Category Archives: personal

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,

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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…

Hiatus

I have written this blog (and 236 others, two of which were deleted…why did  I do that?!) for just under one year. Some 20,500 people have dropped in to date. I am currently involved in a writing project (very interesting stuff which I’m sure you will all want to pay big bucks for…or not). That’s the good news. The bad news, for some, is that I am taking a temporary break from blogging. Others may see this as cause for celebration (the crass, reactionary types). Regardless, I am outta here for a time, but like MacArthur (or was it some other dude?)  said, “I shall return”. Thanks to all the regular readers, the web drifters, and especially to those who have taken the time to send comments (except perhaps, the demento types who really seem to have a loose grasp of reality and lack social decorum).

Opal, my long-suffering (that’s just an expression!) guide dog bids you adieu for now too. She says to tell you that she will update you personally on the progress I make with my writing  project (literary pimp, that she is). It just wouldn’t seem right to go on blog holiday without one more pop-culture reference all wrapped up into a piece of wise advice:  “Stay calm, be brave, and wait for the signs”- (from the Dead Dog Cafe gang on CBC Radio),

What if?……..

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What if,  when we awake tomorrow, to a new day and a New Year (and a boatload of snow in Nova Scotia), we also awake to…the complete absence of news items relaying the tragic traffic accidents and deaths which occurred after too many people got ‘happy’ with liquor in celebration tonight.  What if we never hear another announcement of soldiers dying in Afghanistan and elsewhere? What if the federal and provincial governments suddenly decided to support their poor, elderly, ill and disabled citizens with programs, services and benefits that would allow these people to lead dignified lives? What if a collective consciousness suddenly finds world leaders talking about “the Interconnected Web of All Existence” (knowingly and lovingly) and galvanizes them into immediate action to resolve issues that threaten our planet, like global warming? What if individuals across the globe are hit by uncontrollable urges to be honest, kind, generous, patient, and loving to one another? Imagine that! …but, John Lennon already did, “and I’m not the only one”, he claimed.  So, what if we just give peace a chance?…oh wait, John Lennon already sang to us about that too. (By the way, the ‘B’ side song on the single,  “Imagine” was “It’s so Hard” in the USA and “Working Class Hero” in the UK). Happy New Year everyone.

Dr. Opal

I awoke yesterday with a massive chest cold. (my mom would have said, “Tu as coucher les fesses a l’aire” -translation: “you slept bare-bummed”. Maybe so, but Christmas Eve with my sweetie was worth it. All through the wee hours last night, I coughed, railed and hacked gobs of… well, never mind. At six AM this morning  when Opal woke up, she jumped on my bed and proceeded to give me an intense  45 to 60 – second breathalyzer test. She stuck her shnozz next to my lips and carefully sniffed the odours  (not too pleasant, I imagine) emerging from my mouth. Then, she promptly lay down beside me, head hung over my legs,  until I could get up an hour later. Clearly Doctor Opal diagnosed something not very healthy and decided to cut me some slack. She continued to request samples of my halitosis throughout the day. She must have thought I was insane when I saddled her up and said, “Come on, puppet, we’re going to Sobey’s to buy some honey”. We got there and back with barely any commands being uttered and moving quite slow. I spent most of the remainder of the day wrapped in my authentic Hudson’s Bay wool ‘point blanket’ with Opal and Lucy both settling over me like poultices. Thanks girls. You really know how to take care of your mum. What better nursemaids can a gal have?

The Longest Night

“Occurs at the instant when the Sun’s position in the sky is at its greatest angular distance on the other side of the equatorial plane from the observer’s hemisphere”…this is part of Wiki’s  definition of  Winter Solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, it occurs between December 20th and 23rd. The seasonal significance of winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening nights and shortening days. Worldwide, cultures interpret the Solstice event in varied ways, but most cultures have a recognition of rebirth, involving holidays, festivals, rituals and celebrations (‘Amaraterasu’- Requiem of the Dead in Japan, ‘Mankara Sankranti’ -India and Nepal, ‘Lucia’-Feast of St. Lucy in ancient Sweden, ‘Deygan’- Zorastrian, ‘Christmas’- Natalis Domini in 4th century Rome and 11th century Christian etc.)

The start of Winter Solstice in 1955, had a whole other meaning for my mother. It was a bitter cold night (I am told), when she laboured to bring me forward onto this good Earth. At age 37, this small Quebecois woman found herself giving birth to me, her fourth of five children, in a private maternity clinic near Montreal. My father was present to witness this…the only time he would be around for the birth of any of his five children.  My father, a Master mariner, happened to be home on leave. My mother appealed to him to come to be by her side. She further convinced him to put on his naval dress uniform for the occasion.  (He would don that full uniform only twice more in his 35 year career). My dad was a ballcap-wearing kinda guy, even while at the helm of the dozens of ships he would command in his lifetime. Dad obliged. The result of this compliance in putting on his hot, itchy blue serge uniform, was being granted permission to enter the labour room with my mom. This was unheard of in a Catholic birthing clinic of the 1950’s. I guess even Catholic nursing nuns are patsies for a guy in uniform.  My dad held me in his arms, (or so the story goes) and mom asked him what my name should be.  He grinned and announced, “Helen”. Mom thought this was pretty a pretty good handle for the bald 8 pound, 4 ounce healthy girl she had just unleashed on an unsuspecting world. It would translate nicely she thought (Helene) for the predominately French relatives in her life. She asked my dad about the significance of ‘Helen’. My dad, painfully honest man that he was most of the time, told mom that in his youth he once had a ‘nice girlfriend’ with the same name.

As we move into the Winter Solstice and the longest night, I pause and think about my departed parents whom I miss. This morning, I went into my sea chest of personal memorabilia and I found the very same Master’s cap which my dad wore in the birthing room on that night, 53 years ago. I reflect on the good life my folks gave me, the values they instilled in me, the love of life I acquired from them. Mostly, I think about the lesson they taught by example; how to care for all of Earth’s creatures I encounter on my journey through this life. We were not the perfect family. We had our ‘issues’. They cut me a lot of slack in my troubled times, and I reciprocated in their less inspired moments. While most people entertain the idea of creating New Year’s Resolutions at this time of year, I do not. I do, however, make a point on my birthday, (today) of evaluating my life and its course and come up with ‘Birthday Resolutions’. They mean more to me, and I ‘stick to them’ better.