Monday, August 27, 2012

Tour de Force

Bicycle Race - Queen

There are many articles that you come across during the course of a day whether from the television news, printed newspapers or facebook posts. Some just make you shake your head and question the mentality of society. There are many behaviours, choices and customs that I personally disagree with but I freely respect the freedom and ability to make your own decisions. There are times though that those decisions can affect my right to life as I choose it. That is different. 

Like the helmet laws. You must by law where an approved helmet when operating a motorcycle and even bicycle in some parts of Canada. And no a turban does not qualify as an approved helmet. But there was a challenge to the law on religious rights. Quite frankly I don't care if you chose not to wear a helmet save for the fact that if there is an accident and injury because of the lack of helmet, I will pay for that in the insurance claim. Now it is my problem. Even if I don't have a physical encounter with an un-helmeted rider, my insurance rates are likely to go up because of the likelihood and the payouts the company must make. We all know that the corporations always pass on additions expenses to the consumer rather than absorb any increases. 

Just as absurd but not affecting me at all anymore due to my advanced age is Trevor. Trevor made a life decision to "become" a man after being born a woman, but while he took medication to shrink his breasts, he still maintained his birth reproductive system due to the cost to alter. This allowed "him" to become pregnant and consequently breastfeed. Maybe because the concept is so new or maybe because of a generational gap, I can't wrap my head around this one. In the privacy of your own home your choices are yours and yours alone, but I don't think I want this visual. Growing up in today's society is tougher and tougher with the division between the perception of normal and not is wider and nothing seems to be private anymore. Like the photo on the magazine cover of the school age child perched on a chair to suckle at his mothers breast for a quick drink, it gives new meaning to the phrase "belly up to the bar." How is this child going to deal with this infamy 10 years hence? And the infant in the photo below? I feel for him. For all the world to know, he is forever the baby who sucked on daddy's nipple. We all strive in some way to be normal to fit in. This type of parental publicity will hinder not help this quest.  


But it is Lance Armstrong whose recent public humiliation led me to ponder these quirky news items. I don't follow the sport of cycling and barely notice when the Tour de France is occurring, but you would have to live in a cave not to know of the name Lance Armstrong. Lance was diagnosed with testicular cancer and raised more than $325 million from the sale of his trademark yellow Livestrong bracelets to fund cancer research. Throughout his cycling career, Armstrong won an unprecedented 7 Tour de France championships and an Olympic medal. After years of fighting doping allegations, Lance recently went on record to state that he was not longer going to entertain the allegations against him. The United States Anti-Doping Agency officially charged Lance with doping in June 2012 based on allegations from 4 years prior.

I suspect that within the sport of cycling, as with many other sports, drug use is commonplace in the quest to be at the top of the game where the money and adulation is. There are many scientists who are working diligently to perfect the fool proof performance enhancing scam. Coming soon to a gym near you - gene replacement therapy to enhance muscle growth and performance and stem cell therapy to repair injuries quicker. My issue isn't so much with the performance enhancement aspect - for I don't idolize athletes for specific accomplishments nor elevate them to hero status based on standing of a particular sporting event. Additionally, for the most part, athletic competition is marked by 100th of seconds between 1st and 2nd etc. If the winner is alleged to have engaged in illegal habits, what does that say about the second place finisher? If a team or country is dominating a sport...what should that be telling us? 

My issue is with the USADA actions against Lance Armstrong. They stripped him of his 7 Tour de France titles and banned him for life from all competitive cycling and included forfeiting all medals, winnings and prizes that he had been awarded. This is to me another fine example of the United States trying to exert their power and might where it doesn't belong. The Anti-Doping Agency has every right to ban Armstrong and take action against any accolades he may have received performing on American soil or as part of a National team, but beyond that....they have no business. If the organizers of the Tour de France wish to levy charges against Lance, they are within their right to do so. And the USADA has no jurisdiction from banning Lance from competing in another country either - again, unless he is intentionally representing the United States. 

Like him or not, Lance Armstrong should be recognized and admired for what he did not only for the sport of cycling but for cancer research. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that it was the yellow Livestrong rubber bracelets that set off the craze for similar "Cause" bands. Cheap to produce and generic, I can't even imagine how much money has been raised from the various bracelet sales. Bravo to Lance Armstrong and his foundation!

--------------------- SPECIAL NOTICE AND DISCLAIMER ----------------

No offence to all my American friends for you are respected on your own merit like every other person on the planet and not as an extension of your Governments will and actions - whether or not you agree with their policies. :)

(Originally published August 27, 2012)

UPDATE (January 19, 2013)

So Lance Armstrong has now also been stripped of his Bronze Olympic Medal that he won in 2000. And he has participated in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that was apparently televised over a two night period (to bolster ratings no doubt) in which he confessed to using performance enhancing substances throughout much of his career. I still stand by my opinion that unless he won by a landslide, he was likely not the only person competing who used banned substances. Not only should public opinion be altered concerning the ability and suitability of Lance Armstrong as a role model but so should every other competitive athlete who is at the top of their game assisted by more than luck and talent. As for the Livestrong Foundation, undoubtedly it has improved the lives of many suffering from cancer and if it took Lance's own bout with cancer (that may or may not have been "triggered" by the very substances he was banned from using) Well, at least something good has come out of this latest sports fiasco.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Selling Signed Bibles to the Pope

Billionaire - Travie McCoy and Bruno Mars

This is about the second greatest thing to ever happen to me. And true to form, it has consumed my every waking moment for the past week. Every since the moment that my son was born on August 14, 1989 he has commanded all my attention. The last time that I had the final say on anything to do with him was when in the midst of final stage labour I told the staff in the delivery room that he absolutely could not be born on the 13th of the month. They used the reasoning of waiting for the doctor as a way of appeasing me. Maybe he was born on the 13th - I had other things on my mind besides clock watching, but officially the birth certificate says 12:01 am on August 14. It was just my superstitious nature, I don't usually let such things rule my life, but I figured that it was better not to push your luck and your child at the same time, lol. I don't think I would have requested to continue labour for an additional 8 hours for example...but it was close enough that I could make such demands without undue hardship on my part. The point is, that it was the last time I had that control over my sons life.

From the beginning he was as stubborn and determined as I imagine I was as a kid. So we had that connection. But as much as I loved him, my own kid creeped me out. He used to stare at me with an intensity and depth that was very unnerving. I felt like he was peering into my brain and into the depths of my soul, trying to figure me out. I know it sounds weird but it's true. He would be buckled into his car seat and I would like back at him to see his eyes upon me, his expression confused and piercing at the same time. I got used to it and accepted it since it wasn't accompanied by a blood-curdling scream. We had enough of those with the night terrors. If you haven't had the pleasure or experiencing night terrors, in his case, he would wake up in the middle of the night from a sound sleep screaming like he had been stabbed. Picking him up didn't console him until he woke up enough to realize that he was indeed safe. Like a piercing screech in a sealed tin can, scared the bejezzus out of everyone. His poor sister, she was so scared and just a toddler herself.

She 2yrs, He 6mos

The first years of his life was spent in a transitional phase. Born mid-August in Kentville Nova Scotia the doctor barely made it off the golf course before he could grab his baseball glove and catch Chris on his hasty exit. He was late in coming but determined and full of fire when he decided it was time. Born with a full thick head of dark hair, the nurses joked that he was almost ready for school, his long length and 9lb weight also helped. 24 hours later he made his first road trip when we were transferred to a hospital a little closer to our home. At just 3 months old, the family took a month long trip for Christmas in a motorhome. We returned home for just long enough to pack and move out of our house and into motorhome which became our principle residence at a campground for the next 7 months. We celebrated his 1st birthday just days after we moved into our newly constructed home. The motorhome was fairly spacious but not for two children under the age of 2 1/2. Particularly when one experienced night terrors. Other than that, it was like an adventure! Well, I was so exhausted that I often fell asleep in my supper because that was the only time I stopped moving. I think of all the toys that children have nowadays and laugh when I recall the meagre supply of entertainment the kids had that was not packed away. We had a tv but no cable or VCR. In any case, good times. Why Chris even learned to walk then, down the narrow hallway...he had some serious practicing to do out in the wide open spaces of a real home. 

I was incredibly lucky that my kids got along and actually like to spend time together. She liked Barbies and he had some Ken dolls. He had Batman and she had Batgirl. I tried to not gender stereo-type my kids but they were just that way. When the girl was a baby, she had a toy vehicle. She barely looked at it. When he came along, he picked it up and made an engine sound with his lips. He stepped on the dolls that she cared for so lovingly. So rather than focus on their genders, I focused on their different personalities and preferences. I embraced their uniqueness! In the early morning they would get each other up and play in one or the others room - I had a gate across the stairs so they could stay where it was safe. When they got old enough to take an interest in the TV, I would turn on Saturday morning cartoons before taking on the breakfast prep. Not even four years old and he would have the channel changed to Sports Desk on TSN. I don't even know how he knew about it in the first place, not like I watched it :). Fortunately the girl was not much of a TV watcher so it didn't matter to her what was on. 

Sports was always his thing. Playing or watching, he couldn't get enough. First and foremost it was baseball and his dream was to be a Toronto Blue Jays player. Of course 1992-1993 were the years for their back-to-back World Series wins, so that surely helped fuel the fire for the wee 3 year old. He may have started his training, throwing food and toys for the dog, but he quickly graduated to master pitcher throwing toddler baseballs from one end of the house to the other. Many a time the housework was left for later so that the practice could move to the safety of the great outdoors. He played on his first official team before the allowable age of 5 because I just couldn't hold him back any longer. 

If it wasn't for gym and recess at school, he would never have gone. School very much bored him. Teachers either loved him for his enthusiasm and the challenge he brought to the table or hated him for his enthusiasm and the challenge he brought to the table. I found that overall teachers liked him better if they hadn't taught the model student/his sister before him. Interviews with teachers made me laugh, one of the early ones told me she was having trouble keeping his attention. When I found out he had chosen a seat by the window I suggested she move him because he would much rather be outside playing then stuck indoors. She moved him and he stopped looking out the window he could no longer see. Problem solved. Common sense is lost on some teachers! 

When Chris was tested for giftedness, he deliberately did poorly because he didn't want to be moved to a different school away from his friends. Instead, they decided to challenge his academic prowess by providing additional work. That was a complete fail. As adults outside of the "halls of learning" we know that it is not a reward to be given more work, but a punishment. Harder work or more responsibility is an incentive however. One of the most ridiculous meetings I had with school staff was when the principle called me in because he was doing english homework during math class. It was stupid because his math was completed and he was filling up his time productively. The staff felt that homework as such should be done at home. Chris was well into his high school career before he brought homework home, yet it was always done (although probably hastily). Homework cut into his regularly scheduled street hockey game, or basketball game, or putting practice. I advised that principal that I was not in agreement with her policy and in fact felt that Chris' initiative should be applauded. Her next bone of contention was that Chris often finished assigned work quickly and then started talking to his buddies and disrupted other people. Bet he wasn't so talkative when he was completing other school work? Duh! 

He always had an agenda and a plan but it didn't always follow the societal norm of what was expected. It wasn't bad, just different. About 9 or 10 years old, Chris was going with an older friend to the corner store where they were giving away Coke rubber bracelets. Chris would get several at a time and take them to school and sell them for a $1 each. 100% profit he told me proudly. That wasn't his first business venture but it remains a standout because his customers could just as easily gone to the store and got them free for themselves. That was the moment I knew that business was his calling. 

The provincial school system was never his forte and without the sports teams and DECA I'm sure his attendance would be called to task and not just the un-matched socks he wore just to assert his independence and will. DECA is an extra-curricular group offered through some high schools that give students hands on learning in the field of business and marketing. This was his passion during those trying teenage years. Attending Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia was his other goal. He didn't know how it would be done financially but he knew that his university diploma would say Dalhousie one way or another. I had no doubt. This is a kid who got his first job at 11 so he could have a bike that mom couldn't afford. A bike that he enjoyed telling the loan officer at the bank was worth more than my car. Smart-ass! :)

Me and He 2011 Graduation

There is a saying that I had cross-stitched and framed when the kids were very young, it says "There are two things that we must give our children. One is roots, the other is wings." No truer words were spoken when it comes to my son. He needed someone to believe in him and then let him achieve it on his own with support and guidance not chastising and belittling. I am not in any way suggesting that he is perfect and I wouldn't air his dirty laundry that hang on the skeletons in his closet to the public. But he is a kid that always seemed to know where he was going and just needed some suggestions along the way, his drive sometimes got in the way of the constraints of society and he was ill equipped to effect change as a youngster. But with each new accomplishment, with every success, with every bump in the road, he made me prouder and prouder. 

He got his diploma and he spent all four years at Dalhousie University in Halifax (1000 miles away from home), he got the job that he decided he wanted. And he quickly became an asset to that company and fulfilled every promise he made if they took a chance on the new graduate. He works to get what he wants with integrity and professionalism. That determination and drive is applied to family, friends, personal and business relationships.

I hope I am around long enough to see how far he goes, because I don't see any limits as long as he maintains the morals and values that he has up until now. He tells me not to worry about leaving an inheritance for him because like the business cards that my friend had made for him during high school, he is a "Millionaire in the Making". 

It was a university buddy that once described my Chris better than any one else has every been able to...he said "Chris could sell signed copies of the Bible to the Pope." 

Happy 23rd Birthday to my beautiful boy! LOVE YOU!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Buddha Got it Wrong After All

Can't Help Wondering Why - Blue Rodeo

Do these guys know me or what? Never in my life have I had music speak to me like the words and music of Blue Rodeo. It's like they crawled into my head and pulled out my deepest thoughts and set them to music. 

Sometimes you wake up screaming
All my life I must be dreaming

I’ve been wrong

And I’m not strong
But I’ll be the one that keeps rolling on

I was embroiled in thoughts and events of the last few days when I came across a post by a friend on facebook that hit me like a slap across the face. And then suddenly I just couldn't help but wondering why...

...why I find myself in the midst of downsizing my life because I may be forced out of the home that I had expected to be my next to final resting place?
...why I went from a productive and contributing member of society to a near burden on the social assistance system that I had previously avoided like the plague?
...why the life I had planned out for myself and worked tirelessly to ensure the success of has suddenly crumbled at my feet?

Regardless, back to this said "No matter how hard the past, you can always begin again" the quote was attributed to Buddha. Buddha is known as the one who uncovered many truths about the causes of human suffering and determined that the causes are essentially our own fault and therefore we can do something about the unsatisfactory nature of our own lives. I whole-heartedly and completely disagree. Is the young adult who is abused as a child and lives with the mental, emotional and physical scars of his parents love his own fault? Is the teenager at fault for a crippling work place accident because they felt intimidated to do a job they were not properly trained for? Is the middle-aged mom at fault because she contracted Multiple Sclerosis and now finds herself wheel-chair bound? Can the amputee forget the past when they face that prosthetic limb each morning? Can the person suffering from Schizophrenia have a chance at the normal life of their past again without the voices telling them different? 

Is it my fault that I suffered multiple traumas during the first two decades of my life? Did I cause it to happen? Is it my fault that I was not able to prevent it? Is it my fault that I was not provided with adequate counselling at the time to deal with the trauma? I never thought it was, and I didn't waste a lot of time harbouring hatred or resentment for those that many have been responsible in some part for the events that led to the trauma. I guess I instinctively adopted the teachings of Buddha (even though at that young an age I had no knowledge of him). I knew I couldn't change what happened so I had two choices laid before me. I could either learn to live with my new reality or I could not live. It was this pre-teen wisdom that I imparted to other patients in the hospital at the request of the ward nurses. It seems they were pretty impressed with the healthy attitude I had adopted at the age of 12. That optimistic disposition served me well for most of the rest of my life. With brutal honesty I admit that I went through a really harsh "angry at the world" period during my teens and early 20's. But I grew up and over that. I can only vouch for the character that I see in the mirror but I think the well-adjustedness of my children should speak volumes to the person I became for there is a lot to be said about the effects of both nature and nurture when it comes to the rearing of children. When a child goes bad, the world is quick to blame the mother. On the other side of the coin, I will take all the credit for the children who rock this world with their awesomeness! Not perfect but kids most people would be proud to call them their own. I accept the compliments with humility. 

So why did this quote by Buddha bother me so? Well, I had trauma in my past and I thought I could begin again. I thought I had! But it seems that according to certain businesses and people my past is the cause of my current trauma. Those businesses have really no business in my past and had I known it would be used against me, I would never have shared. The businesses I am talking about are WSIB (Worker's Safety Insurance Board) and the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. According to them, the bullying and trauma I suffered at the hands of my employer (the school board) was not due to any action by other staff members but rather because of childhood trauma. So you really can't begin again if 30+ years after the fact the past is brought up to be used against you. My past made me who I am. Just like your past made you who you are. My past made me vulnerable and weak and above all made me a target. Bullies bully the weak.  

It is easy to steal money from the blind beggar on the street knowing that he can't see you. 
It is easy to call the deaf child rude names knowing that he can't hear you. 
It is easy to lie about the weak knowing they won't stand up for themselves. 

You can't begin again when your past is thrown back in your face like it's your fault and you deserved it. You can't begin again if every step you take forward, there is someone in front of you pushing you back. You can't begin again if people won't give you credit for the accomplishments you have made and use your coping strategies as weapons against you. 

By admitting that the events that occurred during my employment with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board was entirely and completely the fault of the various staff and board members, the Board would be admitting to a serious violation of Bill 168 which is designed to protect workers from workplace violence and harassment. It is better in their viewpoint to lie in the face of God and under the cover of Catholicity and blame my childhood trauma. But understand that I was never harassed because I was not performing my job satisfactorily - no I was belittled and chastised because I was afraid to look people in the eye when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball to hide myself and cry. I was reprimanded for not saying Good Morning in the hall to someone who was deemed my superior. My character was assassinated not my work performance. When I tried to stand up for myself I was told I had anger issues and was sent to counselling. The counselors invariably concurred in the belief that I was not an angry person but instead very well adjusted and far from the misfit the Board portrayed me as despite the trauma. 

Were it not for the physical scars that I must carry with me, no one would know that I experienced any trauma at all. The scarring was not my choice or my fault. If you want to lay blame for that one...let's look at my now deceased brother who took too long to pull me from the car and save my life. Or maybe we can lay the blame on the doctors and hospital staff who performed surgery and other procedures to save my life? 

I can look in the mirror each and every day and know that I am okay and not at fault. My past is what it is. I never used it to my benefit to get anything. Not a government handout or a job or as a crutch or for sympathy. No one ever had a fund-raiser for me and I never asked for anyone's pity or sorrow. I never used it and I certainly never gave anyone else permission to use it against me. 

Shame on you for doing it anyway!