Happy February, everyone!! The winter rolls on, and what a frigid weekend it has been!! Winter is pretty much at its halfway point now, and with the outdoors getting a little brighter each day, we can see signs of being over the hump. Also, on Tuesday, we can all wait with baited breath for little Wiarton Willie to let us know what to expect in the coming weeks/month. With that being said, the hallmark of winter in Ottawa begins this week. On February 5th, Winterlude kicks off, but as everything else over the past year, the format is a little different than usual.
This past year, we enjoyed a virtual firework show on Canada Day, a Drive-In music festival for Bluesfest, and a Virtual Music Festival for Cityfolk… so why not a virtual Winterlude? I think we’ve hit the point where nothing surprises us anymore, but each time a truly “Ottawa” event is announced as being virtual, I still feel a twinge of disappointment. Due to Winterlude being virtual this year, new opportunities for expanded participation were announced, as it opened up the festival for the entire country to participate! This year, the ice sculptures will be created in seven cities from coast to coast, and the concerts and entertainment lineup is equally diverse, showcasing some of the best Canadian talent nationwide. Stay tuned for the finalized schedule!
Another staple of the annual winter festival is the Ice Dragon Boat Races, which sell-out completely each year. The winter edition of the hugely successful annual summer event always draws a crowd, and is so much fun to watch.
This year, the management team at the Ice Dragon Boat Races have created a virtual challenge, allowing teams to compete across the country! Participants can do it at their own pace, and report the results. This event is called “Shiver ‘N Giver,” and full details are available on the Ice Dragon Boat website, or you can register here!
The Dragon Boat race events, both in the summer and winter, are known for great free concerts and entertainment. This year, the virtual format is no exception! The highlights for this year are performances by DJ Shub, Moonfruits, C5, Melo Griffith, Silent Winters, Taming Sari, and Amanda Rheaume. All the concert details and artist bios are available by clicking here, and will also be posted on my events calendar.
One event that stood out to me this week is a Lego workshop being held by the City of Ottawa, through the Shenkman Arts Centre. This event take place on Sunday, February 7th from 2-4pm. It will be held virtually via Zoom, where a Lego designer will teach you how to design and build your own masterpieces using 3D software. All you need is a computer (not a Chromebook), the software pre-downloaded, and you’ll be good to go. If you’re a Lego fan, or your kids are, check it out. The price is very reasonable for a fun, family-friendly activity, and it’s something that’s a little different! Details are found in the events listing on my events calendar.
Bits and Bytes
This is my random story and features section. These topics don’t necessarily have anything to do with Ottawa. It could include stories about current news issues, sports, funny videos, and/or perhaps just random things that I’ve discovered over the previous week. I hope you enjoy!
Happy Happy Joy Joy
Do you remember Ren and Stimpy? My high school friends and I absolutely loved that show and talked about it often, probably too much. I doubt any of them are reading this post, but if they are, I want to say thanks for bringing that show into my life, I’ve never been so intellectually stimulated! (So, thanks EJ, RH, WG, LB and KC!) Okay, truthfully, Ren and Stimpy was mindless stupidity, but so much fun, and a great way to start the day with a little “Happy Happy Joy Joy”.
In all seriousness though, I’ve discussed the importance of positivity in one’s life to increase overall happiness. Last week, I focused on mental health, and in previous posts, I’ve talked about how to overlook negative situations that you may encounter, and how you can move on from them and reclaim a positive mindset. This week, I want to just focus on happiness. There are so many aspects of life that can bring you joy, but you have to be willing to accept them and embrace the accompanying happiness. Many of us focus on the negative, and often this negativity brings down our overall view of the world; it’s always easier to see the bad over the good, that is just human nature, so don’t feel bad about it. However, many people have a natural ability to focus on the positive aspects of their lives, which in turn creates a happier life. Just as associating with overly negative people can bring you down, associating with positive people can brighten your day and improve your overall happiness. These special people truly are remarkable, and should be appreciated and cherished.
Today, I want to focus on one of these positive people that can be found here in our community. Although I’ve never met this person, I think the world of her. Evelyne Adéa is a resident of Barrhaven, and I know of her through Facebook only. As mentioned, we’ve never met, and until this past week, I don’t believe we’ve ever spoken. Evelyne is a very amazing person though, and I’ve gotten to know this through her posts on the Facebook group “Barrhaven Community Giving.” This group is Barrhaven’s equivalent of a Buy Nothing group, without the politics and regulations attached to the parent BN groups. BCG, as it’s commonly known, has almost 7,000 members and is known for its generosity and sense of community. Members give away their belongings for free as opposed to selling them or throwing them out. Members can also reach out for assistance if they need essentials, food, baby formula, or anything, really! It’s an excellent group and I’ve seen many friendships stem from the giving process.
“The Community Raccoon”
Evelyne was the first to nickname herself as the Community Raccoon a few years ago, and it has caught on with fellow BCG members. Several years ago, Evelyne was inspired by reading a blog (us bloggers like to think we’re inspiring), and got the idea to build an igloo in her backyard by making ice blocks in used 2L milk or juice containers. The problem was, she needed upwards of 500 of them to make the blocks. Knowing that she couldn’t possibly drink that much liquid in a winter season, she started going for walks on recycling day and pulling used containers out of her neighbour’s blue bins. As she doesn’t drive, this became a very difficult task, as it became a lot to carry. So she reached out to the BCG community to get some help; and the help poured in! People loved what she was doing, and before long, she was able to accumulate enough containers to build her first igloo. She now does this each year, and posts photos of the structures on the BCG group page, where she gets hundreds of comments of support. Although many kind people drop off these used containers to her each year, she still walks around the community collecting what she can, either from generous people on BCG who have reached out, or, now to a lesser extent, from recycle bins. This year, Evelyne changed up her plan. Knowing that Winterlude was no longer running in-person events, she wanted to contribute further to the community and create something for her neighbours to enjoy. She turned her front yard into a spectacular winter wonderland, building multiple structures and even adding light to them for some extra ambiance. They look incredible, and are works of art, built with love for her community.
Photo Cred: Facebook Barrhaven Community Giving Group Post by Evelyne
Evelyne’s impressive story doesn’t end here though. While initially searching for the containers, she noticed large amounts of items at the end of people’s driveway on garbage day that appeared to still have value, and may be useful to people in need. She began selecting items that stood out to her and would bring them home to gift on BCG. She would clean them off, take their photo and put them up on BCG for anyone to ask for. As time passed, these occasional items became dozens of useful items. It was very hard work to save all of these reusable items from landfills, as each garbage day, she would spend close to four hours walking around, collecting, posting them on the group page, and coordinating times for others to pick them up. It was amazing, not only to protect the environment by keeping these goods out of the landfill, but also by providing still-valuable items to people who may not necessarily have the means to purchase them for themselves.
Evelyne’s “raccooning” gave her a source of joy, but as with all good stories, there was a conflict. Evelyne received a notice from Bylaw indicating that she must stop doing this, or she could be fined. Growing up in Barrhaven, I know that Bylaw only shows up at your house when someone complains. Welcome to suburbia. Evelyne posted this to BCG indicating that her raccooning was going to have to stop, but she thanked people for their support. There was a tremendous outpouring of support from the community, with many people tagging Jan Harder, the local city councilor to try to find a solution. Unfortunately, despite dozens of Facebook tags (and I heard that someone even reached out to her office!), Jan never responded. However, Evelyne did her own research into the specific bylaw, and discovered that as long as she’s not physically opening anyone’s garbage or taking things out of closed bins, she is permitted to take loose items. So, the raccooning could continue! Due to COVID, she has had to postpone her activities for health and safety reasons, but she is eagerly anticipating an end to the pandemic so she can start again.
People like Evelyne often fly under the radar in our communities. Seemingly ordinary people who do extraordinary things, for the sole purpose of bringing joy to others. Countless people have benefited from the goods that they’ve received from her raccooning. Her tireless efforts have helped out many families who cannot afford these items. Evelyne feels immense satisfaction that she is able to bring this much joy, both in the giving of items, and the creation of ice buildings on her property for the neighbourhood to see.
She has invited the community to drive or walk by and enjoy her creations. She has posted publicly that she lives on Whitegate Crescent in Barrhaven, so feel free to head out and take a look at her creations. They aren’t professional ice sculptures, but the work that went into creating these is phenomenal, and obviously are made out of a love for her community and the genuine desire to bring joy to others.
Thanks, Evelyne, for everything that you do, and for being who you are. We need more people in our communities that share this much happiness.
Speaking of Raccoons….
In keeping with the Raccoon theme, as well as the happiness theme, I have to share this video that I found last month. Many of you may have seen this already as it’s pushing 16M views on YouTube, but for those of you who haven’t, I’d like you to meet James Blackwood, the Raccoon Whisperer. As per his bio on YouTube, James runs a raccoon rehabilitation centre in Cape Breton:
James has many videos on his account, but this one is by far my favourite. You don’t have to watch it all, but I recommend the first 12 minutes anyway. It’s just so crazy and hilarious, and sure to bring a smile to your face! Also, when you’re done, I suggest reading some of the comments. They are really funny!! There are 17,000 comments, so I’m certainly not recommending that you read them all. Normally, I suggest people avoid social media comments, however these are so good, I am making an exception!