The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

And Other Stories


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100 Days, 100s of Memories, 100s of Items

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It’s been 100 days since my mother died.  That’s just a little over 3 months.  It’s the time in the mourning process when you get the head bob – you know those people who sympathetically look at you, nod and say: “Oh, it’s so good that you had CLOSURE….”  “She’s in a better place…” “At least she isn’t suffering.” “Every day gets a little easier, doesn’t it?” Grief is not something that can be wrapped up into a neat little package, and there is no timeline.  When people give me the closure speech, I often want to say what does that even mean?  Closure in that I realize that my mother isn’t coming back?  I know that she isn’t.  Closure in that there was nothing left unsaid?  That’s true, but can be more properly defined as a comfort, not closure.  Closure implies a sense of resolution, and I don’t know anyone who can properly resolve themselves to the finality of losing a loved one.  It also doesn’t get easier with time, every day is different.

People mean well, but it’s a long process.  There is a beginning to grief, but no middle and no end.  There is just a level of coping.  I can get up, go to work, do many things as well as I did before.  The brief fog that was part of the early days of loss has lifted.  I can carry on conversations with people and they would never know that there is anything wrong unless I told them.  It just isn’t something that you can adjust to overnight or over the course of three months.  Keeping occupied helps – it’s when I stop to think about things that reality sets in.

Outside of work, upcoming travel, socializing and settling my mother’s affairs, I need another project to keep me busy.  Something useful…something cleansing…and there is nothing more cleansing than a good declutter.  I’ve recently watched a number of YouTube videos where Influencers declutter cosmetics.  I’m a little obsessed with these videos, but I saw another video where the Influencer decided to get rid of 1,000 items from their home.  That’s a little ambitious for me, I did a huge declutter in 2015 – here is a small sample of things that I got rid of:        https://jillschnei.wordpress.com/2015/10/19/konfessions/

I did think carefully about it, and while 1,000 seems to be a daunting number, why not try for 300?   I’ll provide a progress report for you with every 100 items that I’m getting rid of and a few special features.  Some items will be thrown out, most will be donated and a small amount will be sold.  I’m excited to simplify things and to have a goal in mind.  My mother would definitely approve.

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Snow White and the Seven Cosmetics AKA Bésame: A Love Story

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Photography me (obviously with an iPhone).  PY Artistic Adapatation

Before I explain my love of Disney, I have to tell you about Bésame Cosmetics.  It is an unusual beauty company that was founded in 2004 by artist, cosmetic historian and designer, Gabriela Hernandez.  Hernandez has a love of vintage make up which is reflected in the product selection and packaging that you see with the cosmetics. I love what they have written on their website:

“Through a keen eye for color and historical expertise, we recreate modern reproductions of classic luxury makeup from the 1920s, ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s, designed to make women feel elegant, inspired, and empowered by their beauty.”

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Bésame collaborated with Walt Disney on an 80th Anniverary Collection for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (or should we say little people now?).  The company painstakingly matched the colors from the original color palette provided by Disney’s Ink and Paint Department to create the beautiful palettes and lipstick colours in the collection.

I LOVE Disney but it isn’t always easy finding products that do not feel childish as much as I may appreciate the cute stuffed animals and snow globes, there comes a time when you have to move on.   There is an innocence and a lot of childhood memories that come with Disney and the movie adaptations of the fairy tales that I used to love so much growing up.  Cinderella is, has been and always will be my favourite princess but I love Snow White too!  These beautiful cosmetics are a perfect tribute to this beloved film. The packaging is, by far, the most perfect that I’ve seen out of any collabs Disney has done in the past with any of the cosmetic giants.  MAC, Lorac and Sephora also worked on collections, but nothing has ever been done with this kind of attention to detail.

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The lipsticks are far more beautiful in person – the packaging is perfect too!

I went a little crazy and bought the Snow White Travel Bag, Icon Book Bag (a makeup case), the Ever After Translucent Pearl Powder, the Keep Singing and I’m Wishing Eyeshadow Palettes and all 4 Classic Colour Lipsticks (Snow White Red, Make A Wish, One Bite and Love’s First Kiss).  I can’t give you a true review of all of the products, I’ve only tried the eye shadow once.  They are almost too beautiful to touch.  I can tell you that the lipstick is long lasting and true to the colour in the tube.  It’s intense and likely more pigmented than what you may be used to.  There is even a specific way to apply their lipsticks – here is a link to see how  https://besamecosmetics.com/blogs/blog/how-to-apply-besame-lipstick  It really works – my lipstick stayed on all morning AND because of the unique shape of the bullet, I didn’t need a separate lip liner.  It is perfect, but it does take a little getting used to.  You cannot put this product on with a heavy hand.

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It was impossible to take the photo without glare – the packaging and colours in person are much more vibrant.

One more tidbit about the company itself.  They have AMAZING customer service.  Sephora only carried a very limited collection of the Snow White line, so I bit the bullet (lipstick bullet that is) and ordered them from the US site.  I pre-paid duty and shipping so that there wouldn’t be an issue on delivery.  Sure enough, I got a notice from UPS that they tried to deliver my product twice but duty wasn’t paid.  I had proof of payment, so I contacted them and they basically told me that if they tried to deliver it one more time it would get rejected, and that I had to pay the duty AGAIN or go to their depot which is out of my way.  I explained my situation to 3 different people and they all told me that it wasn’t their problem and to contact Bésame.  I thought that I was going to get the run-around from them, instead, they could not have been more helpful.  They looked into everything, confirmed that I had indeed paid the duty and they gave me a full refund on the duty and threw in free shipping for the hassle (which wasn’t their fault).   Not only is their packaging impeccable, but so is their customer experience.

These products (minus the powder) and others like a mini-lipstick collection, lip balm, rouge and a scarf are still available their website.  If you are interested, and a Disney lover, I highly recommend the collection, particularly their lipsticks.

 


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A Motherless Daughter?

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When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight. – Khalil Gibran

Mother’s Day without your mother is a special kind of torture.  Everywhere you look, in the weeks before the holiday, you see signs – “Something Special for Your Mom”,  “Show Your Mother that you Care”, “Mom, the Heart of the Family” or just “World’s Best Mom.”  It hurts when you can’t participate in a celebration of something so meaningful because your mother simply isn’t with you anymore.

My mother died ten weeks ago.  In some ways, it seems like a lifetime, in other ways I’m struck by how short a time that really is.  I’ve thought a lot about her and why her death has been so hard.  One of the things that I realized is that my mother had a life before me, 31 years to be exact, but I’ve only had a very brief time without her.  I’ve never known a life without a mother and it is a huge adjustment, especially with one as special as mine.

My mother taught me almost everything I know.  She taught me how to talk (she probably wished, at times, that she didn’t), to walk, to cook, to do my laundry, how to save and invest for my retirement, how to appreciate a nice purse and how to live a good life.  She taught me the importance of family and how to put someone else’s needs ahead of my own without feeling like I’m sacrificing anything.  I recently looked up quotes for Mother’s Day, and this one came up, “My mother taught me everything, except how to live without her.”  Well, my mother taught me how to do that too.  I once asked her what I was going to do when she wasn’t here anymore, and she said “You’ll live your life.”  She didn’t say it in an off-handed way, she looked at me directly and said it in her firmest voice.  My mother was a Daddy’s girl, and when my grandfather died, she was devastated, but pushed forward with her life.  You see, she was an example, that as hard as it may be, life goes on.

Since my mother’s death, I’ve been reading a lot of books about people that have lost their parents and about grieving.  It doesn’t depress me, it makes me feel less alone in the world to see how other people handle things.  One book that I haven’t read yet, but is on my night table is “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman.   Initially, after my mother died, I felt like I was one of the club of these women.  A motherless daughter, a mourner, a griever.  The more I thought about it, over time, the less I believe it.    My mother is still present in my life, even if her physical presence is absent.  As much as I still cry because I miss her, I laugh because I remember something that she said.  As much as I miss all of our in-jokes, I think back on them and smile.  As much as I miss her daily, and believe me, there are days like today, when I think I can’t bear it, I know how strong she was and that I have to find a way to try to be strong too.

My mother was described by people as a force of nature and of strength.  She was called a happy warrior.  She never shied away from a challenge and she never quit once she started something.  She said, often unapologetically, what was on her mind – she felt at her age, she earned the right.  She didn’t suffer fools well, but she was also never unkind.  She tried to manage my expectations, but never squashed my dreams.  She was always proud of whatever I achieved but never let me rest on my laurels.  She was both my harshest critic and my biggest fan.  I was her biggest fan too.  I don’t have an idealized view of her – she was exactly the person that I’m describing.  Ask anyone that ever knew her.  She was, simply the best.

So on this Mother’s Day, my first without her,  I’m not a Motherless Daughter.  I’m really lucky to say that I’m every bit my mother’s daughter and I always will be.

 

 


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Not By The Zit on My Chinny Chin Chin

 

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I used to suffer from adult acne.  That’s right – used to suffer.  Tired of the constant up and downs that the skin condition was causing, I finally decided to do something about it.  I spent years on Minocin to no avail.  I tried topical acne products like salicylic acids and benzoyl peroxide.  I tried supplements.  I went for regular facials.  I changed what I ate.  No matter what I did, it didn’t seem to help, and once a month (yes that time of the month), like clock-work, my chin exploded.  Some months it wasn’t as bad, and most people politely told be that they didn’t notice it until I pointed it out.  I noticed it, and it really bothered me…a lot.  Sigh, like every former Winter Carnival Queen contestant (I was Princess of the Debating Club, thank you very much), I couldn’t stand to have my perfection marred (SNORT) by this annoying condition.  Seriously though, like many women, when I had a break out, I didn’t want to leave the house.

The other thing that you may not be aware of, is that even if you only have one spot, when it’s cystic acne, it’s quite painful.  It felt like I had a hot bruise on my chin.  The nodules could get sickeningly big, and I could often feel them before I could see them.  They also can cause scarring and like most people, I couldn’t help but want to squeeze them.  So satisfying, but terrible for your skin.    You can get also a cortisone injection, which I often did, to help the blemish disappear in a day or two, but to say the shot is painful is an understatement.  It’s like someone is injecting you with fire – however, the good news is, that the pain only lasts for about 3 seconds.  Let’s just say there is nothing good about adult acne and leave it at that.

Some years ago, my former skin care doctor (he wasn’t a dermatologist, but ran an acne clinic) told me to go on Accutane.  I went to get my blood tests done, picked up my prescription and was ready for better skin.  Then, I read the side effects and got completely freaked out by one in particular.  Can you guess?  No, it wasn’t liver and kidney damage.  It also wasn’t suicidal thoughts.  Was it the nausea?  No siree Bob.  I got freaked out by “thinning of hair (may continue after treatment is stopped).”  I lasted for 4 whole days as my skin was drying and my face was exploding even more.  One of the other nasty side effects is that your skin gets worse before it gets better.  I fixated on thinning hair checking the mirror every time I’d walk by one and I knew it was thinning by the second.  It wasn’t, but that’s what I thought.  I took myself off of the drug and vowed never to go on it again until….

My acne doctor retired and I thought it was time to go to a proper dermatologist.  I ended up going to one that I just didn’t click with.  I never saw him and all I got out of it was very expensive chemical peels that did nothing to solve my skin condition.  Then I went to my mother’s dermatologist who ended up being a better fit for me.  He recommended Epuris, an Isotretinoin.  I’m no dummy – I knew that this was a nice name for Accutane, and of course my very first question was, “Isn’t it going to thin out my hair?”  He almost rolled his eyes, but kindly refrained and told me that it is an extremely rare side effect and that we can stop the treatment if it happens.  He also told me that it wasn’t the same course of treatment that it used to be.  It is a much lower dose and it’s based on weight (yours more specifically, so be honest and tell the pharmacist).

What happened to my skin?  I started it in April of 2017.  Within 3 days, my skin started drying, and I once again got the worse before it gets better blemishes.  As even more time went on, my skin got even dryer.  My lips dried out too, but luckily, my eyes did not.  I read up on what other people used to keep their skin hydrated and I also figured out through trial and error what worked best for me.  Here is my list:

  • Simple Cleansing Wipes – I used these before washing my face to remove all of my make up – these have been my go-to for years.  If you live in Canada, but them at Winners if you can find them – they are $5.99 compared to $10.99 at Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Life Brand Gentle Skin Cleanser – don’t use a harsh cleanser on your face.  This is very much like Cetaphil, but much less expensive
  • Germaine De Capuccini Intense Renewal Exfoliating Mask – I actually didn’t use this as a mask, I used it as a scrub once a week.  Don’t leave it on your face if you are taking Isotretinoins.  You need to exfoliate your dry skin, but gently and this works.  The best tip that I can give you for exfoliation is to avoid natural products like walnut shells – you’ll injure your poor skin.  This is one time when you need to use an artificial skin scrub.  They are far gentler on your delicate dermis.  This product is only available at spas
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Riche Soothing Protective Cream OR Avène Tolerance Extreme Cream – I used these interchangeably.  They are both just really good moisturizers for when your skin is at it’s driest and most dehydrated.  They didn’t irritate my skin or give me a rash.  My skin is sensitive already, so I have to be really careful.  You really will need to slather this on
  • La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Eyes – for the poor fragile skin under my eyes
  • Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Face SPF 60 – don’t even try to go without sunscreen – you will pay for it and it’s not worth the burn
  • Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Cream Formula – this was a tough purchase at $100, but I wanted to try it.  It is fragrance-free and beauty bloggers rave about it.  The good new is that it works even better than skin lotions that I had been using, and because I need less product and it comes in a pump, it actually ends up being more economical then my drug store purchases.  I was going through one tube of skin cream a month, and I’ve had this one since January.  Sometimes you pay more to get more
  • Eucerin Intensive Lip Balm – I’ve tried every lip balm on the market and when you are on an Isotretinoin, nothing worked better than this.  Avoid things that make your lips tingle – they will end up drying out your parched puckers.  You don’t need anything fancy, you just need a good basic lip balm that works, and this worked the best for me
  • One last tip – don’t wash your hair everyday.  I went down to only having to wash it twice a week.  I would also avoid heat styling your hair where possible and limit the use of hair sprays and other fixatives.  Your hair gets very dry too

What would I say about my experience?  It ended up working for me.  In one year, I’ve had one tiny blemish that went away in 24 hours.  It is not for everyone.  Let your doctor be the one to tell you to go on it.  The only side effect that was kind of bad for me were the nose bleeds.  It wasn’t constant, but a few times a month, I would get one.   Some of you may experience worse than this, so it’s important to think about how you are feeling and whether you can put up with your skin issues.  Everyone’s results are also different.  I noticed that my skin got much better within one month, but I had very localized acne.  I’m thrilled with the results and glad that I stuck with it.


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An Evening at Look Good Feel Better

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Photo courtesy of GK! Thanks to PY for the special background.

In October, my sister Michele was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This was particularly difficult for my family, as my mother was fighting her own battle with the disease.  In the first few months, while my sister was adjusting to her busy appointment schedule, her chemo side effects and just the need to be available to be with our mother on days that she was feeling up to it, I didn’t want to broach going to a workshop with her.  She was handling everything like a champ, but if you knew how many appointments that she had you would be overwhelmed.

After some time passed, and we were clear on what side effects she would have from her treatment, I brought it up.  I thought it would be nice for us to go together and for my sister to have something to look forward to.  Just to be candid, Michele LOVES makeup.  She’s been wearing it since her teens and has a good idea of what looks good on her and she certainly isn’t afraid of colour.  Weirdly, no matter what she thinks, I’m always shocked at how good she looks, even without makeup.  This was surprising to me – I wasn’t sure what to expect.  She has been unbelievably accepting of losing her hair, and has a GREAT wig.  She still has some of her eyebrows too.  Anyway – she agreed to go to the workshop, so being Type A, I signed her up online and made sure that I could attend.  Each person attending can bring one guest – they won’t receive the goodies, but they are able to be there for moral support.

We went to Princess Margaret Lodge on February 27.  It’s set up in a conference room, and each attendee going through chemo or other cancer related treatment walks out with a bag full of cosmetics and skin care.  It’s laid out for the women since they use the products during the workshop. It was a pretty full class, and the volunteers take you through a presentation about Look Good Feel Better, and some of the challenges that patients have in dealing with the appearance based side effects of the disease.  Some of the patients were happy to be there and get tips on how to “Look Good”.  One person actually wasn’t emotionally ready for the workshop and left.

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After they did the initial presentation, they wanted someone from the group to volunteer to be the makeup model.  No one volunteered so I said, in my loudest voice, “Michele?”  My sister was pretty excited to model, so she happily took her place at the front of the class, and even though I couldn’t be the centre of attention, I got to live vicariously through her.  She was already wearing makeup, so after taking a chisel, oops makeup wipe, she was ready to be made pretty all over again, while the rest of the class followed the step by step instructions from the makeup artist.  To finish things off, my sister tried on a whole bunch of wigs – some of them looked really cute on her, one made her look a little like Morticia Addams, but hey, you don’t get to pick everything.  The women got to shout out which ones they wanted her to try.

I would highly recommend Look Good Feel Better to any woman who is going through cancer treatment.  You may think that you already know a lot about how to apply make up and skincare, but things change when you are going through treatment.  You have to learn tips for complexions that may be drier and more sallow, how to pencil in eyebrows and how to fake the look of having lashes.  It’s a really nice evening or daytime workshop and gives you the chance to think about yourself.  I think my sister was more excited by the free stuff, but then again, she’s always loved a freebie – trust me it’s part of her charm.  Seriously though, cancer takes so much from patients, a little pick me up and a way to feel better about yourself is well worth the time.  The volunteers are knowledgeable, kind and compassionate and the cosmetic companies should be commended for the donations to the program.

One recommendation that I would make to any woman going through a treatment where you will lose your hair – make getting a wig a priority.  Do this before your treatment, that way you are prepared when the time comes and you are feeling well enough to try them on.  You have to make an appointment with a wig shop – you can’t just walk in and try them on.  If you have benefits, many companies cover off between $300-$500 as long as you have a doctor’s note.  We also found out that you shouldn’t shave your head – it can lead to nicks that can get infected – a big nono for someone whose immune system is going to be compromised.  Michele bought her wig in advance, and our cousin Gail went with her.  She sent me a photo and it was perfect!  They both played a joke on me telling me that Michele wasn’t going to buy the wig that day. Hardy-har har.  They were just teasing to see what kind of reaction they would get out of me.  Sigh.  I think that my sister was glad to get the wig, and it is one less thing to worry about when there is so much going on already.

For more information or to register for a workshop go to https://lgfb.ca/en/ 

If you’ve attended the workshop, and have feedback, I’d love to hear about it!


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Brock McGillis – First but not Last

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Photo courtesy of Brock McGillis

Brock McGillis isn’t just a former OHL and professional hockey playing, having played in both the USA and Europe; he is also the first, and so far only, pro hockey player to openly come out as gay.  In addition to providing on and off-ice training with elite level hockey players in the City of Greater Sudbury, Brock also serves as a mentor and a motivational speaker.

With a mission to create equality regardless of sexuality, gender or race, and a focus of helping LGBTQ+ youth on loving themselves, he has an important message.  He also wants to help all youth shift their language, treat others with respect and become the support system that LGBTQ+ kids need.  I was deeply touched by his message.  I’m straight, or what’s considered an ally, but I have many people in my life from this community.  It absolutely breaks my heart to think of them being hated just for being who they are.  Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a hockey fan.  The only sport I love watching is figure skating, but when you hear a story that is so humane, I needed to know more.  Brock was kind enough to call me and answer some questions.  To illustrate the kind of person that he is, this is someone who made the time to chat with me, even though he’s been interviewed by the likes of CBC’s The National, Yahoo and other bigger and better newspapers and blogs and for that I’m thankful.  Here are just some of the questions that I asked:

Children, including those that are part of the LGBTQ+ community have pressures on them that even you may not have experienced growing up.  For example, with social media, there is no escape from bullying, you can’t even get away from it at home.  What tips or tools do you recommend to help cope with these additional pressures?

First off, tell someone.  It’s hard to engage with a bully and I don’t encourage kids to do this.  You may not be in a place to confront the bully.  If I’m reactive to a bully, there will be a barrier.  If you are going to speak to them, personalize it.  For example, I ask them if they know that 95% of people know someone who is LGBTQ+.  It could be a family member or a friend.  Ask if they would want a person in their life to be hurt or if they would intentionally hurt them.  If there is an ally there, they should know that laughter hurts more than words.  Don’t laugh.  But the kid being bullied needs to stay strong and not react.

You have openly admitted that there was a time when you thought about taking your life.  If someone that you knew or was mentoring felt the same way, what is your advice to them?

Mental illness is becoming an epidemic.  There are resources available and help that is available so that you can find a support system.  Don’t hide your illness – people are there for you and want to help.  How can they not want to? Part of the issue is that mental health isn’t visible so people can’t always see your struggle.  You have to be open, then people can support you.

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Image courtesy of Brock McGillis

Many kids do not grow up in a household where they will be accepted if they are LGBTQ+.  How can they get help when they don’t have at-home support?  How can you get the courage to come out if you don’t know how people will react?

Pick your spot when  you come out.  You know your surroundings and what you are dealing with.  Come out when it’s feasible for you to move on, when you can be independent, not when there is the danger of you getting kicked out of the house.  You will feel better when you accept yourself.  You have to love yourself.  I love being a gay man.  I want people to be clear and hear that.  Once you love yourself, you can withstand hate.  But some people just need time.  We expect people to be OK with everything the minute that we come out.  We’ve had years to think about this, they haven’t  Some people just need time.

I read a quote of yours that was heartbreaking.  It was something to the effect of “…how badly I wanted approval in a world that did not approve of me.”  What do you say to someone who feels exactly the same way?

You don’t need approval, you have to approve of yourself.  It’s all internal.  When I starting approving of myself, it empowered me.  I stopped caring about what others thought.  You have to accept yourself.  Seeking acceptance from others implies a hierarchy.  No one is above or below anyone else.  We don’t need to accept others, and others don’t need to accept us.

What is the toughest question that any young person has asked you and how did you answer it?

It was actually at the second school that I spoke at – I was fresh into this, there were about 1,000 students.  There was a kid that had this arrogance about him, and his question out of everything that I was saying about my experience of coming out was “What about in the showers.  Isn’t it awkward for you and your teammates?”  I wasn’t reactionary, but I wanted to send a message.  I asked him if had siblings and a sister, and he said yes.  I asked if he played hockey, he said yes.  We are taught in hockey that we are all a family, all brothers, right?  Again the answer was yes.  Finally, I asked him if finds his sister hot and he turned beet red.  The whole school cheered.  I used the moment to inform and educate him while taking him down a peg.  I’m still in touch with him today and have mentored him in hockey.

How can we help as allies?

You can help in a number of ways.  You can start by being a shoulder for someone and showing that you care.  Voice your support for either a person being bullied or the LGBTQ+ community.  Some people show their support by going to Pride an marching or by going to a rally.

Other ways are more simple.  Treat everyone as an equal and help encourage openness by not being judgmental.  I like to say that normal doesn’t exist, we are all weirdos in our own way.  Having a discourse with someone that is struggling is always helpful.  It can also be a grassroots initiative by an individual to help create awareness.  Allies need to stand up, engage and educate.

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Image courtesy of Brock McGillis

Do you ever see hockey truly being integrated with makes and females playing on the same professional team?

It’s a difficult equation in professional hockey.  Men and women are built differently and it would be hard for a woman that is 5’1 to withstand hits from a man that is 6’7.  Goal tenders aren’t required to get involved in that level of fighting, so that may work.  I want the best players regardless of gender or sexuality. I just think physiologically it may be more difficult for women. It really is about the best players though – period.

My Take – I was curious about how a pro hockey player would answer this question.  Before all you women out there get all up in arms, think about it for a minute.  I’m not an expert, but from what I understand, women’s hockey doesn’t allow checking – it would add another dimension to their game.  If you think about it objectively, and you compare just on size alone, Brock has a very good point.  Maybe one day there will be women players in the NHL, then again, but maybe there won’t.   Either way, women can still play and participate.

Finally, as time is passing, we can’t forget about the children who have been touched by Humboldt tragedy.  What message do you have for them?

One of the survivors said, ” I haven’t cried and I won’t cry.  I’m a tough Canadian guy.”  Man, you need to cry, you need to grieve.  No one will judge you and if they do, to hell with them.  It’s so sad, and people will be mourning for a long time.  It won’t change overnight.  Hockey is Canadian culture and Canada is hugging you right now, holding you up.  We are all your support system and that won’t go away.

My last thoughts:  In September, 1995, Hillary Clinton stated the following “…let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights, once and for all,”.  We are at a point where we have to recognize that LGBTQ+ rights are human rights and LGBTQ+ rights are human rights.  We are living in a world right now where hate is, once again, becoming permissible.  In Russia, it’s OK to discriminate openly against gay men and women.  In the Middle East, gay men are marched off of roof tops to their deaths.  Gay men and lesbian women are forced into unwanted sex changes in Iran in order to be with the person that they love.   In North America, LGBTQ+ kids continue to be bullied on a regular basis and that frustration sometimes can lead to suicide.  It was an honour to speak with someone who is so passionate about helping kids in this community and is actively seeking to mentor them.

 

 


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The First Birthday Without You

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“Was Zaydie as good of a person as you remember him to be?” I asked my mother about my grandfather one day.  Everyone just thought he was a wonderful, kind gentleman, and my mother was the original Daddy’s Girl, but I was still curious.  “Oh no, Jill, he wasn’t.  He was better.”  Even though it’s only been 6 weeks, I can already tell you the same thing about my mother, she was better than I remember.   We had our first holiday without her two weeks ago.  Now, it’s her birthday and we are trying to figure out what to do.  I did a little self-torture, looking at birthday cards that I wouldn’t be able to give her.  That was the day that I got a little sign from her.  Last night, I read cards and poems online that people wrote to their dead mothers just to make sure that I could cry, although, there hasn’t been a shortness of tears on my part.  She really was special.

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Nobody loved a birthday more than my mother, especially the cake.  Every year, we had buy her the same cake – the repulsive store bought chocolate cake with the GIGANTIC pink roses.  She loved it, and every year for my birthday, when I was growing up, I got that very cake even though I hated it.  She’d always say “Tough luck.  I love it, and that’s what your getting.”  That was my mother – every inch a brat.  But before you write her off, that was only one part of my mother, she was so much more than that.  I could gush about how brave she was, but here is a quote from my cousin, a very religious and learned Rabbi, when I ask him for a quote for a treasured book in our family:

Judith Schneiderman returned her heroic,courageous and dearly beloved soul to her Maker on March 3, 2018. May She find comfort forever in the everlasting world. Rest peacefully. Never to be forgotten.

You see, my mother was heroic, not because she had cancer, but because of who she was.  You don’t become a hero because of a disease or because you die, you become one because of how you live you life and my mother lived her life with honour.  She was honest and giving and made decisions that were right, even when they weren’t right for her.

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I was told by many people how special my mother was to them.  One of her pottery teachers wrote this to me “I often told her that when I “grow up” I want to be just like her. “  Me too.  My mother loved life.  Even when she was at her sickest, she still lived it.  She managed her pain from cancer with nothing more than Tylenol until 6 days before her death when she couldn’t handle it anymore.  Even though she was bed-ridden the last year of her life, we still laughed, and she still loved having visitors.  She was still herself.  She was curious about everything and she never felt sorry for herself, not even once.  I wish that I could be as brave as she was.

To be a Motherless Daughter is a very sad thing.  My sister wrote these beautiful words:

“The end is the beginning

Bright lights…I cover my eyes

A slap, a cry, the journey of life begins

Daughter to wife, wife to mother

Motherless daughter, child no more

Full circle, light in my eyes and I cry.”

When my mother died, my sisters and I lost our last parent (and really, our only one).  My aunt lost her sister and became the last of the first generation of N’s (we all refer to ourselves as N’s, D’s or M’s in our family meaning the Zelikovitz brother that we belonged to, Nathan, David or Max) – a very difficult place to be.  My cousins lost their aunt and beloved cousin.  Her friends lost the joy of having my mother around.  It’s so hard on everyone.  Her friends and family called me today, thinking about her, and crying too.

“You can never count your mother out – she’s hard to predict because she’s so tough.”

“If you had told me a year ago, I’d still be standing here talking to you about your mother, I would have told you that we were both crazy.”

“Your mother was an absolutely lovely woman…She had a wonderful outlook/attitude that I admired deeply.”

Those are all direct quotes from her doctors.  Even they recognized the type of person that she was.  The week before she died, her palliative doctor told me that though she wasn’t conscious, she could still hear.  She said that it was important to keep talking to her.  With at least a dozen people in and out all day, every day, we never had to worry about her not having something to listen to.  Even then, everyone wanted to be around her.  My sisters and I talked to her all day, every day, no matter how hard it was on us, we told her that if she needed to go, that it was ok.  The doctor gave me one last piece of advice, because my mother was so strong, she had to know that she wasn’t dying because she wasn’t fighting hard enough, it was just that she was too sick from all of her illnesses to go on.  Everyday, I told her that she fought so hard, but she could stop fighting and rest.  And eventually, she did, in her own time, in her own way.

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I’m often told by people what a wonderful relationship that I had with my mother, and some even said that they wished that they could have had the same kind of bond with theirs.  My favourite photo is the black and white picture above you – even though it’s not perfect, it perfectly illustrates us.  No one ever has made me laugh harder than she did, and no one ever had a better mother.  I spent a lot of time with her the last year, and many times, before I’d leave she’d say thank you to me for something that I did for her.  I’d always tell her that you never have to thank me, I wish I could do more.  I should have said, “No Mummy, thank you.  Just thank you.”  Wherever she is, I hope that she knows that on her birthday, and every single day, how much she is loved and missed.