Saturday, February 27, 2010

Wish Me Luck, Eh?

Just taking a break from the fun this weekend - that being working on a response to a Request for Proposals for a federal government contract.

Yeah. That's what I said. And that's exactly what I thought, too.

Having never come near doing anything like this before I was intrigued by an email landing in my inbox earlier this month. The federal gov't being looking to contract with organization to educate people with disabilities and their families about and applying for the RDSP (Registered Disability Savings Plan).

Seein' as how I'm somewhat taken with the RDSP, having written a bit here and there on the topic. And being on a committee to have it implemented in each province. Having opened two - one for each kidlet. And even having given a presentation here and there on the topic.

Alas, I needed to be an "organization", though. One with a corporate profile showing four or more years in operation and previous experience serving people with disabilities in their families. Which, personally, I have more than four years experience in that. But as an organization? Not so much.

About having given up on the idea, things suddenly started to come together just this past week. And from Monday to Friday I went from asking an organization if they might be interested to a decision being made to give it a go.

So it's busy we are now. And somewhat lost at sea. Given that the deadline to get the proposal in is Wednesday. As in 3 days away.

We're going to have fun, fun, fun ...

Oh well, wish us luck, eh?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

On 'Why We Fight'

At the continued urging of a close friend, I watched the documentary film "Why We Fight" on DVD last night.

The film over, I wondered idly why my friend was so anxious to have me view it. After all, it hadn't really told me much of anything I didn't already (think I) know.

There was that whole "military industrial complex" thing (which, from what I can tell, the mere mention of which can cause many on both sides of the political spectrum to see red and rant and rave on either how evil it is or what a pile a crap the whole concept is, take your pick). Although apparently more correctly-titled, from the man who first coined the phrase, the military-industrial-congressional complex.

Warnings about letting "the tail wag the dog", how the system takes on a life on its own; not so much that it goes "looking for a war" but how quick can it can be to respond and push policy in that direction if the chance presents itself.

Warnings about a congressional system in which the members have to bring home the pork the bacon, making what should be a decision about military spending essentially one about jobs for constituents. How it is often (always?) just about the big money involved. And warnings about behind-the-scenes think tanks pushing policy ... in the direction that they think it should go, I suppose.

I must say that I did find the story of Eisenhower's life quite interesting. Confessing that knowing that there was both a General Eisenhower and a President Eisenhower at some time in the United States' history being roughly the extent of my knowledge on that subject. He sounds life a very interesting man, the kind I would love to sit down and chat with over a cup of tea.

The US invasion of Iraq was pretty much pillaged in the film. But since I never was in favour of that move, never felt that the intelligence on whether or not there were actually weapons of mass destruction present was strong enough to justify that action, there wasn't much of anything new for me there either.

Although I must admit that good points were made as to how the public (and the politicians, too, to an extent, I imagine) have been duped into thinking that so-called smart weapons are so much smarter, so much more accurate than they actually are.

Making the idea of waging a particular war perhaps a little more palatable, a little more acceptable with the thinking that we can strike with supposed precision and leave the innocent civilians unscathed. On which point, one might want to check with the citizens of both Iraq and Afghanistan.

But what I found most interesting about the film was buried in the "Special Features" section. Two interviews given by the film's producer, Eugene Jarkecki; one with Jon Stewart on the Daily Show and one on Charlie Rose.

I appreciated Jarecki's even-handedness, how he gently corrected the erroneous thinking of both interviewers, explicitly stating he was not about conspiracy theories and explaining that the point of the film was not about any particular party or any particular President. In fact, it wasn't even about the neo-cons (gasp). [My apologies - but it has now become my signature to add the appropriate gasp following every use of the dreaded word ... neo-cons.]

That the "enemy within the gates", so to speak (my terminology, not his) is a necessary system that has taken on a life of it's own. And how each and every one of us (he was, of course, speaking of and to the United States but it is unarguable that the point applies to every industrialized, developed country in today's world) has the responsibility and the duty to be aware and on guard.

To be on guard to ensure that the tail is not wagging the dog. To ensure that we hold our politicians accountable and that policy decisions are made by those that are accountable (as is so often, unfortunately, not the case in the world today). And to ensure that America, a country built on the principles of a republic, does not become an empire. Which is what President Eisenhower was warning against.

Good stuff. Valid points. So true.

As, unlike the Olympics are for the vast majority of us and contrary to what often appears to be public opinion, democracy?

Most definitely. Not. A. Spectator. Sport.

On another note, I found it interesting that an interview with Senator John McCain featured prominently in the film. Interesting because 90% of what Senator McCain had to say sounded to be in basic agreement with the words of President Eisenhower.

He spoke of the military/industrialist complex taking on a life of its own, of (if not actual corruption) a congressional system which allowed decisions to be made in very questionable ways and for very questionable reasons. How insidious it is. How we had to be aware of and on guard against it.

Which I thought was interesting considering that he was the Republican candidate in the recent 2008 election; the one whom (if you believed some a lot of the hype) candidate Obama had to save the country from. Well, from him and Sarah Palin, of course. But that's a story best for another day.

All in all, I'm glad I watched the film. Both for the (Eisenhower) history I learned and for the musings of Jarecki. Two interesting men with very valid points to make.

And in exchange for my watching "Why We Fight", my friend has agreed to read Palin's book, "Going Rogue".

Who knows, perhaps, he too will write a review for us?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Repeat Performance

I liked this the first time I posted it, back in May of 2008. Thought it was good advice.



A lot has happened in my life since then ... but I still think it's good advice.

Well worth a repeat performance.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Inspirational

I suppose we all find our inspiration in different places and different ways.

And yet I think that, for the most part, there are always a few common sources the majority of us draw from.

Our family. Our friends. Perhaps a legend who has gone before us in our field, whatever that may be. For others, it might be love of country. And, I suppose, for the rare few ... some super-hero. Yet most of , I suspect, find our inspiration closer to home. Often it is as close as the eyes of our children. Or someone else's.

And yet, it's not just individuals who require and rely on inspiration. So do countries.

I am happy to say that in 2010 Canada has found it's inspiration in the person of 22-year-old skier, Alexandre Bilodeau.

This is the third time that Canada has played host to the Olympics. And yet, it's the first time ever that we have won a gold medal on home soil. Have you ever heard an entire nation cheer? All at the same time?

Alexandre, in turns, finds inspiration in his older brother.

Frederic, 28, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age 10 and doctors told him he would lose the ability to walk.

Although he spends most of his time in a wheelchair, Frederic still walks — and skis.

During the final of the men's moguls, cameras showed Frederic cheering enthusiastically for his brother, jumping out of his seat and waving his arms in the air as soon as Alexandre crossed the line at the end of his gold-medal run.

Alexandre, 22, calls his older brother his inspiration.

His brother has helped him keep things in perspective all these years, during which he has won a world championship but was also stung by an 11th-place finish at the Torino Olympics in 2006.

"Even if it's raining, I'll take it, I'll go train," Bilodeau said. "He doesn't have that chance, and he's having a smile every morning he wakes up."
I listened to a few different interviews with Alexandre after his gold medal finish last night. He consistently referred to his brother, how important he was and is in his life, how he is, indeed, his inspiration.

Apparently, Alexandre loved hockey when he was little. And he was quite good at it. But it was the fact that his brother couldn't play hockey that motivated him to switch to skiing. Something his brother could do with him. And although Frederic obviously doesn't compete as a freestyle skier, he is his little brother's biggest supporter.

A nice story, eh?

A 22-year-old inspires a nation. And his 28-year-old brother inspires him. It's all so ... 'feel good'. Picture perfect.

And yet, it leaves me a little uncomfortable. And perhaps this isn't the time to bring it up, the morning after our first gold-medal win at home. But, if not now, then when?

I understand where Alexandre is coming from. Maybe not completely (not having grown up with a challenged sibling at home) but pretty darn close, I believe.

He is a young man that Canada can truly be proud of. Not just for his skiing ability, not "just" for this gold medal (as if that wouldn't be enough) but also for his character. His relationship with his brother tells us not just what kind of athlete he is, but what kind of human being he is. And that's something that we can be proud of, that we all can aspire to, long after the closing ceremony is over and everyone has gone home.

My discomfort, though, arises from what happens when we hold up individuals with various challenges as inspirational. Have you ever noticed that individuals with disabilities are often portrayed as either saints or sinners - they are either perpetually sweet-natured, amazing individuals who never give up, burdens to their amazing families or a danger to society? Nothing in between. And yet, as with all of us, they are neither all of one or the other.

The Biloldeau family has obviously done an awesome job raising their two sons; they too should be a source of inspiration for us all. And yet something tells me that all the interviews, the fist-pumping and hugs between the two brothers fails to capture the whole story. The real story. The private story.

I don't doubt for one minute that there were moments of true heartache and heart-break for that family.

My beef is quite simply this - we don't give families with disabled family members the types of support (either financially or in the form of services) that they so desperately need. And we don't portray individuals with disabilities in an accurate light. Rather we tend twist their reality and hold them up as one-dimensional indviduals. Either to be cried over, patted on the head and treated as perpetual children or to be feared and controlled.

Wouldn't you agree that there has to be so much more to Frederick Bilodeua (both "good" and "bad") and his life than being his brother's biggest cheer leader and source of inspiration?

That the brothers have such a wonderful relationship is a fact to be celebrated. But at the same time, I hope we come to recognize that in the same way that Alexandre is so much more than an amazing skier, his brother, too, is a real person with his own needs, his own desires, his own life. He is a person (with all that that entails, both good and bad) just like you and I.

So now that I've said my piece, I offer you ....

Alexandre Bilodeau



At the 2007 World Cup Freestyle mogul skiing in Tignes, France.

GO CANADA!!!


Monday, February 8, 2010

The Centre. Can. Not. Hold.

I really love blogging.

I thought I would tell you. Just in case you couldn't tell.

I've been at it for two and a half years now and manage two blogs. Admittedly, some days better than others.

And I am very conscious of the fact that if you blog on something approaching a semi-regular schedule, they will come. Of course, the converse is equally true. If you don't ... they won't.

But as I posted in my Under the Weather post, I have not been feeling well as of late. Really not feeling well. Not a simple cold or some other type of virus. But a major flare-up of a chronic health condition.

And so it as that life is piling up at the moment. As is, not coincidentally, the pile of stuff on my desk about which I would like to blog.

So now I ask the very serious question .... What's a middle-age woman girl to do?

And the answer, in all honesty, is that I don't know.

Obviously, this is about stuff a lot more serious than just blogging. [She says with no small amount of chagrin ... just blogging, indeed. Sacrilege!]

Work.

Two teenagers. Both running in very opposite directions at the moment.

A house. A home. A family.

I've been to the doctor. We've played with my meds. [Yes, doctor. More drugs. Please. More drugs.] So for now, I suppose, we wait and see.

And so it is that I ask my semi-regular following of two to stick this out with me. I want to keep this up. I really do. But, for the moment at least, it just doesn't seem doable.

I will still, no doubt, be found at my regular haunts (you know who you are). But as for own blogs ...

Now having said that, I could well be back in a day or two. Bright-eyed and busy-tailed. Or some variation thereof. So, hey, if writing this post ironically results in my "cure", I'll be the first in line to cheer. But if not ... all I can say is that I will be back. Eventually.

Until further notice then.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Comin' Up On a Week and a Half

Since I've posted.

I suppose it might be time to do something about that.

Ya think, DiNozzo?