Friday, November 27, 2009

'She is Gone'

“You can shed tears that she is gone,
or you can smile because she has lived.

You can close your eyes and pray that she'll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all she's left.

Your heart can be empty because you can't see her,
or you can be full of the love you shared.

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.

You can remember her only that she is gone,
or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what she'd want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkins
Silloth, Cumbria, UK
With thanks to the Kit Kat

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The End of the Waiting Game?

This past Sunday, I expressed my feelings on the waiting game so many of us seem to be stuck in thanks to President Obama's decision not to decide on General McChyristal's request for more troops in Afghanistan.

Apparently I'm not the only one who feels stuck.
WAITING for Obama. Waiting for leadership. Waiting for effective aid. Waiting for a sign NATO is in for the long haul. Waiting for a reason not to bet the Taliban will outlast the Westerners and take over when they’ve had enough and leave.

Afghanistan is one big waiting game now and there isn’t much time for game-changing action.

. . .

The favourite candidate was U.S. President Barack Obama. U.S. Senator John McCain and Pakistani journalist Najam Sethi, editor-in-chief of Lahore’s Daily Times, were among those rightly calling upon President Obama to end the uncertainty about sending a "surge" of 40,000 troops to Afghanistan. Rick Hillier, Canada’s former chief of defence staff, went even further in saying Mr. Obama possesses the position and the ability to articulate a broader vision for rescuing Afghanistan, to touch people beyond the U.S. and to rally Western nations, including Canada, to renew their commitments rather than focus on exit strategies.

The president clearly is the crucial waiting-game changer. But there are others. Canada, the U.K. and the Netherlands have all been bulwarks against Taliban violence, but their long-term commitments, like those of other Western allies, have gone cloudy. A policy brief circulated at the conference makes a devastating case that development aid has been ineffective because donors didn’t build up managerial competence within the Afghan government and failed to co-ordinate aid efforts themselves. The country is still waiting for a "pilot" to steer aid where it’s most needed and most effective.
And yet, thankfully, according to Lex, there might just be signs of hope.

Then again, despite the use of the term "delusional" "decisional" to describe this latest meeting, for me, at least, it still retains the some of the same feel as before ... deciding not to decide.
The administration's plan contains "off-ramps," points starting next June at which Obama could decide to continue the flow of troops, halt the deployments and adopt a more limited strategy or "begin looking very quickly at exiting" the country, depending on political and military progress, one defense official said.

. . .

The plan adopted by Obama would fall well short of the 80,000 troops McChrystal suggested in August as a "low-risk option" that would offer the best chance to contain the Taliban-led insurgency and stabilize Afghanistan.

It splits the difference between two other McChrystal options: a "high-risk" approach that called for 20,000 additional troops and a "medium-risk" option that would add 40,000 to 45,000 troops.

There are 68,000 U.S. troops and 42,000 from other countries in Afghanistan. The U.S. Army's recently revised counterinsurgency manual estimates that an all-out counterinsurgency campaign in a country with Afghanistan's population would require about 600,000 troops.
Let's just hope it's not too little. Too late.
"This war is going to be decided," he told the conference, "over the decisions of athers of Pashto young men who are being asked by Taliban commanders to give them their sons to go out and fight against the Afghan government." These fathers, he says, need reasons to resist the Taliban line that "we’re going to chase the Americans out" and they "need to feel good about being on the right side."

"Anything we can do to change the tenor of that discussion will help, so that fathers of those Pashto young men say, ‘That’s what you said last year when you took my other son and he’s dead and the Americans still haven’t run away.’"

We should not keep them waiting for reasons to say no.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dis Connect

The International Security Forum is being held in Halifax this weekend.
Building on the model of GMF’s successful Brussels Forum, the Halifax International Security Forum will feature a mix of plenary sessions and smaller breakout sessions, with emphasis on intimate and interactive exchanges between panelists and participants. On-the-record panels will cover broad themes such as international law, nuclear proliferation, and global transatlanticism. Breakout sessions held under the Chatham House Rule will explore challenges associated with North Korea, development, climate change, and counter terrorism, among other topics. The agenda reflects the growing diversity of issues at the core of the transatlantic security relationship as well as the increasing geographic reach of transatlantic cooperation. Finally, the Saturday night dinners, also under the Chatham House Rule, give every participant a unique opportunity to further discuss key issues in a more intimate setting and at the same time sample local cuisine.
This puts Canada in a "very exclusive club of countries who are tasked with this important role of peace and security", donchya know.

Uh huh.

Canada is scheduled to pull its troops (or the majority of them anyway) out of Afghanistan in 2011. That date is supposedly set in stone. And yet at the International Security Forum, some are publicly saying that President Obama needs to "weigh in" on Afghanistan and use some of famous eloquence to rally western nations and provide a clear articulate vision to win the war.

My first response being, "Yeah, right"; I don't think anyone is going to change the mind of what appears to be the majority of Canadians on this issue. Then again, on second thought, perhaps he could. If he really wanted to. Given his cult of personality.

But forget about putting half as much effort into the oratory on the idea of hope and change and winning the war in Afghanistan as he has into the debate about healthcare. First he would actually have to step up and, you know, make a decision. Walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

Just how long will it take Obama to decide on how to respond to General McChrystal's request for increased troops? I mean, this has been going on for quite a while, hasn't it? Like at least two months?

And during that time I've been noting the obvious - it's not just American troops dying while Obama fiddles. So too are Canadians. And. Others.

Which begs the question - if one of the reasons America's allies are fighting in Afghanistan is to help the US finish what it started, doesn't the US have an obligation to those same allies?

Doesn't Obama realize his actions and inactions affect not just his country, but many others?

And might some consider it a mite disingenuous that he ran on a plank of America needing to get out of Iraq but increase resources in Afghanistan, what he referred to as "the good war" given what appears to be the White House's current attitude?

So, yeah. Maybe, just maybe, President Obama needs to stop fiddling and dithering and make a decision on where the US stands on the war in Afghanistan. Before anyone even considers the possibility that he could convince the ROW to stay the course.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Les Miserables

It's been a rough few weeks month around here. I thought just for me, but apparently for all of us. If it was true that misery does indeed love company ... we would all be feeling a mite bit happier, I imagine.

As of last night, I finally went through every single picture from Mom's house, every photo album, every framed photograph and every stray one laying in the bottom of a box. Which, while it gave me a feeling of satisfaction (not that I'm 'done' with them, by any means, because I have quite a stack that I still need to figure out exactly what to do with) also left me feeling even more lost and alone.

I found Mom this morning, in my dreams, in the strangest place. She was in what I was calling a memory stick but was actually something more like the size and shape of I-Touch. Not a picture. Not even video. But actually Mom.

Walking around, smiling, talking with me but trapped inside the device. I realized it as a way to have her back, as the only way to have her back, so I was mostly okay with that and she certainly seemed happy enough in there. Still I remember telling her how much I wish I could actually hug her. Didn't seem to fizz her too much though. But then the alarm went off and I had to leave her behind.

Not too far behind though. It seems like she's been with me (or hovering nearby) most of the day. Not in a good way but in a sad way. And something tells me it's only going to get worse as we come closer and closer to that cursed date 11 days hence.

Ironically enough, the girls will be at bereavement retreat for teens that weekend. How strange is that? I think it will be good though. For them at least. And apparently the Kit Kat agrees. I was a little surprised by her comment the other day that she thought it would be a good place to be right then.

Although I must admit that I find myself wishing I had a similar place to go. I'm far from certain how, exactly, I am going to get through that weekend. And I realized today that my husband has similar feelings. It took me a while to realize (and I must confess, it's still very easy for me to forget) how much losing Mom was a personal loss for him, too. Not 'just' his mother-in-law but because both his parents died shortly after we were married and Mom lived with us or right next door for the past 16 years, I think, in a way, she became his mother, too.

Since we have to take the girls to the retreat which is a few hours away, we have decided to stay in Halifax for the weekend as opposed to spending most of it on the road. Which should be nice; we very rarely get away alone for a weekend. Somehow I don't much expect it to be though. Less something to be enjoyed; more something to be survived.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Squeezed in the Middle

At least that's the way it feels over here.

Have you seen the Stop the Tax and Help us Save Local TV commercials?

Let's face it, if you live in Canada, you probably can't miss them. No matter how hard you try.

They're beginning to get on my nerves. Actually, that's not quite true. They've been getting on my nerves for quite a while now.

At first I thought both sets of commercials were for the same thing. Even though I thought I was paying attention. They both spin quite well, meaning they both sound logical, seem to make a lot of sense. You really should go sign that petition, you know. Stop those greedy bastards from ripping us off yet again.

Turns out the question is - Which petition? And which bastards?

There are two petitions, you see. One for each side.

One saying that the cable and satellite companies are being unfair, not giving any of our money to local TV stations, which they will soon die out if something is not done. We will lost our local TV channels if we don't act now to stop the greed of cable. Or something like that...

The other tells us that the Big Networks like Global, CTV, CBC, etc are being greedy. They are raking in lots of money. And now the CRTC wants us to pay another tax of $10 per month to support them? Are you nuts? Or something like that...

Wait a minute. They can't both be right. Can they?

Hell if I know. Although Andrew Coyne seems to think so.
Yes, it is unfair that cable companies should get to use the broadcasters’ signals for free. And yes, it is outrageous that the broadcasters should be foisting another tax on the long-suffering television public (to say nothing of using their news programs to promote it): because if the cable companies are forced to pay the broadcasters for their signals, you can bet the consumer will wind up paying for it in the end.
And he has offers a solution too. Apparently only one that works in a "logical universe," though. Something about everyone compromising and sharing. And consumers not being forced to pay for channels they don't want.

Hey, wait a minute, that works for me! Which is likely why it's not too likely to happen here.

I do see that the Save Local TV movement is saying that the threat of a $5 -$10 monthly tax is bogus, that all they are looking for is to have the CRTC allow them to negotiate with the cable and satellite companies "a fair value for providing access to local television programming". And they ask the question "How can Rogers and other cable companies make claims to a cost they intend to pass on to you when negotiations have not yet occurred?"

But here's what else I see.

Both sides have done a good job in their efforts to sway public opinion their way. Maybe too good of a job. Which just goes to show how you can take the same set of supposed "facts" and spin them any which way you want. In this case, I think they have been spun so hard and so far by both sides that they have only succeeded in making the viewing public dizzy.

I watched those commercials for quite a while before I realized that something didn't quite fit right. Not only was there something I couldn't make sense of but I couldn't figure out what it was that was confusing me.

Eventually, I realized that I couldn't figure out who the local TV stations were that needed saving. No doubt, because in one set of commercials they were referred to as local TV and in the other they became the Big [Bad] Networks, the greedy bastards. So yeah, when you are so polished that all you do is confuse your brand with the other, I don't think you have accomplished too much.

Meanwhile, I ain't signing neither petition. Even though I tend to lean more towards the local TV point of view. Because my sense is that neither side can be trusted.

Or perhaps I should do as Andrew Coyne suggests and support them both, but only because they’re both wrong.

Only in Canada, eh?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

'Lest We Forget'

Why do I keep posting the same video year after year on Remembrance Day?

Because it touches and moves me.

It reminds us all what the day is really all about and how easy it is to fall into forgetting that and getting caught up with our own petty lives. We would all agree that the father in the video is a world class jerk and yet, I think we must ask ourselves, has that ever, in some way, been us?

Ladies and Gentlemen, A Pittance of Time

... If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep though Poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.
- John McCrae

Saturday, November 7, 2009

You are My Sisters

Many of you I have never even met face to face, but I've searched you out every day. I've looked for you on the internet, on playgrounds and in grocery stores.

I've become an expert at identifying you. You are well worn. You are stronger than you ever wanted to be. Your words ring experience, experience you culled with your very heart and soul. You are compassionate beyond the expectations of this world. You are my "sisters."

Yes, you and I, my friend, are sisters in a sorority. A very elite sorority. We are special. Just like any other sorority, we were chosen to be members. Some of us were invited to join immediately, some not for months or even years. Some of us even tried to refuse membership, but to no avail.

We were initiated in neurologist's offices and NICU units, in obstetrician's offices, in emergency rooms, and during ultrasounds. We were initiated with sombre telephone calls, consultations, evaluations, blood tests, x-rays, MRI films, and heart surgeries.

All of us have one thing in common. One day things were fine. We were pregnant, or we had just given birth, or we were nursing our newborn, or we were playing with our toddler. Yes, one minute everything was fine. Then, whether it happened in an instant, as it often does, or over the course of a few weeks or months, our entire lives changed. Something wasn't quite right.

Then we found ourselves mothers of children with special needs. We are united, we sisters, regardless of the diversity of our children's special needs. Some of our children undergo chemotherapy. Some need respirators and ventilators. Some are unable to talk, some are unable to walk. Some eat through feeding tubes. Some live in a different world. We do not discriminate against those mothers whose children's needs are not as "special" as our child's. We have mutual respect and empathy for all the women who walk in our shoes.

We are knowledgeable. We have educated ourselves with whatever materials we could find. We know "the" specialists in the field. We know "the" neurologists, "the" hospitals, "the" wonder drugs, "the" treatments. We know "the" tests that need to be done, we know "the" degenerative and progressive diseases and we hold our breath while our children are tested for them. Without formal education, we could become board certified in neurology, endocrinology, and psychology.

We have taken on our insurance companies and school boards to get what our children need to survive, and to flourish. We have prevailed upon the state to include augmentative communication devices in special education classes and mainstream schools for our children with cerebral palsy. We have laboured to prove to insurance companies the medical necessity of gait trainers and other adaptive equipment for our children with spinal cord defects. We have sued municipalities to have our children properly classified so they could receive education and evaluation commensurate with their diagnosis. We have learned to deal with the rest of the world, even if that means walking away from it.

We have tolerated scorn in supermarkets during "tantrums" and gritted our teeth while discipline was advocated by the person behind us on line. We have tolerated inane suggestions and home remedies from well-meaning strangers. We have tolerated mothers of children without special needs complaining about chicken pox and ear infections. We have learned that many of our closest friends can't understand what it's like to be in our sorority, and don't even want to try.

We have our own personal copies of Emily Perl Kingsley's "Welcome to Holland" and Erma Bombeck's "The Special Mother". We keep them by our bedside and read and reread them during our toughest hours. We have coped with holidays. We have found ways to get our physically handicapped children to the neighbours front doors on Halloween, and we have found ways to help our deaf children from the words, "trick or treat." We have painted a canvas of lights and a blazing Yule log with our words for our blind children. We have pureed turkey on Thanksgiving. We have bought white chocolate bunnies for Easter. And all the while, we have tried to create a festive atmosphere for the rest of our family.

We've gotten up every morning since our journey began wondering how we'd make it through another day, and gone to bed every evening not sure how we did it. We've mourned the fact that we never got to relax and sip red wine in Italy. We've mourned the fact that our trip to Holland has required much more baggage than we ever imagined when we first visited the travel agent. And we've mourned because we left for the airport without most of the things we needed for the trip.

But we, sisters, we keep the faith always. We never stop believing. Our love for our special children and our belief in all that they will achieve in life knows no bounds. We dream of them and home runs. We visualize them running sprints and marathons. We dream of them planting vegetable seeds, riding horses and chopping down trees. We hear their angelic voices singing Christmas carols. We see their palettes smeared with watercolours, and their fingers flying over ivory keys in a concert hall. We are amazed at the grace of their pirouettes. We never, never stop believing in all they will accomplish as they pass through this world.

But in the meantime, my sisters, the most important thing we do, is hold tight to their little hands as together we special mothers and our special children, reach for the stars.

By Maureen K. Higgins (borrowed from Daisy's Cafe)

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Lex brings us a story to remind us all what really matters in life.

Which brings to mind another wonderful family who honours their daughter's memory every day. By helping other children. And who (coincidentally?) are also blessed with Grace in their lives.

Lost in the Twilight Zone

Forgive me, please, but I am feeling like I am just a little bit lost in the twilight zone at the moment.

You might recall I've already confessed my past (and yes, even current) leanings towards the NDP. That's 'past' federally but still very current provincially. Yes, it's true. Provincially I remain an NDipper.

Federally, however, I had enough long ago. Definitely since the installation of Taliban Jack Layton as King of their castle.

Now, I am most definitely not a fan of our Conservative government either. And I've certainly had my issues with them when it comes to their support, or lack thereof, of our military. But when it comes to NDP federally, particularly on the issue of support for the military and their work in Afghanistan .... yeah, right.

Thus, the little bit of cognitive dissonance when I read this piece written by Peter Stoffer, one of the NDP MPs from Nova Scotia, in today's Chronicle Herald.

Mr. Stoffer notes that although we have seen improvements to a number of veterans’ benefits in recent years, including operational stress injury social support centres, wellness and transition programs under the new Veterans Charter, and assistance for Allied veterans now living in Canada, there is much more we can do to improve the lives of veterans and their families. Which, as he states it, is why New Democrats continue to press the Conservative government to implement key reforms for programs and services.
Some of these reforms include unfulfilled promises. The Harper Conservatives ommitted to resolving the clawback of Service Income Security Insurance Plan(SISIP) pensions for disabled veterans, extending the home care (VIP) program for all widows and veterans, as well as fully compensating all victims of Agent Orange and holding a public inquiry into its use. Despite promising significant reform, the Conservatives have not stopped the practice of appointing their friends to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Unfortunately, the government’s lack of action on SISIP and full compensation for Agent Orange victims from 1950 to 1984 has led veterans to launch class-action lawsuits in hopes of forcing a government response.

Beyond its broken commitments, the government needs to improve the New Veterans Charter for modern-day veterans to better support those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, bring an end to the unjust clawback of CF and RCMP service and CPP disability pensions at age 65, increase the survivors’ pensions from 50 per cent to 66 per cent, and eliminate the gold-digger clause (marriage after 60) that prevents widows and widowers from receiving pension and health benefits.

New Democrats have also advocated for equal access to veterans’ hospitals and pavilions throughout the country. Currently, as some families have recently discovered, veterans are not eligible for a bed at the local veterans’ hospital or pavilion if they did not actively serve in the Second World War or Korea. In one case, a veteran was not eligible for admission because he did not serve in a "theatre of war" in one of those wars, even though he had a long and distinguished military career. In a similar story, a veteran was turned away because he served in Cyprus.

We argue that the federal government should make these services available for all veterans, open up discussions about the future of the facilities, and develop Health Care Centres of Excellence for modern-day veterans, RCMP and their families. These specialized centres could provide a unique model of care to better assist veterans with specific physical and psychological injuries and needs.

Veterans and their families deserve our deepest gratitude for their contributions to our country and for protecting the freedoms we hold so dear. For these brave men and women, Remembrance Day is every day. The least we can do is make sure they receive the support they have earned. Lest we forget.
It's awful hard to argue with now, isn't it?

Here's hoping we will be hearing more of the same from the NDP in the future. And that some of that patriotism and respect and gratitude for our military actually rubs off on Mr. Layton.

That would be a very good thing.