Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind Walk 2011

PLEASE SUPPORT ME ON THE  MAY 29th WALK FOR GUIDE DOGS:

Canadian Guide Dogs For The Blind Walk 2011.

Peace and Motherhood

My mother died in 2002, so I did not join the armies of shoppers all over North America this week, ringing up sales of cards, restaurant meals, chocolates or flowers. However, I did think about Mother’s Day (the modern one, not the British Mothering Day from which it originated, or the celebrations of the ancient Egyptians and Romans which honoured the goddesses and are the root of this celebration of women/mothers.)

The first North American Mother’s Day was conceptualized with Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Despite having penned The Battle Hymn of the Republic 12 years earlier, Howe had become so distraught by the death and carnage of the Civil War that she called on Mother’s to come together and protest what she saw as the futility of their Sons killing the Sons of other Mothers. She called for an international Mother’s Day celebrating peace and motherhood; she even proposed converting July 4th into Mother’s Day, in order to dedicate the nation’s anniversary to peace. Eventually June 2nd was designated for the celebration. In 1873 women’s groups in 18 North American cities observed this new Mother’s holiday. After Anna Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter Anna M. Jarvis campaigned for the creation of an official Mother’s Day in remembrance of her mother and in honor of peace. In 1908, Anna petitioned the superintendent of the church where her Mother had spent over 20 years teaching Sunday School. Her request was honored, and on May 10, 1908, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia and a church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1908 a U.S. Senator from Nebraska, Elmer Burkett, proposed making Mother’s Day a national holiday at the request of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The proposal was defeated, but by 1909 forty-six states were holding Mother’s Day services as well as parts of Canada and Mexico.

Anna Jarvis quit working and devoted herself full time to the creation of Mother’s Day, endlessly petitioning state governments, business leaders, women groups, churches and other institutions and organizations. She finally convinced the World’s Sunday School Association to back her, a key influence over state legislators and congress. In 1912 West Virginia became the first state to officially recognize Mother’s Day, and in 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed it into national observance, declaring the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. The holiday flourished in the United States and flowers became very popular. One business journal wrote, “This was a holiday that could be exploited.” But the budding commercialization of Mother’s Day greatly disturbed Jarvis, so she vociferously opposed what she perceived as a misuse of the holiday. In 1923 she sued to stop a Mother’s Day event, and in the 1930′s she was arrested for disturbing the peace at the American War Mothers group. She was protesting their sale of flowers. Despite her efforts, flower sales on Mother’s Day continued to grow. (Anna Jarvis died in 1948, blind, poor and childless.)

The National Retail Foundation predicts Mother’s Day is a $14 Billion industry; Google spikes in search traffic for “Mother’s Day” in the US and UK. Florists see their highest sales in May. Restaurants claim that it is the busiest day of the year. Long distance telephone calls also peak on this day. According to Hallmark, 96% of American consumers take part in shopping on Mother’s Day, while retailers report it as the second highest gift giving day of the year behind Christmas
Many countries, regardless of the Western trend, continue attach much more symbolic and/or religious importance to their Mother’s Day celebrations.

I am releived that I no longer contribute to the North American industry known as Mother’s Day. Tomorrow, as some mothers are subjegated to bad breakfasts made by their children, to sitting in noisy restaurants, to opening expensive cards and over-packaged and equally expensive boxes of chocolates, to dutifully placing flowers into little-used vases dug out of the back of the kitchen cupboard, to receiving the only phonecalls of this year from their distant children or grandkids, I truly hope that those moms will smile knowingly, as my late mother would have smiled, and know in their heart of hearts that they are usually loved, sometimes respected, occasionally misunderstood, rarely appreciated enough, and almost ALWAYS doing the hardest and most important job in the world.

I echo the sentiments of Julia Ward Howe and suggest that we celebrate PEACE and MOTHERHOOD…furthermore, I think that we must work to resolve the conflicts in our world and stop the futility of Sons (and Daughters) killing the Sons (and Daughters) of other Mothers,

The Times They Are A- Changin’

Bob Dylan crowed the lyrics of his rally call: ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ (1963) to a generation of angst-filled youth, disillusioned dreamers, and nouveau radicals, all thirsty for wise words, guidance, and affirmation that their deep, unexpressed feelings WERE true and that their world (ie, parents, government…’the establishment’) must change…and that they were the ones to change it….”if your time to you is worth savin’, then you’d better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a-changin’…”.
It’s remarkable how songs and their lyrics stick in your head. I don’t think a Bob Dylan ear-worm is necessarily a bad thing, (unless the harmonica solos refuse to end, then you may have a problem). This Dylan classic came back to me recently and has been stuck on repeat ever since. I tend to make associations with song lyrics at least 100 times a day. Here’s how THIS one got in my head:
Someone very near and dear to me, applied to enter a program called ‘Women Unlimited’ offered through the Nova Scotia Community College. It is geared for women who want to explore non-traditional occupations and trades. My friend, having been laid-off her job as a junior metrologist (equipment calibrator) last fall, was hopeful that the Women Unlimited program would provide exposure to ideas, contacts and resources and eventually lead to gainful employment. As my friend was leaving the interview at NSCC, the interviewer remarked cautiously, “I notice that you are person from a minority group”. My friend, puzzled, turned around and asked, “Because I’m short?” (she’s all of 4′ 10″). The woman struggled to find words…”No, the rainbow on your back pack indicates to me that you might be a…homosexual…(rushing to continue)…I have gay friends…normally, I would use the word Queer when talking to them…” My friend interrupted, “But you have to be Politically Correct”. Relieved, the interviewer replied, “Yes, EXTREMELY, but I thought you should know that by self-identifying as a member of a ‘minority group’ for this program, your chances are significantly increased”. My friend grinned and remarked, “The Times They Are A-Changin’…” or something to that effect…or maybe I just put Dylan’s words into her mouth ’cause they felt so good to me (REALLY GOOD) and I love any excuse to make a pop culture reference.

Hey! Wise Advice for My Butthead Neighbour

I am so irritated I could spit. I wish I was the kinda gal who could chill when people are behaving like total a-holes. It’s one thing if smokers want to kill themselves, go around smelling like ashtrays, become a burden on the health care system which our tax dollars are paying for, make their children sick, loose productivity at work because they are outside caging a smoke…wait, that’s more than one thing…the point is, I only believe minimally in smokers rights, because when their addiction impacts ME and invades my personal space, I have to draw the line! The butthead who recently moved in next door (anorexic-looking twit with a 8-4 job, a stupid boyfriend who makes her squeak when they’re having sex, and a cat that I feel VERY sorry for), might be very quiet tenant (except maybe for all the knocking on her door by people using a ‘secret code’ on the door seven thousand times a night, golly gee, is she selling drugs too?!), but it turns out the common wall we share, transmits her cigarette smoke. Great. I pay an obscene amount of rent money for my haven, my oasis, my mecca of personal space…and I am forced to suck up the result of HER addiction. Hey Butthead! Capital District Health Authority is giving FREE smoking cessation aids if you join their program. Com’n babe. You can do it! Quit killing yourself and that stupid cat of yours, and most of all, stop irritating ME...and then maybe I won’t be so inclined to use all of the 200 watts of speaker power (‘Van Morrison Live’ tonight) to blast out my frustration. The fact that my window must be open during a wacky March blizzard, just so that I don’t croak, seems a little silly. Sigh. Maybe I wouldn’t have felt so touchy about the smoking thing tonight, but this morning, I walked by a Metro Transit bus shelter (ironically, it was outside the hospital), and a bunch of QEII hospital employees were using it as a smoking hut. Very nice. Where are you HRM by law enforcement officers?! You guys just blew a $350.00 fine TIMES at least three or four buttheads! If you added up all the potential butthead infractions and collected the fines, maybe we could afford to run this city efficiently. OK, Now I need to put on some music again…let’s see…I really like that John Mayer CD…

Spring Bouquet for Transit Driver

Yeah, yeah, yeah…it’s Saturday night and I’m going to take advantage of the fact that most people are out on the town, doing important stuff like smooching with their sweeties and I AM NOT! Sigh. Maybe it’s something in the spring air or the effects of drinking the HRM tap water, but I feel a burning desire to give one (I SAID ONE) Metro Transit bus driver a pat on the back, tip of my jaunty beret, nod of approval, and spring bouquet all rolled into one. Given the intense satisfaction I normally derive when I have the opportunity (and there are plenty of them) to blast Transit drivers (see earlier blogs), I feel oddly conflicted and confused about this new-found bus driver appreciation…but here goes; On Friday, I was riding the #14 bus, bound for the UU church on Inglis to rehearse a ‘green opera’ which I am writing and co-directing (don’t ask. I’ll tell you about it sometime). The driver was a little behind schedule, not unusual for a Metro Transit bus. It was past peak hours minutes (This IS Halifaxl) so the bus was not the packed sardine it can it can some times. I lulled into my typical bus stupour but remained minimally alert, which allowed my brain to count the turns that the bus was making (to figure out where to get off…driver had not asked me, and I thought he had sounded a tad frazzled and would probably forget to tell me anyway). It turns out that I need not have bothered. I also did not need a compass or GPS to realize that the collective, “Hey!” from passengers (Oh those eloquent St. Mary’s students!) meant that we had blown by Robie street without making the #14 route’s right hand turn off of South Street. The driver realized what had happened quickly enough (maybe it was the three panicky students who swarmed the guy within 2.749 seconds of realizing that the bus was off route). I listened to the following exchange between the driver and students ( they had quickly lurched forward to stand next to the driver, I-pods temporarily disconnected from their heads to allow their ears access to their cell phones;
Driver: “Sorry, I’m used to working the #41 route…it’s Friday….I’m so sorry.” (#41 goes right up South)
Student A: “Is this the #14 or not?”
Driver: “Sorry, I apologize…it’s Friday”.
Student B: “Are we going anywhere near St. Mary’s? I’m supposed to meet someone in…3 minutes” .
Driver: (sounding very tired) “I don’t know where to turn around”
Student C: “Are we going to go back to Robie Street or not?”
Old geek sitting across from me: “What the hell is going on?!!”
Driver: (to the driver of a passing bus he had waved over) “I have no idea what to do. Where can I turn around? What would you do? I’m ten minutes behind schedule as it is.”
Other Driver: “Just get back anywhere on the route. Happens to me all the time”.
Driver: “I don’t want to leave anyone behind on Robie or Inglis which is what’s going to happen if I blow off the route”.
Other Driver: “Do whatever you feel like” (he then left, helpful soul that he was)
Student A: “Is this the #14?”
Student B: “I’m getting off right now!” (at which point he leaped off the bus as though his pants were on fire)
Student C: “Is we still in Halifax? I’m not from here…”
Student A: “Is this the #14?”
Driver: “Everybody sit down please. I apologize…it’s Friday” (he then drove off as though his HIS pants were on fire).
We embarked on the most unusual of bus trips. We headed east, then maybe south and west…north even? I had no clue where I was, but I did not seem to mind (how unusual for me…hence my feeling of confusion). People cursed and grumbled and sighed and tisked all up and down the bus.
Me: “Can someone please tell me where we are?” (The driver was still busy driving like a man possessed).
Student C: “I don’t know where I am either”.
Old geek across from me: ” The son of a. b..ch is going back to Robie Street to pick up his route where he left off!”
Upon hearing this news, I felt an unexpected appreciation for this driver (who was still apologizing profusely as anyone got off his bus). When we finally reached my stop, (some 20 minutes off schedule by now and way too late for rehearsal),
I said to him: “Don’t worry, stuff like this happens all the time to me too….it’s Friday!”

Halifax Bus Drivers Going, Going… Gone Goofy

At one time, people accused me of picking on Halifax’s Metro Transit and their bus drivers too much….they don’t announce bus stops despite the undeniable swath of pan-Canadian litigation and Human Rights rulings which has forced other cities to do so…they have inaccessible route and schedule information, AND they have yanked the “free pass” which allows the blind to travel free, a minor concession for inadequate Accommodation.
It seems that I don’t have to complain about Metro Transit drivers anymore. Why? They are behaving like a big bunch of goofs with EVERYONE these days; Recently, one driver rammed a courier’s vehicle on Barrington street and held up a busload of passengers for 20 minutes while he ranted. Then, last week, a driver refused to allow a veiled Muslim woman on his bus…a definite no-no (a bystander complained, not the woman), this on top of recent accusations of racial profiling and finally, this weekend, one particularly goofy driver got out of his bus in front of the spring Garden Road Library to whack a mock bloody seal with a stick; the toy seal was being used by anti-seal hunt demonstrators. I guess he was just trying to express his opinion? The driver was picked up by the cops and eventually returned to his bus. It seems he’s been invited to join Metro Transit big cheeses in a discussion today (Oh, to be a fly on the wall!). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; give these drivers a refresher course…no, not ‘sensitivity training’…they need a course on how to locate their brains…the one’s stashed away in their back pockets…the pockets attached to the lard asses they sit on as they drive their buses (a job for which they are over paid, if you ask me), confident with the knowledge that the money they shell out in monthly union dues will cover the cost of lawsuits and other damage control expenditures for these ‘special’ (and increasingly often) times when they behave like the big bunch of goofs they really are.

Suspicious Minds

You know that the world’s going to Hades in a hand basket when a sad story, such as the one broadcast all over mainstream media today, leaves people feeling so mixed up. Or is it just me? A woman in Nova Scotia drowned a couple of kittens last summer and got fined $5.00 for it in court today. Yeah, yeah…this initial ‘teaser’ lead bit on the radio leaves you thinking…”You crazy, sadistic b..tch! They should drown YOU”. Then, you hear the sad flip-side of the story; she fed a stray cat, fed it some more (The Cat Came Back is the song that comes to mind- Harry S. Miller 1893), and bing, bang…she’s got one cat+2 kittens… She’s poor, can’t get help from her town’s officials, and decides to euthanize the kitties in a bucket. Groan. Of course, Suspicious Minds (written by Memphis songwriter, Mark James and the last #1 hit for Elvis Presley in 1969- his last) like mine ask, ‘What cat has only two kittens’!? Maybe she lied about THAT too…and actually drowned a litter of 14. Not that it matters much, they’re all dead, regardless. But NOW, the SPCA is crying foul. They want “BIG FINES AND JAIL TIME”! said their head mouthpiece with emotion. My question? Where were you guys when this nutty, albeit well intentioned stray-cat-feeding woman was busy phoning around, trying to find someone to off the felines? Sure, “dangerous precedents are being set”, yada, yada, but NOW you’re worried that everyone is going to think it’s OK to euthanize Fluffo ’cause it’ll only cost five bucks instead of the usual $179.00 at the vet? Sigh. Then, the legal beagle for this woman (gotta be legal aid lawyer) said a bunch of really stupid things (he compared his client’s action against that of the person “who hanged that dog in Point Pleasant Park” …I can do without hearing that sort of thing). It did not endear me to the situation or to this woman…still…she’s poor…she loves the animals…a regular Doctor Doolittle ….who simply done too much. “We’re caught in a trap….”