Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Guns, Mental Illness & Sandy Hook

I find myself really hating most of the news stations and websites I frequent in recent weeks. All because of the shooting at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.

First off let me say I really have a lot of woe and compassion for what all the families are going through. They are hurting, and we as onlookers are hurting as well. I think this insident will go down as sadly go down as one of the horrific days of this century, not quite on the scale of 911, but pretty close. Mostly because of the age of the victims, and their pure innocence and potential that lost with them.

What angers me is how the various news channels and individuals on Facebook and other websites use this insident (and other past insidents like them) to push their agenda, by manipulating the facts of this tragedy to make their point. I cannot even look at my facebook feed without stupid comments about how if we just had gun control, more guns, locked up all the crazy people, had prayer in school, etc etc, we would would never have another shooting ever like this. If only it were that simple.

Gun Control.

Controlling guns is not going to work, simply because it is the law abiding people who will pay attention to the gun control issues. When ever we try to regulate things, like alcohol during Prohibition, all it does is make the criminal element take it underground. The problen does not go away, it in fact gets worse, because some criminals decide to start making money off of the sales of the illegal items.

More Guns

This is not going to solve the issue either. It will just make people more paranoid; more on edge. More willing to shoot first, then ask questions. Not everyone is trained to shoot. When you look at law enforcement, not everyone there is allowed to carry a firearm. What makes us think we have more rights? More sanity? More skills, than someone who is professionally trained to do this. If an FBI agent or Police Officer has to pass certain criteria to gain a gun, and can lose it just as easily -- we should not expect that each and every one of us should have the ability to discert who to shoot and who not to. Vigilante justice is not the answer.

Locking Up The Crazy People

Mental Health is a big touchy subject for many. I grew up in a family with major mental health issues. My father has confirmed Multiple Personality Disorder. My mother-in-law has BiPolar Disorder. There are also several schizophrenics, and a lot of depression in the family. At least a dozen family members have been hospitalized short term (and a few long term) in mental health facities. Locking people up without helping them does not good to anyone. Yes it makes people on the outside feel safer, but it does not solve the problem, and it only helps with those that are severe enough to be diagnosed and institutionalized -- you usually have to be pretty sick to be locked up against your will; most of these people who have committed crimes would not have met the diagnostic criteria if they were tested prior to the crime.

What is needed is better services for mental health clients. Better diagnostics. More therapists. More beds for those who need residental treatment. Especially in smaller communities, those with poorer resourses, higher First Nations populations, or other at-risk factors. And yes, for the few that do need to be locked up, there does need to be more facilites for secure lockup. But within those facilities it cannot just be hold and maintain, it must be a full treatment facility, with the best care for these people. We need to give as much care and fundraising to mental health as we give to breast cancer and other less stigmatized illnesses. We need to accept that there is nothing wrong with being mentally ill, and there is nothing wrong with getting help for it. And we need to put the money into fixing the gaps we have greated in the systems, over years of neglect, when we as a society have refused to deal with this issue until it is to big to ignore. Mental Health problems probably affects more families than cancer -- we just refuse to acknowledge it. We have been taught to ignore it. look the other way. But it will not go away. It never does.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Unexpected Art

Day 10 -- #iheartfaces photochallenge. Stripes.

This one was a bit puzzling for me today, until I was sitting watching the menorah candles, and it hit me how vertical it all was. Art can sneek up on you at the most unexpected times.

Hannukah Time!

I love Hannukah. And it is not just because I am Jewish. I am a convert, so I have been on both sides. Compared to Christmas, Hannukah is so much more laid back, and unpressured. There is no demand for the consumerism. Yes we give presents. But it is optional. Some families do, some don't. And when you do, it is truely appreciated, not done out of habit, so you bought your cousin/aunt/boss some cheap lame, last-minute gift you would be horrified if someone gave you. And we do it because we think we have to.

With Hannukah, that pressured consumerism is removed. No counting down how many shopping days. No holiday-binge related debt to repay come January for most of us. Those that do exchange gifts usually keep it to simple gifts for most nights. Like a book, or a box of chocolates, or such. Maybe a sweater or some handknit socks. There might be one fancy gift. Most families give 1 gift per child per night. So 8 gifts total. Not massive pile of gifts, and a stocking full of more gifts.

This year I spent around $100 per person for the holiday, and that was a lot higher than I have spent in a few years, but it was needed for several as they needed new clothes, so that was part of their gifts. We do get them gifts at other times, as well as clothes, but to me, the mass commercialization of Christmas has taken all the spiritualality out of what the holiday originally meant -- even the secular way of keeping Christmas has gotten severly warped in the past 10 years or so. It is nothing like what it was when I was a kid, much less the Christmas of tradition.

I also feel that Hannukah -- like most aspects of Jewish teachings, is centered on the home and family, rather than a specific ritual. When one lights the menorahs, and then sits to watch the candles burn, while talking and visiting with your family. No rush. No pressure. Nothing else to be done ... that is it for the holiday. The food you serve is a compliment to the candles. It is not the stress and drudgery that keeps usually tires the woman out so much that she can barely enjoy Christmas Day, if she is putting on the Big Family Dinner.

Food is simple. Nothing expensive, just like the gifts. Potatoe latkes, with a side of applesauce. Homemade donughts. Maybe a bit of Chocolate.  Now don't get me wrong, just because it is not expensive food, does not mean we go hungry. We Jews know how to eat, and eat well when we celebrate! But we do not have to get all into the fancy turducken gimicky things.

Our decorations follow the simple theme as well. I used to get all caught up in tons of decorations for the holiday. I actually had two steamer trunks full of decorations. We always had live trees, and I would also put pine branches out on the mantle, or other surfaces with decorations on them. Every room in the house was decorated in some way, including the bathrooms, even if it was just a small arrangement in a corner, or a jar of Christmas balls on a shelf.  Now it is centred on the menorahs. We have three main ones now, as well as four of the cheap tin kind that we have for when extra visitors show up. I hope to get a few more menorahs over the years so that I can have nice ones for visitors too, but for now this is fine. We put a few strands of blue and white LED lights up, and a few strands of blue, white or silver garlands, to make the house look festive, but it is very understated.

The only thing I can honestly say I miss about Christmas is the smell of the real pine tree in the house. Whenever we walk by the tree lots now I cannot help taking a nostalgic whiff, but I can very cheerfully add that I don't miss vaccuming up the needles from the shag carpet for weeks on end.

Yes that I definitely do not miss.

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly Jobs

BlogHer Prompt: Monday, December 10, 2012

Do you enjoy your current job (or your last job)?

The job last job I had, that I was working at when I sustained my brain injury, was the best job I have ever had. I loved that job, and I am totally heartbroken to have had to medically retire from it. I worked as a Service Canada employee, helping people fill out their Canada Pension, Employment Insurance, and many other Federal Government paperwork. I found it very satisfying to help people with their personal issues, and their was just enough variety in the clients that I did not find it boring. I know others in my office say it as simple secretarial or computer work, or menial paperwork, but to me, I looked beyond they paper shuffling, and data entry, to the people we helped. Each person I was able to help was satisfying to me. Even if I was not able to give them money in the end (ie if they did not qualify), they would leave my desk understanding why they did not meet the criteria, and most were not upset in the end. I have had a lot of people who I run into in the grocery store or other places since I have been off work, and they tell me how much they miss me at the office: they say I was the only worker there that seemed to care about the clients, and treat them like people, instead of just numbers.

Most of the jobs I have had in my life I have enjoyed. Even the menial jobs. The ones I did not like were the ones that had major personality conflicts with other coworkers or the management, so that going to work became a social nightmare. The job itself was not the problem: the people at the job were.

I think part of the reason I have enjoyed all my jobs is my outlook on life: I am an optimist. I try to always look at the best in a person or situation. I try not to look for the worst, the faults, the dark and gloomy side of the situation. In fact I will try to see the positive in even the worst situations. For I know that everything has both good and bad aspects, and it is just a matter of what we choose to focus on that shapes our outlook. If we choose to focus on all the negative aspects of life, then our lives will feel that much more negative. I don't just skip looking at the bad parts. I do look at the negatives, I just don't dwell on them, or blow them out of proportion.

In some situations it is harder than others. If you end up in a really toxic work environment, it is hard to find anything positive about it. I have quit jobs when this happens with no guilt, and have counselled friends to do the same, when they are being emotionally abused by their coworkers or boss. The worst jobs I had were at a payday loan company that was regularly robbed, and the management would not take proper safety precautions for the workers, a retail job that would not give adequate, consistent hours, and a drug and alcohol treatment centre that while it focused on the wellness of it's clients, was a horrible mental health threat to it's workers.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Enjoying The View from Here

#IHeartFaces photography prompt for Dec 7th.

The View from Here

The view from our townhouse is quite peaceful. We live just on the edge of town, right across from one of the local highschools. For being an urbanish home it is fairly quiet, although not as quiet as the rural places we have lived. The view from our balcony is nice. I can see the Coastal Mountain Range as we look across the school feilds and town. Our place sits on the base of the Fraser Plateau: most of what we see is rolling hills, not real mountains. The Plateau sits between the Coastal Mountains and the Rocky Mountains.

Most days when I look out I can see various sports teams practicing on the feilds. Rugby takes up a great portion of the time, as does soccer, but there is also track and a few other sports played there.

It is odd when I look out right now. Simply because I can see grass everywhere. Usually by early December, we have a thin layer of snow, that will be there until March. At a bare minimum, there is a layer of ice left from previous snowfalls that have melted. So far this year we have only had a few flurries: I am not sure what that will hold for the rest of winter. Is it all yet to come, or are we in for a dry winter this year? I am hoping for dry, as I hate getting about in the snow, but less snow usually means colder temperatures: it is usually one or the other.

Here is the view: I managed to catch a bit of a rainbow.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Passing on the Torch

BlogHer Prompt: Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Do you enjoy teaching others? Talk about a time you taught someone how to do something.

I do enjoy teaching others, especially teenagers. I think it is important to pass on the knowledge and skills we have to our young people, and prepare them for the world ahead.

I have taught all three of my kids to cook, do laundry, and do basic mending on their clothes. I wanted to make sure when they moved out on their own, that they would be able to care for themselves. I especially wanted to ensure my son was not going to be a burden to his potential girlfriends or wife: I think every man should know how to cook, clean and put his own buttons back on. He should not have to have his mother or woman do it for him.

One very enjoyable summer I worked in a craft store, and taught sewing classes specifically geared to children and young adults. It was a lot of fun teaching these budding crafters how to sew. I am concered that with budget cuts in school districts that soon we will see the loss of home economics programs. I see the cooking end staying, but easily see the sewing end being cut as non-necessary in today's world, where most people do not bother to mend clothing themselves. They just take it to a dry cleaner and pay someone, or toss it, if it was cheap enough. Sewing clothes for oneself is certainly a dying art.

One other enjoyable teaching experience I have had is working with the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets as as Civilian Instructor. I helped teach knots, sailing knowledge, and rifle parts. I really enjoyed the cadet movement, and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a program for young people.

When I was working my last job, I did not get much opportunity to teach, as it was not in my job description, but I do find that teaching does help me to solidify what I know, as I have to be able to explain it. It is one thing to know how to do something. It is something else to explain your long-aquired knowledge and/or actions so someone else can do them. It is especially hard when it is something you do so easily that you hardly have to think about it anymore.

Now my teaching is pretty much limited to helping the twins learn about their envirnment. They are learning to talk, so it is a lot of repeating words to them. And constantly teaching them what they can and cannot do. Endlessly saying "no".  My biggest frustration is that with my problems reading, I cannot read even simple story books to them without getting dizzy. And they love books, and love to have the same story read to them over and over. I feel like I am missing out so much on this wonderful activity that they get to share with my husband and their mother. I do read occasionally to them, but after 1 book, or occasionally 2, I have to quit. Which upsets them greatly. I really wish the Drs could find a way to fix the reading issues: it is probably the one thing that frustrates me the most about my brain injury. And the one thing that they seem to feel is not worth addressing at this point in time.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Kissed by Sunshine and Shadow

I adore helping putting my grandsons down for naps in the afternoon, and then watching the sunlight play with their features. There is something so magical about a babies or toddler's features. Whether they are busy exploring their world, or are sweetly fast asleep, their faces hold such potential for all the universe they inhabit. It helps that they look so angelic as they sleep, especially in toddlerhood: it helps us forget the messes, tantrums, and exhausting moments that make up each and every day.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Prepare for the Hobbit Invasion

Today's #iheartfaces challenge is to photograph what you are reading right now.

I am currently listening to the audiobook version of The Hobbit. I cannot read print books since my brain injury, but do still enjoy listening to novels as a pastime, and nonfiction, religious or historical books for learning. One thing I also love about audiobooks is that it allows me to knit, houseclean, or rock one of the twins while listening to the story. I also listen a lot at night, when I have insomnia: it beats laying in bed thinking of things that otherwise will keep me stressed and unable to unwind, like worries or things I must do the next day.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Follow the Leader

Do you feel most comfortable being a leader, a follower, or a collaborator?

I prefer to be a leader. I know it sounds terribly arrogant of me, but I have no patience for being a follower, as usually I find the person I am following is not doing whatever it is properly. That is, unless I am in an unfamiliar situation -- then I am a total wallflower. I seem to be at the totally polar opposities -- either I want to be the person in charge, leading the group, or I want to be totally unseen in the background. I have a hardtime working in that middleground, where I am seen and heard, but not fully in charge. I need to find a way to work on that middleground area more, be less of the leader when it is not in the overall best interest (to let others lead, or to allow myself to learn), and to be less of a wallflower.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Am I a Pro?

What do you consider yourself a "pro" at?

This month's BlogHer theme will be interesting to work with. I am currently making the very hard emotional adjustment of losing my dream job because of my brain injury. I was on sick leave for two years, so knew it was coming, but the final paperwork was not completed until October.

I am not sure what the words 'pro' mean to me, in all honesty. I have a diploma as a Human Service Worker (sort of like a partial social worker diploma -- can do some social work tasks, but not eveything. Takes less than 2 years to complete). Also have considerable training as a mediator, but do not consider myself a professional at it (in comparison to others in the feild) although I did have a private practice for several years. I craft, and have made a living at it, both by teaching at a craft store, and by doing custom work. Again, in comparison to others, I do not see myself as a professional: more as one who did the job I was hired to do to the best of my ability at the time, or who does it for the pure enjoyment of the craft, and may or may not happen to make a few dollars out of it in the process.

Perhaps what I have (or had) the best skill in life was in adapting and learning. And it is one reason I find it so hard now with the brain injury when learning some skills just does not stick in my brain at all. I have never had difficulty learning. Actually it has almost come too easy for me, to the point I did not put enough effort into schooling, when I look back on it. I was the kid who was too bored by my lessons to bother doing them. I had an IQ of 138 (when tested in high school) and was in a lot of honours and excellerated learning classes. Those ones I loved. But the regular classes bored me to tears, and I just would not do the homework. Unfortunatley my mother did not value schooling at all, and was very domineering. I became depressed in high school, and listened to her tell me I was too stupid, fat, sick, short, etc to acheive most of my career goals. I let her convince me that post-secondary education was a waste of time. Something that I have deeply regretted most of my life.

I have been very fortunate that my husband is the total opposite of my mother: he values education and learning, and has encouraged me to pursue whatever path of learning or career choice I wanted, and has helped a lot over the years to help me obtain the credentials that I do have.

Now I just have to learn how to make my adaptation and learning skills find a way for the new me to find purpose as I go forth in a world that may or may not hold "work" in the standard definition for me.

Introducing Me

All day I have been puzzling on how to take a photo that I will be happy with. It does not help that all week we have had no laundry due to broken septic pipes, so trying to find a clean shirt is a wee bit of a stretch at the moment. And I am self consious still about myself. But it finally came to me how to capture a photo that is more me, than just my face or body.

To me, I am not my looks. I am my actions. I am the people who I do things with. I am the product of my hands. I am my knitting, spinning, and cooking. I am the lessons I used to be able to teach. I am the person who helps, and crafts, and learns where and when I can ... to the limits of my learnings and abilites.

The reflection in the mirror, or in the camera lens does not show that. Or at least most of the time it does not. So here is my attempt to show the me I see.

These are the socks I finished knitting yesterday. The pattern is called Sokomame. They have taken me ages, as I lost the pattern I used while knitting the first sock, and forgot the modifciations I had made, so even though it was easy enough to print out a new copy of the pattern, it was very hard to figure out how I had modified it on the fly. And joining me in the pic is the feet of my beloved 17 month old grandsons.

Summarizing November: Looking to Dec

Well it is no big surprise that I totally fell flat on my face with this daily blog effort. But I tried, and I am not going to give up the blogging idea. In all fairness, it was mostly the lung infection (which I am still fighting a month later) that really did me in, more than the brain capacity, although the brain was a very close second. I do know that it is way too much for me to expect myself to be able to write paragraphs every single day.

I am going to try something much simpler this month. My cousin posted this on Facebook:

I have wanted to do more photography lately. I do not have a fancy camera. At the moment, I am actually just stuck with my ipod camera, as I have lost the cable to my digital camera. But I am satisfied with that. I want to work on making better photos with what I have on hand. Some of the themes will take a bit of thought -- they are obviously skewed to Christmas, so I will have to tweek them to fit my own observances of Hannukah, such as we do not unwrap on the 25th, so will have to find something other than presents to do then, but that will just add to the creativity. And I do not do holiday elfs, but do have twins in the house, so they will have to do. The only one I really really do not want to do is the one for today: a pic of myself. But I will get to it in a few moments, and post the requisit pic. I really hate having my picture taken, and avoid it at all costs. This is going to be so hard on my ego. Oh well .... off to pretty myself, and figure out how to compose a reasonable pic of myself.