size for any sit-down event. (Athough when I went to see Jane Goodall speak a few years ago we certainly had that number in attendance … but I wouldn’t say it’s common here at all. ) I suppose it wouldn’t have been hard to sell out tickets for an event featuring Margaret Trudeau, even if she didn’t have a new book currently on the market. For any non-Canadians reading this blog, Ms. Trudeau stepped into a famous life here in Canada in the early 1970s when she married our Prime Minister at the time – Pierre Trudeau. She still holds the title of being the youngest Canadian Prime Minister’s wife in our history. She was 22.
Of course when she became the Prime Minister’s wife I was a preschooler! It was all a long time ago but even I have heard the stories of how wild she was in those days. Now we know why. Margaret’s new book apparently is about her struggle with mental health issues. She is diagnosed with bipolar disorder now and this speaking appearance appeared like a bit of a vindication tour in the vein of, ”This is why I was how I was back then, folks.” And perhaps that has helped both her and the Canadian public understand how and why things went the way they did back then.
Margaret spoke after some initial announcements and introductions and a welcome from London mayor Joe Fontana. She was fairly captivating to listen to. She told us her personal story with battling a mental health issue, and she told us of both her dark and light days. Funnily enough, she forgot to turn her cell phone off during the speech but luckily (for all of us) decided not to take the call when her phone rang!
Ms. Trudeau appeared to be a funny, charismatic and gracious woman. My only complaint about her appearance at this luncheon is that I thought that she could have used her power position to highlight more information about mental health issues in general. “Statistics show that one in every five Canadians will have a mental health problem at some point in their lives,” says the website of the Canadian Mental Health Association. And I’m sure there is more information that we the public should know about this issue to help bring it more into the light. However, I’m sure just having a famous person speak about the topic and her own personal struggle with it helps families who have been hiding their dark mental health secrets over their lifetimes. They will know they are not the only ones to suffer. And Ms. Trudeau suffered her illness in the public eye, a position none of us would envy I’m sure.
She stayed to sign a few books at the end which included writing something nice in my aunt’s purchased copy of Trudeau’s book. Surprisingly, the line to see her was short. I probably won’t read her book but I do commend her for writing her story and speaking up. Were that we were all so honest with our private lives when they have involved so much pain. It’s a difficult thing to write about – let alone speak publicly about – I’m sure.
I might have been the youngest one in the audience that day but I’ll miss those ladies who luncheon. Especially my two lovely family women – Mom and Aunt Joyce – who took me with them that day and showed me a great time.
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Posted in Books on October 24, 2008 |
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I caught a bit of Oprah today, and learned of the new Amazon Kindle. It’s an e-book reading device with wireless capability that uses a new technology for the screen called ‘electronic paper’ that is apparently very easy to read. I want one, I want one, I want one! Unfortunately Kindles aren’t available yet in Canada as far as I know so I’ll have to wait it out, but sometime, somehow, one will be mine. Usually I don’t get that excited about new techology but this one has piqued my interest. That stack of books and magazines that is usually cluttering up my bedside table might (in the future) be a thing of the past! Happy news for this minimalist and book lover.
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Posted in Books on August 22, 2008 |
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The other day I learned about the book “Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America” and decided to get it at the library. It’s a “food memoir” written by Linda Furiya, about her time growing up in rural Indiana where her family was the only Japanese one in town. She ends each chapter with her favourite Japanese recipes that she has mentioned in the text.
Furiya mostly writes about herself in relationship to her parents – complex people who didn’t know how to ease the difficulty for Linda of being a first-generation American. She tells of her struggles to feel like she really belonged, and of the joys and disappointments, pride and anguish she felt growing up, especially in relation to her culture and its contrast with the norms of American society.
Here in Canada, I have heard that growing up as a first generation Canadian is sometimes difficult for children. They’re caught between the ‘old ways’ of their parents’ culture, and the new ways of the society in which their parents have chosen to live. Children become cultural interpreters as well as language translators for their parents. They are forced to explain their own cultural ways (or, sometimes, hide them) to their friends.
In this book Furiya talks about these kinds of challenges and more, and weaves a beautiful and compelling story. I see it as a love letter to her parents. They had their foibles and flaws, yes, but they helped make her what she is today. She learned how to be proud of being Japanese; it wasn’t always an easy thing to do.
A recommended read, especially if you like learning about other cultures. A further bonus is the book’s recipes, if you would appreciate an excuse to try to make Japanese food!
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Posted in Books, Healthy life on May 28, 2007 |
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A few years ago I had never heard of Alice Waters or Chez Panisse. Or Slow Food or the concept of buying local food or eating what was fresh in season. I had heard of organic, I guess that was a start.
These days I hear a lot more about all these things (especially on environment-friendly Vancouver Island), and I’m learning more all the time. I just finished reading the new biography, Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, by Thomas McNamee, which is subtitled “The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution.” What an interesting story! If you haven’t heard of it, Chez Panisse is a restaurant in Berkeley, California that has done things its own way (local, fresh, organic as possible) since it opened in 1971. They just wanted to be a place where people could be with each other over great food, and it sounds like they have certainly succeeded. Alice and Chez Panisse have inspired at least one person that I know; no doubt they have changed the lives of countless others.
I found the book a fast read, as the story clicks along with twists and turns here and there. How does a woman get to be a cultural icon? This story shows you the way. In 1971, Alice Waters was a 20-something francophile with a dream (but barely two nickels to rub together). These days, anyone that knows anything about the food industry knows her name.
I was inspired before reading this book to continue eating local and organic food, and now I’m even more so. Remember that list of 100 goals that I had? I’ve just added another thing to it. You guessed it … eat at Chez Panisse.
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