Surviving A Blue Christmas


by Roxanne Tellier

Man, I cannot stand Elvis‘ song, “Blue Christmas.” And I’ll bet you have a couple of holiday tunes you could gladly live without for the rest of your life … enough’s enough on the “Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer,” amirite?

And no … we’re not discussing the ‘controversy’ over “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” No, we are not.

But.

But seriously … it’s that time of year, when people can get a little – or a lot – down about what seems to be an incessant and annoying full frontal campaign insisting that we all be ‘merry and bright’ and ‘ho ho ho’ ourselves into stupors.

A surfeit of merriment. Bah humbug. What to do, what to do, when you just feel blue?

csarn salons
That was the question being asked at a recent seminar I attended, that was hosted by the good people of C-SARN (Canadian Senior Artists’ Resource Network – find more info at csarn.ca.)

Facilitated by Matt Eldridge, from the Artists’ Health Centre, the session included curated info on dealing with holiday stress, and included much lively input from the attendees.

We touched briefly on the very real problem of Seasonal Affective Disorder (aka SAD.) SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the change of seasons. Symptoms of SAD include fatigue, lethargy, anxiety, weight gain and sleep disorders. About 2-3% of the general population of Ontario have SAD and another 15% have a less severe experience. It is believed that SAD is caused by changes in the level of exposure to sunlight. At this point, the main treatment for SAD is light therapy.

Seasonal-Affective-Disorder-SAD

There are special light therapy lamps, designed to mimic spring and summer light levels, that can really help relieve some of the depression of SAD, but the lamps are quite expensive.

However, help is on the way if you live in Toronto! Several branches of the Toronto Public Library now have light therapy lamps available in-library on a first-come, first served basis, as a way to treat the “winter blues.

All you need to do is sit, read or work about 2 feet away from a lamp for 20-30 minutes, without looking directly into the lamp, but allowing the light to shine on your face. It may be hard to believe, but that’s all it can take to really help.

You can give it a try at the Agincourt, Brentwood, Don Mills, Fairview, Humber Bay, Malvern, Maria A Shchuka, Parkdale or Parliament branches, or on the 5th floor and basement Toronto Star Newspaper Room of the Toronto Reference Library.

So that’s SAD dealt with – but what if you are just generally bummed out by the holiday season?

Me, I hate the ‘heaviness’ of winter … the weighty coats, the accumulation of hats, earmuffs, scarves and mitts, and the big, sturdy, non-slip boots that contrive to make me feel like a Clydesdale negotiating a steep slope. I can literally feel myself getting shorter as I assume the mantle of wintry clothing. Literally. I will probably have lost another inch in height by January.

Some determinedly, doggedly, cheery people love to tell you that “there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” My mission is to hunt those people down, and skin them for their magic coats.

But until I find them, I’m going to have to deal with not enjoying anything about surviving the coldest months of the year in Canada.

Perhaps it is time to embrace the Scandinavian concept of hygge (pronounced hooga.) This is a word that Danes use to express a mental strategy for coping with the winter months, describing an emotional coziness and togetherness. It is a time they spend indoors with friends and family, embracing the colder season as wholeheartedly as they do the summer months, and seeing both extremes as opportunities to cultivate the different sides of themselves.

danish hyggeHey … as long as it doesn’t include sports … I’ve never liked sports, either to play or to watch, so that leaves me out of a lot of the typical Canadian leisure time diversions and debates. About the most I can handle in terms of physical exertion in the winter is a lope to the nearest Tim Hortons for a toasty cup of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a cinnamon dusting. I simply lack a sports gene, and find it unlikely I’ll develop one during my ‘golden years.’

winter wildlifeWhat I can always find time to do, though, is to spend a few hours with friends, to share a meal and indulge in lively discussions. Or to walk in a park, where some of our wild critters, who don’t migrate or hibernate, can benefit from a gift of the appropriate seed, treat, or suet.

I’m not a religious person, but I sometimes like to enter a house of worship, to partake, for a moment, of the peace that comes from the gathering of those who enjoy a committed faith.

Some people take great joy in volunteering, and of helping others by giving a little bit of their time or largesse to benefit those who have less than ourselves. Others look forward to participating in regular or seasonal religious ceremonies.

christmas eyebrowsI’m more of an indoor person, and can find tons of ways to amuse myself, whether it’s on the internet, or in communing with my pets. I love to search out old holiday songs, programs, and stories from other times and other countries, and to admire or laugh at how our sense of fashion has morphed over time.

Couple of things to avoid – if you are not feeling particularly cheery, go easy on the physical stressors: sugar, caffeine, alcohol and empty carbohydrates will just make you feel more jangled, and pack on the pounds. Be vigilant about eating properly, and taking the meds and supplements that keep you ticking along smoothly. Also, try not to spend a lot of time on social media; many friends and acquaintances like to take the season as an opportunity to put up their annual “highlight” reels … no, neither they nor their kids look that good all year round, and the dog is rented. Nuff said.

try something new SeussYou might be able to turn around some of your blues by making a small attitude adjustment; nobody’s perfect, but we all get a chance every new day to tweak what we’ve got. Why not try looking at your holiday challenges with an eye to a more realistic expectation of how your sister in law will behave after her third glass of wine? Is it possible that even Drunk Uncle will be a little easier to take if you practice a bit of radical acceptance of his all too human foibles? Some people just can’t help people-ing.

And the next time someone invites you to an event, or a meal, why not try saying an enthusiastic YES! to a new experience? The worse that can happen is that you spend a few hours discovering that you like or dislike this new person or food or thing.

Conversely, if you’ve spent most of your adult life hating one of your holiday traditions – this may be the year you finally say a resounding NO! to doing it any more. Walk away from petty squabbles, refuse to eat foods that you dislike, and don’t invite trolls to be part of your celebrations. While the holidays are a time of giving, they shouldn’t also be a time of unending and painful sacrifice in the pursuit of someone else’s happiness.

Everyone experiences the holidays and winter differently, but there are some tried and true ways to increase your own enjoyment of the season. Indulge your senses with the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations that fill you with pleasure.

10-tips-for-enjoying-a-long-winter-indoorsIf you are keen on Christmas carols, fill your home with the sound! Put on your favourite play list while you tidy up your environment and enjoy the scent of seasonal candles, fruits and foliage. Open up your curtains and throw a little light on the situation. indulge yourself with a special treat, because you deserve it.

Be gentle with yourself, and let your inner dialogue express the same tenderness to yourself that you’d show towards someone you love or care about, who’s dealing with a tough time. You are just as deserving.

Above all … pace yourself! This demanding round of lunches, dinners and soirees will soon fade and become last year’s memories, but we Canadians will still have a further three or four months of cold, snow, and ice to deal with. It’s gonna take a toll on you. So try to have enough fun with your loved ones during the holidays to make yourself, if not more tolerant, than at least a little more accepting of our country’s wintry gifts.

And however you spend this holiday season, I wish you the best and most joyous one ever!

happy holidays to all

 

Daylight Savings And Other Idiocies


ENOUGH already with this daylight saving nonsense. The cost to the country, and it’s citizens, has been recorded and shown to be of little to no benefit to the nation.

daylight saving NativeI wonder if Ford has considered making this a pet project for Ontario. (Opting in or out of daylight saving is within a provincial premier’s purview.) It would fit into his stated platform, save money, and kill something that the ‘elites’ determined decades ago would be beneficial to the ‘little people.’ And, when he’s finally out of office, it will be one thing he can point to as having successfully and fairly easily accomplished.

Anyone got Dougie’s ear?

 

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Hey, it’s Indie Week! My colleagues have written a fair bit about what that means, musically, so I won’t belabour the possible tuneful delights that your wristbands can get you into. There IS a lot of great music, I assure you, a veritable cornucopia of raw talent.

But .. I probably won’t get to many of the shows. You see, I’m more like those people that buy Playboy for the articles.. I like the conferences. I like to learn from people with experience and stories to tell.

So, on Wednesday, you’ll likely find me checking out a forum on anxiety, depression and mental health, or taking notes at Martin Atkins’ discourse on “How to Make an Extra $100K in the Next Year.”

On Friday, there’s a seminar on Women Influencers, and another on “New Rules in the Music Industry.”

And those are the things that interest moi … but that’s moi. Why don’t YOU check out what’s available this week, and see what turns your crank? I’ll see you there!
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We’re now literally days away from the American midterm elections, when those who will exercise their right to vote will determine the arc of America’s future. It really is a critical moment in time. Voting Democrat will enable the guardrails to keep Trump and his madness in check. Voting Republican will tell Trump that his madness and rush to a fascist dictatorship is A-OK with the citizens of the United States

VOTING IS HOW YOU SEIZE POWER. And that’s why old people, rich people and people who are terrified of change… are ALWAYS voting, every chance they get. That is why there are old, rich, white men in power in the U.S., who’ve been voted back in every time those old, rich, white, scared people get a chance to enter the voting booth. That is why there is a lying, perjuring, accused sexual assailant on the Supreme Court.

Does your vote count? Damned straight it does! And mouthing off that it ‘won’t change anything anyway’ is not a ‘too cool for the pool,’ detached cynicism, it’s a naive, and entitled sentiment that betrays an ignorance of how democracy works.

Are you enjoying Trump’s America? Because, despite how many people tell me that I am incorrect about America sliding into fascism… it’s looking pretty textbook fascist-y right about now.

Fascism is a form of government which is a type of one-party dictatorship. Fascists are against democracy. They work for a totalitarian one-party state. This aim is to prepare the nation for armed conflict, and to respond to economic difficulties. Fascism puts nation and often race above the individual. It stands for a centralized government headed by a dictator. Historically, fascist governments tend to be militaristic, and racist. In the Third Reich German society was pictured as a racially unified hierarchy, the Volksgemeinschaft..” (wikipedia)

The country has been steamrollered under the armoured treads of an administration that has control of the House, the Senate, the Presidency, AND the Supreme Court. Except for the horrific tax cuts that sent billions of dollars to the 1 per cent, the majority of Trump accomplishments have come about through the high handed use of ‘executive orders,’ which, when used in lieu of democratic debate, compromise, and bipartisanship, are, of course, the way dictators govern.

Now, there may have been times in America’s history where one party having control of ALL aspects of government might not have been quite as frightening as it is in 2018. But the horrors that we’ve seen to date can’t hold a candle to what we’ll see in the future, if the midterms keep the power in the Republican party’s hands.

While you might have been aware that the Supreme Court newbie, Kavanaugh, has some interesting views on presidential reach and abortion, and that the other newbie, Gorsuch, has some equally interesting opinions on religious liberty and the rights of LGBTQ citizens …. did you know that the Supreme Court is about to begin debate on whether or not America will be maintaining a separation of church and state?

That’s kind of a biggie right there. What will be left of America, when it is only the furthest hard right thinkers who decide what citizens are allowed to do, in public, or in the privacy of their own homes?

Many of those who agree with the far right’s racism and xenophobia are not only falling prey to the president’s Hail Mary pass to save control of the House and/or Senate through terrorizing the people with talks of war and invasions, they’re whipping up even further paranoia by declaring that migrants have a super power that enables them to bring extinct diseases back into the American mainstream.

APTOPIX Central America Migrant CaravanAmerica needs a Zanax. Despite Trump’s assurance that the migrant caravan is an invading horde, his words, and those of the Foxy Friends who agree with him, are nothing more than a panicked attempt to continue their icy grip on America’s gonads.

Imagine the desperation that would make you gather up your family, what little you could carry, and force you to walk thousands of miles, to somewhere that you hoped .. didn’t know for sure, but hoped … would grant you sanctuary. This is an apocalyptic scenario. You’ve seen it in movies, in ‘after the end of the world‘ scripts, but this is real life for these migrants.

It is believed that there are two caravans, one traveling thru southern Mexico, and the other just now crossing Guatemala into Mexico. The second group is believed to be mostly the family members of the first caravan. The number of people in both of these caravans fluctuates daily, but is estimated to be between a thousand to five thousand people total. (And, bear in mind, neither of these groups would be converging at any one American border, all at the same time.)

Among the sympathizers to Trump’s cause and senile paranoia are the citizen militia, who, with significant armament, are hoping to join the even more heavily armed 15,000 troops, 20,000 border guards, and 10,000 Nation Guard members gathering to dispel .. with brute force and severe prejudice – the few thousand dusty, dirty, thirsty, tired refugees fleeing gang violence and government corruption in Honduras.

Sadly.. those migrants are walking right into the unwelcoming arms of America’s own home-grown violence and government corruption.

america is not the home of the brave anymoreThe sight of this gang of tens of thousands, shoulder to shoulder against these desperate people, should be the most humiliating spectacle that America ever hopes to see. Home of the Brave? No, it’s the land of the loose bowelled, chicken shits.

As of November 2nd, the caravans are in Matias Romero, a town in the southwestern Mexican state of Oaxaca. They are at least several weeks away from reaching the United States, although the Department of Homeland Security – well known for fudging and outright lying of facts – has said they could arrive at the border somewhere in between four days and two weeks from now.

I guess if they all grow wings it’s possible. But these are families, that include women, children, and at least one newborn who made her appearance just a day or two ago.

american gestapoI can draw a straight line from the ‘no room at the inn‘ prejudice and xenophobia of 2000 years ago to the cruelty and barbarism we’re seeing at the American border today. Two thousand years later, what these ‘warriors’ choose to cloak themselves in on a Sunday morning doesn’t look very much like Christianity at all.

This is Trump’s Last Stand, this desperate Mexican standoff, and he’s got all of his hopes pinned on his belief that America will believe the lies and hyperventilation that he, his administration and FOX News have poured into the far right’s ears like so much aural poison. I am hoping that Americans are smarter, and better human beings, than that.

World compassion

I want to believe that justice will prevail in America. I want to believe that there will be a fair election, and that America and the world will be able to believe that the results of the voting are just and true, and show the real will of the people.

That’s what I want to believe, America. That’s what I need to believe. All you have to do, America, is listen to your better angels. Listen to them now, while they still live.

 

Free The Weed! Lift & Co Expo 2018


status of cannabis in CanadaAs Canada slinks towards that moveable feast, the day when cannabis becomes legal and regulated, a couple of conference groups have seen the future – and it is pot friendly.

” TORONTO – Canada’s top cannabis policy bureaucrat says every time he travels outside of Canada, he is reminded anew of just what a novel enterprise this country has embarked upon.

“Canada is moving into a place that no country — other than Uruguay, the only other country that has made recreational marijuana legal at the federal level — has ventured to go,” Eric Costen, director general for the federal government’s cannabis legalization and regulation branch, told a conference Thursday.

The world is watching Canada’s plan to legalize recreational marijuana, Costen said at the cannabis business conference in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

The federal government aims to have pot legal by this summer. The exact date is up in the air because senators now debating the Cannabis Act are expected to propose amendments.” (Ottawa Citizen, May 24, 2018)

I’ve put it out there before – I sincerely believe that the legalization and fair use of cannabis in Canada could save our country’s economic bacon. Oil is scarce, and costs billions to coax out of the earth. Pot plants grow and pay off year round. It’s crazy not to see the direction we could and should be heading. I am for dumping dilbit and bitumen oil … and picking up on medicinal oil.

Those who believe that this is about Cheech and Chong-ing the planet with smokeables have completely missed the boat on how much good full legalization can be for Canada, her people, and her financial future.

This weekend featured the Lift Expo, Canada’s premier cannabis event, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where more than 60 speakers, and the industry’s most exciting movers and shakers, gathered with over 250 exhibitors from around the world.

“The Lift Expo has become a nexus for the cannabis industry,” says Lift’s CEO Matei Olaru, “We offer an educational and interactive experience unmatched in North America, for the burgeoning and established cannabis business, as well as canna-curious consumers.”

To my surprise and delight, the Lift people were gracious and generous in offering media a complete carte blanche entry to the conference and exposition, and including a media lounge, where we could relax with free wi-fi, and complimentary beverages. The inclusion of an interview area expedited thoughtful one-on-one voice or video taping for future broadcasts.

After picking up my pass, I headed for the escalator, en route to the show floor. The size of the exhibition was impressive, with booths stretching endlessly to the left and right of the North Building. When faced with that much ground to cover, it’s best to choose a simple walking pattern and keep your eyes, ears – and swag bag – open.

The Lift’s hundreds of exhibitors include all major licensed producers, growing supply industries, accessory lines, artisans, specialty medical cannabis products, advocacy and awareness groups, and more. Sponsors include Green Relief and the Jamaican Medical Cannabis Collective.

On the main stage, there’s everything from live cannabis cooking demos to a start up pitch competition. There will also be discussions on female representation in the cannabis industry, how to help your pets heal with CBD oils, craft cannabis products and the new wave of ‘bespoke’ brands. The event also boasts an onsite vapor lounge for medical patients to explore the latest and greatest vaporizers.

There is even a Cannabis at Work Career Fair, which features lightning talks on cannabis career topics, such as the training and experience most attractive to prospective employees, and how to build a ‘cannacentric’ resume.

big bambuThere’ve been slim pickings at a lot of the musical fests and conferences I’ve attended over the past few years, but the Lift Conference is filled with people brimming with excitement, knowledge, and faith in the future, and that makes their companies generous. Within a few minutes of arrival I was already struggling with a big bag of freebies, of everything from pot plant fertilizer to multiple cell phone accessories, to bottled water and water bottles, magazines, rolling papers, pens, candles, hats, t-shirts, and samples of non-infused goodies.

The most plentiful supply of all, however, is the information on the formidable breadth and depth of the cannabis trade, when exploited properly. Get your head out of the smoke of the Big Bambu and into big business, because the possibilities of the herb span everything from medical research, to an entire industry devoted to controlling insects naturally, improving green house and solar powered growing. The worlds of accounting, finance, and banking converge as legalization hashes through what happens when the current illegality of banking funds made from selling a controlled substance ends.

There are training programs and certificates available from accredited colleges, including KPU (Kwantlen Polytechnic University) where you can find out about cannabis career training.

Some companies .. and provinces! … are more into the idea of legalization than others. New Brunswick, for instance, is aiming to be a major Canadian player in the pot world.

The province’s 2016 Economic Growth Plan named cannabis as a priority sector, and business development experts at Opportunities New Brunswick predict a growth of 3,000 cannabis-related jobs by 2022.

Edison Cannabis Co is so eager to introduce the rest of us to their product and province that they’ve a wonderful contest going on, that will net you a personal guided tour of the Edison growing facility in New Brunswick, including round trip airfare, three nights accommodation, $500 in spending money, and double guest passes to the Harvest Jazz and Blues Festival. I’m in! (get thee to EdisonCannabis.Co to enter.)

abi roach hotbox liftI discovered booth after booth, filled with upbeat, positive business people (including our own Kensington Market entrepreneur, Abi Roach of Hotbox) who can see and appreciate that there is a lot of money to be made in giving the people what they want.

After all, as our own Captain Cannabis, Verne Andru, said to me, we were promised legal marijuana forty years ago, by Trudeau Senior, and here we are, 40 years later, watching Trudeau Juniorcapt cannabis 40th

dragging his feet on bringing this product to market. (Verne’s a brilliant artist, whose career animation assignments include Hanna Barbera‘s Saturday morning line-up, and work on Nelvana’s ‘Rock & Rule animated feature. Verne continues producing comics; illustrating stories for Phantacea, ink and colour on Captain Canuck, cover art for Charleton Comics Group and inking for Marvel Comics Group in addition to his own titles.

With so many economic and psychological benefits to be had by investing into cannabis research, it’s difficult to understand why the governmental reins are being pulled in so hard – aren’t most Canadians anxious to get into legal pot?

Well, as it turns out, not as many Canadians as you would think are on the Cannabis Band Wagon. Prohibition in Canada hasn’t worked; 30 per cent of Canadians aged 20 to 24, and 21 per cent of those aged 15 to 19 said they used cannabis at least once in the previous year. At least seven per cent of Canadians already use weed on a daily basis. And while that is a big market, it’s not close to counting those who are willing to try something natural to manage their pain, and even, potentially to help with getting off opioids and other more dangerous pharmaceuticals.

So while some worry that it will be a free for all once marijuana is legalized, the facts based on the 2016 data study conducted by Deloitte, and featured in the ‘Recreational Marijuana: Insights and Opportunities’ report is that attitudes may not be so easy to change.

For those of us who grew up in the heady sixties, our ‘will I/won’t I” try pot or hash moment was a long time ago. For those who didn’t have an opportunity to try it out then, there’s a natural and understandable fear that there might be a danger in even a medicinal puff.

“You would expect that when the stigma is removed of a criminal offence you may have more people who that would otherwise not be willing to take that risk might be prepared to,” said Chris Lavier, a criminal defence lawyer in Saskatoon.

Meanwhile, an IPSOS poll shows that about 34 per cent of Canadians will at least try smoking marijuana once it’s legal, as opposed to the just 12 per cent of users who currently smoke pot recreationally now.

legalization support in canadaBut the big draw will be the 29 per cent of those surveyed who have said they will be buying edible marijuana products, up from seven per cent now.

Too bad, so sad, and incredibly foolish, then, that the LCBO, who will be our main pot purveyors in Ontario, have decided against edible offerings for at least the first year of sales. Foolish, especially since there will be a market of about 9.6 million recreational pot users after legalization, and for many of them, edibles will be how they experiment to find what works for their own conditions and needs.

Where Ontario falls down in the support of what should be a viable competitive industry, is that they are trying to walk a knife’s edge. On the one hand, they will tell you that the purpose of legalization is to improve public health by minimizing cannabis use harm. No stone, no matter how irrational, has been left unturned by those who, quite frankly, fear what they do not really comprehend.

reefer madnessOn the other hand, they know very well that there are trillions to be made from all the aspects of selling hemp and cannabis.

There are concerns about security and policing in a post-Reefer Madness world. Strangely, though, the police departments, tribal reserve security forces, and our own RCMP have been strangely lax to begin these discussions on how to deal with Canadians under the influence. I have to wonder if this reluctance has to do with a belief that the legalization will be pushed back, and back, until it becomes just another Charlie Brown football in the next federal elections.

The government is betting on a legal cannabis market that will restrict use amongst young people, and will work to squeeze out the black market. But that’s unlikely to happen under the restrictions the vendors will labour under, which they say will prevent companies from educating consumers.

The government has also proposed plain packaging with prominent warnings about addiction and other health problems associated with cannabis.

“People will be going into stores and will have no idea what they are looking at,” said Cameron Bishop from cannabis company Privateer Holdings.

So, not to put too fine a point on it – Canada already knows that, like a Trump Casino, they’re gonna be watching the house lose for at least a couple of years. Poor planning means they will be looking at several years of multi-million dollar loss before they ever see a profit.

OCS Ontario Cannabis Store“The Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation, an LCBO subsidiary created to manage sales and distribution of recreational pot in the province, is expecting an $8-million loss in 2017-2018, followed by a $40-million loss in 2018-19, largely due to initial startup costs to establish the retail network.” 

However, by 2019-20, the province is forecasting OCRC net income of $35 million, followed by $100 million in net income by 2020-21.”

So the tide will turn. Eventually legal cannabis will be as enshrined in Canadian society as those other monopolies, Labatts and Molson, and will feature many of the same players, and many soon to be millionaire pot dealers, most of whom are former and present members of the Liberal party, getting caught drooling over the profits they’ll be reaping in the very near future.

There are many groups that will help consumers who want to know more about the benefits of medical marijuana, or the recreational varieties that will be available. I’d also recommend an online magazine called BotaniQ, that has both industry and secular information on who exactly is on the cutting edge of pot technology and use. (http://botaniqmag.com/)

One of the products I was searching out at the Expo was edible CBD treats, and I was not disappointed. I am a huge proponent of CBD oil, since this is a product that walks the line on the benefits of hemp/pot; you won’t get high, but you’ll definitely get some physical relief. Used in everything from edible jelly babies to arthritis creams and body lotions, there is anecdotal evidence that the cannabidiol oil naturally helps with sleeplessness, depression, chronic pain, and PTSD.

” Thank you so much for telling me about this product. I can’t believe the change in me. Last night, I wasn’t that tired but decided I should go to bed at 11:30 anyway. I took a dropper of the tincture under my tongue and went to bed. I fell asleep almost instantly and slept for several hours before a bathroom break. Went back to sleep immediately too.

It has also helped with my depression. My depression was just getting worse and worse. I was beginning to think “not nice thoughts” even though I lied to my doctor. She has changed my meds several times and nothing has seemed to help. Today, I don’t feel depressed at all. Haven’t for several days, actually. I think this may be the answer. I am going to recommend it to my great nephew who suffers terribly from depression and his meds don’t’ seem to work either. One knows instinctively that medical doctors won’t recommend it as it is not part of the “big pharma lexicon”. What a shame.”

As I said last year after the first O’Cannabiz Expo, it used to be that, when I thought about legalization, my mind went back to the days of head shops, lava lamps, rolling papers, pipes and hookahs. Strolling down the aisle of the Lift Expo disabused me, once again, of those hippie limitations.

I’m encouraged by the existence of the Lift Expo, (and the Oh Cannabiz conference next month) and continue to have faith that this is, overall, the best and most sensible course Canada should be pursuing over the next few decades. More pot, please!

o canada cannabis

 

 

Of Time and Tides


not ready for growingupNext week, I’ll be heading to British Columbia to visit my daughter, granddaughters, family and friends. My husband gifted me the fare; he knows I’ve been aching to see the girls. I’ll be there for my daughter’s birthday, and to reacquaint myself with my granddaughters, who are teetering on the brink of their teenage years, at ages 11 and 13. My daughter will have her hands full for the next decade with these two little minxes.

I, on the other hand, have ‘grandmother privilege.‘ I get to see them when they’re on their best behaviour, and to leave the room for a nap or to visit friends when they’re acting up. Life is good!

For years I was unable to travel. A weird combination of finances and bureaucracy kept me from obtaining the necessary identification to board a train or plane. My clever friend, Barbette Kensington, steered me through the morass of paperwork, and now … I am a genuine, legally viable, traveling person!

So I’m looking forward to this trip, for many reasons, and despite my insane fear of flying. It’s a joy and a privilege to be able to travel, and one that I’ve not been able to do in over 16 years.

Getting older is a privilege as well, although many of us hate to think about it. As our loved ones, idols and contemporaries succumb to time, it starts to seem like the world we once knew is fading away, leaving us adrift in an altered space.

Coming to grips with aging looks a lot like getting thru the stages of grief. You’re gonna have to go through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before you finally come to acceptance.

I have my own theory on how we deal with getting older; I think I read it somewhere, but it’s mine now. Basically, there’s three stages.

In the first stage, you feel pretty much like you always did. You still want to do all of the things you used to do, and for the most part, you are able to socialize, travel, and maintain your hobbies with maybe a little more resting time needed than before. But you’re still a you that you recognize, and if you’ve got a few bucks, you can finally relax and enjoy life.

In the second stage, something goes wrong, either physically or mentally. Maybe you break a hip, or have a stroke. Now you’re wishing you had gotten in that trip to Peru before your lungs decided high altitudes were no longer an option. You get a little angry that your social calendar looks barer than it used to, and you might start to tell people that you’re “not as young as you used to be,” in order to get out of doing any sort of strenuous movement … like walking up the stairs.

do not regret growing olderIn the third stage, you can’t do very much at all, and there isn’t much you look forward to anymore. That’s the last bit of the human journey, and probably the least anticipated.

Aging is inevitable, and few would prefer the alternative. Ready or not, at some time in your late fifties or early sixties, you will realize that you’re nearing, or in, that first stage, and that you have no idea when exactly the second stage will kick in.

We live in wonderful times. While we can’t turn back the clock, we can be grateful that medical science now allows an array of options for dealing with aging bodies. Hip surgeries and knee replacements are commonplace. Who knows what miracles will be available as we age and need a few more drastic nips and tucks?

laser surgery. jpgWe simply can’t anticipate what the future will hold, for good or ill. As a kid, I never dreamed that there would someday be a surgery available to correct vision … I had just assumed that I’d eventually lose my sight entirely, as both of my grandmothers had. Thanks to lasers, I had two decades of perfect vision. One of these days, I’ll have more laser surgery, and that will correct the effects of aging as well.

It would be great if there were big advances in cancer treatments. Cancer is a cruel bitch, and she’s taken away too many of my loved ones. Last fall, I had to finally admit that it was time to stop smoking, and I quit cold turkey. I’ll be dealing with the damage that I did to myself from here on in, and keeping my fingers crossed that I escape the Big C.

Took me too long to realize that you only need to change a few letters to go from ‘excuse’ to ‘exercise.’ A regular exercise program makes me feel a lot less stressed. Maybe the aquafit will also help me lose a few pounds. Couldn’t hurt. For sure it’s refocusing my attention on how good it feels to be able to stretch without pain.

The first stage of aging can be a bit of a shock – it’s almost as though our bodies are betraying us. After years of doing pretty much whatever was asked of them, our bodies have gone mutinous, and are demanding that we treat them with more care.

There’s several reasons for these changes, but they are all inevitable, so you may as well get used to them.

” Two biological phenomena appear related to the aging process:

• Accumulation of waste products in the cells
• Loss of elasticity of the connective body tissue

These changes, sometimes called nongenetic, occur at the cellular level. They have a direct bearing upon many declines we experience in our physical and sensory capabilities.

Many bodily changes take place over the entire lifespan— some beginning with birth. They are part of a relentless, post-maturational phenomenon called senescence (biological aging).

Senescence results in a decrease in the physical capacity of an individual, accompanied by an increase in a person’s vulnerability. As a result, any product or environment may become less friendly and less supportive for some people while adequately providing support for others.

Most of the changes that characterize senescence occur slowly. As they occur, individuals adapt to them. For example, people with arthritis may select utensils with larger and softer handles to ease the pain and enhance their grip.”

http://www.transgenerational.org/aging/aging-process.htm)

While the changes are inevitable, how we deal with them is up to us. Denying the realities of aging only leads to a more rapid decline, and if we try to force ourselves to perform at the same level, mentally or physically, as we did in our prime, we’re doomed to failure, and to setting up a negative feedback loop that tells us that it’s no use to even try for what improvement we can rationally expect.

What we really crave is a happy aging experience, and that’s easier to get to when we aim for smaller goals, with less dramatic gains, but gains that are progressive and ongoing. In a positive feedback loop of self-reinforcing and self- energizing behaviours, we can find the sweet spot of feeling comfortable at any age.

those who love deeply never grow old. jpgThere’s got to be joy in our lives. That’s what really motivates us, and leads us to the healthy actions and interactions that make getting up every morning something to anticipate rather than dread.

We need ‘fresh air and friendly faces,’ people that we care about and people who care about us. We need to love and be loved, and to hold dear those whom we treasure for the good impact they’ve had in our lives.

We need to appreciate where we’ve been, and what we’ve done, while embracing new experiences that stretch our abilities. And sometimes we need to get on an airplane even when we’re terrified of flying.

There’s no sense in denying your ‘golden years;’ there’s only the reality of how you’ll choose to live them. My choice is to make the rest of my life, the best of my life.

mark twain on travel

 

With No Direction Home


When we first sold our house, worrying about finding a space that would be safe, affordable, and have amenities nearby didn’t seem like such a big deal. Really, we reasoned, how hard could it be?  I, for one, thought that our biggest problem would be agreeing on location.

Wrong.

welcome to the jungleSince our search for housing has begun, I have passed through all the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I now accept that my entire life is on hold, and that I will be a quivering mass of anxiety and frustrated tears until this home hunting issue is resolved. Or one of us kills the other.

I had no idea that so many of the baby boomers who had dutifully bought their suburban homes during good times would all be taking advantage of a seller’s market, with an idea of moving back into the city where they could enjoy their golden years. The hive mind’s plan was to sell before the real estate bubble burst, find a little place to squat until the madness calmed down, and then decide what to do next, secure in our gains and pensions.

Our lovely little bungalow was snapped up, and flipped again within the month. A friend just sent over a photo of it being demolished. East Ave demo Apr 2017As glad as I am that we are now ‘Former Scarberians, ‘ I did feel a pang at the sight of the rubble.

What we did not fully comprehend was that as the price of real estate rose, so did the greedy little hearts of landlords seeking to cash in on square footage. We’ve had rent control in Toronto for decades, but that only covers units built (or occupied) before 1991. The easing of rental controls was meant to encourage new rental units to be built, but was not acted upon – in the decade between 1996 and 2006, 95% of all new housing built was private residential ownership.

But having committed to the house sale, we established an east end home base, with an eye to sorting ourselves out before finding a ‘forever home.’ Unfortunately, when your stuff is in boxes, in storage spaces, and scattered to the winds, a sort of inability to move forward takes over … when you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t see any road ahead. Easier to lie back in the poppies like Dorothy than to sort through hundreds of cryptically labelled boxes to find the potato masher.

Toronto subway systemWe made up a wish list of what we could and couldn’t accept in housing. Accessibility to amenities, shopping, libraries, etc was priority number one, since I don’t drive. So this palace had to be close to the subway line, and roughly west of  Woodbine station, and east of Ossington station.

High rises were just out, right off the bat, after hearing countless horror stories about tenants battling cockroaches and bed bugs. Low rises were a low priority – still so much noise and too many neighbours!

A three bedroom would be best, a large two bedroom acceptable IF there were separate dining and living rooms. Parking would be great, street permit parking would be considered. A little back yard for the cats, or at the least, an enclosed balcony, was also on the list.

We established a maximum monthly rental cost  that we could comfortably afford, with the knowledge that rental costs would inevitably increase yearly. If we needed to include utilities in the costs, electrical heating could not considered if we were to be able to afford both heating and eating.

Oh, how the Gods laugh, when humans list what they will and will not accept!

housingOur first forays into the rental world were fun and interesting. Thirty years of home ownership had us lulled into a false confidence. Hours were spent burning out corneas, sifting through Kijiji, Craigslist, ViewIt, and countless other rental sites. We were ready and willing to explore what was out there.

Preliminary research done, it was time to inspect what was available. We saw apartments, condos, tiny houses, and lofts. We looked above stores, under stores, and at underground parking.

And every time we’d find something that was either ‘just perfect!‘ or ‘close enough to be almost perfect!’ we’d be scooped by some other renter frantically trying to avoid homelessness. Everything, it would seem, was fair in apartment hunting … lies, bribery, tantrums …

evil landlordLandlords today are the Gods of the past. They can drive a grown man to tears, never mind a small French girl. They are merciless. They can not only demand more private and confidential information from you than your doctor will, they can gleefully skip over rental/tenants agreements willy nilly, banning everything from smoking, to small pets, and cooking smells. They can demand thousands of dollars in certified cheques be handed over, before they’ve even looked at your 11 page rental application.

It is to weep.

Over and over, we’ve been told, despite having responded to an ad only two hours old, that there were several people who’d seen and applied for occupancy before us. Our impeccable credit ratings meant nothing, if another applicant fanned a wad of cash in front of the landlord, and agreed to pay hundreds more than the stated rental price. It is back to the dark old days of ‘key money,’ and laws and legalities be damned.

living in a boxI no longer look forward to viewing living spaces, nor do I mentally dress them in my mind. I have no reason to expect that finding anything more than four walls and, hopefully, a roof, await me. To quote an old Monty Python sketch, I’m beginning to realize that I may soon be living in a cardboard box in the middle of a busy street. In the game of apartment hunting, I have had my tenant heart broken.

When the hunt for a home resembles the worst of the Wild West, it’s a lose/lose game for both the renter and the rentee,. Those who finally win a place to live at any price feel no joy in the victory, no loyalty to the landlord, and no need to be a responsible tenant, if that success has come at a cost that will prevent them from enjoying the rest of their lives.

10 worst tenantsNor does the temporary flush of money, money, money help the landlord when he discovers that he’s rented to someone willing to cough up the extra dough so that the space can be turned into a grow op or a crash pad for six other friends. Good luck evicting bad tenants .. that’s one place where the law not only comes down heavily on the side of the resident, it’s actually followed to a fair thee well. Your squatter may be around for a very long time.

Setting aside the morality and ethics of rental wars, there’s an impact on society at large.

demoralizedAnyone who falls through the cracks, economically, is hopelessly disenfranchised in this battle. Kids in college, or right out of college coping with short term employment contracts, or gawd forbid, unpaid ‘internships,’ are right out of luck, along with the disabled, the elderly, the vulnerable, and those who don’t pass the scrutiny and whims of landlords. Demoralization and often, homelessness, loom in their futures.

When greed rules the markets, lawlessness runs rampant. We cannot balance a Trumpian  ‘smart business practices’ fallacy with a failure to acknowledge that Toronto‘s historically low vacancy rate of 1.3% will have a negative impact upon the social and economic success of the city. Short term gain is never the equivalent of what can be achieved by long term, responsible, financial planning that takes into account the needs of all of a city’s inhabitants.

Meanwhile, I’m waiting to hear if we have been chosen for an apartment that, while not ideal, ticks a few of our wish list boxes. But I’m also getting ready for yet another ‘go see’ of a space that could be made into a cozy space for two to curl up in.

We’re lucky – we have options, although it often seems that our options keep narrowing, and the lines we drew around what is habitable keep getting redrawn. How those without those options will cope is beyond me.

Wish me luck.

Back To The Garden


My gardens have been calling me lately. For years I gave up on them – the hostas, the shrubs, the berry bushes and the salsa garden – allowing frustration and depression to stomp all over my joy in the feel of good earth under my nails, and the delights of helping things grow. Plants ask very little of their tenders – some water when it’s hot and dry, a little pruning away of dead growth so that new, young sprouts have room – but even that was too much to ask of me for almost a decade. I withdrew from the earth, and from most people.

While the plants may not hold a grudge, some did give in to the neglect. The rhubarb that flourished in spring simply gave up a few years ago, even as the cuttings I had given to friends continued to thrive. The strawberries were buried under creeping groundcover, although I’ll occasionally still find the odd outcrop where it’s least expected, and sadly, quite likely to be accidentally mowed. The century rose, a beauty that now only exists as a cultivar, simply stopped making an effort, and quietly perished.

But most of the shrubs and bushes, bless ‘em, made it through, albeit begrudgingly, and muddled on, doing their survival thing. It’s been a long week of snipping and hard pruning, and will take at least another week to complete, but little by little, the gardens are returning to their natural beauty. I, however, am currently covered in ugly scratches and welts, nursing a few bug bites, and not much liking the discomfort of taking a poke in the eye from an ungrateful stem trimming.

cdn farmerGardening is not for everyone. We may have once been a nation of “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” but nowadays, many people consider physical and menial labour demeaning, something to pawn off on the unskilled and unambitious, or to contract out to uniformed and franchised professionals.  Actual farmers in Canada rely a great deal on machinery to keep their acres going.

Of course, every job requires some sort of skill, and good gardeners command a hefty price for their services. For a short while, many years ago, I worked as a professional ‘Plant Doctor,’ charged with tending to those forests of greenery downtown office buildings put in to seem eco-friendly. It was a good job, and I should have appreciated the opportunity, rather than thinking it just a way to make a few bucks until something better came along. After all, my father’s family were farmers in Alberta, so I suppose I’m genetically predisposed to understanding why and how to do gardeny things.

tree pruningGardening requires focus. I have always found a kind of primal joy in concentrating completely on one stalk, one stem, one leaf, studying the foliage for signs of disease, rejoicing in new buds, snipping carefully in the direction of the node to encourage growth. There’s also dismay in discovering that, despite appearances, there’s no trace of green left in a branch, no matter how far down you snip.

Some plants are vicious, armed with spurs and thorns that rip the skin, while others defend themselves with noxious scents. Many more are gentle, seeming to exist only to protect their future progeny. Some may surprise you; while trimming a rather ordinary looking gangly  shrub, I was nearly overcome with an aroma so intoxicating I could only describe it as what I imagine the poppy field in the Wizard of Oz must have smelled  like … dreamy, languorous, and utterly seductive.

There’s even joy in the inevitable aches and pains that hard work brings. Oh, you think, when did I stop using that particular muscle? Good to know it’s still there, even if cranky from being woken up! Bones and joints, lulled by the comforts of a winter indoors, creak a little, and sun-starved skin blushes if left uncovered too long.

dv885008And does anything taste more perfectly right than an ice cold drink at the end of an exhaustingly physical day? For me, it would preferably be a beer, guzzled straight from the can or bottle, holding the sweating tin or glass against your forehead between sips … that’s a little bit of heaven right there.

There’s so much righteousness in rinsing off the sweat of hard work done well in a cool shower on a hot day. Or of indulging in a lengthy soak in an Epsom salted bath that leeches the tired right out of your marrow; these are simple pleasures, gifts we give ourselves, payment for a job well done.

Gardening also takes you away from the banalities of social media, the bleating of commercial television, the door rapping of salesmen, religious proselytizers and those who want into your basement to read meters. I’ll only rarely even bring a radio out while I commune with nature, preferring to concentrate on the task at hand, while bits of summer songs play in my head. No people allowed, no spectators, no one to disturb a free flowing train of thought …

Even the drudgery of lawn mowing can be relieved – I used to drive my landscaping neighbour crazy with my erratic mower movements – though I called it ‘dancing.’   “NO, Roxanne,” he’d say, “THIS is the proper  way to mow a lawn!”  And then he’d demonstrate how to mow lovely straight lines on his impeccable, professionally grown lawn, completely unaware of his own little hip flips at the end of each track.  It cannot be denied – the aroma of freshly mown grass lifts the spirits and frees even the most tightly wound.

Philosophically, good horticulture practice is less about mucking around in the mud, and more about re-establishing our connection with the planet, its bounties and its boundaries. We’re reminded forcibly that there is only so much of anything to go around, be it space, food, or water, and that sometimes a ruthless triage must be carried out, sacrificing a few to ensure survival of the many. Neglect may seem harmless for a time, but eventually, lack of care will take its toll, harming even the strongest, and slaying the weakest.

In nature, variation in colour is a cause for wonder – there’s a whole segment of the agricultural community that does nothing but dream up, crossbreed, and name new variants. Crossbreeding, whether done through serendipity or intentionally, most often creates a new hardiness in the plant, or fulfills a need we hadn’t yet known we’d had.

tomatoesSome have a practical take on maintaining a garden, be they the stalwarts who continue to coax vines and stalks into existence as their parents did before them, or the grocery store gardener who just wants to get a break on the cost of tomatoes and herbs. For the price of a few seeds or a seedling, we become like minor gods, with the power of life and death over these potential lives.  As pragmatic as patio or backyard farming may seem, we should never underestimate the simple joy of biting into a fat, ripe, sun heated, home grown tomato, or the satisfaction and pride of a successful fall harvest.

For you, for me, for plants, and for the planet – time always moves forward. There’s no going back and undoing what wasn’t done, no way to undo harm done by neglect or accident. Gardens remind us that, for everything, there is a season. And the season is always ‘now.’

 

(first published May 2016: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/roxanne-tellier-back-to-the-garden/)