Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Hey bully, take that!

OK, I know this is off topic, but I just had to say something.

I really can't control my glee at watching the Conservatives squirm. This is the most exciting politics has been in Canada in my lifetime.

It's fun to see how the bully -- who's been poking and prodding his schoolyard victims at every chance possible -- reacts when a group of them turn and punch him in the face. The meticulous strategist has made too many wrong moves.

To be honest, I think the moves by Stephane Dion and Jack Layton are potentially the biggest leadership steps either have ever taken. And as for Gilles Duceppe, if you take away the separtist aspect, he's basically on par with the NDP. They're already in the House, Quebeckers voted too, so let's have them involved.

Harper raged in the House over the past few days that this is all so "undemocratic." Puh-lease. Harper got 38 per cent of the vote and acted like he got 110 per cent of the vote. Now the guys who got 62 per cent of the vote (of the measly 60 per cent of voters who even decided it was worth their effort to cast a ballot in the election a mere 7 weeks ago) are pulling together to see if they can do it better.

After watching Harper play politics with an economic statement at a time when what Canada needs is a true leader to see us through what is going to be one of the roughest economic times in memory, I'm willing to give the other guys a shot.

In his campaign on a few short months ago, Harper didn't campaign pledging to eradicate the $1.95 voter subsidy for political parties. Or on taking away a few unions' right to strike. No, I believe he said he was the best one to lead the economy through tough times. Hasn't he been watching what's happening in the U.S.? The country's got a new sense of hope with a leader who, now that the ballots have been counted, is putting politics aside in favour of trying to do some practical things to help his people. And Harper? The first chance he got to make a statement to Canadians about how he will be the stalwart leader amid times of turmoil, he goes and pokes the opposition in the eye, again, and again, and again.

Note, Mr. Harper, you did not get a majority when you went back to the voters (although we all know he was screaming inside for one). Take that as a hint. We didn't like Harper enough to give him carte blanche to govern how he saw fit. We left the other guys with enough seats to keep you in check. Good thing.

If we had some form of proportional representation, the PCs would have even fewer seats. In our first-past-the-post system the PCs won the most seats, but in popularity more people voted against Harper than for him. He needs to remember that.

And when he had the chance to show he could put partisanship aside and do what's in the best interests of the people, he just couldn't put the politics on the backburner.

I want Michaelle Jean to turn Harper down. To tell him No. Let's see if this coalition, based on a few narrow priorities, might do a better job. Wouldn't it be funny if it turned out Dion is a better leader than Harper? I'm ready to give him a shot. I've had enough of Harper the bully and all his cronies.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Channelling Victor Davis

Where’s Victor Davis when you need him?

I think Canada’s current swim team needs to channel a little bit of Davis’ pizzazz to fire up their game at the Olympics.

Mike Brown finished fourth in the 200 metre breaststroke at the Beijing Olympics, and then comments to CBC that if he had matched his semi-final time he would have won a silver.

How do you go to the Olympics and then not do a better time every time you dive in the pool? This is everything you’ve worked for. You mean you went to the Olympic final, had a chance to win a medal and somehow couldn’t match the time you did before?

In that case, in my view, Canada’s problem is a mental one, not a physical one. Let’s get a little of the Davis “I gotta have it” attitude and infuse it into every Canadian Olympic athlete’s mind. I feel like I’m hearing a concession speech from every athlete interviewed before they’ve even competed in the prelims. After he and Arturo Miranda finished fifth in the syncho three-metre springboard, Alexandre Depatie said the pair had done much better in practice. What? Why do Canadian athletes fail to perform to their best when it comes down to the crunch? Is this a national attitude? And how do we change that?

There’s skill, there’s technique, there’s fitness, and then there’s this unquantifiable part of competing, it’s heart, it’s will, it’s determination, it’s red-hot desire. It’s when you dig down deep into yourself to find reserves you never knew were there. In racehorses, it’s called “the winning spirit.” Some horses just refuse to let others pass them, no matter what.

I don’t want the medals for Canada, I want them for the athletes I know have slaved and sweated and worked their butts off to get the Games, giving up so much -- time with family and friends, careers -- and working so hard. I want them to have the mentality that Davis had. He got all fired up and visibly pissed off if things didn’t go right. I want to hear a collective Canadian guttural yell before they compete. I want Canada’s athletes in these Games to have a fire inside that will burn a hole in an igloo and get them to reach further than ever before in their quest to be the best they can.

If a swimmer isn’t ready to pass out or throw up after a race, they haven’t swum hard enough, in my mind. They have to hit that wall at the end knowing that they had nothing more to give. I was a competitive swimmer as a kid, and then in high school, and there was nothing I hated worse then despising myself for not trying harder -- especially when I knew I could. I was lucky to swim in an era when Canada was pretty hot in the sport, with the likes of Davis, Alex Baumann, and Anne Ottenbrite. They’re doing what they can now to help Canada’s swim team return to that level.

Maybe swimmers need to scream “Go, Go, Go,” in their head at every stroke, every kick of their race. Whatever we need to help Canada do better at the Games, it needs to start in the head.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Big Brown. Triple Crown. That sounds right.

So can Big Brown capture the Triple Crown?

I sure hope so.

Big Brown. Triple Crown. It even rhymes.

As a racing fan, I hold my breath in May and June, waiting to see if one spindly legged thoroughbred will rocket its way around the track ahead of its peers to capture the ever elusive Triple Crown.

It’s been 30 years since Affirmed battle Alydar down the stretch to sweep America’s three top races for three-year-old thoroughbreds in 1978.

I wasn’t a racing fan then, but I certainly am now.

I’ve watched with growing elation as horse after horse arrived at the Belmont Race Track with the potential to make a huge mark in history, only to be beaten by a hair, a nose, a neck.

The Belmont is the spoiler race of the Triple Crown challenge because it’s been the undoing of so many potential winners.

Since Affirmed’s Triple Crown win, there have been 10 -- count them again, 10 -- horses that have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown only to have the trophy snatched from their grasp in the final strides of the Belmont.

In 1998, Real Quiet lost by only a nose.
War Emblem tripped up in the starting gate in 2002. Funny Cide was outrun in the mud in 2003. Smarty Jones fell short by a length in 2004 (I think I shed a tear over that one). And in 2005, Afleet Alex didn’t win the Kentucky Derby but came back to sweep the Preakness and the Belmont.

Big Brown seems to have everything he needs to win. He doesn’t fret before his races. He’s got the speed to stay up near the front with the sprinters, and the powerful kick to close, leaving his rivals trailing behind in his dust.

In the Derby, he won with a commanding performance. In the Preakness, he looked like he was out for a morning gallop, toying with the field like a playful puppy waiting for someone to come out and race him.

That’s the one thing that’s been missing in this Triple Crown run. A real head-to-head battle between the winner and a strong running rival. Big Brown has tromped the field when he’s set foot on the race track. This is no Affirmed-Alydar showdown. Just check them out on YouTube and you see the thrill of each of those races. Each Triple Crown race was literally a match race between them. But still, I’ll take any winner at this point.

A New York Times writer wrote recently that even if Big Brown wins the Triple Crown, he’s no Secretariat. So, I surfed onto YouTube to check out Secretariat’s winning style. I was blown away. Now that was a running machine. He pulled ahead easily to win the Derby and Preakness, but his Belmont run is what makes him a legend. He’s not racing anyone but the wind, having left Sham behind before the final turn. And he does it in style. His jockey never has to touch the whip. He’s just along for the ride as Secretariat thunders down the track, setting a track record for the Belmont -- 2:24 -- that has yet to be broken. He also holds the record for winning the Belmont by the widest margin -- a stunning 31 lengths. Check it out for yourself.

I’d love to see Big Brown give us a race that reminds us of Secretariat’s commanding win in 1973, at least winning by a large margin. If Rick Dutrow’s endless boasting is right, Big Brown will sail to an easy victory.

But Secretariat has set the standard by which all top thoroughbreds are measured. Is Big Brown big enough to match Big Red? That’s a tough one to answer. And only Saturday’s race will tell the tale.

Big Brown is battling hoof problems, and on his shoulder rests the pressure of the racing world, which is lusting for a feel-good story to lift it out of the doldrums and lure fans back to the track. And in light of Eight Belles’ demise after the Derby, a good story would welcome -- especially a Triple Crown tale to tell for a long time to come.

I can’t say if Big Brown might put himself in the history books like Secretariat did. Chances are we won’t see a four-year-old racing season for him, since he’ll likely be in the breeding shed and not on the race track after this year, if not after he crosses the finish wire at the Belmont.

We’ll just have to wait and see what Big Brown has in store for us this Saturday. I think this calls for a trip to the local betting parlour, at least for a souvenir betting ticket. That’s worth $2.


Saturday, July 07, 2007

Girls rule in racing

A filly beats the colts and wins the Belmont. A chick kicks the guys’ butts and steals the show at Canada’s Queen’s Plate. Ya gotta love it.

I love my horse racing and my equestrian sports, and I love that there’s a chance for girls to go head-to-head against the boys and often that’s the norm. There’s no division of the sexes in show jumping, dressage or eventing. Male, female, stallion, gelding, mare, it makes no difference. You compete, that’s it. You win, little or nothing is said about the sex of the horse or the rider.

In racing, the fillies and colts are usually divided, but on some occasions they race head-to-head. But the jockeys, guys or girls, aren’t.

In this year’s Belmont, we got to see top-notch filly Rags to Riches dig in her heels and tell one of the top colts of the year - Curlin - that she was going to win today. It was an awe-inspiring run down the stretch. You could physically see her grit her teeth and dig down to her hooves to find the strength and power to inch ahead of Curlin. Honestly, I think he was a bit confused. I don’t think he’s seen such determined competition in his races this year, and I think he’s a fine horse.

It was uplifting to see a filly break the 100-plus year drought at the Belmont. And against the top 3-year-old colts. You can’t say that was a fluke win. She ran every inch of that race. I love to see that determination. Check out the race:

Then just a few weeks later we get to see Canadian jockey Emma-Jayne Wilson beat out the guys to be the first female jockey to win Canada’s biggest horse race, the Queen’s Plate. She rode long shot Mike Fox to the wire first in a crafty ride that gave her horse the best chance to win.

Wilson gushed more about the great race her horse ran than she did about the fact she made Canadian thoroughbred racing history. She just said she was happy a woman won, so now it doesn’t need to be said again and the next time a female wins, the focus will be on her ride, not on the historical statistics.

I love the attitude.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Street Sense’s Triple Crown run dashed in last stride

I gotta give it to Street Sense and Calvin Borel, it was a game effort. But Robby Albarado pulled Curlin’s reserve from the bottom of his hooves in the final strides of the race to steal any hope of a Triple Crown this year. Again.

I watched replay after replay of the race online just so I could dissect it stride for stride. I thought Street Sense had it, but Curlin just dug in his heels and chased him down. That takes guts. And heart. Street Sense put on his now signature power surge again at the end but got run down at the wire.

As someone who would love to see a Triple Crown battle in the Belmont every year, I was crushed to see Street Sense get beat. Especially by a nose. With such a strong run down to the wire, I hate to see a good horse lose what seemed rightfully his. If he got outrun by several lengths, it would show he wasn’t a good enough horse to win. But to lose by a nose is heartbreaking. That shows he’s got what it takes, minus a nose. But in this game the first nose to the wire wins it all. To be a nose behind is just that - behind, not first.

I give it to Street Sense for a valiant effort, but too bad Curlin did such a good job.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Green lights for Street Sense?

Is there hope for a Triple Crown winner this year? Is Street Sense ready for his next foray in the battle for the forever-out-of-reach Triple Crown? Will he be twice lucky but thrice shy like so many others before him?

If Street Sense crosses the wire first this weekend in the Preakness Stakes there will be renewed hope in racing fans that a Triple Crown winner isn’t a mirage on the infield.

After watching Barbaro dominate in last year’s Derby, racing fans were psyched that they were watching a true champion. Triple Crown talk gained momentum with Barbaro’s every stride. But hearts and hopes were broken that day his leg shattered in the Preakness just weeks later. This year, I think racing fans fear that even breathing the wish of a Triple Crown chance will place a jinx on the Derby winner.

Does Street Sense have what it takes? Street Sense didn’t win the Derby with the commanding style we saw from Barbaro, but still, it was quite a win with more than 2 lengths to spare in his rail-hugging run. How jockey Calvin Borel kept his cool in that race I’ll never know. Watching it, I couldn’t believe at one point Street Sense was 19th of 20 and Borel was able to weave his way along the rail so they could charge up the backstretch to win. I did my own rerun of the race several times just to see how he did it. I’m no expert but it looked masterful. But what a chance to take: what would have been the end result if one of those horses didn’t get out of the way?

The last time racing fans were graced with a Triple Crown hero was 1978 with Affirmed. I’ve wondered if there will ever be another Triple Crown winner in my lifetime. I’ve wondered if the outcome might be different if only horses that run in the Derby could run in the two other Triple Crown races. But I guess that the challenge of facing fresh competitors is part of the Triple Crown allure. Street Sense is up against five fresh horses who didn’t have to gallop their guts out in the run for the roses.

It’s been a long, hot dry spell since there was a Triple Crown winner. Whatever horse breaks it will be immortalized in history. Racing fans have seen lots of almost-but-not-quite performances that left us wanting more. Maybe if we don’t think about it too hard, it might just happen this year. My fingers will be crossed that Street Sense hits the wire first this weekend in the Preakness. We can always dream, right?


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Mares and Mothers: First Encounter

Mares and Mothers
Chapter 1

First Encounter


(This is the first chapter of a story I'm continuing to work on. As always, it's a work in progress.)

The bay stallion was lunging and lurching across his corner box stall, his nose stopping inches from the metal bars as he bared his teeth and bellowed a guttural, testosterone-fuelled scream that reverberated off the walls of the forest green and white stable.

His hooves thudded repeatedly against the wooden walls of his big stall and the sound echoed down the stable's stone corridor.

It was clear why the young stallion was so agitated, with the head stablehand Yves walking a beautiful chestnut mare back in forth in front of his stall. She was strutting, showing off to the stallion. The mare was in season with her tail slightly elevated to display her wares.

“Yves, I think you've got Kodi's attention,” said Rebecca, standing in the middle of the gray bricked aisle of the barn, laughing and shaking her head at the heightened excitement of the sleek colt as he tossed his head at the mare's heavy scent. Her laugh was bubbly and caused her brown curly ponytail to bob along the top of her shoulders.

“How about you take the mare to the shed now, I'll bring Kodi along in a minute,” Rebecca told Yves.

“Sure,” Yves replied, leading the mare to the breeding shed off the left side of the otherwise empty stallion barn.

“You want any equipment on her?” Yves yelled over his shoulder. Just then the mare reached for Yves and nipped, catching the sleeve of his shirt in her teeth.

“Cut that out!” he yelled, reprimanding her with a swat on her snout.

“You better watch her, Yves,” Rebecca joked, laughing. “It looks like she likes you!”

“Let's keep the equipment to a minimum, let's just see what she does first,” Rebecca hollered back as Yves stepped out of the barn, keeping the mare's teeth far away from him.

The chestnut mare, a former successful racehorse turned broodmare, had arrived at the barn only two days before and Rebecca had slipped her into Kodiak's breeding schedule after Denis, the in-house vet had confirmed she was ovulating.

“The less restraints the better in my book,” Rebecca said to herself since Yves was now out of earshot. “Kodi's got to learn the right way too.”

This was the part of the job that Rebecca loved the most. Combining two stellar bloodlines to see if a remarkable foal would be the result in 11 months time. For three years now, this had been her job as manager of Clairview Stables, a prestigious barn that mainly bred and raced thoroughbreds but also bred and trained a few sport horses.

For Kodiak though, this was his first official week on the job as a stud. The five-year-old stallion had cleaned up at the racetrack in the past three years. Last year, though, that winning streak was put to an end by a tendon injury that meant his early retirement to the breeding shed.

Kodiak was one of Clairview Stables' most successful racehorses in recent years and to have the homebred stallion now at stud had caused a spark of interest in the industry and already his appointment book for the year was nearly full.

The former racehorse was still learning the ropes _ and the proper protocol for getting permission from a mare to mount her _ but he had caught on quickly that girls meant a good time. It was easy to tell that so far the stallion liked his new job and all the perks that went with it as he stood tall in his stall, his ears pricked, waiting for the next move.

“Hey big boy, you'll get relief soon enough,” Rebecca said, stopping outside Kodiak's stall to reach in through the steel bars to pat his nose, which was quivering as his nostrils flared, still savouring the mare's scent.

His eyes were dark and alert, his ears flitted back and forth, picking up any sound within radius. His muscles were taut as he fretted and paced along the front of his stall and there was no hiding what his excitement did to him.

Rebecca slipped her roughened hand into the pocket of her kakhi work pants, picking out a cube of sugar to give to the stallion. The sweet smell of the sugar diverted the colt's attention for a moment, just enough for him to put his strong, fuzzy lips through the bars to nip the cube from her fingers.

“Watch it, kiddo,” Rebecca said, snapping back her hand and examining her fingers in feigned shock. “I need those, you know.”

Rebecca strode across the gray interlocking brick floor and reached up to a wooden rack on the wall to grab a leather lead shank with a heavy brass chain attached to the end.

She walked back to Kodi's stall, her steel-toed boots thudding heavily on the stone walkway. The stallion was prancing on his toes in his stall at the sight of the lead, knowing that this meant his time to perform was quickly approaching.

Rebecca opened the stallion's door, and firmly said, “Kodi, Stand.”

He reluctantly obeyed. But like a little kid who hops up and down on each foot in the hope that it counts for standing still, the stallion shifted his weight from hoof to hoof, unable to contain his anticipation.

Rebecca weaved the brass chain through the metal rings on the colt's halter and over his nose, giving her some leverage if he misbehaved, and clasped the clip to the other side.

So far the young stallion had been well behaved, albeit a little impatient. Rebecca knew that these first few weeks would be the most important to set the rules down about what the stallion could and could not do when it came to the mares.

She gave a gentle jerk on the shank to remind the stallion that she was in control, and opened his stall door, quickly grabbing a long, thin whip after she exited.

The stallion, now in the corridor leading to the breeding shed, called out shrilly to the mare, who whinnied in response. This set off Kodiak who danced sideways, his neck arched gracefully, and he pranced sideways down the hallway, his hoof beats clattering on the stone, each muscle clearly defined on his taut body.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Netting the kiddies early

I expect my 5 1/2 month old son Tristan is going to know how to type on a computer keyboard before he’s figured out how to use a crayon. Technology will just be an average part of his life. Then, I think back to my early teens when I got my first taste of computer technology with a Commodore 64 (and I thought it was pretty cool at the time) Now, I spend my time clattering away on a shiny silver Mac keyboard and get highly annoyed when our high-speed is down.

But for tiny tots, there’s not much on the web that really interests them. Of course there’s someone out there ready to fill the gap. One of the mums in my Mommies Group discovered a site called Kneebouncers, which targets the itty bitty kiddies. It’s got great big colourful pictures that dance across the screen, it’s interactive (all it takes is for the little ones to pound on the keyboard and the characters jump into action), and it’s got music too. Tristan attests that it’s worth a look.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Million Little Girls

(Kiddie Lit)

(This is a story I wrote for my niece Cassidy a few years ago after hearing what her mom said to her every night before she went to bed.)

Cassidy was having a bad day. Not just kind of a bad day. A really BAAAD day. Possibly her worst day EVER in her whole life. Maybe not THE worst day ever in all of time, but still, the worst day ever for this nine-year-old girl.

For Cassidy, she started the whole day on the wrong foot. Literally! Cassidy’s alarm went off at 7 a.m., _ BEEP, BEEP, BEEP _ which, of course, she ignored. It went off again at 7:15 a.m. _ BEEP, BEEP, BEEP _ and Cassidy rolled over to slap her alarm and shut it off.

But she rolled the wrong way and ended up tangled in her blankets and squished into the itty-bitty space between her bed and the wall. All the while her alarm was screaming BEEP, BEEP, BEEP!

Cassidy tried to yell "Mom!" but her cries were muffled by the blankets wrapped around her face and the fact her nose was getting crushed into the wall. So instead her cry came out sounding like “Mummmf!”

“Cassidy, are you out of bed yet?” her Mom hollered as she stormed into Cassidy’s room. But no sooner than she got through the door, Cassidy’s Mom stopped and started giggling at the bundle of blankets squirming at the wrong side of the bed.
“Mommm, I’m stuck!” Cassidy yelled.

Laughing, her Mom grabbed the end of the blanket and hauled Cassidy out by one of her feet. Her Mom unwrapped Cassidy from all the blankets, kissed her on the forehead and said “Cassidy, you’re so silly. But you know what I say, no matter what, if I had a million girls, you’d still be my favourite.”

Her Mom always told Cassidy this whenever anything bad or weird happened and also every night when she tucked her in and kissed her goodnight.

Cassidy, still bundled up in her blankets giggled and smiled, “Thanks, Mom. I love you.”

“But I’m going to be late for school now!”

So Cassidy raced around trying to do six things at once, which of course she couldn’t do, so she wouldn’t be too late for the school bus.

Cassidy was so rushed that she put on socks that didn’t match _ one was purple and one was pink _ and put her purple T-shirt on inside out.

Cassidy barely had enough time to grab her knapsack and lunch box, and a granola bar to eat on the bus for breakfast, and dash out the door so she didn’t miss the bus.

So far, this was the start of a kind of bad day. But it just couldn’t get worse, Cassidy thought.

For one thing, the sun was shining, and days were always better with the warm sunshine, she thought.

Cassidy rushed out of the house with her schoolbag trailing behind her, and jumped onto the bus as it almost drove off without her. As she ran up the bus steps she banged her lunchbox against the metal railing.

The latch broke in two and out popped her favourite juice thermos, the one with the running horses on it. Her sandwich, apple and cookies made a “splat,” “thud” and “crunch” sound as they hit the dirty, black rubber floor of the bus.

The fall squished her sandwich, crushed her cookies into a billion little pieces and dented her shiny red apple. Cassidy quickly scooped them up but her thermos hit the floor with a loud “smack” and cracked all down one side, spurting a bluey-purply stream of juice onto Cassidy’s favourite skirt which was white with purple flowers on it.

Cassidy was mortified as all the kids on the school bus began to laugh and howl as her lunch spilled all over the floor.

Then, to make matters worse, Cassidy’s favourite thermos proceeded to roll and bounce all the way down the aisle of the bus, leaving a thick, gooey juice trail behind it. Then it slammed against the back door, splitting open like an egg and spilling out the rest of the grape juice into a puddle on the floor. Every kid on the bus laughed at Cassidy and pointed at the gooey mess left by the broken thermos.

“Look! Cassidy’s thermos is bleeding,” the brown-haired boy from down the street yelled.

Cassidy turned bright red and silently wished she could turn invisible at that moment. Trying to forget about her now-broken favourite juice thermos, and that she’d be thirsty at lunchtime, Cassidy took the first seat she could find on the bus and scowled the rest of the way to school as the nasty Grade Four boys sitting behind her chanted “Cassidy’s a klutz, Cassidy’s a klutz, Cassidy’s a klutz.”

Finally at school and sitting at her desk, Cassidy thought that the day got off to a rotten start but it had to get better, it just had to. It just couldn’t get worse, Cassidy thought.

Wishful thinking.

“OK class,” her teacher Mrs. Treadle said after the bell rang. “Let’s take out the math homework I assigned yesterday to see how all of you did.”

Cassidy dug into her knapsack and shuffled through all the papers in search of the homework she knew she had finished last night at home with her Mom. But it was nowhere to be found. Cassidy found the note she forgot to give to her best friend, found last week’s history assignment but not yesterday’s math homework.

“Please let it be here, please let it be here,” she muttered to herself as she threw paper after paper out of her knapsack onto the floor. But it just wasn’t there.

Mrs. Treadle saw the mess Cassidy was creating as she upturned her knapsack, noisily spilling its contents all over the classroom floor.

“Cassidy, is there a problem?” Mrs. Treadle asked in that voice that said trouble was coming. Mrs. Treadle was standing at the front of the classroom, with her hands on her hips, glaring impatiently at Cassidy, annoyed with the noise she was making and the mess she was creating.

“I can’t find my homework,” said Cassidy, with her head still stuffed in her knapsack.

“What was that Cassidy? I couldn’t hear you,” Mrs. Treadle said loudly.

Cassidy pulled her head out of her bag and looked around. Every pair of eyes in the classroom were staring at her like a bored, expectant audience. Repeating in a quiet voice Cassidy said: “I can’t find my homework Mrs. Treadle.”

“But I did it though,” Cassidy added quickly in a loud defensive voice. “I did it at the kitchen table last night but I guess I forgot to put it in my bag when I ran for the bus this morning.”

Mrs. Treadle’s cross look _ with her eyes dark and narrow, and her brow furrowed _ let Cassidy know that her teacher didn't believe her excuse. Her forehead was all scrunched up, and her mouth had turned into a thin straight line _ so thin that it looked like her lips had disappeared into her mouth.

“Uh, oh, “ Cassidy thought. Cassidy often forgot her homework at home and made Mrs. Treadle very mad.

“Well, you’ll have to do extra homework because of that,” Mrs. Treadle said sharply. “This is the third time this week that you’ve forgotten your homework, Cassidy. Maybe some extra work will convince you to be better organized by putting your homework in your bag once it’s done rather than forgetting it on the kitchen table again and again,” Mrs. Treadle said angrily, turning on her heel and back to the chalkboard.

Cassidy felt her face get flushed and hot as all her classmates continued to stare at her. The boy next to her, Simon, snickered at her. “You have to do more homework, you have to do more homework,” he sneared.

Cassidy was sick of this day already. Why wasn’t it over already?

Her head snapped towards Simon and she glared at him with her most vicious look, her teeth clenched. It must have been a pretty good look, because Simon suddenly shut up, the smile disappeared from his face and he turned back to his work on his desk.

After such a horribly bad morning, Cassidy was just hoping that at lunch, maybe the day would start to get better, even just a little bit. So far, this was a bad day. But it just couldn’t get worse, Cassidy thought.

“You won’t believe how bad of a day I’m having. This is not a good day, in fact so far this is the worst day EVER,” Cassidy told her best friend Heather at lunch as they shared Heather’s drink box and Cassidy told her about all the things that had gone wrong that morning. Heather nodded in sympathy as she slurped up the rest of her apple juice.

Cassidy felt a bit better then, with Heather beside her and some lunch in her tummy. A squished sandwich and crumbled cookies didn’t look very good but they still tasted OK, but Cassidy missed her grape juice.

So Cassidy and Heather went outside at recess to go play skipping with some of their friends.

“Cassidy and Heather jumping on the spot, how many friends have you got,” the girls chanted as they skipped. “One, two, three, four . . .”

Cassidy was laughing with a big smile on her face as she and Heather jumped up and down together.

“This day is getting better,” Cassidy thought as she hopped up and down, her long brown hair floating around her face.

At 10 skips Heather and Cassidy jumped out of the ropes. But as Cassidy ran out she tripped and fell, skidding on the pavement, scraping up her hands and knees, and tearing the pocket of her favourite skirt.

“Ouch!!” Cassidy hollered and big, wet tears came to her eyes as she hit the rough pavement hard and her scrapes started to bleed.

Heather’s eyes were wide as she yelled and ran over to the teacher on yard duty. “Mrs. Jones! Mrs. Jones, Cassidy’s been hurt!”

Mrs. Jones, came over as droplets of blood trickled over Cassidy’s hands and knees.
“Are you OK?” asked Mrs. Jones, her eyes worried and her forehead creased. Cassidy was still sitting on the pavement, watching through her tears as the bright red blood oozed from her fresh cuts.

“I guess so,” Cassidy mumbled as she sniffed and wiped her arm across her eyes and nose.

Everyone in the entire school yard had stopped skipping, running and playing ball to watch the commotion in the middle of the yard. When Cassidy looked up dozens of pairs of eyes stared right at back Cassidy for the third time that day.

Being the centre of attention for things you did wrong wasn’t Cassidy’s idea of fun.

“Here, let me help you up,” said Mrs. Jones softly, gently holding Cassidy’s elbows to help her stand up. “Let’s go to the nurse’s room to clean up those cuts and get some bandages on them.”

Just then the bell rang for everyone to go back into class.

With bandages on her hands and knees, Mrs. Jones led Cassidy back to her class about 15 minutes later.

“Cassidy had a bit of an accident in the playground,” Mrs. Jones told Mrs. Treadle and the entire classroom as Cassidy shuffled to her desk, her head down, trying not to notice that every single one of her classmates was watching her _ again _ as she trudged across the floor.

“This is too much,” Cassidy thought as she sat down and rested her head on her crossed arms on her desk.

“What else bad can happen to me today?” she wondered, dreading the possibilities. “I just wish the day was over so I could go home,” she thought, with a big frown on her face as she stared at the bandages on her hands.

So far, this was a REALLY bad day. So far this was the WORST DAY EVER, Cassidy thought. But it just couldn’t get worse, Cassidy thought, no, it just couldn’t.

The rest of the afternoon wasn’t so bad, although her hands and her knees smarted, they didn’t hurt too badly and at last recess Cassidy stayed against the wall talking to Heather. There was no way she was going near a skipping rope! She’d had enough of them for one day, that’s for sure.

“This has been such a bad day,” Cassidy told Heather. “I think I should just go home and crawl into bed _ that way I can’t do anything else stupid!”

“It’s just bad luck,” Heather said, putting a hand on Cassidy’s arm. “The day can’t get any worse, can it?”

Cassidy hoped Heather was right and impatiently waited for the school day to be over.

Cassidy felt relieved once school was over for the day and after the bell rang she stayed with Heather for a bit talking and laughing until Heather caught her bus. Heather’s bus always left before Cassidy’s bus.

“Bye, Heather,” Cassidy yelled as Heather walked onto her bus. “I’ll see you tomorrow!” Cassidy said, waving to Heather as the big black and orange school bus pulled away.

With a big smile on her face and humming away, Cassidy turned around and skipped around the corner of the school to get onto her bus, happy the school day was finally over.

After she turned the corner Cassidy stopped suddenly in her tracks. There was no orange school bus there. The yard was empty and no other kids were waiting for a bus. In fact, the entire school yard was deserted.

Cassidy stood stock still, her eyes wide, her jaw open.

“This can’t be happening,” Cassidy wined. “My bus always leaves after Heather’s bus! How could I have missed my bus?”

“Now I’m going to have to walk home! Ugh!”

“I thought this day just couldn’t get worse, it just couldn’t!” Cassidy sighed. She wanted to sit down and cry.

Just then, it began to rain. Cassidy looked in her knapsack. Of course, she had left her umbrella at home.

Cassidy began the 20-minute walk home as she got pelted with raindrops.

“This is the worst day EVER. This is the worst day EVER,” Cassidy chanted to herself as she began to walk home.

There was no spring in Cassidy’s step and her shoes scraped along the sidewalk as she trudged home. Her head hung down, her shoulders sagged and her arms hung limp at her sides, dragging her pink school bag behind her. She didn’t care.

“What a day,” Cassidy said to herself as she walked. “This day just keeps getting worse and worse. I think I just want this day to be over. I can’t believe I missed my bus, scraped my hands and knees, forgot my homework, and dropped my lunch all in one day.”

“This is the worst day EVER.”

Finally, Cassidy tromped up her front porch, tired, thirsty and drenched. Of course, now the rain stopped. Cassidy tried to open the door but it was locked. She rang the doorbell but no one came to open it. Her Mom must be out, Cassidy thought. Cassidy reached her bandaged hand into her soaking wet knapsack but as much as she searched, she couldn’t find her housekey which was attached to a big purple star her aunt had given her for Christmas.

“This just couldn’t be happening,” Cassidy thought. “My key has to be in here somewhere. This day just can’t get worse, it just can’t.”

Cassidy was mad, tired, wet, upset and frustrated now.

“This is too much for one day in a kid’s life,” she muttered angrily as she turned her knapsack upside down and shook it so all its contents crashed down onto the porch. But no luck. Her key just wasn’t there.

Cassidy threw her knapsack down on the porch, stomped up and down on it with both feet and then slumped down on the step. She put her head in her hands and began to cry. Big wet tears streamed down her face. She would just have to wait until her Mom got home. She wasn’t working today, so hopefully she should be home soon, Cassidy thought hopefully as she sat on the step with the arms crossed and her face covered in a full-faced frown.

“I bet with MY luck today though Mom won’t be home for hours and I’ll just have to sit here on the step waiting,” she muttered, kicking one of her pencil crayons down the step.

“What a day,” she muttered, whiping her tears away and resting her chin in her hands.

“I just hope this day doesn’t get any worse, it just can’t,” she thought.

Just then her Mom drove into the driveway. Cassidy looked up and a little smile began to appear on her face. Finally, this day was getting better! What luck!! She got up and ran over to her Mom, yanking open her door as the car stopped.

“Mom, I’ve had such a horrible day, I’m so glad you’re home,” Cassidy babbled as the tears began flowing again.

“I missed the bus and had to walk home and I forgot my housekey and my homework and my thermos broke and I hurt my hands and knees and all the kids laughed at me,” Cassidy blurted out all at once.

“Whoa, there honey. What’s all this? Did you have a rotten day?” her Mom asked, pulling Cassidy up onto her lap to give her a big hug and kiss.

“It was the worst day EVER in history! It was such a rotten day. It’s not fair. Nothing would go right and all these bad things happened and the day just kept getting worse, and worse and worse and worse,” Cassidy said, sniffling as her eyes filled with tears that spilled out over her flushed cheeks.

“Well, I guess we’d better make the day better,” Cassidy’s Mom said, smiling, giving Cassidy another big hug and kiss saying, “no matter what bad things happen you know sweetie, if I had a million girls you’d still be my favourite.”

“You’re still the most special girl ever to me, silly accidents, missed buses, forgotten homework and forgotten keys and all,” her Mom said as she wiped away Cassidy’s tears.

Those words from her Mom always made Cassidy feel so special, they gave her the warm fuzzies and made all the bad things go away.

“In fact, I think I have a few delicious fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies in one of these grocery bags if you help me carry them inside!” said Cassidy’s Mom.

Cassidy grinned a big lopsided smile through her tears, feeling better already.

Suddenly, now sitting in her Mom’s lap with her arms around her the day didn’t seem so bad. And Cassidy knew that it just couldn’t get worse, it just couldn’t.

It could only get better now, Cassidy thought.

So Cassidy and her Mom carried the groceries _ stepping around the mess Cassidy made by dumping her knapsack upside down on the porch _ and then had milk and cookies while Cassidy told her Mom about her bad day at school.

At dinnertime with her Mom, Dad and brother Brock, Cassidy told all of them about her WORST DAY EVER, and they all told her about something that went wrong in their day too. So, the day did get better.

And as Cassidy’s Mom tucked her into bed, she followed her usual routine that Cassidy loved.

At bedtime, she would come into Cassidy’s pink and purple bedroom, with the shelves of toys and stuffed animals, and fluff up her pillows.

Then she would make sure Cassidy’s favourite stuffed animals _ Tigger the cat, and Tex the horse _ were beside her.

Then she would tuck her in, making sure all the blankets were all snug and warm around her, like a cocoon.

She would smooth back Cassidy’s hair and then kiss her on the forehead, and tell her: “You’re my favourite, my love. If I had a million girls, you’d still be my favourite.”

Cassidy smiled. She felt all warm and fuzzy inside when her Mom told her that. No matter what had happened that day, it didn’t matter anymore when her Mommy told her how much she loved her.

Then she’d give her another kiss and say, “goodnight my favourite little girl. I love you.”

And Cassidy would say, “love you too Mom, g’night.” Then she’d smile as she rolled over and drifted off to sleep.

Tomorrow just had to be better.

It just had to.