Tag Archives: Fear

Women in the Canadian Armed Forces

By: Valerie Chalmers

Throughout Canadian history women have actively participated in war from the home front to the front lines. The percentage of women in the Canadian Armed Forces (Regular Force and Primary Reserve combined), the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army range between 12.4% and 18.4%. Women enrollment in the CAF sits below 20% for a variety of reasons. The CAF have implemented a variety of initiatives for employment equity and earlier this year the Canadian Armed Forces launched a program to give women the opportunity to learn about military life before they decide to join.

“War has impacted Canadian women’s lives in different ways, depending on their geographical location, and their racial and economic status. Pre-20th-century conflicts had great impact on women in Canada — Aboriginal women in particular — whose communities could be dispossessed and devastated by colonial militaries. Women were interned in Canada during wartime — that is, detained and confined — because their background could be traced to enemy states.” – The Canadian Encyclopedia

Canadian women have had a consistent presence throughout the various wars our country has been involved in. During both the First and Second World Wars women organized home defence, trained in rifle shooting and military drill. In 1941, 50,000 women enlisted in the air force, army and navy. Throughout different divisions they were trained for clerical, administrative and support roles as well as cooks, nurses and seamstresses. Women’s involvement expanded when they began to work as parachute riggers, laboratory assistants, drivers and within the electrical and mechanical trades. Women also worked to maintain our home economy by volunteering inside and outside of the country, producing and conserving food, raising funds for hospitals, ambulances, hostels and aircrafts. Women have made considerable contributions to Canada’s military efforts, despite this it wasn’t until 1989 where all military positions were opened to women.

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Blogger Talk – Inclusiveness


What is your response to those in positions of power not leading with inclusion? 


In my opinion, exclusion is fear, so my response to those in positions of power is… Stop being fearful, get yourself curious and educated.  A difference of opinion,  lifestyle, physical ability or religious belief isn’t something that you have to fear, or control to align with your own values or ability.  Everyone has something of value to bring to the table…..and it is the leaders responsibility to have all voices heard, to really listen and to lead without fear of including all voices.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait? 

Both, as long as a person remains curious, they will seek out or take advantage of the opportunity to learn more….and therefore it becomes easy to include everyone.  Perfect example – when a parent takes the time to demonstrate to their child that a person with a visible disability isn’t someone to be feared, children are quick to engage in conversation and inter-action too.  If you choose to believe that your way is the only way to think, feel or live….then that is the legacy you leave your children, unless they are curious themselves.

One small change you are committed to making or have made to live more “inclusively”. 

I admit, I sometimes struggle overcoming my past experiences so that I don’t paint everyone with the same brush, but I am committed to being curious and to educate myself.  With this commitment I have experienced such richness of friendships, adventures and fun.  I am also committed to sharing my values and beliefs in hopes that I can help someone else be less afraid, and more inclusive.


What does the word “inclusiveness” mean to you?

I think I approach it from how it is applied or what it looks like. For example, I have two nephews who are on the autism spectrum. If they had been born, say 50 or 60 years ago, the severity of their disabilities might have meant they spent their lives in a regional centre, for the most part, cut off from the community. As children, they instead grew up in “inclusive” environments, going to the local school and attending classes with the help of EAs. They were sent to school daily until they were legally no longer eligible. In other words, as a society, we made some attempt to meet their needs in a somewhat inclusive manner for about 21 years (although, going to a public school doesn’t mean they were entirely “included”). Now, as young men, they rely on their parents, a patchwork of temporary caregivers, day centres, and camps, to give their lives pattern and focus. I wouldn’t exactly call their daily existence socially inclusive, and the impermanence of their situation makes it less so. Some day, their parents will no longer be able to care for them and unfortunately, there aren’t many readily available options for the kind of inclusivity that gives their lives heart and meaning. As a society, we determined 20-or-so years ago that large institutions were cruel, expensive, and too “jail-like”. So we closed them. But we haven’t offered much (in scale particularly) to replace them. Group homes are difficult to access, and truly inclusive L’Arche-like communities are few and far between.

But this is just part of my difficulty with what we call “inclusiveness” (and really addresses just one aspect, or area). People mouth the words all of the time. They say things like “we are all equal” but forget that in many cases, we can’t have equality without equity and inclusiveness.

“A child with a disability (or anybody for that manner) cannot be equal unless we give equal access to resources.”

Within my family, among other things, equity means making the immediate environment comfortable for my nephews at family gatherings (allowing them private space, ensuring that the sensory experience isn’t too overwhelming, providing food that they can eat and enjoy, being aware of our possible impact on their comfort, etc.)

I have a friend who has a child with a spectrum disorder. When she hosts family get-togethers, she asks that people come early in the day so that her child is well rested and at their behavioural best to enjoy company. Despite this repeated request, for many years, various members of her family arrived when it suited them—hours late. This made it impossible for her child to be focused when they visited. In other words, despite claiming to be accepting of the child’s disability, her family would not make any accommodations to their own lives and behaviours so that there could be equity—so the child could function well and be proud of their behaviour. And that’s kind of what inclusivity is: including people who are otherwise excluded or marginalized, allowing them to be themselves and not creating situations where they are so challenged that their “differences” become obvious “difficulties” that others have to “overlook”. If you can’t budge an inch on your own agenda, you aren’t being inclusive and equitable.

Have you ever experienced exclusion based on gender, race, or for another reason? Please share

Most women would be lying, oblivious, or choosing to overlook things if they said they have never experienced exclusion based on gender. Now, people may argue what constitutes gender exclusion, because sometimes it isn’t so blatant. But I have felt excluded based on gender and I certainly have felt the exclusion from specific economic opportunities and rewards based on my gender. I also feel class exclusion is something we avoid looking at in Canada. People (and politicians in their rhetoric) venerate “the middle class” and seek to preserve its sensibilities and ideals (if not always its income). We seem to lose our sense of what is “working class” with this emphasis on middle class nationhood. It is seen as something shameful or inferior (including intellectually inferior). Yet we know that many incomes and expectations are going down, not up. I think this encourages more class exclusion as people cling to their beliefs that “class” is natural, not created, and somehow reflects abilities and effort instead of luck and pre-existing privilege.

Can ensuring “inclusiveness” be taught, or is it a character trait?

I would say “character traits” are largely taught or learned. If they weren’t, then we would all be self-absorbed jerks “by nature”. Inclusiveness, and what it means, must be reinforced. It isn’t just one thing, it’s many things. For one thing, we need to recognize our biases and continually question and check them, and this includes our behaviours and language.


Eyes of Love

What if we looked at others through eyes that could only see the good in them? What would our world be like? What would our daily life be like? Could the way we see others influence our every interaction?

At first I was afraid. When I would see someone who looked a little different than me, I would start to notice their imperfections, I would look at their facial deformities or their lack of responsiveness and awareness and I would, for a brief moment, feel bad for them. I would look at people with missing limbs or bones and feel sorry for them. I would look at someone who had no “quality of life” and wonder, is this kind of life really worth living?

It didn’t take long, though, for me to realize that this fear was something very deeply rooted in me that was very wrong. This fear, was more that I was shy and I didn’t always know what to say. It was more an ugly part of myself that thought beauty and the quality of the life we live was based on how we look and how close to perfect we are.

It is these very people that I looked at, and learned how to interact with, that taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my life. The most important parts of my personality. The best qualities of myself that I could ever hope for. It is the people that I was able to support that showed me what compassion looks like. Showed me what love looks like. Showed me what acceptance is. Showed me, a girl who thought she was kind, gentle, patient…what kindness, gentleness, and patience actually is.

It is the very people that I looked at and felt sorry for that opened my heart to the idea that I was very blessed to have the opportunity to even communicate with the people that I supported. That I was so very fortunate to be a part of their lives, a part of their care, a part of their success, their failure, their joy, and their sadness. I didn’t include them, they included me.

They included me in ways that I could not have ever asked for. I’ve looked into the eyes of people and I have sometimes thought, is what I’m doing even worth it? Do they even know that I’m here? Who I am? They can’t communicate with me, they barely even look in my direction, what could I possibly be doing to benefit them? To make their quality of life better?

It turns out that they were making my quality of life better. With one smile, with one laugh, with one gentle touch of the hand, with one brief second of eye contact; to remind me that, they are here, they are human, they are a valuable life. It may seem like they have limited functional abilities, but they see you, and they know that you care for them.

They know that you include them. They know that their life matters to you. They know that you will not be another person who looks at them and doesn’t see them. Who looks at them and doesn’t know how to communicate or interact with them. They know that you will try and fail at being good at this and they will appreciate when you finally let go of your own insecurities and just see them for who they are. A beautiful creation worthy of love and belonging. A beautiful soul within a body that was made to look different, but perfect just the same.

They will know that you see them through eyes of love for all people. How beautiful it is to connect and relate to a person despite our differences. The greatest feeling I’ve experienced might just be this. A heart filled with joy, certain, that it has deeply connected with another heart, through eyes of love.

Question of the Month – Inclusiveness

In recent news, there has been a devastating display and promotion of exclusivity – people targeting minority groups with hate, promoting racism, and suggesting that inequality is just. This month, we tackle the question, Why are people afraid of inclusiveness and diversity? 


Why must we fear inclusion?
Why do we foster hate?
Why do we blame those oppressed
for the oppression we create?

Diversity is Canada’s strength,
but at each turn, we try and deny the Other
the same status as us at the table,
refusing to break bread together.

We chant Progress! Progress! Progress!
As we continue to work toward a future
that keeps tight reigns on the past;
Don’t rip the status quo for we can’t amend the suture!

Our verbiage gives us away as
to love becomes to tolerate
and action reduced still to a noun:
tolerance. Some claim it’s fate…

That a system built to oppress,
built to deny, to bully, to kill, to silence
is here because we worked for it fairly
and because human nature is violence.

Those differently abled, a rainbow of gender,
of skin tone, those who come to dinner
with different experiences and different voices
somehow deserve a smaller table, deserve to grow thinner.

We build a wall so we cannot hear their voices
The stories run into one another, too much the same
The problems too repetitious, too much proof
that we’re the ones to blame.

“The Problem,” we cry, “lies not with Us!”
When we are denied opportunity, justice,
we may take up the call that we have not
been provided for – trust us.

Yet, when millions of sufferers cry for help
– we have no problem pointing out,
That perhaps they have played their hand
with error, and they deserve to go without.

Or that somehow despite all the facts
that we are the ones who sit with power,
We have been screwed over by them
a visible minority, a lower class turned sour.

When we wish to exclude, the Other
suddenly has ability to control a nation.
When we cannot shoulder responsibility,
do we seek out the aberration.

It’s not the rich evading taxes through loopholes
not to mention the hidden offshore accounts.
It’s not the corporations syphoning billions
in a gluttonous attempt to heap amounts

of our resources away, keeping them inaccessible
to First Nations Peoples in a First World Country.
It can’t be the fact that we don’t earn a living wage
even though CEOs make 147 times as much as their lowest paid employee.

Our problems cannot be blamed on the fact we own too much stuff,
That we’re convinced our happiness can be bought with the newest shoes.
It’s certainly not an oil company lobbying for a 21st century genocide
all in the name of profit – but now I just sing the blues.

We would far prefer to blame the women
who won’t cooperate in being likable.
Or the people of colour demanding that
their lives could possibly matter.

Our fear is distilled to visible minorities
When they dare share their voices,
we feel threatened and cower.

When what we should do is
learn about FEAR.
Where does it come from,
and why don’t I know what’s really going on here?

We should learn about solutions to poverty,
to homelessness, to sexism and racism.
We should have the education we claim to hold,
we should move from ignorance to activism.

Stop the useless fear and worry,
open your hearts to love.
Learn about all Others
Inclusiveness here and now, not below above.

Ones Without Power will not take your job,
They’re not out to take your material possessions,
They won’t ransack your house or even kill you.
Disregard those false impressions!

If you have to rage at all, direct your anger
with more meaning.
Look at who really controls your life
Change the false belief to which you’re leaning.

Have courage to change the world.
Be inclusive and be kind.
Hard to believe as it is,
It starts with changing your mind.

Find peace in your own home.
Love your fellow human being.
You need not fear inclusiveness.
Leave fear behind – it’s freeing.

A Tribute to My Father

He was the first man I ever loved. He was wild and dangerous. He was exciting but scary. He had a disarming smile that barely disguised the vile temper that dwelled beneath it. He was a contrast of moods and temperament. He could be the most fun you ever had or your worst nightmare. He was a hard worker who partied even harder. He hung out with hard-core bikers but he also had a strong belief in God. He was either your best friend or your nastiest enemy.

There was never any middle ground with my father.

He was a combination of many personalities. He was a lot like Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa but with a twist of Elvis Presley thrown in. He was also very much like Ray Donovan with his secret life and violent streak. There was never any warning when someone was about to feel the sting of his wrath. He wasn’t a big talker so when he snapped and lashed out at someone they were usually astonished. Most times they didn’t even know what they had done to make him angry. It could be as simple and innocent as a look he perceived you were giving him to something someone said that he found disrespectful or distasteful. But then, there was also a side to him that was very much like Dominic Cooper in the new series on TV called Preacher. He tried really hard to walk the line of good and truth. But, then he would get bored or he would meet up with someone from the past and his wild streak would take over.

My mother left us when I was 14 and he took it really bad. They had been fighting for years and she decided she had enough. The problem was that she had left with his best friend. He was outraged by the betrayal and stayed out late at night trying to drink his feelings away. Within a few months we went to live with our mother and her new man. It was awkward and uncomfortable but we didn’t have any other choices. For the next couple of years my father went through women and booze like there was no tomorrow.

Then suddenly, he hooked up with a woman who belonged to the same cult that my parents had joined when I was 5 years old. When they got married a couple of years later, he dropped out of our lives. I tried to reconnect with him over the years but eventually I gave up when I saw how uncomfortable he was because of the way his new wife acted around us. She alternated between ignoring us and being outright rude.

Years went by without hearing anything from him. His family continued to tell him to contact his children and make amends before it was too late. But by then he felt too much time had passed and he was afraid we would reject him. He didn’t handle rejection well.me with jimmy and parents

The call that I had been awaiting for years came on a freezing cold day in February of 2008. We had been out riding on our Harley Davidson when we came home to a voicemail from my uncle and his wife asking me to call back right away. I told my husband that my father was dead. He said it could be a hundred different reasons why they were calling. But I knew! I knew in my heart that he was gone, I could just feel it. But, I made the call and sure enough she said he had died the day sometime during the night. I asked her if he committed suicide. She was horrified and could barely get out the words, “the Jimmy I know would never do that…”. I calmly responded with, “well, the Jimmy that I know, would!”. She gave me the name of the funeral home and quickly got off the phone. I was numb but I wasn’t shocked. I had been there the times he had tried to end his life. He would call me on the telephone and I would go to him, sitting beside him all night, making sure he didn’t die on me. He didn’t reach out to me in the end. I guess he thought it was too late. He must have thought that too much damage had been done for me to forgive him. He was wrong. If he had made that call I would have gone to him. I would have helped him get the help he needed. I would have tried one more time. I would have given him one more chance.

Later, I would find out that he died alone in a room he was renting from a couple who lived in a big house in the same city as me. He had overdosed on the painkillers and psychiatric drugs he was self-medicating with. He had been going to different doctors getting multiple prescriptions and then filling them at different pharmacies.

He was wrapped in a bunch of blankets but he was very cold to the touch. His beautiful face was bloated and distorted.

There was no funeral, no burial, no closure. I went to the funeral home to see him even though his ex-wife (the executrix of the will) said that he didn’t want anyone to see him. The funeral director tried to talk me out of seeing his unprepared body because he said it would traumatize me. I bluntly told him that after years of working in palliative care nothing would shock or scare me. I was taken to a back room (with my loving husband at my side) and he was there in a body bag on a stretcher. He was wrapped in a bunch of blankets but he was very cold to the touch. His beautiful face was bloated and distorted. I talked to him for a couple of minutes and then kissed him goodbye on the forehead.

He is at peace now. He isn’t suffering anymore. But I’m left with more questions than answers. We weren’t included in the reading of the will or given any details about his life leading up to his death. He was cremated and the ashes were given to my grandmother. He is going to be buried with her when she dies. Last year I contacted the Coroner’s office and I was told that I was legally entitled to know everything that was discovered during the death scene investigation. I received the package from the Coroner’s office and found a few surprises. I learned that he had 2 tattoos, which shocked me. He had always been adamant that tattoos were trashy and getting one was equal to defiling your body. Also, he had been under the care of a psychiatrist. Perhaps he had finally tried to slay the demons in his head. Lastly, he died before morning, as he sat on the side of his bed. The last phone call he made had been to his ex-wife. She told the investigators that she knew he was taking lots of different pills and had been depressed, but she denied knowing that he was suicidal. I also found out that he had been excommunicated from the dangerous, mind-control cult he had committed himself to years ago. He was also divorced from the woman who treated us like we were nothing and didn’t matter.  If I had known those  pieces of information sooner I would have absolutely reached out to him one more time. My biggest fear since I was 16 was that he would die before we could make amends. My worst nightmare became a reality on  February 2, 2008.

The only things I have to remember my father by are his cane, an old unopened Elvis Presley calendar and pictures from the past. His ex-wife gave away his belongings to her children even though my brother specifically asked her for his guitar that he carried with him since 1961. His family was outraged by the way we were discarded but were helpless to do anything about it. If he were alive to see all of the changes in the world and all of the corruption and scandals that are finally being exposed, I think he would have had an easier time adjusting to life outside a controlling cult that commanded and demanded that he choose them over his own flesh and blood.

My father’s death forced me to face all of the bad things I had suppressed and repressed for so many years. But, it also showed me who truly cared about me and my family. My father, James or Jim,  would be extremely happy to know how much closer my ties with his biological family have become.

Today, my life has come full circle.

I grew up feeling like an orphan from the time my parents joined a “doomsday” cult when I was 3 and they cut off all family ties to anyone who wasn’t open to joining too. Today, my life has come full circle. I was recently given pictures from my childhood that I have never seen before. It’s been very healing for me to have visual proof that I had lots of people who cared about and loved me when I was a little girl.  It’s great to have the images in my head match the pictures I’ve been given by a thoughtful relative who remembers when we disappeared from their lives.

Sometimes I feel my father’s presence and it comforts me. I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking or if there’s an afterlife but I’m keeping my options open…just in case I get one more chance to see him again and tell him everything I know.


It’s hate people, pure and simple

Don’t let Fear replace Reason

I watched the 1951 sci-fi movie classic The Day the Earth Stood Still recently. I’ve seen it at least twice before, but this time it resonated deeply. In the movie, a flying saucer lands in Washington, D.C., and alien visitor Klaatu announces he has an important message he must deliver simultaneously to all the world’s leaders. This being post WWII, cold war Earth, Klaatu is told his request can’t possibly be met. He is held under armed guard, but escapes, and is hunted down, while being helped by a human boy and his mother. Long story short, Klaatu’s message was that having become aware of Earthlings’ atomic capabilities, the folks from other more advanced planets had decided they had better warn Earth to settle down—or else. The idea being that Earth could choose peace or be destroyed. Pretty heavy handed but hey, I’m starting to think we Earthlings do need a little slap down. Klaatu’s explanation was that humans had “replaced reason with fear”. That line has become my mantra of late. It helps me get my head around the garbage I’ve been reading and seeing on social media.


Last week I encountered three in one day—three Facebook meme messages of hate couched as “opinions” and calls to “preserve our way of life”. Now, I don’t have a problem with people having opinions or speaking out on things they feel strongly about. My problem is with what constitutes both an opinion and “our way of life”. Is a meme designed and written by some nameless person and shared by another, considered an “opinion”? Or is it just a blank statement? I like to consider opinions something that I can engage with and something that the opinion giver has spent time mulling over before expressing—and not just a study in semiotics.  Is it that we are so used to clever images with trite reductionist statements that we have lost our ability to say things in our own words? Or is it that we are just too lazy to say them? Here’s a description of one of the memes that showed up on my Facebook feed: it was an image of three Muslim women in hijab (not burqas) at a protest (faces contorted while yelling) with the caption: “France and the Netherlands BAN the burqa on security grounds, SHARE if you think Canada should do the same!”

Now, what was I supposed to take from that? That the poster is an Islamaphobe who believes in their right to an opinion, but doesn’t believe in freedom of religion or freedom of expression for others, and has an unreasonable fear of burquas to boot? Because that’s what I got from it. Why didn’t the poster, who I had only known to be a caring and thoughtful person, write: “I think Muslim women shouldn’t be allowed to wear what they want to wear because they might be terrorists”? It seems the poster isn’t afraid to hold those opinions, since they publicly share them on the internet. So why don’t they write them on a banner in front of their house as well? Do they fear outing themselves to their neighbours and having to engage or explain themselves?

Usually, when I see such memes and posts, I query them. I feel it is important that these messages of fear be countered by something else—preferably reason. The other day, I came upon a meme that said something about “our rights being taken away.” I asked “who is taking
your rights away?” Of course, I received no response. I’m not as ease with poking the bear. I’m not naturally confrontational but after one or two of these things I think, do I quietly de-friend (as many people I know do), block certain posters messages, or do I say what I want to say, which is, seriously people, put your thinking cap on! Read something. Or more importantly, critically read critically written material. An “opinion” that is racist is a racist opinion. It is not right or good. An opinion that is Islamaphobic is dangerous and harmful to society.

One meme that was “shared” carried a mixed message of fear and indignation:

“Why is our government so willing to help illegal minors

When so many of our own children are homeless and need help?”

Again, seriously, as if we can’t do both? If we know anything about homelessness, it’s that it can be ameliorated through public policy. If there is a will there is a way (and to swerve off topic a bit here, that is a plea for everyone to vote their interests. If you believe we should eradicate homelessness, vote for a party that says it will work towards that goal.)

So what about this “preserving our way of life” thing? That’s a statement that frustrates me. Basically, it says we have only one way of life and that’s the dominant one. But we are a nation of many cultures. Even those whose ancestors arrived here hundreds of years ago were, in many, many cases, escaping some form of tyranny. The irony is, we set up shop and inflicted a new brand of tyranny on the original inhabitants of this land. Is this our hazing ritual? Everyone gets hazed at sometime, but some more than others? If we truly are a multicultural nation, and I haven’t met anyone yet who wasn’t in some way proud or cognizant of their ancestry, do we not have to back that up? But I’ll get point, how is Zunera Ishaq, the Muslim woman who desired to say her public citizenship oath in the niqab she customarily wears, a threat to “our way of life”? I’ve named her here, since most who point to her beliefs as an oppression imposed upon her, seem do not seem to give her that courtesy or respect as a fully actualized adult. She has to identify herself in private prior to the ceremony. If anything, Zunera is embracing the ideology represented by the Charter of Rights by asserting her individual right (and the rule of law). This means she is embracing a fundamental belief that we all accept. We lose nothing by being inclusive.

I cannot adequately convey how these memes and messages on social media and in the media sadden and anger me. They tear us apart but implanting seeds of contempt.

I have often wondered how ordinary people in 1920s Germany could have been induced to support and vote for the Nazi Party. I mean, how do you get an entire nation to support a hateful, racist ideology? Clearly, it didn’t happen overnight. In 1928, the year before the stock market crash that led to the Great Depression, the Nazi party had 12 seats in Germany’s Reichstag. By 1932, the party had 230 seats, and shortly after, Nazi leader Adolph Hitler became chancellor. The rest is a brutal and bloody history of repressing and eliminating opponents, creating racial villains who must be exterminated, and waging war. It took time, a skilled propaganda machine, an economy decimated by the Great Depression, and ineffective opposition, but the Nazis managed to harness and enflame the post World War I and depression-era anger, bitterness, and fear of the German public. I know most of us like to think we are morally superior to the German masses that supported the Nazi party’s brutal rule. The thing is, we aren’t. In fact, we don’t even need an all-controlling fascist political party to help us get our hate on. Today we have Facebook and its endless trite memes, and online newspaper comments sections that allow people to spew venom with anonymity, and hate factories that masquerade as right wing “opinion” blogs.  Fear does seem to be replacing reason. And if we allow it to consume us, we risk destroying what makes us good.


Remembering Remembrance Day

111113-remembrance-dayRemembrance Day  is a time for us to pay our respects to those that put their life on the line to protect our country and all of it’s freedoms.  Freedom to make our own choices, freedom from dictatorship. Freedom to pursue a life of happiness.   It’s a time to reflect on what it means to be Canadian and to be grateful for living in a democratic society that is possible because of those that took a stand on the front lines.  It’s a time to remember that we enjoy so many freedoms because others fought  for us to have those freedoms.  It’s a time to honour those that lost their lives during the battle.

For me, it has special meaning and bittersweet memories.  As a child I was not allowed to participate in any of the ceremonies held to honour our war veterans, or to acknowledge the sacrifices that our brave soldiers made.

2My paternal Grandfather was a Private in the Second World War and served as an orderly in a hospital in England.  He was so young when he went off to serve his country, he left as a boy and returned as a man.  A man who was very different from the person who witnessed all of the atrocities of war.  He worked in the operating room at the hospital, cleaning up after surgeries were performed to save limbs and lives.   He saw things that no human could ever forget.  He served his country faithfully for 3 years, while his wife (my grandmother) waited for him to return.  She was pregnant with my father when he left to go overseas.  My grandfather would not meet my father until he was 3 years old.

1As a child I remember seeing old men coming to our school to talk to us about war and why they were proud of defending our country.  I remember seeing the veterans rolling in wheelchairs and  being horrified by all the amputees.  I remember seeing how they dressed sharply in their uniforms, adorned with poppies.  I remember thinking that this would never happen again in my lifetime.  I remember feeling ashamed for not being allowed to participate in something that even as a child I could see was very important.

In the seventies, my parents joined a cult that exerted extreme control over every aspect of our lives.  We were required to remove ourselves from anything outside of their organization.  I remember feeling so disrespectful for having to stand in the hallway while the war veterans gave their presentation.  Even at an early age, I could clearly see the sacrifices these people had made to protect our freedom.  I suffered with an internal struggle to obey my parents in the face of such hypocrisy and ingratitude.  I realized at a 3very early age the extreme irony of being forced to do something that I personally didn’t believe in, while living in a country that had fought for the rights of all Canadians.  Yet, I was not free to participate in a tradition that I thought was important and special.  As a child I was expected to do everything I was told without question. I was not allowed to express doubt or disbelief.   I was not allowed to disagree or object to anything.   This was done in strict adherence to a high-control religious organization. I found it maddening that their rights to practice a “religion” that stripped their members of their rights, were protected by the very people I was supposed to disregard.  I was to remove myself from their presence and not show them any honour.  I found this to be very disrespectful and distasteful.  And yet, out of sheer obedience to my parents I did just that.  I would have to excuse myself from the Remembrance Day assembly and stand in the hallway while the soldiers delivered their messages and handed out poppies.  I always felt sick to my stomach and I never made eye contact with anyone as I left the room.  Inside I was filled with turmoil.  I felt like I was 4betraying myself every time I had to announce to the entire classroom that I could not participate in Remembrance Day.  The teacher always looked at me with pity in her eyes.   Some kids looked at me with confusion, while others looked at me like I was a traitor.  I felt like a traitor!!  But I couldn’t defend myself for fear of the consequences at home.  Soldiers had fought and died for my freedom, but a cult had stripped that away.  The irony was sickening.

Years later I escaped the cult and started a brand new life.  I promised to be true to myself from that point on.   I made a big deal out of every holiday and celebration when I had children of my own.  Sometimes I went over the top in an attempt to make up for the past.  I proudly wear a poppy every year and I reflect on how lucky I am to have a second chance to express myself and involve myself in things I truly believe in.

remembrance_day_2011_by_the0raclexx-d4fsj3uI have a son who is a Corporal in the Reserves.  He’s been in the Army for 8 years now and for years we went to the Remembrance Day Ceremony together.  He would wear his dress uniform and participate in the parade in the arena.  It made me proud to finally stand up and sing O Canada and honour all of our past and present soldiers.  It makes me happy to know that my son makes his own choices and defends the rights of others to do the same.  I am not a warmonger.  I’m more of a peace-loving hippie on the inside,  but I respect those men and women that put their lives on the line to protect our country and our freedoms.   I sleep better at night knowing that someone is watching over us.

My life has come full circle and I’m grateful for another chance to do things my way.  I never take anything for granted and I know that I enjoy this beautiful country because of the dedication and loyalty of our soldiers.  Past and present!   This Remembrance Day I will once again find a way to pay tribute to our veterans.  My son has moved to Calgary so I won’t be going to the arena with him, but I will still pay my respects by going alone or taking someone with me.  I am so proud of the service my grandfather gave and I’m proud of my son’s training with the military.  Their involvement in the military gives me a connection to a tradition I had always wanted to honour.  I am a proud Canadian who wears a poppy and honours Remembrance Day with reverence.


*Images courtesy of Google

The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 2

Continuation of The Lonely & Well-worn Path- Part 1
Tuesday March 12- Well I tried to keep my mind off this test all week and I think I did pretty well until last night. I had a really hard time sleeping my mind was everywhere else except on sleep. I got in to the Tech room and the lab Tech. had my breast results in full view on the screen she called me over to explain why I was there having a recall exam. Apparently there is something there in my right breast, in the canal or duct, whatever it’s called. Whatever it is, it is small. She took five more pictures from different angles using different plates. This time it was a little uncomfortable.
I have decided to keep this to myself at least for now. I’m sure it will be nothing and I want to ignore it, not because I think that will make it go away but because I don’t want to think about it and I don’t want people looking at me differently or feeling sorry for me I’m sure I’ll do that enough for myself. I will keep myself extremely busy the rest of this month with the Family Shelter move. I can consume myself in worry about that. Moving is always stressful try moving 4 apartments on Easter weekend that should be loads of fun. I have plans this week to take my mother up north for a couple of days. I need to forget what I know so I won’t talk about it.
The lab Tec told me to call my doctor in two weeks. Holy Cow! It was less than a week when they called me back for the second test why would it take two weeks for information this time? You would think this one would be even faster. I hope I don’t need something like chemo. God I don’t want to lose my hair. OK that was not a positive thought. I’m kicking that thought right to the curb.
Monday March 18- I took the trip up north. I really didn’t relax much. I did a lot of driving and visiting. On Monday on my way to work I checked my messages to find the doctor’s office had called again telling me I had another appointment this time for an ultra sound. I call asking for date and times she said it’s today at 11 a.m. Wow that was fast. Off I go again to the hospital. After my test she again tells me it will be 2 weeks before I’ll know anything. Worry all over again. I just want to know. On a positive note the tests are really quick; in and out.
Wednesday March 20- I spoke to an old friend tonight on the phone I let her know what I was going through worrying and hoping it’s nothing. I told my oldest son about the tests and that I’m a little scared he’s the first one I told in person. It was hard to talk about it, it was hard to get the words out. I told him it may be nothing and even if it was something I would be fine but that it is scary. I have been having a lot of tightness in my chest, anxiety. I don’t know if it helped to talk about it but I felt the need to say something to him. He’s 27 and he’s pretty good at putting things into perspective. I told him after this conversation I didn’t want to talk about it anymore until I get the results back. I want to get it out of my mind and keep busy.

To be continued tomorrow.

The Lonely & Well-Worn Path- Part 1

For the next week, we will be posting a series of journal entries from the YW’s Family Shelter Outreach Advocate, Lori Papetti as she journeys down a seemingly lonely path. It’s a path no woman wants to walk along, however, it is a well traveled road by many women before her.
Come back to Y’s Women each day this week to follow Lori’s story, The Lonely & Well-Worn Path.
Wednesday March 6 – It was a nice day at work, not too busy. I felt like I got a lot accomplished. I got home and felt a little strange. I haven’t had much time to myself lately and this feeling that I was supposed to do something or be somewhere was consuming me. I guess I’m just not used to having time to myself. I walked over to my phone to check for messages since I had not been home all day or evening on Tuesday. I listened to my messages, one concerning another family member, one from a friend and then it came, a call I never expected, never even thought about. One from my doctor, a short message just stating I have been scheduled for a recall mammogram. They gave the date, time and place. That’s it. Well I listened to this message 3 times trying to understand what this meant. I called the doctor’s office knowing full well they were closed but left a message asking them to call me to provide more information about this recall mammogram. Now I’m at the computer googling any information I can find on this recall mammogram. Did they find something? I’ve never felt anything; this was just a routine checkup I had.
Six days until my next exam and then I’ll have to wait a few days for results. This is so scary. I worried about my health insurance but was thankful because through my job I have some coverage. The last couple of years I had no coverage at all. I own my own home so chances are I would have lost that without some kind of coverage. What about my job?
I’m not scared of dyeing, but I am really scared of being sick or not being able to take care of myself. It’s amazing the things that go through your mind when you get a scary message like this.
I started thinking about the women I know that have gone through breast cancer. My first thought was my aunt. She is a strong woman full of life. She made it and is doing fine.
I will admit I’m scared, I like my breasts. I know it might be wrong but they seem a part of my identity. When my weight is out of control I would wear clothes that brought attention to them instead of to my weight. Yes I’ll admit at times they got in the way but all in all I like my breasts.
I know I’m a strong woman. I know I’ll survive.
I’ve met many women in the last few years that have dealt with so many difficult issues I feel I need to look at this as a small issue. These women have dealt with so much in their lives how can I possibly let this issue be a major concern to me?
I can see as I am even writing this that my mind is already thinking the worst. I will work hard on keeping a good attitude and try really hard not to even think about it until the results are in. In fact I’m sure everything will come out fine. The lab Tec probably smudged the negative. I am going to try to not think about this until after the next results are in.

To be continued tomorrow.

Lose the Hate!

Prejudice: (1) : preconceived judgment or opinion (2) : an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge – Websters Dictionary

Prejudices can come in all different forms and can be seen in many different places. Often it’s easier to look the other way than to do something about it, but when it comes knocking on your door, it’s time to take a stand.

I am writing this post because the YW recently had another family looking for housing, and like many others, they were driven from their home because of prejudice neighbours, neighbours who made “preconceived judgements…without just grounds.” The neighbours were so full of hate that these families were forced by fear to leave their homes. How awful it is to have to pack up and move because of fear? Imagine not feeling safe in your own home, and to wake up in the morning to find your property vandalized. These families fear for their children’s safety as well as their own. The unfortunate reality though, is that these families are not fleeing from some far off country, you’ve never heard of. I’m talking about leaving neighbourhoods right here in our own community.
When a family comes to the YW stating they can no longer stay in their home because they fear a neighbour, it just appalls me. They feel they don’t want to cause trouble and they take the abuse for as long as they can. They try to ignore the racial slurs thrown at them and their children. They don’t enjoy their yards for fear of being seen and ridiculed. No one should have to live like that.
You would think here in Canada, a country considered a multi-cultural “mosaic,” that prejudice would not exist or at least be very minimal.You would think we would be accepting of others and embrace our differences. How I wish I could say that was true. It’s not! Here in Canada where most of us, or our ancestors, have come from other parts of the world, we still have people in our community who think their race is better. What an awful way to live. I almost feel sorry for people with such closed minds who think their race is better. If only they would open up their minds and learn from everybody around them. Try different foods, learn about other cultures or maybe even other religions. Every culture and every race has something to give and teach us all. Lose the hate! Hate is not good for you or your community.
I believe prejudice grows through ignorance and fear. There is no need for ignorance. Open your mind, explore your community, get to know people from other countries, and ask questions. Your fear will vanish, your life will be fuller, and we will all have a much healthier community.