Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Moving BootCamp

There’s another phase of life that no one talks about – downsizing from a family home to a smaller couple-sized place. After years of collecting, accumulating, and adding to your possessions, you have to wean yourself away from them, or at least a good portion. Some things must fall by the wayside, that’s part of the ritual.

Storage for the pieces that the family wants but can’t use right now will cost depending on how much you have and how much space you need. Allow for some items to go missing, as this seems to happen no matter how well you plan. The local Value Village will take many donated items in good condition, orphaned only because their technology or style has its roots a few decades back. As a last resort, the city waste depot will process those things no one wants, but charges by the load for the privilege. It’s a purifying experience. Sentimentality gets overridden by the ‘discard frenzy’, a little known side effect of too much packing.

After the repetitive and endless work of boxing, comes the actual day when all your worldly items must change location. Moving is a torturous exercise designed to imprint in our minds why we shouldn’t do it too often. Moving day starts early and ends late, with few breaks in between. We bid a silent farewell to the old place, imprinting those familiar reminders -- the flowers and vines we planted, the noisy children’s parties, and summer evenings spent on the deck.

At the new home, evaluation of use must once again be reviewed. What must be kept and what is no longer needed? What are the rules of this new place, what do we need to know? All your personal information must be changed, providing a new list of challenges. Where is this municipal place? How do I get this changed? How do I get there? Why doesn’t my (fill in the blank -- TV, internet connection) work? All the logistics have changed. You eventually get maps, call repair people and figure it out. You start to explore your new location.

Throughout life we go through many changes, some we choose for ourselves, some are forced upon us. Societies and their traditions also change as time progresses. Where once a house was inherited from one’s parents, that isn’t always the case now. That leaves us with our belongings which can make any place our own. Like George Carlin said in a spoof about ‘stuff’, ‘this is my stuff, man, don’t touch my stuff’. He must have meant those fragments of our world that we keep close to ourselves, the ones that we take pleasure in touching, or the ones that remind us of a friend or a great vacation. Our stuff. And don’t you touch it.

Could we perhaps have virtual moving in the future and beam everything over? I’d like that.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Strong Women Role Models

Strong women – an oxymoron? There have always been strong women around, but they weren’t given their due. Think suffragettes, pioneer women, and adventurers like the first woman to fly a plane. They did what they had to do, not what society decided they should do. Other women contented themselves, sometimes not so contentedly, with supporting the men they had married or partnered with, burying themselves in the drudgery of tending a house, preparing the meals, and even running their own businesses.

Pioneer women were a tough breed because they were determined to survive in a land that promised them more than their birth country. It took a while for the evidence to float to the top and illustrate that something wasn’t quite equal in the rights afforded women.

Intelligent men supported this change, men who weren’t threatened by intelligent women. But there were also those women who wanted their rights to voting, inheriting property, and managing their own affairs, who were suppressed by husbands who were threatened by a thinking mate.

Suffragettes took their punishments – being jailed, or worse – for their beliefs. The ones who were martyred in this cause for the rights of women became the reason for other females to support them, sometimes at the cost of their own marriages, and security. Women have died ‘little deaths’ over the decades so that those females that come after, have the respect that they are entitled to. These little deaths are the indignities, the estrangement of family, the banishment by imperialistic fathers who are embarrassed by their daughters, and the other scornful women who haven’t the education to see their own problem in a social sense. These are the western indignities, but women in other countries suffer even greater indignities at times.

Strong women, those with tenacious, confident attitudes and demeanours populated my early years and predominated throughout my childhood. Contrast that with some of the lackluster men who married these female bastions of the home. Both my own grandmothers ran their own businesses, and supported large families. One came from a liberal family of many daughters that supported women, the other became the head of the mainly masculine family by utter strength of will and character.

Early in my adulthood, while at university, I started to read Simone de Beauvoir and her books on women and how we should never forget ourselves for others. Women – especially those who are strong role models give young girls something concrete to strive for, if they haven’t already been subjugated to the current trend which encourages very young girls in their formative years to acquire the attributes of females much older in their dress and behaviour. There are far dire consequences to this trend – self esteem issues for those not measuring up to the ‘standard’ which can culminate in eating disorders, and bullying.

Why do so many women have depression? Lack of understanding by society in general, and lack of supportive mates, and trying to live up to ridiculous ‘superwoman’ ideals. If only more mothers educated their sons to respect females. Supportive mates are few and far between. Those who do see the reasons that women are a valuable part of society trump those who would keep their women ‘under their thumb’ every time.

Women should be proud of what they accomplish, and not compare themselves to the standards set by others – be they dominating men or foolish women who are complacent enough to stand in the shadow of their so-called protector. Women want to read books by other women who have done interesting things, women who are strong role models, women who have broken some of the old barriers of success, women who can still recognize an intelligent, reasoning, and supportive man.

In summary, the female of the species deserves to be given the opportunity and the respect that should be granted to every person. Each of us deserves to live our life to the fullest that we can manage, making our own choices, and reaching for success. There still is a lot of work to be done in both genders toward this end. Equality is a nebulous state, hard to define, and even harder to acquire. Think of those women in your life who have made you glad to have known them – what kind of women were they? We have much more freedom than before, but we’re not there yet. It is my hope that it doesn’t take another century to come to fruition.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Parent, the Child, and the Disability

Is motherhood agony? I don’t mean the obvious -- birthing the child. I’m referring to the long time commitment to that child in the face of debilitating illness. It seems that the umbilical cord between the mother and child has a lot of significance when your child is hurting. Not all mothers may feel the empathy, and absorb the pain, but many do. Fathers are not exempt from the pain either, if father-child bonding exists.
An illness which is interior is especially difficult as no one seems to believe that it exists. It must be something that the ill person is doing, which is causing or contributing to the problem. One such illness is called CVS, cyclic vomiting syndrome, which is not an eating disorder, but a rare condition affecting a segment of the young population. The ages of the victims of this illness can vary from young children, or teenagers, to young adults. There are some cases of this condition lasting into middle age with less severity.

CVS is characterized by episodes or cycles of severe nausea and vomiting that last for hours, or days, which can alternate with intervals with no symptoms. Originally thought to be a paediatric disease, studies now show that CVS occurs in all age groups. There is a description of cyclic vomiting in Wikipedia, which also shows the number of physicians who have published articles on this little-known disease.

The effects of this illness are especially difficult for the person suffering the unexplained, and unpredictable manner of the onset of these bouts. Vomiting can occur for a few days, or continue for two weeks at a time. Nothing will stay on the stomach, and even liquids don’t stay down. Our family doctor explained it like this, ‘most of us feel butterflies in our stomachs, but the victims of this illness feel tigers gnawing at their insides’.

Our daughter has had this illness since she was sixteen, and still continues to suffer in her twenties, albeit on a lesser basis. The bouts have become less frequent and further apart, but the intensity is only lessened by a pain patch or injections of pain relievers. The pain patch she must constantly wear, but the injections are needed only when the pain becomes unbearable. The condition promotes feelings of depression, often exacerbated by the medications. The person suffering sees no end in sight, wondering what kind of life lies before them. A mental lethargy can occur, as one of the side effects of the pain-relieving drugs.

Along the way, we have taken our daughter to specialists in digestive disorders, to naturopaths, to herbalists, and to specialists in neurology, and psychiatry. She’s been seen by the top doctors in our area in western Canada. She’s had a few periods of hospitalization as a minor under the care of a paediatrician, but eventually all specialists advise us there’s nothing they can do. As parents, my husband and I were at our wits end, when I asked our doctor if he would take on the responsibility to support us in searching for relief to her pain. Our family doctor agreed to monitor the condition and to help her when she needs medication or shots. He has been an enormous help, and has counselled us as parents when we were stressed to the hilt. The other doctors in the clinic in which he works also back him up if he’s away. They have given our daughter some hope, although her objective is to try and get off the medication, if and when the pain and the bouts lessen.

We continue to look for alternatives, but they are few and far between. The illness has interrupted my daughter’s life, and for a while, she didn’t want to continue. She battles all the time to put weight on in between bouts of being sick. She can be well for several weeks at a time, then some unknown trigger brings her down for a few days, negating all the progress. It used to be two weeks out of every month, so the intensity has lessened. She is currently on disability, as she can’t work full-time, but is trying to work with a government agency to find companies that will employ disabled persons.

A parent’s life if filled with trepidation and worry about their child, and any disability puts a whole new light on raising a child. Love and support will help ease that person into society; even so, we cannot always be there when a disabled person becomes an adult.

In summary, a mother’s pain or a father’s pain is tied to the child’s ability to survive the roles that life assigns to each one of us. Challenges we can handle, but when your child is sick, it takes patience without understanding. Right now, there are no answers, only hope.

February 2009

Revised May 2009