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Saturday Morning Coffee; Child Killers & The People Who Have to Be Nice To Them

saturday morning coffeeLast night I had my sweetheart, his son, and my son together around the table to enjoy a meal together for Easter. With young adult children and their crazy schedules, family time is precious, and to have both families blend together during these holidays is a true joy.

Simple things like having dinner together every day, and making sure you say, “I love you”, before you head out the door are mandatory at my house. Maybe a little too obsessively-compulsively so.

You see, my career is death and dying. The fragile nature of life is not lost on me, and maybe I have some PTSD going on. Ok, I do have some of that going on,  but I think that’s normal under the circumstances.

Easter dinner with the kids was extra meaningful for me in ways that I’m sure people who don’t work around loss and trauma will never know. Nor should they.

This morning I sat down to my little window, with my coffee and kitty mentor, Mr. Willy Nelson. I cruised over to www.thestar.ca and read the article about Ontario’s Chief Pathologist, Dr. Micheal Pollanen.

Basically, the crux of the article was that Dr. Pollanen has been guilty of confirmation bias;

Among them was confirmation bias — reaching a conclusion and working backward to find evidence to support it, and professional credibility bias — being unwilling to change an opinion once stated.

 

Fine. I get it, and god forbid I was on the receiving end of a case where a professional reasoned that I was guilty and then tried to prove it. Basically, you’d be screwed.

But the point of my little blog here isn’t to crucify Dr. Pollanen. I worked with him. I didn’t really like him – let me be clear, that’s my personal opinion. He seemed to be book-smart-brilliant, and socially awkward. But most of the doctors down there fit that description.

At the Office of the Chief Coroner, one finds that ego-with-a-capital-E runs rampant, and the term Doctor warrants a god-like-untouchable-status to anyone who doesn’t have the same credentials. Humility has no place there. There are few exceptions.

The reality however is that those coroners are human too, and I would argue, because of their perceived status as stronger, more intelligent and wiser-than-the-average-bear, they are at higher risk for PTSD, burn-out and the other psychological monsters-that-go-bump-in-the-night. Sure, they have  access to support, but there is no system in place to monitor it. There is no formal support in place to insure that the mental health of  professionals subjected to the most brutal trauma imaginable is cared for.

During my training, a past Chief Coroner ended his lecture to my graduating class by telling us that if we ever felt that we needed counselling or help coping with trauma, that we should suck it up because that was our job. This was hands-down the worst advice I’ve received in my career.

I too have seen the trauma of a child’s lifeless body marked by abuse, accidental injuries or what appears to be a cold-blooded homicide. I’ve looked into the teary eyes of grieving siblings who are too young to have know what grief feels like.  I’ve done it many times, it’s part of my job.  Unless you’ve physically had to take part in the autopsy or preparation of the body, you do not have any idea what it’s like to be a professional in death care, so stop judging and proselytizing.

You don’t know the deeper level of concern that we bear when our child or spouse takes the car, or is running late. Working with trauma brings you face to face with the fickle nature of mortality every. single. moment. of. every. day.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing Dr. Pollanen, I’m simply empathizing with him. You might want to try it sometime.

Ask yourself this; In a courtroom full of adults unwilling to admit that they either abused or neglected a child to the point of death, I wonder what the average reader of the morning paper would do? Part of me likes to think that they would rage and deliver a little eye-for-an-eye justice, the other part of me is a passive Buddhist.

So, as I sit here this morning, sipping my flavoured coffee, looking out at children in the courtyard giggling and scurrying during the annual Easter Egg hunt, I ask you to think of Dr. Pollanen as a human being who has dedicated his life to making our society a safer place.

 

 

 

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The Stone Lady Wept

stone angelI don’t cry much any more. You see, I’ve borne witness to more suffering than the average bear, and I am exposed to trauma on a daily basis.

Some people think that it’s hardened me, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s just that a lot of folks don’t know me that well. By well, I mean beyond a few cocktails, a politely entertaining dinner party, or a quick shag. It’s a precious few who have earned a place inside my lair of friendship and loyalty.

Today I cried twice. No it’s not hormonal, and no I’m not PMS’ing. Valid questions though.

Watching the 60 Minutes report on the use of Sarin in Syria, I cried for the unimaginable vastness of human suffering at the hands of other human beings.

I cried for the little school girl who witnesses her father’s anguish and knows that her happiness comes at a great price.

Is it because we’re too tired to care, or because we’ve become so numb to the suffering around us? Why bother watching the latest 60 minutes episode that challenges us with footage of the massacre in Syria when we can click to a baseball game, the latest drama, or simply have a few glasses of vino and curl up with a juicy spy novel? After all, with the widening of the income gap, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and everyone has to look out for their own.

Sometimes you see so much suffering that your whole world just shatters. There is no bubbly, no handsome men-folk to drool over, no juicy peaches to quench your sweet tooth. There is just suffering, and the irony is, it makes you grateful, complacent even. So grateful you’re afraid to want more, or rock the boat, or risk your family’s happiness to stand up for someone else.

So I wept today for suffering, and for the reasons why our own little corner of the world remains apathetic.

Makes you think about what makes the news and what doesn’t darlings. It’s no accident.

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Mistletoe & Manson

"What happens under the mistletoe, stays under the mistletoe."
“What happens under the mistletoe, stays under the mistletoe.”

Each year I hang my mistletoe with the distant hope that perhaps, just maybe, there might be a slim chance that Mr. Wonderful will knock on my door while I’m tapping at the keyboard, and sweep me off my slipper covered feet.

I know, it’s crazy, but I’m absolutely convinced it could happen. Maybe I’d have to get asked out on a date first, but it could happen.

That’s the thing about love and lust and matter of the heart isn’t it? We hope, we dream, and we all want to be someone’s special someone.

Tonight I just about gave up all hope when I read a Yahoo news clip;  Charles Manson was issued a marriage license, and the plan is to get hitched to some young twenty-something?

In my head I exclaimed, “Hellooooo? WTF?!”, and ” Are you freaking kidding me?!”

But then I thought about it, and I decided that there is still hope for me.  After all, I’m just an amateur nut-bag compared to Manson. My eccentricities and extended single status are nothing compared with Manson’s brand of wacko.  My mistletoe is waiting…

Dear Santa, Please send me someone to love….

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Noses, Vaginas and Other Things That go Bump in the Lab

Yes, you read that correctly.

petri_dish
“It’s no use reminding yourself daily that you are mortal: it will be brought home to you soon enough” ~Albert Camus~

Today, the Globe and Mail was clearly needing to fill some inches in the Life and Arts section. Just as clearly, they didn’t have much to choose from.

Having worked in the news business and as a health care advocate, I have to say that the Globe and Mail stooped to a bold, new, blatantly obvious journalistic low today.

The article used to fill the gaping 8 inch hole on page L6 was headlined, “Vaginas and nose parts grown in lab”.

No, I’m not kidding.

This is not only a bad headline, but a really bad article.  Bad as in, it insulted the integrity of, “The super seed square-off”, article which dominated the page.

Seriously? Our newspapers are giving more room to seeds than what we’re spending billions of dollars on in an effort to out-smart mother nature and father time?

According to the Canadian Press style guide (at least when I was writing for a newspaper), journalists should strive to write for readers at a grade five level. Except the Globe and Mail. They had much higher standards.

Those standards have obviously changed.

To insist on writing that any type of tissue or organ transplantation, ‘carries a risk of complications’ seems a bit patronizing at best. Hell, if it didn’t carry a risk of complications, we’d all be walking around with new parts, and none of us would ever die.

Why not write about the ethical issues surrounding organ and tissue donation? Why not report the news?

I have known people who have been the recipients of organ and tissue donation. I have known people who have clung to hope while their dying bodies are riddled with cancer and the side-effects of the drugs that are supposed to miraculously stop them from their inevitable death.

I have never known anyone stupid enough to have to be told that organ transplants are  risky.

We should demand that our national newspapers at least make the news entertaining, or just give up the charade of trying to pretend that they report any news at all.

Dear modern pseudo-journalists,

Please tell me about vaginas, and other organs being grown in a lab together. Tell me why they didn’t match the headline up with body parts that seem somewhat better paired. Let’s say vaginas, tongues and perhaps penises? Tell me about the vagina, tongue and penis committees established to ensure seamless integration of each part with the others. Tell me who gets along better with the tongue, and how the nose copes living so closely to the vagina.

Whatever you tell me, just don’t write ridiculously insulting news that isn’t news at all, and expect me to take it in like an indiscriminating storm sewer. At least make it entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lazy Buddhist

"You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour." ~ Old Zen Saying~
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
~ Old Zen Saying~

I’m a lazy Buddhist.

Some days I’m more of a lazy Protestant, Hindu, Jew, Taoist, Muslim or Catholic. It just depends on how I’m feeling. I like to go with the spiritual flow, if you know what I mean.

How can I be all of those things? Well, it’s kinda like this;  I really struggle to wear the uniform of any single religion. I’m spiritual, and have found a home in my Buddhist practice. It  brought me to a much deeper understanding of my Protestant roots, and my academic study of religion.

But I’m lazy about it.

Today I put off a full day of meditation because I woke up with the same headache and sniffly nose that I went to bed with last night.

Mind you, I could have taken a seat in the meditation hall full of decongestants with a side of tissues, but it was so very much easier to stay in bed and cuddle with my 1500 count, aubergine-coloured sheets.

Granted the other folks attending today’s retreat are thankful that I didn’t come and clutter up their atmosphere with sniffles, bacteria, and a high level of shifting on my organic buckwheat hull-filled cushion, I could have gone.

Instead, I got up, had a glass of water and went back to bed, where, my body and mind rested for 5 more hours.

As usual, I made my way to my preferred coffee shop, sat back, and read the news. The piece that caught my ever-distracted eye was in the Focus section of the Globe and Mail. Crushed, by Erin Anderssen was a bell back to some thought about my own practice, and how, when I need it the most, I abandon it like a kitten distracted by an ant.

I have been worrying a lot lately. A lot. Worry is something that used to drive me toward my goals and accomplishments. Now it just drives me to bourbon, quick fixes and eventually, back to my breath.

Friendships wax and wane. Everyone has their own problems, and let’s face it, even though you may ask for someone to share their perspective, decisions have to be made with your very own unique concoction of rational thought and intuition. I tend to go heavy on the rational thought, and overboard on the intuition.

In the past, decisions that I’ve made from a place of fear or worry have been quick fixes that offered only temporary satisfaction.

For a week I’ve been stewing over something pretty hard. A simple ten minute session on my cushion mid-week, just before bedtime,  offered some release, and the most solid night of sleep I’ve had in months. I woke up with a new perspective.

So today I missed a great opportunity to share sacred, even holy, space with other people who know the power of practice within the safe space of a sangha. Instead, I chose to rest my own body and mind.

I felt guilty about not going, but then I decided to be at peace with peace. Both at letting myself get some solid rest, and for making a decision that wavered contrary to popular opinion. Just to be sure, I did some math, and realized that both my intuition and rational thought process were right on the money.

This week I had expressed my fears, hopes and thoughts to my friends, soliciting their perspectives and advice. They offered support  when I had come to a conclusion, and confided that with regard to this matter that was on my mind, I had made a poor decision before. I had to agree, and then, after calming my mind, I had to disagree.

This is life. Lived uniquely on our own, despite being surrounded by people; some caring, some sent teachers, and some we will never know.

Am I a lazy Buddhist, or am I just one who, working intensely with human loss each and every day, needed some space?

Breathing room and solitude are often mistaken for sloth. Don’t let anyone else’s ideas fool you.

When in doubt, hit the floor and give yourself ten for  zen. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.

 

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Weekend News Summary

Kissing Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys lud...
Kissing Black-tailed Prairie Dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus). Français : Chiens de prairie à queue noire (Cynomys ludovicianus) se faisant la bise. 日本語: キスしてるオグロプレーリードッグ (Cynomys ludovicianus) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yes, here it is my sparkling little diamonds of lust, the not-so-breaking-weekend-news-summary.

Cozy up with an icy mimosa and get ready for a titillating journey through the basic news stories of the weekend.

The gap between the rich and poor widens. Artists continue to pump out inspiring, heart-wrenching and thought-provoking work, and someone has written a self-indulgent book.

Yes sweeties, that just about sums it up. However, I am going to enlighten you with how all of it ties together in the teeny, tiny, immaculately decorated chambers of my girl-brain.

First, let me discuss the self-indulgent book review about The Art of Sleeping Alone, by Sophie Fontanel. This isn’t a title that would catch my eye, so God bless Globe writer Sarah Hampson for the warning.

Basically some French broad gives up sex at the age of 27, and has orgasmic experiences with nature, and her own sensations of the wild, wonderful and sometimes wicked world in which we live. End of summary darlings.

Skip to the front page of the Globe TO section that highlights the differences between two rivals fighting for the federal riding of Toronto Center. It’s a face off of pretty faces as the liberals (boo) and the NDP (yay) talk about how they will vie for the seat amongst the poorest of the poor and richest of the rich.

The interview consists of questions focused on the ever-widening, vastly dangerous gap between the rich and the poor. Of course the liberal walks a fine line (after all, she’s led by the ever handsome born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-my mouth descendant of Canadian royalty), and the NDP fight for the underdog.

I, on the other hand realize that myself and most of my contempories belong to the group of folks working our tushes off to carry the upper-class. Ugh. Not sexy darlings, not sexy at all.

We are however, the artists and dreamers that keep the human spirit alive. Creativity, the great mother of art, only swells under oppression and strife. Raise your glass fellow writers, for we are the subversive, joyous protector of the soul.

The front page this weekend, “Toward a New Brazil” takes us to a country that has recovered from the dire economy, resulting violence, poverty and crime as predicted will be our gloomy economic future of have and have-nots.

Now, doesn’t that make you want to snuggle? Seriously, doesn’t it make you want to hold everyone near and dear to you a little tighter, celebrate the simple things, and have someone to snuggle up with at the end of a long, hard day?

Exactly. Just what I thought my delicate little songbird. Just what I thought.

As far as Sophie Fontanel’s book is concerned, I know what it’s like to never want to have sex again. Basically, her predicament is summed up as having suffered a lot of bad sex, resulting in her preferring celibacy.

Believe it or not, I can relate. Following my last long-term relationship, the last thing I wanted was to have any man touch me. Yes darlings, that’s how absolutely appallingly repulsed I felt about him. I vowed a year of celibacy. It only lasted a few weeks, but I’ve been to the edge darlings, and have made it back.

I reveled in stretching out in my bed, not having to wake up to some whiner who’s first words every day were negative. I loved not sleeping with someone who snored. I especially enjoyed falling asleep without wanting to launch the horse’s ass out of my window. Ah, yes, the bliss of sleeping alone.

I’m not one to lose hope though my darlings. I know that there are still wonderful, loving, handsome, deliciously sensual men out there who make my heart skip a beat, have handsome shoulders on which I can rest my pretty, little head, and who have hugs that, no matter what, make me feel loved, safe and ready to take on the world again.

So, in light of our decidedly selfish upper-class and toiling lower class, wouldn’t you feel better curling up beside the love of your life, or perhaps the love of a season, taking refuge in the beauty and simplicity of love?

Screw this French celibacy celebration and bring me my champagne!

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What’s Up With That?!

HENRY O'HARA CLIVE Seaside Flirtation, calenda...
HENRY O’HARA CLIVE Seaside Flirtation, calendar illustration, c. 1925 (Photo credit: Fred Seibert)

Today was a long day darlings.

Having only realized my lack of ice-cold club soda upon arriving home, I had to substitute champagne.

Given the hooch-tragedy, I decided to go all out fabulously-girly and enjoy it while soaking neck-deep in a bubble bath.

Immediately after the bubbles hit my blood stream I  became relaxed and inspired by sublime genious. In the candlelit room, serenaded by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Nina Simone, I wondered about;

1) How someone so ugly on the inside can be almost as ugly on the outside – Bashir Al  (now that’s downright ug-lee). Are we really wasting time playing this idiot’s game? Seriously. How can this breathing example of satan still be standing when innocent kids get shot on the street. Just the thought almost makes me want to switch from bubbly to bourbon.

2) Why does our conscience evolve to higher ethical and moral standards at a point in life where day-to-day stress and our need for physical connection are both at their height? Getting laid is far more work than it’s worth, and with a more discerning conscious, it’s like having a got-lucky-hangover the next day.  Call me.

3) I wonder if it would be ok to kick someone in the wiggly bits for routinely disrespecting my time?

4)  Do most women appreciate that they peak physically in their early 30’s as acutely as I did?

5) Why do we celebrate when things are going well for people? For example, we celebrate births, graduations and weddings. How about middle age spread where your friends would buy gift cards to clothing stores, showers for folks who are celebrating over a decade of being single (goodness knows I could certainly use some new tea towels and small appliances), or perhaps even celebrating your first complete calendar year taking anti-depressant medication?  That shit would rock!

6) Morning radio. We want a quick review of traffic, news and some music. I don’t want to hear some patronizing, politically, correct, melodramatic rant that goes on for half of my commute. Shut your trap and play some music already. Perhaps I need to call in tomorrow morning just to get this off my luscious chest.

7) Would it all be ok if one day we just decided to walk out on our life as we know it? What if one day you just didn’t go to work, pay your bills and wandered the planet dependent on the kindness of others? If my bubble-bath-champagne-fuelled opinion counts for anything, I think we’d all be considerably more happy. I’m sure some foot pervert would happily maintain my pedicures and you’d share your bourbon with me wouldn’t you darling?

8) How much talking does the weather-person have to freaking do? Just tell us the temperature, the type of precipitation, and if there’s a twister on the way you annoying-waste-of-time! Sheesh!

9) People who call to schedule appointments through the work day, and complain, ” But I work.” Yah? Really? I work too – do the math. We all work, see # 3, and appreciate we all like to be treated with the same respect.

10) How come my pizza guy always looks like a brow-beaten-on-the-edge-of-starvation character out of the Grapes of Wrath and not a porn star?

Yes, that covers the tiniest bit of what travelled through  my wee little girl brain tonight as I soaked my voluptuous, inebriated body in a deep, hot, bath.

I think I could be verging on genius. Of course, I think you are too darlings. Really, I do.

After having those not so charming questions loll around my pretty little head, I have decided to head straight for a protracted state of champagne-denial. Life is good my sweet little peaches, you just have to think it so.