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Saturday, March 4, 2017

What a Hero looks like.

Last night I had a moment sitting in front of Paul Spring when I thought I might completely break down in tears. I could feel them gathering in the corner of my eye, and I was taking some deep breaths so as to not make a complete fool of myself.

I had once again taken a minute to try to find some words to say thank you to him for all that he has done not just for our family, but for all of the Wood Buffalo region. His usual response was, "It's my job." And while I understand that he has been doing it for so long, and he does it so professionally that I think he just doesn't understand the ramifications that his "job" has on families.

Let me start from the beginning. Four years ago this May someone had told me that STARS, the well known air ambulance service did not serve the Fort McMurray region. Like many, I thought the person was wrong, and immediately started looking into it. I ended up calling Paul to ask him directly about the medevac service that we had in Fort McMurray. We talked for over an hour and a half, and I was dumbfounded by the information that he shared, it was the beginning of my fascination with the service in Fort McMurray. Never in a million years did I think at the time that we would ever be needing the service for anyone in our family.

Just two short weeks later I had just left a meeting at the hospital, when I received a call that Tyler was in emergency and had been hurt at work. I had just texted him earlier that morning about what I was making for supper, so my first thought was that it wasn't bad, it just couldn't be, I would know. This was the spring of 2013, and we were in the middle of the flood situation. Once Tyler's coworkers began to arrive, and we talked to doctors, we realized it was a horrible accident, and when the ambulance couldn't reach Tyler, it was Paul who flew in to airlift him out for help. At the time, Paul was working on getting his pilots trained for night flights, so that we could have a 24 hour dedicated service. H.E.R.O was born about two years ago, and stands for Helicopter Emergency Response Organization. The goal for the organization was that once it was set up, the funding, and everything attached to the medevac would be a sole entity, not connected to Phoenix. In fact, probably the only thing that I have disagreed with Paul over the years is that he is too modest, like painfully so, and he does not want his name connected to the service, and shies away from media or any attention about all that he does for our region. I think he should be telling some of the amazing stories of dramatic rescues, or even all that he did during the fire. Many do not know that he saved people in Draper by going and landing when they were surrounded by flames to take them to safety, and he did the same for patients at the hospital who were critical.

I could go on and on all day about the stories that I have heard over the years about this service. But here's some important points. If Paul had not taken on the initiative, we would not have medevac service here in town, never mind a 24 hour service. Now imagine if you or your child were in an accident say up north while camping, or south of town on highway 63. Would you want to sit beside your child and hold their hand for 2 hours while waiting for an ambulance? Well, our Tyler laid there for over an hour waiting for that ambulance. HERO's log shows that it took them 11 minutes to get to Tyler, and they made it back in 10 minutes. The difference is life saving. People that are having heart attacks, or strokes don't have the time to be waiting, and when airlifted and receiving medical attention more quickly, their recovery time is quicker, and their outcomes are better. So that means less time in the hospital, so all around the taxpayers win.

The hurtles are that people just don't know about this amazing service. And then funding such a service is an enormous burden. One that HERO has carried alone until this weekend. I'm not sure how it played out over lunch one day, but I am sure that it was Paul could not say no to Ramona Morrison, and she set the wheels in motion.

Ramona is a Fort McMurray legend, she has raised millions of dollars for our region, and started things like the Festival of Trees. After the fire, Chef Michael Smith had reached Ramona on Mother's Day to make sure she was okay, and he said that once things settled down he would come out to help however he could. The East Coast Lobster Party was eventually born, and will happen tonight at Shell Place. And I cannot wait to see how the residents of Fort McMurray show their love to HERO for all they have done in the last few years.

Paul's biggest cheerleader, and supporter is Andrea, his wife. I had met her a few years back, but in the last few weeks I have come to love her as much as I love Paul. Their dedication to the community just amazes me. Even at the end of the evening last night, they were the ones carrying things to storage or cars, and looking after last minute details. And while I loved Paul for saving Tyler, I think my respect for them has grown tenfold because they just stepped up when no one else did, and carried that burden without ever complaining. In fact, I remember about two years ago being quite upset about some funding that was suppose to come and it fell through. I was ranting about it to Paul, and he just said, "All we can do is our best, and getting upset isn't going to help any patients, or anyone else. We just need to keep moving forward and hopefully someday, we will be supported." Never angry, and never negative towards those that did not step up even after they said they would....never.

So tonight, I hope that funding is raised, and the word gets out about what HERO actually does for all of us here in Fort McMurray. Ramona, Andrea, Paul, Shelley, the HERO team, and everyone else who I have met in the last few months in preparing for tonight, you all amaze me, and I love you all. Your work ethic makes me want to do better in life, and I am so proud of all that you do for our community. Ramona, you are a special star in Fort McMurray, I have a whole new respect for you, and I will now need your biscuit and oatcake recipes if you don't want us constantly dropping by for tea.

And my final words go to Paul and Andrea. You have worked so hard on this event, but I realized last night that you have been working at this level for years behind the scenes. I will never find the proper words to say thank you, because I know that if it wasn't for Paul's commitment, and Andrea's support of that, Tyler would not be here. And he is just one of the lives that you have saved over the years, so I'm sure there are 100's of others who feel the same way as I do. I hope you are able to enjoy tonight, although it's kind of like a wedding, so much work, and you don't really get to sit back and enjoy it. At least take a minute to look around and realize how many lives you impact. Thank you, you guys are the best.

Paul and I at the grand opening of the airport three years ago.

One of my favourite pictures of Tyler and Nicole.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

This is what re-birth looks like

Many weeks ago, I applied for a business license from the Municipality of Wood Buffalo to begin a new adventure. I had been approached many times about ads on this blog, or becoming an affiliate, and the timing never seemed right. But then just after Christmas, I decided to make the leap. I am guessing that I would have had my license some time in May, but as you all know, The Beast stepped in and wracked havoc again on my best laid plans.

Yesterday I returned home to Fort McMurray since the first time since we left by flight on May 5th from north of our city at one of the camps. I will tell you the story of how we made our way out at another time, but tonight, I wanted to talk about driving up Highway 63 to reach home yesterday.

Our oldest, Mitchell, had received a call about returning to work, and we had still not gotten our car back from the camp site, so we decided to drive him up to his truck, and retrieve our car. The drive up was fairly quiet given the early morning get up, but as we neared the city and started to smell the smoke again, we all sat up a bit straighter and started to watch the tree line a bit closer.

When we finally hit the turn off for the airport road and started to see the remnants of what the huge fire had left in it's path, I fell silent. Mitchell and Tim chattered and pointed out the losses to each other along either side of the road. I am convinced after the last month that men and women are totally wired differently. As we made our way down Beaconhill, and into the downtown area I felt a lump in my throat, and my eyes tearing, but it was not from the smoke or air quality. The amount of loss for the people in Beaconhill, Waterways, Abasand, Saprae, Wood Buffalo and Parsons hit me like a wall once I started seeing just corners of the total damage from the drive down the hill. And as we made our way to the camp parking lot I sat trying not to cry for all that had happened during the last few weeks to our community. We switched around, made sure Mitchell was safely on his way and I started back south towards Edmonton in the rental car, while Tim drove our car in case it was smoky. In the last few years my lungs have gotten worse, and this past winter I struggled with breathing on several occasions due to my issues, including asthma.

My first reaction as I came back south from site was to get in the far right lane to go up Confed as I got closer, it was just automatic. But the RCMP had the exit blocked and I was reminded to keep south. By the time I reached Gregoire, I was crying. I wanted to stay so badly, but in the short time I was in the area, my breathing became heavier, and I had to break out my puffers. I cried because I had to leave, I cried because I couldn't go see if my house was okay, I cried because I felt guilty for still having a house when so many lost theirs, and I cried because it feels like our community had been through a hard enough 18 months even before the fire happened.

I had my little pity party, and I turned on the radio and felt sorry for myself and Fort McMurray all the way to Wandering River. And then I stopped to get gas, and some air, and it was crazy busy at that little stop. And I looked around at all the work crew guys heading north to help rebuild our city, and had a moment.

If you have read this blog in the past, you know that we have had our own personal challenges over the years. And standing there in Wandering River, looking across the parking lot as my husband, Tim approached me I realized that we would be fine. I could have died from having a bone marrow transplant, he could have been killed instead of badly injured by a drunk driver, our little girl could have passed away from complications when she was young, but we are fine. We have a home to go home to once we do whatever we need to do to make it safe, and we will go back.

When you have a transplant, you celebrate that date like it is a new birthday. Every time I hear the word, "re-entry", for some reason, I think "re-birth".  So today, June 1, 2016, I am declaring it a new beginning, again, for the Murphy family in Fort McMurray. We remember life "before" and "after" the transplant, the accident, and now we will add the "before the fire" and "after the fire" to the mix as well.

And on an even more personal level, this blog will be reborn. Before it was always "Around the Kitchen Table", because I had envisioned it would contain the conversations that people had at their own kitchen tables. From here on in, my new blog will be known as "Murphy's View From McMurray" for a few reasons. Months ago when I asked friends for their ideas, they all said that I should have my name in the title somewhere, and over the last few weeks I really wanted to make sure that Fort McMurray was included as well. Because through all of the last month, and everything that happened, I know that I love being a Murphy more than ever, thanks Tim, and I love being from Fort McMurray more than I ever thought possible. The way that my heart swells with pride when I think about our community, well, I think I will just have to dedicate myself as we all head back to trying to capture how deep that feeling of pride really runs. It will be hard to put it into words.

I know that this new "rebirth" will be full of challenges, great people, lots of love and hope. I also hope that it will be full of laughter, fun, and lots of sharing so that we all realize we are not alone with whatever we are going through. My goal with the new blog was to capture more stories of the people, businesses and events around town, and now more than ever I am committed to that goal. Months ago I had visions of having a grand launch day, and a big announcement. But today, June 1, with re-entry starting it suddenly hit me that I didn't need a big announcement, because life is full of every day moments, and huge tragedies, so I will start this journey today, with Fort McMurray, and it's residents. There is not one single doubt in my mind that we will rebuild, and we will help those most devastated in the weeks and months to come. Because we are Fort McMurray, and that's what we do.

As I got back in the car and started my drive back to Edmonton for another couple of weeks, this was the song that came on the radio, so I turned it up, and thought about how Fort McMurray will be there for us, whenever we all decide it is safe to go home.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Northside Rec

I had a speech all set for tonight for the council meeting, but I don't think I am going to be able to make it, so I thought I would share any way.

I come here tonight as a mom, not a council geek, and not a resident who is worried about the future of our city. Just a mom, who stood in her kitchen this morning and told her 16 year old son that it was likely that Phase 2 of the Northside Rec plan would probably be halted by council tonight. And do you know what his reaction was, he said, "It's been so long now it doesn't matter anyway." And I answered that well, some day maybe his kids would use it, and to that he answered, "If I have kids I don't know if I want to raise them here at the rate things are going." It was like a punch in the gut, and I feel partially responsible.

You see when the municipality posted the online survey for the design of the Northside Rec, and held the engagement sessions, I encouraged our sons to participate. I told them that if they didn't participate, they wouldn't be heard, and that you can never get what you want if you don't speak up. I told them that their voice mattered. I told many residents in Fort McMurray the same thing the last few years, "get involved" I said, "make sure you vote" I said. And when they did participate, and engaged with this project they were loud and clear that they wanted this rec centre on the north side. There was no denying it at any level. But what has administration done? Killed it. And tonight, if council votes with the recommendation, they will not only kill a rec centre, they will further alienate the people of Fort McMurray.

Don't come asking me next week why people won't stay. Stop trying to figure out why they are mad. It's because they continue to not be heard by administration, and sadly by their representatives on council.

For years I have corrected people when they said that the current council wasted money on the weather catcher and the expropriation of the downtown core. I have patiently explained that it was last council that made those decisions. But if council votes to kill this project tonight, at the cost of well over $5.5 million, I will only pause and wonder at what they have accomplished during their time in office.

And how do I continue to try to get my children, and possible residents of Fort McMurray to engage, when tonight I am feeling so disillusioned myself?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Difficult Week for Council

As a disclaimer for the following blog, in case you do not know, I did run in the by election last year in Fort McMurray, the result was that Colleen Tatum won that seat. I wrote the following column for the Today this week, but they felt that there was a conflict of interest since I had ran against Councillor Tatum. I respect their decision and decided to publish it on my blog. I feel that I have written about our city for 11 years now, and have never been accused of not being fair, and I have always been professional enough to remove my ego or emotions from pieces that I write about politics. Over the years, many councillors, and MLAs have even become friends, and I did not always write flattering pieces about them. The perfect example would be during the time of last council, when our city decided to expropriate the downtown. Councillor Tatum was on that council, and I spoke out about the decisions to expropriate. We remained close enough friends that on the day I decided to run in the by election, I went to Colleen to tell her in person before I filed my intent to run. Moving forward, this blog will be evolving in the next few weeks. I will now be covering more about Fort McMurray, and it will become a blog that will contain ads and I will be working as an affiliate. I had looked at doing this last year, and the timing was not right. So if you have a business you want me to write about, an event, or if you have a story that you want help telling, please send me an email at Last year I had gone back to working in the community with the Connect, and I realized how much I missed hearing all the stories, and writing about the wonderful people who live in our region, so that was the main reason that I decided to move forward on the new blog. And now you can read my opinion on the latest council news: 

Unless you have been out of town lately, you have heard about Councillor Colleen Tatum being in breach of the Municipal Governance Act(MGA). The Act is law right across Alberta, and all municipalities have to follow it. Part of the Act states that anyone sitting on council cannot be in arrears to the municipality which they represent for more than $50 and 90 days. Tatum breached both when she went in arrears on her taxes to the tune of $6700.00. 

This week at council, the following motion was made: “That the Regional Solicitor be instructed to cause an application to be made to a judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench supported by relevant and material evidence, for an order determining whether Councillor Tatum has ceased to be qualified to remain a Councillor pursuant to the provisions of section 174(1)(b) of the Municipal Government Act and section 22(1)(c) of the Local Authorities Election Act.” All this means is that the decision on whether Tatum should be disqualified or not will be sent to a judge. Council voted, and Julia Cardinal was missing for the vote, and Tatum also did not participate. Jane Stroud was the only councillor to vote against the motion, stating that she would rather see sanctions be brought against Tatum. 

Council really did not have any choice in this matter, as was shown by the almost unanimous vote. For the last two years the words “transparency” and “accountability” have been thrown around, to a point where even I was getting sick of the terms. If council had not sent it to a judge, it could be said that they all think they are above the law and will cover for each other. Sending it to the judge was the most transparent way for the decision to be made for the public to hear all the evidence that will be presented in the case.  Besides, if council had let this “slide by” what other laws are they willing to break and then overlook?

I was wavering on even writing a column about this topic. Why? Because like her fellow councillors, I like Tatum. But if we ignored the law for everyone that we like, every son that committed a crime would be off because his mother would be able to plead their case without fault. It was not until I heard Councillor Tatum on the radio doing the McMurray Matters show that I no longer wavered. 

During that interview Tatum said that she did not know about this law, and if that is really true, than that shows her incompetence. I know for a fact that when she filed her nomination papers she was given a package where it was clearly stated that candidates had to be sure about their taxes, and this specific law. On top of that, our statutory declaration in the nomination papers again was specific about this law. And on top of all that, during the candidate information sessions municipal administration went over this rule because they did not want to have any issues, especially given the fact that Guy Boutilier had  just resigned over questions about his residency. It was very black and white. But during the interview Tatum said that she didn’t know, and that she was given a lot of papers to read. If she didn’t bother to read those papers, what other papers is she not reading when making decisions for our city? She then went on to say that she gives her mail to her assistant, but when you swear to uphold that council seat on the day you are sworn in, then you cover your bases and make sure you are eligible to sit in that seat. 

Council did not bring this forward, and they did absolutely nothing to provoke this issue what so ever. So for them to be blamed for forcing this issue is totally and completely unfair. The mayor has stated that she found out, and brought it to Tatum’s attention. It was only over a week later that the other councillors even found out. This must have been a very hard decision for them.It would have been easier to try to appease those that like Tatum and just impose sanctions. I am sure they are worried about how they look to the public as well, they don’t want to look like a bunch of meanies. So good on them for wanting to uphold the law. 

Councillor Tatum has also used the case in Red Deer as a reference. Councillor Paul Harris was a partial owner of a business there that went behind in it’s business taxes, and the day that he found out, he paid in full. The council there decided to impose sanctions on the councillor when he did not resign. The difference is for Tatum it is her property taxes. But what Tatum failed to mention when she used that case as an example was that there was a huge public outcry. The reporter that I spoke with said that many called for the councillor to resign, and that when council did not send it to the judge people then said that they were a bunch of crooks who were covering for each other. 

There is a bigger picture here that people are forgetting. Our city is currently still trying to shake off the image of being corrupt, and is trying hard to start developing our downtown. Outside investors are still very much watching how we run our city. It cannot appear now that we are still not willing to follow the laws that the rest of the province does on a daily basis. It’s all very sad really, I feel bad that Mayor Blake and the council members have been put into such a difficult position. 

Tatum forced the issue to court by not resigning as is required by law under the MGA. Period. And like many, I wonder now how competent she is on council if she is not able to read and follow the law that was laid out very clearly for her twice now when she filed to run for that seat. She would have had my vote next year if she had admitted her mistake and resigned and then ran in the next general election. Instead she has lost my confidence.  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

It's My Christmas Week!

This is it, I know some of you have been waiting for me to start, and I have been patiently waiting to start talking about Matt Minglewood. But I won't wait any more!

The next three nights are the best nights that I have in Fort McMurray. The nights that Matt comes to town and plays at the Boomtown Casino are my Christmas. I count down from the time that I hear that he is booked, and I start reminding people about 100 days out. And here we are, this time tomorrow night, I will be sitting at a table, waiting for Matt and band to take the stage.

So here's the plan. Tomorrow night is girl's night! Whoever wants to join us for supper, a few of us are heading to the new Town Hall on Fraser Avenue for around 6:45p.m. And then we are off to grab tables at the Casino to hear Matt.

If you don't like me, and you don't like Matt, then the next few days are not a good time to be following me on Facebook, here or Twitter. This is my time to have fun, dance, sing, and catch up with all my old and new friends. Every single year I get to meet some new people in town, or ones that are in from camp. And I get to sit and see friends that I went to school with, friends that I haven't seen in years, and best of all? I get to listen to a Canadian legend on the stage. How does it get any better? For me, the only things that could make it better would be more friends. I wish that some of my oldest, dearest friends and some family could be with me this weekend. I wish that my old friends that love Matt almost as much as I do could be here to share the nights with me.

And one extra bonus for me this weekend is that my oldest, Mitchell, is going to be going with us on one of the nights. Several other young people who come here all the time are also going, and that is so special to me. This marks the official weekend that a fourth generation in our family will go and listen and sing along to Matt's great songs! So if anyone has a younger, sensible daughter, bring her along to meet my son, lol! Good thing he doesn't read his old mom's writings!

We always have so much fun, and it's always way better than I even imagine. So if you have a friend or relative out here in Fort McMurray, tell them to head to the Boomtown Casino this weekend, and if I haven't met them before, tell them to go introduce themselves to me. I will be the redhead up front, dancing and laughing and having the time of her life. It all starts in less than 24 hours now!!

Monday, September 21, 2015

I need motivation!

I am still trying to figure out how to get my motivation going. I am down 5.4 pounds since I started about three weeks ago. Not a lot, but slow and steady, and better than any gains!

But I still haven't been adding in any exercise. And in talking to other women, I realize that I am not alone. The days that I get the house work, and a little writing, then there is no time for exercise. If I do some interviews and a meeting for work, I get nothing done at the house, so then I feel like I should clean up the next day instead of once again fitting the exercise in. See, no balance. My goal in the next few weeks is to start planning my days out better, and getting the exercise done.

So far the easiest part has been the healthier eating, as everyone is on board in the house. I will start posting more of the recipes that have been a hit so far. The first one is supper easy, and everyone loves lettuce boats.

I use romaine lettuce hearts. For the stuffing, I cut up boneless chicken breasts and fry them in some olive oil. I add about a tablespoon of red pepper flakes, and about a half a bottle of hoisin sauce(for about four chicken breasts). Then I add whatever the kids will eat, like red pepper, corn, chopped water chestnuts. and matchstick carrots.

I hope you all are working towards your own goals, and know that there are many of us going through the weight loss struggle.