Friday, December 24, 2010

... And To All, A Good Night

My how time flies ... it seems like Christmas does a better job of sneaking up on me with each passing year!

I must admit that it is my favourite holiday though - the cold and snow outside (although no snow yet this year) and the warmth and love of family and friends inside. 

There is nothing I enjoy better, nothing which gives me more peace than sitting in a darkened room, illuminated only by a Christmas tree and admiring its beauty.  It is a time to muse, review, reflect, renew and rejuvenate.

And no matter what may have transpired this past year (through both the highs and the lows), there is the sure knowledge that hope springs anew for the future.

So to my family and friends, both those I have been honoured to meet in person and those I have been honoured to know only through the joy of technology ... A Very Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Breaking News - New Federal Gov't Program Now Available

Here at Free Falling, we pride ourselves on bringing our readers the latest breaking news and information on issues which may be of interest to them.  In that spirit, enjoy.
Due to the current financial situation caused by the slowdown in the economy, The Govt. of Canada has decided to implement a scheme to put workers of 50 years of age and above on early retirement, thus creating jobs and reducing unemployment.

This scheme will be known as RAPE (Retire Aged People Early). Persons selected to be RAPED can apply to the Govt. to be considered for the SHAFT program (Special Help After Forced Termination).

Persons who have been RAPED and SHAFTED will be reviewed under the SCREW program (System Covering Retired-Early Workers).

A person may be RAPED once, SHAFTED twice and SCREWED as many times as the Govt. deems appropriate.

Persons who have been RAPED could get AIDS (Additional Income for Dependants & Spouse) or HERPES (Half Earnings for Retired Personnel Early Severance).

Obviously persons who have AIDS or HERPES will not be SHAFTED or SCREWED any further by the Govt.

Persons who are not RAPED and are staying on will receive as much SHIT (Special High Intensity Training) as possible. The Govt. has always prided itself on the amount of SHIT they give our citizens.

Should you feel that you do not receive enough SHIT, please bring this to the attention of your local MP, who has been trained to give you all the SHIT you can handle.

Sincerely,

The Committee for Economic Value of Individual Lives (E.V.I.L.)

PS - - Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity, gas and oil, as well as current market conditions, the Light at the End of the Tunnel has been turned off.
H/T to Tera

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Adusting To My New Reality


Really isn't going so well.

I seem to have been struggling a fair bit this past year - first, my MS flared up significantly in the late winter/early spring although eventually I seemed to get it back under control. Not back to where it was but certainly to a more manageable level.  Unfortunately, I never quite got my blogging pace back up to what it was once upon a time, though.

Then I went to Boston (Woo Hoo). That. Was. Great. But things quickly started to spiral out of control again shortly after I returned home.

First, HWWLNTBN lost his job. "Lost" ... strange word, isn't it? If only he could remember where he had seen it last.

No, more accurately, he was unexpectedly and unceremoniously dumped from his job. Resulting in us losing not only our main source of income but also our health insurance. Resulting in a huge amount of stress, with large helpings to go around for all. Particularly yours truly.

MS doesn't much like stress, you know. Need I say more? Yeah, not so good. Hence, my new reality.

Just to clarify, this blogging gig ain't finished by any stretch of the imagination. But I would be deluding only myself not to admit that trying to keep up with two blogs while starting a new business, while working my old job, while raising two teenage daughters, while bringing legal action against HWWLNTBN's former employer, while having my MS flare up yet again ... is working so well.

That's all.  That's all I have to say.  For the moment.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Can You Say Jealous?

I sure can.  So. So. Jealous.



Life just ain't fair, I tell ya.

H/T to Lex

Friday, November 26, 2010

Opportunity Knocks Lane

I went with my husband earlier this week to check out a local "work centre", which (according to their website) offers "upgrading, personal and social development, vocational skills, individual counselling and job development" - HWWNBN is debating changing careers after so unexpectedly and, dare I say, rudely losing his job earlier this month.

Never having been to the location before, but knowing we were in the right area, we were watching closely for a sign that would lead us where we needed to go.  Turns out the Centre is located on ... wait for it ... "Opportunity Lane".  Which struck me as one of the funniest street signs I have seen in a long time. 

And which was reinforced even more when later that morning we were sitting in a boardroom waiting for the tour to begin - I couldn't help but look out at the dreary gray sky and wonder when Mary Poppins might float down, umbrella in hand, "singing in the rain"



Yes, I do realize that I am somewhat mixing my cinematographic references but that, my dear reader, was exactly how it happened. 

Or, in other words- That's my story.  And I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stress Reliever

My apologies for the light blogging since my return from Boston but things have been more than a little ... shall we say stressful ... here in Free Falling land.

Although I had a blast in Boston, my body, apparently, had a different take on the subject.  Meaning that I, not unexpectedly, felt myself starting to crash shortly after my return home.  Which was okay, I was expecting that and more than willing to live with it.

What I wasn't prepared to live with (although apparently I didn't have much say in the matter) was my husband's completely unexpected dismissal from his employment shortly after my return.  And not just any employment, but the job he's been at for the past 15 years.  Dismissed as in walk in to work one morning and hear the words "You might as well go home". Go home. With no notice.  No pay.  No nothing.

And, yes, before you go there, you're absolutely right - his (former) employer can't do that.  And he won't be allowed to do that although that is exactly what is happening at the moment.   And, just to put the icing on the cake, that job loss also resulted in the loss of our health insurance.

Can you say Fun, Fun, Fun?  Well, I can't. 

In addition to the fact that I've grown rather partial to paying our bills, we have very high drug costs.  Mostly because of me.  And those same drugs are what allow me to keep working.  So now what?

Yeah, I did mention it's been a bit stressful around here, haven't I?

And so now we reach the point of this post ... yes, believe it or not, there almost is one.

Moseying back through the blog the other day, I came upon this post.   This, which I hadn't played since my return from Boston.  Something made me click the Play button.  And I was so glad I did.

I have just discovered what I'm sure is destined to be my prime stress relievor at the moment - and, yes, I do realize that might make me a very pathetic individual.  But whatever works, I say. 

There's something about just singing along and belting out "I just wanna get you out of Teterboro.  We want to leave but they won't let us go.  Just heard on the radio, we're stuck in Teterboro" which is very, very good for the soul.  Go ahead.  Try it.  I will wait.

It might help, of course, that the Kit Kat was initially as taken with the video as I was and comes a'running the moment she hears the music.  For to sing along with her dear mother.  We do rather enjoy laughing at ourselves.

And so, for now dear friends, I can't but leave you with Mike and his feelings on Teterboro.

Which will have to take the place, at least for the moment, of my other blogging - that which I can't quite convince myself to do at the moment.  There's the whole issue of the white versus red poppy on Remembrance Day (there's no doubt a place for both but not in the same month and certainly not on the same day, says I),  Canada's sudden surprise unexpected (that's sarcasm by the way) decision to stay on in Afghanistan in a "non-combat" role until 2014 and the Supreme Court of Canada's latest decision setting out the fact that that we have no right to counsel during police interrogation.

Such is life. For the moment I appear to be the proud holder of an open-ended multiple return trip to Teterboro. Until we meet again, then ...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yet Another 'Pittance of Time' ...

Yes, I realize you've seen it before.



As you no doubt will again.

... If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep though Poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
- John McCrae

Monday, November 1, 2010

Fell Fast. Fell Hard.

That's about all I have to say for now.

The trip was wonderful.  I must be a very visual person as I tend to take an immediate like or dislike to a city.  Based on things like trees and parks.  And water.  Water is very important.

And so it was that I fell hard for Boston. 

It actually reminds me a lot of Halifax (another city I love but, I must confess, now not as much as Boston).  It's much, much larger, of course, but parts of it just seem like larger pieces of Halifax.  The Public Gardens being one.  The harbour (very different but still close enough).  A Halifax Commons and a Boston Commons.  The mix of old and new buildings - although, admittedly, Boston has kept many, many more of their its historical buildings.

Doing the city in chunks, as we did, I failed, at first, to realize how large it is.  Until I looked out from the Skywalk Observatory, that is.  That was just Wow.

More later.  For now it suffice to say that it was a wonderful trip.  I had a great time with doorkeeper and was honoured to finally meet, in person, some great virtual friends.  Which could be the subject of a post all of it's own ... and likely will be at some point!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

New England Adventure

Massachusetts has been the wheel within New England, and Boston the wheel within Massachusetts. Boston therefore is often called the "hub of the world," since it has been the source and fountain of the ideas that have reared and made America.

Author: Rev. F.B. Zinckle
Well, that may or may not be accurate. Personally, I'm thinking not.

But be that as it may, tomorrow is the day I jet off to Boston for a week.  One week.  Seven entire days.  No husband.  No kids.  No offence meant.  But boy, does that sound good!

For some unknown (at least to me) reason, I have wanted to visit Boston ever since I moved to the East Coast some 25 years ago. * Wait, I can't be that old.*  Not quite sure why, just thought it would be cool.  And that if a person was to be heading that way, they might as well check out Salem too.

So that is the plan.  A hotel slightly out of Boston - much cheaper that way.  Rent a car for a day to take a trip to Salem.  Sight see. Swim in the hotel pool. Drink lots of  some wine. Sleep. Relax.

Now what have I forgotten?

Wait, I know!  Only the most important thing. 

My good friend, Doorkeeper, is heading east from the wilds of Pennsylvania to meet me in Boston.  Girls' week out!  So that is cool. Veddy veddy cool.

And, as long as we're speaking of cool, the plan is also to meet up with Kris (of the infamous Kris of New England) and her hubby for a day of sight seeing.  Having known Kris *only* through Lex for the past ... six years ... I always look forward to actually meeting internet friends.  Where the virtual collides with the ... non-virtual. 

Yeah, I know.  I do need some sleep. But plenty of time for that on the plane.

Speaking of which (what which exactly were we speaking of again?) Doorkeeper, herself, was once upon a time an internet friend who I was honoured to meet some ... six years .... ago (wait, do I see a pattern here?) in California.  Yep, definitely a pattern.

Okay, I will leave now.  Before I subject you to any more of my twisted ramblings. 

Wish me Bon voyage, will ya?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Water Water Everywhere?

Once upon a time.

Once upon a time, I use to be heavily involved in international development issues, particularly as they related to children.  Yup, that's my catch, children.  Always has been, likely always will be.

But in my pre-disability days, before I knew what an IPP was, long before I had ever heard of a Program Planning Team (let alone knew that I was to be a member of many) ... I was involved with a group called Results Canada.

Results (they are active in many countries around the world including Australia, Germany, Japan, Mexico, United Kingdom and the United States) is a volunteer political action group dedicated to "creating the political will to end global poverty and needless suffering, and to demonstrating that individuals make a difference when they exercise their political influence".  It was pure political advocacy work - coordinating a media strategy; letters, letters and more letters to newspapers and politicians; community outreach and fundraising to keep the mostly volunteer organization going.

It was good work, work where you felt you might just be making a difference in the world.  I once had a politician ask me why I, personally, was involved in this work.  I walked him to my office and silently pointed to the picture on my desk of my then 3-month-old child. Enough said.  He got it.

Can one person really make a difference? Yes, I believe they can.  And how many times is that difference magnified when that one person works in unison with others of a like mind?

But life took over - a challenged child with a significant health issue sucked up much of my time and emotional and mental energy.  And as she grew (particularly as she got closer to school age), I realized that a person can only do so much.  And it seemed that there was much I could and should be doing to help others right here in my own Province.  I still supported (and continue to support) what Results is trying to accomplish but my political activity shifted much closer to home as I focused on assisting challenged children and their families navigate our province's educational and community services, to ensure that they had access to the services they are entitled to.

But then I received an email last week - an email "reminding" me that this year's Blog Action theme is water - access to clean water in developing countries, the over-consumption of water in developed countries, water and the environment and "water solutions".  One item in particular in that list struck a chord in me - and you might just guess why based on my previous involvement with Results.

One of the many issues we dealt with at Results was access to clean water - can there be any more basic a need?  Monthly actions and ongoing campaigns were picked based on strategic opportunity, political climate, context, and impact and issues were usually ones where there was a proven, cost-effective solution and for which there are not many champions.  Issues like child and maternal health, sanitation and hygiene, primary education and microfinance - that last of which is an amazing subject, by the way, well deserving of its own post. Perhaps for another day.


Did You Know?
Did you know that unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war?  Water, or rather lack thereof, causes 42,000 deaths each week.

That more people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet? Today, 2.5 billion people lack access to toilets. This means that sewage spills into rivers and streams, contaminating drinking water and causing disease.

That every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water? They do this while carrying cisterns weighing around 40 pounds when filled in order to gather water that, in many cases, is still polluted.

That it takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger? That 6.3 gallons covers everything from watering the wheat for the bun and providing water for the cow to cooking the patty and baking the bun.

That the average North American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world? From showering and washing our hands to watering our lawns and washing our cars, we use a lot of water. To put things into perspective, the average five-minute shower will use about 10 gallons of water. No wonder the Navy doesn't allow Hollywood showers!

While these facts may be grim, there is hope for real solutions as more and more people around the world are waking up to the clean water crisis. Earlier this year, the UN declared access to clean water a human right and groups like charity: water and Water.org continue to work tirelessly to bring water access to the developing world.

No, I am not advocating that we all dress in ashes and sackcloth and repent for our sin of living in an industrialized country.  I know I'm not going to anyway!

What I am suggesting is awareness - it's been a long time since I, myself, have turned my mind to these issues on anything approaching a regular basis and when I looked today at the statistics on how many children die every day from lack of primary health care and clean water or for the want of simple and cost-effective interventions such as breastfeeding, prevention of mother-to child transmission of HIV, immunization, micro-nutrients, and oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhea .... it makes me very very sad.  It reminds me of just how lucky my family and I are.  And it turns my mind back to the obligation we, who have so much, have to those who have so little.

Margaret Mead is famous for the words, "Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  

Whether we work in concert with those of like mind (be it paid or volunteer), teach and remind our children that there is a much, much bigger world than that they can see from their back yard or direct our attention on occasion to those charities with a proven track record of dealing successfully with some of the most basic of human needs around the world, I believe know we all have a part to play.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Let's All Go to Teterboro

For my brother. 

And all those other sucker corporate commercial pilots out there.  

Stuck in Teterboro.



And because it's a lot of fun to sing along.

Enjoy!

H/T to Lex

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Let The Band Play On

I see that Nova Scotia's automobile insurers are crying in their champagne beer again, this time over the Dexter's government minor changes to the "minor injury" cap.  Oh dear, what can the matter be?  Cue the world's smallest violins.

Of course, they're not just crying about it, they're eminently more practical than that -  the line up out the door of the Utility and Review Board no doubt snakes down the block.  Because even though they still have no idea of how, exactly, the changes will actually affect their bottom lines, they know it can't be good.
The Dominion of Canada General Insurance Co. said the changes will reverse the trend of declining bodily injury premiums.

Dominion vice-president Steve Whitelaw said the new definition is narrower and will cause fewer claimants to be within the minor injury definition, resulting in higher frequency.

"Combined with the trebling of the minor injury cap amount and its future indexing, there will certainly be an increase in associated costs," he said a written submission.
So then, let's recap, shall we?

In November, 2003, the provincial government passed legislation imposing a $2,500 cap on general damage awards for "minor injuries".  Which, there were only a couple of problems with that.

One being that the statutory definition of  a "minor injury" was so ridiculously restrictive that it eliminated, not only what you and I would consider a "minor injury", but the vast majority of injury claims, including people who suffered fractures, some forms of disfiguring injuries, and long term chronic pain. "Minor injury", right?

The second issue was that, really, limiting compensation for all whiplash injuries, as just one example, to $2,500 was ridiculous.  No, believe it or not, I am not in the camp of the many who would advocate removing such a cap altogether.  Although there was no danger of it happening any time within the next century in Nova Scotia, it's no stretch to say that awards for pain and suffering for whiplash injuries have gotten out of hand in many jurisdictions.  So, sure, let's have a cap.  But let's make sure the term "minor injuries' is defined to actually mean minor injuries.  And let's set the cap at a more reasonable level ... like maybe $10.000, for example. 

Now the thing to realize here is that I am not advocating that every individual with a whiplash-type injury or a sore neck for a week or two should be awarded $10,000.  The word "cap" means exactly that. A cap. As in this is the maximum amount you can be awarded for this type of injury.  But if your injury is assessed as being worth less than that, as being worth $2,000 or $5,000, then that's what you will receive.  It's just that you will receive no more than the capped amount for this type of injury.

And yet the 2003 legislation. as written, was the least of our problems.  Something much more egregious was happening.  And there was no way to fault the government for this one - it was purely the work of the insurance companies.

Let's say I was involved in a motor vehicle accident in October, 2003  and suffered a moderate whiplash. And let's say my insurance company and I went to court to have the judge determine how much I was entitled to for pain and suffering.  And let's also say that that judge awarded me $15,000 for that injury.

Now, let's say I had that very same motor vehicle accident, suffering that exact same injury in December, 2003.  The reasonably intelligent person might presume that if I went to court I would have been awarded $2,500, the amount of the cap, right?  Well, apparently, your friendly neighbourhood insurer isn't at all related to a reasonably intelligent person because insurers were offering individuals in such circumstances much, much less than $2,500. 

Even though their injury would have been assessed at $15,000 prior to the cap (which the insurers well knew), all some insurers were telling people that the $2,500, the maximum available under the cap, was really only reserved for those who had the worst possible types of "minor injuries", remembering, of course, that the definition of a "minor injury" included individuals with fractures and long term chronic pain.  So, you, you poor sucker, having suffered an injury that was worth $15,000 the day prior to the cap being legislated, you were now only entitled to ... oh, let's say .... $1,000.

Now remember, no court had ever ruled on such a case, had ever declared that this was how the cap was to be interpreted.  This was something the insurance companies came up with entirely on their own.  And no, nobody could take it to court to find out because with compensation capped at $2,500 for minor injuries, no lawyer was willing to take the matter on, certainly not on a contingency basis, at any rate.

So, how do you think all that was playing out for Nova Scotia's insurers? 

Can you say hog heaven? 

Of course, that government mandated 20% decrease in insurance rates didn't bother them too much - after all, it was only mandated for the first year after the cap was imposed.  After that it was Bob's your Uncle ... excuse me, let's make that Bob's your very well off handsomely paid Uncle.

And then, lo and behold, tragedy of all tragedies ... the NDP government dares, dares to restrict the  definition of a minor injury to sprains, strains and certain kinds of whiplash. That's right, they dared to bring the definition more in line with what the insurance industry had  asked for when they were lobbying for the original minor injury cap. How dare they?!

And, you're not going to believe this, but that same government had unmitigated gull to raise the cap on such injuries to a much more reasonable level! I mean, no wonder those poor insurers are crying in their champagne beer.

So, yeah, in case you can't tell, I'm not feeling a whole lot sympathy empathy nothing for Nova Scotia's insurance industry at the moment.  Because, really, when you think about it, they're still getting a pretty good deal.  And it's well past time for Nova Scotia consumers to be getting a better deal, too.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

If I Had My Druthers ...

A bit of a personal missive this evening (I know - most of them are lately) - some of my readers will know that I have two children with special needs.  Two teenage children, to be exact.  My oldest daughter has a laundry list of labels and diagnoses - mentally challenged, PPD, speech/language disorder ... none of which accurately describe her - and my youngest has a learning disability.

As I walked out of my oldest daughter's IPP meeting today and into the bright sunshine, it struck me that many days it really doesn't seem to matter how much or how well you think you know the law or which government entity is responsible for this or that - creating something meaningful and functional for our children seems nearly an impossibility.  The key words here are, of course, meaningful and functional.

It I had my druthers, Nova Scotia's Canada's education law would be very similar to that in the US.  We would have legislation similar to IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) - which, admittedly, would be somewhat difficult given that IDEA is a federal law whereas, in Canada, education is a provincial responsibility - which actually had some teeth in it, which actually gave parents meaningful rights and a process to challenge a school or school board's actions (or inaction). 

Yes, that's what we would have as opposed to the current namby pamby wishy washy excuse we have for legislation - legislation which uses much of the language in IDEA (such as guaranteeing our children an "appropriate education") but lacks both the process and the teeth to back it up.

I have definitely discovered that high school is a whole new ball game when it comes to IPPs.  From everything from the way they are created to the way they are reviewed and implemented, it is, quite simply, different.  And much harder, from a parent's point of view (or at least from my point of view) to meaningfully participate, to offer meaningful input that is actually included in the IPP and to get information as to how well the goals, once they are finally created, are (or are not) being met (and no, I don't mean the pathetic excuse for "reporting" that is passed off as report cards).

Although it took a long time for IDEA (as it exists today) to emerge, it also took a lot of parental involvement and advocacy.  And I can't help but think that's the only thing that is going to move Canada's educational systems for children with special needs forward.

In the meantime, I suppose we will all just keep putting one foot in front of another.  And keep hoping that somehow, through it all, we can manage to actually obtain an appropriate education for our children.

There's only one problem with that, of course.

Hope isn't actually a strategy.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Flaw in Women *

Women have strengths that amaze men.....
They bear hardships and they carry burdens,
But they hold happiness, love and joy.

They smile when they want to scream.
They sing when they want to cry.
They cry when they are happy
And laugh when they are nervous.

They fight for what they believe in.
They stand up to injustice.
They don't take "no" for an answer
When they believe there is a better solution.

They go without so their family can have.
They go to the doctor with a frightened friend.

They love unconditionally.

They cry when their children excel
And cheer when their friends get awards.
They are happy when they hear about
A birth or a wedding.

Their hearts break when a friend dies.
They grieve at the loss of a family member,
Yet they are strong when they
Think there is no strength left.

They know that a hug and a kiss
Can heal a broken heart.

Women come in all shapes, sizes and colors.

They'll drive, fly, walk, run or e-mail you
To show how much they care about you.

The heart of a woman is what
Makes the world keep turning.

They bring joy, hope and love.
They have compassion and ideas.
They give moral support to their
Family and friends.

Women have vital things to say
And everything to give.

HOWEVER, IF THERE IS ONE FLAW IN WOMEN,
IT IS THAT THEY FORGET THEIR WORTH.

Please pass this along to all your women friends and relatives to remind them just how amazing they are.

H/T to Eileen

* Not to offend the other half of my readership but ... if you can come up with a good one for men, I promise to post it!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Memories

On the road again for our once every two year visit to the IWK, this evening I find myself sitting at Ronald MacDonald House reminiscing.  It's funny, really, I've been to this place so many times, too numerous to count over the past 15 years.  But tonight, somehow, feels different.

I've been here, very rarely, all alone while the Blue Jay was in hospital.  Very rarely because on the vast majority of times she has been hospitalized I have stayed with her in her room.  I've been here on occasion with just the Kit Kat and I've been here many many times, as I am tonight, with the Blue Jay.

But tonight my mind wanders back to those times long along ago.  I recall staying here once when the Kit Kat when she was very little (maybe a year old or less) while the Blue Jay was in the hospital.  There was my Mom, myself and little Kit Kat all in the Blue Jay's hospital room.  It was definitely going to get interesting.  That was, I think, the first time I ever stayed here, that anyone ever suggested I could.  So the Kit Kat and I stayed here while Mom stayed with the Blue Jay in the hospital.  Because it was going to be a little hard for all four of us to sleep in that hospital room, particularly when one of us was a breastfed infant.

I recall the Kit Kat crawling around the very room where I sit now typing this.  Crawling from the living room to the dining room to the delight of the various parents sitting at the tables.  I recall getting up every morning and heading to the IWK with the Kit Kat to spend the day with the Blue Jay and Mom.  And I recall coming back here every evening.

Then my mind turns to the numerous times I've stayed here with the Blue Jay over the years when she days full of various appointments at the hospital.   She was so little.  So cute. So excitable (think really cute flapping hands - yes, that is one of the signs of autism). And she absolutely loved staying here - it is a really nice place. Nice for the parents.  Nice for the kids.  Well, nice, if you don't stop to consider the reason why you're here.  Oh some of the stories I've heard ... They break your heart.

Another funny, though - the Blue Jay and I have stayed here so often that as the Kit Kat got older, she actually got jealous.  She had never stayed here after she had been an infant but had been in on occasion to pick me up so she had seen the place, checked it out.  Saw all the toys.  The kids.  The big screen TVs.  She wanted to stay too.  It just wasn't fair.

And it eventually ended up that she did.  She was booked for day surgery at the IWK and not knowing what time we would get out or how she would react to her first time under general anaesthetic, I told her we would spend the night here.  She was so happy, so excited.  Poor kid - as it turned out, she reacted whether badly to the anaesthetic and spent a very very sick evening here.  In fact, she was still sick in the middle of the night.  And the next morning.  Yeah, that was fun.

She demanded a do-over.  And she got that too eventually, when I finally managed to get her in for psych testing. Both neuropsych testing (which the Blue Jay has tomorrow) and the learning disability testing are pretty well all day affairs.  And because we have to be at the hospital so early in the morning, we come in the night before (witness tonight).  So she's stayed here twice over the years for that and she will actually be back again very soon.  In November, I think.

And yet it's not those times that my mind turns to tonight.  It's the times when both the Blue Jay and Kit Kat were so very little. Or, in the case of Kit Kat, not even here at all.  It's a strange sense of melancholy, it is. 

As an aside, I will tell you this - one very nice, but rather strange thing about being here, is the laziness allowed.  The not having a hundred things you know you should be doing.  Because, you know, you can't.  Not here.   So it's a lot of reading, watch some TV, check out the computer, chat with some parents, smile at some really cute little kids.  It's nice -  a forced mini-vacation.  Sounds strange, I'm sure, but it is what it is.

But tomorrow is another day.  A long day.  And so, for now, I will bid you a fond adieu. Enjoy your evening.  I know I will.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Theatre

I watched on the television news yesterday as the issue of the "Ground Zero mosque" (complicated by the Preacher from Hell who up until the last minute had appeared hell-bent on burning multiple copies of the Koran) spilled over into protests on the streets in New York on the anniversary of 9/11.

And it got me thinking.  In particular, it made me wonder, for those that hold the anniversary of 9/11 as something precious (or, for some, even sacred), how well do those sentiments mix with the political theatre we witnessed yesterday?

It seems to me that the anniversary of 9/11 should be a time of remembrance, a time of reflection.  Whatever your feelings on the Ground Zero mosque or Pastor Jones, I just can't see the justification for those issues spilling over into what occurred yesterday. 

I'm not suggesting that either one of the above aren't relevant, important issues - things that need to be discussed, debated and, yes, perhaps even protested.  But I just don't think those issues belonged on New York streets.  Not yesterday.

There were two different "camps" out there protesting so I am not condemning one side over the other.  I think that, in a sense, they both should be ashamed of themselves.  Or, at the very least, they should be seriously reconsidering the appropriateness of the choices they made yesterday. 

Because it was all about "choice' - nobody forced either side out on to the streets.  If you really believe these issues require public protest, then by all means protest - do so on September 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,  8, 9 and 10.   Do so on September 12, 13, 14 and 15 and onward, if you must.  But please have the respect to leave one day out of 365 clear of these type of activities.

Yes, I realize that both issues are all directly linked to 9/11 - some might go so far as to say that are a part of 9/11 or symbolize what 9/11 is all about.  I won't argue that point.

But can we not, for just one day, move the political theatre off of centre stage?  Can we not, just for one day, show the victims of 9/11 and their families the respect and dignity they deserve?  Is that really too much to ask?

The group that plans to build the Grand Zero mosque profess to be about "a platform for multi-faith dialogue", something that will strive to promote "inter-community peace, tolerance and understanding locally in New York City, nationally in America, and globally".  Both they and their supporters might want to consider that loud noisy protests on the very day dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives on 9/11 might not only be the antithesis of promitng "peace, tolerance and understanding" but could well be seen as very disrespectul of those victimes.

And those on the other side of the issue, who argue so strongly that allowing a mosque to be built so close to Ground Zero is a slap in the face to those victims and their families might want to consier affording those same victims and their families one day of dignity, quiet and remembrance.

To do otherwise is, in my opinion, pretty hypocrical of those on both sides of the issue.

I'm just saying.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me

That's right - today's my birthday!

Thank you.  Thank you very much.

What's that?  Oh, yes, of course.

Ahem. 29.  Again.

Still. Whatever ... I'm 29.  Honest.  Trust me!

All right, that's enough of that.  Time to move on.  Nothing else to see here.

So what did I do on this most ostentatious day of days, you ask.

Well, I'm pleased to report first on what I didn't do.  I didn't work. At all. Not one iota.  Friday is generally the day I go to Halifax to work so I am pleased to say that this week I didn't.

What I did do, well it may not sound like much, but I consider it a rather productive and positive day.  I met this morning with the Executive Director of the early intervention group that had contacted me about a speaking engagement.  So we set up the details for that presentation which will be in November.  And I am pleased to say that I am now booked for my very first paid speaking engagement ... which is kind of cool.

This afernoon I was off to another meeting, this one with my husband in connection with his Continuing Saga.  The meeting was quite positive, I think we might actually be making some progress.  I would could go into the details but ... nah, it's a long, stupid (albeit very stressful) story.  Trust me, you will be happier not having read it.  Suffice to say that the meeting this afternoon was very positive and the woman we met with, Mary, was not only quite nice but it appears that she is already moving some things forward for us.  Things that no one else would could seem to move forward up until now. 

Have you ever noticed that it seem relatively easy for people to be "nice" but it's often quite another thing to find someone who is actually helpful?

This evening it was out to supper with the family and some friends.  Followed by an absolutely decadent dessert.  Courtesy of the house.  Which didn't hurt any at all.

Oh yeah, one more thing - would you believe I "won" a trip to Cancun today?

Yeah, I know, beware the dreaded "Push 1 to hear what you've won" phone call.  But a few years ago I "won" a trip to Florida, admission to Walt Disney World and a cruise to the Bahamas. All online.  It was one of those "listen to our two speils where we try to convince you to buy time shares" deals.  And although it wasn't quite as appealing as it initially sounded, it really wasn't a bad trip. The only problem real with these "prizes" being that they tend not to include airfare.  Which is no slight consideration when you happen to hail from the Great White Up.

Still, I took the plunge and purchased my four person 7 day/6 night stay at a Cacun resort for the low price of $349.00.  And then purchased a second one (a carbon copy of the same deal) for a mere $99.  My original plan was to sell the second one to my brother since I know he has been planning on taking a trip to Mexico anyway.  Although the Kit Kat  pointed out that perhaps I should sell him the first one and keep the $99 one for myself.

Smart kid that.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How Do You Define Disability?

For some reason I simply CANNOT embed the video but you really need to watch this CBS story about Capt. Scott Smiley. 

Not just another inspirational story of a wounded American soldier, it might just make you question your whole perception of what exactly disability is.  And isn't.

So go.  Promise me you will watch the whole thing. Please.

H/T to Lex

Saturday, September 4, 2010

With Friends Like That ...

I just spent the better part of the morning with the Blue Jay, weeding out her "Friends" list on Facebook. We went from roughly 400 "friends" down to 173. Which, really, is just as ridiculous as the 400 number when you think about it.

Yeah, yeah, I know. It's Facebook, for goodness sake. Play the game and shoot for 1000. Maybe even 2000.

Which is all fine and good if that's what you're into. And you don't have various challenges.

A couple of the Blue Jay's "friends" (actually, kids from school that she barely knew, if at all) started having some very interesting chats with her this past summer. About boyfriend-girlfriend stuff. And what you should do with your boyfriend. In graphic detail. If you get my drift. Yeah, that's what I said.

We only came to find out about it by chance, when the Blue Jay made a comment to her sister about something she wanted to "do" to her "boyfriend" (I could write a whole post on that particular relationship but suffice to say that it's a very safe relationship for the Blue Jay while still giving her that social status of having a "boyfriend").

So. Yeah.

I mean you need to get this - although at times she is pure teen attitude and her body is that of a 17-year-old, mentally she's about equivalent to a 9-year-old. 

She has no interest in this stuff.  At least not until other people instigate it.  And instigate it they do.  And interested she becomes.  For the simple reason that she has been hearing that this is what everyone else does.  And all she wants is to fit in with everyone else.  To be like them and be accepted.

Leaving us suppose to do what exactly?

She is 17.  She doesn't understand why she can't be like other 17-year-olds.  Allowed to do the things they do and have the freedom they have.  Even though she has absolutely no interest in three-quarters of the things they do.  Let's just say that her real interests are at a much younger level.

And so we do our best to protect her from this foolishness.  To keep her safe while at the same time trying to do do the near polar opposite and foster her independence.

I've heard it said that kids don't come with a manual.  No joke.  But neither do kids with special needs and let me tell you - I could really, really use one right now.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

First Day of School

It's the first day back to school for the crew and, alas, I am feeling too sick to appreciate it at the moment.  I was fine until late last night when I started to get a sore throat.  I don't do well with fans or air conditioning blowing directly on me and at first I thought that was the culprit.  But there was no way I was turning that fan off ... I was dying as it was even with it on.

Then I woke up this morning and knew better - unless, of course, I have suddenly become allergic to all the fans of various shapes, sorts and sizes in my house.  In which case I'm thinking I'm in big trouble - they're not calling for a break in this weather until Earl makes it way through here sometime on the weekend. 

I could be concerned about the possibility of a hurricane, I suppose.  Except that I feel to lousy to actually care. Meh, life just isn't fair.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  I'm the first one to ask my kids what in the world ever made them think life was fair when they start that whine. Still, it's my blog and I'll whine if I want to ...

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heating Up

Although I'm not totally sure that the above title isn't just wishful thinking on my part (I know it definitely isn't when it comes to the weather ... sheesh), things appear to be heating up on the other side of my life - the legal side.   Or, more specifically, my legal passion.

Assuming I have any faithful readers left, you might recall that I spoke of creating a legal guardianship kit that families could use to obtain guardianship of a loved one with a disability without incurring the exorbitant cost of hiring a lawyer.  Well, I am pleased to advise that said Kit is, indeed, done. 

Silly me, I thought creating the Kit would be the difficult part.  Nope, turns out the harder part comes now.

Although I am not quite ready to release the Kit for public consumption (I am having a couple of lawyers who deal a lot with guardianship review the materials and will then register an official copyright), I now realize I have to figure out how to market the darn thing.  And apparently that means figuring out the who/what/when/where/how of a website where the Kit can be purchased and downloaded.

But (and here comes the good news) yesterday I received a completely unsolicited email from a group who would like me to do a presentation for them on guardianship.  And that is a very interesting development considering I have been scheming to hatch working on a plan on how to do similar presentations around the province, both as a way of educating people on the issues around guardianship and promoting the Kit.

The other interesting development (also yesterday) was an email from a person representing one of the groups that was successful in obtaining the government bid I spoke about earlier (alas, it was not meant to be us).  He had come across the blawg and was wondering if I could assist with finding host groups for their presentations.  At which point it occurred to me that what his group will be presenting about (the RDSP) would actually tie in quite nicely with a disability group offering three separate sessions to their members - one on guardianship, one on the RDSP and one on Henson Trusts. 

So, yeah, a little more scheming thinking going on there at the moment.

To be Continued ...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

For The Wisdom of Solomon

I read an interesting opinion piece in our provincial newspaper a couple of weeks ago. 

Entitled "Racist Parents, innocent children: What to do?", it referenced a Court of Appeal decision in New Jersey where three young siblings, with given names of Adolph Hitler, JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honsztynn Hinler Jeannie (apparently "Honszlynn Hitler" is meant to honour Heinrich Himmler, the Recihsfuhrer of the SS) were removed from their parents, with custody being transferred to the state. 

Is anyone out there actually wondering what got Children's Aid involved in the first place?

Although a family court had previously found insufficient evidence that the parents had abused or neglected their children, the three appeal court judges ruled that the parents had “recklessly created a risk of serious injury to their children by failing to protect the children from harm and failing to acknowledge and treat their disabilities". 

The children's names were not mentioned in the appeal decision and the court relied on other grounds to find the children were in need of protection (the ones noted in the news accounts being that both parents were unemployed and suffered from unspecified physical and psychological disabilities).

And I must say that although we don't have much detail as to the extent of the parents' "disabilities", it does seem rather strange that the state would be granted permanent guardianship solely on those enumerated grounds.  Or, at least not until after extensive services had been put in place in an effort to help the parents remedy their deficits.

The  New Jersey case mirrors a Canadian one where a young child in Manitoba went to school with a massive swastika on her arm and other slogans on her legs, including references to Adolf Hitler and the slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
Photos of the markings were shown in court.

“The meaning of that is that black people don’t belong,” the girl later explained to the social worker.

The woman told court Monday she was stunned by what transpired during an hour-long interview with the girl, who frequently used the N-word to describe blacks and said she believes strongly in what her parents taught her.
The girl also gave a graphic description of how to kill a black person, telling the social worker about using a spiked ball attached to a chain and then “whipping them until they die.”

The worker asked the girl if those ideas “scared her.”

“No, black people just need to die. That’s not scary. This is a white man’s world,” she replied.
Although the case was argued as having "nothing to do with infringing on free speech or expression" but rather “longstanding family dysfunction” (including drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, neglect, and criminal activity and associations), some, at least, have read the court's finding that the child and her younger brother were at risk of harm from their Nazi-sympathizing parents as proposing that the risk that the child would acquire racist attitudes was also grounds for removing them from their parents.

And the point has been rightfully made that these children were not originally removed from the home the reasons enumerated above; in fact, they were removed from their parents long before these details came out.  No, there's really no other way to spin it other than that they were taken because the children's aid workers didn't appreciate the racist beliefs of the parents.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I Wish I Could ... I Wish I Could ...

Having just returned from a 10-day vacation to Cape Breton Island a few days hence (yes, it was a great trip, thanks for asking), I shake my befuddled head and wonder Why, oh why, does "re-entry" seem to get more and more difficult as the years pass?

Trying to put my brain, house, work and life (somewhat in that order) back in order is definitely going to result in me needing another vacation. On account of my vacation.

I tell you this only because I dearly do want to blog a new post here. Honest, I do. For once, I even know of what I want to blog.

While we were away, I came across an article in our provincial paper (which I can no longer access electronically, alas!) which asked the question "Racist parents, innocent children: What to do?". Which I might well have blogged about then but for severe difficulties with the keyboard of a brand new lap top (!!) which pretty much killed the thought of doing anything which would actually involve ... you know ... typing.

And now, home at last, reunited with my trusty computer, I would really like to start that post.

But I simply can't. For the moment.

See above.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Returning 'Home'

For a girl raised on the prairies (with the exception of a few brief years in the foothills), the move to Cape Breton Nova Scotia was more than a bit of a culture shock.

I was barely 19 and enrolled in Cape Breton University UCCB for my first year of university. Knowing the grand total of one person in the entire Province and never having been past Tawanta before, I know that if I had really stopped and thought about what I was doing, I never would have did it. Fortunately, I wasn't so big into stopping and thinking in those days.

But, yeah, Cape Breton - definite culture shock. Albeit in a good kind of way.

I well recall walking down the street, people walking by and asking "How are you?" while I looked at them literally dumbstruck, wondering "Who are you?". It's not that we weren't friendly out West, it was just that we were a tad more ... reserved. But I soon got use to it and even came to enjoy being called "dear" at least two dozen times a day.

And although the people may have taken some getting use to, I fell in love with the island, itself, within the first few weeks.

I had moved in with a good friend and her parents and within the first few weeks we took a trip around the Trail. The Cabot Trail, that is. It was a long weekend (Labour Day, maybe?) and we took two days, stopping to camp in Cheticamp.

Prairie girl, remember?

One of my brother's favourite (bad) jokes is that he was raised on the Prairies. Where you could watch your dog run away for days. And days. And days.

Whatever. I warned you I thought it was a bad joke.

But with that trip around the Trail, probably around our first (certainly no later than our second) stop to get out of the car and look around, it happened.

I. Fell. In. Love. And fell hard.

The ocean absolutely mesmerized me. Climbing around on the rocks and carrying on was a lot of fun. But I soon discovered that I could easily sit on those rocks and just stare at the ocean. For hours.

And so, it was. I became (at least in my own mind) a Cape Bretoner. Or, at the very least, an honourary one.

I lived in Syndey for three years while I did my undergrad. It was during my last year at UCCB that I met my husband (to be). And although after that I lived in Halifax (another place I love) for three years while in law school and have lived in the Valley for the past 17 years, Cape Breton will always hold a special place in my heart.

And so when, a few years ago, I realized that my own girls have never been around the Cabot Trail (and have rarely been to the Island, for that matter - only once that they can now remember), I decided it was time to do something about that. That a Trip was long overdue - not a trip to Sydney to visit relatives but one where the girls could really experience the Cabot Trail.

And so it is that we leave tomorrow to spend a few weeks in Cape Breton. As it worked out, we will stay in 3 very different places - Dundee Resort (thanks to a very generous gift certificate from a friend) on the Bras D'Or Lakes, the Sea Parrot (on the Island's North Shore) and Inverness Beach Village - which, all in all, pretty well covers off a very large chunk of the Trail (and the Island, for that matter).

And so, it should be fun. We will visit family, lay on the beach, play in the waves, climb some rocks, have a few bonfires and enjoy our beverage(s) of choice.



The Home of my Heart ... Cape Breton.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Headlines: Clarification

Just to clarify, what really irritates me about this is that nobody I am neither asking nor suggesting that any provincial government should be paying out for liberation therapy at the moment.

What we're talking about here is funding for clinical trials.

Clinical trials, people.

After all, isn't that what everyone has been talking about - you can't possibly expect us to provide funding for new treatments unless we know they're both safe and effective? Anecdotal evidence just doesn't cut it, right?

Okay, fair enough.

But.

Exactly how much research is going to occur if nobody funds it?

Then again, I am probably looking at this all wrong.

I mean what better way to slow the rising costs of health care budgets then to tell people that they must patiently wait for clinical trials? And then make sure those same trials never occur?

It's brilliant.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Headlines

Yesterday, the Province of Saskatchewan stepped forward as the first in Canada to fund clinical trials for the latest media darling in the treatment of MS, commonly known as "liberation therapy".
In a striking departure from his political counterparts across the country, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says his government will finance clinical trials of liberation therapy, a contentious experimental procedure for multiple
sclerosis patients.

“There isn’t unanimity on the issue, I understand that,” Mr. Wall said on Tuesday. “But ... the province of Saskatchewan is willing to play a funding role.”

The move shunts Saskatchewan to the forefront of Canadian efforts to introduce a treatment that has researchers, politicians and the MS community divided over the roots of the mysterious nerve-wasting disease and the pace of Canadian medical research.
By the by, Premier Wall noted that Saskatchewan "has the highest rate of MS in the country", the issue being somewhat personal for him, apparently. No doubt because "there isn’t anybody who doesn’t have a family member or friend who is battling it”.

Did I ever mention that yours truly I your humble scribe hail from Saskatchewan?

And based on today's news reports, it looks rathter unfortunate that I hadn't stayed there.
Ontario will not follow Saskatchewan’s lead and fund clinical trials of a new operation that offers hope to people with multiple sclerosis, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Wednesday.

* * *

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger said Wednesday he won’t commit to funding trials of the liberation treatment.

Selinger said the Manitoba government is working with other provinces to continue to find the best ways to treat MS, but he wouldn’t commit to funding clinical trials.

No word on Nova Scotia yet ... Wait!

Wow, looks like a good thing I wasn't prepared to hold my breath.

So much for that idea.

One note of dark humour though (we might as well laugh, right?).

While slamming Nova Scotia's NDP party for this decision, the Liberal Health Critic might just have stepped in it.
Liberal health critic Diana Whalen said Nova Scotia has the highest per-capita rate of multiple sclerosis in Canada, so it makes sense to conduct the research in the province.
So, they can't both be right, can they?

I mean I couldn't possibly be that unlucky ... consider that I already live in a country known for having one of the highest prevalence rates of multiple sclerosis in the world.

Then, to add insult to injury, did I really move from the province with the highest per capita rate of MS in Canada to the province with the highest per capita rate of MS in Canada?

Geez, if it wasn't for bad luck, I would have no luck at all ...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Just Gotta Be Lovin' That 'Discrimation' ...

Don't use words too big for the subject. Don't say "infinitely" when you mean "very"; otherwise you'll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

C.S. Lewis

File this one under the category of pet peeves ...

We all have our collection of pet peeves, don't we? Things that drive us a little bit wacky (or wackier than usual).

So I've often wondered just how much a person's pet peeves say about the person themselves. What drives you nuts might cause me to simply shrug and walk away. And vice versa. So do the things that really get to us tell us anything about ourselves? And others?

The answer is, of course, that I don't really know. But I'm thinking maybe, for at least some of our pet peeves.

I could probably categorize my pet peeves, not that I have that many really, but most of them do tend to fall into fairly discrete categories. And one of my big ones has to do with people screwing up all manner of things legal.

Although this can show up in various ways (anyone ever pay close attention to the court scenes in television or movies?), the one that comes to mind today is people who throw around legal terms without a clue of what they really mean.

For example, people who equate rudeness with discrimination. Or assume that anything that offends them must constitute discrimination. Well, either that or a "hate crime", of course.

And so it was that I opened today's newspaper to find that Neil Rideout considers police enforcement of a section of the Motor Vehicle Act providing that the only motorized vehicles allowed on sidewalks are wheelchairs to be discriminatory. Against him. Because he was "pulled over" for driving a motorized cooler on the sidewalk.

That's right - I actually said "cooler". As in Coleman. The story itself is rather amusing, complete with a police officer asking if he could search the "vehicle".

But what isn't so amusing (at least to me) is Mr. Rideout's contention that he's being "discriminated" against because there is also no provision in the Motor Vehicle Act for electric scooters or motorized kids' toys. Which, I can only presume, he is implying are not being "pulled over" by police.

"Son, stop that Tonka right now and put your hands where I can see them".

But all humour aside, as I've said before, real instances of discrimination do to occur. As does racism. And real hate crimes (against people with disabilities, for example).

There are dangerous consequences to thinking and acting like Humpty Dumpty, I fear.


Because when we, as a society, find discrimination (and racism and hate crimes) lurking under every rock or in every bizarre comment someone makes, we are marginalizing the whole concept to the point of meaninglessness.

And then what word will we have to describe it when it really occurs?

So, yeah, maybe this one is a little bigger than a pet peeve for me ...

Words of Wisdom

Just not mine.
I grew up with practical parents who had been frightened by the Great Depression in the 1930′s. A mother, God love her, who washed aluminum foil after she cooked in it, then reused it. She was the original recycle queen, before they had a name for it. A father who was happier getting old shoes fixed than buying new ones.

Their marriage was good, their dreams focused. Their best friends lived barely a wave away. I can see them now, Dad in trousers, tee shirt and a hat and Mom in a house dress, lawn mower in one hand, and dish-towel in the other. It was the time for fixing things: a curtain rod, the kitchen radio, screen door, the oven door, the hem in a dress. Things we keep.

It was a way of life, and sometimes it made me crazy. All that repairing, eating, renewing, I wanted just once to be wasteful. Waste meant affluence. Throwing things away meant you knew there’d always be more.

But then my father died, and on that clear fall night, in the warmth of the hospital room, I was struck with the pain of learning that sometimes there isn’t any more.

Sometimes, what we care about most gets all used up and goes away … Never to return. So .. While we have it … it’s best we love it .. And care for it … And fix it when it’s broken … And heal it when it’s sick.

This is true … For marriage … And old cars … And children with bad report cards … And dogs and cats with bad hips .. And aging parents … And grandparents. We keep them because they are worth it, because we are worth it. Some things we keep. Like a best friend that moved away or a classmate we grew up with.

There are just some things that make life important, like people we know who are special … And so, we keep them close!
H/T to Mongo at Lex's

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Why??

Deborah, Ashley's mom over at Pipecleaner Dreams, asked a most excellent question yesterday - Why?

Musing about group homes, day programs and school classrooms one of her daughters has and does know, she simply asks "Why?".
Why don’t people with disabilities deserve lightness, bright rooms, cheery kitchens and the occasional barbecue outside? Why can’t they assist in planting flowers and a vegetable garden at their group homes? Why can’t the draperies be opened more frequently and why can’t pleasant music be playing in the background rather than the constant din of the television?

How can we expect children with disabilities to be excited about going to school when the being there provides nothing visually stimulating? Do school districts think our students with disabilities will learn more if there is nothing but plain green walls to distract them? Why aren't there 'spirit' posters and announcements of school dances in the 'special education' hall? In fact, why is there even a 'special education' hall?

How can we expect our children with disabilities to learn and grow at their day support programs when they dread going there? Why can’t there be celebrations and joy in the places they spend the majority of their day - maybe ice cream sundaes and cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles? Why can't the staff smile more - do they really hate their jobs as much as their faces seem to say? Why must their lives be filled with darkness and gloom? Again, a little paint would go a long way to improving everyone’s moods.
Answers?

Anyone care to take a crack at it? Anyone at all?

After all, if it were typical children housed or educated in such conditions, parents would be screaming bloody murder, would they not? The community would quickly respond and whoever was operating the institution would likely be shamed into compliance. And, if not, their "customers" would soon be gone elsewhere.

And yet that's not the case here. Why not?

I have a few ideas - ideas formed from years of battles, negotiations and compromises with teachers, doctors and bureaucrats. Yes, a few ideas - and they're all quite sad if true.

My first thought is that, in large part, these situations continue because many people "think" that those who are challenged don't notice their surroundings that much anyway, so it doesn't really matter.

Actually, I doubt that many people even get that far in their thinking. Most people likely don't think about it at all. But for those that have no choice but to confront it (those that are perhaps forced into actually facing these conditions day in and day out as employees), I would not be surprised if, for many, that that is their thought process. Or, at least, what passes for a thought process.

Forget the research that shows how important the characteristics of the physical environment are to a child's learning. That only applies to children. Real children. Real people. Like you and me.

Do we really need research to tell us what we already know, to "prove" that which is really only common sense - that a mentally challenged person is first a person; that the physical environment is just as important for him or her as it is for you and I?

I also think that some people condone the present situation as a way to save "scarce" resources - why spend time and money on such things when it doesn't matter much anyway (see above)? And when there are so many other places that need repairing and updating - places where typical children are educated, for example.

The most guilty of all would be those who question why time and money should be spent in such places when they regard (whether consciously or unconsciously) the individuals who live, work or go to school there as "less than".

As in noticing less than others.

Needing less than others.

Deserving less than others.

And although the case might be made that this is not a condition confined to the disabled, that individuals in poorer communities or the aged, for example, often experience similar physical environments, I have to ask how that justifies any of it.

Is it really okay to treat any segment of the population (be it on the basis of ability, age, income or race) as less than, as being as entitled to less than what the community would accept for it's own children or other family members?

Is there ever any justification for any one of us, personally, to consider it acceptable for any segment of the population to be treated with any less care, compassion and consideration than that we would expect demand for our own family members?

How do you justify the unjustifiable?

Anybody?

Friday, July 16, 2010

And Just How Do We Honour the Victims?

"In Canada all girls and women are equal to men under the law and have the right to live free from violence and abuse."

Rona Ambrose, Minister responsible for the status of women
Let's a few minutes and talk about a practice called "honour killings".

That's right, honour killings - “murders carried out in order to cleanse the family name and restore the family honour.”

You can read some real horror stories surrounding honour killing (as if the practice, in and of itself, is not horrific enough) if you're so inclined, including the story of a 16-year-old mentally retarded girl who, after being raped was turned over to her tribe's judicial council in Pakistan. Where, even though the crime was reported to the police and the perpetrator was arrested, it was decided that she "had brought shame to her tribe". She was killed in front of a tribal gathering.

Then there's the story of Samia Imran, whose murder in broad daylight, was abetted by her mother (a doctor) and occurred in the office of a prominent Pakistani lawyer and the UN reporter on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions.

Right, doesn't that have echoes of the United Nations electing Iran to its Commission on the Status of Women, handing a four-year seat on the influential human rights body to a theocratic state in which stoning is enshrined in law and lashings are required for women judged "immodest"?

But let's put that little unpleasantness aside for the moment and return to the subject at hand, shall we?

You remember, honour killings.

Unfortunately, Canada is not immune.

16-year-old Aqsa Parvez might be the most widely talked about [you can read Asqua's entire story here] case of honour killing in Canada but she is far from the first.
A 14-year-old female rape victim is strangled to death in March 2004 by her father and brother because she has supposedly tarnished the family name.

In April 2004, a man brutally kills his wife and daughter after finding out that his brother had previously molested them.

A teenage girl with a Turkish background has her throat cut by her father after he learns she has a Christian boyfriend.

Which brings us to the question - should "honour killing" be added as a separate criminal offence in Canada?

For better or for worse, apparently, that's the latest politcal buzz.

Following the release of a report from the Frontier Centre for Public Policy (whoever the heck they are) this week entitled "Culturally-Driven Violence Against Women: A growing problem in Canada’s immigrant communities", Rona Ambrose, the minister responsible for the status of women, publicly stated that the government is "looking at" adding "honour killing" as a separate charge to the Criminal Code.

Apparently, she also "affirmed" the federal government's "zero-tolerance stance" against "honour killing," declaring such "barbaric cultural practices" as "heinous abuses" that have no place in Canadian society.

That whole zero tolerance thing kind of makes sense I suppose - considering Canada already has (as do all other civilized countries) a law or two on the books that tend to kick in whenever someone ends up "killing" somebody else. Yeah, that whole "killing" thing might just get you a raised eyebrow or two in some circles. It's all so ... distasteful, you know.

But, yeah, that whole idea that maybe honour killing would become a separate charge under the Criminal Code - they sort of backpedalled on that, really rather quickly, I would say.
She was asked if the government was considering such changes, and she replied that it was under consideration.

"I'll say that it's something that we're looking at," she said. "Nothing more than that at this time."

However, when contacted for more details about possible changes, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice said in fact, that is not the case.

"There are currently no plans to do that," said Pamela Stephens.

"While we're always interested in new input into ways to improve the Criminal Code, currently honour killing suggests a certain motive or conduct. But regardless of the motive the law as it exists in Canada is clear that intentional killing is murder, regardless of the motive."
Quite frankly, the idea of making "honour killing" an entirely separate criminal offence seems a little over the top to this tired little legal mind.

We already have provision for culpable homicide, murder (both first and second degree) and manslaughter. We deal separately with "contracted murder", "murder of a peace officer", death caused when a person is committing or attempting to commit a hijacking, sexual assault, kidnapping, criminal harassment, terrorist activity or intimidation and death caused "for the benefit of, at the direction of or in association with a criminal organization".

Yeah, I think we pretty much got it covered. Don't you?

But where it might make more sense to make special provision for "honour killings" in our criminal justice system is in sentencing.

Under the so-called "hate crimes" amendments made to the Criminal Code in 1996, Canada considers evidence that an offence was "motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor" to be an aggravating factor in sentencing. As is evidence that the offender abused their spouse or common-law partner, abused a person under the age of eighteen years or abused a position of trust or authority in relation to the victim.

Which, although I suppose one or two of the above would no doubt be covered off under most honour killings anyway, why not just find some way to wordsmith honour killings (or any offence motivated by a desire to cleanse a family name and restore the family honour) in there while we're at it?

It's true enough that some among us will be appalled dare we do anything, including even dare to use the term "honour killing".

So where, exactly, would that leave us - trying to convince ourselves that honour killing isn't culture specific (that, you see, would be an example of "racial profiling") and that education would be “patronizing,” as the practice (if we are allowed to even call it that) is just part of the larger problem of crime and violence in general? Or, perhaps, just another example of garden-variety "domestic violence"?

We can bury our heads in the sand all we wish, I suppose. But that does nothing to assist (or honour - what a strange use of words) those women (many just in their teens) who are being murdered by their own families right here in Canada.

Including the fact that a murder is an honour killing as an aggravating factor in sentencing might well be only "symbolic", as some suggest.

But at least it will symbolize something.

At least it should get more Canadians talking about the issue.

At least, we will be taking one small first step forward in trying to ensure that Minister Ambrose's words actually mean more than paper they're written on - that in Canada all girls and women are equal to men under the law and have the right to live free from violence and abuse.

Sounds nice, doesn't it?