Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What Do I Do Now?

One of my friends suggested that I write down all my thoughts and feelings down to try to deal with my grief.  She said that I should probably do it privately ... but that has never been my style.  I'm an open book kind of girl.  At my own funeral, or if somebody makes a movie adaption of my life, I want "Iris" by the Goo-Goo Dolls to be playing.  The line, "I want you to know who I am, I just want you to know who I am" echoes my own philosophy towards life.

Well, anyway, here goes nothing!

According to my mom, on Friday, July 13th, things kept going wrong for her.  I can`t remember the entire list, but one thing was that she had a small accident in the garage of the building in which she lived.  There was minimal damage, just a scrape to her car, but Mom still felt awful.  Far more worse, however, was the fact that Mom started having chest pains, her heart beat wildly within her bosom.

From then on, my poor mother was in and out of hospitals.  First, she was in Centenary Hospital, where they gave her a pacemaker and kept her in for observation for about 10 days. Mom got sent home without any sort of home care, which upset me so much because she was weak as a kitten after the ordeal in the hospital. Plus, she was told not to use both arms until the stitches from the pacemaker healed.

It was a very short time after that when Mom called 911, complaining of the exact same symptoms as before. This time they took her to Scarborough General.  There, they gave her more tests and tried her on different medication. It was also where somebody stole Mom`s wallet while she was in the washroom.  Yuula and I comforted her and used our cell phones to call to cancel bank/credit cards.

I guess it was late July/early August when the hospital sent Mom home again, but this time they gave her home care for her morning showers.  And, my niece Michelle, very kindly offered to stay with her.  Only 14 at the time, I greatly admire my niece for taking on this responsibility.

Sadly, late at night, on August 8th, Mom went back into the hospital. This time it was Centenary again. She never returned home.

It was an emotional roller-coaster for my family and me during this time when Mom was in and out of hospitals.  We were scared and then hopeful, worried and doubtful, and then cautiously optimistic. It was a never-ending cycle of hope and dread.

There are things that stick in my mind, both good and bad, and I'm sure they will stay there for the remainder of my life ....

So many times I went to see Mom in the hospitals, or at her home during her all too brief stays there.  Either by Wheel Trans (frustrating as hell!), wheelchair accessible taxi (bloody expensive!), or accessible TTC routes (I found that this was the easiest and most preferable mode of transportation), I made damned sure I visited as often as I could. Guilt-ridden, even after almost three years, for not being with Rob in his final few minutes, I was determined not to let Mom have a similar fate. Well, also, because Mom had stayed with me as a kid whenever I was in the hospital (which was often!) with stomach troubles, and then, later on, when I was 18 and had major surgery and had the Cerebellum Stimulator implanted inside of me.  Mom had always been there for me, and I wanted, now, to be there for her.

I remember the first time the hospital called me to come right away, my mother wasn't doing very well.  It  was around midnight and I was just thinking about starting to head to bed.  Instead, I called a cab and went to the hospital with my friend/employee Simone.

I asked my mother's nurse exactly what was wrong, and she used the term "congestive heart failure", and I tried my best to grasp what she was telling me. (Frankly, I understood the full implications more when I Googled this medical term.)  Basically, it means that the heart gets weaker and weaker, and then the person's lungs fill up with fluid.  Pneumonia/bronchitis sets in, and the patient's heart gets weaker still.

Funny enough, it wasn't very long after I arrived that Mom's condition seemed to improve.  Perhaps it was the morphine, which the nurse said helped Mom  to breathe better, or perhaps it was my presence, sitting beside her bedside and holding her hand.  In her more lucid moments, Mom mumbled something about how she thought only lovers held hands like this.  (In a less lucid moment, she asked Simone if she'd like to order fish and chips.)  And, when her condition improved even more, she began to sing "It's a Big Wide Wonderful World", which was one of her favourite songs.  She seemed amazed that I had spent the whole night with her, and urged me to go home and get some rest. Was it any wonder that at times like these I doubted the gloomy diagnosis my mother was given?  Didn't the doctors and nurses know that Mom was Super Woman?

Although I still worried about my mother's condition the two times the hospital sent her home, I had this same feeling of optimism.  The first time my mother went home, Sarah and I brought over homemade spaghetti and Caesar salad, which Mom thought was delicious and ate more than she had in weeks.  Bruce was there, too, and was also very appreciative of the meal.  Mom was in good spirits, and showed us pictures from her wedding album.  The second time Mom went back home, Bruce was there again, this time with the kids, and Aunt Joyce popped in later on in the evening. We watched Singing in the Rain on TV, much to the kids amusement, and ordered in pizza. Once again, we marveled at Mom's ability to eat a whole slice of pizza.

With Rob it was the dates of September 17th, 18th, and 19th that have been carved deeply upon my heart and brain. With Mom, it's August 19th, 20th, and 21st..

On Sunday, August 19th, Yuula and I visited Mom in Centenary Hospital.  Motria was there, too.  We all remarked how well Mom looked: her eyes were bright and clear, her complexion absolutely rosy.  It was true that she had both pneumonia and bronchitis now and the antibiotics she was on were playing havoc with her digestive system, but I hadn't seen Mom look so good since this whole mess had started.  Because Mom was very weak from all her health problems, I asked Yuula to assist her with her dinner.  Mom took two mouthfuls of spaghetti, which looked both daunting and unappealing in its hugeness, and told Yuula that that was enough. Yuula helped Mom eat two bites of mashed potatoes and two sips of tea. That was all Mom could handle to eat.

Mom's lack of appetite, physical weakness, and the shallowness of her breathing worried me, scared me.  I had seen Mom breathing like this many times during those six terrible weeks, usually the day before she made one of her 911 calls, or right after being admitted into the hospital.  To ease my apprehension, Yuula told  me that she'd had pneumonia and bronchitis when she was a teenager, and she had been as weak as a kitten too.  Plus,Yuula reminded me, Mom wasn't in CCU anymore, she was on a regular floor, number 9 to be exact - that had to be a good sign!

On Monday, August 20th, around 11:00 am, I got a call from the hospital.  They told me that Mom wasn't doing very well and that I should come as quickly as possible. I called a cab and went right away with Ainsley by my side.

When we arrived at the hospital, Mom was still on the 9th floor.  The nurse told me that Mom had had a bad night. Her heart had been beating wildly in her chest again, and they tried to slow it down with medication.  What needed to be done now, I was told, was to take her back down to the CCU so they could monitor her condition better.  I felt hopeful about this. Maybe they could make Mom better again like the other time she'd been there, and then she'd wake up and tell me to go home and go to bed.

It took a long time for Mom to get moved.  Someone had to be moved out before she could get moved in.  I sat and waited with her during this time.  We chatted, Mom seemed amazingly cheerful. Her voice seemed to be slurred and it was difficult to understand, but I'm pretty sure I understood two things she said:  1) "How are you?" and "I'm not worried."  Those were the last words I heard my mother speak.

When they finally did  take my mom down to the CCU, I decided not to follow along, knowing I'd just be getting in their way.  Instead, I decided to go and eat something to keep my strength up.

I always regretted the decision to leave my mother to go and eat, because when I went down to the CCU, I was shocked, not by all the flashing lights on the monitor or by the bruising upon my poor mother's arms - these things I had seen too many times before! - but by her general overall condition.  She was unconscious, and no matter how loud the nurse and doctor called her name, Mom would not/could not fully regain consciousness.  She would periodically attempt to pull off her oxygen mask or suddenly jerk both of her arms into the air, but she never uttered a word or gave any tangible sign that she knew where she was or what was happening to her ... at least not until the very end when, suddenly, she reached out and grasped my hand.

The doctor came in to tell me that Mom's condition was worsening and that she probably wouldn't survive the night. I was told to call my family and tell them to come as soon as possible. I did, and waited for my brother, cousin, and aunt to arrive.

In the interim, a nurse came in and asked, somewhat sheepishly, if I had Power of Attorney over my mother's affairs. I said, no, I thought my brother Bruce did, though.   And then the nurse explained that they had made a mistake and shouldn't have actually brought up my mother back to the CCU because upon her arrival they had automatically given her heart medication, which was apparently against my mother's wishes, according to a document she had signed.  (No resuscitation, and no heart medication if the prognosis wasn't good.)

And then, I was given a terrible choice: go against my mother's wishes and continue to give her the medication, which would at least make her feel more comfortable, or stop the IV at once.  The nurse explained that Mom was probably feeling like she was drowning or suffocating, and the heart medication would make her feel better.  What could I do?  I couldn't sit by knowing my mother was suffering, could I? Knowing, also, that not continuing with the IV could most likely end her life.  I still had  a tiny bud of hope inside of me that Mom would pull through and recover completely. After all, Mom had bounced back before, hadn't she?  It was only yesterday when Mom seemed mostly recovered.  And, I kept thinking of when Rob had had Pancreatitis and the doctors only gave him a 15% chance of survival.   The doctors had been wrong then; they could be wrong about Mom now. Even now I'm not sure I did the right thing by giving mom the heart medication but what could I do? If the roles were reversed I'm sure Mom would have done the same thing. 

For what seemed like hours Ainsley and I tried to coax mom to keep on fighting. And then I felt guilty because maybe it was too much for her. So I said, if you need to leave I understand and I love you. To make her time there easier I asked Ainsley to play Mom her favourite songs:  "I Can't Get Started With You" by Bunny Berigan, "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong and "Ain't Misbehavin'" by Fats Wallar. Each time a song would play mom would raise up her arms. I'm not sure if it was in glee or in frustration. Perhaps mom wanted to get up and dance around. I could see her do that!

Around 6:00 pm, my brother Bruce, Aunt Joyce, cousin Lesley, and her 24 year old son came to the hospital and sat around Mom's bed. They all spoke to her in sad and loving voices.  Bruce spoke so gently and took the oxygen mask from her grasping hands.  "No, Mom," he'd say, "the mask is helping you breathe." His voice was so tender it was as if he was speaking to one of his children.

Much to my amazement, one by one my family left. At first I was upset by this.  However, then I thought, well, my aunt has Brittle Diabetes and isn't well and I knew that Lesley was probably driving her home.  And, Brandon, Lesley's son, was young (only 24), and may not have understood the implications of leaving me alone. And Bruce, I love him. And I know he doesn't say much but I know this whole episode with Mom has been hard on him too. Maybe he had the same hopes I did that Mom would recover and that he would see her the following day.

And so, I was alone.  Well, not exactly completely alone.  Mom was there, and my employees/friends took turns coming to the hospital to offer assistance and support.

On August 21st, after hour upon hour of sitting beside my Mom and watching her erratic breathing and watching the monitors dance crazily my mom suddenly flung her arm and reached out with her hand to hold mine. Her grasp was very weak but I held her cold hand firmly. I held my breath and looked up at the monitors and the nurse who was in the room said "Don't look at the monitors, that's not your Mom."  So I looked at my Mom and she breathed once, twice and thrice and then no more. I looked at the nurse and she nodded and I understood.

I didn't cry.  I asked Simone, "Why aren't I crying?"  And then I asked, "What do I do now?"  Almost immediately I heard Fleetwood Mac in my head singing "You Can Go Your Own Way" and that's when I cried. Actually, I bawled long and heard because I knew that Mom was saying to me that she's fine and that she has confidence in me to go my own way and live my life the way I want to. I just didn't want to go my own way without my Mom. We had always been so close.

It was a hard, long journey, but I'm glad I stayed with Mom to the very end. I know in my heart she would have done exactly the same for me.

I love you, Mom.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Most Wonderful Mother in the Universe

The Most Wonderful Mother in the Universe: this is what I called my Mom whenever I was very sick as a child and she played nurse to me. I also called her The Best Mother in the Universe when she showed special kindness or understanding towards me, which was most of the time.

I have so many fond memories of my mother, I don't know where to start. When I was growing up, she took care of my brother and my dad and me, not to mention all of the animals we collected over the years: three dogs, one cat, two gerbils, one iguana, one lizard from Barbados, and I don't know how many tadpoles. She had such a loving and caring nature, those were just some of the things I loved about her and try to emulate.

She was also a very optimistic person, and cheerful. She would always go around the house singing and dancing. She would sing songs to me and my brother Bruce, songs like "Baby Face," "Bicycle Built for Two," and "I'm in the Mood for Love." She and Dad would play music from the 30's and 40's and Mom would say, "the Depression wasn't that bad, actually it was really fun! We used to sit around your Grandma's piano and sing all the new hits."

My friend Kaitlin said she'll always remember my Mom saying, "Boy, wasn't that a humdinger!" when she saw a trans person walk by in really wild dress. My Mom used to tell me that she was like Grandpa Dixon in that they could strike up a conversation with anyone and at any time. It was true; whenever I met her on our regular Tuesdays at Tim Horton's, she would tell me about people she had talked to on the subway or bus, and she made friends with the other regulars at Tim Horton's and Cafe California. Everybody loved my Mom because she was sweet and chatty, and could tell you stories the length of your arm.

Yet Mom had a certain fire within her, too. I remember one time, I told my Mom I had gone to the hospital for a procedure on my esophagus, and they had only sedated me, not completely knocked me out with anesthetic. I had been so scared because nobody had warned me that they were going to do that. So, the next time I went to the hospital, I could hear Mom yelling at the doctors saying, "don't you dare hurt my baby! Put her right under!"

I always felt like Mom was in my corner, and she sure was the best PR person! She would tell total strangers about my life and talent.

I have so many more memories of my Mom, like her baking banana cake, and Bruce and I would fight over who would lick the bowl. I remember Mom doing a shtick at a lodge with my Aunt Joyce and two other women, and they sang "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue." In Mom's latter years, I introduced her to Gay Pride Week and the annual Underwear Show at Cafe California. Much to my delight and amusement, Mom especially liked the Underwear Show!

Sadly, my Mom, Verna Georgene Abbott, passed away from complications of congestive heart failure on Tuesday, August 21st at 5:15 am. There are no words in the English language to describe how much I'll miss her, and how much I love her.

Mom, wherever you are, I love you. You gave me a great life, and I'm happy you always said I made your life more interesting. Thank you for making me the person I am today. You were and are the Best Mother in the Universe.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

I Am the Juggler Koo Koo a Choo

Remember in my last blog entry I wrote about how busy I am?  Well, I left out a couple of things, like going to the Picasso exhibit at the AGO in May.

The actual exhibit was interesting and enjoyable, but the "accessible" route I had to take in order to get up to the ticket booth annoyed me terribly!

The ramp I had to go up was certainly lovely to look at; all smooth, shiny, and curvy.  However, navigating upwards along its winding path was both frustrating and humiliating.  There were stairs to the left of the ramp that had no twists and turns, so people could simply walk straight up, taking them at the very most 60 seconds to complete the climb. For me, it took roughly two to three minutes to reach the top.  Not only that but the walls of the ramp were so high that I was almost completely out of view from the rest of the art enthusiasts.

Sure, some people might say, but those are just minor issues, what's the big deal?  And my answer to them is this: When you have a disability, these little things mount up, one on top of each other, day after day, making you feel as if society is determined to impede your progress in life by any possible way it can, as well as trying its best to hide you from its sight.

On my way to the Mayworks Foodshare event last month, I  took regular TTC (not Wheel Trans) and couldn't leave the Bloor bus station because there weren't any curb cuts to let me get onto the sidewalk.  I had to ask one of the drivers of the accessible buses to pick me up and drop me off at the sidewalk. But if the bus driver hadn't been agreeable to my idea, or had been too busy to help out, I wouldn't have been able to go to the event.  I would have had to jump on another bus and gone home!

And, speaking of curb cuts, let me tell you this story!  On my way home from the Foodshare event, having just left the Wellesley bus station, I was zooming along towards Church St in my power wheelchair at a great speed.  I was in a fantastic mood from just seeing a lot of my good friends and knowing that I had successfully ablibbed my way through a panel discussion for which I had been utterly unprepared, and I was trying to keep up with Ainsley who was riding her bike. Because of the speed and my elated mood, I almost jumped off one of those curb cut dividers, which could have potentially caused my chair to tip over right into the busy street!  Fortunately, I saw the divider just in time and swerved to miss it.

Inside my head I cursed all curb cut dividers and the people who designed them in the first place!  Why can't all curb cuts just be all in one, not with dividers?  And if there are dividers, why not paint them bright yellow so people can see them?

I was going to rant and rave, and say that I believed that curb cut dividers are created as an evil plot to slow down people in wheelchairs. (I mean, whenever I'm about to cross the road where there's a curb cut divider I can't get near the ramped sections because people are standing on it!)  I still kind of believe this to be true.   And yet, having thought about it, I suppose curb cut dividers could be just as annoying hazardous to other people too. Anyone who's in a hurry and not looking where they're going could stumble and fall.

Self Portrait 2012

Well, whether there actually an evil plot to try to impede my progress in life (and in the streets!) I pretty much do my best to fight against it.

This is the tenth year of my business Annie's Dandy Note Cards and Artwork. I'm very proud of this fact!  Ten years of hard work, a lot of success and some failures, but always my passion to make my business into something substantial, something from which I can eventually get off ODSP.  For a decade this has my dream, the main focus of my existence.  Make art that is both beautiful and poignant, and find ways to make enough money to sustain my lifestyle and remove myself from a program that is both restrictive and dehumanizing.

My family and friends laugh at me because I'm always coming up with new ideas on how to promote my business.  Books, videos, pamphlets, art shows, and umpteen different websites.

My latest brainstorm was to create the Dandy Card Membership, where people can have a card a month delivered to their doorstep for $40.00 a year ($36.00 if you order from me in person), along with a free pen and a description of how/why I painted each picture.


You can order your own Dandy Card Membership at www.annekabbott.com or http://www.etsy.com/shop/AnneKAbbott

Like everything else in my life, I juggle all the work that is involved in my business: painting, having cards printed, designing other merchandise and ordering the finished products online, keeping track of all my income and expenses, and chat charmingly with customers.

One day I'm going to portray myself in a painting as a juggler.  I think this is my lot in life, to happily juggle one million things at once and to still look for more to take on. Perhaps I was a juggler in a previous life, say during the Renaissance, performing to earn my keep.

I do exceptionally well at juggling everything in my life.  Lately, though, one thing keeps slipping out of my grasp.  A song, or a picture, or a special momento, will bring everything toppling down all around me.  Even when something exciting happens and I feel overwhelming happiness (like coming up with the membership idea, or going out to a party or a movie with friends) will put my psyche off balance for a few minutes and grief takes over, making me sob and sob and sob.  I miss Rob so much!  I miss sharing my life with him.

This weekend is Pride.  Rob and I used to love to enjoy the festivities.  It's literally in our backyard, so it was (and is) impossible to ignore.  Pride: one more reason to miss my dear, sweet Rob.

I know this torturous bout of grief will end, probably after Pride, and I will go back to my regular juggling act.

I am, after all, the Juggler, Koo-Koo-a-Choo!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

So Damned Busy!

Yuula and I at May Day March, 2012

My friend Yuula said to me recently, "Anne, your blog is so good! Why don't you write more often?"

Why indeed!

Well, I run my own business, which takes up ... hmmmmmmmmmm, maybe 75% of my time - and that's not a bad thing at all!  It stimulates the creative part of my mind and gives me ideas for both my business and artwork.

My involvement in activism to promote positive social change within our society also takes time from my busy schedule. I love it; I feel like I'm making a difference!

Daily scheduling all of my employees is another venture that takes a huge chunk of my time.  Most times it goes fairly smoothly, other times shifts switch between people so fast that it makes my head spin and my mind yell: "Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!"   However, it is a small price to pay in order to have true independence and hire who I like and respect, and who feel the same about me.

Writing, too,  is another that thing that I love to do. This blog, of course, is one way to hone my writing skills. However, I also compose speeches, poetry, and works of fiction.  Recently, I've been trying to focus all of my attention upon a project I've been planning and talking about for years: a compilation of both my diary (1996-2002) and my blog entries (2008-to present). Actually, discussing my ideas for this compilation feels to me like a snake eating its own tail.

Every day, I write emails to friends, family, and customers; and I post interesting/infuriating/humourous items upon my Facebook wall.

I shop and buy necessities, like food and toiletries and cleaning supplies.  Sometimes I splurge and buy clothes. This month, I've actually found time to go and see three movies with friends.

Every Tuesday, I meet my mother at Tim Hortons.  We go grocery shopping, browse in Winner's, and then go to one of our favourite restaurants for dinner.

 And, each day I find the time to dote upon my sweet, adorable cats. In this time of upheaval and stress, they remind me not to take life too seriously.  I take great joy in showering them with love and letting them lick canned pumpkin from my index finger.

I was going to write about a particularly busy week two weeks ago and list everything I did within those seven days, but I think I'll limit myself to one humourous story instead.

 I was invited by someone from OCAP to go to the Mayworks Festival, which was also hosted by the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.  "Food Fight: Resisting Austerity" was the name of  the event, I was told, and two short films would be shown, and afterwards, a panel would discuss the themes of these films.

I thought the event sounded interesting and worthwhile, so I agreed to go.  Plus, I knew I was in one of the films, the one called Raise the Rates/Special Diet Campaign. (You can watch it at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jv2gVmjTrY).  I had seen it before but not with an audience, so  I was curious to see people's reactions to it.

This is just an example of how busy I am these days! I guess I had misread the invitation in the email from OCAP, because I thought I was going to be simply a spectator not a participant.  Upon my arrival, I was told that a spot on the panel had been saved for me. For a split second I gaped, self-conscious about being in my old painting clothes, but then I smiled and said, "No problem!" And, amazingly, it wasn't! With no preparation, no Lorazepam, I did fine -  I even made people laugh!

I'm always busy, and this is how I like it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Honouring Aaron


"Have sex!"  That was my good friend Aaron's favourite saying.  Whether as greeting or farewell, Aaron would smile broadly and say this phrase, his credo, if you will.  He would even say it loudly on the street as he wheeled passed by bystanders. And, in dull, serious meetings, Aaron took particular joy in shaking things up by saying "Have sex!" or laughing (heh heh heh) at any comment he heard that had even the slightest double entendre.

Aaron was like me in that we both communicated by several different means:  low-tech communication boards with letters, words, and phrases on them; gestures; facial expressions; eye gaze; and, verbalizing.

Aaron would verbalize "Have sex!" with great glee and abandon. His closest friends understood what he was saying, of course, but strangers had trouble with his dialect - and, honestly, this was part of the joke to Aaron!  He could say any risque thing he wanted, and most strangers would smile and nod patronizingly at him. Either that, or he would be completely ignored.

It is not my intent to be overly analytical here and now, but perhaps one of the reasons why Aaron said and did such outrageous things was so that he could be recognized and respected as a human being with thoughts, feelings, and desires like anyone else.  His quirky, in-your-face attitude was, in my humble opinion, a way in which he could deal with a society that had turned its back on him in so many ways.

As implied here, Aaron loved sex with a passion! He thought people should just chill out, forget their troubles and hang-ups, and just have sex. Aaron thought most of the world's problems could  be solved if  we took more time to pleasure each other.  Not a bad theory, really.

March 30, 2012, marked the second year of Aaron's death from cancer.  To honour the memory of the man we loved, a bunch of my friends and I went and got tattoos and then had drinks at Aaron's favourite bar, the Black Bull.

We all decided to get words from Aaron's communication board tattooed on ourselves, words that had special meaning for each of us.

Aaron's communication board #1

Aaron's communication board #2
Aaron's communication board #3


A blank square, symbolizing all Aaron had said in his lifetime and what he might have said.

And I, of course, got -

have sex

Have sex, Aaron... wherever you are.  We love you!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Abolish Austerity!

Photo by John Bonnar, from rabble.ca

Photo by John Bonnar, from rabble.ca

Today, with many of my peers, I took part in a demonstration to protest the cuts in the upcoming 2012 provincial budget.  Financial Consultant, Don Drummond has even come out and bluntly said that if all these cuts go through as planned, Ontario will have to face an age of austerity for many years.

As usual, I wrote a speech to voice my opinion. Here it is:

Queen’s Park is coming out with the 2012 Budget very soon. We know this will be an austerity focused one. Once again, low income communities and marginalized people will be hit the hardest.  Drummond has proposed cutbacks that would make the years of Mike Harris’ “Common Sense Revolution” seem like child’s play by comparison.  Harris cut 4.6% from government programs.  Drummond wants to cut a whopping 16.4% across the board.

Pocketing $1,500 a day to consult on how to make people’s lives a little more difficult, a little more demeaning, Drummond has proposed that there be cuts to healthcare, education, and social programs.  These cuts mean loss of vital services and loss of many, many jobs. They also mean that if people get laid off and can’t find jobs, which in this economy is entirely probable, they will have to apply to receive EI or OW.  But wait! According to Drummond’s plan, it will be made more difficult for people to get OW and ODSP.  He also states that these programs shouldn’t be run provincially but run federally.

I keep hearing the word “austerity” - and I bloody well hate it!  I want to abolish the word “austerity” and those who threaten us with it!  We already barely survive on what little we have each month, how can our government even think of making more cuts? They who give big corporations and banks tax breaks, who buy obsolete fighter jets, and pay consultants $1,500 a day want to cut back on the amount of money I have available for groceries and bills!

I got kind of depressed writing this speech and thinking about how many incredibly similar speeches I have written and delivered over the past 7 years. We keep fighting the cuts to services but the cuts keep coming, if not to the same services then to different ones. Either way, governments are unravelling the fabric of our society.

 In spite of all this, I remain steadfastly hopeful. Being here with all of you today makes me feel strong and determined to keep fighting, and to continue to do so until my very last breath! We must all continue to fight together to ensure that those unfeeling, greedy bastards don’t keep cutting services so there’s nothing left for us or for future generations!

Abolish Austerity!

Thank you.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Memories, Reflections, and a Cat's Birthday

Me at 12 years of age
Sharing a laugh with my brother Bruce
Tribute to Dandylion

Memories.  The mere word makes me smile and remember the time my mother took me to see "The Way We Were" when I was in my early teens.  There was that great scene where Barbara Streisand gently, and with great regret, brushes a strand of hair away from Robert Redford's eyes.  ".... misty coloured memories of the way we were." - yup, I can still hear Barbara belting it out with all the passion she could muster!  I remember thinking, How could she leave such a cute, charming guy?  I'd never do that!  I know better now, though; nothing is just black or white. You gotta do what you gotta do, no matter how sexy the guy is!

About a couple of weeks ago, I was watching Coronation Street and I  was quite surprised to see Robert  Vaughn doing a guest appearance as one of the newer characters. He used to be on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E. about 40 odd years ago. It wasn't one of my all time favorite TV shows, but I liked it and I have fond memories of watching it every Sunday evening, when my whole family would go downstairs and have dinner in the rec-room.

It was family bonding time as we ate, chatted, played with our dog Tippy, and watched shows like "Star Trek", "Get Smart", "Lost in Space", and "Bonanza".  (I never told anybody this until I was an adult, but as a  very young child I was absolutely terrified of tumbleweeds!  If a Western was on and a tumbleweed skittered across the screen, I would have to avert my eyes and hold my breath until it had passed.)

It's interesting what scares you, inspires you, shapes the person you become.  As a toddler, my brother had a doll, which he would always carry around with him, and he would imitate our mother as she sat breastfeeding me by putting the mouth of the doll to his own nipple.  As an adult, Bruce is an undeniable wonderful and devoted father to his two kids.  Because I admired Bruce as a very small child and wanted to emulate everything he did, I asked for and received a toy gun and holster set one Christmas.  I didn't become a gunslinger, of course, but that unique gift from years past instilled in me the courage to be able to express my individuality freely, despite societal pressures and labels, and to have enough guts to fight for what I believe in.

Memories.  They can result in such joy or terrible pain - sometimes, weirdly, both at the same time!  Valentine's Day has come and gone, and it gave me smiles, tears, and sweet memories of romantic times with Rob long past.

Back in 1987, both Rob and I had pretty much given  up on finding that special someone - until December of that year, of course, when we started chatting online on a bulletin-board system called  F.A.N. (Free Access Network) and fell hopelessly in love!

In hindsight, I'm sure Rob and I must have appeared sickeningly sweet in our absolute devotion to each other during that first blush of love.  I remember that Rob bought me two mini teddy bears named Rhett and Scarlett (he knew I was a big fan of "Gone With the Wind"), and a box of truffles.  I gave Rob a novelty Valentine's Day "devil" which held a large sign that had "I Love You!" written on it.  We kissed and hugged and cuddled and fondled, and we both repeatedly told each other how happy we were to have finally found someone special enough with whom to spend Valentine's Day.

This past February 11th would have been Dandylion's 22nd birthday.  The date fell on a Saturday this year and I had planned on celebrating his life and its influence on my business by going to St Lawrence Market and giving away either a magnet or key chain (with his portrait emblazoned on them) with every "Dandy Variety Pack" purchased.  Unfortunately, that day there had been a hell of a snow storm and none of the sidewalks had been cleared, so I was snowed in!  I'm still doing the promotion thing with a free key chain or magnet with every "Dandy Variety Pack", though, and it'll continue for the rest of the year.

When I first started this it had been mid-February.  Besides birthdays, Valentine's Day, having a nasty cold, dealing with Winter's practical jokes, I was just too damned busy to write this entry in just one sitting.

Well, now looking forward: I'm going to write a speech for a rally; I'm going to paint Spring themed pictures; and, I'm going to send in a proposal to the art gallery in Baltimore.

Life continues: on and on and on.....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Which is it?

Nothing stays the same.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Which is it?  Both, I suppose.  Love; hate; greed\; empathy; lust; sex; birth; death; inventions to improve life, inventions to destroy it; famine; war; fighting over land, religion, differing points of opinion - and everyone scrambling for the simple, never-ending pursuit of happiness.  Different players and environment but, basically, it's the same script.

One other thing that has remained constant throughout time, and yet keeps evolving as well, is a person's yearning for self-expression.  Whether in personal appearance or in deed, people strive to show the world who they really are, and how they view the world in which they live.  Sometimes the mode of self-expression is met with smiles, warmth, and congratulations.  Other times it is met with frowns, ridicule, and downright nastiness!

On Boxing Day, I went and got a tattoo.  It's a drawing of a raven, its body forms the word: "Nevermore". Underneath reads: "Sept 17 18 19  RW/FZ".   (Actually, I have to get it slightly altered because right now it says: "RWIFZ", which is rather ridiculous, as you will see as you read on.)

Why did I suddenly get a tattoo?  What is the meaning behind it?  I'll tell you!

On the Thursday before Christmas, I accidentally clicked on an icon on my Ipad, and what popped up? The photo of me meeting Gail Zappa during my Baltimore trip.  She had been speaking at a fundraiser to save Poe House, and had said that after Frank's death she'd felt as if seven ravens were looking over her, protecting her.  Edgar Allen Poe wrote the famous poem "The Raven", where the word "nevermore" appears repeatedly. The poem speaks of a lost love, his Lenore.

It all seemed so right, so inevitable, that I should get a tattoo of a raven, with RW (Rob's initials) and FZ (Frank's initials), as well as Sept 17, 18, 19.  Those dates, you see, have a double meaning.  In '09, Rob spent his last 3 days in the hospital on September 17th, 18th, and 19th.  Last year, I was in Baltimore, on September 17th, 18th, 19th, for the FZ Festival.  And after searching for two minutes on the internet for images of ravens, I found the Nevermore Raven. Perfect, I thought, it ties everything: Rob, Frank, Poe, Gail, Baltimore, and the tragedy of lost love.  Death=Nevermore....

My friends Dobrila and Yuula came with me when I got my tattoo.  They took turns holding my arm steady while the tattoo artist did the work.  It hurt like a bastard, as I knew it would, but it was also exhilarating to know I could stand so much pain for two hours straight.  I felt so empowered, like I could face any kind of pain head on.  It was cathartic too; the pain of grief still wears heavily, like an albatross, but now I feel I can deal with it better.

For the most part, people have given me positive responses to my tattoo.  Even my 86 year old mother was cool with it.  "Oh, Annie," she said with a smile, "I never know what you're going to do next!"

Other people, however, have made it their personal business to tell me that they think it was unwise for me to have gotten a tattoo.  They bring up the risk of infection, fading, and the general "tackiness" of how tattoos appear.  Rage boils inside me when I hear these things!  It's none of their business!  And, when people say it's ridiculous for me to have a tattoo at my age - watch out!  I detest ageism almost as much as ableism!

All of this prejudice against my tattoo has made me start to wonder: Is my body actually my own to do with it whatever I like or does it belong to society as a whole?  Which is it? Certainly my initial gut reaction is to say Of course this is 100% my body and to hell with anybody who says differently! However, in reality, what I can actually do with my body is limited by the medical system, the laws that govern us, and societal pressure.  Taking drugs, doing sex work, "unnecessary risk taking" (going over Niagara Falls in a barrel, for example), acting "weird" or just seeming to be "out of the norm" can land you in prison or in an institution.

And then there's the media. I can't even count how many shows and movies make fun of people who are over-weight, under-weight, intellectually challenged, are from different ethnic backgrounds, are "too sexually active", have different sexual orientation/preferences, wear off-beat or "un-cool" clothes or have piercings. The negative impact from this judgmental, holier-than-thou attitude is horrific because it 1) shapes people's expectations of how everyone's supposed to look and behave, and 2) it gives society the false idea that it's ok to be mean and judgmental of people who are different from us. 

Well, in closing, I'd like to say, Vive le Difference! Don't listen to those judgmental shmucks, be yourself and feel free to express your individuality!

Oh yes, and I dyed my hair red, and I'm going to fix my tattoo so that it doesn't look like I'm saying Rob Warenda is Frank Zappa. Although I have never seen the two of them together...