Random Thoughts…and otherwise

Fear vs Love?

Dec
11

Perhaps it’s winter, the overcast days that surrender their possibility to such early, daunting darkness, the absence of sunshine that nourishes our souls? Or, a subconscious anniversary of a time when this month brought great sadness? Still does?

Maybe it’s the political climate—the change and uncertainty of where our beautiful world, its people, is headed, the impetus that has razed such ugliness, such terrible, awful hate?

Maybe it’s closer than that—grief and sadness, worry and fraught, life’s many trials and tribulations compounded?

Maybe it’s a cocktail of it all?

Regardless of a definite root, this has been an ugly time, a time cloaked in ragged fear, unwelcomed, heavy. It’s exhausting and soul crushing and not for the living, the faint of heart, me, my nature. You?

St Augustine said, “Fear is the enemy of love.” While at most times it serves best to hold your enemies tight, it feels now is the time to push them away, eradicate, at best mask, them, it, fear and its ugly foes. Wave wand, close eyes, click heals, chant, will, “Be gone,” banish. Conjure happy thoughts, peaceful thoughts. Turn it off. Turn it in.

There are times when we have to act out. There are times when we have to act in. This is that time, to act in. Shut off. Be still. Very still.

“You cannot look after others if you first don’t look after yourself,” They say.

They, the possessors and professors of wisdom much greater than our own. They. Wisdom. Wise.

Fear is the enemy of love. Choose love. Love yourself. Small love, nourished deep and whole with gratitude, blooms.

Sometimes our world is too busy and noisy, its problems too deep and complex and tragic, that when we take it all in we can’t see the flower, the beauty, which still grows, still flourishes, in the wretched land.

Love, really, is all around us. We just need to shut off the noise, the static to see it. Disconnect. Turn it off.

Sometime ago, I worked with survivors of traumatic brain injury and was temporarily assigned to manage a group home for survivors who had suffered catastrophic effects. Inside this house the tribulations of the outside world didn’t really matter, exist: Life there, although tragic and consumed with attention to physical care, was joyous and lived completely in the moment.

One particularly chaotic morning, I was assisting the staff prepare breakfast for the residents, most of whom required a pureed diet.

Following the menu of the day—bagels with toppings, with yogurt and fruit—I was madly chopping dried bagels and jam and strawberries and bananas, throwing them and dollops of yogurt in a food processor and dousing them with milk, when a care aid named Gurpreet walked into the room, sat down at the table beside a resident, who was unable to talk, and began to take her order:

Would you like multigrain or raisin for your bagel? Butter? Cream cheese? Jam? Raspberry? Peach? Strawberries? Bananas? Yogurt? No? Milk? No? Water? Apple juice? Lovely! One minute, then!

Then Gurpreet walked over to the counter, carefully placed all of the requested ingredients into a small blender, pureed it, spooned it onto the plate, walked back to the table and placed it in front of the resident, sat beside her with a tender smile and began to spoon feed the resident.

Amidst the chaos that could have overwhelmed her, Gurpreet shut it off and served not just breakfast, but kindness, love on a plate. Love…on a plate!

Which is what, in these times, we all have to do for ourselves–love us. And to do so, we need to shut off or turn down the noise of the outside world, the sadness, the fear, the sickening fear—TV, social media, the Internet, the news, our smartphones, needless obligation, social pressures, family pressures, consumerism, the voice that tells us who we should be, be doing. We need to stop. We need to be. We need quiet. Love.

We need to find the flower in the wretched and take a moment to watch it grow. To banish fear, to conjure love. To be grateful. To be hope. To multiply and become effusive of that, love and gratitude and hope, the oppressors of fear. Fear’s greatest enemies: Hold them close, give them away.

Because, in the words of Hazif, the 14th century Persian poet who spoke dearly of the joy of love: “Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would love to see you living in better conditions.” You and I, and all of mankind. Us.

Perhaps, the truth is, one-by-one-by-one-by-all, it is possible, to live in better conditions: Sometimes the means to moving is to shut it off, act in and ensure ourselves a time of fear-free love on our plates.

Creativity, Lost?

Dec
09

I am going to lose my mind, all because of this niggler in its background. I hate him. The Niggler. He has an awful voice—rather high pitched for a ‘him,’ coupled with a very, and I might add needless, mocking tone. He’s a bit elementary, too.

He’s making fun of my muse, and taunting me that she’s not coming back, has taken a permanent vacation.

So, after nearly TWO months of harassment, and countless fruitless attempts to write, I may have found a way to shut him up—down-size.

Rather than blather, I’ll blither: Drop my insistence of ‘talking long-windedly without making much sense’ and ‘talk foolishly without thought or regard,’ try random musings over relevant thoughts.

This, after the start of today.

This morning as I prepared to sneak quietly out of bed at 5 AM, the blankets rustled and my husband said, “Getting up?”

“Yes,” I whispered back, so as not to wake him in the event he was dreaming.

“Me, too!” he replied, with enthusiasm, while a piece of my little heart snapped off.

“Oh,” I sighed, as three thoughts simultaneously raced through my head: You’ve got to be kidding me; I could smother him with a pillow if I act quickly; and, kill me now, this day will never end.

I meant no offense, homicidally-speaking, but, really, one of us would have to go: As tragic and dramatic and full on bitch-faced as it may sound, 5 AM is MY time, the means to which I don’t smother anyone throughout the day.

I’m an introvert: The still and quiet and peacefulness and serenity of my house at 5 AM is more rejuvenating and energizing to me than sleep. It’s my tonic, my restraint. It’s when I can think, sort thoughts, conjure sanity. It’s when I used to write. Before my muse left for the Bahamas and the Niggler took up her post.

In the quiet of this morning, after my husband rolled over and went back to sleep, sensing all was not well, I decided instead to smack down the Niggler, that I’d try this:

Blithers. And this is a start. Blithers, which will hopefully be the emergency means to further, more fulfilling Blathers.

In the meantime, how do you banish your Niggler? Jumpstart your creativity? I’d be grateful to know…

Gord Downie and Truth: Unfuck the World

Oct
25

unfuck-the-world

Yesterday at this time, I wrote an outline for a piece I wanted to write today about my beautiful toddler grandson, and how through his naive innocence he finds, experiences and expresses joy in everything. Life, as he knows it is, “Oh, Wow!” and a clap: stab a grape with a fork, clap; get said grape to mouth, clap; see a tire on anything, clap; dog bark, clap; toy found, clap; stairs climbed, clap; etcetera, repeat. It’s a beautiful soundtrack to a heartwarming day, how a child’s life should be.

The story would have been great: I needed love and light, something to drown out the oft heavy and jaded outside world. The infectiousness of his loveliness, could have been yours.

But last night, before I’d planned to sleep, I snuggled into warm blankets with ear buds in place, cocooned myself and settled in to watch Gord Downie’s Secret Path, his certain magnum opus—the story of Chanie Wenjack and the Canadian Indian Residential School system. I knew about the Residential schools, have worked closely, even quasi counselled people who live its effects; Secret Path would not affect me.

By Seven Matches my top sheet was a mess of tears, globs of mascara and snot, and near the end, when Pearl Achneepineskum, Chanie’s sister and a woman of extraordinary strength, spoke of dancing with a 9 year-old Chanie in the moonlight while he proudly sang Ashes of Love, and his resistance to leave her when told he was on the list for the school and had to go away—it was over: Turns out I knew nothing.

150,000 little children, plucked from their families, homes, communities—their language, their culture, cut and washed and beaten out of them—a cultural genocide—many never to return home, murdered, sold, adopted out. Some died like Chanie, simply trying to get home. All were broken, damaged, the impetus for a multi-generational trauma and clusterfuck that is 2016. Truth and Reconcilliation—a political appeasement? I don’t know. But, where to begin?

Pearl Achneepineskum, you beautiful, selfless, kind and gracious soul, you can have anything you need, anything, I thought, it’s all yours, everything.

Schools? For 53 years of suffering daily—53 years, more than my lifetime—all she wants is schools. Schools on every reserve so that not one more child will ever have to leave their home until they’re old enough to care for themselves.

Then, she said, “If Charlie’s life can save other children then I’ve done my work. I’ve done what I’ve intended to do.”

Schools. Why isn’t this a given? Why hasn’t it always been, and why isn’t it today? Why are children from reserves still sent from the security of their homes and communities to attend schools hundreds of miles from home, when in my community people go to the media if their children can’t get in to the local school of their choice, or don’t meet the 4 km criteria to take the school bus to school, and usually get their way?

Hard question to answer.

The answer to schools would likely be the same as the answer to this: Why is it that when Colten Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, collapsed to the floor in anguish after being informed of his murder, one of the herd of RCMP who were trespassing and searching her home, effectively told her to stand up and get a grip and asked if she’d been drinking? Why is it that the RCMP had the heartless audacity to fact check her comment that she’d been worried because he was late getting home and had placed his dinner in the microwave to heat up when he did, by opening up the microwave to see that it was actually there? Why is it that the car he’d been shot in at point blank range was not held in evidence?

The answer to that would likely be the answer to this: Why is it that this morning, while I thought of Chanie and Pearl and Colten and Debbie during my five-hour road trip to visit my husband who is working away home, I thought of his landlord’s response when he, a Cree Indian, mentioned that I would be coming to stay from time to time—“You can’t be up all night fighting. No fighting. I won’t put up with it.”

The answer? Racism. Still.

And then something magical happened on my trip. A car passed me, and on the back window was the answer to the answer: Pieced together in yellow duct tape were the words “Unfuck The World.”

What a graphic, yet simplistic call to action—which is an actual, organized movement intent on achieving human rights equality. We need to tighten it up, however. We need narrow our focus on achieving human rights equality within our own country: Unfuck Canada.

Gord Downie is right: Canada’s first 150 years are nothing to celebrate, yet our next 150 could be. The Secret Path has vividly exposed the realities of our past, the truth—clearly and graphically—and provided the opportunity to once and for all effect change. Now it’s up to all Canadians to ‘Unfuck’ it, to step up, and stand shoulder-to-shoulder, to say not in my country. To take action.

However, it’s not my place, nor maybe yours, to offer solutions. It’s people like Pearl Achneepineskum—those who survive of the 150,000 Indigenous children who were sent by our government to residential schools, to ‘school the Indian out of them,’ their families and the generations since. They have the solutions: Our job is to listen.

Schools. Let’s begin with schools. I know a lovely toddler who would gleefully give an, “Oh Wow!” with an accompanying clap for that, and about 150,000 young children from years past who shouldn’t have understood what all the fuss is about.

Please click on these links:
Watch Secret Path
Gord Downie’s Secret Path Website
Unfuck the World
Related:
Colten Boushie: Hatefully Murdered, Desperately Loved
What If: Is it Madness or Wisdom?

God Help America

Oct
16

sos

This morning I woke up to about 4 inches of snow. The quiet was deafening, compared to the noise of late, and I thought how lovely that for this moment the world feels insular, just as I need it to be. Then I thought, how grateful I am to whichever God it was who decided once to pluck me from the heavens and say, “you, my girl, shall be Canadian.” And I danced and I sang and wondered at the fantastic day which lay ahead!

Poor them, those Americans, especially those naïve, Kool aid-guzzling people who cling to the fallacy that theirs is the greatest nation on Earth. Bless their poor deluded souls.

What a week. What a mess. What an international spectacle. What a train wreck of tremendous proportions to attempt to pull your gaped jaw away from: The Circus to the South, the wind up to the esteemed November 8, US Presidential election. This is democracy? The self-proclaimed greatest nation on Earth? Oh my!

I’ve never seen the likes of it, this farcical fiasco, and neither have you: 330 million citizens have participated in a fair and just process that whittled down and weeded out the competition to finally determine Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to be the best candidates for Commander in Chief, the President of the United States? George Washington must be spinning as fast as the scandal-hungry pundits on US network news. It’s a travesty, a staggering and mindboggling, not to mention depressing and frightening, concept.

While the US elections usually contain more smear than substance, this one has been pure, pure smear, smear that’s not actually smear, as with candidates seemingly void of any moral fiber there’s ample and valid real ammunition to use on either side.

Trump is right, Hillary is crooked—deleted e-mails, tawdry dealings with big business, blatant lies, a few examples. And while her #Imwithher disciples like to proselytize Hillary as being all about women’s rights, her #Imwithhim stance throughout Bill’s sleazy, misogynistic and womanizing Presidency proves she clearly isn’t. A role model for #Imwithher would have Air Force Oned-it as far away from the Whitehouse as she could possibly have made it and became #Imoutofthat. But, Hillary seems about Hillary—her choice to remain and ride his coattails while shaming and dismissing his victims proved that. She doesn’t give a crap about women, or children, minorities, the filthy poor, or much else for that matter. Just money, power and #Imher.

And, Hillary is right, there is a ‘basket of deplorables.’ And it’s filled to the brim with the narcissistic and fantastical ego of Trump himself, likely actually the vilest species to ever walk Neanderthal-like the face of this earth, not to mention increasingly certifiable–clearly his denial of EVERYTHING is indicative of an ongoing and untreated psychotic break.

Issues facing the American people? Who cares? Certainly not either of the candidates as the debates have shown the world. Nothing. Nada. Null. And, man alive, there are issues, primarily that people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

The US is a bully who would do well to mind its own business until it minds its business, to stop looking outward to ‘fix’ the rest of the world and take a minute to embrace and care for and fix its own, like those whose constant struggle impedes them from raising their voices: extreme violence, incredible poverty, third world healthcare, fractured economy, massive unemployment, rampant racism, distrustful policing, corrupt justice system and deplorable future leadership, to name a few potential fixes.

And all of this leaves poor Joe and Sally Citizen with a bad rap. Because the American people, in general, at least the ones whom I’ve met and known, are lovely, hardworking, moral people, who, like everyone world-wide, are just trying to get through the day, put food on their table and a roof over their head, and make a life for themselves and their families, kind of like the dream that once was.

Is my country perfect? Hardly. We have a long way to go, but today we’re making our way; and fortunately our starting point from here to greatness is well ahead of the curve.

Perhaps, the greatest boost we received on our journey may have been simple fact the second debate took place on our Thanksgiving Eve, as any Canadian who tuned in surely had something to be grateful for at their turkey dinner the very next day. We might have problems, but we’re not them. Pass the gravy, please and thank you.

We have violence, yes. In fact, I live in the third most dangerous city in the country. Do I live in fear? Not for a heartbeat. Our problems are mostly encapsulated in an insular world I’m not a part of. The likelihood of me being a victim of violence is close to equal that of a unicorn appearing in my kitchen. My neighbours pay it forward at the drive-thru window of Tim Horton’s rather than lay their open-carry handgun on the table inside.

We have poverty, too, but as the holiday season approaches my neighbours are likely to give as much to the community as they do to their own kin, to ensure that no one goes without food and shelter and the sense that they are cared about.

Healthcare? We are blessed with first-world Universal healthcare. We’ve got that one.

Our economy and employment? Truthfully, it’s suffering right now. But oil prices are rising, and hopefully soon our government will have sorted out the environmental issues that have impeded our vital resource sector from flourishing and put people back to work.

Racism? Sadly. However, by example of our new government which was elected a year ago this Wednesday, we are becoming better, giving respect and recognition where its due. We are moving ahead with the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Truth and Reconciliation, and I have faith that our Prime Minister will make good on his promises to Indigenous communities to provide funding and support for everything from education and healthcare and housing and water and food security.

How many Syrian refugees have we welcomed? That would be 32,437, exactly.

Policing and justice? There are a few bad seeds in everything, but I believe most would agree that our systems do their best with what they have. And an upswing in the economy would help. Courts are so backlogged that the work of the police is often thwarted when criminals have their cases thrown out because the passage of time. Then it’s back to square one and our resources are overextended as it is.

And we respect our military, pay more than lip-service to their service. We mourn their loss and acknowledge their sacrifice and provide what they need when they get home. Never, EVER, would we consider for a millisecond a leader who had the audacity to ever compare his fortune of ‘surviving the AIDs epidemic of the ’80s,’ despite his promiscuity, to a soldier sent to Vietnam.

Leadership? We have leaders, who would never become leaders, or who become former leaders who are relegated to a certain abyss, for a mere slanderous or racist or sexist comment which was made on their social media umpteen years ago. Let alone sexual assault or colluding with business. So there’s no deplorables. Our democracy works. We have values. Morals. Qualities that matter.

God Bless Canada.

And, gratefully, for us, there are only 22 days left until the US election, when at least this part, this madness, this circus of a campaign, will be over. And, then, who knows? Who really wants to imagine? On too many levels it’s a frightening thought.

I know, if it were me, on November 8, I would stand in a polling booth completely mystified with my options, and then, with a great big red marker, scrawl Bernie Sanders’ name in block letters across my ballot. (While he seems to have disappeared into oblivion since his scandalous nomination loss, there was a man of integrity, of morals, who truly was for the American people, all of the American people.) A wasted ballot perhaps, but a statement, a vote, nonetheless.

Integrity and morals—imagine—qualities the options, #Imwithher and His Vileness, certainly haven’t shown to behold.

OM…Bethenny

Oct
02

birthday

This morning I woke with a start from a dream in which I was pregnant.

This was shocking for two reasons: For what feels like ever, I’ve not slept deep enough to wake with a start (thanks for last night, Gravol and Melatonin); and, secondly, today is my FIFTY-FIRST birthday and I’m gratefully two months shy of official menopausalicious, so being pregnant is rather implausible, thank every God.

Still, a pregnancy dream is a wee bit disconcerting. So, when I’d recovered enough from the start to plant two feet on the ground, I raced to my office to madly Google it’s meaning.

The consensus was this: To dream that you are pregnant symbolizes an aspect of yourself or some aspect of your personal life that is growing and developing. You may not be ready to talk about it or act on it. Being pregnant in your dream may also represent the birth of a new idea, direction, project or goal. (dreammoods.com)

Hmmm? Off to my horoscope:

IF TODAY IS YOUR BIRTHDAY
You will have plenty to say for yourself over the coming 12 months and your words will please some people and annoy others. Don’t be afraid to take a controversial position. The world needs people who are not afraid to kick up a fuss. (GlobeandMail)

And this is all the best news—Thank You Jesus—as for the last few months my mind has been an ongoing and escalating interpretation of Karl van Ove Knausgard’s My Struggle, or, as I’ve not yet read it (he’s struggled through six books, to date), my struggle is what I imagine Karl’s to be. Somewhat.

And I’m not at all pleased with myself.

It’s my journey with grief (my father passed in June and I’m now an orphan), and this recent loss seems to have been a catalyst to the recognition of how lost in the forest of fuckedupdom I’ve allowed myself to be drawn, for what feels a very long time. Perhaps, I’m delusional as to who I am? Or never really knew to begin with? Regardless, it’s time for the insanity to stop. Because, really and truly, where has this led me?

The answer is here, and my version of My Struggle, a rather depleting and boring affair.

It’s not the loss of my father that I’m grieving at this point on horrid-grief’s continuum—I miss him, yes: I’m sad  he died, yes—but, without him, I am left with me, to grieve me, and the truth that is a ghosting of a fantasy for which I’ve long lived my life, quite possibly its entirety. And, of this, I am angry. Very angry. Not at him, but at this me, and mostly the hard truth that it’s not his fault at all, but mine, this ghosting, this sense that everything I thought I once knew, believed to be, dissipated one day like a vapour, and what I have left is the truth and it’s not so nice.

That black is actually white. Very white. And, that I should have known this all along, from the beginning instead of living 51 years in a sham.

Enter Bethenny Frankel (from my vice, RHNY) a hot mess of naked vulnerability who is fabulously her, whose very best quality I have long envied.

But, first, this, a quote I have pinned on the bulletin board above my computer. I placed it there in the early days of my struggle, somewhere in its escalation.

“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bullshit story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” Jordan Belfort.

How simple, how true.

I am a people pleaser. Have been since my very first memory—a tiny little girl lying in bed, forcing herself to stay awake, just in case. (In case?) She knew (decided?) then that her place in this world was to expend her everything to ensure that those whom she loved were good—happy, safe, enjoyed smooth sailing. She would rescue them all, manipulate the world to appease, if only in the moment. And wouldn’t they love her for all she had given? Sacrificed? Left of herself?

Na. I don’t think so. More, I think that tiny little girl created a fantasy, made a massive mistake.

I no longer wish to be the person who conducts the orchestra, who juggles and melds and soothes every section, weaves them together in a fraudulent fantastical symphony to please and lift and wow the audience. I want to put down my baton, smash it hard really. Shatter it. Annihilate it. Render it a vapour.

I want to, am going to, instead sing the accompanying aria: loudly, gloriously, me-pleasingly, even if it’s horridly off key, out of tune.

And I’m going to conjure up my inner Bethenny. Bethenny does not do bullshit. She doesn’t take it or give it, and she certainly doesn’t wallow in it. Bethenny Frankle is a bullshit-free zone. And for this, I love her. And, better, I love me enough to embrace her.

No more. I’m done.

Instead, this birthday will be my birth day. I am pregnant with a new direction: I will gratefully please me, and embrace the selfish and strong contrarian, hot mess of vulnerabilities inside. Black can be white, a beautiful palette on which to paint my beautiful and endless possibilities.

I owe it to someone exceedingly important, that tiny little girl lying in her bed.

It just takes some time
Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride
Everything, everything will be just fine
Everything, everything will be all right

RELATED: HERE. I. GO.

BC’s MCFD Needs to Save This One Life

Sep
23

Front and center in the news right now is the decision by BC’s Ministry of Children and Family Development to remove a three-year old from the Metis foster family she’s been raised in since she was two days old, and their future plan to send her to an adoptive, non-Metis, home in Ontario where she will live with two older siblings she’s never met.

With this plan—revised again today—which has reportedly been in the works for quite some time, held back by a series of court contests by the foster family, all supported by the child’s biological parents and the BC Metis Federation, the family was forced to surrender the child to the MCFD on Sunday to prepare her for ‘transition.’

Of an update e-mail sent this week to this foster family by the Ministry, an ‘itinerary of transition,’ the mother said she can barely contain her anger:

“You move a child from a secure attachment when they’re three years old and they are set up for lifelong trauma and attachment difficulties. So for them to just be glossing this over like it’s a big party and we’re all going to be happy about it, we can’t accept that. Because we know it’s not going to be good for her.”

And that is the truth. And this apathy toward the well-being of children in care by a Ministry, a guardian, whose ‘primary focus is to support vulnerable children and their families using a client-centered approach…to achieve meaningful outcomes,’ is systemic, ineffective and irreparably damaging.

This child is loved, safe, cared for and desperately wanted. She has what so many in care, tragically lack: Leave her alone.

BC Metis Federation president Keith Henry likens this situation to the 60s Scoop, and, perhaps for slightly different reasons, I agree.

While the majority of focus in this case has been the child’s Metis culture and the fact that she is to be adopted by a non-Metis family, with respect, I find deep concern with another fact that relates to every child of every culture: primarily, ‘lifelong trauma and attachment difficulties’ and the severance of connection exercised upon children in the care of MCFD.

For less than a moment of time, I worked in the MCFD system.

Nearly three years ago I was hired by an agency, contracted by MCFD, to coordinate a group home for at risk youth. I lasted three months and chose to resign at the end of my probation period—an act done to save my soul, which still feels a selfish and cowardly way out today.

And it was. My soul wasn’t saved; in fact, it will never be the same. Still, I justify having left by telling myself I could not, with good conscience, be a part of a system which I often imagined to be far more negligent than the place most of these youth, children really, were seized or surrendered from.

Hope did not live there, did not exist; only chaos and anger and hatred, along with great despair and intense suffering.

All this time later, this is the image that haunts me: It’s 6:30 AM and a boy lays cuddled up on a black leather sofa, wrapped in a colourful granny square afghan, watching a movie. He is watching me just as closely, as I sit, eyes forward, restraining myself, on a matching loveseat beside him.

Only minutes before, I arrived at work three hours early, because as is the case there is a continuous shortage of staff and qualified applicants for the underpaid position of Youth Care Worker. As the coordinator, it was my role to step in and fill the many gaps.

Kevin, I’ll call him, has just returned from being AWOL overnight at a crack house he’s been frequenting for the past few weeks. He is under the influence of something, likely meth, is far from tired and asks me to watch a movie with him.

He’s just turned 14 and is small for his age, a tiny, child-like figure curled up with his blankie.

I am restrained because I am a mother, simply a human, and all I want to do is scoop up this child and lay him beside me and cradle his head in my lap. I want to stroke his hair and rub his back and tell him it’s OK, that everything will be fine, that he is much better than this road he’s been drawn down, that he is important, so smart and loved. I want him to believe there is hope.

And I am consumed with wonder as to when this child was last hugged by an adult who cared. Genuinely cared. A hug, so simple. Touched kindly, with honest love, by another human being. This and what damage the absence of this touch, of a simple human connection has done to this child; the effect it will have moving forward.

And it’s this thought, this vision, that haunts me today.

In the system of MCFD, he is lost. He is housed in this group home, like Rubbermaid tubs of crap are housed in my garage—placed on a shelf, neglected and forgotten.

In this group home, where he was “temporarily” placed until his social worker had time to find a “resource more age-appropriate,” he is somewhere, and because he is somewhere he is simply a number on his overburdened social worker’s, MCFD’s, list of stats.

About a year earlier, at 13, his mother dropped him off at a youth shelter, advising an intake worker that she couldn’t “take” him anymore. He was becoming increasingly angry and violent, had destroyed the inside of her home—holes punched in walls, doors, furniture thrown and broken. He was increasingly verbally abusive and she had to think about his younger brother, whose father she and he would be joining in a neighbouring province.

Kevin hates this man. In him he sees a drug abuser who is violent with his mother, and, while she has chosen this man and his brother over him, Kevin is instinctively protective towards her.

From the group home, he phones his mom relentlessly, uncountable times during the day. She rarely answers: Kevin no longer belongs in her life.

But everybody needs to belong somewhere—hence, the crack house. And because Kevin’s life in now guarded by a system that allows everything to be his choice—attending school, refusing counseling, refusing medication, abusing caregivers, neglecting house rules, hygiene, curfews, breaking the law—without immediate consequences, the pathway to learning life skills, the people like his revolving cast of Youth Care Workers, contractors who run ‘resources,’ overburdened social workers and Ministry staff, and myself, are rendered helpless, feeling as worthless and ineffectual in his life as the mop water we pour down the toilet.

“What can you do?” A phrase uttered with resignation, endlessly throughout everyday.

“What can you do?”

What you can do? Pray. And scream and yell and demand change. Make it right. Be there. Believe in someone, like Kevin, who has never been lent the opportunity or the tools to believe in himself.

And stand behind good people like a foster family on Vancouver Island who are far from cowards, and love so deeply that they’re willing to sacrifice their souls so a helpless three-year-old girl survives this moment and enjoys a future void of trauma, a bright future like her attachment to them will in turn lend her.

This child is loved, safe, cared for and desperately wanted. She has what so many in care, tragically lack: Leave her alone. Save this one life.

RELATED: What If: Is it Madness or Wisdom

Home Sweet Home in ‘The Hood’

Sep
17

victoria-street

When Taylor Swift allowed: “If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t change,” I should have listened—it may have prevented this…

For the last few weeks, I’ve had an overwhelming sense of longing that seems to have pounced upon me rather suddenly and isn’t going away. It’s become the background of my everyday, my all day. At once, it feels ridiculous and not so, and I’m not quite sure what to do to make it right.

Or, if I want it to be.

It’s our old house: A rough and tumble, rundown affair in the ‘hood’, and, like me, imperfect in every single way. And, oh, how I miss it.

Since I graduated high school in 1983, I’ve lived in 27 different homes—the longest 4 years, the shortest, months—in 13 different communities, in 3 different provinces.

While I have missed a memory, a time in my life, perhaps a town or a view or a neighbour or an ocean, I’ve never really missed a house, which in reality is a large inanimate construct used to shelter and store stuff. It’s the living, breathing memories, the life-force that make a house, a place, a home.

When I met my husband, I was living in House #24, and shortly after moved into #25, with him. We’d both ridden in other rodeos and vowed to each other that we would never delve into home ownership, again: We’d remain care, and maintenance, free, uncommitted renters whose only roots would be the tendrils we extended to explore our wanderlust.

And then the door of the tiny coat closet in our tiny apartment refused to close and we thought perhaps we should rent something just a little bit bigger, which ultimately led us to our rundown home in ‘the hood.’

It was a disaster we overlooked in the euphoria of our next adventure: Love is blind.

We found it listed on Kijiji three minutes after the closet door burst and one of us said, “Maybe we should?” It was the cheapest non-apartment listed, a duplex in the VLA, ‘the hood’ of our city. “Let’s do it!” one of us said, the other agreed, and we made an appointment to view (always a bad idea), signed a lease on the spot and eagerly anticipated our move-in date.

Our standard joke for anyone who questioned our decision was: “We’re not getting cable. We’ll put two chairs by the front window and watch all the action go down.” At the very least, the forced giggles broke the uncomfortable silence.

Pictures hid holes on the walls. Medical equipment left in the basement—wheelchairs, commodes, a prosthetic left leg—were given to those in need of. Colourful curtains drew attention from time worn walls. A new gate sent a sign that there were new inhabitants, and a “They don’t live here anymore—spread the news,” to the first few prior customers who came looking for the previous owners (apparently, dealers) solved the problem of frequent knocks on the door.

And then once our boxes were unpacked and we had time to sit and watch out the window, something unexpected happened: Rather than frame the reputed dark-side of humanity, that ‘the hood,’ this sub-section of our city was widely known for, cast in our sights were clips of what became a beautiful living-portrait of life, a community, starring a vibrant cast of colourful souls we came to depend on.

They were our neighbours, coming and going, shoveling each others snow, friendly waves, genuine looks of concern, laughter from jokes shared. Children walking to school, hand-in-hand, trusting a fatherly crossing-guard celebrating 17 years on the job. The grace of the man in the park across the street practicing Tai Chi, winter, summer, spring and fall. A mother and daughter picking up garbage. Community barbeques, gardens.  A steady line of trick-or-treaters, families costumed together rag-a-tag-style, pride gluing them together.

Strollers and pedal bikes and skateboards and grocery carts. Buses, cars, taxis. Walkers and joggers and skiers and piggy backers. Laughers and criers and talkers and yellers and singers and ear bud-wearing listeners.

All sounds and sights of a community. A vibrant community. A welcoming community bustling with life. Of names and people and stories we grew to know and love.

And, then, the closet burst open, again.

“Maybe we should buy a house?” “We’ll look.” “It’s beautiful. I love it!” “Are you sure?” “Yes! You?” “Uh-huh.” “It only makes sense.” “Let’s do it!” Done.

So, here we are in our lovely big house, that feels a world away from ‘the hood.’ It’s neat and tidy with beautiful counter tops and closets, heaps of closets, that will never, ever burst. Pot lights and hardwood and stainless steel and a plethora of windows letting in endless light. No holes in the wall, no customers knocking on the door. No one really. No need to put up our own gate as the gate at the entrance to our new community keeps all of life out.

And the chair? There is no chair by the window as it seems the metaphorical projector is broken; perhaps becoming as bored as we are filming only an occasional car going in and out of a garage. A lonely job, lonely film. End of project.

Pins drop: Sounds echo.

Here, we’ve turned to life out of the back of our house, where the plants in the designer gardens weep at the weeds that encroach, and to their tree friends in the strip of forest on the other side of the 8-foot high fence, of their slow demise and the brown thumbed and neglectfully sad woman who has replaced their old mucky tender.

There are birds and butterflies and foxes and a bear, neighbourhood cats and the wind that sometimes carries the sound of a distant siren or traffic or, sometimes, the delicious laughter of children from far up the hill.

It’s what we asked for, thought we wanted, where most would find comfort, contentment, pride.

Yet, watching a squirrel leap from tree to tree, something inside of me pines for the shabby yet constant comfort that was the activity, the mosaic of beautiful people, the cacophony, our old life that was ‘the hood.’

There I belonged, found contentment, pride. And for that, for now, at least, I would gladly trade all of my coats and forfeit these closets. You see, I’ve learned that meals created on paint-peeled counter tops taste just as delicious as those made on granite. Perhaps, more so. Or, perhaps it’s this, they were more filling, sustaining, for my soul.

Like the people, those lovely, genuine, unedited people, who get what I get, who know what I know: Home is where your heart is, and mine remains in a beautiful community, in a home, sweet home, in the hood.

So, I am different, Taylor, in the richest of ways. And, from this moment forward, (more, after the moment I move back) I promise, I will never, ever again, never, ever try to change.

Of Jann Arden, Racism and Sensibilities Gone Mad

Sep
07

On September 2—last Friday—CBC ran a story (perpetuation?) about a woman, Julie Daum of Stellaquo, BC, who proclaims to have been “one of Jann Arden’s biggest fans,” but is now accusing the singer of being racist.

The impetus for this accusation was a picture Ms. Arden posted of her own mother on social media…

arden-mom…now captioned “My Inuit family,” but originally captioned “My Eskimo family.”

(A quick search of Ms. Arden’s Facebook page revealed that she often posts photographs her 80 year-old mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease and lives with Ms. Arden, when they go for walks, often commenting on her style choices.)

Ms. Daum is so offended by this racial slur that she has vowed to pack up her entire collection of Arden’s CDs and ship them back to her. She is done.

“To be really clear, it is racist to not respect how we are even identifying ourselves,” she is quoted as saying.

The article goes on to say, “…last year, the head of Canada’s national Inuit organization said the term Eskimo was derogatory, offensive and unacceptable, and symbolizes colonial policies.”

And the hubbabaloo of “Eskimo family” has caused a shit-storm of controversy from coast-to-coast-to-coast, in both the media and social media, alike.

By the time I finished reading this article, I had a massive headache and thought: Jesus, when will it end?

But, then, I thought of this…

mom-and-hilda-ellis…my mother, who for years joyfully regaled me with stories of her “Eskimo babies,” the children she lovingly cared for when she was posted to Churchill, Manitoba, in 1963, as a practical nurse in the army. In fact, I have an album of her photos—this one is captioned, “Hilda Ellis—My Pet,” her favourite.

She was only in Churchill for a little more than a year, but the children there left a footprint that lasted as long as my mother’s heart. She loved them and cared for them and, with great reverence, she called them Eskimos.

Sadly, with the Jann Arden incident and the Tribe Called Red incident from the week before, I think, respectfully, we’ve all lost the war.

And my rose coloured glasses are getting clouded. And all that comes to mind is the old adage: You’ve cut off your nose to spite your face.

Enough. Already. People like me, who really, really care, are getting tired, and confused. Very confused.

There is RACISM (the vile vomitus spewed after the Colton Boushie murder) and then there is confused and innocent ignorance from the kind and respectful and embracism crowd who simply can’t keep up and don’t receive the memos of where we are now.

Was Jann Arden intentionally throwing out a disrespectful racist barb by referring to her mother as an Eskimo? I think not. Were the fans of A Tribe Called Red who showed up at their concert in Halifax wearing war paint intentionally throwing out a disrespectful racist barb? I think not. Did my mother ever intend any disrespect by calling her young charges Eskimo babies? I know not.

Try as we may, it feels like we’re living in a very damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t climate right now, and I just can’t see how our country can possibly make any progress, reconciliation, in this state of hypersensitivity and vigilante political correctness gone mad.

Where I live—there are Indian Bands, First Nations, Aboriginal organizations, Native organizations, and today I read of an Indian Cultural Center in another province changing its name to Indigenous Cultural Centre, ‘a more appropriate self-conception.’ Which is great. Wonderful. But you see, like Ms Arden, I imagine, I am often lost in what is appropriate, today, this minute.

My husband is an Indian. (I can say that—he considers Indian as his ‘appropriate self-conception.’) I am ‘white.’ Sometimes I fry bannock. I wear a silver ring carved with a bear symbol fashioned by a west-coast artist. I wear moccasins. We live on Indian-time and enjoy Indian-humour. In the winter, when I wear my poofy down coat with its faux-fur hood trimming he calls me ‘Nanook of the North.’ We are respectful of each other’s cultures, of ourselves and of others. We accept and embrace our differences.

Last fall I attended an event I was under the impression was about writing: A Creative Writing Panel at UNBC’s Weaving Words Celebration. I excitedly went to drink up an atmosphere of creativity and writing camaraderie, with the hope of learning a few things along the way. The panel was impressive: a collective of vast knowledge and accomplishments, gifted wordsmiths who shared important stories through their work.

Unfortunately, the event was poorly attended with maybe ten participants in total, maybe three, including myself, not associated with the Celebration itself. It started out about writing—introductions, process, advice, experiences—but midway through took a surprising turn: The focus became ‘white tourism,’ and how exhausting and disrespectful it was to have ‘white’ people attempting to suck up knowledge of cultural traditions. And as the only blue-eyed blond, perhaps the only ‘white person’ in the room, I left disappointed and very perplexed, like I am now.

How is it that we—all of us—are to have a cultural understanding, acknowledgement and acceptance of each other if we’re not willing to share, to kindly educate each other? To teach what is most important and distinguishing about who we are, our ‘self-conception,’ to nurture embracement? To eracism?

How do we do all of this if we are not willing to be more inclusive—it must work both ways—and accept that sometimes others make mistakes?

There is one organization in particular that I can think of that is doing it right: The Prince George Native Friendship Centre.

Their Vision Statement is this:  “The Prince George Native Friendship Centre is a non-profit, non-sectarian organization dedicated to servicing the needs of Aboriginal people residing in the urban area and improving the quality of life in the community as a whole. Fundamental to this is the recognizing the inherent worth of all peoples regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, or culture and to promote this view in the community at large”

And they live by it. I’ve seen it, been a part of it. All you have to do is show up—Native, white, Chinese, South Asian, Catholic, Muslim, Jehovah Witness, straight, gay, transgender, rich, poor, purple, green, orange—and you are welcome to learn, to participate, to be. Accepted. Innocent ignorance and all.

It’s a template, and example, of what our world could be, what the majority of our country is longing for—simply that the world can and will be as one.

But to accomplish this, the madness must end. We’re all losing this war, and our sensitivities and correctness are only causing a greater divide. We need to be allies, and hone them in. See outside of ourselves, reach out instead of holding on so tight.

My guess is that “funny…fiercely honest, and sassy” Jann Arden and “music lover” Julie Daum could have once upon a time been great friends, allies. My belief is that with a little more and less sensitivity this story could have been a tool that perpetuated understanding, instead of becoming a shit-storm that perpetuated a greater divide.

Medusa: Their Labour and Loss For Our Freedom

Sep
06

 

poppyAs I write, dusk is closing in on the end of this Labour Day weekend. My neighbours have returned from what will likely be their last camping trip of the year; in my community people are making their way home from a downtown celebration of labour sponsored by 16 different unions and professional associations; and some children have taken advantage of a break in the rain and are outside my window riding their bikes, enjoying the last hours of their summer vacation before tomorrow’s start of a new school year.

It’s been a wonderful weekend in which I exercised the freedoms I’ve grown accustomed to: I was out and about, enjoyed family, ventured into the great outdoors and wandered about in nature. Equally, however, I was lost in thought of the irony of what this weekend meant, of how I owed it all to the labours of others who were seemingly forgotten in its splendour.

You see, in the back of my mind since Friday—the start of this long weekend’s freedom-fest for most—has been the fact that this time (September 2—17) also marks the 10th Anniversary of Operation Medusa—a Canadian led offensive within the War in Afghanistan that claimed 28 NATO soldiers, including 12 of our own.

I’m somewhat—actually, quite—disappointed that as I madly Google, amongst stories of a deadly helicopter crash in New Brunswick, Peter Mansbridge’s impending retirement, Vancouver’s housing market ‘crash,’ Stanford rapist Brock Turner’s release from prison after only three months served and the growing movement of support behind Colin Kaepernick’s decision not stand during the national anthem, I find one news story recognizing this anniversary: Canadian soldier writes song for 10th anniversary of Operation Medusa. (CTV)

One. A single media story marking this Canadian initiative in a war—our most recent— that eventually claimed the lives of 158 Canadian soldiers, injured upwards of 1,800 and left 14,375, likely many more, with the effects of PTSD.

It’s boggling my already boggled mind. While in early-November we gratefully donate to the Royal Canadian Legion, don a poppy and on Remembrance Day pledge “Lest We Forget,” it seems we do.

Maybe I’m being over-sensitive. Maybe I’m not.

You see PTSD is ‘my primal scream’ and its effects have deeply impacted my family. As they go about their daily lives, taking for granted their privilege to do so, I want every single person in this country to understand: the sacrifice that our military members who volunteer to serve this country make, out of both love and a selfless want to protect our freedoms; the lifelong devastation that is the families of our lost soldiers; the how and the why of our soldiers’ paths to PTSD; the impact it makes on not only their lives, but on those of their family, friends and community; the need for education that will provide the gateway for acceptance and the comfort to come forward; and the bright light that can be the future for any of its victims, hence survivors. (PTSD: A Family’s Story)

While my sensitivity may be in question, this waning—perhaps, apathetic—coverage is not a surprise.

The Federal Framework on PTSD Act

A week ago, my local newpaper, the Prince George Citizen, printed a front page story about a local RCMP officer’s journey with PTSD, and how after years of inner turmoil he has reconnected with his culture and found a peace and purpose from building a sweat lodge in his backyard which he is now sharing with fellow first responders who suffer the disorder, as well.

In response, I wrote a Letter to the Editor and was pleased to see it published on September 1. However, only the first half of the letter was printed—presumably due to lack of space—and an error in publishing gave authorship of the letter not to me, but the MP I referred to in the missing half. And I was rather disappointed that this cut and error was made, seemingly to accommodate letters about speeders and the credit Stephen Harper once deserved.

What I’d really hoped for with my effort was to direct readers to lend their support to a private member’s bill—Bill C-211, The Federal Framework on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Act—that Todd Doherty, Cariboo—Prince George MP, had introduced into parliament this past January.

The passing of Bill C-211 will “recognize the symptoms and provide timely diagnosis and treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Attending The Attendant

Last week, I attended the reading of a play—The Attendant—at Artspace, here in Prince George.

I’d heard of it on CBC Radio the day before and spent the time between then and the reading, like I do, vacillating between going and not, going and not, going and not.

The play, about PTSD, was written by Prince George playwright, writer, artist and counsellor, Rob Ziegler, and the cause of my vacillation was this: Will the story-line of this play provide a much needed educational element in regards to PTSD? Will it give a clear picture of both the damage and the hope?

My cynicism was that he wouldn’t nail it and if he didn’t do that, I didn’t want to take part. It needed to bang on, or I’d be busted. Again.

Hours before start time, I told my brother, a veteran who lives his best life despite the effects of PTSD, about it, and his reply cemented my plans:

“Tell them,” he said, “that your brother has people reaching out to him every single day. I’ve been on the phone more or less all day with a vet. Poor bugger is having a hell of a time. And also tell them that PTSD is not a death sentence!!”

I was going. And I’m glad I did.

Set in an automotive shop in Cache Creek—Milt’s Repairs—an eccentric older veteran named Milt provides enlightenment and ‘repairs’ to two younger veterans, Capt. Harold Wales and Sgt. Brando Milton, both haunted by demons and at crossroads in their lives.

In my opinion, Ziegler did an outstanding job in using a medium that is considered to be entertainment, to educate. And I am grateful for his efforts to spread a message of both understanding and hope. (I look very forward to the production of this work.)

And that message—understanding and hope—is the point of this rambling: In our world of immediacy and self-gratification, ego, we have forgotten the sacrifices of others—our veterans— who have lent us great freedom, and that what appears to be a fading public interest in their efforts, their loss, their stories, their path, is wrong.

For sufferers of PTSD, a disorder that does not discriminate or limit itself to capturing the spirit of soldiers, but also effects first responders and victims of a wide scope of traumas, acknowledging and remembering its path–the wars and battles fought, sacrifices made–creates a greater understanding amongst all of us.

And understanding is what creates and nurtures hope—a place of compassion and healing, genuine respect, which is the least we owe those who have laboured and risked their lives for our freedoms.

Lest we forget. Ever.

Please contact Todd Doherty’s office to support Bill C-211:

Todd Doherty, MP Cariboo—Prince George
1520 3rd Avenue
Prince George, BC
V2L 3G4
250-564-7771
Todd.Doherty.C1@parl.gc.ca

Canada in Afghanistan – Fallen Canadian Armed Forces Members

Operation Medusa: The Battle For Panjwai

Your You Is Soooo Good Enough

Aug
31

AibeleenMy daughter, an extremely talented writer whose voice paints her words into captivating stories and vivid imagery, has sent me a story to edit. And I’ve been putting it off because I would rather have an appendectomy or spring clean my house (and I do know it’s August but I just haven’t found the time yet.)

I feel this way, not because I dread the thought of reading her writing—au contraire—but because her writing is hers and no fiber of mine has a place in there.

Writing is personal: It’s neat and clean and it’s very, very messy. You must learn to do it right—spelling, grammar, composition and style, the rules, endless rules—and then learn to properly throw all those rules by the wayside and find your own voice—like she has found hers.

Which is kind of like life, and something I’ve been thinking about since yesterday when I saw a painting on Facebook with the words: Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

And this has given me pause: Right now, at this very moment, I am in the throes of the most honoured and remarkable experience known to womanhood.

Two Augusts ago, I flew to the Yukon to visit my daughter and her husband who work summers at a remote research camp. (She cooks, he flies.) After she met me at the airport, we went to lunch and from across the table she passed me a homemade card.

On the front, it read: The next journey in your life will be…and, I immediately thought, Hell No…I am not going up in that plane! But that wasn’t it.

When I opened the card it read: Congratulations! In seven months you are going to be a Grandma. Whaaaa?

If on the flight to Whitehorse a seatmate had asked if I had any grandchildren, I would have laughed uncontrollably, said “HELL NO,” and rambled on with something about being too young and blahblahblah and not for a few years, I hope.

However, in the nanosecond it took for my brain to translate those words into meaning—going to be a Grandma—my entire self, what I believed to be true, my plan, my purpose changed: My baby was having a baby, and my baby’s baby would be the greatest gift that both she or I, the world, had ever known.

And in the next nanosecond, I spontaneously and joyfully shared this new truth with the entire populous gathered inside Earl’s Restaurant. They undoubtedly wondered by my cries and dance: Is she having a stroke? Did she injure herself? Escape from somewhere? Win the lottery?

I did! Today, I am the proud Grandmomma of two little boys—Wee Man C and Prince P—and it is the most remarkable, heartwarming, life-changing gift-of-a-place to be.

And I don’t want the world to ever tell them who they should be. As I delight in their emerging selves, their untainted souls are sacred: They are perfectly them just the way they are, thank you very much.

Wee Man C is the very essence of kindness: At not a year-and-a-half he is beautifully and authentically…kind. He is generous and curious and focused on his constant, inquisitive pursuit to explore every nook and wonder of his world.

And Prince P—at a mere two months, his unbridled joy at sharing his newfound smile and the innocent expression of unconditional love behind it melts every jaded bit that has ever festered within me.

They are precious and contagious and with them I am free.

Just over 28 years ago, I stood in the anteroom of the Whitecourt Medical Clinic, and carefully piped one drop of my own pee and one drop of Anti-beta hCG onto a glass slide, used the tip of a tiny wooden stick to stir them together for the required 30 seconds, then added a drop of a reactant agent. I waited, and waited, twice as long as instructed, and watched in awe as the concoction before me curdled: I was having a baby!

And in that moment, I knew two things for sure:

  1. I, as I knew myself before entering that anteroom with a jar of my own pee in hand, no longer existed, nor mattered.
  2. As much as this world will perceive this baby to be mine, it won’t be. It will be a gift from the Universe that I’m meant to care for for a time, to nurture and love unconditionally, forever and always. From its first breath this baby will strive to become an independent being and bearing witness to the eventual sum of all its parts will be my grand and ultimate reward.

And those two truths remain today when I answer the question: Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

And for these two grandbabies of mine, I wish three things for them and this beautiful and ugly, awe-inspiring and heartless, and oft chameleonic-dictating world I live in:

  1. An understanding that ‘normal’ doesn’t exist: That the fact we are all very different is humanity’s greatest strength, and that celebrating these differences will only make us inclusive, no longer angry, hurtful and divisive. That their, my grandbabies’, brethren all feel, for once, that they belong.
  2. That whatever path they choose, they are always led forward knowing that they are good enough.
  3. And that they and every child gifted from the Universe know this: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” (Aibeleen Clark, The Help)

That’s all. Must read.

Published @ BabyCenter.ca September 11, 2016