"Dad?" I look up from my laptop to see my six-year-old son with the TV remote in his hand.
"Can you put on Scooby-Doo for me?" Suddenly, my mind goes back to a Scooby-Doo rerun of another time and another child. Jason, my eldest son, is 27 ? a full ten years older than I was when he was born.
I have four children now. The two older boys, from my first marriage, have long since left the nest, while our youngsters remain at home with me and their mother, Sherrie, my wife of 12 years. Like many families with young children, our lives are a whirlwind of Brownies and Beavers, hockey, piano lessons and homework.
Learning how to ride a bicycle. Runny noses and scraped knees. Such are the joys and the trials of raising children that put every parent on a pathway of discovery. It is a path I know intimately. I have been here before...
The exhalation from a thousand tailpipes hangs in the winter chill of a February day in 1997. As usual, Highway 401 out of Toronto is choked with traffic. And yet for Gayle Le Masurier, the middle-aged woman riding in the passenger seat just a few minutes out of Pearson International Airport, suddenly there are no other cars. There isn't anything. Just the steady drone of the motor and the weight of her husband's words crashing into her. She feels numb. "We'll just move away," Gayle says finally.
Peter John Le Masurier and Gayle Fuller exchanged wedding vows November 19th, 1960 at an Anglican Church in Richmond Hill, Ontario. They met at a tobogganing party, and Gayle recalls she was none too impressed at first. "He was just fawning all over this girl...it was awful."
At six feet he was tall and athletic. Good-looking too, and popular. He played tackle on the high school football team, and dated all of the cheerleaders. Typical guy, Gayle thought. And yet, there was something about him. Something sweet and spiritual. Attentive.
Two kids and 37 years later, they found themselves in a position familiar to many. Their grown children were married and on their own, they were adding the finishing touches to their cottage and looking forward to a comfortable retirement in an idyllic setting.
But then came that day in February when Peter came to collect Gayle at the airport and announced during the drive home, his eyes welling with tears, that he was a woman trapped in a man's body...
The photograph above the mantle captures the happy smiles of two children set against an idyllic backdrop of lush greenery and shimmering water. A typical reminder of a weekend at the cottage, perhaps.
In reality, the children belong to a woman on a fixed income, and the picture was taken off the back deck of their 'affordable' rental house. A house with hardwood floors, and waterfront. A house that was destined for the wrecker's ball.
A year before this picture was taken, these two little girls and their single-parent mum were barely surviving in a house diseased with mould and racked with exhaust fumes from a poorly-vented furnace. Her kids were sick. In desperation, Cindy Buott gave her landlord notice and herself two months to find a better place. If she failed -- well, there would always be the car.
In the end they were rescued by a handful of volunteers with a vision...
From sheet metal worker to head of her union local, Lea West stands alone as the first woman to head an ICI union local in Canada
She may not be given to setting the perfect table ala Martha Stewart, but Lea West could whip up a TIG weld that will have your guests talking for days.
It's a beautiful thing.
"Of all the trades, sheet metal is probably the most mis-understood," the Peterborough woman says. She ought to know. Lea West is one of the top journeyman sheet metal mechanics in the country, and today holds the distinction as the first woman to head up an ICI union local in Canada, "and probably North America."
The 42-year-old mother of two has, for the moment hung up the welder's helmet to focus on her new role as business manager and financial secretary for Local 392 of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, Peterborough. She represents 46 members who work primarily in the industrial, commercial and institutional sector fashioning hoods, hoppers, bins, and custom ductwork. "It's a very specialized field," she says.
With her election to a three-year term this past June, Lea closes a circle. Her father, Mark English, is himself a sheet metal mechanic and union loyalist who ran the office for 22 years before retiring earlier this spring. His daughter succeeds him in the post.
And after years running into brick walls in an effort to prove herself in a male-dominated industry, Lea now finds herself not only accepted, but respected.
Today she runs the joint. But it's been a long, hard road...
When you've got a job to do, give it to a kid.
In this case, ensuring the viability of Snapping and Midland Painted turtles in the Baxter Creek wetlands near Millbrook, about an hours' drive northeast of Toronto.
Concerned about the fate of nesting female turtles killed or maimed while migrating across township roads in spring, about a dozen children ranging in age from 4 to 10 erected a home-made turtle crossing sign two years ago outside of their school.
The sign was vandalized 24 hours later. "The kids were devastated," says Kristy Hiltz, an area veterinarian with three children involved. "But it pushed them into action," and 'Kids 4 Turtles' was born...
On a bright summer day in 1959, a family congregates on the front steps of a church in Peterborough, Ont., for the traditional wedding photo. There's the happy bride and groom, the beaming parents and a small army of - presumably - cousins, nieces and nephews.
But no, these are the bride's siblings - all 16 of them. And the radiant mother of the bride is expecting - again Beatrice Collins would go on to have 19 children, welcoming her last at the age of 44, a year after becoming a grandmother herself...