Thursday, March 27, 2014

Life and Death: A Tribute to My Mother


Death brings into question all of your life. My dreams, my goals, my aspirations, seem so small when I remember what my mother was whispering about on her death bed. 

I've always felt that my task on this earth is to try to do good; to try to be kind; to try to make the world a better place.

God knows I've failed,  spectacularly at times. I have a temper, and I "shoot from the hip", and I have a devil-may-care attitude that upsets people. I seem stand-offish and arrogant to those who don't know how deeply shy I am. But, yes, I must admit, my ability to dance to the beat of a different drum has kept me alive, literally, in the past, and probably will continue to offend people in the future.

I first met my mother after I stubbornly refused to turn from breech and the obstetrician recognized that because of a short cord, a normal delivery would be dangerous for me. My mother had a cesarean, which back in those days meant a serious incision - no pretending that cesarean section wasn't major surgery back in the fifties. It gave you a scar to remember! 

Two years later, she gave birth to my sister, and then another sister after that. Back in Uganda at that time repeat cesareans were NOT the order of the day, so my two sisters were born naturally.

My mother was a very sociable person. She was intensely creative and loved to see the world. She loved a party. She loved to talk to people. Her deafness was a real challenge to her, as she was a great and witty conversationalist. Two days before she died, my sisters both happened to be wearing pyjamas with polka dots on them. We were at her side constantly for the last five days of her life. That morning, she brightened up, looked at my sisters (both in their fifties and a little tired after having been up for three days) and said: "I could spot you girls a mile off!".

She wins the end-of-life, in deep pain, absolute pun prize.

She was always excited about my projects, no matter how zany they were. 

She was brave. She left England in 1952 with my father to go to Uganda where she taught mathematics at Makerere University. In 1959 they decided to move to Calgary where she lived a very different life and was appalled by the backwardness and provincialism of the people there.

In her late thirties, with three daughters, one of whom was spinning out of control (yours truly), she decided to move from mathematics into art and she decided to take art classes. She worked very hard and created some absolutely beautiful works. She became an artist during this time, and continued to paint, draw and create up until very recently.





These are some works she did during and just after my father died. 

Never to stay still for longer than a few years, my parents moved to Botswana in the late seventies where my mother created a silkscreen workshop that is still thriving, at a village museum:

My mother loved the desert. They would get in the truck and drive on to the pans and sleep under the stars. She loved the light.


My mother loved dressing up. She would mix colors magnificently, and she always made sure her hair was done. She loved jewelry, and perfume, and high-heeled shoes. She loved going out with me to buy a pretty dress.

She loved a party. She was always ready to celebrate! On her 80th birthday, she was with us in Italy and we drove to our favorite picnic spot: 

It is a spot by the side of the road where we stop and eat supper and watch the sun go down into the sea. We didn't have a fancy picnic basket - just the usual - home made bread, tins of tuna, mozzarella, capers, beer, ... and then we stuck a lighter into a plastic plate of cookies and sang Happy Birthday.
After the sun went down we drove to the nearby town, walked on the boardwalk, and had a coffee. A perfect party!




She loved to knit and sew. With three daughters, she always had us dressed in matching dresses, at least until her oldest decided to wear only jeans, hiking boots and a small T-shirt.

She was a very skilled textile artist: This is the front of a sweater she knitted for me from a silk/cotton mix.



She loved music. She loved art. She was always enthusiastic about going to the Musee des Beaux Arts when she visited Montreal.

She loved to get presents. 


She loved Italy. I moved there in 1985 and she visited whenever she could, which wasn't often in the beginning as she was living in Botswana. But a few years later, my parents bought a medieval tower in the middle of Umbria. It was, simply, a tower. No electricity, bathroom, kitchen, or much of anything. It had water. And it was in the middle of an Italian village.


They didn't live there, because they were still enjoying the Kalahari. So we moved in: two adults, two young children and pretty soon two more babies on the way. I don't know many kids who lived in a medieval tower for some of their childhood, but mine did - I suppose I must have inherited some of my mother's sense of adventure! 

Just over a year ago, after my father died, my mother found out she was ill. She decided to forgo exploration and treatment and instead booked herself on an art tour to Italy: 






This year, my mother spent the winter vacation with us, and she partied with her six grandsons well into the night on New Year's, 2014.


L'Chaim!!

In loving memory of my mother who died on March 17, 2014. 

My Mother

Life and Death: A Tribute to My Mother


Death brings into question all of your life. My dreams, my goals, my aspirations, seem so small when I remember what my mother was whispering about on her death bed.


I've always felt that my task on this earth is to try to do good; to try to be kind; to try to make the world a better place.


God knows I've failed,  spectacularly at times. I have a temper, and I "shoot from the hip", and I have a devil-may-care attitude that upsets people. I seem stand-offish and arrogant to those who don't know how deeply shy I am. But, yes, I must admit, my ability to dance to the beat of a different drum has kept me alive, literally, in the past, and probably will continue to offend people in the future.


I first met my mother after I stubbornly refused to turn from breech and the obstetrician recognized that because of a short cord, a normal delivery would be dangerous for me. My mother had a cesarean, which back in those days meant a serious incision - no pretending that cesarean section wasn't major surgery back in the fifties. It gave you a scar to remember!


Two years later, she gave birth to my sister, and then another sister after that. Back in Uganda at that time repeat cesareans were NOT the order of the day, so my two sisters were born naturally.


My mother was a very sociable person. She was intensely creative and loved to see the world. She loved a party. She loved to talk to people. Her deafness was a real challenge to her, as she was a great and witty conversationalist. Two days before she died, my sisters both happened to be wearing pyjamas with polka dots on them. We were at her side constantly for the last five days of her life. That morning, she brightened up, looked at my sisters (both in their fifties and a little tired after having been up for three days) and said: "I could spot you girls a mile off!".


She wins the end-of-life, in deep pain, absolute pun prize.


She was always excited about my projects, no matter how zany they were.


She was brave. She left England in 1952 with my father to go to Uganda where she taught mathematics at Makerere University. In 1959 they decided to move to Calgary where she lived a very different life and was appalled by the backwardness and provincialism of the people there.


In her late thirties, with three daughters, one of whom was spinning out of control (yours truly), she decided to move from mathematics into art and she decided to take art classes. She worked very hard and created some absolutely beautiful works. She became an artist during this time, and continued to paint, draw and create up until very recently.






These are some works she did during and just after my father died.


Never to stay still for longer than a few years, my parents moved to Botswana in the late seventies where my mother created a silkscreen workshop that is still thriving, at a village museum:



My mother loved the desert. They would get in the truck and drive on to the pans and sleep under the stars. She loved the light.




My mother loved dressing up. She would mix colors magnificently, and she always made sure her hair was done. She loved jewelry, and perfume, and high-heeled shoes. She loved going out with me to buy a pretty dress.


She loved a party. She was always ready to celebrate! On her 80th birthday, she was with us in Italy and we drove to our favorite picnic spot:



It is a spot by the side of the road where we stop and eat supper and watch the sun go down into the sea. We didn't have a fancy picnic basket - just the usual - home made bread, tins of tuna, mozzarella, capers, beer, ... and then we stuck a lighter into a plastic plate of cookies and sang Happy Birthday.

After the sun went down we drove to the nearby town, walked on the boardwalk, and had a coffee. A perfect party!





She loved to knit and sew. With three daughters, she always had us dressed in matching dresses, at least until her oldest decided to wear only jeans, hiking boots and a small T-shirt.



She was a very skilled textile artist: This is the front of a sweater she knitted for me from a silk/cotton mix.




She loved music. She loved art. She was always enthusiastic about going to the Musee des Beaux Arts when she visited Montreal.





She loved to get presents.




She loved Italy. I moved there in 1985 and she visited whenever she could, which wasn't often in the beginning as she was living in Botswana. But a few years later, my parents bought a medieval tower in the middle of Umbria. It was, simply, a tower. No electricity, bathroom, kitchen, or much of anything. It had water. And it was in the middle of an Italian village.




They didn't live there, because they were still enjoying the Kalahari. So we moved in: two adults, two young children and pretty soon two more babies on the way. I don't know many kids who lived in a medieval tower for some of their childhood, but mine did - I suppose I must have inherited some of my mother's sense of adventure!


Just over a year ago, after my father died, my mother found out she was ill. She decided to forgo exploration and treatment and instead booked herself on an art tour to Italy:










This year, my mother spent the winter vacation with us, and she partied with her six grandsons well into the night on New Year's, 2014.



 
L'Chaim!!


In loving memory of my mother who died on March 17, 2014.

Life and Death: A Tribute to My Mother


Death brings into question all of your life. My dreams, my goals, my aspirations, seem so small when I remember what my mother was whispering about on her death bed. 

I've always felt that my task on this earth is to try to do good; to try to be kind; to try to make the world a better place.

God knows I've failed,  spectacularly at times. I have a temper, and I "shoot from the hip", and I have a devil-may-care attitude that upsets people. I seem stand-offish and arrogant to those who don't know how deeply shy I am. But, yes, I must admit, my ability to dance to the beat of a different drum has kept me alive, literally, in the past, and probably will continue to offend people in the future.

I first met my mother after I stubbornly refused to turn from breech and the obstetrician recognized that because of a short cord, a normal delivery would be dangerous for me. My mother had a cesarean, which back in those days meant a serious incision - no pretending that cesarean section wasn't major surgery back in the fifties. It gave you a scar to remember! 

Two years later, she gave birth to my sister, and then another sister after that. Back in Uganda at that time repeat cesareans were NOT the order of the day, so my two sisters were born naturally.

My mother was a very sociable person. She was intensely creative and loved to see the world. She loved a party. She loved to talk to people. Her deafness was a real challenge to her, as she was a great and witty conversationalist. Two days before she died, my sisters both happened to be wearing pyjamas with polka dots on them. We were at her side constantly for the last five days of her life. That morning, she brightened up, looked at my sisters (both in their fifties and a little tired after having been up for three days) and said: "I could spot you girls a mile off!".

She wins the end-of-life, in deep pain, absolute pun prize.

She was always excited about my projects, no matter how zany they were. 

She was brave. She left England in 1952 with my father to go to Uganda where she taught mathematics at Makerere University. In 1959 they decided to move to Calgary where she lived a very different life and was appalled by the backwardness and provincialism of the people there.

In her late thirties, with three daughters, one of whom was spinning out of control (yours truly), she decided to move from mathematics into art and she decided to take art classes. She worked very hard and created some absolutely beautiful works. She became an artist during this time, and continued to paint, draw and create up until very recently.





These are some works she did during and just after my father died. 

Never to stay still for longer than a few years, my parents moved to Botswana in the late seventies where my mother created a silkscreen workshop that is still thriving, at a village museum:

My mother loved the desert. They would get in the truck and drive on to the pans and sleep under the stars. She loved the light.


My mother loved dressing up. She would mix colors magnificently, and she always made sure her hair was done. She loved jewelry, and perfume, and high-heeled shoes. She loved going out with me to buy a pretty dress.

She loved a party. She was always ready to celebrate! On her 80th birthday, she was with us in Italy and we drove to our favorite picnic spot: 

It is a spot by the side of the road where we stop and eat supper and watch the sun go down into the sea. We didn't have a fancy picnic basket - just the usual - home made bread, tins of tuna, mozzarella, capers, beer, ... and then we stuck a lighter into a plastic plate of cookies and sang Happy Birthday.
After the sun went down we drove to the nearby town, walked on the boardwalk, and had a coffee. A perfect party!




She loved to knit and sew. With three daughters, she always had us dressed in matching dresses, at least until her oldest decided to wear only jeans, hiking boots and a small T-shirt.

She was a very skilled textile artist: This is the front of a sweater she knitted for me from a silk/cotton mix.



She loved music. She loved art. She was always enthusiastic about going to the Musee des Beaux Arts when she visited Montreal.

She loved to get presents. 


She loved Italy. I moved there in 1985 and she visited whenever she could, which wasn't often in the beginning as she was living in Botswana. But a few years later, my parents bought a medieval tower in the middle of Umbria. It was, simply, a tower. No electricity, bathroom, kitchen, or much of anything. It had water. And it was in the middle of an Italian village.


They didn't live there, because they were still enjoying the Kalahari. So we moved in: two adults, two young children and pretty soon two more babies on the way. I don't know many kids who lived in a medieval tower for some of their childhood, but mine did - I suppose I must have inherited some of my mother's sense of adventure! 

Just over a year ago, after my father died, my mother found out she was ill. She decided to forgo exploration and treatment and instead booked herself on an art tour to Italy: 






This year, my mother spent the winter vacation with us, and she partied with her six grandsons well into the night on New Year's, 2014.


L'Chaim!!

In loving memory of my mother who died on March 17, 2014. 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

International Women's Day

This International Women's day, I would like to hand a mimosa branch to each and every one of the people I love.

This day is about women, about peace, strength, the power of love. 

We are not there yet, but I dream of a world where women can give birth with respect and honor; where we can all walk wherever we want whenever we want, a world where there is no hate, no war, no hunger.

"Se non ora, quando?"

If not now, when?



Please go out today and do one thing that will help bring peace.














International Women's Day

This International Women's day, I would like to hand a mimosa branch to each and every one of the people I love.

This day is about women, about peace, strength, the power of love. 

We are not there yet, but I dream of a world where women can give birth with respect and honor; where we can all walk wherever we want whenever we want, a world where there is no hate, no war, no hunger.

"Se non ora, quando?"

If not now, when?



Please go out today and do one thing that will help bring peace.














International Women's Day

This International Women's day, I would like to hand a mimosa branch to each and every one of the people I love.

This day is about women, about peace, strength, the power of love. 

We are not there yet, but I dream of a world where women can give birth with respect and honor; where we can all walk wherever we want whenever we want, a world where there is no hate, no war, no hunger.

"Se non ora, quando?"

If not now, when?



Please go out today and do one thing that will help bring peace.














Thursday, March 6, 2014

Women's Bodies and Other People's Values


In Quebec, we are experiencing an interest phenomenon. A provincial politician is trying to be Le Pen. She is stirring up xenophobic and racist emotions rather effectively with some doublespeak that pretends to be about secularism and feminism. The target? Religious Muslim women. The fallout? Pretty well everyone who is not .. erm .. well, let's just say that anyone who looks a little different has experienced annoyance if not rage at this political acrobatics.

I am used to people using women's bodies as a battleground. From my days as a sexual abuse counsellor - and a direct action activist - to my days working in hospitals with birthing women, I have been witness to the phenomenon of the woman's body being argued over, manipulated, commodified, objectified, ground up and spat out.

And it has grown up, this violence against women. Back in the seventies, as a rape crisis worker, it was pretty clear what was happening. If you were a woman, and you were alone at night, or walking home from work, you were a target and you could be raped. If you were a prostitute or an indigenous woman, you could be raped AND killed. Simple. Violence against women.

But today, the violence is coated in pretty words. What do you call it when someone puts his hand into a woman's vagina without asking her or looking her in the eye? Its called rape. Birth rape. Doctors who manhandle and abuse women when they are giving birth say that they are saving lives. They are not. They are exercising their power.

Politicians who make silly rules about what women can or cannot wear may say that they are doing it "for the women" (yes, in South Africa they say that rape is "for the women" too, when they are raping a lesbian to convince her to change her preferences). They say they are doing it for the Muslim women's enlightenment and freedom. 
They're not. They are also exercising their power.

I suggest we ban the type of clothing that overweight, middle-aged Quebecoise women wear, when they should know better. Oh, the tight T-shirt over a middle-aged belly! Oh, the tight jeans over hips that should be covered! Oh, the dyed blond badly-styled hair! The polyester double-knit suits! The shoes that Cinderella's sister wore!

But it's different, you argue. Those badly-styled garments do not speak of a deeper moral code - a code that oppresses women (we are speaking of Islam here). They are just off-the-rack, cheap garments, bought without a shred of moral judgement or thought. Yes, you're right. It heralds the victory of the mediocre fat lady; the no-brainers; the thoughtless violence; the amoral assholes who parade as sensitive do-gooders.

I went to a birth once with a lovely student of mine who wore a see-through spaghetti strap tank top and a fake leopard-skin miniskirt. It was a Montreal summer - hot and humid. In the greyish hallways of the hospital she looked like an angel from heaven - hot, sexy, and happy. The birth was a lot of fun: the birthing mother didn't take any shit from anyone and she gave birth on her hands and knees, even if the physician couldn't handle seeing her vulva "upside down". After the birth we ordered sushi.

Another of my fondest memories was a birthing woman who was dressed completely top to bottom: hat, wig, robe, undershirt, bra, panties, stockings and socks. She removed the panties and stockings to give birth but everything else remained. Her husband, who was not allowed to look at her, sang throughout her labor, and told jokes. She laughed that baby out. The room was full of love.

I have seen women's legs held down, women's bellies jumped on, women yelled at and berated. I have listened to doctors, nurses, and midwives tell women what to do; what to say; what to feel; how to move.

When will we rise up against this banal mediocracy?




Women's Bodies and Other People's Values


In Quebec, we are experiencing an interest phenomenon. A provincial politician is trying to be Le Pen. She is stirring up xenophobic and racist emotions rather effectively with some doublespeak that pretends to be about secularism and feminism. The target? Religious Muslim women. The fallout? Pretty well everyone who is not .. erm .. well, let's just say that anyone who looks a little different has experienced annoyance if not rage at this political acrobatics.

I am used to people using women's bodies as a battleground. From my days as a sexual abuse counsellor - and a direct action activist - to my days working in hospitals with birthing women, I have been witness to the phenomenon of the woman's body being argued over, manipulated, commodified, objectified, ground up and spat out.

And it has grown up, this violence against women. Back in the seventies, as a rape crisis worker, it was pretty clear what was happening. If you were a woman, and you were alone at night, or walking home from work, you were a target and you could be raped. If you were a prostitute or an indigenous woman, you could be raped AND killed. Simple. Violence against women.

But today, the violence is coated in pretty words. What do you call it when someone puts his hand into a woman's vagina without asking her or looking her in the eye? Its called rape. Birth rape. Doctors who manhandle and abuse women when they are giving birth say that they are saving lives. They are not. They are exercising their power.

Politicians who make silly rules about what women can or cannot wear may say that they are doing it "for the women" (yes, in South Africa they say that rape is "for the women" too, when they are raping a lesbian to convince her to change her preferences). They say they are doing it for the Muslim women's enlightenment and freedom. 
They're not. They are also exercising their power.

I suggest we ban the type of clothing that overweight, middle-aged Quebecoise women wear, when they should know better. Oh, the tight T-shirt over a middle-aged belly! Oh, the tight jeans over hips that should be covered! Oh, the dyed blond badly-styled hair! The polyester double-knit suits! The shoes that Cinderella's sister wore!

But it's different, you argue. Those badly-styled garments do not speak of a deeper moral code - a code that oppresses women (we are speaking of Islam here). They are just off-the-rack, cheap garments, bought without a shred of moral judgement or thought. Yes, you're right. It heralds the victory of the mediocre fat lady; the no-brainers; the thoughtless violence; the amoral assholes who parade as sensitive do-gooders.

I went to a birth once with a lovely student of mine who wore a see-through spaghetti strap tank top and a fake leopard-skin miniskirt. It was a Montreal summer - hot and humid. In the greyish hallways of the hospital she looked like an angel from heaven - hot, sexy, and happy. The birth was a lot of fun: the birthing mother didn't take any shit from anyone and she gave birth on her hands and knees, even if the physician couldn't handle seeing her vulva "upside down". After the birth we ordered sushi.

Another of my fondest memories was a birthing woman who was dressed completely top to bottom: hat, wig, robe, undershirt, bra, panties, stockings and socks. She removed the panties and stockings to give birth but everything else remained. Her husband, who was not allowed to look at her, sang throughout her labor, and told jokes. She laughed that baby out. The room was full of love.

I have seen women's legs held down, women's bellies jumped on, women yelled at and berated. I have listened to doctors, nurses, and midwives tell women what to do; what to say; what to feel; how to move.

When will we rise up against this banal mediocracy?