Saturday, November 30, 2013

Happy 8th Birthday, Tinks!

It started like this 8 years ago

A couple of weeks ago, we gathered the clan together to celebrate the Tinks' 8th birthday a little early. The stars of the day hung out with friends and family. I caught Liam in a rare quiet moment

while Morgan explained something to someone. As a true Andersen woman, she has a lot to say. Of course, so does Liam. It's a family trait.

Mormor listened patiently

Scott was hanging in the corner with the cool people

Caught Raff in conversation

Aryka and Auntie Janne had a good time together

while Lana opened an impromptu hair salon

And speaking of Aryka: the torch has been passed! The kids love to ride on the back of my wheelchair. It's been a pretend train, fire truck and monster chasing another child around the room. The Tinks are verging on being too heavy for it to work well, which is a normal part of them growing up, but still saddens me. The good news is that they are more kids in the family! Aryka had her first ride and was just as thrilled as any other kid who's tried it

And then Ken proved that you never really get too old to go for a ride...

 Photo by Janne/TinkMama

While the Tinks opened presents, Janne lurked in a tissue paper blind to catch the right shot

Happy Tinks. And the rest of us were happy, too.

Happy birthday, my lovies! Having you in my life gives me joy every day.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Miserables

Last weekend, I and three really good friends of varying ages did the proverbial girls’ night out and saw Les Miserables. It’s been getting great reviews and they were all right. It really was spectacular. I’ve seen the show before, in fact, this was my fourth time (I think?) and as usual, I bawled my way through it. This time, I came prepared —I brought an entire box of tissues, rather than those measly little 10-packs that only last through the first act.

The Boy thinks Les Mis is sort of obvious, deliberately pushing tearjerker buttons and sure… but so do many movies and books and I have to admit, I love a well-done tearjerker every now and again. And this show does it very well. There’s soaring and stirring music I love, songs that make me feel something and moments both big and small to make you lose your breath. And I did, several times. Most had to do with Ramin Karimloo who plays Jean Valjean. Incredible voice. When he sang Bring Him Home, I’m pretty sure I didn’t breathe for the whole song. You can hear that, plus a few other show stoppers on the CBC website.

Les Mis is about the lives of the downtrodden, the poor and the invisible in our society. It’s about redemption, solidarity and the fight against oppression. It is almost 3 hours of making misery visible (and entertaining, odd as it may seem).

After the show, the theater let out on the streets of Toronto in the Entertainment District, along with a number of other shows. As audiences spilled out on the sidewalks, all dressed nicely, with fancy shoes, the good jewelry and full of excitement, carrying souvenirs and, in the case of the audience from Les Mis, crumpled up, damp tissues. In a stream, we moved towards the light at the corner and went past two people sitting on the sidewalk, each with a cup and asking for change. It was a man and a woman, their hair hadn’t been washed in a while, there were several missing teeth and the clothes were ratty and dirty. They looked very much like the actors on stage, except those had gotten there by makeup and these two got there naturally.

And not one person walking past them stopped to give them a quarter. There we were, dressed in nice clothes, going to the subway or our cars to get back to nice, warm homes after a wonderful evening out that came with the ticket price tag of somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 each. The disconnect between having paid a lot of money to see a wonderful show about the downtrodden and the poor, and then 10 minutes later walking past two actual downtrodden and poor people as if they were invisible was soul jarring.
I went by them, too. For a few steps. And then I turned around and gave them a lot more than a quarter.

It’s so easy to dismiss the homeless and the poor. We like to talk about how we manage to pay the rent or that they “choose” to be homeless. But what would happen if we lost our jobs? If we got sick? Many of us are financially overextended and living paycheque to paycheque. Years ago, when then-Premier Mike Harris dissolved programs and halfway houses for people with psychiatric disabilities, the homeless population in my neighborhood increased tenfold. Does that mean they chose to be homeless? Can you make that choice when you’re sick and your treatment and support disappears? And even if it were a choice, does that mean someone deserves to go hungry?

I wish I could give more money to the home as I encounter when I go grocery shopping. I do when I can and I don’t care what they use that money for. My money doesn’t come with conditions, because I get to go home to a nice apartment with running water to put away the groceries I just bought. And they don’t.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Santa and His Peeps

Last Sunday was the annual invasion of Santa hats, red noses, reindeers and marching bands. In other words: The Santa Claus Parade! And, as usual, I was in attendance. This year, I dragged my sister along.

Before we get to the festivities, I wanted to follow up on an issue mentioned in last year's post. Namely, the part where the crowd rushes to the front to see the man of the hour, without consideration for short people and those who travel seated. At that time, I had a conversation with the parade organizers on Twitter and they committed to creating a more accessible environment this year. I confirmed with them on Twitter a couple of days before the parade and was eager to see how it would work.

The street where I normally loiter had become the area where the bands' buses parked and that meant putting some crowd control in place. Unfortunately, whoever was in charge of this must've had a brain freeze. Because they can put the barricade in front of the curb cut. Sure, there was another one to the left of that, but still.

Berczy Park had been designated a wheelchair station, which was a terrific idea. It's close to the end of the parade, it's located in a small, quieter area with a nice sidewalk where there's loads of room for people using mobility aids. Unfortunately, that sidewalk was also cluttered with able-bodied people, many in camping chairs, settled in for the day. I love the idea of having designated wheelchair stations at a few places along the parade route, but would suggest that next year, some of the volunteers involved be positioned near these areas to make sure that they are used as intended.

And now for the parade photos. For years, I've posted lots of shots of floats and bands, but this year, I was closer to the action. So I decided to share the people that make up the parade.

The Toronto police marched near the front, led by the Chief of Police. Other than Santa, this was the guy who got the biggest round of applause. He's a bit of a hero in Toronto right now. Unfortunately, I only got a very blurry shot of him, so I'm posting these beauties instead. There were more horses later in the parade when the RCMP came along as well and I noticed that they had combed a maple leaf on the rumps of their horses. Unfortunately, no photo exists of this brilliance.

Blessings should be heaped on cheerleaders who did this for two hours and still looked as fresh as if they'd just started

and on these girls who were much younger, but still seemed to have a great time despite marching and waving and smiling for hours. While being dressed as bees.

There were quite a few parade participants in wheelchairs. This guy was in one of the bands, playing some sort of electrical guitar while being pushed by another band member. Next to them, a third bandmember pushed the amp.

This is important. Please contribute to the relief effort.

Had to get a shot of this line of little drummer boys.

Maybe she was naturally a happy person, maybe it was delirium?

I had to put up this shot of the One Direction float for Amanda. She's a huge fan.

I don't like clowns and I don't like monkeys. This is a perfect nightmare.

This guy was a real charmer

Yes, I know I said I don't like clowns, but I like this shot

No Canadian parade is complete without our national icon

And here he is. He was a good one this year.

I'm ready for Christmas now!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

10 Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor about RA

This week on HealthCentral, I go back to basics...

"Your doctor has just handed you a brand-new diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. On the one hand, you’re relieved to finally have an answer, but on the other hand, your head is spinning. The next step is to find out more about your disease, but you don’t even know which questions to ask. This post helps get you started to get more information about your disease and how to live with it.

1.  Do I have to take medication?
Along with the diagnosis, it your rheumatologist will send you a prescription for medication to suppress your RA. Treating your RA is important — it helps prevent the damage that RA can cause to your joints, which protects your mobility in the future, helping you to live as normally as possible. New medications make it more likely than ever before to go into remission."

You can read the rest of the post here.

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Farewell to Underpants

With a title like that, I should probably hastened to clarify, in case someone out there jumped to conclusions: no, I’m not going commando.

The farewell in question relates to a particular model of underpants made by Victoria’s Secret. Or, more accurately, no longer made by Victoria’s Secret. They are a perfectly soft blend of cotton and modal, designed so there’s hardly a seam anywhere and they look like this:

They are the most comfortable underpants I have ever worn. So comfortable, in fact, that I can’t feel I’m wearing them.

And yes, I am aware that now the world knows what my underpants look like, but were I a contestant on Survivor, I’d spend half my time walking around in my intimates, so I don’t see what the difference is. Okay, I’m not subsisting on a diet of rice and coconuts, but I have seen these particular underpants on several female Survivor contestants in the past, so that counts for something, doesn’t it?

Is it me or was that particular sidetrack more irrelevant than they usually get? Let me return to my main point.

So, I got very attached to a particular brand of undergarment. It happens with all of us. And they no longer make them — I’ll just have to find something else I like. No biggie, right?

Not so fast. Because this is when fibromyalgia enters the picture.

I’ve written before about the pernicious nature of fibromyalgia and how easily it’s triggered. In fact, so easily I’m quite sure that girl in Hans Christian Andersen’s The Princessand the Pea was perhaps not royalty, but had fibromyalgia. Or maybe all of us who have fibromyalgia are royalty? Where did I put my tiara? But I digress… The point is that something as simple as a seam in the wrong place can take you from perfectly fine to perfectly awful in about 20 minutes. 

“It starts in one place and then it moves, creeping through your body, leaving a thorny trail of interconnected feeling. It links painful spot to painful spot to yet another painful spot, and by the time it is done, you are a burning network of pain. Everything hurts. Every muscle, every tendon, every joint is caught in a spasm … It has a sound. It has decibels. It speaks loudly, and then it yells, and then the screaming starts, and once the screaming starts, it doesn't stop. It becomes a never-ending feedback loop of noise.” (From 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain. Just $0.95, by the way) 

That particular part from 7 Facets: A Meditation on Pain is a lesson I learned from fibromyalgia. Fibro pain is completely different than RA pain. Fibro taught me that pain has a sound. Fibro taught me that the pressure of a purse strap against your thigh can feel like being stabbed with a knife. Fibro taught me that pressure against certain parts of your body, even if the spot is smaller than a penny, can take your pain levels from tolerable to unbearable in no time.

This is why finding a model of underpants that feel so seamless you might as well not be wearing any is important to your quality of life. And it’s why these particular underpants being discontinued is worthy of a blog post that publicly entreats Victoria’s Secret to please, please bring them back. Not just for me, although that would be very nice of you. No, there is an actual business case to be made.

5 million people in the US alone have fibromyalgia and 80-90% are women. Right there, you have a guaranteed faithful audience who will buy these particular underpants. They’ll probably buy enough to last them through two weeks at least, because often, we just don’t have the energy to do laundry. That could be upwards of 63 million pairs of underpants. Add to that the extra pairs we’ll buy to safeguard against another possible discontinuation.

(Wait… Did I just out myself as a hoarder of underpants?)

Moving on! Let’s double that amount. We’re now talking 126 million pairs of this particular model that you could sell every year. And that’d just in the US! At $10 a pair, the profit is dizzying. On top of that, you get to do something that would make life easier for millions of people who live with chronic pain. I’ll happily be your spokesperson. Erm… A fully-clothed spokesperson, that is.

What do you say, Victoria’s Secret? Will you help us out?