What activities are planned for 2019

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Yes kittens, it has been a while since I have posted much online anywhere. I have been busily working away, and now is a good chance to sit down and tell you what’s been happening.

The book signings are ongoing for Brainstorm Revolution. (Available from Chapters in Canada, Amazon US and Amazon UK.) After an amazing launch last November in Barrie, the calendar is starting to show book signings happening throughout the province. Yes, I know, I do hear all of you who have been filling my Messenger inbox and e-mail inbox, and I promise we will get something in Toronto soon … conversations are ongoing at a few locations, downtown, midtown, uptown. As soon as there are confirmed bookings, I’ll share the event with you. Not every author is at every signing, I know I will be missing a number of them for the next while, and you’ll find out why as you read on.

As well, the first stage production from the stories in the book is coming up on Valentine’s Day in Barrie. Unconventional Love Stories will be the first of a number of events to happen throughout the province in various venues, with a mix of authors and themes for each event (If you went to each and every one, you would hear from all of the inspirational contributors in the book!). If you are looking for a fun night out in the theatre that will leave you touched, moved, and inspired, don’t miss out, buy your tickets now ($18 per person), and join us for the evening.

Katherine and I will be back in the classroom again in the coming semesters. Currently pencilled in are Humber College Lakeshore, University of Guelph-Humber, Ryerson University, University of Toronto, and more conversations that are taking place. Everyone is anxious to see the new lecture series on Victimization, Trauma, and Mental Health, along with bits of the previous series on the LGBTQ community and policing. We will be adding and subtracting from each series as we go, there’s always room for tweaking the materials, and, sometimes we are totally surprised by what content a professor will ask to have included in our lecture. As well, we have ongoing work with first responder organizations outside of Toronto, and educational work with TBTB and Serving With Pride.

While all this is happening, my sister-bestie-sidekick and I will be taping an hour for our favourite radio show on CIUT 89.5 FM, Rainbow Country. We will be talking about Katherine’s work as the National Program Administrator for Wings of Change Peer Support, my work as a Director and LGBTQ2S Liaison for the National Women in Law Enforcement Association, our education work with organizations and post-secondary institutions, and if there is time remaining in the hour, we will be discussing Brainstorm Revolution as well. We have been planning this conversation since early last fall, and finally found time in everyone’s schedules at the same time that we could make it happen.

Katherine and I have been working diligently on a new project since last fall. All I can tell you is that we are partnering with the top experts in the field, and once we have completed this project and are ready to roll it out, it will be the first of it’s kind ever. It’s quite exciting really, we do so enjoy the people we are working with, and we cannot wait until it is ready for beta testing and then a full rollout. It will be a complete game-changer in the fields we are targeting this for. Yes, I am being a total tease, but you will just have to sit and wait patiently and you will all find out at the same time when we announce it.

In the interim, things are really picking up with the National Women in Law Enforcement Association. Many new projects are being worked on currently, and we will be rolling them out as they are ready. I am keeping my fingers crossed for one big project, as it will definitely get conversations happening when it gets the green light. I must admit, it did seem odd the very first time I saw my title with the organization in print, “Director and LGBTQ2S Liaison”. Takes me a bit of time to get accustomed to these things, I’ve spent decades out of sight working behind the scenes, and it is still new for me to be out there more than before.

At the start of the new year, I did agree to take on an Advisor role for a mental health organization that continues to get the conversations happening to end the stigma around mental health. Yes, my dance card is starting to fill up nicely.

I’ve been working on my Professor Kitty look as there are a number of bigger events coming this year. (I still think it’s the glasses). It may prove useful for a webinar tentatively pencilled in for a group of facilitators this year.

Tentatively scheduled for the end of March, our trio of women with big hearts are going to be presenting a half-day seminar for Toronto Beyond The Blue. Our working title is “Everything you always wanted to know about transgender, but were afraid to ask.” Trust me, it will be a lot shorter title when the actual seminar is ready to roll. Four hours of information, personal stories, questions and answers, a lot of education and eye-opening facts. Giselle, Katherine, and I will be leading this program, for parents of trans kids, allies, and other service organizations and providers. Looking at the mounds of reference materials and updated knowledge we have, we are working to get it down to a four hour seminar, we think we could easily fill a full day. We will be sure to share how it went after the event happens, maybe with a photo or two of the presenters in action. The feedback should be fascinating, as there is so much misinformation, claptrap, and twaddle online, this may be the first time many are hearing from people who live it daily, along with the fierce allies who make life easier.

Coming up in the month of April, I have a tentative booking to deliver a full-day program for The Centre for Abuse and Trauma Therapy in Kingston, Ontario. Similar material to what we will be delivering in March, only this time, I’ll be flying solo, as my SBS is busy with another program at that time (we still do things solo, it’s just exponentially more fun when we work together). There will be sections on Trans 101-501, Victimization and Mental Health as specifically applicable to LGBTQ persons, and other topics yet to be decided. That should be an interesting experience, I’ve been so used to being solely Toronto-based for most of this work … but a change of scenery is always good! (That’s what Nat tells me she enjoys when she is travelling the world delivering talks.)

Taking on another new experience in June of this year, delivering two back to back breakout session workshops at a large conference in Toronto. The topic/title is Motivation and Mental Health. And, the best part will be having my SBS back again as part of the event. We’re one of the afternoon breakout session selections after lunch, and I’m sure there are bound to be a few photos posted from it (although, I still crack lenses easily, so photographers do so at their own risk). More to come about this one, it will be my first time as part of a large conference, so I’m sure there will be stories to be shared afterward.

I will be back into writing soon, once more of the coursework is complete for upcoming lectures and presentations/seminars this year. I typically shut down near the end of the year, and if you know me well enough, you know why, I don’t need to spell it out here. I have had a laugh to myself when some folks ask why there are not more posts or more regular posts on my blog or elsewhere. Simple, really. When I have a teachable moment or something worth sharing, I’ll write it up and post it on the blog. Don’t expect daily posts (some blogs I follow regularly post four and five times every day of the week … I could never keep that schedule!), or regularly scheduled posts. When I have something of value, you’ll see it go up on the site. If I did anything more than that, it would end up being a transcript of my internal dialogue with myself. Yes, I do talk to myself constantly … and kittens, it’s not all that interesting, trust me! At some point I will put pen to paper, and then fingers to keyboard, and publish the Year In Review post for 2018.

Work on the book/memoirs came to a screeching halt. I will pick it up again at some point, but it is that constant battle against that yappy little asshole in the back of my mind who just will not shut up some days. The one who takes great pleasure in pointing out, “You don’t belong here … you don’t fit in … nobody is interested … you’re not good enough … you’re an outsider … etc.” It’s one flavour of Impostor Syndrome, and I’ve fought it for decades. Throw it into the mix with PTSD, and you get an idea why some days it is difficult to string a sentence together. That’s why there are times I may know all kinds of fascinating information about a topic being discussed, but will go totally mute and shut down. Some people feed it, some take away from it. When it’s quiet I get things done … when it’s chattering away non-stop, things come to a total standstill. I’m still tempted to write the book, call it complete, and shove it in a drawer and not publish it. Things may change, it’s fluid, but it’s why I am at my most effective behind the scenes and out of sight.

I think that brings you up to speed with all that’s happening here.

Hugs and love to all!

Christine ♥️♥️

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20th Annual TDOR Remarks

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I recently had the honour and privilege of speaking at Durham Regional Police Service’s TDOR observance and flag-raising. This year marks the 20th annual observance. I had a number of requests to publish my remarks from yesterday’s event, here they are for you to read. Many thanks to my best friend and mentor, Inspector Cathy Bawden, for inviting me to be part of their observance.

Good morning.

Before I begin my planned remarks for this 20th annual observance of the Trans Day Of Remembrance, I feel that I need to address the elephant in the space.

We are all aware of the resolution passed by the Conservative party on Saturday, seeking to erase gender identity, and thereby, erasing transgender people. The extreme elements of that party would also like to have the government use the notwithstanding clause to erase hard-fought rights over the next few years.

We MUST, we MUST, we MUST, remain vigilant. When the government of the day can erase your rights with the stroke of a pen, as we are witnessing happen with increasing frequency south of the border in the United States, then we must be prepared, and we must stay alert. That is the issue with our rights, they can be taken away. And given the ever rising rate of murder of transgender people globally year upon year, there are numerous issues that need to be addressed, before any sense of safety could ever hope to prevail.

As I reminded people last year:

“The Transgender Day of Remembrance seeks to highlight the losses we face due to anti-transgender bigotry and violence. I am no stranger to the need to stand up for equal rights as I have been doing for the past 35 years, and the right to simply exist is first and foremost. With so many seeking to erase transgender people — sometimes in the most brutal ways possible — it is vitally important that those we lose are remembered and that we continue to fight for justice.”

Little did I know …

Stay alert folks, because we will need our allies more than ever in the coming months and years.

Now for what I had originally planned …

I’m a writer, and an educator. In both areas, the folks we speak to have one request of us, Tell Me A Story. I will tell you a story today, that I hope will prove useful to you.

I detest labels. I loathe them. Hate them. Cannot stand them. We label people to control them. ALL labels are for control.

Think of the labels you hear assigned to people on a daily basis. We do it ourselves, it’s an automatic thing. Next time you are on transit, notice how fast you have a judgement, and have assigned a label, to every person boarding the bus or train. We all do it. The difference is that some of us have distinguished it and notice when we do it, and can discard the assigned label.

Over this past year, we have seen reported murders of 418 transgender people around the world. Is it accurate? No. It will never be accurate until we dispose of labels. When I look at the statistics tables for the previous ten years, I know where people are mislabeled, where they are misgendered, where they are treated, even in death, as less than human. When you live in this existence, you know that the real numbers are higher. Between three and ten times higher. Reported deaths show over 3,000 for the past decade. We know, by counting those who are no longer present, that number is closer to 20,000.

If we included those who died by suicide in those numbers, you can easily double the numbers reported.

What causes these numbers? I lay the blame squarely on labels.

Let me take you back over 30 years and tell you about a woman who was a friend of our family. Joanne had been in a documentary about sex workers some years before we met, she saved every penny she could, and flew herself to Europe and transitioned to her true self. Joanne returned to Canada, and settled in Toronto. We always had a fun evening in store when she would come over for dinner, and then we would sit around the table playing cards, or a game, or telling jokes and laughing until our sides ached. She was in hairdressing school at the time, and when she graduated and had her licence, she traveled the entire city looking for work.

What got in her way? LABELS.

Tranny. Freak. Half and half. SheMale. LadyBoy. IT.

The boyfriend she lived with demanded she start bringing home money, or he would put her to work on the street. After months of looking, he forced her to work the street. She did not last the night. She overdosed and died. We were in shock. To this day, I remember my Mom, trying not to cry and failing, and all she said was, If only she would have said something, I would have gladly taken her in and she could have lived with us until something came through for her. For the past 20 years, she is always the first face I see on this day.

Labels did that. The labels hung on her by society. When you label anyone, you negate them. You erase their humanity. You eliminate the person, the heart, the mind, the soul. They exist only as a label, and rarely is it something complimentary.

When you label me, you negate me. It’s that simple.

One more quick lesson, I am a teacher after all, and then I will wrap up.

Let’s delve into language, my author side. I am a word nerd, I admit it freely.

Trans people do not have preferred pronouns. We have pronouns. Simple. My pronouns are she and her.

Trans people do not IDENTIFY as a gender. We ARE the gender that we know ourselves to be. Science has shown that the brains of transgender people are a match for their innate gender, not their physical appearance. Who they know themselves to be.

How will we change the increasing number of murders each year? How will we eliminate or prevent violence against trans people in any city or community across this country? By having conversations. By talking with each other instead of talking AT each other. We have spent years building bridges between our communities and our local police. I encourage you to meet them, to sit with them, to talk to them. Cathy and her team are truly amazing, warm, and loving people. Things have changed from the past, and while it is not perfect yet, in every city that I have regular contact with, those meetings, those conversations, they always start with education. That education leads to understanding. Then that understanding leads to Acceptance. And eventually that acceptance will simply become love.

Until we stand together, we shall fall separately.

One of my favourite quotes comes from Maya Angelou. I have used this in my classes, talks, and lectures for years, and I always finish with it. This is where you get to participate.

Her quote reads: “I think that a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”

You have listened to our words today, we have shared our hearts and souls with you, in the hope you will understand, or find acceptance within you.

If you believe that you can be that hero, that person intent on making this a better place for everyone, raise your hand.

Look around you, you have just declared yourselves heroes.

There is ONLY ONE label that matters.

Just one.

Not two.

Just one.

Want to know what it is?

Cathy, if you will join me … I’ll share it with all of you now.

This is my best friend, her name is Cathy, my name is Christine and we have the same label.

HUMAN.

Thank you.

The Last Narration

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First time in years I will post something on this date. I prefer to avoid it as best as I can. I wrote something years ago, but have no idea where it went. So, rather than answer the question dozens of times today, sit back with a coffee and I’ll tell you a story, and it will be the absolute last time I will share this.

The pictures are a few that I had without people in the foreground. Those folks are memories that are mine only.

I had a new camera, it was the 90s, and this fancy-arsed bit of gear could take photos in three different sizes by flipping a switch on the bottom of the camera. Film was in a sealed container, you put it in the camera, pressed a button, everything auto-loaded. The negatives were still in the container when you got your prints back, you had a 3×5 print with thumbnails of the photos on that roll. Pretty nifty technology for the times, considering digital photography was still some ways off, and cell phones made phone calls and that was all they did.

It’s why I avoid the 24 hour constant drumbeat of the various things today, that will flood the media and online sites.

I used to work in Tower 1, and had actually been there the week prior to 9/11 because of a last minute change in scheduling, otherwise I would have been making my way that morning from the World Trade Centre Marriott, out for a coffee and a cigarette with the usual crew, and then heading upstairs to get busy. It was one of two companies that I worked for at that time.

Liked the corner we had, if I leaned back in my chair at the right angle, I could look out the window, through the gap between two other buildings, and watch the ships in the river.

That fountain, I recall it being put in a park after the attacks, as a place for people to meet up and check in. It’s where we would gather for lunch or breaks, or if working late enough, dinner, and enjoy the sights and sounds and the multitude of languages that sounded like a chorus in the area. And always the space for all of us smokers (we were many more in that era!) to gather and laugh and could spare a light and a cig for someone who came out without theirs.

Or the guy behind the counter at a local deli, at the old offices in Murray Hill, saying to my friend Tas, “c’mon sweetheart, I ain’t here for my good looks, pick up the pace!” That typical New York ‘tude. Little did he know that she could give as good as she got, and they became fast buddies and would razz each other mercilessly when we popped in for a bagel and a coffee. The move to the WTC was such a big thing for everyone, bright sparkly new office space, all new furniture and equipment. You know the drill.

This morning, 9/11/01, nice sunny day, clear skies, into the office in the financial district at home extra early, had a technician from one of my vendors in, and we were hard at it in the computer room from early in the morning.

I had popped out to get something out of my desk drawer, and my phone was ringing, and saw it was Mom’s office number. I answered, and she said, “is there a radio near you?” No, nothing like that, open concept. “How about a television?” Lunch room beside the computer room, it should be on by now. “Good, go put CNN on and call me right back!!”

I walked into the lunch room as the second plane hit, live on the news.

DAFUQ??!!

Immediately, my thought was, what the hell are they running some SciFi movie at this time of the morning for??

Then they replayed the first plane strike and the fireball, then the second, then the first again.

If anyone wonders, when they share pictures of the planes exploding into the towers … that’s triggering as hell.

I went back to my desk and was just reaching for the phone when my vendor’s tech came out and said, they were just paged, everybody to evacuate downtown and return to the offices north of the city. Sent him on his way and called Mom back. “When are you leaving? I’ll meet you at the train.” They haven’t said shit about anyone leaving yet… far as I know, we’re still working today. “Fuck!! Okay, the second they let you go, call me and I’ll meet you at the train!” Mom’s offices had moved from near the airport out to the very west end of Mississauga in those years.

Some people said bollocks, and weren’t going to wait for management to get their finger outta their asses, packed up and split. Just to be sure, we had a quick meeting for the key peeps in I.T. to go over having to do a rapid shutdown of the computer room. Called up to the call centre and told them to re-record the panic button announcement. As I would discover in the next hour, they all split without doing it, and put up the standard holiday announcement. UGH!!! By this point, there are a handful of I.T. folks still in the offices, as we start the orderly shutdown of all the gear.

At one point, we figured, we may be quite a while, may as well split into shifts and go downstairs and grab some lunch. They had just renovated the food courts and had these fancy-arsed new flat screen televisions and we could see what the hell was going on while we wolfed down some food. We were startled by people running at top speed while screaming at full volume, through the PATH system towards transit stations. Really? Likely too much mania and misinformation on the media causing it.

By this point, back upstairs, spot the developers manager, ask him to stand by me and listen, I’m going to record an emergency closed announcement for the phone systems, main number and call centre, soon as I finish, I’ll pass you the receiver, say what I just said, only in French. Another crisis handled. Oy! Working in I.T. on Bay Street for a few decades, you get used to speaking in a dull monotone while dealing with shit happening all around you.

Then an e-mail hits every computer in every office worldwide. A storefront office of ours near the WTC has sent a message to GROUP: ALL.

Is there anyone still alive? We have a class of grade 1 kids and their teacher locked in the store with us. What do we do? Is there anyone there? Help!

Even now, that memory sends chills throughout me. Cellphones are down, voice lines are jammed, data circuits are sketchy… much of NYC ran through the WTC site. Because our systems had redundancies built upon redundancies, we had multiple back-ups. Reply sent from the UK head office, “Stay in place, NYPD or NYFD will come and get you and the children… we will get a message to them. Stay safe. London out.”

Computer room brought down, ready to leave. The two of us remaining walk through the building lobby heading for Bay and King Streets. We get outside, and there is NOT A SOUND. The streets are empty. The only thing we see are police cars parked on angle in the intersections, and officers with long guns in hand. That’s when things got weird, because you just don’t ever see that in Canada, at least, at that time.

Union Station is a complete madhouse. We both are on the same line going west, and they post a train on the board. Probably wise that we waited, it took some time to get crews in to get the trains rolling again. Call Mom and let her know we’re due to leave downtown.

Meet her at the station, we head home, and between answering my pagers, making phone calls, and dialling in through the lock and key modems to wake up the phone system, you just sit stunned and watch things unfold.

And the media played those scenes over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Finally crash around 3 when the phones and pagers go quiet. Up at 5, back on the road downtown, have already started a remote power up and boot process, should be just about finished when I get to the office, fire up the UNIX systems, and we’re good to go… and remember to talk to the call centre manager about the epic clusterfuck from the day before.

We were due to launch a new teleconferencing and video system that week. Call from US law enforcement, can we use your servers? Absolutely, I’ll call the vendor, they’re yours for as long as you need. Calls from our east coast offices, we have plane people, can we get approval for expenses for necessities. Yup! All the big brass (aka mahogany row) were overseas for meetings, so, we did a lot on our own initiative from Toronto (because it’s easier to ask for forgiveness after).

Three weeks after the attack, a few of our folks had not returned to work, there was no word on their missing family member who had worked in the upper 20 floors of Tower 2. And then, the new owners, with 9/11 as their excuse, laid off 85% of the staff in Toronto and New York.

Talk about a corporate rogering, and we never even got kissed first.

Snapped up by a headhunter a few months later, on the promise, sworn oath, that I would not have to travel. No, only once a year at most.

I was on a frigging plane every other week. Until SARS hit. Then they canned any staff under quarantine who could not travel. Grandma was declining rapidly and was on death’s doorstep. Paramedics scooped and ran with her multiple times until the hospital finally admitted her, and we were quarantined in case of SARS-related illnesses. So much for that job, but at least no more flying for me.

Two French brothers were making a documentary and were in the midst of all of it. Watched it twice when it aired. That was enough. That desk in the lobby, I recall laughing with the security guard there. The church where they took Father Judge after the first collapse. Have sat in there in quiet thought. Twice was enough, no more.

I recall meeting the wife and daughter of a gentleman lost in the towers that day, all from Toronto, and his wife’s words have stuck with me to this day. As soon as we start to get past this nightmare, the annual grief orgy comes up again, and we are stuck reliving every single horror of that day, while people obsess over every detail.

I get it. She had a good cry, and we had a few laughs, and went our separate ways, and her words have stayed with me ever since.

So, that’s why I don’t write about this, this is totally making an exception, and I will never hash it out at length again. I will have my memories from there with me always, and we remember those lost on that day, and in the intervening years from the most horrendous illnesses from working on “the pile”.

I haven’t set foot down there since. Had a message from a treasured friend this morning, “The Girl Tribe will take you back when you’re ready.”

Those who are silent today, are reliving memories, and still dealing with stuff. Give them space, they’ll be back to themselves tomorrow. Trust me on that. One long-time friend relives the moment as the second tower collapse was happening, running away from the growing dark cloud. They prefer not to have to relive it constantly either.

With love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams, and, in memory of those no longer present in this realm.

Christine 🙏🏼💙💙

On Being a Survivor

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This will not be an easy read, kittens. Let’s get that out there right up front.

Before I begin, I must give you multiple TRIGGER WARNINGS.

This post will discuss violence, sexual assault, trauma, rape, bullying, and, suicide. If any of this might trigger you, I would strongly suggest that you close your browser window or scroll past quickly to another post.

If you have ever sat in any of my lectures, at colleges and universities, you will be familiar with much of what I am about to discuss here. Why publish it now? Because some people need to hear this to be able to understand. Some to understand that they are not alone and that I, and my soul sisters, we get it, and as much as we wish the club would never add another member, we know that it does multiple times per hour. Some to understand that violence causes trauma which in turn can cause other issues, and people will act or react in certain ways because of it.

There are certain aspects and things from my past that I have never discussed and likely never would in any environment. Literally I have one or two people (thank you Katherine 💙💙) who I feel comfortable with discussing those things because they’ve been there too.

Before digging in, again, I’m reminding you of the TRIGGER WARNINGS.

Let us begin.

Let’s drop in the first slide for discussion…

From the first day of school until I graduated from grade 13, bullying was a constant. Daily, hourly, without end. I dreaded school, hated every single second of it. It was due to this that between the ages of 9 and 10 I was diagnosed with anxiety. My memory is not what it used to be, so if you want the term used in the 70s, feel free to hit Google. High Strung. Nervous. “Sensitive”. Ugh. Add in a diagnosis of depression in my teens. When I look over the top of my glasses at some “expert” it’s usually because I’m thinking, “listen cleverarse, I’ve been living with this for fucking near 40 years now… been there, done that, didn’t want the fucking t-shirt, ‘k?” Was there any peace at home? No. This was a time when my Mum was working 2 jobs and she never knew what went on until many, many, years later. What one teacher did discover, for years, the ring leader behind it had been my sister, egged on by her father (he had a psychotic hatred of both Mum and me). They offered to move me to another school to finish grade 13. Hardly worth it by that time… just get to June, give me my diploma, and I’ll never darken the bloody halls of this place ever again.

Oh, the anxiety and depression? Treated, but not really successfully at all. Other physical issues began to show up over the years. More on that later. Suffice it to say, being physically ill before having to leave for school was a daily thing. And the thought of it on Sunday nights would cause multiple issues.

There was the usual nonsense over the years, and one evening in my 30s, the anxiety went off the charts without warning, and I was gasping for air. I didn’t know it in the moment, but I was having a full-blown panic attack. I literally felt like I was about to die. I’m used to them now, if there is such a thing as becoming used to that, but, I have tools to manage them now that I never had access to then. What would lay you out on the floor curled in a ball, I may get a slight twitch in one eye while I’m talking myself through it.

8 years ago, January 2010, Mum had been sick, but couldn’t figure out what. Waking up to her paralyzed down her right side one morning set off a cascade of events. Two weeks later those words. “You have terminal brain cancer. You have 6 weeks to live. Unless you sign up for this experimental program, you should go home and get your affairs in order.”

It had always been just the two of us, and that’s how she would slip away quietly in July of that year, just the two of us in her room, I was holding her hand, she gave it a squeeze and she was gone. I still have all those what if’s in my mind, and the if only’s. Mum wanted to die at home… could not do that for her, by May she was beyond what I could manage for her medically at home, with a visiting nurse in every day. I spent days and nights with her in Palliative Care, as my voice was the only one she would respond to. While I was busy taking care of her and hoping she would have an easy path to the next life, I never knew that family were busily emptying her accounts and stripping anything of value from the apartment. I had to stop working to look after her, and once she slipped away quietly after midnight, I went into automatic mode.

My friend of many years said he was surprised I was so emotionless throughout it all. I had to be. It was my natural state of being functional, I turned all that off in my childhood. Mum would say I was 40 since I was 5, and 50 since I was 20. It’s true. Experiences over the years pushed me further and further back into my shell, and it’s rare that anyone caught a glimpse of me, let alone see behind the defences I had been constructing for years to keep people at a safe distance. I had learned, if you let them in, you will get hurt, and not just a bruise, but fucked up in multiple ways. The people who are close to me now, who have seen behind the mask, behind the walls, they are indeed special for me to let them get that close. That’s the emotionless part, the being “terribly English, stiff upper lip and all that…” and the rest of the assorted sillybuggers that goes with it. I needed to function and get things done, that was what mattered. I could have a meltdown later when there was nobody around to see or hear me.

By the time I had wrapped up the estate, I had been out of work for over a year, and people forget you exist quickly in my old career field. There was no fast way back to making a buck, and I ended up losing our apartment. Where we had lived for 35 years. The place Mom had begged me to promise her that no matter what I would stay there. Yeah. Stellar. First suicide attempt. Ended up on the street with a bag of clothes and my cat. Family stood on the sidelines and watched it happen and never made a move. But I hear they had a field day when they could take the remaining contents and made a big show out of dumping photos in the garbage dumpsters out back.

After a couple of nights out on the street, make it to a shelter where I can keep my cat with me… she’s all I have left, adopted her at 6 weeks old, and she’s 8 at this time. Then I discovered the hell on earth that is our city’s shelter system. Violence is a daily fact of life. Street drugs were everywhere and used openly in front of staff who just didn’t care. Being assaulted in the bathrooms was standard procedure. And there is no easy way to couch this, so I’ll just drop in the next slide here…

I was raped. At knifepoint. By somebody wrecked on drugs. I reported it to the office the morning after. They did everything shy of laugh about it. What I was told though, “You can call the police if you like, but you’ll lose your bed, and your cat will go to the Humane Society.”

I said nothing. Did nothing.

After the third time being raped that week, I stopped caring. I could not safely sleep in my room, and I would sit up all night long in the common area. I knew there was no help from the staff. After being awake for almost 72 hours, I took an overdose. Suicide attempt #2. I was apparently discovered convulsing on my bed. Taken to hospital, and they did whatever they had to do, and once I could stand up, I was given a bus token and discharged and sent back. Without shoes. In a rainstorm.

I shut down completely.

I stopped talking, functioning, eating. I was so full of medications prescribed by ER doctors from recent panic attacks, I was like a zombie. It was the only way to get through it, I knew there was zero help available from staff, I just kept looking for a place to escape there. Even my cat was not spared abuse. And again, taking her to the office, missing her fur and skin above her right eye was not enough for them to do anything. Her vet made an emergency appointment when I sent them an e-mail, and she took pictures and reported it to the OSPCA. Staff didn’t want to believe that one of their frequent flyers would do this. My vet confirmed it.

Finally find a place, but would need a roommate to cover the rent. Fine, don’t care, just let me out of this hellhole. By the time the fourth roommate had moved in during the first year (they didn’t last too long, either new girlfriend and move in together, or in one case I asked one to leave, and two others skipped with unpaid rent). Roomie #4 was “entertaining” one evening, and I had gone to a local coffee shop to wait it out. The coffee shop employees decided they were going to close up early because the owner wasn’t around. Go for a walk to wait for a text message that all is clear, I can go home. Not fully paying attention to what was around me, never heard somebody come up behind me… and here’s where another slide goes…

I don’t have much memory of it, beyond being hauled down to the sidewalk from behind by my purse strap… I had during this, dissociated, from what my therapist told me. The incident was enough to turn off, step outside of myself and watch it from a distance. I managed to make it home that night, and within a day or so was bruised from shoulder to hips down one side. I was getting pressured to report it, but, without much detail to work from, why bother? I already had the seeds planted from before that you can’t report this, or else. (Goes back much further than I’ve ever told before.) And as many times as I was urged to file a report, I literally had next to no memory of it, beyond the bruising and a few little snippets here and there. Of course, in the interim, any Canadian woman can say one name to you, and when you hear it, will instantly understand why reporting is dismal — Ghomeshi. Reference that case and see why reporting doesn’t happen.

And yet, here I stand, 4 years later, still functioning, still teaching, still lecturing, still writing, still doing the work I do best with the people I enjoy being around most. Know what? They all wear uniforms. Of all my experiences in 55 years on the planet, the one place that I have consistently been welcomed with open arms has been where I spend my time and energy working to make change happen.

And one more thing, I was able to be weaned off all the medications I was on at that time. Over 30 pills a day to just get through another 24 hours. I was lucky, I had an amazing therapist, who wanted to help out before she retired. If not for her, I am sure there would have been a third suicide attempt. Also where I was diagnosed with PTSD (later on Complex PTSD as well, but I just use PTSD, it’s simpler). And after years of zero success in managing all the various physical ailments on top of anxiety and depression, once we started treating PTSD, the physical issues went away, and the anxiety and depression became manageable. Do I still struggle some days? Absolutely. But, my chosen sister, my soul sister, Natalie, has helped so much (love you forever and a million days more, Sis). She encouraged me to speak about all of this, not just the highlights, but the ups and downs and the struggles, to lay myself bare to help another. She battles PTSD, as does our other sister. And we are all still standing, still battling, and we all fight the same battles every day. We are still here. We are winning. We are survivors. We are warriors.

I love this graphic, the Survivor Psalm.

I have used it in lectures, seminars, and talks.

It helps me to distinguish the difference between victim and survivor.

I have friends who have been through similar hells on earth. And I know exactly what moment that something has triggered their traumas and they have gone from survivor back to victim. And we gather and lift them up until they can move forward as a survivor again.

Please, I’m asking you, never refer to me as a victim. I have seen hell and made it to the other side. I’m a survivor, and don’t you forget it.

For those whom I hoped would see this and be able to make it through to here: I see you, I honour you, I understand you. I am proud of your bravery. You are a survivor too. You can get there, I know you can. It seems impossible now, but persist, I can promise you, it is better when you can claim your survivor status proudly.

For the rest of you, kittens, I send my love, hugs, and a hope that you can take something from this and make the world a better place.

The one thing all humans want is to make a difference. I hope somebody gets that from this post.

I love you. Stay safe. Spread some kindness and happiness around, ‘k?

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine 🙏🏼💙💙

Circle of Light

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My treasured friend Melanie and I were in the midst of a conversation last evening, when she said, I’d love it if you would write a piece about the Circle of Light. Let’s begin with Melanie’s words in a tweet this morning:

Good friends can come together to form a #CircleOfLight. Picture a circle of people holding hands & connected together to give strength & support to someone in the centre who is feeling low. The person in the middle changes depending on who needs the most light! #StarfishClub

Today’s post is dedicated to Melanie, for the inspiration, and as a thank you for being such a superb friend. I am proud of you and honoured to know you, I’ve got your back.

We have been discussing in recent days how, naturally, when a member of our circle of friends is in need of help, support, an ear, a shoulder, a healing touch, or love, that we all gather around that person, and the light grows in strength to support that member of the circle whose light has dimmed temporarily. It demonstrates that connection that we have with each other. We gather and stay with the part of our circle until their light is shining brightly again, only then do we all continue on our pathways. It is not something you can read in a book, learn in a classroom, or be taught how to do, it comes to you naturally.

As Melanie and I delved further into this topic last night, I was reminded so much of something I had first encountered around 30 years ago, “The Goose Story”. I don’t have occasion to bring it up all that often, but, in this case, it seemed to be so perfect for the conversation we were engaged in. I have included it with today’s post so you can pick the relevant points from it as well.

Let’s have a look at a few examples which may illustrate this clearly for you, dear reader.

One group, there are four of us, I call us the Fierce Female Foursome. One of our group recently experienced the sudden death of an extended family member, and she was absolutely devastated. Nobody needed to say a word, we were her circle of light, we joined together and supported, listened, cried with, spent time with, and did everything we could for a week until her light was shining bright again. In fact, bright enough to take a huge step into the unknown and take a chance at something entirely new for her (I will tell you that story in another post). And while we were her circle of light, we also supported each other to maintain the circle. My own sister, Natalie, sent me a message, a reminder that she had my back and was my support while I was supporting the circle. Once all lights were equally bright, we went back to our usual lives and routines, but aware, that when needed, that circle will instantly form around who needs the light.

Another group, we are truly soul sisters. Take three women, all who battle PTSD daily, and all of us are high level Empaths. There are days that we don’t need electronic communications, we just feel it instantly when one of our group is off. Two of us had known for a while that our third member had been struggling, and was really up against it in recent weeks. Now, if you were to ask her, she would paste on her mask, give you a toothy grin, and tell you, everything is great. We knew differently. We had been discussing how best to support her, and it finally hit a point when we were both hit with a wave of overwhelming sadness coming from our third. We created a story to make sure she would be home the next day, and cleared everything off of our schedules, got in the car and drove up there. She only knew a package of self-care items was coming and she needed to be there to receive the package.

We were the package, the delivery company, and more. In that first moment when she saw us, let out this teeny tiny squeal and launched herself at us and wrapped us both up in a hug; she knew we were her circle of light. There was love, hugs, conversations, coffee, lunch, more conversations, a few tears, more hugs, dinner, coffee, conversation and laughter, and an overflowing amount of love that was present throughout that day and beyond. By the time we had left to drive home, we both agreed, her light was shining brightly again, but we are keeping our circle around her, we just have a feeling that we have more love and support to give, we are not done yet, and we are both honoured to be able to provide the support. This is not a temporary thing, not a fleeting moment, it is a lifetime commitment to be there for each other. And how do we know as much as we do? Because we all do the exact same things, the same coping strategies, etc. We either do it, or have done it, and with two of us, we don’t hesitate to call each other on it when we see we are falling back into old habits again, once we have our third soul sister shining brightly and steadily, then we will re-form our circle, ready to step in and support again as soon as one of our group needs us.

Over the past week or two, three friends, all teachers, have experienced a loss. One was a sudden death due to unknown medical complications, the other two were students claimed suddenly by suicide. For all three, we combined circles to support them with a circle of light. Whether just for a day, or for a week, we merged our circles into one large circle to support all three until their lights could once again shine brightly.

It’s not always the same person who is surrounded by the circle of light from their friends either. As people encounter moments of struggle, the circle re-forms around that person until their light can shine brightly again. It is a constantly shifting and changing form, but the light remains steady.

Who in your life can you be part of the circle of light for? Have you noticed times when without asking, your friends surround you and support you and lift you up when you fall. You may not even be conscious of it, but when you get to the other side of a struggle, you notice, you were not alone.

That circle of light, that support of the other people in your circles of friends, the world definitely needs more of that, every moment of every day. It is a major message in our mental health advocacy work, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

And, if we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that, always and forever. Remember the three most important words spoken (after “I love you”) are always “I’ve got you.”

Be good to each other, stay safe, and let your light shine, kittens!!

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine (CityMom) 🙏🏼💙💙

The Goose Story

Next fall, when you see geese heading south for the winter, flying along in a V formation, you might consider what science has discovered as to why they fly that way: as each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own.

People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front.

If we have as much sense as a goose; we will say in formation with those who are headed the same way we are.

When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point.

It is sensible to take turns doing demanding jobs with people or with geese flying south.

Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

What do we say when we honk from behind?

Finally, and this is important, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshots and falls out of formation, two other geese fall our with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly, or until it dies. Only then do they launch out on their own, or with another formation to catch up with their group.

If we have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other like that.

— based on the work of Milton Olsen