Monday, January 30, 2012

My Canada, Your Canada is OUR CANADA

I am Canadian

The whole country it seems is talking about the Shafia family. In case you are in the dark, 3 members of the family (father, mother and brother) were found guilty of first degree murder in the killing of 3 teenage daughters/sisters and the ex-wife in the name of honour. It seems that the daughters were harbouring secret boyfriends and therefore not being subservient to the dominating father. It is the right of the father in this barbaric culture to chose who the daughters shall marry and when. The father was later reported to have said that the "devil should shit on their graves". I can only hope that a worse fate awaits these sorry excuses for humanity.

But I am conflicted. While I applaud the Canadian justice system and the jurors for having reached a relatively swift conclusion to this matter and handing down the recommended 25 years to life sentences with no possibility of parole, that means I will be paying for their survival. As a taxpayer that is. And then we give them a right to appeal - more money spent. These people weren't Canadian, they embraced none of values and morals we appreciate. Send them back from where they came and their backward views are accepted. I don't want their kind to be a part of my Canada. I am not speaking of a specific culture or religion. I am speaking of anyone who does not value each and every member or society as equal. I am speaking of anyone who feels superior to any man, woman or beast and feels justified in eliminating them at will. 

A very real issue came to light in a related news broadcast this evening. As a forward thinking just society, we can teach women that they don't have to tolerate emotional, social, physical or sexual abuse at the hands of family, friends or strangers. We have safe houses for women to seek refuge in. But then what. In the case of family members seeking vengence in the form of honour killing, no stones will be left unturned until they are vindicated. One woman who left an arranged marriage 30 years ago still fears retribution from family members and the whole of the Muslim community who still leave death threats for her. Instead of the Shafia sentences empowering woman to have the courage to stand up and seek justice for themselves, there is a very real possibility that woman will go underground instead of getting help. After all, 4 woman died and they had tried to seek help beforehand. 

The Muslim community was quick to assure reporters that honour killings were not a part of the Muslim religion but rather something that has been going on for generations in the Middle East countries. And on that point I can rant on an issue that has been a thorn in my side for many years. I really don't have anything against immigration and multiculturalism. I would say that I embrace it. After all, as they say the only true Canadians are the Natives that were here long before the Europeans came. I'm one of those Europeans. 

Canada has been referred to as a melting pot - referring to the myriad of cultures that make up this great country. But somewhere along the line, the melting pot got some pieces of gristle in it that refused to melt. They felt that the entire make-up of the dish should change to accommodate them.  For me, this started with the 1990 ruling that the iconic image representing the pride of Canada could be dismissed - The Royal Canadian Mounted Police without part of their uniform. Nothing was sacred anymore. Then there was the challenge to the motorcycle helmet law because a turban couldn't be worn under that either. From a purely selfish perspective, if a collision occurs and injuries are more severe because of the lack of appropriate head gear is that my fault? Helmets are there for a reason. If we don't enforce helmet laws on the roads, will we be able to enforce their use on the ice rink? the baseball field? the construction site? 

How much does Canada have to bend and change to accommodate the few? Most people come to this country to leave repression, depression and religious persecution. People come for democracy, freedom of speech and religion. I don't care what religion, culture or even sexual orientation you are but I don't think that my rights should be trampled on because they aren't the same as yours. Once upon a time people came to Canada to enjoy the benefits and all that it had to offer...not to change it...not to make it into the country they were so desperate to leave in the first place. Open your ethnic stores and restaurants, teach us about your heritage. Embrace Canada as she is and leave well enough alone.

Proud to be Canadian - Arrogant Worms

The following quote has been circulated in an e-mail recently and is attributed to Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier in 1907. 

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith 
Becomes a Canadian and assimilates himself to us,
He shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else,
For it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of
Creed or birthplace, or origin.

But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet a Canadian, and nothing but a Canadian...
There can be no divided allegiance here. 
Any man who says he is a Canadian, but something else also, isn't a Canadian at all.

We have room for but one flag, the Canadian flag...
And we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is the loyalty to the Canadian people."

While the words resonate and are pertinent to my above viewpoints it must be clarified that the correct author is American Teddy Roosevelt and the word Canadian has been changed from American. When I read it without the desired emotion, I quickly realized it could not have been Laurier talking about my Canada in 1907. You see, in 1907 Canada did not have it's own flag! Canadian or American or any other country experiencing immigration - the words mean the same! 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

You talking about me?

You're So Vain - Carly Simon

It is thought that Carly Simon wrote this song for Mick Jagger. Did he think that and start the rumour or was it the media? Carly Simon is smart, she never used names and allowed people to think what they wanted. People will do that, whether you disprove them or not. In fact a decade after the songs release in 1972 Carly stated for the record that the song was not about Mick at all. Then in 1989 Warren Beatty went on record claiming that he was the subject for the song. It has also been speculated that Carly's husband at the time James Taylor was the inspiration for the song. We can guess but until I hear it from Carly Simon herself - we will never really know.

It is funny how we can hear a song or see a movie and think that it could have been written or sung for us. For me, there are way to many songs to go into since I feel like I can relate to so many, but "literally" there is one stand out - Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Throughout the novel I saw striking parallels between Jane's experiences and my own, even how she coped and responded to challenges. Uncanny is the word that often came to mind. But I would be just as vain as the character that Carly Simon sings about if I thought that it was really about me. I mean besides the fact that it was written in 1847, more than a century before I was even born. Often popularity and success is due to the fact that the general population can relate in some way. We identify ourselves with it. Consider you favourite shows and movies, why do you like them so much.

Just because it is out there for the public to see does not mean it is about you. The ability to relate to a song, a book, a poem, a television show, movie or character we find in any form of media is a good thing I believe. If we are going through a particularly difficult situation, how that character handles it can give us some ideas on how we can cope ourselves. If a character behaves as we feel we do, we can hold our heads up a little higher feeling that we are "normal". We have been vindicated in some way. There is a sense of comfort that comes when we feel like we are not alone in our views and thinking. The popularity of the majority of movies comes from the sense that the public can relate. Would a plethora of teenage boys have posted the lion-manned Farrah Fawcett to their bedroom walls and ceilings if they were unable to fantasize and therefore relate to her on some level. Or at least wish they could? lol! It's not a bad thing unless it consumes you. 

There is a movie that when I watched it, I was completely blown away by the lead character. He looked like my brother, he had many of the mannerisms that I remembered of my brother, and even his voice and intonations. It was eerie at first, but then I began to feel some real comfort in watching the movie. The actor is Patrick Fugit (as shown below) the movie is Almost Famous. Ron had been gone from the earthly world 16 years before he release of this movie in 2000 and when the kids and I went to rent the movie, it was an impulse. We had never heard of the movie and there was nothing on the cover that would draw me to it. I can guarantee that if I was the picture below I would have been captivated from the start. The funny thing about this connection was that it wasn't just me. Not having met their Uncle, my kids recognized a resemblance between the actor and pictures of Ron. I don't think there is much of a chance that Cameron Crowe the writer and director of the movie was familiar with my brother. Regardless, I can still relate and it is comforting even though I am not so vain to think that it is about him.

Patrick Fugit - Almost Famous

Have you seen the movie, The Breakfast Club? There is enough diversity in the characters that there is probably someone sitting in detention that we can relate to at least on some level. But when I consider this topic one line from that movie jumps out at me. They are sitting on the floor in the library and the question of whether they would be friends on the Monday when they return to school is brought up. Claire honestly declares that it was unlikely because they were so different and Brian sobbingly tells Claire how full of herself that she is. She is shocked to hear this boy that she believes is beneath her and not entirely worthy of her attention, confront her so bluntly. She must consider if she is indeed so vain? 

I write. It's not always about you. Sometimes it is about me...and what is wrong with that? I write about my thoughts, my musings, my opinions, my interpretation. We are meant to be different - embrace it and don't try to change me! I'll do that on my own if I feel the need.

Friday, January 27, 2012

And on this day an angel came into my life...January 27, 1988

For Rosanna - Chris DeBurgh

24 years ago today a child was born that would change my life forever. A child who gave me so much more than I could ever give her. She gave me hope, purpose, love, strength and a new outlook on life. She is the most lovable, hugable and compassionate person I have ever known. As an infant, when you held her close to your chest to rub her back or just cuddle, she would reach her tiny hand around to your shoulder and pat you! She is my daughter!

When I got pregnant I was ecstatic. I felt like I was on top of the world. But truth be told, it was also the time when I was the most annoyed at my Mom for "dying on me". I had so many questions I wanted to ask her about pregnancy and labour and raising children. I had never taken care of an infant, fed them, bathed them or diapered them. The notion was terrifying, you wonder if you will have the necessary instincts or will you fall flat on your face. I thought that if I had a girl it would easier - being one myself I felt like I had an upper hand on their needs. The odds of that happening though were not favourable. "Dad" was one of three boys who in all had 4 sons - not a girl in family. Deep down I felt like I was having a girl, but I was aware it could all be wishful thinking. 

The pregnancy was uneventful and unremarkable. Until the third trimester when during Lamaze classes, other Moms where talking about their baby doing gymnastics in utero, kicking and hiccuping. My baby was still and quiet and I feared that she would be stillborn. I never expressed my fears to anyone else and the regular visits to the doctor didn't raise any eyebrows, but the fear persisted. As it turned out, it was her personality and character, for even after birth she was honestly the happiest, most content baby ever. As long as her life-sustaining needs were met, she wasn't a fussy baby at all.

In 1986 Chris DeBurgh had put out an album entitled Into The Light, the above song "For Rosanna" is from that release. Throughout my pregnancy I played that track and sang to my unborn child as if willing her to be a girl. I prepared the room and layette for a child of either sex. I had a boys name picked out and struggled with a girls name. I had always intended to immortalize my youngest sister Linda by bestowing my own daughter with her name but there was some displeasure with that notion on the fathers side of the family, so I had to re-think my choices. Out of the blue, Lydia came to me. I had never heard the name before and I thought it was just the most beautiful amalgamation of my sister Linda and my mother Livia. There was no better way to honour my family that was no longer with me. 

Typical for a first born, she was late. I was visiting the doctor every other day and going for fetal monitoring daily as there were associated dangers with over-term pregnancies. At 41 weeks, the doctor casually mentioned that the baby's head was in my armpit. One of my worst fears seemed to be coming true. The baby was breach and I would be unable to have the natural, drug-free childbirth that I had been hoping for. My own doctor was as pregnant as I and with similar due dates, it was questionable whether she would actually be in attendance or physically able to position herself to deliver a baby. I toiled and fretted with this piece of news for what seemed like days before I had the nerve to finally speak up. I gave her a good chuckle as she explained that she meant that I was still carrying very high and that was the cause for concern. Unless things started happening on their own very soon a date for induction would have to be forthcoming. 

I was shopping when I felt the first contractions, but I didn't know that is what it was. I'm sure the other Mom's running their errands suspected as much though. I was determined to finish what I had started. Things remained rather sporadic and manageable throughout the afternoon and into the evening. It wasn't until the wee hours of the morning that I began to feel pressure that came in waves. And still, I denied the notion of labour because my water hadn't broken but the following morning I agreed to go to the hospital to check things out. Yes, it was indeed the beginning of labour, but things were not progressing as quickly or efficiently as the professionals preferred. IV's were started to administer medication to speed things along, and just in case an emergency C-section had to be done. There was fetal monitor attached and more people than I could keep track of that came to check on the progress. I wanted to stand and be mobile but that was strictly forbidden although I am entirely sure why I suspect they had concern that they didn't share or I didn't comprehend in my state. My own doctor was there for morale support and she had called in a colleague to do the delivery and this was the time when I first heard about the real possibility of an emergency C-section because of a potential difficult delivery but they promised to try. The epidural was therefore no longer and option but a necessity. In the throes of labour, with a stomach that prohibits any reasonable range of motion, you are expected to curl into a ball so the epidural can be safely injected into the spinal fluid. And the anesthetist is questioning "Have you ever broken your back" while he jabs all over your back. Ha! 

I guess in the end I could assume that I was grateful for that epidural because the delivery was indeed difficult - she didn't want to leave - and when she finally made her entrance at 2:58 pm, her colour and breathing had everyone in the room panicked and scurrying to ensure her survival. I'm told she was born not breathing at all. It felt like forever before I could finally see her and hold her in my shaking arms. Never wanting to let go but terrified that I would drop her. A full head of thick dark hair that had a mind of its' own, she was beautiful and perfect. In her Mamma's arms she settled and was happy. Despite her healthy weight of 8 pounds 13 ounces she looked thin and petite, until you unfolded her limbs and saw her full extended height of 23 inches. They said she would have been very tiny had she been born at term, it is that last weeks that put the weight on the babies. 

Lydia was the most perfect baby for me to practice my Mommy skills on. She was smiling and cooing at me almost immediately, she slept through the night long before I expected her to, she was a happy baby. She was a happy preschooler, she was a happy child and teenager. We did have our occasional battle of wills and disagreements but they pale in comparison to the memories that brought joy and laughter. She is my proof that your daughter can indeed be your friend! 

There is a wonderful saying that I have often reflected on when it comes to parenting "There are two special gifts that we should give our children. One is roots and the other is wings". Today at 24, Lydia demonstrates both those qualities on a regular basis. She has her life together and is clear on how she expects her life's journey to proceed. She followed her dream and graduated college with honours! and she has been working in her chosen field since that time. With the successful achievement of these adult stepping stones, there was some sorrow for me this past August as I watched her pack up her room and move out. I never told her how hard it was for me to watch her, let alone help her. Instead I made light because like it or not it was her time. My goal as a Mom was for her to be the best that she could be, to conquer the world on her own merits. I spent 23 years preparing her. I couldn't hold her back now. She had done well and she was happy about starting her life with her "other half" and he is worthy. With my approval and blessing they left together. 

I am proud that my precious daughter has learned to fly and to soar on her own. I can only hope that she knows that she can come back to the nest anytime! I love you, my Rosanna <3 

For Rosanna
This is for Rosanna, sweet girl of mine,
A song for the baby who changed my life,
I'll never forget when I saw you first,
I thought that my heart would burst,
With the love that I have;

As I watch you sleeping in here tonight,
And I hear your breathing so soft and light,
I cannot believe all the things that I feel,
When I hold you next to me
It's the love that I have;

Oh how my heart it is shining,
Oh how my heart it is shining,
Oh how this heart is shining through,
With the love that I have;

And as you are growing from baby to child,
I share the wonders that are in your eyes,
And I am amazed at the way you change,
All according to the plan,
And the love that I have'

And when you are older you will go away,
You'll see injustice and you'll see pain
But never forget that I'm always there,
Like a shadow by your side,
With the love that I have;

Oh my love, you have your mother's eyes,
And when I see you laugh, you have your mother's smile,
And you are mine all of my life,
You are mine, all of my love,
You are mine, blood of my blood,
You are mine;

Oh how my heart is shining,
Oh how my heart is shining,
Oh how this heart is shining through,
With the love that I have

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Canada's Got Talent - according to me!

Somebody That I Used to Know - Walk off the Earth 
Gotye cover

I am just going to give a shout out to this band because I think they are amazing. If you know me, you know I am passionate about music and I especially love Canadian talent. What can I say, musicians and comedians you can't compete with the originality and style of our own home-grown Canucks. Not everyone will agree I am sure but I find that for the most part, there is something that I cannot pinpoint or define in words that when I hear a song I feel like it has a uniquely Canadian style...and with the exception of some San Francisco bands...I am rarely wrong. I know it is weird, but it is true.

I first heard Walk Off the Earth and this particular song when someone posted it on facebook. I was enthralled and shared it on my wall. I wasn't alone, within a day or two, this video was being talked about on Breakfast Television and the Toronto newscasts. In less than a week, they made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres show boasting 32 million YouTube hits! I laughed when Ellen presented the band with 5 electric guitars and amps so they wouldn't have to share a guitar anymore. Made for good television and it was comical but having watched all of their other videos they have posted on YouTube, it wasn't necessary. Making what they hope will be a "catchy" video for their audience, Walk Off the Earth routinely throw guitars, ukuleles around the set and share instruments. It seems they would do anything to make a video that is more than just a band sitting/standing with their instrument making music. But comedy routines aside, you wouldn't bother watching if the music wasn't good. Admittedly, I have never been a huge fan of covers as I generally prefer the original version. Although UB40's version of Neil Diamonds' Red Red Wine was a notably exception. UB40 never tried to make it sound like Neil's and I think that was the appeal. It was completely different, they took a ballad and gave it a reggae and feel. To this day, I can't decide which one I like better as they both have their merits, but they are like two completely different songs. 

Back to Walk Off the Earth. While they do write some of their own songs, I have to admit that most of my favourite songs in their repertoire are the covers that they do. They don't make drastic beat changes like UB40 but they do make it their own, so much so that I prefer their version in most cases. It is the quality/richness of their voices and their harmonies. They have a unique sound to their voices and something that pulls you in. And yes, I admit the fact that they are all easy on the eyes sure doesn't hurt. Even the seeming stoic "bearded guy" draws people to want more. The talent of the band is outstanding, They play a multitude of instruments and aren't afraid to think outside of the box and use household objects to get just the right sound, like the microwave opening and closing. Watch closely and you will even see a drumstick attached to a mandolin so more than one instrument can be played simultaneously. 

Without a label backing them up, and using their own funds and in some cases decidedly unprofessional equipment, Walk Off the Earth has put out 3 albums and over 60 videos on YouTube. They hail from Burlington, Ontario, which is between Toronto and Niagara Falls in the Golden Horseshoe. You don't have to like them but if you do, let them know and subscribe to their channel. Give them a chance. You will know which songs are covers, listen to both versions and then decide if what I am saying has any merit :)

Here are a few of my favourites (beside the one at the top of course):
Home -  Mumford and Sons cover
Sunburnt Hands - Danny Tieger cover
Backin' Up Song - Gregory Brothers cover
Corner of Queen - original composition

Enjoy and always - share the music with the world!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Modern Dr. Jekyl and Ms Hyde?

You Make Me Smile - Uncle Kracker

I don't think that I can explain in words how light I am feeling in my heart today. For more than I year I have struggled with self-perception and trying to believe that I am worth occupying a space on this planet. Hate is not a term that I like to use and certainly not applying it to feelings about other people but it is pretty easy to say it about myself. I hated myself. The imagine in the mirror, my mind, my character and the person that people saw, the person that people told me I was. There was/is a lot of me and none of it was worth so much as a plug nickel. Many many times I didn't think I was going to make it to see the sunset on another dreary day. Dark and gloomy in my mind and thoughts. 

But I was told I had to begin travelling the road back by "faking it til I make it" and "feeling the fear and doing it anyway". I started the fake out by getting the bathroom scale away from my line of vision and plastering a "halo" of Post-It notes on the bedroom mirror, each one saying one thing I used to like about myself. The second one was a little harder because I had to stop myself from taking that phrase to the dark place. I had to follow up that piece of sage wisdom with a bit of my own - a little bit of fear is a good thing. I needed to continue to be afraid of pain and of dying. Emotionally, psychologically I was a weeping useless puddle of muck. Intellectually I good still function and know the difference between what I should and shouldn't do - except for eating. lol! Somewhere in this mental confusion, I convinced myself that food was not important and to this day I still struggle with the concept of nutritional value and feeling hunger. Medically it has been deemed Food Disorder of Undetermined Nature. Meaning it isn't Bulimia or Anorexia so they don't know what to do with me - they don't know how to treat it. 

But I learned how to fake it once I was adequately assured that it wouldn't lead me back into the classroom. I needed to feel comfortable that I would be safe. Volunteering came up and immediately appealed to me because for as long as I could remember I had always volunteered in some capacity and always felt positive about the experiences. But where to offer my services. I decided that it would be best to stay away from anything remotely similar to my work experience to ensure my sanity. I wanted something that would offer interaction with the public but not necessarily just the same old faces day in and day out. Nothing too high pressured or time sensitive with deadlines to meet, because I wasn't sure how or if I was ready to handle that. I hadn't yet determined the ideal place when I came across a notice in the local newspaper looking for volunteers at the hospital. The gift shop specifically. I made my calls and got my application in, let me tell you that volunteering at a hospital is more involved than anywhere else I have made myself available. Not only do they not want you to bring any additional ailments into the hospital, but they also need assurance that you aren't going to catch anything either. But alas, my interview went well and references checked out and I began my training on the very day of my milestone birthday at the end of November last year (2010).

During my interview, it was suggested to me that once I get my feet wet and feeling comfortable, that I should consider increased involvement perhaps on the Board of Volunteers or the Hospital Committee as my resume and skill set showed I may have an affinity for such tasks. Unsolicited compliments to help me regain the faith and trust in my own abilities. It felt good to hear that I could be so valued - and she barely knew me. Wow! There was a learning curve - while I had occasion to operate a cash register I hadn't been responsible for the float since my college days. The gift shop is run entirely my volunteers - in fact while the hospital has a paid staff of 350, there are nearly 200 volunteers running around making all aspects of the hospital run a little more smoothly. The other interesting thing about my colleagues is that most of them are retired and have been volunteering for a minimum of 10 years and a great number of them closer to 20 years of service put in. They made me feel comfortable immediately, it didn't matter what shift I was on - except for the one lady who wasn't too thrilled that I had taken every other Monday evening from her. Some people get set in their ways and used to a routine and I had to remember that the shifts I was slotted into were not necessarily of my own choosing. I didn't want to commit to too many days because my life was/is definitely in flux and I didn't think it would be fair to leave them in a lurch if circumstances changed. So I put myself on a substitute list and only assumed one weekly shift commitment. That seems to work very well, since it is the season for the snow birds to fly south. 

Recently I received a call from the volunteer co-ordinator asking if I would be interested in training for the front desk. Answering phones, telling people where to go and then sending them there...I'm in! lol! Seriously, as fearful as I am about the general public, I do like to be around them and probably more significantly still in a helping role - I just made a connection between my former career and the fulfillment of my volunteer roles. Helping those who need help! In any case, that training is done and I'll be on my own at the desk this week. While I surprised a lot of the gift shop staff by sitting outside their door manning the phone, they were quick to let me and my trainer know that I was a quick study and more than capable. That was nice and felt genuine since they had no cause to lie. 

During this time I was approached by the volunteer manager of the Gift Shop to attend a few gift shows with her because she felt I had a lot of good ideas and good offer valuable insight. I was blown away by her confidence in me and I found myself wondering what she had seen in me that led her to this conclusion. I wasn't about to pass up this wonderful opportunity but I was incredulous at the same time. We have been to one so far and I loved every moment of it. Her experience taught her that some of the stuff we saw could be found in better quality or cheaper prices from other suppliers but she didn't hesitate to show her appreciation for my opinion and ask for it when I didn't speak up beforehand. It felt good. 

And now, if all that wasn't enough - a further testament to my value as a member of the team and my ability, with barely 2 months service under my belt, I have been chosen to assist in the training of a new volunteer. 

There may be a dozen reasons that I am unaware of that they are choosing me to handle these responsibilities and challenges. But why they make me feel like a worthy human is irrelevant. We are all worthy! What I really wonder is whether I am of a split-personality type where I am an evil, incompetent when I set foot in the schools but a seemingly normal persona out in the general public. The New Age Dr. Jekyll and Ms Hyde? Well either I am a medical freak or someone is wrong. I am just me, one person, one personality, one character, not phony. I know that I am of good moral character and no one can take that away from me. 

Interestingly, the other day I was speaking to a friend and they told me that it is unfortunate that I am not used to being treated with the unselfish kindness that I display toward others and that nobody has truly appreciated everything that I have to offer. Better for my self-esteem than 10 appointment with a psychiatrist or analyst! And when they said it, I cried. Thinking about it I can feel my eyes welling up with tears. 

I am okay and and you are free to dislike me but that doesn't give you the right to hurt me. Thank you to the people who make me feel valuable and worthy. Peace peeps

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Potatoes - Not just a toy but a food that kills!

Eat It - "Weird Al" Yankovic
Parody of  Beat It by Michael Jackson

People have always suffered from allergies but it seems to me that some people have taken the concept of "It Takes a Village to Raise a Child" to new heights making everyone responsible for the individual health concerns of someone else's child. I only remember knowing of one child who suffered from food allergies and from the age of 5, this tyke was taught to ask if something contained "red dye" or whatever oddity he was allergic to whenever he was offered something. His parents made him independent and responsible. Now granted it wasn't exactly a life-threatening allergy but I am illustrating the difference and what society is dealing with today. 

The most common allergies today are milk, egg, peanuts, fish, shellfish, sesame, soy, wheat, mustard and tree nuts. Tree nuts? Does this include acorn? Does that mean that visits to the park is off limits? Seriously, where did all these allergies come from or is it because society has become responsible for the well-being of the sufferers that we have simply become aware of them. I do remember hearing from the pediatrician when my children were born that care had to be taken when introducing milk, egg and peanuts to the infants diet. They had to build up their immune system a bit first. So maybe that is a partial cause of the increase in severe allergies. Our obsession with an antiseptic environment. Everything must be cleaned and disinfected with antibacterial wipes and soaps and cleaners, the air is infused with chemicals and what can't be washed or scrubbed is sprayed down with more chemicals. No doubt the anti-bacterial potion that we use when going to the germ infested doctors office or hospital may have some beneficial use, it must be remembered that along with killing the bad germs, it is also killing the good germs. Yes, good germs! Those nasty little bugs that don't kill us but give our immune system a work out by learning how to fight them. With the little battles, our bodies are better equipped to fight the war. Perhaps we aren't letting our children fight some of the battles on their own? I think that is part of the problem. 

The majority has been forced to become responsible for the survival of the few. The policies of the modern day school system has to be put under the microscope here. Recently a Sir Charles Tupper Elementary School in Halifax Nova Scotia has taken the radical step of banning all potato products, because ONE child is very allergic to all types of potato vapours. What about the children on gluten-free diets who rely on potato based breads to survive? Consider the ramifications of being allergic to potato vapours. You might as well live in a bubble. Friends, malls and food courts, theaters, restaurants, sports arenas and more would all be off-limits. Is the province of Nova Scotia going to go potato-free for this child? He/She better stay away from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island or their economies are going to fall flat. Yes, it is ridiculous and even one allergist-immunologist admitted that this latest ban was controversial because it leaves one to wonder when will it stop. Indeed! 

It started with peanut butter in the schools. Most schools weren't peanut free but rather just the classrooms with allergic students. I worked in a classroom one year when a child told the teacher that they were allergic to peanuts. With a blink of an eye, a "Peanut-Free Zone" sign was slapped on the outside of the room and each student went home with a note outlying the accepted and unacceptable food products. No one talked to the parents of the child, no one requested a doctors note for proof. Instead, for the sake of one student, 20 or so others were no longer allowed their favourite food - peanut butter sandwiches. Students approached staff and asked worriedly if their granola bar that Mom packed was safe to eat. Then came Hallowe'en and the snacks turned to teeth-rotting fare. Suspecting much of the treats handing out at that time 5 years ago was probably not peanut free, I asked the classroom teacher who was responsible for ensuring that our allergic student was indeed safe from that offending peanut. She stated that the schools' liability ended when the sign was affixed outside the classroom and the note went home. On a lark and to prove a point she asked to look at the sugary snack that the allergic student was eating and guess what was written on that label? "May contain peanuts". An entire class is being inconvenienced while the "problem" child happily munches away on the offending product. This is an issue that is easily remedied however. A doctors note should accompany each and every claim of an allergy that in any way impacts the school community and it must be updated yearly. People have been known to outgrow and overcome allergies.

Let's assume that the allergy is actually legitimate. For a life-threatening allergy that can pose the risk of anaphylaxis, an epi-pen is often the first course of medical treatment that an exposed child should receive. Maybe I am wrong, but if my child is in danger of dying without an immediate injection of epinephrine, I am going to make sure that my child always has it on their person. Especially at school, where I know that the staff will be aware of my child's severe allergy and have all had training on how to use the epi-pen. But where is this life saving medicine kept, in the office. Why don't the students carry their own life saving equipment? Often it is because the children aren't made aware of their medical fragility, sometimes it is because the parents don't want their children to stand out from their peers by having to carry this around with them at all times. Good point, put their life in jeopardy instead? 

When it comes to the school community, I always thought that all the individual students in the school with allergies should eat their lunch together in a separate room. They could form a sort of camaraderie and discuss strategies on how to deal with their allergies. And the rest of the school population could be free to eat what they chose. My children's elementary school had banned peanuts, eggs, fish and mayonnaise. Making lunch was a frustrating process and expensive. Peanut butter was an inexpensive, nutritional alternative that the kids never complained about eating. Not particularly picky eaters fortunately, they still were not comfortable with taking a salad or cut up veggies for lunch. Tuna, egg salad, was out we had little choice but to turn to the highly processed lunch meats or worse the artificial mystery meat - bologna. 

But parents of food sensitive children are fooling themselves and living a life of denial if they think that the world will always bend and mold to the service of their children. While the food industry has certainly taken up the gauntlet and boldly labelled some of their products as peanut-free, I have not yet seen a similar sign outside a restaurant, or store or any other public gathering place. As a self-absorbed teen, the children are thrust out of the cocoon of the elementary school system and face the real world in high school. And while some cafeterias may be peanut free, no one is telling the students that they can't eat peanut laden food products. They eat in the halls and smear their dirty hands on the lockers and door handles and the desks that your sensitive child may be sitting at next period. Is it time now to teach your child to be a little bit responsible for their own health? If you want your child to see 18, I would suggest it is indeed that time! I hope it isn't too late. 

If you haven't done it recently get your children re-tested. My own son was allergic to shellfish and I taught him to take responsibility, if he wasn't sure, he would ask if the food contained shellfish. Not a life threatening reaction, he merely vomited, although with continued consumption it could have gotten worse perhaps even anaphylaxtic shock. As a preteen, he wanted to try a homemade chowder and took his chances on eating some. Low and behold, he was fine. He had outgrown his sensitivity. In my early 20's I had cause to go see an allergist, his findings - I was allergic to chicken and eggs. I've always eaten those food products, in fact they remain a main staple in my diet and never had ill effects. I was on high alert for any physical changes for a long time and removed them from my diet to see in there was the remotest possibility that it was true. Maybe there was a mild reaction that day, maybe the test was misread, but there certainly wasn't any cause to permanently modify my food choices as he suggested. 

Something needs to be done to stop the madness or there will be nothing left for our children to eat when they are outside of the home. Alternatively I suppose that the schools could force all students to leave the school and go home to eat whatever they want. That will throw a wrench in the economy when parents have to ensure that someone is home during the lunch hour to welcome the young 'uns or arrange for child care. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Piercing the Darkness in my own Way

If Everyone Cared by Nickleback

Tuesday January 27th, 2012, more than 63,000 people have committed to participating in a Facebook advertised event called "Piercing the Darkness". And some may participate but haven't publicly confirmed their intention. Either way it does my heart good that if nothing else, the awareness is out there. I did my part by spreading the word to the approximately 300 friends I have on the social  media network and supplement it with whoever I can reach in this forum. 

The idea is a beautiful one and magnificent in it's simplicity. In this day and age of electronic communication with e-mail, text, BBM, computer chats and yes even blogs, we have lost a sense of humanity. The heart and soul of our fellow citizens and neighbours. At work, we can be so caught up in what tasks that we must accomplish that we barely speak to the person in the next cubicle. We get home and often find ourselves eating on the fly as we dash off to the gym or social event. When we have the time to sit down and enjoy a meal we can find ourselves alone with the rest of the household off pursuing other endeavors. 

In all this go go non-stop frantic lifestyle we may forget about the person who is usually alone, maybe lonely, perhaps sad. When we commit to Piercing the Darkness we are taking 30 seconds from the busy pace of our own lives to remember those around us and tell them in our own way that they are valued. Some of the suggestions were to leave a note of encouragement on the bathroom mirror at work, or in the lunch room. You could leave a note amongst the produce at the grocery store showing appreciation for the clerk who keeps it stocked and fresh for you. The wait staff at a restaurant often leave happy faces or jot "Thank you" on the back of the bill, how about responding in kind with a written note along with the tip. 

I don't know if it happens at a lot of the Tim Horton's Drive-Thrus, but it has been written up in the local newspaper. It seems that on most mornings at a particular Tims' in town, someone in the drive-thru will begin a chain reaction of paying for the order of the next person in line along with his/her own. Expecting to pay for their coffee, that person pays for the next person and so on. Paying it forward. Someone started it because someone cared. And for as long as that chain of gratitude goes on, you have a lot of happy people sharing a good news story at work or with their family. A little way to show you care about strangers. 

I am inspired by this unselfish kindness that I can spread to the people I encounter on a daily basis. I've left a few notes as I've gone about my business today and there weren't too many people that I encountered that I didn't wish a wonderful day. We need to do that more, we need to do that everyday. I for one am going to try. We all need to care more. And when I am in a financial position to do so, I want to be the person who starts a chain reaction and puts a smile on the face of my neighbour. Maybe I will put a little sunshine in a day that was feeling a little dark for them. If we all put a little pin hole in the darkness, we may soon have a large aperture for the sunshine to stream in. 


Monday, January 16, 2012

(Don't) Shake it Baby!

Shake it Out - Florence and the Machine

It seems that society has been duped once again! I am re-thinking long held beliefs that were fed to me via media and scientists and the medical profession. Now instead of being a "given" there has appeared a second view point. The issue is Shaken Baby Syndrome. 

A lot of people have gone to jail as baby-killers. Moms and Dads have had to deal with that stigma and suffered the consequences in the prison hierarchy system for what may be a serious miscarriage of justice. It made sense to the gullible public - babies were dead. The medical profession showed us how the brains of these tiny angels were bleeding from the force of being bashed back and forth into the skull. I recall one demonstration of a ball in a jar being violently shaken to illustrate the concept. Of course when you see these tiny souls against the over-powering adult, well the sympathy goes to the helpless. Being a parent myself, I can certainly understand a parent being so over-whelmed and frustrated that they can pick their child up and indeed shake them. Thankfully I read the Barbara Coloroso book Kids Are Worth It and learned that it never killed a child to cry so if you feel over-whelmed put your child in a safe place (like the crib) close the door and walk away - until you have calmed yourself down. 

Now instead of blindly assuming that every baby either dies from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or SBS (Shaken Baby Syndrome), lets look a little deeper. If you have ever seen a re-creation of SBS, you have seen an adult holding the infant underneath the arms in the chest area. Certainly if you are going to shake something that has the muscular flaccidity of a wet noodle, you have to hang on pretty tightly. Being fragile with soft(ish) bones, there really should be bruising or broken or fractured bones from the force of the grip exerted. I figure if you are frustrated enough to shake a baby, you are going to want to hang on until you feel some satisfaction. Some of these tiny victims have no such evidence of being held in such a manner. Additionally, there are other reasons for a baby to exhibit brain hemorrhage. Besides possible medical conditions, did you know that a normal vaginal birth can cause brain hemorrhage? While they are trying to drum up support for their cause, the activists don't think to mention that. 

The point is that we can't just go around assuming that because one child dies at the hands of abuse that all children who die unexpectedly are in fact abused. I heard of a story recently of a young teenage couple who finding themselves pregnant did all the right things to provide a family life. He quit school and got a job to support his girlfriend. They secured a tiny apartment and just in time. Twin girls where born prematurely and weighing approximately 1 1/2 pounds each they had a myriad of health problems and spent about the first 15 weeks of their life in hospital intensive care. They weren't allowed to even go home until a day nurse was in place to check on the still very sick children. Then one day as dad was home waiting for the nurse to come, one of the babies had to be rushed back to the hospital where she died. The cause of death was cerebral hemorrhage. Dad was charged and sent to jail. There were no other signs of abuse or neglect of the part of either of these young, very concerned parents. 18 years later, his surviving daughter doesn't know him and doesn't want to get to know him. 

Then there was a married couple with three children. While playing, an older sibling landed hard on the head of his younger sister. The child suffered a hemorrhage but survived. Shaken Baby Syndrome was deemed to be the cause and since the officials were unable to determine which parent was at fault, all three of the children were removed from the home. This, despite the fact that none of the children exhibited other sign of abuse. Additionally when a fourth child was born, it was taken by Children's Aid before even leaving the hospital. After years of fighting and at a great financial expense, the parents were eventually re-united permanently with their children with no charges ever being filed. Despite the lost years and the trauma caused to the children who fear that if they get a bruise they will be taken away again, it is a happier ending. 

I don't think that anyone believes that SBS does not exist and that some infants have died at the hand of their parents because of it. I just think that we have to keep our eyes open to the possibility that not everything we are told is the "be all end all" story. I had put all these parents and care-givers in the same mold. It's just too easy to assume that when a baby dies someone has to be at fault. In our zeal to protect the helpless we may be hurting a lot more than just the accused. How many families, how many lives have been shattered by more than the devastatingly traumatic death of a child.

For anyone who does abuse children, pursue them and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law and then throw them in with the general prison population and let nature take its' course. I have no sympathy for anyone who because they feel superior abuses anyone be it a child or an adult. There is another word for abuser and I think it is time to make that connection. The punishment, the laws, and the societal views should see it as equal. 


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Never Surrender...unless

Never Surrender - Corey Hart

Never Surrender...interesting notion, but not always the best road to take. It just occurs to me that when you start to lose a part of yourself in the fight, it isn't worth it anymore. Maybe at this point we aren't surrendering or giving up on ourselves but aren't worth my time. I can live without you. That is a hard realization to come to and even harder to execute at times. 

Sometimes in relationships with life partners it is hard to look objectively at the situation and decide that although it is scary it may be time to move on and indeed surrender to the fact that we made a wrong decision. I've been there. I walked away from the fight and found a better me under the rubble once the dust cleared. For me it was simply a case of I felt like I was working too hard to maintain the outward appearances of a normal and healthy relationship with my ex. One day, I just decided that he wasn't worth it, I was being to feel like I was losing myself in his doom and gloom and sour attitude. It was a positive on my score card that he wasn't that great a father - I mean, really I was raising the kids alone even though his physical presence was there now and then. I don't think I surrendered though, I left him while I was still intact and whole with some fight left in me. Have you seen my kids? In the end I won! :)

Other relationships in our lives are different. We need Corey Hart to tell us to Never Surrender when we feel like we are up against insurmountable odds. Work relationships are probably the most difficult. In this day and age where well paying jobs, that have benefits and most importantly that we love, seem to be few and far between. We spend most of our daily waking hours at work, preparing to go to work or commuting to work. Mentally we could spend even more time thinking about work, what to wear to work, the people at work etc. At yet despite the imbalance of time spent on work related activities, this is the one place where we will be more likely to Surrender. We will allow our bosses to take advantage of our good nature, we allow them to abuse our sense of professionalism and dedication by piling extra work on us. Our sense of loyalty and pride stop us from refusing to stay late, work through our breaks. And there is often an unspoken ulterior motive on our part - we don't want to make waves least we are passed over for the promotion or raise or God forbid we are let go. I had a job and a career that I loved but it was eroding my health and well-being. It was difficult but I had to walk away. I won't say that I surrendered, but rather I left to get stronger and ready to fight for the right to never surrender again.

Friendships and family - one we chose, one is thrust upon us. I don't have the family relationships to draw experience from but I often find myself envious of siblings in their adult years, maintaining a congenial relationship. But sometimes extended family isn't so ready to accept you for who you are as an individual apart from a family member. You know that family that you only see at Christmas and then it is only because you were both invited to the same "family" gathering? Two people come to mind for me. We didn't grow up together and when I came to live in proximity to their home, I tried to embrace their presence and status and make them feel a part of my home and life. It worked for awhile but it dawned on me that the familial spirit was not reciprocated and invitations began to be turned down. Did I surrender when I decided that they were not worth my effort any longer? Or did I just find more productive and beneficial things to do with my time? 

It took me longer to step back from another relationship. I was criticized because someone read a message that I wrote that was not meant for them and they didn't understand. Quite frankly, I think I could have written my name and they wouldn't have understood for they never took the time to get to know me and made me feel like an intrusion. In any case, I have in the past spoken up and said what I felt, what I got for it was silence. So you have to stop and ask yourself "Why am I bashing my head against this wall?" and "Am I the only one who is trying to keep this relationship afloat and viable?" I decided that maybe I was. But on the off-chance that I was wrong I left the door open...big surprise, no one has walked through or knocked. Fool that I am, I will keep the door ajar for you because I am not ready to give up on YOU. I'm here if you want...

"I" phone you
"I" message you
"I" come to you
"I" invite you for coffee
"I" try to make amends
Time for you to show that "I" matter
Time for you to show that you want me in your life

If they miss you, they'll call you,
If they want you, they'll tell you,
And if they care, they'll show you.
If not, they're not worth you're time because
you're obviously not worth theirs.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Forever in my heart, forever in my thoughts...forever 21 years old. My brother Ron Sdraulig

Wouldn't It Be Good - Nik Kershaw 

January 9, is my brother Ron's birthday. Ron and I were cut from the same cloth we lived in the same house and couldn't have been any more different. We each had heavy crosses to bear growing up - much more than any child should have to endure. Ron's got too heavy and he left the physical world to join the rest of our family at the age of 21. 

In happier times, Ron was a bit of a privileged soul. With Dad having died when we were babies, Ron was the only source of testosterone in the gaggle of 4 female in the house. He was revered by my grandparents - who tended to favour the male species. There were no hand me downs for him, no girly toys to share and he had his own "boys" bike for his use only. Mom fought to have us all treated fairly but with financial struggles, she didn't look the gift horse in the mouth. At the time, except for the bike which I was envious about, it was all good by me. Life was grand! We thought we were living the dream!

Then came Christmas Eve 1972, Ron was just shy of his 10th birthday. We were all in the kitchen with my grandparents and Mom had just finished making her traditional Crostoli. There was laughter and Mom was gong to embrace Ron when she suddenly stopped mid-sentence and with a fear in her voice that silenced the room, she gently touched the goose-egg sized lump on the side of Ron's neck and asked how long it had been there. 

That was the moment that changed the rest of my life from a dream to a never ending nightmare. 

By the next day, Mom and Ron were on the way to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota and the diagnosis was Hodgkins Disease! Cancer of the lymph nodes.  We didn't understand, we were just children. I was 11, Sandra was 12 and Linda was not quite 9. Cancer was not as commonplace as it is today. We didn't know anyone who had it, we didn't understand what it meant. Ron was sick and we had to put up with a succession of care-givers who came into the house to care for us while Mom and Ron were gone for treatments or checkups. I resented those people and even tried to runaway once because I missed my mother and her kindness, compassion and love. I feel bad now that I understand I probably caused her stress that she could have lived without. But children are selfish creatures and I didn't see beyond my own needs. 

Beyond that initial lump that was found I don't know anything about Ron's prognosis or treatment. I now know that Ron and Mom got very close, spending so much time together in travel and in waiting rooms. When she died, it affected him much more than it did me. Ron and I had very different interests, in the family we were on opposing teams. In an argument or in play it was always Sandra and Ron against Linda and myself. In a physical contest, they always won! But I digress, with Mom gone, my grandmother took over the guardian role and accompanied Ron to his appointments. The same grandparents so spoiled Ron before, continued to shower him with his hearts desire. For me, Mom wasn't around to balance the scales any longer. I rebelled. I argued. I fought. Ron didn't understand. He didn't see that we were being treated differently (selfish children remember), he thought we should be grateful. We had horrible fights about it. He didn't see my side and I didn't see his. 

Ron had a lot of medical set-backs throughout his teen years. He contracted Chicken Pox for a second time and with it came Shingles. I am beginning to review diary entries and learn about the on-going cancer treatment that Ron endured, but I don't know about recurrences except for the tumor in his head because the treatment caused hair loss. I felt so bad for him, that small patch at the base of his neck grew back in tight curls completely contrasting his wavy thick hair. Needless to say, because of our tumultuous relationship at home, we didn't discuss sensitive topics like feelings or his medical condition. I once overheard some talk about tumors found in his belly, but I don't know what it meant - today I am annoyed that I didn't care enough to know. 

Thankfully, there came a time where Ron and I were able to get close and be supports to each other. I moved out and he began to understand the restrictions that I was dealing with. All the negativity and anger that was directed at me was now directed at him. Some of my best memories of that time include him. Looking for a hill to teach me how to change gears while on an incline without rolling back. Him laughing at my ineptness and promising that we were going to keep it up until I was ready to trade in an automatic sports car for a standard. When it was time for him to go back home, he took my car and left his standard. I did my share of gear grinding and screeching as the car rolled, but by the end of the summer I was a pro! Ron came from Thunder Bay to the Toronto area to visit, but also for treatment at Princess Margaret. I wasn't allowed to visit, he didn't want me to see him throwing up and so sick. 

All told, we had about 4 years to repair our relationship. Four years that hold a lifetime of memories for me. For a couple of naive, hurting kids, we did pretty good. In his own way, Ron tried to make me a stronger person and prepare me for his death. My dad died in 1964, my mom and sisters in 1974, and we were nearing 1984. Everyone knows that bad things happen in threes and Ron's big concern was my sanity if I should suddenly find myself alone and if something bad happened in 1984 - the prophecy would be true. In his words, he was afraid that I would become "a crazy dog lady. Living alone with a house full of stray and adopted dogs, never leaving the house out of fear." 

Sure enough, Ron died in 1984. He was 21 years old. The doctors said that he shouldn't have died, that with the advances in research and treatment, that he could live to his 30's. By that time, progress would give him another 10 years. His doctor told me that in a sense, Ron committed suicide. He gave up, he refused treatment, he had had enough. Mom was his support and she wasn't there when he needed her, he missed her terribly. Ron didn't have a lot of hope for his future, he was fired from a part time job at MacDonalds because he needed too much time off for medical treatment. That wouldn't happen today but in the early 1970's it did. Ron spent the last few months of his life in the Port Arthur General Hospital. I left my life in Toronto to be with him, not knowing that the end was there but sensing I was needed. I watched as his once muscular legs became thin stalks barely strong enough to support him. Two days before Ron died I had officially closed an unpleasant chapter in my life and was moving on and he saw that and knew that he could move on too. And he did. 

And I still miss him...

"Another time, Another place
We will be together again"
(And Now the Waltz) C'est La Vie by Slade

- In the past 15 years or so I have participated in a sibling study conducted by the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota. In an effort to understand treatment options and their effects better I have granted access to Ron's medical history and submitted my own DNA and medical records for comparison. They have found that many children of that era suffered heart failure and died prematurely due to the radiation levels they were subjected to being to strong/high for their fragile and immature bodies. Officially, Ron died of heart failure

- In recent years I have learned that my parents celebrated their wedding anniversary on January 9th. With my father's early death, the day must have caused my Mom as much sorrow for the loss as joy celebrating her only son's birth. Never in life did I have a chance so I shall now, with all my heart wish Livia and Dante Sdraulig a Happy Anniversary and I am glad you are together to love each other...We'll be together again some day also! 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

New Year 2012

Wish List - Neon Trees

In 2012

May you feel complete and fulfilled

May you be true to yourself without fear
May you have more smiles than frowns
May you be accepted for who and what you are without judgement
May you be happy with what you have and want for nothing
May karma take revenge so you don't have to

And above all make love not war.

Kissing couple in the streets of the 2011 Vancouver Riot by photographer Richard Lam

That was my facebook status for New Years. Like most of my writing, I was very proud of how it came out. My thoughts in black and white, it is a very rewarding feeling for me. But then the strangest thing happened - someone stole it. They copied it and used it as their own status albeit without the picture. On one hand it is very flattering on the other hand it felt like I was violated. I've been robbed I tell ya! 

I guess it a paradox that I will have to come to accept to a certain degree. I freely and willingly put myself out there, be it with the website, blog, or anything else I write. It leaves me open and yes even vulnerable. I am the person who has spent the better part of a lifetime hiding behind a wall, inviting only those I deemed worthy to have a peak from my vantage point. But I don't know if you are worthy? So, as I struggle with my social phobia, I open myself up and lay all my cards on the table and let you...eek...judge me. On the positive side, if you read and still see the beauty within, I am glad to have you here with me. 

Another interesting thing came from the accessibility of the private and personal moments of my life displayed for the world to see. In this tech saavy society in which we live, I was googled before a "meet and greet" date. By the time we sat for coffee, he knew everything about me but my shoe size! It was initially a little un-nerving knowing that he had such an insurmountable upper hand, but it turned out okay because I didn't have to talk about me and we had a lot of topics we could discuss. Not only that, but after reading all about me..he still liked me enough to meet. I didn't scare him away! A good thing :) 

So as I continue to work through these strange situations that I have created for myself I celebrate. 1000 views to my website since it's inception in 6 months. I am elated. I realize it isn't the million hits in a day that some videos on YouTube that create a sensation, but I am elated. I can only hope that you have enjoyed your time on my site. You are welcome to come back anytime! 

If you do find something that you would like to borrow...could I at least have the credit. Thanks!
1000 views at on December 26, 2011