Tuesday, March 31, 2015

30 days drawing challenge: Day 9

The 30 days of drawing challenge day nine is to draw my favorite television show. Since I can't really think of what my favorite show is I thought I would have some fun drawing Gotham.
I think there is only one season of the show so far, but I enjoy it. Jada Pinkett Smith is easy on the eyes!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gratitude Week 8: Grateful for Someone Who Inspires Me

Someone who inspires me – I am grateful to have many people in my life whom I find inspirational.

I looked up the definition of the word inspiration: The excitement of the mind or emotions to a high level of feeling or activity.

Now that I have read it I would say I am more excited to a high level of feeling than inspired to a high level of activity. I am excited to a high level of feeling by the following people: Shel, my kids, my mother, my sister Jackie, My sister Jill, my aunty Brenda, My nana, my Gran Ennis, my friends Mel, Loralee, Tari, Mary, Laurel, Kathleen and Sarah. My sister in laws. I believe if more people read the definition of the word “inspiration” then they would realize that being excited to a high level of emotion doesn’t have to come from someone famous. In my case none of the people who inspire me are famous (that I know of).

In less than a week my nana will have been gone from this life for eight years. I can’t believe it. I STILL think of her every day. I know that seems impossible – that I would think of her every day after eight years, but I do. She had that kind of impact on me. She was a feisty lady. Small in stature, but HUGE in personality. She was born in Liverpool and was growing up in the city during the second world war when it was bombed. She was actually in a bomb shelter when a bomb landed on the buildings above and some people were killed in the shelter where she was.

In her lifetime she experienced the most amazing things; overwhelming, harsh, TOUGH things.  Her mother passed away and was buried at sea on the way to Africa. Her sister had tuberculosis and spent time in a sanitorium. Her one son was killed in the civil war in Africa before he was in his mid twenties.

Whenever I think I am having a rough day I think of nana and all that she endured and overcame and what a wonderful woman she was.

I have been blessed in my life to know that I am loved. I KNOW that my nana loved me. A few years ago my parents were living in Singapore and I went there to visit with them. Nan was visiting them at the same time. I had not seen her in quite a few years, and we had the most excellent visit. We laughed and we talked and we spent a good deal of time together not saying anything at all. I was always extremely comfortable in her presence. It’s difficult to put into words the way being with her made me feel.  I can only say this – I never ever doubted that she loved me completely and never judged me.  She was one of the most remarkable women I have ever known and I am MORE than grateful that she was in my life.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thursday Thirteen: Mycobacterium Avium Complex

You may wonder why I am writing about this – so here is an explanation. My beautiful, spunky, 3 year old niece has been diagnosed with MAC. I last saw her in November of 2013 when we were in California . One afternoon we took some time away from the events of the funeral which brought us together and we went to the beach. It was her first experience seeing the Ocean. She was SOOOOO excited. I held her hand as we walked down the stairs. With every step she squealed “let’s go!” We had a great day at the beach and she LOVED the water. She loves being outside and playing and so her getting sick has caused a huge shift in her world and in the world of my sister and brother in law. I went online to find out what I could about her diagnosis and today I am sharing what I have learned. (My sister has written on her blog all about the experience they are going through so if you are interested in hearing about all this in her words you can link to her blog HERE)

1.       MAC (Mycobacterium Avium Complex), is an atypical mycobacterial infection which can occur in the later stages of AIDS.
2.       MAC is related to the tuberculosis germ, but is not contagious. This would explain why my niece had a positive tuberculosis test.  I never quite understood why she had a positive tb test, but now I do!
3.       MAC organisms can be found virtually anywhere in the environment. They live in water, soil, foods, and a variety of animals. As a result, it is difficult to avoid coming into contact with MAC.
4.       MAC USUALLY this affects people with the later stages of AIDS or people who are old and have weakened immune systems. Try looking for information on MAC for children. It is insanely uncommon and finding out information on children with MAC is extremely difficult.
5.       Here is some of the information I found online about MAC – which will illustrate how frustrating this process has been for my sister and brother in law : MAC pulmonary (lung) disease’ major susceptibility risk factors depend on which of the two types of disease are present. For nodular disease the risk factors are being Caucasian, female, average age between 60 and 70, and having bronchiectasis. The most important relationship in women is that of bronchiectasis. For patients with MAC upper lobe cavitary disease, the major risk factors are being male, average ages between 50-60, heavy smoking, and often-excessive alcohol consumption.
Obviously my niece is neither a female between 60 and 70, nor a male between 50 and 60. She is not a heavy smoker, and her alcohol consumption isn’t excessive. DUH. She doesn’t consume alcohol!
6.       Fever is the main symptom of MAC, along with night sweats, chills, weight loss, muscle wasting, abdominal pain, fatigue (often caused by anemia), and diarrhea.  These symptoms in a little girl obviously are debilitating. She obviously does not have much weight she can afford to lose, but she is in a lot of pain.
7.       MAC can also cause enlargement of the liver and spleen, as well as the lymph nodes. This is how it was diagnosed in my niece – who had one of her lymph nodes so completely destroyed by the bacteria that the surgeon didn’t even think it WAS a lymph node when he removed it from her body.
8. As the bacteria spread through the body and affect different organs there are obviously different symptoms. It usually doesn’t spread from one organ to another, but in my niece’s case it is spreading or was beginning to spread. My sister has to watch for things like vomiting, diarrhea (which she got) and a cough – which would mean it has spread to her lungs.
9.       It  is possible to prevent MAC from causing disease and symptoms in HIV-positive people using drugs (prophylaxis), a type of prevention that is almost always recommended for HIV-positive people with compromised immune systems (less than 50 CD4 cells). Again and unfortunately, my niece is not in this category of patients. It makes her treatment insanely difficult.
10.   If an HIV-positive person is diagnosed with MAC, he or she may be required to continue therapy for life. This is necessary to prevent MAC from returning. At this point we don’t have any idea how long the treatment will be required for my niece. She has started the treatment and she is reacting well after the first week.
11.   MAC must be treated with a combination of antibiotic drugs to maintain control over the infection.
12.   Side effects of the medication taken to kill the bacteria can include nausea, headaches, vomiting, and diarrhea. Blindness may also occur as a side effect to the medication. The side effects to the bacteria are almost as scary as the effects of the bacteria itself. Obviously we don’t want our little angel to go blind  - but nor do we want the bacteria to shut down all of her organs.
13. Here is a photo of MAC bacteria under electron microscope.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


Perception is an interesting thing. Do we ever stop to check our perceptions? Is it even possible to check our perceptions in this world of instant communication?
We are able to instantly communicate a snapshot of our thoughts, opinions, beliefs, hopes, dreams, complaints, or criticisms to the whole world. Reaching out and making a statement about what is happening around us is quick and easy. Communicating the complexity of our lives is not so easy.
Knowing, or thinking we know, what others have to say doesn't even require any more effort than lying in bed, opening one eye, and barely lifting our cellphones to catch a glimpse of what is being said from "out there" in the world. Just this morning I read in bed that Elton John was boycotting Dolce and Gabbana because of something they said about surrogate kids, or IVF kids. I was happy to read about the boycott. I have always wanted to boycott something and this one will be easy for me!
I have recently started to use twitter more and I am finding it fascinating. 140 characters. That's what you are permitted to use on twitter to make and post a thought or idea. It really requires some practice at being succinct, but this instant world sure creates ambiguity. Is it REALLY possible to share an opinion or a value or gain insight and understanding in 140 characters? What I know for sure is that it allows for everyone reading your tweet to interpret it from their perspective.
An interesting "discussion" ( I don't believe interactions on twitter can really be called discussions) took place, which I was involved in, and it was in relation to the television show "Sister Wives". Sister Wives is a show in which a polygamous family, formerly from Utah, are shown in a reality television format. A few weeks ago a show aired in which the first wife Meri, offered to divorce her husband and allow for him to marry legally and adopt the children of his fourth wife Robyn. Of course the "world" has a very unique perspective of plural marriage and the show, I believe, was intended to dispel some of the myths surrounding polygamy. Having said that, I also know that this family is NOT the typical polygamous family, and what is portrayed on television is only one hour a week of their lives which has been edited for television - and skewed again.
On twitter there was all kids of reactions to the show - critiquing the decision that was made and the reactions of the wives which was aired. The wives all took to twitter, and Robyn started to answer questions about the scenario. I asked a question and was answered by Robyn (WHAT?! I was answered by someone who is a star in a television reality series! My degrees of separation to Kevin Bacon just got smaller I am certain) in a series of tweets because obviously she could not respond in 140 characters. What she essentially ended up saying was to not judge the family by what we see on television or what we read in tweets. Which makes me wonder why we bother then.
Why have a reality television show if you don't believe it realistically reflects "who" your family is and you feel judged by viewers? Why tweet if you feel your tweets are misunderstood?
Why update facebook posts? Why continue to reach out to the world in this quick and dirty, and often misinterpreted way?
I just read a book, " I am the messenger" about a guy named Ed who receives the names or addresses of  people and he had to figure out what message they needed to hear and deliver the message.  It reminded me of how we live our lives in relative isolation - where we are around people constantly but few people know the personal battles we fight.
Someone told me a few weeks ago that they wished they had my life and I wanted to laugh out loud and ask them what exactly they thought my life consisted of.
A family member commented that they couldn't tell from my facebook posts that we were having any struggles and then someone else told me today they were sorry for everything we were going through! Both of these people would be reading the exact same things on my facebook page - each applying their interpretation to what I am saying.
I'm certainly not going to stop tweeting, or stop posting on facebook, but I am going to try and be more aware of my own perception, and my own biases. I might think a little more about the perception I am giving others by what I am saying and even though it will take some extra brain power - I am really going to try and be aware of the restrictions that our instant communications have on being able to see whole picture - and, Oh,  I am going to turn down that request to star in a reality show.

* though it is not directly related really to this blog post I want to mention here that Taber, Alberta has recently passed  bylaws restricting swearing and gathering of more than three adults in the community. A twitter awareness campaign launched to get Kevin Bacon to come to Taber and "dance" in protest of the new bylaws. If Kevin hears about it (which I am certain he has) and if he decides to GO to Taber and be a part of this protest, I have plans on attending, in which my degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon will be NIL.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

March 12 of 12

Here are twelve photos taken today, the 12th of March. 
When the baby woke up the first thing she wanted to do was put on her snowsuit. Then she had a tantrum I wouldn't let her outside. 
CJ said he couldn't go to school today because the cat was in his lap. 
Of course while CJ was still inside with the cat, max had scraped the van windows and shovelled off the deck and was ready to go. He's my hard workin man!

Insane freezing rain today. Roads were bad. 
Then the sun came out and everything started melting. 

My list of things to do - which I started to write on Tuesday- is not getting smaller. 
She always falls asleep in the car - never long enough to get a good rest. She is holding a painting she made for me. 
All she wants to do is go outside. He dressed her up when he got home from school and watched her in the yard. He takes his role as "big brother" VERY seriously . 
She is done sitting in a high chair. She only wants to be with the big kids. 
Baby selfie. 
Mom and baby selfie 

I get sucked into taking these surveys about the number of different kinds of books I have read. This was was for NPR's list of top 100 teen novels and I have read 53 of them. I have written down the ones I haven't read and intend on reading all of them. I am currently number 278 out of 22384 people who have taken the survey. Not bad! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Homeless LGBTQ youth - Lost In America

What I assume you know about me is that I am queer. I have been out since 1997 - which for some of you is a VERY long time - longer than you have been alive. I came out when I was almost finished university and there was a  mixed reaction to my coming out within my family, BUT, I had already moved away from home and I was living and looking after myself - and so I never even faced the possibility of being kicked out of my house and of being homeless.
Having said that - my partner and I, when we were renting homes together in Utah , felt that we needed to present ourselves to home owners as sisters or roommates because it WAS legal to discriminate against us based on our sexuality and renters could chose not to rent to us based on this fact. We did what we needed to do to live together.
The fact is that there is a disproportionate amount of LGBTQ youth represented in the homeless population in the USA and in Canada. Homelessness is a problem which I think is an important social issue. The fact that LGBTQ youth are homeless because they are not accepted by their families and kicked out for coming out - is in my opinion, reprehensible. I STRONGLY believe in this cause.
So what am I doing about it? I don't know yet. I certainly think about it a lot. My partner and I are considering starting an organization in our community for LGBTQ youth - there currently is not one here - and we have discussed creating a homeless shelter for youth - all youth but specifically queer youth. While we still consider our options and look to the future to see how we can be a part of solving this problem I am supporting the fundraising for the movie "LOST IN AMERICA" right here on my blog.
What is it you ask?
 Check it out - and if you can - give some money to the organization.
What is Lost in America?
LOST IN AMERICA is a feature documentary that follows formerly homeless director Rotimi Rainwater’s journey to shine a light on the issue of homeless youth. The film looks at the many issues that surround homeless youth from sex trafficking to the failure of the foster care system to the lack of acceptance of LGBTQ kids.  Over the past year we have met so many amazing youth who are all fighting for the same thing, the American Dream. They are all looking for a shelter from the pain they've experienced and a way to get back the future that was taken away from them. The journey so far has been inspiring and has touched every member of our team.  So far, we have met with youth, organizations and politicians in 11 states and are fundraising to go on one final trip and finish shooting this important documentary.
It is estimated upwards of 1.6 million children and teenagers are homeless in the U.S. and nearly 40% of them consider themselves part of the LGBTQ community. One of the goals of LOST IN AMERICA is to understand our faults as a country that is forcing these youth onto the street. The film also looks at the failures and successes of the foster care system and the risk of sex slavery homeless youth often face. People walk by these kids day after day and do nothing to help, LOST IN AMERICA aims to change this. We would like to finish the film before next year’s film festival season begins; The film can’t help if it isn’t seen. In order to meet this goal, we need help. We need to raise 35K to wrap shooting and begin editing.
How to Help?
Keep updated with the film:
Share your support online
Tweet/Facebook/Email anyone you know who may be interested