Dear Kathy English

Tags

, , , , ,

Ms. Kathy English, Public Editor, Toronto Star.

Dear Ms. English,

I am writing this open letter to you to outline my concerns about a column published by your newspaper on Monday, 2 March, 2020, written by Heather Mallick, titled, “Post-traumatic stress isn’t a disorder, it’s life.”

I first came across this in the early morning, and normally something of this nature would go out on my daily e-mail to contacts in Canada and the US, but, this one gave me pause. I honestly had to read it through multiple times, and then again while making notes.

When I was still writing regularly for a certain magazine based in the US, had I ever submitted something like this to my editors, they would have laughed me out of the building. If I delivered a lecture at Ryerson (Criminology) or Humber (Police Foundations) or University of Toronto Medical School (transition to residency), based on the “facts” of this opinion piece, I would not be asked back ever again.

So, I am then left with the mystery of how this “opinion” piece ever was approved for publication in your newspaper?

Allow me to illustrate:

PTSD is not “supposedly rampant”, and it is not only “reserved for extreme cases”. Those of us who work in and around the mental health field have been hard at work on eradicating the stigma associated with mental health and mental illness. It is because of the tireless work of hundreds and thousands of activists and advocates that the conversations are even happening. Because it is more openly discussed – not like when I made my appearance in this world in the early 60s, where such things were not discussed in polite company, but in hushed tones behind multiple closed doors – it may appear to be increasing. It is not. It is simply more public and not hidden, or reserved only for veterans of war who returned home in severe distress.

Let me be crystal clear on this point, labels are useful for jars, tins, boxes, and bins, not for human beings. Labelling people or conditions, negates that person’s existence, and reduces them to a label only. Labels are distancing phenomena.

PTSD is a psychiatric or psychological diagnosis. Both professionals are equally capable of correctly diagnosing the condition, according to the standards set out by the World Health Organization (see ICD-11 published in 2019 for the latest revisions) or in the DSM-V (current, albeit, dated volume, which will require updates from ICD-11). You can find statistics in various forms and reports, depending on which group, genre, subset, etc., that you are looking at. Instead of using “allegedly”, quote your source for the numbers, because frankly, they look like nothing I have seen or read in recent years.

The paragraph containing “according to Veterans Affairs Canada” is paraphrasing, not an exact quote. For the content being discussed, only a direct quote is appropriate, not the heavily biased opinion of the columnist.

Where Ms. Mallick parts company with established science, is her opinion that this is not a disorder, but a reaction. What she refers to in the previous paragraph is what is known as hyper-vigilance, not what she dismisses as something as simple as not being happy with the current president south of the 49th, or being in a large grocery store. This is highly dismissive of the experiences of those with PTSD, who have great difficulty functioning in crowded or noisy spaces. Whenever I am out with my most favourite human on the planet, I always have scoped out multiple ways to get us out of a space if it gets to be too much for either of us to handle. We both battle PTSD on a daily basis, caused by an array of traumas and work, and we still get up every day and do our damnedest to leave the world and the people on it, better than we found them. You could say that we have both been there, done that, and have a box full of t-shirts that neither of us ever wanted.

“Over-medicalization of life.” I find that phrase alone to be a complete fallacy. That, combined with that “suck it up, buttercup” attitude has caused more harm in recent years than is realized. Look, we have all experienced the office hypochondriac, who every time they get a case of the sniffles runs to google to look for their symptoms, and walk away convinced that they are about to die a horrible death from some rare disease that has not been seen in existence in over two millennia. Yes, we’ve all seen it, heard it, experienced it. It is why I begin lectures with a trigger warning (right after I show where the Naloxone kits are – CMHA’s Carry It Campaign) … and then have to define what a trigger is. Ms. Mallick reminds me of some of the “valley girls” I’ve had in class who come out with a typical “ermahgerd, I was like so trigger-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-ed!” No sunshine, you were irked at something I said, or the topic matter was making you uncomfortable. You’d know the difference if you were triggered. Forget that walk a mile in my shoes stuff, that only gets you to every Starbucks within a mile of the starting point. No. Try spending 24 hours in my mind. I bet within 30 minutes you are on the floor, curled in a ball, whimpering to be let out. I tried describing it once for someone who had doubts… they couldn’t handle it after 4 sentences.

There are those out there who are self-diagnosed, they have not seen a doctor or mental health professional for a referral, they just had an off day, read some half-baked nonsense online, and decided that they have it too. They then proceed to tell anyone and everyone they encounter that they suffer from this. Wrong again sunshine, you don’t suffer from it, if you had it, you’d be battling for your very existence on a daily basis. This isn’t the movie of the week kind of thing, as Ms. Mallick hints at so heavily throughout this column. When people pull this nonsense, it lessens those of us who do battle it, in the eyes of anyone who bothers to look.

Ms. Mallick rails against psychiatry in a similar fashion to those who belong to one of the California-based cults. It leaves me to wonder what her experience has been that has caused such a dour outlook on life. Should she ever wish to meet a thoroughly amazing psychologist, send her a few blocks up and one block east of your offices at Number 1 Yonge, and I’ll introduce her to Dr. Vermani, who I have had the pleasure of meeting and having an extended conversation with. I consistently refer people to her for her expertise and assistance. Her knowledge is vast, and her experience covers a wide array of areas. I’m certain she could easily explain this much more succinctly than I can, I’m accustomed to breaking it down into bite-sized chunks for my students in class.

Again, major issues on Ms. Mallick’s part around language, the use of the word stigma or stigmatization. This reminds me of Jordan Peterson’s issues, and they are infinite, around pronoun usage and the modern world. Instead of producing a valid argument, this sounds instead like the petulant whine of the right wing fringe who have issues with everything in the modern world. They live for heteronormativity and a world in which mental illness was just not discussed in polite society. It is blatantly obvious that Ms. Mallick has never experienced the stigma associated with mental health, or any other item in that vein. I can quote chapter and verse from multiple scientific sources that members of the LGBTQ2S communities deal with multi-layered stigma on a daily basis, particularly when battling mental illness. Here’s my suggestion, that Ms. Mallick, in this case, should check her obvious privilege and sit the hell down, and for once just listen without opening mouth, while those who live it, explain it.

Coping with life is not a psychiatric condition, yes, but, PTSD is not caused by coping with life. This is where Ms. Mallick’s circular logic errors are apparent. She supports the damage caused by the work done by first responders, those who have experienced trauma due to war, crime, etc., but rubs suggestively up against “you should have known what you were signing up for” in her arguments, without saying the actual words. By the time I reached this portion of Ms. Mallick’s column, I had become convinced that she had no clue whatsoever of what Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder actually was/is, what causes it, what the diagnostic standards are, and had most definitely never spoken to any kind of expert in the field before launching this load of twaddle upon your readers.

The Edmonton murder case is not the only one where a defendant or their counsellor had attempted multiple avenues until they found the one they thought they could pull the wool over the eyes of the jury with. I can promise you this though, that the first responders who were at that scene have had recurring nightmares about it since, and in at least one case, this was the last straw that broke them. In one well-known case, it was a paramedic arriving on the scene of a satanic cult double homicide, where two women were decapitated, and they had to treat the killer. A police Superintendent explained it to me after the Ontario PTSD bill passed, “I had one officer in my division, had been to, say, 20 blue baby calls in a row. Number 21 was the one that broke him, and he went home and swallowed his gun. You never know what the incident will be.” I have seen regularly, in news, in case files, etc., where someone is up on the carpet for some truly abhorrent antisocial behaviours, and the first claim they come up with is, it’s because of PTSD. They neither have the diagnosis, nor have any clue of what is actually involved. How about this, sunshine, you just admit that you’re a complete and total waste of skin whose antisocial behaviour affects all within reach, take your punishment and sit the hell down.

As for the airline example, I have seen consistently, people ordering the fake “service dog” harnesses, leashes, etc., to put on their dogs so that they can take them into any establishment they want to. And, without fail, those dogs are the most ill-tempered, misbehaving, dogs that I have seen. If you have to keep shoving treats in little FiFi’s mouth to keep her from biting other customers in line at Starbucks, then either pick the little monster up, or ditch the fake papers and the phoney “service dog” harness, and just admit you’re too cheap to hire a pet sitter while you go shopping. They have ruined it for those who actually have real medical service dogs, who need that assistance to be able to leave their homes and go out to function in society. Those dogs, while wearing their work vests are not distracted, but are focused on their handler, ensuring their handler’s well-being. I had coffee with a friend, and her service dog, as is typical, curled up under the table, napping on top of our feet, until needed, and then she was alert and doing what she was trained to do.

Whatever allowances are made for people, there will always be some jerk who will try to take advantage of it. Prime example, a good friend of mine, courts officer, Indigenous, and one day we’re sitting on a sunny patio after work, having an iced coffee and laughing about the typical sillybuggers from the 9 to 5. They are telling me about overhearing conversations in the cells, how to get out from under this charge by claiming this … if you’re up on something serious, claim you are native, say Métis, it’s the hardest to disprove, and rather than take the time, they’ll just ship you off to that system instead. For every allowance, there will be ten people looking to take advantage of it, it’s unfortunate, but it is how the world works these days.

The final piece of snark, PTS-19, was entirely uncalled for. Ms. Mallick has just spent an entire column dumping all over the experiences of those who have been handed the diagnosis of PTSD (not self-diagnosed, but by a professional), plus the laundry list of other conditions and issues that co-exist with it. If anything, she sits upon her throne of privilege while heaping endless amounts of stigma on top of those who are already battling to make it through the day. Here’s what stigma around mental health does – it reinforces that suck it up culture that has infected every part of first responder careers, especially policing … to the point where colleagues will stand by and watch someone struggling and yet do nothing, because of the stigma and they “don’t want the crazy to rub off” on them. Then they all comment anonymously in an article in another newspaper about watching this happen, after this person has died by suicide. That is what stigma does. Not the dripping with sarcasm sentence from Ms. Mallick.

This article was disgusting, pathetic, and I quite honestly expect better from those whose writing is published by the Toronto Star. This is more of the quality one would expect to see from the right wing press.

I would suggest, Ms. English, that you obtain a copy of Save-My-Life School by Natalie Harris, put it in Ms. Mallick’s hands, and do not allow one more word she writes to be published by the Toronto Star until she has read it cover to cover and can speak to the contents of that book. Perhaps, then, she would like to meet the author and hear just one woman’s experience of battling for her life, I’ll gladly arrange it for you. Perhaps a chat with one of many specialists in treatment of PTSD/Complex-PTSD and Trauma, Dr. Douglas, Dr. Bouffard, Dr. Lee, Dr. Kamkar, Dr. Abramovich, Dr. Vermani. Or the grandfathers of peer support, Syd Gravel and Brad McKay. How about Dilnaz Garda from Toronto Beyond The Blue? Goodness knows that we are not short of people who know this stuff like the backs of their own hands, and it was blatantly obvious to anyone who read Ms. Mallick’s column, that she has never bothered to speak to any of them, or do the slightest bit of research beyond a few recycled pull quotes.

It has been five years since we last had a chance to speak in person. Let’s plan on a coffee and a chat by the lake when the weather is nicer. I look forward to hearing your thoughts. Let’s be honest, you’d never publish something I composed, titled “Heather Mallick is a Clueless Tosser” even if I slapped an Opinion label on top. Ms. Mallick’s column should have never been published in the form it was either – it is dangerous as written.

I expect better from you and your fellow editors and writers. Far better.

Sincerely,

Christine Newman

  • Director and LGBTQ Liaison, National Women in Law Enforcement Association.
  • Peer Supporter, WeNeverWalkAlone, for US law enforcement.
  • LGBTQ2S Peer Support Advisor/Lived Experience Facilitator, Mood Disorders Society of Canada, Peer and Trauma Support Systems.
  • Author, Educator, Public Speaker, 38 year activist and advocate.
  • Mental Health Warrior.

There We Were, Surrounded …

Tags

, , , , , , ,

After dealing with the constant rollicking sillybuggers on antisocial media, particularly last summer’s hatefest that had continuous ripples of hate until the autumn months, and then the continuing nonsense in November, I said to myself,

“Self?”

“Yes?”

“This is a total waste of time, let’s get rid of the lot.”

“Agreed, just do it!”

By the beginning of December 2019, I had deleted both Fakebook and Instagrim. I still have Twitter, only because the majority of my work contacts are there, and editors of the publications I occasionally write for insist that their writers/columnists/authors have some kind of presence online.

Only in person can you see what the eyes are saying. So much is lost in the attempts at communication electronically. You miss out on what those of us who are Empaths pick up on in every interaction – the words you select, the order in which you speak them, what you say, tone of voice, what the eyes say, facial expression, body language, and most definitely the energy we pick up from you while having a conversation. The only exception is my connection with Nat. We literally sense each other 24/7/365, and just know when to reach out – either in times of great joy, or times when depression is kicking our backsides hard.

When you really need to deal with something, the only method is in person, face to face, where you can hold a hand, look someone in the eyes, or offer a shoulder to cry upon. That is damned near impossible to do via electronic means.

What happened after deleting the accounts? Did I experience antisocial media withdrawal? Hell to the no! The next day, the sun still came up in the East, people went to work and school, the stores and malls were packed with shoppers in the run-up to the holidays, and the Earth still rotated on its axis. In other words, nary a ripple in the existence of the universe.

Nobody noticed. Did I miss it? Not for a second!! It was more a sense of relief that continued to come in waves for a few days after. One less place to be attacked by haters. One less place to have my existence questioned by ignorant twits. The days went by, life went on, and I honestly felt an improvement in my mental health.

Those who mattered, friends, colleagues, and so forth – we found other means to keep in communication. Imagine the shock of receiving a letter in the mail written in longhand cursive! And the space in my world that it was infecting has cleaned up and opened up to new possibilities, and holy cow, Batman, did they ever start showing up! One of my mentors said, when you are open to it, the universe will provide endless opportunities for expansion/growth. It takes a certain level of daring and courage to say yes to new things.

Nat sent me that quote, and it has been that way for both of us since 2020 started. We have each been receiving little nudges from The Universe. A new perspective, new opportunities, new growth pathways, all of that and more have suddenly appeared.

Entirely unexpected, I received an invitation to speak at a conference in Chicago this coming June. Now, my experience with a certain level of exclusiveness in Canada was totally blown away with this invitation. You see, here, the thing that we come up against constantly, like banging your head against a wall, is this whole viewpoint of exclusive spaces where outsiders, gawd forbid, might be allowed to enter. It happens for social events, it happens for recognition, and it particularly happens in training. You claim to want to welcome the community and have them sit at the table, but, heaven forbid they might get the opportunity to step over that invisible line, the no outsiders line.

Let me give you another example. One organization says, hey, we love working with you, and we’d love for you and a guest of your choice (Nat would have loved this, she would have had multiple laughs!) to come to our bash, tickets and room on us. When word of that got out, a few people got in a twist, because “how dare they allow outsiders into our space!” That attitude started to spread like the flu, and it was repeated back to me from multiple sources. I sent a note thanking them for the recognition, but declining it due to a busy calendar. Received the same invitation from the same organization the next year … same rumblings about outsiders, declined that one as well. I’d rather go out and enjoy myself, than worry about invading somebody’s space.

You see, people don’t consider how their words fall on others. In my world, that occurs as “you don’t belong here,” “you don’t fit in,” and so on. Sound familiar? Yup, Impostor Syndrome trigger phrases. The first time it happened, that triggered many things causing a three day run of insomnia, and sleep is necessary to keep you functional.

I am quite looking forward to this conference in Chicago, where I’ll be presenting on LGBTQ2S Wellness and Peer Support (cancelled in March by the COVID-19 lockdown). I was asked by the host organization if I would focus on workplace bullying/workplace mobbing, as it is an issue that comes up regularly. It’s one of my areas with a lot of knowledge/experience.

I find it interesting, I have literally reached the point where any time I receive an invitation to take part in something with folks south of the 49th, my first response is, you do know that I’ve never been a part of that group, yes? So, before you get too far into your preamble, if that’s an issue, let’s stop here so you don’t waste time on this call. That’s what happens when lived experience becomes your “already-always” and you expect rejection because of your status, it’s always that way at home. To my surprise, the answer I have received each time is, “That’s not why we are extending this invitation, you have lived experience with *insert topic here*, and that’s what we are looking for.”

This led to my presentation in June, and now being part of a peer support team, based in Illinois, which provides support across the US, with my areas being LGBTQ2S, trauma, and PTSD. I was honestly questioning if I had read that series of e-mails correctly, my first thought was, “Me?? Why the hell would you want me for this?” My next thought was, gotta ask Nat about it, and she encouraged me to say yes. Same response from one of my mentors. Worst that can happen is we decide after some time that it’s not a good fit, shake hands, and look for ways to train other peer supporters on my areas of expertise. Neato, nifty, peachy keen.

Was this all that showed up? Nope! January was like popcorn popping.

I am so honoured to be co-authoring a new book with my friend and fellow author, Joie Lamar, this year. Joie has 7 books published/in process and counting, is a right proper powerhouse, and I love the way her mind works. This book was sparked by an article shared by a colleague on LinkedIn, and it hit the same note with both of us. This is a conversation we have been engaged in for 6 years now, looking at it through various lenses and from various viewpoints. Our working title is based on those conversations. We may have one or two other writers contribute a chapter or section to the book. I think this will be a quick book to write, it’s taking our conversation history and putting it down on paper.

Then taking another stretch, a friend of mine who lives on the west coast now, contacted me, a mutual friend is trying to get in touch about a project. Well, it turns out that Alumnae Theatre Company hosts a 3 week New Ideas Festival each year. This year, a rocking non-binary playwright wrote a one scene short play with two characters, would I consider being on stage in one of these roles? Now, that yappy little arsehole in the back of my mind, known as Impostor Syndrome is literally jumping up and down, red-faced, not happy at all about this one. I asked if I could read the script first. Receive the e-mail, read the script, OMG, it is literally a scenario I have played out in my mind hundreds of times! Was the playwright having a wander through the corners of my mind?

I haven’t done anything like this since high school, and I will shun the spotlight or focus as much as I can – I’m usually in the background or behind the curtains, not anywhere I can be seen. We had a conversation over the course of an hour, and I finally said to myself, “oh for chrissakes ya silly bitch, just say yes.” Yes, I’ll do it. Rehearsals are under way this week. This is not a stage thing, this is a dramatic reading, so the two of us in the scene, script in hand, reading it (woohoo! No memorizing, that would make life an adventure), with a narrator reading the stage directions. I may never set foot on a stage ever again, but, it’s one of those adventures that may as well have fun with it while I can. This one-act/one scene play is titled, ‘Platypus’. It is looking to be a fun week of 6 performances. (cancelled mid-March by COVID-19 lockdown)

Our stories … there is so much to this one idea, and I absolutely adore Dr. Brené Brown and the way she thinks, because this quote is so appropriate for this next section.

Prior to the Christmas-New Year’s holiday season last year, I saw a post on Twitter, somebody was finding things difficult, looking for someone to chat with who gets it. I responded to send me a message and sat down for a conversation. A couple of months later, we’ve become fast friends, and we’re still in that conversation. Now, here’s the amazing piece. Talking with someone who has been where you are, (been there, done that, didn’t want the t-shirt) and has made it through it, is a great comfort. You can pour your heart out and not be judged, they’ve been through it already, know where you are at, and can hold out a hand to you to guide you through that darkness.

We made it through the holidays together, and more challenges arose for my friend. The most recent one was interesting. As we have chatted about our experiences, they found the courage to go beyond their comfort level, and went out to the movies. When you battle anxiety, that is such a giant step forward. Next one was an appointment, and the day before, anxiety had red-lined on all gauges and it was getting to that dark space again. Ah, I’ve been here before, let’s try something out. List for me all those catastrophes that could possibly happen that you are worrying about. Got the list. Perfect, remember that there is nothing wrong here, it just is, so let’s take a look at each one and come up with either a way to handle it, or a contingency plan for it. One or two items, I asked to dig a little deeper, I could see it going a few different ways.

By the time we had finished, they had a list of supplies, a list of actions or conversations, a checklist, and one of those plastic bags with a slide on top to open and close it. An Anxiety Kit. I’ve seen and read of similar things before, and Nat was the first one to ever tell me about what she has in her purse in case of a difficult moment (I have something similar). The slide to open/close bags are easier, if your hands are shaking, you can open and close it easily without spilling the contents. It’s compact enough to tuck into your coat pocket, pocket of a sweater, backpack, or purse … somewhere that it is easily accessible to you if you require something from your kit. Just remember, that if you have to use something from your kit, make a note for yourself to replace it or buy a new item.

By the time the kit was made, and the checklist written out and placed where it would be easily accessed in the morning while getting ready for the appointment, my friend said, “OMG, I just have a little bit of nerves left, everything else is gone!” I asked what was different, while I had a good idea that the answer would be validating their experience. Because, in recent years, they usually get a “suck it up”, “quit being so dramatic/such a drama queen”, “just go for a walk around the block, you’ll be fine”, “why don’t you have a drink to calm down”, and so on. They told me this was the first time somebody affirmed their fears, and then worked to resolve each one in order. (Bingo! Validating your experience in action.)

The next day, they messaged me with a photo prior to the appointment. Once arrived safely back home, sent another message with another photo. That second photo was quite simply breathtaking! I have yet to witness a transformation so positive in such a short time. I told them how massively proud I was for their courage, and their stepping beyond their old limits, to get out there and grow. That evening, I told a friend who is a psychotherapist, “If I live to be a million, I will never grow weary of watching somebody who is where I’ve been before, breaking through that wall and growing into a bigger possibility than there was before.”

That, my dear kittens, is the power of sharing and owning your story and your lived experiences with someone who is going through the same stuff.

Second part to owning our story and telling it. One of the team at a particular website reached out to me around the time of Bell Let’s Talk Day – one sentence, “When are you going to share your story with us, Christine?” A few e-mails back and forth over the course of that week, and this past Saturday, I sat down and spent the day writing. My therapist had suggested to me, “Throw out all the ways you have written or narrated your story before. You’ve done all of them multiple times, it’s routine, it’s rote, and you could do it with your eyes closed. Take this on in a new way, start with a blank page, a blank space in memory, a blank slate, whatever works … use one of the themes you have used in your recent lectures and talks, and tell your story for the very first time, in a way you have never shared it before … see what happens, and I’d love to read it when you finish.”

Made myself a pot of coffee, sat at the table, and started typing. I was editing as I went that afternoon, I had been walking around with the words in my own mind for a few days before I ever set pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. I thought, if I was to do this in one of my lectures, how would I say it. I knew the cap was 2,000 words, and I was checking the counter on the bottom of the screen after every paragraph to see what I could tell, and how could I condense it, and get the most in. A few proofreaders thought I should write the last page differently. I checked with my therapist, what did they think about that. Their response was, “that one person and you have been so connected and have been such a large part of each other’s healing and growth, it would seem unnatural to not mention them.” That’s what I had been thinking. I then sent it to Nat, to make sure that it read well, and that she was good with the language and choice of words … there were one or two little things that may be new to some, but are old hand to us, so it’s best to be sure.

The part I found interesting, every person who proofread it came back with the same response to it, literally every letter and punctuation mark was exactly the same – OMG GOOSEBUMPS!!!! Even my publisher responded in block caps “NAILED IT!” and loved how I based it in a portion of a lecture. It has been submitted for consideration, I’m hoping their editor will take it as written and run it. It came in at 1,988 words, if you were curious. If, and when, it is published, I’ll drop the link in a new post.

This quote was sent to Nat and I last year, after we had performed our essay, Love Is Love on stage for International Women’s Day. We still get the occasional bit of feedback from someone who was there and loved it, because it touched something in their souls. We are discussing the possibility of writing something together in the near future, and will share it on our respective blogs when we do.

I began with giving antisocial media the old heave-ho, don’t let the doorknob hit ya where the good lawd split ya.

As if I needed more evidence that it was a wise decision … it has been difficult, to put it lightly, to sit on my hands and not immediately go to nuclear mama bear mode when watching somebody I share a soul with being attacked in a variety of vile, ugly, and personal ways on antisocial media. Unfortunately, with the position they hold, they are a target for such things – but, attack the votes, attack the decisions, attack policies – never use personal attacks. That just demonstrates the level of regressive pond slime that is infecting antisocial media these days. Antisocial media seems to only feed the mindset of “piling on”. It’s bad enough when one person goes on a string of personal attacks, but, once the mob mentality kicks in, it becomes a free for all. They don’t see the briefing notes on your desk, they have not been a part of the conversations leading up to it, they have no clue on all the factors involved, but saw an easy target and decided to pile on and attack mercilessly.

Earlier in this post, I mentioned the triggers that “no outsiders” caused, with three nights of zero sleep because insomnia was ruling the roost. Somebody takes their personal tragedy, comes up with a simple idea that could bring a little sunshine to those dealing with it, and what started small, suddenly went viral and nationwide in no time at all. Well, apparently some folks didn’t like that, and it just got nasty. From a conversation about excitement one night about an opportunity coming up, to devastation the next. What’s worse, some former co-workers went for the vulnerable spots in their attacks the following week. That to me is the absolute lowest you can go. One of your former colleagues is now retired. And you decide to pile on with the rest of the pond slime on antisocial media, but use their illness to attack them with, in an even uglier way. That’s just despicable.

Let’s wrap up with the teachable moment from Professor Kitty.

The online world is a cesspool of ugliness these days. Want to question something a local councillor has done or is doing? Try this, it has never failed to get a fast response for me. “Hi Councillor *name*. I was reading about this issue in the news, and I had a few questions about your statement/vote/decision-making process. If you can spare me a few minutes, can we have a quick conversation about this for you to fill me in?” Considering the volume of hate mail that hits their computers, that approach usually earns me a callback within 24 hours. Looking for the gap in their armour where you can launch a personal attack … that’s the ugliest way. Logic and please explain why you did this … opens up a channel for communication.

When our group of elders have something in Parliament that is of particular interest to us (the last one was C-211 the PTSD framework bill), that’s our kind of approach … and when we have that channel open to chat, we can explain (without accusations or ad hominem attacks that are so common on antisocial media) what our interest is, and why we think it’s important that this get dealt with sooner, rather than later. What was the nifty part of it, for me at least, is that we could be completely unseen and unnoticed, and yet have a voice in it. There were enough people pushing to get into the spotlight or on camera with recent bills (like C-16) that have come to our attention – the funniest was seeing raw footage from a pool camera of somebody elbowing their way to the front row to be seen on camera.

The lesson from Professor Kitty can be summed up this way, be a decent human being, be civil in your interactions, don’t follow the masses (because the M is always silent), and try your best not to be a completely insufferable twit.

The lesson from this City Mom, keep your circles small, keep those who you know love you close, and ignore the arseholes, leave them to talk to themselves. That’s what I did last summer, and the explosion that happened from my lack of response was predictable. Be an observer of things, some will amuse you, some will make you roll your eyes out loud, and some will cause you to love your people even more.

I promise there will not be such a big gap before the next post!

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine 💙💙

Lecture Feedback volume 3

Tags

, , , , , ,

Feedback will be in “quotes,” and notes from me will be in [square brackets]. The code is to keep students anonymous and reminds me of the semester, year, and the random number assigned to each page. Feedback from students is entirely voluntary – while there were only 30 in attendance (winter storm) – below is the feedback submitted at the next class on November 12th (lower attendance due to worse weather conditions).

Monday, November 11th, 2019, topic “Violence, Trauma, and Mental Health”, Violence in Society course, 3rd & 4th year students, Criminology Department, Ryerson University.

RU01A2019: “Christine, thank you for the informative and passionate presentation, yesterday, Monday, November 11th. I could tell that mental health and advocating for those struggling with mental health challenges, especially members of the LGBTQ2S communities, as well as educating people on the topic and relevant information is very important to you. I found the presentation to be sad as I have family members who struggle with mental health, and hearing about others’ struggles makes me think of them. Furthermore, it is discouraging what people do, the hate crimes against LGBTQ2S people, people of colour within those communities, and against first responders, especially in cases of sanctuary trauma. I wanted to ask what your thoughts are on people with mental health challenges reading books about the struggles of other people. My family member mentioned that she finds it hard, but I decided not to ask because I figured the answer would be depends on the purpose of the book. Thank you again for the presentation. Two things I am taking away from it is to show empathy for others (and what each of the letters stand for), and to keep in mind when my cognitive biases are affecting my perception. I applaud your work entirely, but especially your work with police as we know this is very much needed.”

[On reading books about mental health – the better publishers will include the appropriate trigger warnings at the start of a book. Such is the case in Brainstorm Revolution, so that people can choose to read or not, the stories within. I find it unfair to spring things on people who are working on their growth and resiliency. Don’t force it, work with what works best in each case.]

RU02A2019: “I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for speaking to our Violence in Society class and sharing your personal experiences that you encountered. The presentation allowed me to gain insight on the history of violence that took place in the United States, all of which I knew nothing about, and the affect it had on the LGBTQ communities. It made me realize that as individuals, we do not know what another person’s life experiences are like, and that we should not be so quick to judge. Instead, we should come together as one and support each other.”

RU03A2019: “Hi Christine, thank you so much for your presentation yesterday. My favourite part was when you asked people to stand up and declare that we would all like to contribute to making the world a better, safer, and more inclusive place for EVERYONE.”

[The hero exercise near the end is always popular, see graphic below from Unconventional Love Stories – Barrie, Ontario – Valentine’s Day 2019]

RU04A2019: “The lecture was very informative. I appreciated you sharing your own stories, I believe that will help people gain a better perspective. The statistics were also very useful. You are clearly very passionate about these issues and it is good to see that your presentation helps people that may not be ready to have that “uncomfortable” conversation about issues. Thank you so much for sharing your stories, Christine.”

[I was pleased to be able to squeeze in 50 years of history in 90 minutes of lecture.]

RU05A2019: “The lecture was very insightful on issues related to violence against LGBTQ individuals. Through your experiences and the cases you mentioned, I have become much more educated on the issues these groups face. In future, I would like to hear a great deal more about racial/ethnic minorities and the violence they face. I would like more specifics on types and statistics.”

[Unfortunately, there are not a lot of cases publicly available for discussion. Statistics still remain sketchy at best, as much is underreported in case files. See recent story from The Guardian (published the day after the lecture) about highest number of hate crimes in the United States in 16 years according to FBI.]

RU06A2019: “Christine, thank you for coming in to visit and speak with our class. I very much enjoyed your lecture and found it very inspiring. I think it is always a good thing to learn about the struggles of others and found the presentation very educational. Even with having heard about a lot of the history before, I still learned something new, and it helped me to remember pieces I had forgotten. I liked the way you ended things on a positive note as well, since the material discussed in class can be upsetting, and can at times leave you feeling hopeless afterward. Thank you.”

RU07A2019: “Christine, thank you for coming in and sharing your story. It takes courage to be able to speak about and re-live those dark times from the past, however, in doing so you have inspired and shown us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I’m also thankful that you spoke so candidly about racialization — I’m sure in doing this that you have educated at least one ignorant person — and as a black woman I am thankful for that especially. I, myself, was able to learn and educate myself from your lecture about matters in the LGBTQ communities that I was probably ignorant about, as well. Overall, I want to thank you for coming in, inspiring and educating — I hope you continue to move in this positive light to share your story and knowledge with many more students! Thank you!”

[I cannot speak for folks, but I can point out the inequities and amplify their voices constantly.]

The last slide, and my favourite story to share. Nat and I sharing a moment and reminding each other of our usual three words, “I’ve got you.” It fits with a vow we made some time ago, and we always end our conversations with it, “I’ll love you forever and a million days more.” We still share this photo when asked, for those working on the front lines, when they need a reminder that love still exists.

Imagine my delight when trudging through the snowstorm for a post-lecture lunch, when we were seated, my professor said, “I thought the lecture you gave last year was your best ever, but today, you set the bar even higher, everything about today was perfect!” I’d say from the feedback on the day of, and reading the few who sent something written, I got my *one* who got something important from the lecture. Next week I’ll be at Humber Lakeshore with a Police Foundations Program class.

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine 💙💙

Lecture Feedback volume 2

Tags

, , , , , ,

As typically happens, life has been very busy, so many things on the go, and a lot to work on in my own post-traumatic growth. I was asked to put together a biography/CV for an ongoing project, and while looking for examples of feedback from my talks, classes, and lectures, I remembered these, which I had not looked at since last year.

My goal is to always reach “the one” each time. I truly love it when I can reach more than one who needed to hear the message that what you are experiencing is normal, you are not alone, we are all in this together.

This adds to the post, Reading Lecture Feedback from early 2018.

Feedback will be in “quotes,” any notes from me will be in [square brackets]. The code is to keep students anonymous and reminds me of the semester, year, and the random number assigned to each page. Feedback from students is entirely voluntary, while there was close to 100 in attendance, below are the submitted feedback.

November 5, 2018, 8:00 am class, Christine solo presenter, topic “Victimization, Trauma, and Mental Health.”

RU01A2018: “Did a good job at telling her story. Incorporation of humour made it more interesting to listen to so early in the morning. Did a good job explaining. Overall was a very interesting presentation.”

RU02A2018: “I really enjoyed your presentation and you have provided us with many insights and knowledge. You are passionate about what you do and we can see it through your eyes. I am very passionate about social justice issues that you have discussed with us and you have inspired me to keep standing up for what I believe in. Also, you are very courageous for talking about what you have gone through. I hope one day I can do the same.”

RU03A2018: “Thank you for sharing your story with us last week. I feel more knowledgeable about what struggles LGBTQ communities face on a daily basis and how society can move forward and make necessary changes to create a more positive and safe world. Your presentation was great and the message you were trying to convey came across very effectively. Thank you for your honesty and bravery throughout your presentation.”

RU04A2018: “I thought that her presentation provided me with a lot of important information and facts about things that I did not know. I appreciated her personal connections and interest in the things that she talked about because I felt like she cared a lot about those topics and she was allowing us to take an interest in something that is very important to her. I also appreciated that although it was a very tough subject to both talk and learn about, she was able to lighten the situation and made us laugh throughout her presentation. I would like to say thank you for her time and sharing her stories with us.”

RU05A2018: “I really appreciated your lecture last week as it really opened my eyes to things that I was aware of, but wasn’t fully aware of how much it affects people’s lives. You were really engaged and explained everything very clearly. It was a pleasure hearing everything you had to say. I wish you luck with everything.”

RU06A2018: “Thank you so much for coming in and sharing some of your deepest secrets. It was hard for me not to hold back my emotions because I felt every emotion you were describing. I think you’re so inspirational and after graduation I wish to be doing exactly what you are, helping people on a greater scale. I used to get panic attacks and I suffered for a few years because I didn’t know how to deal with my trauma. My ex was never supportive and I recently ended things and got out of a toxic relationship, so your presentation was great timing. Keep doing what you’re doing because you inspire so many people with your beautiful soul.”

RU07A2018: “I really enjoyed your presentation last week at Ryerson. I think what you taught us is extremely important, and so is telling your story. I learned a lot of things, for example, I did not realize how high the suicide rates were for first responders and LGBTQ youth. I also did not know what an ACE score was, and I think that it is an important thing to know. Thank you for sharing your story and your knowledge!”

RU08A2018: “The presentation was very insightful and I learned quite a lot, not only about the mental health issues that the public and first responders face, but also how I can support or guide someone who may need help to the right resources. I also was especially inspired by Christine’s courage and strength to share her experiences with us. Although we face great struggles and setbacks in the mental health sphere, it is great to see those with first-hand experience working to change the landscape.”

RU09A2018: “I was really moved by your story and lecture last week. I wasn’t aware how severe and real the struggles that LGBTQ people face were, on a daily basis. It was very informative and eye-opening. Thank you for sharing your experiences, it’s made an impact on me. Please continue to do what you do.”

RU10A2018: “Thank you for coming in as a guest speaker to talk about how victimization and mental health correlate. It was also interesting to listen to you about the Adverse Childhood Experiences and gaining more knowledge about it, as it is something that I do want to get into with young children before and after entering the justice system. Also, thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences of victimization as it speaks out to many!”

RU11A2018: “Great insights on trauma, mental health and such. Appreciated personal connections between yourself and the material that were made. Passionate and caring about what was being talked about. Held my attention while speaking.”

RU12A2018: “Thank you very much for taking the time to come and speak to us. Beyond the academic nature of the material, I particularly valued how open and honest you were in general and with respect to your personal circumstances. As someone who has experienced a significant amount of trauma, particularly childhood trauma growing up, I found your talk about Adverse Childhood Experiences and your summary of that research particularly energizing and relevant. I find guest lecturing to be some of the most useful content. Thank you again.”

RU13A2018: “Thank you for coming in and talking. The topics you discussed were really heavy and often shocking, but it was a great learning experience. You made really clear points and I could understand the topics really well.”

RU14A2018: “Presentation was engaging, interesting, and thought-provoking. Presenter was relatable, talked about issues/details that are typically not discussed. Presenter was comfortable talking about difficult subjects in a frank, straightforward manner. Presenter gave ample warning before starting her presentation to ensure no one was offended or caught off guard.”

RU15A2018: “Very insightful. Passionate speaker who has experience in the topic of discussion, which allows for an overall better representation of issues. Information not only valid, but also puts things into perspective. Engaging. Overall great!”

RU16A2018: “The presentation was detailed. Represented all the issues properly with detailed examples. I personally got insight into the life of an LGBTQ person, although not all, but at least one. Now that I know what I can do through the knowledge you supplied to us last week, I will make a conscious effort to help in my own little way. Thank you.”

RU17A2018: “It was very interesting to hear about violence in the LGBTQ community from someone involved in the community herself. The statistics were shocking and really shed light on the terrors that these people often face. I thought Christine did an excellent job of relating to her audience and really emphasized how much community-based assistance is available for anyone struggling with mental health issues or PTSD. Of course, she focused on LGBTQ people, but really spoke to all people, not just one community, as well as making everyone feel like there is hope if one is going through something. Overall, I really enjoyed it.”

RU18A2018: “I think it was really informative and a shock to hear. I was on the fence before about working on the police force, but after hearing your talk, I really want to help others. Thank you so much for coming to talk with us!”

RU19A2018: “The guest speaker was very informative about the subjects and genuinely cared about the topic of discussion. Sharing her own personal story surely gave students the courage to confront their own struggles and possible past abuses. The guest speaker also seemed to genuinely want to help victims and provided information for students seeking help.”

RUProfA2018: “You have been lecturing in my classes for 5 years now. From the dozens of lectures you have delivered, that has to be, without a doubt, the best lecture you have ever done!”

Now you know why I love what I do, even after all these years. We must continue to share our stories and eradicate the stigma around mental health and wellness.

A quick note from my recent travels out to western Canada to deliver some talks and lectures. I had completed a lecture, the focus was the multi-stigma environment for LGBTQ folks and LGBTQ first responders when battling mental illness. No slideshow, no multimedia, just this comical curmudgeon telling stories. A typical format is lecture, Q&A, and then I stay to chat one on one with anyone who was uncomfortable discussing something in front of the group.

This young woman was waiting, and when she stepped up … speaking a little hesitatingly at first, and then it came out in a torrent – “I thought I was the only one who felt like this … I thought I couldn’t say anything because nobody would understand … I have been so ashamed about this …” and I reminded her that she is not alone, we truly are in this together, and there is support out there, after you take the first step of talking to someone. She began to cry, and my heart broke for her multiple times in that moment. I couldn’t hold my own emotions in check, and I cried with her. My host remarked as we were driving to the next event on the schedule, that the true image of these few days will be seeing that moment. They said that it spoke volumes about why our work is so important, the stigma is still huge and we need to keep sharing our stories, particularly the hope that recovery and growth is possible.

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams. May you shine.

Christine 💙💙

Mother’s Day 2019

Tags

, , , , ,

Happy Mother’s Day, for all of you – mothers, soon to be mothers, trying to be mothers, surrogate mothers, and many, many, many more.

Chatting with Nat (my amazing Sis, I’ll love her forever and a million days more) this morning, and she mentioned that today can be a tough day. Yes, I saw a few things in my various online feeds this morning that proved it.

Looking back over close to 56 years of existence, I was lucky enough to spend 47 of her 68 years with my Mother. I look back at all the things that she gifted me with throughout those 47 years, along with all the memories, and especially some of the goofy shit that we got up to over the years, those days when we would be laughing non-stop until our sides ached and tears were running down our faces. Don’t look at me! *side-eye* and we’re off laughing again!

One gift is an insatiable appetite for reading! At least once a month, sometimes twice a month, we would make our rounds, Sam’s Club (for the brief time it was in Toronto), Costco, Chapters/Indigo, and when it was still around, World’s Biggest Bookstore. It was a slow month if we didn’t leave the store with at least two bags bursting at the seams with books! A typical haul would be 20 books, and of those 20, at least 10 were fiction, half again were non-fiction, and the remainder would be research/information/textbook material. As Mom often said, although it was a lifelong wish to go to university full time, nothing says we can’t do the reading, research, and learning on our own!

We would come home with bags of books, and the only sounds you would hear that weekend, besides our cats up to their usual antics, was the sound of the coffeemaker brewing a pot, and pages turning. We would dive in and spend an entire weekend immersed in books. The ultimate thing to do when the weather was nasty outside.

The gift of unstoppable curiosity and appetite for learning. At one time, we had all four local newspapers delivered on Saturday morning. Some weekends, 6 inches of newsprint piled up in front of the apartment door when we got up in the morning. Coffee, oatmeal, bagels, and the news of the day. The usual gear off to the side, a steno pad with a pen or pencil clipped into the coil, reading glasses (before we both needed them full time), and a full pot of coffee at the ready in the kitchen. One or both of the cats joining us on the table to help us read the papers, or do the puzzles. And every once in a while, stopping to read something to each other in that morning’s news, or some outrageous direction a columnist had taken, that had us wondering what they were smoking that week.

Every now and then, we both would hit on something in the news, and the question asked “did you know about this before? No, do you have any information on it? Sweet bugger all! Fetch the Mac? Yup!” and we would be sitting on the long side of the dining room table with our steno books, pens poised, and we delved into anything and everything we could find about some topic in the newspaper that had piqued our curiosity. On occasion, if we couldn’t come up with enough to satisfy us online, it meant that likely we would be spending Sunday afternoon at the Toronto Reference Library, where we could dive into all kinds of reference works. If that didn’t solve it, a phone call was made during the week, and the following weekend, we would meet a friend or two, and spend the day in the stacks at the University of Toronto, digging up all the material that we could find. Finally, comparing notes at home, and looking to see if there was even more to research. I feel for those who have no curiosity about the world and how it works. I swear half the fun is in the search for information!

The gift of music. I was told that I showed an aptitude for music when young. Likely why Mom started me in music lessons before my 5th birthday. There was this little music shop in the plaza just down the street from our house, and I still remember my instructor, Leo C., who started my learning with a piano accordion. As I grew up, I moved up to a full size instrument, and when I needed a new challenge, we switched to guitar. While doing that, let’s stretch the mind a bit more, and take on piano to keep both hands working away while learning even more musical notation. Then, let’s switch to the organ, and teach the feet how to play another register on the foot pedals! I still recall some of the tricks used to learn the scales and where the notes were placed on the staff. Add more instruments and classes once in school, along with a couple of choirs (school, church, others), and various opportunities to sing (when I had a decent voice that didn’t sound like fingernails on a chalkboard!), and taking every opportunity offered, by the time I graduated, could play 10 instruments, and had conducted a few school groups.

That was the laugh when we saw photos of a speech I gave last year in Durham Region, the way my hands were moving when the photo was captured, I looked like I was conducting a choir. If I lived in a house, I would have a piano to play, just for my own entertainment.

The gift of making a difference from behind the scenes. I liked Mom’s approach to things. And I’ve taken it as my own approach in the years since (37 years worth). Some people love the spotlight, we saw an abundance of it in the family. We enjoyed being out of sight, and getting things done. I have found over the years that I am at my most effective when entirely invisible to most outside of a classroom, lecture hall, auditorium, or meeting room. When you are the face or voice of something, you’re set up to be under attack every time you open your mouth or blink. If you want to make change happen, you have the conversations with those people who can influence things to bring that change into being. Causing the change of viewpoint to allow for flag-raising events across Canada a few years ago, was entirely born out of an abundance of conversations had quietly and out of the spotlight. At times a bit more intense, and other times a “wouldn’t it be amazing if you… ?” That’s the question you ask when you go to bed at night, “Did I make a positive difference in some person’s life today?” If the answer is yes, you’ve had an amazing day. If not, then look to see where there are opportunities tomorrow.

The gift of love and understanding. Mom was like a PFLAG parent before PFLAG ever came into existence. It would be so natural then, after her death, that Irene, the President of our local PFLAG would quietly and without a lot of fuss, step into her shoes, and just be there when needed. The biggest lesson Mom had was that it does not matter WHO you love, all that matters is HOW YOU LOVE, and that you LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY. The way I have phrased it in lectures over the years is, “I don’t care who you snuggle up next to at night, just as long as you are loved, safe, and treated well.” Why does it matter? Because, if you judge someone for who they are attracted to, what are you missing out on from the rest of that person? You’ve slapped on a label, and you have completely negated their existence. If you love someone, you understand where they come from, you learn about their history, not to hold it against them, but to learn how to ensure they are treated properly. When somebody opens up to you about their past, they are not looking for pity, they are explaining to you, should you care to pay attention, listen, and understand, what occurred that has made them the person that they are today. When someone opens up to you in that way, they are giving you an opportunity to learn how to include them in what you do. The greatest gift you will ever give to another human being is to include them. Even if they refuse it, at least you tried.

The gift of communication, in all forms. We learned to read at home long before we ever set foot in a school environment. It was the time after dinner to sit at the table with that day’s Toronto Telegram (yeah, I’m dating myself!), and Mom would say, “read that story to me.” Get to a word you don’t know, sound it out bit by bit. Don’t know what it means, look it up in the dictionary that’s nearby on the bookshelf. Again, learning numbers and math at home long before school. Mom had won awards as a teenager for mathematics, I used to have the old faded newspaper articles announcing the results. So, we learned numbers, times tables, division, etc. Mom did it all her head, as I learned to … which was hilarious, because it drove teachers to distraction because they could not understand how you know the answer without needing pages of scribbles to figure it out. We had a game, from my earliest memories, we would keep a running tally of everything in the cart when we were grocery shopping. Before the cashier began checking us out, we’d say what the total we had was. As time passed, it got that we could nail it every time, the pre-tax total. I still do math in my head to this day, using the methods from the 60s. Used to blow a few minds in the aerospace world by figuring out the total cost on a bill of material for an aircraft component, before running an adding machine tape to prove it.

And it showed up in more ways. I learned to write, both printing and cursive writing at home. Mom still had her Esterbrook cartridge or bottle fill fountain pen from her senior year at high school. She taught me all the same tricks that her penmanship teachers instilled into the students in class. To this day, I will always prefer writing with a fountain pen over anything else.

And, from all of her work at home with us, while growing up, I picked up a love for educating. It has come in very handy while dug in with activism and advocacy work over the decades. It is what led to my taking a year away from the tech world and diving in with both feet into teaching. I managed a few courses, looked after the office finances, and was the fill-in for the office manager when out of town. I’m a writer, I love words, so one of my favourite courses was Communications. This was more spoken than written, but they do come under the same umbrella. Being an Empath, I listen much closer than most do, either in written communication or in person.

The gift of exploration. We loved taking day trips, from my earliest memories up until the year before Mom’s brain cancer hit her full force. One memorable day was spent in Midland, the morning at The Martyr’s Shrine (two Anglicans in a Catholic shrine? Lucky the holy water didn’t boil!), and the afternoon across the highway at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons. That trip inspired a lot of reading and research, and we actually travelled back a few more times that summer to learn more. Or the Ontario Science Centre. We LOVED the Science Centre!! We would go 2 – 4 times per year, away from any school trips. It was a great environment for both of us, keep the grey cells in full romp, and constantly triggering curiosity in a number of areas. I haven’t been in years, but one day will find the time and spend a day wandering from exhibit to exhibit again.

The gift of laughter! Anyone who has sat in one of my talks/classes/lectures has heard a few of the *ahem* cleaner yet hilarious stories of some of the goofy shit that the two of us got up to over the years. There would be days when we would be laughing so hard, that tears were streaming down our faces, and we’d be banging a fist on the table while gasping for air. I knew that look, when something uproariously funny and risqué was about to emerge. It was my cue to do the pearl-clutching gasp while exclaiming, “Mother!!” Which was Mom’s cue to pull the most comical innocent look she could and looking up through her eyebrows, say, “whaaaaaaaat?” Which would put us into hysterics all over again.

We had tickets to see Robin Williams at the Sony Centre downtown. Three seats, front row balcony. Glad they had those giant video screens so we could see the expression on his face or what antics he was up to on stage. Well, near the end of 2 hours of side-aching hilarity, he launches into this whole routine about Viagra (we can’t cure cancer, but we gotta pill to make you harder than algebra!), and one look at each other and we howled with laughter throughout the whole routine, especially the water bottle and the curtains! We were sore for days after from all the laughing we did that night. And the next time the old man called, drunk off his ass, and started grumbling about the cost of his Viagra pills, how much chance d’ya think he heard somebody not laughing?

Even in Palliative Care, Mom’s humour was legendary. Near the end, she had suffered a massive stroke. She could move her eyes, wrinkle her nose, and had use of her index, middle, and ring fingers on her left hand. That was it. She was unable to speak, or do much else. Now, I lived with her for 47 years, I knew every look, every gesture, we could speak entire paragraphs without making a sound. One night, a new nurse is trying to get her night meds into her. Mom’s determined that this will not be, because she doesn’t like the nurse. I looked down at her left hand, and she was flipping the bird! I started to giggle. I finally had had enough, and I said, step aside, I’ll do it. She was about to object, but I had give her a look over the top of my glasses that said, I am not kidding here. “Ma! Gotta take this please.” Wrinkled nose, flip the bird. “I know, but will you give it a shot for me?” Eye roll. “C’mon Ma, it tastes like shit, but it’s good for ya!” Got her! I had recalled a line from Crocodile Dundee that we had both laughed at, and it was just the trick at the time. Cancer might have been trying it’s hardest to do a number on her, but her sense of humour was there right to the end.

The gift of awe and wonder. To be regularly touched, moved, and inspired, by people, by music, by art, by books. How dull would life be without any of these? I had that entire touched, moved, inspired set when I read Nat’s first book. It threw me for a loop a few times, because it had occurred like she was in my mind, looking at the files, and telling my story too. I come from an era where things “just are not talked about.” I was diagnosed with anxiety before I hit double digits in age (it started between 5 and 6). Depression hit in my teens with a vengeance. I’ve lived with this stuff for decades, and for most of it, never breathed a word. But, imagine being awed by another person, by their words, by their spirit/soul. To live in wonder about how they go about creating something, how they survived their past. Yet, that sense of awe and wonder remains, to be carried along by the lyrics to a song, to look through photographs of scenery that moves you beyond words, to experience another person’s life force that leaves an indelible mark on yours. It is why we enjoyed so thoroughly our time at concerts, whether it was the symphony, the pops orchestra, a pop singer, an ear-splitting rock concert (one time we couldn’t hear for three days after!), or bopping around in the kitchen to the radio … music was a place for awe and wonder. The words of another person were cause for awe and wonder. And so much more.

There are folks, that today is picking at the scab covering an unhealed wound. It’s still raw, it hurts like a bugger, and you’ll bleed all over if people keep picking at it. Got that, been there, done it, didn’t want the stinkin’ t-shirt. I’ll only tell you this – it takes time, be patient with yourself, no two people grieve in the same way.

The days that I receive messages like these, it is what makes it all worthwhile. While I may have been unable to have children of my own, I have been a mom to hundreds over the years, and there are many still here.

Remember to love each other intensely.

Love, sunbeams, and kitten dreams.

Christine (CityMom) 💙💙